- Caroline Connor is a director of business advice firm Colbert Cooper in Levin in New Zealand’s North Island.
- Connor also applies her CA skills to help the Te Hinaki Education Trust.
- While technology is very important, you can’t underestimate the importance of your team.
Based in Levin in New Zealand’s North Island, Caroline Connor is a director of business advice firm Colbert Cooper. She also applies her CA skills to help a local education trust provide computers to the region’s school children.
You are a trustee of Te Hinaki Education Trust – tell us about the organisation.
We’re a charitable trust established to help achieve great educational outcomes for all students in the Horowhenua district. Our goals include promoting collaboration among the district’s schools, improving access to digital technology for all students and engaging children and families with learning, both at school and at home. We fund the initial purchase of a Chromebook for each student who joins the scheme and then parents pay small regular amounts to buy the device from the trust. The student uses the device at school and home and keeps it once it is paid for.
Tell us about your work with the trust.
A working party visited Auckland’s Manaiakalani (the hook from heaven) programme. They’re a group of schools in a low socio-economic area, which through digital initiatives have transformed the educational outcomes in their schools. Te Hinaki was formed with the goal to bring the same model to Horowhenua to ensure that all our children have access to their own digital device. Initially my role was very hands-on, processing direct debits and operating the Xero file until we appointed CloudFarm as our office administrator. I am responsible for presenting the monthly financial reports along with monitoring the dishonours and inventory. I also act as trustee with the normal governance responsibilities that come with this. [The Manaiakalani programme won the Chartered Accountants ANZ-sponsored Education category at the recent NZ Innovation Awards.]
How important to this are your CA knowledge and skills?
The trust has enabled families to purchase a device for their child on a credit contract with repayment terms that suit the family. These include one, two or three-year contracts and weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayment options. As a CA, I have been involved in working with the administrator to set up the financial procedures. We use Xero for financial reporting, tracking inventory and dishonours and a Xero add-on product called uCollect to run the daily direct debits. I have used my CA experience and knowledge in this regard to get the financial and reporting systems on track.
What motivated you to get involved?
I saw the trust as an extension of my involvement as a board of trustee member at my children’s school. I also didn’t want to see the learning of children in our community disadvantaged because they didn’t have access to a digital device.
Tell us about your everyday work.
Our firm is based in a regional town, so a large number of our clients are small to medium-sized businesses, with 40% being rural based. A large part of my day is around communicating with clients either at their premises, over the phone or via email and with our team.
What do you think sets Chartered Accountants ANZ members apart?
It is a qualification that is recognised worldwide and enabled me to travel to Jersey, Channel Islands to work.
What’s the most helpful tool you have for getting the job done?
While technology is very important, you can’t underestimate the importance of your team. I was once told to surround yourself with a great team as you can’t do everything yourself.
What is your favourite quote?
Keep calm and carry on.