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 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 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.”
We dined on them that night, then she passed.
Fi had the ability to work, so she did. She contributed her entire life.
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.