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