From Soul Destroying to Worthwhile

Recently, I wrote about the challenges of the public works act engagements we are undertaking (click here to read).
Since then, a number of people asked why were we still doing what appears to be soul destroying work? I have struggled with answers as to the why, especially after we have made such a big deal about how important enriching lives is to us here at Gilligan Sheppard. Dealing with LINZ & NZTA has been akin to ‘Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell’. You won’t believe what we and our clients have had to endure.
On Friday, I went to have a beer with a client with whom I have walked through the fires of hell, aka the Public Works Act (PWA) process.
I need to note, that the criteria of having a beer with a client is really important to me; if we like each other’s company enough to break bread and share an ale, we will do great things together. I’m pleased to say that I would have beer with most of our clients. Back to Friday…
Grant and Shailina are good people with a great business, Auckland Scuba, who employ a broad range of dedicated people. It’s one of the country’s best dive schools that helps young people embark on a career that is personally rewarding and challenging.
They are no nonsense, busy people, who appreciate straight answers and honesty – in short, they are Gilligan Sheppard people. Given these facts, they were not prepared for the half-truths and negotiation style of the NZTA/LINZ approved agents and the waterfall of mayhem it created. They approached me due to my work with business neighbours undergoing the same torture from the Crown agents.
Long story short, I helped negotiate a fair package that allowed them to relocate to a new premises and carry on their business. This new deal was considerably more than what the Crown was trying to force upon them before they engaged me. This is a just and fair the result, however the behaviour of the Crown agents would make your eyes water! The Crown still haven’t paid our bills although they are obliged to do so. Among many of the Crown agents’ more entertaining acts, they defamed us, though we managed to get an apology from their managing director.
The fact we reached a deal doesn’t mean Auckland Scuba have accepted no risk as a result of Crown decisions impacting their business and their 16 year lease/rights to renew at their current successful premises. They are business people, and accepting risk is a part of running their business. What has been difficult for them, and others, is the continual mantra “we need to be careful of the tax payers dollar,” as a reason to nickel and dime honest business people. Today we say ENOUGH! It is unacceptable that Crown appointed agents treat affected taxpayers so appallingly. These are the taxpayers who contribute to the ‘bigger’ taxpayer pool which the Crown agents are so protective over. They have the right to be treated fairly and consistently. The basic economics suggest that the best outcome is to allow these businesses to relocate, and carry on trading to pay more tax to fund more things like roads, teachers, nurses and police officers. Worrying about ‘new carpet’ versus old on betterment, and ‘are we paying more than the business is worth on a hypothetical basis,’ is just bull dust. It achieves nothing and only builds resentment towards the Crown and public works.
Are civil servants putting our way of life at risk?
Read Bruce’s article on the matter here.
Anyway… I sat with a hearty Pilsner (or four) and listened to Grant and Shailina’s side of the story and the impact on their lives.
They recognised that the Crown agent was playing games, and trying to bully them in to accepting a low ball offer created out of thin air, by the Crown appointed lackey directed to provide lowest possible numbers. When they appointed me, and my first reaction was to throw that offer in the bin, they were relieved. They felt like they had someone on their side and someone who would not be bullied into submission.
Grant and Shailina are straight up people, and not easily bullied, but I could see that they had been pushed and manipulated beyond what was fair and reasonable by Crown agents with a different agenda. The only comfort in the saga is that every single party seems to be have subjected to the same tactics. Sometimes a shared misery is easier to bear. To hear them say that they felt that I was in their corner made my months of despair worthwhile.
During this process your time as an impacted party is not reimbursed, and it can be quite overwhelming. The Crown agent was trying to scare them by threatening in a meeting that our fees may not be paid – this was a real concern to them. Bruce and I had agreed earlier to not let out clients be bullied, and we carried the risk.
Did we enrich Grant and Shailina’s lives? I like to think so. Do I feel good about the outcome for them? You bet I do! I feel good because the Crown has a fair deal and a taxpayer (who will be paying tax for decades to come – without a doubt – even though the actual engagement has been tortuous, and pedantic) has a fair deal.
I swear if I hear “we are in a process that we have to follow” one more time, I will punch some bureaucratic turkey in the mouth! We have allowed our clients some respite and comfort in a messy situation. It has been worthwhile. Even though we have been part of a broken and energy sapping system that is designed to frustrate and disenfranchise honest business people and land owners, we have done a good job.
If you’re walking through business hell at the moment and need some support – book a chat with one of the Value Added team. Their advice could completely turn it around for you.

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