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Changing the face of New Zealand’s accounting industry

  • James

When James Zhang began studying at Unitec in 2005, he knew he didn’t want to follow a traditional career path. Instead, he chose to start his own accounting and consulting business – and it’s about much more than just the numbers.

James was working towards a Bachelor of Business, majoring in accounting and finance. He has fond memories of his year at Unitec, and says the small class sizes of just 30-50 people made a real difference.

“I got to know almost everyone in my class and made some really good connections. There were people from all ages and stages – some who already had work experience and taught me a lot. We’d often sit around a table debating ideas and coming up with a solution. It really prepared me for the realities of the workplace.

“Having smaller classes also meant easier access to lecturers and tutors. They knew our names, something I don’t think you’d get at a larger university. It was always easy to talk to them one-on-one.”

The future landscape of technology

During his time at Unitec, James began to notice that many New Zealand accounting firms had fallen behind when it came to technology. 

“IT is certainly changing the accounting industry. Everything these days is cloud based, and I saw that some of the older firms needed to update their systems and bring their technology up to speed.”
James decided he wanted to do things differently. His vision was to start his own firm – taking a fresh approach and offering much more than your traditional accountancy business. 

“Accountants are privy to so much information when preparing accounts, but that’s often where it stops. I wanted to use the knowledge we gain from ‘doing the books’ to offer clients advice on how to make the numbers look better – how to increase profitability, reduce costs and, ultimately, grow their business.”

James put together a business plan and six months later met Gordon Tian, an accountant at global firm KPMG. Gordon loved James’s vision so much that he left his job and they joined forces to launch JZR Accountants & Consultants

Customizing the accounting industry

Today, JZR has a team of eight and looks after a range of small-medium sized businesses as well as big enterprise clients. The firm not only provides all of your traditional accounting services, but offers valuable business management, growth, cost cutting and tax advice. To do this, they spend a lot of time researching each client’s business.

“We treat each client’s company like our own. Our role is to partner with them to help grow their business, so it’s important we really understand them and the industry they operate in. This is where my real passion lies – seeing companies start from scratch and being part of their growth. I love that we’re in the business of helping people, it’s what motivates and inspires me every day.”

A ‘shared success’ approach to systems efficiency 

One thing JZR focuses on is reducing their overheads so they can pass these savings on to their clients. For example, James and Gordon spent a lot of time testing different online payroll systems to find the one that was the most efficient. It’s this ‘shared success’ approach that they employ across all aspects of their business.

“We believe shared knowledge results in shared success and mutual growth. By sharing the knowledge we’ve gained through working with other clients, we can help new clients get the right team in place, manage their cashflow and go on to double their revenue. And the great thing is that we’re growing our own business at the same time!”
So, what recommendations would James give to students on the cusp of graduation, looking at taking their next step? He says his single biggest piece of advice would be to ‘just do it’. 

“Decide where you want to be and put together a plan to make it happen. Talk to other accountants to get different opinions of the industry. Travel to other countries and get a feel for what happens outside of New Zealand and how things are done on a bigger scale. And make sure you think outside the square! The world is changing – work won’t continue to be done the way it’s been done in the past. There’s no better time to try something new than right now!”

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