Christchurch profile – director Dorian Crighton

Christchurch director Dorian Crighton tells us a bit about himself and gives his thoughts on the New Zealand business landscape and challenges in 2022.

Time to read: 5 mins

Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Christchurch has been happy to get an infusion of new energy in the shape of Dorian Crighton.

Dorian is a Business Advice Director with a passion for helping others, and he classifies himself as a generalist who helps clients achieve the outcomes they want. 

“They might say, ‘Why should I use you as an accountant?’ and I’d say, 'because I’ll make you successful, in whatever you see as successful'.”

He sees accounting, financial statements and tax as the engine room – the all-important foundation when you’re dealing with people’s lives and money, with business advisory the “bells and whistles” that enhances outcomes and success.

Dorian joined Baker Tilly in April 2021, bringing his colourful personality and a wealth of experience, including more than two decades as a business owner and also as director/chair of one of New Zealand's largest accounting network firms.

He’s enjoying the switch, citing the high skill, technical level and quality of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway.

“Because of that which shall remain unnamed (COVID-19), I haven’t had the travel or the conferences (to meet national colleagues). But the dealings I have had lead me to believe the accountants in Baker Tilly are quite personable and approachable, which is important to me. Baker Tilly truly has that blend of a really high-powered firm, but very personal touch.” 

Dorian says one of the biggest challenges for New Zealand businesses in these unstable times is the availability of “boots on the ground”. He’s talked to owners who have been carrying out menial roles because they can’t fill those positions and those cycling through the job market perhaps aren’t ideal candidates.

He believes skilled people will leave our shores with the reopening of international borders but acknowledges the possibility of talented Kiwis returning home from the likes of England, the States, South Africa, India and so on.

“I also think this year’s going to be interesting because sooner or later Inland Revenue will stop being nice and they’re going to cause businesses some stress.”

He thinks business owners should be focusing on three things: Planning, Budgeting/Forecasting and Accountability within their business.

In times of uncertainty, people can get locked into a hamster wheel, when it should be a time for planning and deciding where you want to go. The forecasting and budgeting covers whether you can afford to get there and if it will bring the outcome you want.  

Accountability is generally where he questions things that aren’t following best practice. Discussions around spending can be awkward, given their personal nature, so he tailors them to the client.

“There are ways of saying things and getting people to recognise the reality of a situation.

“Accountability is such a big thing. Everybody knows, if you’ve got a gym trainer you do better, if you’ve got a business mentor you do better. People say, ‘oh well, I’ve got a business partner’ – but it’s hard to be accountable to your peers at the same level.”

Something that concerns him is the increasing burdening of compliance on small businesses. Whether that’s extra ACC requirements, new Anti-Money Laundering rules or any one of a number of things, they’re creating an increasing amount of complexities and pressure, and regulations are often so riddled with jargon and legalese that business owners can’t make head of tail of them, he says.

That’s another area where Dorian and his team can help.

He remains impressed by the level of resilience shown by New Zealand businesses. In past roles, he’s travelled the world and found people elsewhere can be overly quick to concede defeat and wind up their companies or business.   

Here, they’re doing the hard yards in times of adversity. He says it’s a strength, but equally important is knowing when to get out.

“They wait for the next big deal or something like that and they’re just another $100,000 in the hole by the end of the year, and they’ve done no one any favours.

“They say your strengths are often your weaknesses. What they’re doing well is digging deep. But the Kiwi mentality and something I often see is (to their detriment) people look after their team and clients before themselves. What they can improve on is looking after themselves.”

On the subject of improvement, one of the biggest changes Dorian has noted over time is recognition that accountants need to be more than numbers people. Business studies have also shown that clients want them to communicate well and be proactive. There's a greater awareness of the need for change, he says. 

It's something he's taken on board in his own role. Some people want a quick phone call to bounce ideas off him or to have their accounts done quickly and efficiently, no questions asked. Others want the full service − the crème de la crème of regular meetings to cover accounts, planning, budgeting and accountability, and that's where he can offer the full scope of his expertise.

Outside of work, Dorian’s values align with his office persona: Approachability, pride, passion, loyalty and enjoyment.

In that order they stand for “apple” and he does indeed like to be a good apple, from his earlier career in the Air Force to his current accountancy and charity work. 

He’s involved in the governance of WanderSearch in Canterbury. The organisation provides at-risk people (such as special needs children or those with dementia) with a device that enables police and volunteers to find them if they wander off and go missing.  

He’s also a member of Rotary. Recently they’ve been working with refugee families, ensuring that they have housing necessities like furniture, appliances and clothing.

“Rotary does so much good. Being part of a community like that is just the pointy end of being a good person.”

And he loves cricket − is still playing and calls himself “reasonably handy” although these days he only bats.

“There comes a time when it’s not flattering to wobble in and lob a grenade down the pitch.”

He’s an armchair follower and also a match attendee, avidly following his favourite team, the Black Caps.

It's the perfect antidote to a long day's work, a time of respite before he returns to his weekday world − another shift ahead and more clients to marshal on their road to success.

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