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NZ Bookkeeper Of The Year Shares Her 10 Steps To Business Survival

The winner of The Institute of Certified New Zealand Bookkeepers Bookkeeper of the Year 2020, Haylee Wrenn, is urging Kiwi businesses to put their hand up for help.

Haylee Wrenn

With the government’s wage subsidy programme at a close, and a bleak economic outlook for 2021, the owner and founder of Accountabill, who took out the title at the ICNZB’s Excellence Awards and is now a finalist in the Xero Awards 2020, takes a holistic view of accountancy. “It’s important that business owners look at all aspects of their business health – and that includes their own personal physical and mental health. A stressed, anxious, burnt out business owner does not make effective business decisions,” Haylee says.

Haylee and Accountabill specialise in small businesses and businesses in financial difficulty, offering a leg up in the form of one-to-one accountancy, pricing strategy, business planning, establishing work-life balance and clearing debt. With dozens of success stories – thriving businesses who once came to her on the precipice of collapse, with enormous unpaid tax bills or fielding bankruptcy threats - she’s well-placed to deeply understand what helps a business grow, and what might cause it to fail.

She also has a strong message for those who think that every business is going great, but theirs. “I can tell you right now that your competitors are probably doing it tough just like you are,” says Haylee. “You’ll hear a lot of tall stories but please, don’t take your advice from your mates at the pub because they’re unlikely to have the expertise to tell you honestly where you are at.”

Formerly a debt specialist with Inland Revenue, Haylee says she is sharing her checklist for business survival in the hope that New Zealand SMEs will access all the tools available to them in a Covid environment.

“I’m massively passionate when it comes to helping people make the best of their business. A small business exists to support your life and lifestyle – not the other way around – and there are so many options available to get the cogs whirring and machine really well oiled.”


  1. Conduct a business health check. Find a member of the ICBNZ to scan your books or accounting software. We’re trained to quickly spot errors which may mean you are paying either too much (or not enough) GST – both of which kill your cashflow. See who is in you region here:
  2. Review your insurances to see what you are actually paying for, and what your cover entails. Sometimes businesses have automatic payments going out that are no longer relevant. We once discovered a client had been paying for his ex-wife’s life insurance for four years and did not know, so we highly recommend undertaking a thorough review
  3. Check your pricing. Have the cost of goods or services that you sell increased? Does your pricing reflect that? Make sure you’re charging enough to not only keep the business afloat but also to give you the lifestyle you’re wanting.
  4. Prepare a cashflow to help you get through the next 12 months – you know your business better than anyone so you are the best person to forecast your future. Recently we ran a webinar explaining the benefits of a cashflow and there is even a template to help you do this –
  5. Consider tax pooling. If cashflow is tight and you are struggling to make your provisional tax payments on time, consider using tax pooling as a way to avoid penalties and interest at IRD. Chat to your accountant or check out This is effectively a way for you to put your tax on hire purchase and make regular payments as your cashflow allows.
  6. Create goals that you would like to achieve personally, then enable your business to help you to achieve them. It is great to have business goals but if there is no real desire behind them the chances are you won’t succeed. If your goal is to travel, renovate your bathroom or buy a new car then you’re likely to be more determined to do the work to get what you want. A business with no destination in mind will never move from its current spot, so start goal setting.
  7. Check out the Regional Business Partners Network – funding is available for you to work with specialists to help you get from point A to point B. If you’re a GST-registered business then these guys will be able to connect you with professionals who can help you achieve the goals you’ve set (point 6)
  8. Assess your resources. During my time at IRD I worked with many small business owners who hung on to their employees for far too long which ultimately cost them their business. If your business is affected by Covid then assess your resources – do you still need the same number of employees you had, and in the same roles you’re currently filling? Does your business require the establishment of new roles? Should others be disestablished? Analyse your business and think about your customer journey – what does your business need to operate successfully and profitably?
  9. Protect yourself. If you do decide to restructure, bring in specialist support (possibly something the Regional Business Partners Network could help with). It is important to protect yourself from the possibility of legal action taken by an affected employee. In periods of high stress we don’t make the best decisions so some external support is critical.
  10. Take a break. Walk away from your business and take time out for you. It’s important as a business owner to recharge. Too often we run round like headless chickens thinking we’re super busy and achieving lots when in reality we’re not focused or delivering the service we think we are. It’s ok to step back and breath – make time for your wellness or you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.

For more top tips and to access Haylee’s free webinars and educational videos, go to

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