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