New Zealand’s top bookkeeper, Haylee Wrenn, is all heart

The winner of The Institute of Certified New Zealand Bookkeepers Bookkeeper of the Year 2020 is Hawke’s Bay’s Haylee Wrenn, but don’t expect her to baffle you with numbers.

The owner and founder of Accountabill, who took out the title at the ICNZB’s Excellence Awards last week, takes a holistic view of accountancy, with a focus on clients’ wellbeing, mental and physical health.

Haylee knows only too well the toll poor stress management can take on a business owner. While picking up a prescription with her children in 2014, she suffered a cardiac arrest, narrowly escaping death due, largely, to her proximity to medical care. She was 37.

“I call it ‘the day of my big sleep,’” says Haylee, who now has a tiny computerised defibrillator implanted right by her heart. She says her story is incredibly motivating when it comes to working with burnt out business owners. “Clients come to me for business advice, they meet with me and the next thing, they’re giving up smoking or taking up yoga. It’s quite a powerful guilt trip – I can show them the defibrillator sitting just under my skin, and it’s a real wake-up call for many.”

But that’s only the beginning of Haylee’s skillset. The ICNZB Excellence Awards celebrate bookkeepers who have enjoyed success with their clients, suppliers and staff, are positioned for long-term sustainable growth and take a fresh view of their business.

Haylee and Accountabill specialise in small businesses and businesses in financial difficulty, offering a light at the end of what is often a very dark tunnel. “So often, business owners are great at that thing they do, or sell, or make, but terrible at running a business,” says Haylee. “After working at the IRD as a debt collector, and seeing how tough it was on the little guys, who would lie awake at night trying to work out how to pay a relatively small debt, I made the decision to walk away and be that lifeline for small business owners.”

She says with the right guidance, ongoing education and excellent support, businesses will thrive. “Our clients have actually done quite well through Covid-19,” Haylee, who employs a team of four, notes, “because they’ve been able to make decisions quickly, with our support. There’s also been a wave of new trade for their businesses as more Kiwis decide to support local. I’m finding it’s the bigger companies – the ones who haven’t paid attention to their clientele – who are in trouble, and having to do things like restructure.”

Haylee estimates that she’s helped many hundreds of businesses deal with worrying tax debt, insolvency issues, growing business demands – even family and marriage concerns – across New Zealand since setting up Accountabill in 2016. That number includes the 400-plus small businesses who have accessed her raft of educational training videos offered free on the Accountabill website.

She also manages several “Accountability” groups, where business owners get together each month to hold each other to account on tasks they set to support and grow their businesses. “They set their own agendas, and their own consequences if tasks aren’t completed – like having to run down the street wearing nothing but their togs!”

It’s all part of Haylee’s mission to manage the books, with heart – something the mum of three has now been nationally recognised for. “The best reward is seeing people who were about to be bankrupted by IRD, or have their assets liquidated, operating as profitable and compliant businesses,” says Haylee. “But I have to say that being judged the best by a panel of people I really admire is awesome too.”


MEDIA RELEASE – Thursday 30th July 2020