1938
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1938

Kevin Gilligan

Kevin John Gilligan was born in 1938 and passed away April 10th, 2011. He was both an accountant and a businessman. His business experience drove his advice and support of clients more than his accounting experience in corporates and elsewhere.

Bruce Sheppard and Kevin Gilligan are two of the most unlike people you could ever meet. The only thing they had in common was that they were both accountants.

“I always felt they were like chalk and cheese,
or oil and water.”

Margaret Becroft, a former employee at Gilligan Sheppard, reflects on the Kevin Gilligan she knew…

“Kevin brought to the mix his own loyal group of clients who seemed happy with the work that he did for them. He was a loving husband to Wendy and father to four children and quite indulged the youngest. I worked in a room next to him (which was never as easy as working with Bruce I must mention), as he didn’t really like being questioned.”

“When I arrived at work each morning, I never knew just what tale he would greet me with. His disasters were so funny, and I told him he would make his fortune if only he could write them down. I will never forget the time he arrived at work with swellings over his neck and arms caused by a beehive falling off the back of the trailer. Or the tale of the electrocuted horse rampaging through his glasshouse. And there were many others… all experiences outside his accountancy work.”

“He should have stuck with accounting
– it was much less dangerous.”

“Over time, Gilligan Sheppard had accumulated a number of unusual members of staff. This one time, the receptionist told him she had personality issues which might just see her killing him if the mood took her. The shocked look on his face was priceless. Then there was the time he ripped the sleeve off an employee’s shirt because he was sick of him turning up in clothes that were old and frayed.”

“Even when Kevin’s health started failing, he ignored it and carried on regardless. But something I will always remember, was the amazement when he departed, that Bruce was not going to give up the name ‘Gilligan Sheppard’ when they went their separate ways. Matthew Gilligan, his son, was also horrified as he was expecting to open his own accounting firm using the surname – didn’t stop him though.”

Bruce Sheppard describes Kevin as a person of immense generosity of spirit…

“He would help anyone and go out of his way to do so, even if it meant his own personal position was put at risk. Unfortunately, people took advantage of that. He didn’t particularly focus on the economics of running an accounting business, but did focus on the personality and character that he wished to be remembered for. At that time, just 25 years of age, I was only focussed on economics and making money.”

“He taught me the importance of creating character and memory. No one remembers economics. It’s an outcome.”

“Kevin was also very literal – have a read here of The Marsden Robinson tea lady principle, and surprisingly, Kevin was able to annoy people even more than me at times.”

“Kevin was a risk taker and he taught me the joy of risk taking in venture capitalism. He introduced me to a couple of very successful opportunities. He backed the scientist at Pacific Lithium who had converted lithium from sea water. It grew to $100m capitalisation, and even today, the underlying technology is one of the major cause events, enabling lithium batteries that now are embedded in every electrical car. Without Kevin Gilligan, John Broome the scientist, Robin Johannik the anchor investor, and Murray Haszard, both clients of GS at the time, it’s highly likely we wouldn’t have the scale of electric cars we do today.”

“Without those connections and the small things that Kevin did, great outcomes may not have occurred.”

“He had a few one liners that have stuck with me…

I asked him “What the hell are you doing buying a lifestyle block?” And he replied,

“I always wanted a Ramarama llama farmer, drama.”

And… “Bruce, people don’t plan to fail. They just fail to plan.”

Kevin left many legacies that are still vibrant within Gilligan Sheppard today:

  • An appetite for risk
  • An understanding of character
  • An ability to tell stories
  • A sense of humour

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard & Margaret Becroft

1959

Bruce Sheppard

Bruce’s great grandfather George Sheppard arrived by boat, landing in Auckland in the mid 1860’s. He was conscripted into the British army and fought in the New Zealand land wars. Following his service, he purchased some land in Matakohe, northern Kaipara – it is at the end of a long stretch of rugged road called “Sheppard Oaks” and only recently was the homestead burnt down.

His son, also George (Bruce’s Grandfather) married into the Samber family who were among the first immigrants to Northland. The Sambers produced the first white boy born in Northland. The name is anglicised from Russian stock (Finland at the time). The first Samber jumped ship not wanting to return to England. Possibly our first illegal immigrant! George’s sister Rachael married into the Smith family, and they lived in Totara House. Their daughter, Mavis (Bruce’s second cousin) stayed in Totara House her entire life and after 100 years, donated the property to the Matakohe Pioneer Museum. It’s full of Sheppard family photos and furniture built by Bruce’s grandfather, George the second. He was the only Sheppard to escape Matakohe, settling in Auckland. He lived into his eighties and passed when Bruce was seven years old.

Bruce’s father Raymond George Sheppard was born in 1921, a teenager through the depression. He joined the Royal Navy Reserve and ended up on a ship out to England for World War II. On a Russian convoy, he was washed overboard into the Artic Ocean and suffered frost bite resulting in him becoming a double amputee.

Bruce Raymond Sheppard was born in 1959 and at nine years old his parents parted ways. He lived with his Mum in Glenn Innes, then Orakei, then at the age of 16, moved in with his dad. As his dad was a double amputee alcoholic – Bruce ended up with a capable, but emotionally dependent parent. It gave Bruce an intolerance for whining, woe-is-me type people, because his dad had every reason to whine and moan, but he didn’t, he just got on with it.

During school, Bruce was subdued.

He describes himself as a geek, quiet and withdrawn. He found he enjoyed accounting, economics, and history. He says he blossomed at Auckland University and did well. During that period, he established an income through commercial fishing. He made enough money to buy a skanky old house in Point Chevalier.

He started work and Ernst Young and then the Inland Revenue Department, all whilst continuing to fish commercially. The fishing work gave him $300-400 per trip (which in today’s value would be $4,000-5,000), and he did it all out of an eight-foot, six-inch dinghy (which he has kept as a memento along with the flounder nets).

To read more about the origins of Gilligan Sheppard, please read through our stories.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard.

1982

Gilligan & Sheppard – The Beginning

I first met Kevin Gilligan when I joined the Inland Revenue Department in 1982 (I was 23 and Kevin was 43). He was hiding in the IRD from his creditors. He told me he nearly gone bankrupt whilst running a beautiful resort at Kingfisher Lodge in Northland. He figured the best way to avoid them was to become a tax inspector (which is what I was).

How did he get into that situation? Poor timing and bad politics. It happened in the 1970’s, during the Arab oil crisis. Carless days has been introduced and people just did not want to drive to the far north anymore.

Kevin realised quickly that working in the IRD was an oxymoron. You get your pay whether you do work or not. Only two investigations per year. Kevin had figured out he could do two in one week. He proceeded to do a whole pile of jobs and made everyone else look bad because they weren’t doing enough. Then after the realisation, he decided he wanted to fit in, so he kept all his completed jobs in a safe and released them one a time.

When we left, he ran a private auction to sell his completed jobs to other inspectors and collected several gratuities.

“I’ll give him this
– he was better organised than me.”

Kevin taught me to see the lunacy in every system – how any system can be gamed, and how to retain a sense of humour in what appears to be mindless chaos.

I left and went to another Chartered Accounting firm. Kevin left and went into corporate where he became the CFO for independent newspapers (which is now Fairfax).

Kevin was also the master of storytelling. To trade his way out of his precarious situation, he bought and sold property. They were always his home, and he always had a reason for selling his home – he got it the wrong way around, the sun came up on the wrong side, the cat got run over and he couldn’t stay there anymore. Every reason was perfectly documented. He could tell any story and make it entertaining.

Late 1984 I decided it was time to formalise my part time job as an accountant working at home, into a full-time job. My catalyst for this was that the firm I was in, was so toxic that I would never want to be a partner there.

The junior partners were earning less than what I was doing from home.

At the same time, Kevin was sick of corporate life and the impersonality and inhumanity of big organisations. He too, wished to start Chartered Accounting having never done so before.

Author: Bruce Sheppard

1983

The Becrofts

Margaret Becroft

I met Margaret Becroft in 1980 – she was the office administration manager of the New Zealand Social Credit political party for whom I was the Auckland central candidate. She was a highly efficient, opinionated, capable and loyal person.

In 1981 when I started accumulating private clients, I needed someone to do my bookkeeping. I asked Margaret if she would do this independently for me. We worked together for four years before Gilligan Sheppard was born.

When Margaret first started working with me, her eldest son, his wife and their kids, another adult son, along with her daughter Anne and, in due course her husband Innis, all lived on the one property together in one home running a glasshouse business in Swanson. I had come from a divorced and fractured family, witnessing a family like the Becrofts was hugely instructive and uplifting for me.

When Gilligan Sheppard took form, Margaret joined us and progressively became my personal assistant and trusted lieutenant. She was reliably discreet, fiendishly loyal and deployed her network to support our success.

In 2021, Margaret is approaching 90 and is lucid, fit, agile and happy. She is now living with her daughter and son-in-law in a house that the three of them bought together. Her grandson and his wife also live with them, along with her great grandchild. Four generations under one roof. Working together as a team, they all contribute to a joint outcome – in harmony, and with the joy and security that this provides.

Ignoring the fact that they are family, which usually is more of an impediment rather than an enabler of ‘team’ cohesion, Margaret, Anne, and their family have, over a 60-year period, held together a team and provided an environment for the whole that is secure, rewarding, purposeful and joyful.

Sure, like all groups they have had the hard times and the bumps, but their behaviours are to recognise them, learn from them and always respect the diversity of each other. The four children are certainly different and are always honest and straightforward with each other.

Seeing how they live now and feeling the outcome of how they have chosen to live is like looking at the future of Gilligan Sheppard. Margaret taught me the power of family values and connected communities. When Margaret was ready to retire, she handed the role over to her daughter Anne Becroft.

Anne Becroft

Anne Becroft had a sense of humour and adventure like very few I have seen before. She had the ability to organise absolutely anything!

When I turned 40 years old (and I hate birthday parties), Anne organised a surprise celebration for me (which pissed me off but was nice at the same time). It was at the Sky City Convention Centre and a bit of a ritzy event. At the time, Partner Greg Rathbun was behind it and even he was impressed with the results.

Always harbouring a grudge, as I am prone to do, I decided to get even with Greg for his upcoming birthday. So I asked Anne to plan a one-up on it. We managed to put together a Royal Gala Performance which included acts from River Dance, cutting him in half with a chainsaw, and kinky cooking. It involved the whole firm and was run in secret. We were training and practicing leading up to the event and he never knew. Anne organised a film crew to record it through her brother who was a set maker. We hired a hall, and just needed to get Greg and his wife Linda there.

Greg really hates ballet. My recourse to punish Greg was to invite him to a ballet performance. We got a limo, took him to the theatre and had set it up with mannequins as guests. Greg was seated and I disappeared to ‘the toilet’. The act begun and his eyes were wide with bewilderment.

On Greg’s actual birthday, Anne filled his office with balloons – from floor to ceiling. He arrived at work and could not get in because the door wouldn’t open. He had to pop balloons along his way just to make it to his desk. While he was in the office, Anne went and filled his car with balloons too.

Anne was a practical joker, and knowing that I was not good with cars, she put the rear wheels of mine up on chocks. I got in, none the wiser, put it in reverse, and the wheels spun like mad and I stayed stationary. I went back to the office to call a mechanic because I couldn’t figure out why the car wasn’t moving! She asked me, with a dead pan face, if she could ask her brother (who is a mechanic) to help.

Another time, she moved my car from one level of the carpark to another and I couldn’t find it.

Anne taught me to not care what other people think. To be real. And the joy of humour and fun in the workplace.

Fi

Fi was a friend of Margaret’s and she worked at Gilligan Sheppard until she was 100 years old. Margaret brought her into the office one day (she was already elderly) needing something to do. We found a job for her and paid her bus fares to get back and forth. She did all the CCH (Commerce Clearing House) filing, physical filing and wrote amazing limericks and poetry.

As Fi got older, she couldn’t take the bus anymore, so Greg Rathbun would taxi her to and from work. She came in every single day until she was 100, challenging everyone with language.

She went into a rest home, we visited and asked her what she wanted.

“Caviar, oysters and champagne.”
She answered.

We dined on them that night, then she passed.

Fi had the ability to work, so she did. She contributed her entire life.

Their Legacy

Between them, Margaret and Anne spent 20 years engaged in core roles at Gilligan Sheppard – the formative years when the values of myself and the company were forming and setting.

The values of ‘determination to excel together’ and ‘growing each other’ is what has built their family unit, and it will endure beyond their lives. The skill and personal diversity of their family will stay together and thrive.

This is Margaret and Anne’s legacy and gift to Gilligan Sheppard. If we keep growing each other and focusing on our team and its diversity, we too can build a whānau that will support, nurture, and secure each other. We belong, feel proud to belong, and thrive because of that.

Through Margaret, Anne and Fi, a tight trio, Gilligan Sheppard learned how to support each other, knowing deep relationships with each other will get us all through.

The choices that were made as a part of our history, are also the values we have today.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard.

1984

Ray's Business

Late 1984 Bruce Sheppard decided it was time to formalise his part time job as an accountant working at home, into a full-time job. His catalyst for this was that the firm he was in, was so toxic that he would never want to be a partner there. The junior partners were earning less than what he was doing from home.

At the same time, Kevin Gilligan was sick of corporate life and the impersonality and inhumanity of big organisations. He too, wished to start Chartered Accounting having never done so before.

They agreed to join up.

Bruce told Kevin that he had to get an equivalent number of fees to what Bruce had to be in equal partnership. He went and bought out the firm of FT Eyre & Son which had been established in 1860, from the last surviving Eyre – Raymond (Ray), who was the grandson of the founder (who was already nearly dead at the time he purchased it).

Kevin found this purchase very amusing. Ray still wrote up his ledgers in a ledger, in ink. He had desks in his office that were sloping and from the 1860’s (sloped to write with quills). Trial balances were literally that – carbon copies were literally that, accounts were physically typed. All in 1985 when computers were readily available!

His key bookkeeper was Margaret Isaacs (read her story below), who had worked for him since before Bruce was born. You went into the office, there was dust around the rims of the seats where the only clean part of the seat was the shape of their bums. Their offices surrounded a light well, and the garbage (which was thrown out of the windows) had accumulated and was now up to the second level.

They had a safe in which they stored their important documents. The door to the safe was slightly ajar and the spider webs fully encased the inner sanctum of the safe, complete with all the usual creepy crawlies.

Kevin escorted Bruce to view his prized acquisition, and upon arrival they found Ray asleep at his desk, and Margaret at her sloping desk writing up ledgers. Kevin was so excited by this acquisition he told Bruce that he had found a jewel. At the time Bruce was 25 years old, and thought Kevin was completely mad, if not insane, thinking that there cannot possibly be value in this cess pit. Kevin told Bruce that if the value was obvious, we would not have the opportunity to buy it.

“Bruce you must learn that value is never obvious. People that appear to be nearly dead, still have life. Opportunity doesn’t come at you with a clear set of headlights.”

Kevin was right, one of our larger clients (which Bruce still looks after), is the child of one of those clients, now in his fifties.

Margaret Issacs

Bruce and Kevin bought the business from FT Eyre and Son. Ray would only sell the business if they took on Margaret as the employee in the business and agreed to keep her through until she wanted to stop working. They were currently in Swanson Street but had to move as the whole block of shops were sold and the new owners chased them out. They then moved to Smith and Caughey’s.

Margaret had to learn a new way of doing things, such as lead schedules and itemising. She found it very confusing at first especially since she could hardly read Bruce’s writing! Margaret Becroft was then employed to do the typing and office admin, followed by another employee who lived out of Auckland in Waihi and spent the weekdays staying at the Peoples Palace.

Predominately the gopher, Margaret made tea, photocopied, and did some bookkeeping for clients. One client who handwrote into a cash book had three or four different accounts all in the same cashbook! Margaret spent time with highlighters colouring in the cash entries for different bank accounts.

Once they moved into the Smith & Caughey building on the seventh floor they got their first modern piece of equipment – an Olivetti multi register adding machine, second hand of course. They got their first computer when they moved to the 4th floor, and as they were trying to rent out excess space, they ran in out of a storage cupboard! They then started to use the printer with the perforated holes down the side which made for a lot of filing.

Grey Power moved in shortly after the move to level four, and the company continued to expand (they did sell some of the clients they didn’t want) with new clients and new team members. As accounting became more computerised it was harder for Margaret to keep up and she took on more filing and admin tasks. She then retired before the tasks were completely computerised and the shelves that she had seen put up were taken down.

Authors: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard
& Debra Houghton interviewed Margaret Isaacs.

1985

Gilligan Sheppard Registered

Kevin Gilligan bought out the firm FT Eyre and Son which had been established in 1860, and Bruce Sheppard brought in his clients from his home business, and they merged and became Gilligan Sheppard on the 1st February 1985.

They moved into the existing offices and had very few break ins, but in the late 80’s, they did have one – there appeared to be nothing taken and nothing broken. But then they found the top left-hand drawer of Kevin’s desk had been opened and there was a stinking pile of human excrement in it. They still don’t know to this day who it was, whether it was someone that Bruce had pissed-off and their desks had been muddled up, or if Kevin had pissed someone off. Regardless, they celebrated that they had pissed someone off enough to warrant that response.

Kevin introduced Bruce to venture capital. One of Kevin’s clients had a wonderful story that he could grow square trees! The wood would be as hard as concrete and as durable as steel, and they would have square trunks. It was called ‘Jade Wood’. Imagine wooden high rise buildings that could be dismantled and moved, or parquet flooring that never dented. It just had to be a winner!

Kevin and Bruce became their first investors.

After hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditure and time, they received their first sample of Jade Wood. Kevin was so excited to finally have a physical product in his hands after all this time and money.

Bruce was at his desk and said to Kevin as he showed him the sample, “As beautiful as timber, as durable as concrete, as hard as steel… so if I poke this with my pen, it won’t dent, right?”

Bruce stabs it. It dents. Bruce threw it at Kevin and said, “Fuck it, I’m out.”

Kevin and others went on to spend another $100, 000 to have tests done to see what it was. After he got the report, he discovered it was tanalised pine. And I’m sure you can imagine Bruce’s eyes now rolling back into his head whilst he shakes is slowly from side to side.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard.

1986

Smith & Caughey's

Gilligan Sheppard was a tenant in a building on Swanson Street, central Auckland. Six months into a three-year lease (at $3,000 a year), Chase Corporation bought the building. It was the mid-eighties and tower cranes were all over Auckland building towers of concrete everywhere you looked.

Chris Minty from the Chase Corporation arrives, explains the situation, and offered Bruce Sheppard $1,000 to move out. Bruce felt he had just won Golden Kiwi and was quite happy for the argument. So, he said no. Chris upped his offer to $3,000. Bruce still said no.

Chris decided they would demolish around Bruce. Bruce pointed out that the lease said tenants will be able to have “quiet enjoyment”. Chris exited the other tenants and began soft demolition.

Six months pass, so Chris goes back to Bruce and offers him $20,000.

Bruce countered “Yes, if you find us new premises and pay rent for the remaining term of the three-year lease, less the $3,000 per year I am contracted to pay.”

Shortly after, Chris found the top floor of the Smith & Caughey (S&C) building. Manu Bhanabhai’s firm ‘Dwyer Whitechurch & Bhanabhai’ had moved across the street. In the 30’s and 40’s, what is now Simpson Grierson and Brookfields, used to be tenants there. In 1986 Bruce, Kevin Gilligan and the two Margaret’s moved in. It was a palace compared to Swanson Street and three times the space of what they originally had.

In late 1986 they signed a lease and moved into the fourth floor in early 1987. Smith & Caughey’s CEO was Joe Setters who was in his 80’s and he had worked there for over 70 years joining them as a stable hand when he was 12 years old (in the 1910’s). There were horses in the basement then, and they carried S&C’s goods all over Auckland in carts. Then cars came along and now the stables are a storage area with bays where the horses once were.

There were also pneumatic tubes that S&C had used to transport mail and money. We could send documents to each other at our desks, fun, but more work than walking over to someone and talking to them.

Joe knew the building like the back of his hand. If anything went wrong; power, water, sprinklers… he knew exactly what needed to be done. This one time, it was raining and there was a leak in the building next door. He came up to our floor, went out onto the roof through our offices. He stood on a chair, climbed out, cleared the drain, and came back in. A drowned rat, he put the chair back and gave his thanks for the access. For someone in their 80’s, he did amazingly agile things. They pensioned him off soon after that and he died shortly after.

As Bruce always says, “Retirement and expirement are closely correlated. If you stop, you die.”

Kevin found out that the fourth floor was available, so he went and had a look. The firm now had six people and back then wages were around $30k each. Bruce heard that the rent was $50k annually and decided it was too risky. Kevin kept on about it, so Bruce finally went and had a look.

A year previous, Nationwide Credit Services (now Bay Corp) had 100 people on the floor and had left behind their desks. Bruce described it as a complete rat hole. It had cubicles with wires hanging out everywhere and was an absolute mess. It had one very fancy room in the corner, probably a board room.

Bruce eventually came around and Gilligan Sheppard took the space in November 1986. They signed a nine-year lease and sublet it to themselves on a month-by-month basis (risk management). They cleaned out the North side of the building and got their tenants in – various businesses who came and went;

  • Albert, a wealthy migrant, who lived on Waiheke Island, and wanted his own office (he took the fancy room)
  • Keith Peterson, lawyer
  • McIntosh, wood exporter… Jade Wood!
  • New modular home company
  • Albert introduced two other venture capitalists who took an office each
  • Grey Power started here (they were in what is now the server room)
  • A computer training company (they became so successful they bought their own building)
  • The New Zealand Shareholders Association
  • Grant McMillan – who has been there for nearly twenty years and at the time of writing, still is
  • Sam Chan, accountant – but he pretended to be a partner of Gilligan Sheppard, so we had to kick him out

They convinced Smith & Caughey to pay for the next refurbishment in 1998, thus began a tradition. Every nine years, Bruce “stares down” S&C. At the time of writing, we are beginning our fourth nine-year lease.

Kevin painted the plaster mould of S&C logo above the lifts, into a GS logo with some clever artwork. Bruce entered the reception area to find Sir Harcourt Caughey and his cousin William (Bill) Caughey looking at what they considered ‘damage to property’. It was Kevin’s first attempt at branding. We all made light of it, and it remained intact until this year with the refurbishment of the reception area.

The lifts can be problematic at Smith & Caughey’s, there’s supposed to be a ghost in the Wellesley Street lift. Different team members have differing stories, but the lurkings were investigated by Mark Wallbank and his team for a TV show. After they spent the night there, he said it seemed as though something else was there with them in the bowels of the building.

Next time you visit us, make sure you say hello.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard.

1987

The Tea Lady Principle

In October 1987, Bruce Sheppard and Kevin Gilligan discussed hiring a new team member, prior to Bruce heading off on a period of leave. To describe the recruitment process, Bruce used an analogy called the ‘Marsden Robinson tea lady principle’. Kevin asked what that was and Bruce went onto explain:

“You want a new manager, you promote the assistant manager to manager, the senior accountant to assistant manager, the junior accountant to senior accountant, the receptionist to junior accountant, the tea lady to receptionist, and hire a tea lady.”

“Cool.” Said Kevin.

Bruce had thought he was conveying a message to promote someone from the existing team and recruit a new junior accountant. So, he left and enjoyed one of only two overseas holidays in his life, at the Gold Coast for two weeks.

On his return, Bruce was quite surprised to find a new tea lady complete with tea trolley delivering drinks to everyone at their desks. Kevin hadn’t quite joined the dots and had hired an actual tea lady because he didn’t have one to promote.

“She was cheap I got her from WINZ, I don’t have to pay her at all. Nothing like a free staff member, what a deal!”

Bruce told Kevin to get rid of her. Kevin tried to fire her, she pulled a knife on him, then was disarmed, and escorted from the premises.

Kevin said, “That was a close call.”

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard & Marion Garlick.

1995

Greg Rathbun, Partner

Gregory Noel Rathbun was born into a large family, six kids living in Dunedin. Very much the struggling working class, what he describes as good honest Kiwi stock. Greg describes a fun evening as sharing a tin of baked beans and spending the night under a sheet and the one who lasted the longest would be allowed to have the only single bed. At the age of five the family moved to Auckland under witness protection, after his mother was instrumental as an undercover truck driver in a major anti competition case with New Zealand Rail.

Greg’s father worked for government workshops – now known as New Zealand Post. Well, when we say ‘work’ he worked on “homers” until Richard Prebble spoilt the charade and sold the Post Office and Telecom. Back then (other than personal projects or if the pub was closed) they had telecommunication technicians, built decks for the trucks, desks for the branches, had a mechanic and paint shop, as well as handling the mail and packages.

Starting in Otara, Greg journeyed through the Catholic schooling system. His greatest achievement in those days was getting the school record for standing outside of class facing the corner and breaking the school straps during canings. At age 10, they moved to Papatoetoe where his father built a house. They didn’t have enough money to buy one, especially to house six kids, as the police realised Greg’s mother was in fact a double agent and the weekly pension ceased. Greg’s father built the house himself with the good old Kiwi attitude and contraband from the Post Office. Greg says he learned a lot during this time – about attitude, lying, getting rid of bodies under concrete drives, and honour amongst thieves.

There was a greenhouse next door to the family home and Greg used to help with their tomatoes and cannabis – grading and packing. With the money he earned, he bought his first car at the early age of 15 so he could trade drugs all over Auckland instead of where he could cycle.

At De la Salle College in Mangere East, Greg was a bit of an all-rounder. He was good at sports and in the classroom and managed to stay out of jail unlike many of his classmates. He was good at accounting and maths, due to handling the drug cash and he went to Auckland University and says he just cruised through due to plagiarism being harder to detect in those days. He was involved with rugby and rowing, but when it came to class work, he just did enough to pass thinking that a C+ was enough. He later realised it was this laziness and tendency to take the easy option that would define his life going forward.

Whilst at Uni, he worked in roading – fixing up tar seal on roads and carparks, where his skills at making bodies disappear came to the fore again. The income meant he could go out and party, and neglect his illegitimate children now scattered around Auckland due to the drug dealing where he would often take ‘favours’ instead of cash. At the age of 20 he bought his first house due to a successful kidnap ransom. He felt like a typical Kiwi, but the neighbours always complained about the noise and strange comings and goings during all hours. Having got his accounting degree, and married young at 22, he worked at Laurence Anderson Buddle (LAB) as an auditor where he first met Bruce Sheppard. After a couple of years Greg went overseas, as the heat from ‘the Bill’ was getting too much.

In London Greg worked for one of the world’s leading crime syndicates Arthur Anderson where he learnt a lot about bending the rules. After returning Greg worked for another crime family running New Zealand public companies where he learnt to take advantage of the then securities laws (or lack of them). After that experience Greg realised that if he was to remain out of jail, he needed to change his ways. No more taking easy options!

A recruitment company found it harder than usual to find people to fit with Bruce Sheppard (funny that) – Greg says it was because of his bad BO. He wore shorts, sandals, had a scruffy beard and looked like the cleaner and would wash infrequently. Someone typical accountants would be suspicious about. But because of Greg’s life in the underworld, none of that came as a surprise, so the interview was set.

Bruce would have the big ideas… external. And Greg would look after the team and processes… internal. Gone were the days when bodies would just disappear under a pile of concrete, but it was said some non-compliant staff were run over by a bus driven by a character who looked strangely like Greg! Both Bruce and Greg were both strong in putting their opinions across, which resulted in quite a few strange decisions over the 20 years of partnership.

“There’s the time we got scammed, this guy wanted investors to place sex packs in hotel rooms.”

“We invested but never heard from him again. But it did make for humorous jokes.”

“Another time we were dealing with Mark Lyons (a crazy property developer who got involved in drugs and gangs), and he didn’t like what we did, so he paid us in $1 coins. Back then you had to pay to deposit money, and he intended that to be our punishment. But Bruce did what he does with his negotiating skills, and we banked it without paying the extra.”

“This one time, Bruce took a blow-up doll to the Institute of Accountants AGM, I can’t remember why, I think it’s because he was just trying to be funny. He was insisting the doll was a person and could attend the meeting. Sometime later it became an ethics question as part of their course – whether it was bringing the Institute of Accountants into disrepute or not.”

“Bruce was a shareholder activist. The Brierleys AGM was scheduled for 11am on the 11th of November, which just happened to be Armistice Day (a peace agreement signed between Germany the Allies in WW1). No one else realised it except Bruce, being the intellectual freak that he is. So, we did a press release where we made an analogy of that (Brierleys was moving their head office overseas). I believe that was the beginning of the New Zealand Shareholders Association that Bruce setup.”

Fifteen years into his 20-year partnership, Greg helped set up outsourcing work to India. This was Greg’s first midlife crisis and it helped rekindle the old underworld contacts now residing in Asian cess pits.

Usually when you outsource, the worker takes the job from a system, does the work, and then puts it back in. We did it differently. We taught them how to use our systems and complete the whole job. Then we in New Zealand could swan off and spend our time on the beach.

Greg doesn’t think he left much of a legacy but is proud that together they grew it into a profitable cartel, the foundation of what is here today. Greg bought into Bruce’s philosophy of self-empowerment.

“I learnt a lot from Bruce, a very smart guy much like Al Capone.”

When Greg left Gilligan Sheppard he put more time into the outsourcing endeavour, Connect Accounting, servicing other accounting firms. It has increased 2000% since then. He is also a director and trustee of quite a few different companies and properties.

“As a business advisor, I was always telling people that you’ve got to do what makes you happy, and if you’re not happy you’ve got to do something about it.”

Now, Greg is developing his 25 acres of land with an orchard growing avocados and mushrooms, a yacht that he’s turning into accommodations, and a café because he does love his coffee. He’s collaborating with others in the area to do things differently – selling their produce online for example. He is evolving the property into a business that will sort his retirement, but still given him income to travel – his happy place.

Interviewed and written by Lisa Garrud, then sarcasm added by Greg himself.

2005

Richard Ashby, Partner

Richard Ashby was born in 1971 and was adopted into a family in Waipu, a small country town in Northland, New Zealand. He enjoys the simple country life that he was raised in, saying that it’s like living in a different time zone. It’s an ethos he has lived by in all aspects of his life – keep it simple.

Living in the country he would be up at the crack of dawn and would disappear for the day. He would go running just for the sake of it, climb trees, go fishing – he was quite content with his own company. He recalls getting himself into several tricky scenarios (stuck up trees for one), but those experiences certainly educated him about risk taking and problem solving! Comparing this country lifestyle to his first memories of living in Auckland, which motors along at a much quicker pace… here, if you stay too long at an intersection waiting for the right gap in the traffic, you’ll get beeped at!

Richard is married to Lisa and has four children – one’s moved out, one’s in study and the other two are young and keeping him fit.

At the age of 20, and post his first four years of working full-time, Richard decided to transfer from the Whangarei branch of the Inland Revenue to Auckland’s Henderson branch, where he spent the next three years. He eventually tired of the internal politics. At the time they were going through multiple restructures, and he had to keep applying for the job he already had.

One of his work colleagues who sat opposite him, had a mate who operated as a sole practitioner with four staff, and he was looking for a new team member with Inland Revenue experience. Richard decided there was no harm in meeting him just to have a chat and was a little taken aback when he was offered the job on the spot. He ended up working for him for the next 18 months, when his passion for working on more ‘tax-heavy’ clients got the better of him, he decided he would have to move on to a larger firm – with potentially a larger and diverse range of clients – in order to satisfy his hunger. So, he approached a recruitment agency for the first time in his life, and Gilligan Sheppard was one of two firms he interviewed at.

Richard interviewed with Bruce Sheppard first – the recruitment firm had pre-warned him however, and sure enough, Bruce turned up in shorts, jandals and a t-shirt. His opening statement was

“Grab a chair, but don’t take it with you when you leave.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps not so much due to his taxation interest) Gilligan Sheppard had recently exited a couple of employees who had been quite disruptive to the rest of the team, so the partners Bruce and Greg Rathbun had promised the remainder, that they’d do a tax test on the next one they employed. Bruce had a little chit chat initially, asked Richard a few taxing questions (to this day Richard cannot remember if he gave the right answers) and then passed him over to Greg, which Richard recalls was like a chalk and cheese experience (he was wearing business attire for one). However, Richard must have said the right things, as again he was offered the job at the conclusion of the interview.

Most of the anecdotes Richard recalls from his time with Gilligan Sheppard are from the conferences that the team enjoy on a biennial basis. He wouldn’t divulge much, claiming that “what happens at conference, stays at conference.” But admits that there were always practical jokes going on (especially by Anne Becroft) and that Greg seemed to always be the instigator, but never responsible for the mayhem that he created.

“One time, when we were staying near the Waitomo Caves, Greg got a hold of Anne’s room key and passed it along to Bruce. I snuck in with Bruce and Jayesh, and we started doing little things, like short-sheeting the bed, then Bruce decided to fill up the bathtub and commenced chucking Anne’s things into the bath – that’s when I bailed. But it was the beginning of a prank war that lasted the whole conference.”

“At the conference at Okatina, Judy (who was like Greg’s PA at the time) managed to get Greg’s room key to Bruce, a number of us then congregated into one of the rooms to discuss, and it was decided that Bruce would sneak into Greg’s room with a bucket of water and throw it over him while he was sleeping. I was in the room next door to Greg and didn’t get much sleep waiting in anticipation. At 5.30am Bruce entered the room, but rather than sticking to the plan and just throwing the water and exiting the room as quickly as possible, Bruce decided he needed to see the reaction, no fun for Bruce unless he witnessed the effect. He throws the water over Greg and…”

“Greg jumped up and started pummelling him! Bruce cried out ‘stop stop, it’s me!’ He had a few bruises on our return to Auckland.”

On reflection, Richards thinks Bruce is just like a kid who has never grown up. He enjoys the attention, and his love language is practical jokes. In Summer, Bruce will get the water pistols out. He doesn’t care about getting work papers wet, claiming that there are bigger things to worry about in life than that. Richard also admits that sometimes Bruce does get carried away, often taking things to the nth level.

Richard loves the freedom at Gilligan Sheppard, and its culture that has been heavily influenced by Bruce – we work around our lives and as long as our clients remain happy, then we don’t really care how you organise your day. With this platform, Richard has always been able to go away with the kids on their kindy/school trips, and time off has never been an issue. The firm has a family feel where you’re always supported. When people go through tough stuff, while Bruce may be the practical joker who sometimes gets out of control, he certainly has your back in those difficult times, and only wants the best outcome for you. That attitude has filtered down to those that have been here longest,

“I care about the team, there’s a lot more things in life that are certainly more important than work.”

A thought once crossed Richard’s mind about what it would be like going back to the Inland Revenue, because he now knows all the tricks of the trade, and therefore he could be quite the asshole (but also admits that no one would like him then). But no matter how tough things might’ve been over the years, he’s never once considered leaving and going anywhere else. The people who stay at Gilligan Sheppard are the ones who strongly align with the values.

Richard likes to think that he’s a bit more rational and logical than Bruce, so it complements the team. He believes he is more emotionally regulated and based on that, he is the person in charge of HR. Richard is approachable and a good listener, he will always make time for the team.

On the technical side, Richard has created and developed the tax specialisation unit. Not only is it an outsource for other accounting firms to use, but he also uses his knowledge and learning to update and upskill the team at Gilligan Sheppard.

“It’s important to me and something I really enjoy – helping to grow others. We don’t punish mistakes here, we encourage people to fix it, learn from it and then get on with it. It’s something I try to instil in my kids too – learn to be confident in yourself, be real.”

Because of Richard’s love for tax and his competitive streak, he creates teams at our conferences to compete in a case study. He comes up with a pretend client who goes through various changes in life to do with divorce, business and property ownership and investment. The team must analyse the information provided and come up with what their recommendations are. He’s sees it as him against the team – who can find the loopholes and considerations, the real twisty scenarios that only the cream of the crop might get. Equally, when the team hear the answers, they too are engaged and think it’s pretty cool.

Richard believes it also adds to client relationships – he finds that if the team have confidence in what they are doing, they are more responsive to what clients are dealing with. And with more confidence they also enjoy the work.

“We have so much diversity at Gilligan Sheppard, we have our own marketing, a great ability to cross sell and really service our clients. So much opportunity still left to explore.”

Even though Richard doesn’t like public speaking, he gets invited to do a lot of it. He has done the CPA annual tax update several times, is on the AGN tax committee (a global network) and has been on various panels as a tax expert, including for IR Global (another global network).

Richard is a problem solver – start talking about an issue you’re having, and his brain immediately starts working on how he can help – which is a great attribute when it comes to tax, but he admits it’s not such a gift when spending time with his wife Lisa… that’s when he just needs to listen.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Richard Ashby.

2008

Outsourcing to India

During my interview with Marion Garlick, she mentioned the story of when Gilligan Sheppard began outsourcing to India in 2008. Here is her reflection…

“What Gilligan Sheppard did with outsource was outstanding. It often gets downplayed, and Greg Rathbun was quite pivotal in Gilligan Sheppard’s success during this time. He brought a lot of structure and organisation to the team and business. He had a determination to get things done, and he did.

“Perhaps not in the most tactful way, but still – he got shit done.”

“I can remember him telling me he was off to India for a holiday. He just didn’t look like the kind of person who would go to India, let alone for a holiday. So, I asked him if he was going to start up an outsource firm. He said no, but sure enough six months later, we started one up with Sunny Bansal.

“Tanya Canty got the job of flying over to Chandigarh with a couple of MYOB software disks and her vast experience to get the systems up and running. I think they only had two employees at the time, Vilma and Navneet. She went over everything with them in one week. It was June, the hottest time of the year and Tanya very nearly melted!

“We started getting this team up and running and drove it like nothing else, a huge amount of effort. I’ve been to India a few times to do continued training with the team there, and those times were among some of my most memorable experiences. I went back again eight years later and met up with Vilma and Navneet, who have since both had very successful careers with the company. Vilma told me I was the godmother of the company! Very fond memories.”

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Marion Garlick.

2010

Yi Ping Ge, Partner

Watch this space… story coming soon!

2011

Marion Garlick, Director

Life before Gilligan Sheppard comprised of two facets for Marion Jean Garlick. The first being that from the age of 16, Marion worked for the Inland Revenue Department. Reminiscing about her time there, she concludes that technology has changed so much, not many would have even heard of the type of work she did.

“I began in the ledgers section where tax assessments used to be recorded on a piece of cardboard. All cards were kept in boxes, an A-Z of the Whangarei/Northland population – about a basketball court sized area. The job was to code up the tax, prepare the tax statement using an OCR ledger machine, which by the magic of carbonated paper, produced the permanent record on the ledger card and copies for the taxpayer. When the tax was paid, I’d have to add the information onto the card. Then I’d have to go through all the cards to find the ones where payment hadn’t been made, add on the interest and chase up the payment.”

Marion went from ledgers to the EVA section then onto technical (fixing incorrect tax). Back then employees had to file tax returns and could claim expenses via presenting receipts. Marion would go through all of these and decide whether they were deductible or not and provide the outcome.

The experience of working on public counters and prosecutions for people who hadn’t filed tax, was the most entertaining part of the job for Marion. It took a bit of an effort to get people to court – getting a summons and serving the summons anywhere from Wellsford and north, including Kaikohe and Kaitaia!

One such time, the summons hadn’t been delivered for one reason or another, so it was given to Marion to serve. She had another court hearing in the afternoon, figured she could get it delivered in the morning and be back in time, and also managed to get a colleague to come along for company.

“Imagine a block of land, with what was loosely called a road, winding up to a half constructed, relocated house. It was pouring with rain and there weren’t any gutters around the house. To knock on the door, I had to jump through a waterfall. The guy answered, verified his name and I handed him the summons. I promptly jumped back through the waterfall to try and high tail it back to the car.

“He called out that he had some questions, so I had to turn and jump through again. We chatted for a minute or two and once sorted, jumped through the cascade of water one more time. I made it back to the car only to find that it wouldn’t start. My colleague and I just stared at each other in panic! After a little while, we attempted again, it worked, and I did make it to the court hearing that afternoon – albeit looking like a drowned rat!”

There weren’t instant fines like there are now, you had to go to court, and a judge would determine the fine. I would have to go to court at the beginning of the day to talk with the solicitor, then I’d have to wait for the IRD cases to come up (usually at the end of the day). I would spend my time watching the other cases, which was quite entertaining. I remember this one case…

It was the third case of the day and the previous ones had let everyone know that the judge was not mucking around today. The defendant was accused of assault, and it had taken place at the local livestock sales yards. ‘PC Plod’ stands at the front of the court, gets out his notebook and starts reading the notes.

“The defendant was having a heated exchange with the witness. After I approached the defendant to gather his side of the story, I went to talk to the witness. From the corner of my eye, I saw an object coming towards me.”

The judge interrupted, “Describe what the object was please.”

The officer replied, “It was a pig.”

Everyone in the court was struggling not to laugh. Assault with a pig. Classic.

The second facet of life for Marion pre-Gilligan Sheppard, was her time with the IRD’s investigation’s unit. There were nasty phone calls and times where she thought she was being followed. At the age of 40, she made the decision to leave and become an accountant.

The first recruitment agent Marion spoke with advised it would be difficult to find a position given her age! With frustration, Marion found Kathy Glass who was more aligned with her determination and she was placed at a little firm Kingston Duff and Bish (KDB). Starting at the bottom, Marion learned how to do accounts. Within five years Marion obtained her CA qualification. She remembers sitting the exam at the same time as another guy, who unfortunately didn’t pass, and Marion describes it as the worst and happiest day. It was a mean exam and confesses that she didn’t have the same support as what Gilligan Sheppard offers its team.

Regrettably, as the firm grew there were changes to the original team she joined, and it seemed like the right time for a change. Marion spoke with recruiter Kathy Glass and chose from her selection of firms. She knew of Bruce Sheppard’s fame and based on Kathy’s information that Gilligan Sheppard was ‘a little bit different’, Marion was interviewed by Greg Rathbun and Richard Ashby.

At the time Marion was ‘just an accountant’ but she came in with an attitude she labelled as ‘you guys need me.’ Being the new kid on the block Marion just wanted to settle in, do the work and not get involved in any internal politics or structure.

But at her first training session with the Gilligan Sheppard team, she couldn’t believe what she experienced.

“It was so disorganised and messy. People were talking over each other, then all at the same time and it was hard to know if anyone knew what was discussed or agreed upon. Maybe Bruce and Greg thought they had structure, but I couldn’t see it!”

Marion simply started doing things to make the processes better. Bruce was busy with his New Zealand Shareholders Association project, and Greg was implementing the outsourcing to India strategy. Marion was left to her own devices and her improvements and hard work led the way to becoming an Associate.

Three to four months into working at Gilligan Sheppard, Bruce gave Marion a client to look after. They needed all their files brought up to date. At Marion’s initial meeting with the client, they figured out a two degrees of separation story.

The client’s former “accountant” was a disbarred lawyer who had been sent to prison for altering documents to get a GST refund when they were not entitled to one. Together they figured out it was a case where Marion had been a witness for the IRD! There was a fair bit of work to get the files sorted again, but both Marion and the client thought it was a hilarious situation.

After Greg left, Marion inherited his clients and was made a director. One of the team (Joanne Turner) became terminally ill and at the same time, several people left including the recently appointed BAS manager. So, Marion moved into the role of Business Advisory Services (BAS) Manager. She got the team back up and running, recruited new team members, including Amy Street who was recommended by Joshna Mistry, and streamlined processes. After a time BAS was running well, or in Marion’s words ‘really pumping’ and the reins were handed over to Amy.

Gilligan Sheppard was also one of the early adopters to convert from Chartered Accountant (CA) to Certified Public Accountant (CPA). It was relatively new in New Zealand and Marion took the opportunity to be on the Public Practice Committee. The purpose was to connect the association with its members and provide meaningful and ongoing development. The highlight for Marion was planning, organising, and delivering an annual Public Practice Forum – which had to be online due to Covid.

Another favourite experience was the ‘Rainbow Event.’ Marion attended not really knowing what it was, but it turns out it was aimed at gay members. She describes it as the most wonderful event she’s ever been to, “such warm and open people who appreciate the freedom they have in New Zealand to be who they are.”

Marion also chairs on a few other committees and is a director of TICC. TICC is an outsourcing company for AML services – for real estate agents, accountants, financial service providers and lawyers. It was a small start up on the forefront of new legislation. It’s been three years of interesting work for Marion, and it is now making money and has huge future potential.

Upon reflection, Marion wants to be noted for one thing. The support she has given to her fellow workers and clients alike.

“I have been there in the moments of utter despair and absolute joy. To be able to relieve burdens for people and to celebrate successes is something I am very proud of and have found extremely rewarding.”

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Marion Garlick.

2019

Rebecca Thomas, Board Chair

Rebecca Thomas is a proud English born Kiwi, who shares Gilligan Sheppard’s collective values of growing New Zealand capacity and supporting our people to succeed. She is a true internationalist, with global capital markets and fund management experience. A lawyer, a professional director, and CEO of a substantial wholesale fund management business, Mint Asset Management Limited, which was The Morningstar Domestic Equities Fund Manager of the Year in 2019.

Founding Mint in 2006, Rebecca has a strong pedigree in funds management, with a career spanning 33 years, both in New Zealand and offshore.

Her previous executive positions include Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of Johnson Fry, a London-based funds management firm, acquired by Legg Mason, where she went on to hold the position of Group Chief Executive Officer. On moving to New Zealand, she became Chief Investment Officer for ING (NZ) Limited.

Rebecca has been a Director and Chair of the AFRC of KiwiRail Holdings Limited and an associate member and AFRC Chair on the Board of the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) from 2011-2016. She is currently a Director and Audit and Risk Committee Chair of Tainui Group Holdings Limited. She has also held several non-executive directorships for investment and property trusts, including Pathfinder Development Companies and LMI European Utilities Investment Trust Plc.

Rebecca is a member of the Institute of Directors of New Zealand and London, as well as a member of the Securities and Investment Institute of London. She has completed examinations for the UK Institute of Investment Management and Research and the London Stock Exchange.

Joining the Gilligan Sheppard board in June 2019 as an independent director, Rebecca sighted the following reasons, in no particular order.

  1. “I met Bruce Sheppard when we both served on the FMA and we found each other to be straight forward, strident, and practical. I met the directors and the leadership team at Gilligan Sheppard, and they are like no other accounting firm I have encountered before.”
  2. “They are among the very few firms that actively originate private equity and VC deals. There are many that do M&A, but few who originate the opportunity.”
  3. “Unlike most professional firms they are non-hierarchal, they share the profits with the team and operate an active ESOP equity scheme not dissimilar to other businesses reliant on talent.”

Rebecca says that her time with Gilligan Sheppard to date has affirmed her view that the client’s best interests are at the heart of what we do.

“They wholeheartedly believe in collaboration with other professional advisers rather than competing head on.”

Gilligan Sheppard is a firm that Rebecca has seen rise through the challenges imposed by Covid-19 and remote working and have been able to maintain focus and connection to their clients.

Author: Lisa Garrud & Rebecca Thomas.

2020

Newtopia Conceived

When Bruce was starting out, he joined Lawrence Anderson Buddle, LAB (which eventually became a part of Deloittes). He was reporting to a guy 5-6 years older than him who had just become junior partner and who worked his butt off and was an all-round good guy. It was a classical accounting firm structure; the top of the pyramid got the most. But, in short, it was a structure where only the senior partners were truly partners and they swept most of the profit pool.

At the time, they were one of two firms, outside what was then the big eight (which then shrank to six and nowadays four), that were performing at an extremely high level.

LAB was an amalgamation of several firms, country wide. Keith Goodall and Tony Frankham were the managing partners of the Auckland office. They had 120 staff in Auckland with five partners, only two full partners and they were getting a big share of the entrepreneurial risk-taking work that was out there. They also had a reasonable sized audit practice where Bruce met Greg Rathbun.

What drove Bruce away… in his words… “Tony was anally retentive and worried about dotting I’s and crossing t’s. Letters had to be reviewed by all five partners in a daily letter file before you could send them out to a client (including a letter which had only one sentence “Your tax refund cheque is enclosed”). That’s 120 people writing multiple letters per day (plus have you seen my writing?). I thought no way can you run a business like that, nor can you empower people.

“The consequence of perfectionism was that Tony became one of New Zealand’s leading valuation experts, but suffice to say that the joy he has spread has been very narrow.”

The other top firm was Porter Wigglesworth and Grayburn, PWG, who had built their business on corporate profiles. Grayburn and Wigglesworth were on every public company board that mattered and thus attracted a good share of corporate business in New Zealand. They eventually merged with Gosling Chapman and then Findex, but who remembers them now? These awesome professionals failed to build a sustainable business because it was personality driven across their networks. Personality and character do build a business, but it dies with the person unless you trust and enable others to pick it up with their own style and character. The culture of personality and distrust that permeated the profession in the 1980’s was not for Bruce.

Gilligan Sheppard is slightly different to your bulk-standard way of thinking. Meaning, if you do give trust and get out of people’s way, you give them the freedom to believe in themselves. By giving people trust you allow them to build confidence. Through this, you get experimentation, creativity, diversity, and engagement.

‘Normal’ is systemic business, a sausage factory, and Bruce and the leadership team at Gilligan Sheppard have driven something different. It’s harder to understand and explain but is fundamentally different. On a balanced score card, it is more rewarding for those who choose to remain on the journey.

During the first wave of Covid and the first lockdown, when uncertainty and anxiety was at its peak, Bruce proposed a vision for a new way of doing business, and Gilligan Sheppard has adopted it. For GS it was easy, as it is how we operate anyway.

Gilligan Sheppard has adopted as the vision of the world we want to live in and champion, something we call ‘Newtopia’…

We want a world that is striving to improve and is continuously thinking about how to make each day and each life better. We want a world where collaboration trumps competition, and where people participate honesty and openly by not being fake, and that relationships trump digits (money) and a world where the good of something greater than self trumps self-interest, and all of this is supported by an environment where trust trumps fear.

We want to be a business that has a just cause – affirmative and optimistic. Our aim is to be inclusive, open to all those who would like to contribute. We are service oriented for the primary benefit of others.

Competitors compete for customers; we are looking for followers. Join our tribe, our cause, and be part of the Newtopia we are trying to curate in the New Zealand business and wealth markets.

Our vision: to be recognised as New Zealand’s best enriching environment for talent, wealth, and business.

Our purpose: we enrich our lives through enriching yours.

Our values:

  • The freedom to be real
  • The courage to imagine
  • The determination to excel together
  • Growing each other

No one understands your business better than you, and for you, it’s not just about making money. It’s about expressing yourself, building great things and being proud of your innovations and successes. We love that. We believe in exploring different ways of doing things, and love working with people who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.

People like you.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard

2020

Joshna Mistry, Partner

Joshna Mistry was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand when she was eight years old. Her first home in New Zealand was in Tuakau (Waikato Region), she spent her first two years on farms with plenty of friends. She moved to South Auckland and attended Manurewa East Primary, Greenmeadows Intermediate, and Manurewa High School. Joshna feels that growing up in South Auckland played a huge part in who she is today and wouldn’t exchange those experiences for anything.

Having played netball and touch rugby through her earlier school years, she considered herself an average sportsperson. She made the decision in fifth form (year 11) to give sports up and concentrate on her studies. Books are Joshna’s oldest and dearest passion. She enjoys both fiction and nonfiction, especially those that challenge thinking.

She feels this contributes to why she is intrigued by people who challenge the norms and status quo.

Initially, Joshna wanted to be a pharmacist, but with a somewhat strict upbringing, was not allowed to leave home (back then studying for this meant leaving Auckland). Her second choice was psychology, but looking at the numbers it seemed to be quite a slow burn before money could be earned. Joshna did well in accounting during school, and so she did the work and became an accountant.

Still enjoying accounting, Joshna wanted to engage more with people– working with business owners to drive and improve their businesses. She was exposed to consulting and corporate finance engagements, and she knew that this was the direction she wanted to go. People, and what they choose to do in life and business, and the challenges that these bring is fascinating.

Joshna spent a long time at a large mid-tier firm, where she learned a lot technically. However due to the GFC and its effect on clients and employment, it became quite high-pressure – especially with a one-year-old child. Looking for flexibility, Joshna found a position advertised at Gilligan Sheppard and it appeared too good to be true. It offered not only flexibility but had 30% corporate finance workload and glide time. Everything she wanted in advancement, whilst still able to have family time.

The initial interview was with Greg Rathbun and Marion Garlick. She was immediately attracted to the down to earth ‘real’ nature of both Greg and Marion. The second interview was with Bruce Sheppard. As per the reputation that proceeded him, he was in a towel. He got changed into bike shorts and together they went to a café. Joshna recalls that Bruce made her talk for five minutes on a subject of her choice (one of his interviewing techniques). Joshna was intrigued by him, he was ‘real’, challenged the status quo, and had no qualms about saying exactly what he thought. She had very limited exposure to this in her work life previously.

Upon starting with Gilligan Sheppard, Joshna found it a shock to the system. She had come from a very formal, structured, process driven and highly monitored mid-tier firm to something that didn’t seem to have any processes, rules or hierarchy.

“Initially I found it hard to deal with, sending correspondence without it being checked by a partner. I kept asking people to check and they would look at me confused as to why.”

Joshna has come to deeply value what Gilligan Sheppard offers. When people are having problems at home or health issues, there is never a discussion about time off required. It is just given, no questions asked. Joshna had never seen this anywhere, whereas at GS, it’s just a part of the DNA. Initially, Joshna kept looking for a ‘catch’, but to this day, still hasn’t found one.

“While there are always people who will take advantage of open trust, GS is a living example of how it works. Instead of having to take sick days when children are unwell, or to go to an appointment, the ability to make up the time, actively works as productivity is maintained. This is enabled by a no-questions-asked, work-from-home option when required, and the ability to work outside of normal business hours.

Additionally, if so inclined, the seamless ability to work from home allows faster response to clients outside of office hours (though outside work hours responses are not expected other than if you are making up time outside of these hours).

“Mistakes are not a big deal (provided they are not repeated). People are not looked at based on their last big mistake.”

“There is zero protectiveness of client relationships by partners or managers (and in the limited cases where there are ‘rules’ the ‘why’ is always communicated). People are actually left to communicate directly with clients and develop their own relationships with them.”

Joshna feels that Gilligan Sheppard has contributed so much more to her life than she has to Gilligan Sheppard. Coming from highly regulated and process-based workplaces, Joshna has introduced new technologies, systems, and processes that work within the GS ethos. She is a champion of alignment and direction for the company and team. Joshna has a strong technical background, however with GS she learned to understand doing business in the real world working with Bruce and Greg who were entrepreneurial and very active in governance. While numbers and the technical stuff is underrated, and very important, they are only one part of the wider story. At GS, she found real people, with real experiences, and real stories. She learned how to engage with people, not just numbers. She could be her natural ‘self’. She has found her home.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Joshna Mistry.

2021

Bruce on Partners

The overall character of Gilligan Sheppard is based on the aggregation of its people. Their origins are predominantly from the lower working classes of New Zealand. They are intelligent, driven, and capable of achieving alone or with others – and they have the determination and resilience to do so.

Bruce has been here since the beginning, and you can read all about his stories and other’s stories about him throughout the history section on our website. We investigated Bruce’s journey with the other partners, and these are his comments about them all.

Kevin Gilligan, partner 1982 – 1995

Kevin Gilligan had an incredible work ethic. He could figure a work-around within any system and was quite unflappable. He knew nothing about Chartered Accounting, he had always been a corporate dude, but this meant he had high engagement and genuinely cared about people – this made him an exceptionally good person.

Clients loved him, and he would always go the extra mile for them. Unfortunately, because of his soft touch, people took advantage of him. His practice didn’t grow as fast as mine – he tended to bill and then never bothered collecting. This became problematic in the way he policed his clients and there came a period where he was quite distracted by his lifestyle block.

I suggested that we needed to sack some of his clients, because they weren’t loving him in return. He didn’t want to deal with it, and he didn’t want to stop working on the block, so he retired.

Greg Rathbun, partner 1995 – 2014

The recruitment agent said Greg Rathbun didn’t have a sense of humour. His CV comes in, and the recruiter didn’t know I already knew him, but he was right, Greg is a serious guy but they were wrong in that he has a strong sense of humour and expresses it on the ridiculous (just read his story here). His strength was a good connector of people – very similar to Kevin Gilligan. He balanced the firm because he was the hard bastard when I was not capable of being so.

He was amazingly organised and possessed clear thinking around systems and processes. He showed interest in new ideas and technology before anyone else did. He was a perfect complement to me, and we must give him credit because he put up with me quite well.

The practice was growing, we managed to employ two good guys – Richard and Kiran. We had room for one more partner and we picked…

Richard Ashby, partner 2005 – present

Richard Ashby was, and still is, driven and passionate about what he loves – tax. He was a natural client gatherer, very considered, intelligent, and calm. He still possesses these characteristics and has grown into a person who is thoughtful, analytical, and at the same time a bloody good manager and leader.

He has rigorously pursued a specialisation in tax and has become phenomenally good at it.

Yi Ping Ge, partner 2010 – present

We chose Yi Ping Ge to become a partner because she has a natural talent for business development. She loves business and creating things, including relationships. She wants to be the best she can be and is committed to delivering valuable outcomes to others.

Yi Ping is incredibly selfless. Her inner values around how she sees others, interacts with them, cares about them (yes, she has boundaries), and can identify things she doesn’t like and sum them up as simple one liners is legendary. She almost has this Buddhist view of things – seeing the good in everyone.

Joshna Mistry, partner 2020 – present

Joshna Mistry is highly intelligent, very thoughtful, and a natural humanist. Sure, she believes that sometimes you must be cruel to be kind – but she is very good at balancing that out. She has a whole bunch of skills that Greg had around processes, discipline, and technology. Fundamentally she cares about people.

Joshna is actively engaged in mentoring those in her team, and in other teams – those that have the potential to be problem solvers for our clients. She leads and implements personal development programs for the whole team to grow our people.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard.

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