MENTAL HEALTH – THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PRICE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP & THE ACCOUNTING FALL-OUT – Fiona Green’s Epic Speech to the Inland Revenue Dept, NZ (published on Fiona Green LinkedIn 25 Oct 2018).
** TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDE, SELFHARMING **
How do you go about breaking down stigmas surrounding Business Loss, Business Failure, Mental Health, and even bankruptcy?
Our Stigma Crunching Mantra at Business Crisis Support New Zealand is: (a) talking about these subjects openly and publicly if you are able to
(b) letting people know how common these subjects are,
(c) speaking out when there has been an injustice,
(d) and changing legislation, etc.
Hoping this presentation resonates or helps individuals who have gone or are going through similar.
Good Morning, and welcome. Before I start I would like to thank you for providing a platform for this presentation to take place.
I would like to introduce you to my support person Thomas Biss – Commercial Lawyer (Henderson Reeves Lawyers, Whangarei).
This Presentation for the Inland Revenue Department – Wednesday 16 May 2018 raises the following points of interest: (1) what the business community wants you to know about losing a business, (2) suicide – learn about the ultimate psychological price of entrepreneurship; (3) self harming – learn about the psychological price of entrepreneurship – the emotional pain leading up to losing a business, and the aftermath; (4) why Accountants and Book Keepers need to step it up and help businesses more; (5) the New Zealand Legal System: Accounting and Insolvency Law.
This Oral Presentation is based on my own experience as a Sole Business Owner who has experienced all of (3) and initiated a petition to address (4). Points (1), (2) and (5) are my findings based on research, investigation, and experience, as well as personal reflection.
It is not an attack on the Inland Revenue Department – it is about developing awareness on different levels.
My name is Fiona Green. I have multiple progressive illnesses. I have no money except for a WINZ benefit. I have Aspergers Syndrome which is a high-functioning form of autism. Instead of me explaining what Aspergers is, I thought I would let you experience autism yourselves and see the world through my eyes.
To think like an autistic, there is no political correctness, everything is black and white, there is freedom of speech, and freedom of thinking. There are no rules, no laws, no boundaries in communication and metacognition. Aspergers – different, not less.
This is what the business community wants you to know about why businesses fail because there is more than one factor leading to business failure – and it is not just the Owner’s fault – which has been a misconception bandied about since time immemorial:
1. Natural disasters like earthquakes
5. Market changes
7. Acts of God
8. Businesses no matter how long or short their life, contribute to the local economy
9. Having an accounting and book keeping industry that does not monitor/regulate its Practitioners
(Present document as evidence – No. 1)
Suicide – is the ultimate psychological price of entrepreneurship.
Self harming – the psychological price of entrepreneurship.
This is my story. I lost my business 9 July 2017 due to a range of progressive illnesses commencing 2015 which impacted on my performance, etc. When I lost my business, a part of me died along with it.
Leading up to the loss, I learnt alot about the people I had contracted in to help me with my business and more through reflection – post-loss.
People hammered, and hammered me and took what they could from me when I had little or nothing to give. Losing a business carries with it an unforgiving stigma.
I became a joke to some and was mocked for not being tough enough, mocked for the dismal offers that were made when I was forced to sell the business, mocked for apparently knowing nothing about business. I was in business as a sole operator for 5 years. I still held the fort together even after numerous hospital admissions. But was still seen as weak and incompetent.
Leading up to a possible sale, a Practitioner put pressure on me to part with more than $700 within an unreasonable time frame – or they wouldn’t give me the financial documentation that I required.
I wasn’t supported by my Accountant, and another that I had approached to communicate with the Inland Revenue Dept on my behalf.
Only my Lawyer, friends, and family helped. They all lived through my emotional upheavals and more (for more than three years). My Lawyer later taking on the added role of Accountant at no cost.
I made alot of money for people who actually didn’t deserve it when I owned the Cafe. I am talking about the Accountants and Book Keepers that I had contracted in.
Picking up the pieces the day after losing a business is not just a case of simply brushing the dust off and moving forward.
I didn’t have a job to go to. I had to wait more than 3 weeks before I received a WINZ benefit. Even then I still used my benefit to try and pay off outstanding bills to Creditors. I felt shame, humiliation, sadness, anger, hurt, and cried buckets of tears endlessly for more than 6 months.
Self harming is the direct, deliberate act of hurting or injuring your body, but without necessarily wanting to die. It’s a way some people cope with intense or very difficult emotions, or overwhelming situations and life events. It’s not as uncommon as you think.
Common ways of self harming include : cutting, punching, sniffing solvents, biting and scratching skin, taking poisonous substances, taking overdoses of drugs or medication. My self harming involved overdosing on prescription drugs or stopping my heart medication or both – to knock myself out temporarily – due to intense emotional pain.
I reached a crisis point in September 2017, and ended up in the Northland Mental Health System.
I was sent to Earnshaw Residential for respite and reprogramming so that I would learn to take my medications as prescribed.
After release, I worked with an Occupational Therapist, for more than 3 months, who designed a recovery programme to not only suit me but my needs as an autistic client – which involved alot of sensory-related activities – too numerous to mention.
I was also assigned a Mental Health nurse and still to this day, she continues to monitor my progress. The uninformed would think counselling was required. This was not the case. I needed a programme that would get me motivated and back on my feet again.
I have nothing but praise for the Northland District Health Board’s Mental Health and Addictions service. It’s something that worked for me – and something that helped me reintegrate into society again.
The Mental Health nurse and the Occupational Therapist helped me communicate again after shutting down completely and becoming mute. I found over time that people didn’t want to hear my anguish so I just decided to stop talking altogether.
I met people who had been through worse than me. I found them interesting and inspiring.
There’s alot people can learn from the experience of integrating with those who have similar or other mental health conditions.
I am all the more wiser from mixing with them and hearing their stories. It put my own experience into perspective. It’s true – there is always someone worse off than you.
In saying this however, this is not to diminish my own journey – which in itself has been extremely painful. The only crime I did was become unwell in 2015 and beyond with progressive illnesses.
Looking back during a quiet moment, at the people I had contracted in since losing the business, I made some interesting discoveries about Accountants and Book Keepers.
Accountants, Chartered Accountants, and Book Keepers have torn businesses apart. They have torn families apart. They have torn communities apart. They have torn regions apart. They have torn apparent failed business owners apart and have relegated them to a sub-class of human existence. This is reinforced by an unregulated Accounting and Insolvency industry and the New Zealand Legal System.
If these people are innocent, them I’m lying.
I’m not lying. I set out to prove that Accountants and Book Keepers need to help businesses more. Through my own investigations and research, and a telephone call to my Lawyer, I started a petition in January 2018 echoing the sentiments/concerns mentioned earlier.
*Sixty-seven people around the world – mainly from NZ and Australia have signed Change NZ Accounting Law. If the kind of Accounting Law changes I am looking for eventuate, this will mean less businesses getting into trouble, more businesses profiting, and less problems with and for the Inland Revenue Department.
(Present Evidence – handover and read out hard copy of Petition – Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Change NZ Accounting Law – from Change.org website – thus:)
*Petition – Change NZ Accounting Law
We, for and on behalf of Business Crisis Support NZ LTD and the undersigned respectfully ask that Accounting Law changes be made to ensure that Accountants/Chartered Accountants and Book Keepers take their role more seriously – whether their clients are private, large companies, or small business owners.
Sole Traders in particular need protection from financial exploitation, etc as do Special Needs clients.
We do not think Clients should pay exorbitant fees for what mainly boils down to excessive use of data entry skills – where ten fingers get your books done faster than two.
On a daily basis we see too many businesses going into liquidation, receivership, etc. (Please refer to the NZ Herald’s Public Notices section).
Behind many unsuccessful and successful businesses, is an Accountant/Chartered Accountant and/or Book Keeper.
Behind the loss of a business are stories of being powerless to do anything. Emotional pain leads to depression, anxiety, PTSD, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, increase in car accidents, self harm/ suicide attempts. (These are the psychological prices of losing a business). And in desperate circumstances – ending one’s life completely (the psychological price of entrepreneurship).
We are talking about Corporate Bullying of a different kind that has been missed by many or conveniently overlooked.
Reporting on a business’s financial position often rather than once a year is important. There are huge variances in reporting, customer service, level of commitment to the job, etc. Types of services vary as well.
An Accountant/Chartered Accountant/Book Keeper should explain their role properly and fully at the first point of contact – there should be no surprises further down the track.
Charge out rates (like customer service, services offered, and reporting) etc, are all over the place eg $45 per hour (reasonable) to $100 plus per hour (unreasonable) – just for having your bank reconciliation, profit and loss statements done.
Accounting software or cloud based accounting platforms make completing the job more efficient and supposedly more cost effective for the client. But there’s monthly fees and larger fees to set everything up.
There are in fact more variances in other areas including professional conduct, bias towards special needs clients, etc.
There are professional accounting bodies like CAANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand), and ATAINZ (Accountants Tax Agents Institute of New Zealand), but we are concerned that practitioners are not regulated.
We know they try their best – but it is not enough. It is Accounting Law, and the introduction of a new Book Keeping Law that needs to go further to address disparities and variances that have been apparent for a long time.
An Accountant/Chartered Accountant and Book Keeper has a responsible job. They are overseeing other people’s money – that being the Client’s financial livelihood, a company’s finances. Some Accountants/Chartered Accountants offer business support or mentoring in industries where they have no experience.
The astute Accountants/Chartered Accountants/Book Keepers need to be separated from the ones who aren’t.
More importantly, the individual and business community deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity by their Accountant/Chartered Accountant and Book Keeper. Change NZ Accounting Law offers a solution.
In addition to this, changes to Insolvency Law need to be made to strike a humane balance between debtor and creditor needs. Many Book Keepers, Accountants, Chartered Accountants are misrepresenting the suitability of their services for a particular purpose.
Both Industries need to be better regulated. Yes, Chartered Accountants have the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants Act 1996 (and its amendments), but it’s not enough.
A Book Keepers Act needs to be created because no such Act has ever existed – we are currently drafting an Act
(The rest of the Petition can be found on the Change.org website by googling ‘Change NZ Accounting Law). The Presentation continued as follows:
Moving on to something different.
“Our country’s law and financial system are designed with the Corporate in mind. Not the ordinary citizen. And they are influenced heavily by the global financial markets. So the laws are written with that in mind. Our standing as a country is affected by the financial markets and our laws are often decided from that standing, not necessarily what the people want. We as a country do borrow money so our country has creditors and they must be considered when Government writes its policies
So debt has a tremendously important place in our society, way more than people realise. It is a billion dollar industry…Our lack of financial knowledge is being exploited through debt. The only way to stop that is to not borrow at all. But try and create multiple cashflow streams and decent profit margins. This is what Accountants should be advising people. Accountants often don’t have better business knowledge than their clients.”
‘The insolvency industry is not regulated. ‘NZ’s Laws mean anyone can bankrupt a person or put a debt on a credit report.’
Those were not my words in that quote, they are Christchurch Bankruptcy Researcher Lisa Cowe’s).
(Present Document as evidence – Lisa Cowe’s Personal Insolvency Integrity Bill)
Talking about self harming, suicide, inept financial administrators is as taboo a subject as abortion and bankruptcy. This presentation breaks through the glass ceiling – for want of a better description.
Changes to NZ Accounting and Insolvency Laws need to be made to strike a humane balance between Debtor and Creditor needs.
It’s been 110 years since the inception of the Bankruptcy Act 1908 No.12 and nothing has changed much except the title in 2006. It is now known as the Insolvency Act 2006. Many Accountants and Book Keepers are misrepresenting the suitability of their services for a particular purpose. This happens because the Accounting/Book Keeping Profession needs to be better regulated – by Law.
Every business owner who has lost their business, has a story to tell. Echoing similar if not the same tragic themes you’ve heard this morning.
There are certainly prices to pay on a micro and macro level. Some never make it through business loss, the financial hardship, and the shame that goes with it. Your life changes forever when you lose a business. The New Zealand Legal system needs to acknowledge and embrace change. Because the very act of being in debt and losing everything, is a severe enough punishment on its own.
I hope you have all learned something, and have developed an awareness into business loss, suicide and self harming behaviours that transpire, Accounting and Insolvency law, and the New Zealand Legal system, by thinking like me – an **Aspie. Thank you.
END OF PRESENTATION
This Presentation was written up, and prepared by Fiona Green on Monday 14 May 2018 after 5 months research and investigation – and presented to the Inland Revenue Department, Wednesday 16 May 2018 at 9:00 am – in Person with my Lawyer.
Thanks to Commercial Lawyer Thomas Biss (my amazing Lawyer for three years) and his team at Henderson Reeves, Whangarei. Thanks to my family, friends, Mental Health Nurse, Occupational Therapist, Northland DHB Mental Health and Addictions Services.
* Re: Change NZ Accounting Law Petition – as at Thursday 25 October 2018 – 390 people from around the world including New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK, etc have signed. As at Wednesday 3 January 2018, 456. As at Tuesday 23 March 2020, that number has increased to 567.
**Aspie – person who has Aspergers Syndrome (high-functioning form of Autism)