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.