Date posted: 3/02/2021 5 min read

Meet the CA growing Māori businesses: Solomon Dalton CA

BDO Northland’s Solomon Dalton CA is strengthening Māori business and helping young Māori imagine different careers.

In Brief

  • Solomon Dalton CA is a key member of the senior advisory leadership team within BDO Northland.
  • He specialises in working with Māori businesses and iwi to develop their business and financial capability.
  • He is an advocate for young Māori joining the profession and wants to change their perceptions about accounting.

By Hayden Maskell

Ko Pūhanga Tohorā te Maunga
Ko Punakitere te Awa
Ko Ngātokimatawhaorua to Waka
Ko Ōkorihi te Marae
Ko Ngāti Ueoneone te Hapu
Ko Ngāpuhi te Iwi

BDO Northland’s Solomon Dalton CA is quick to admit he wasn’t always sure accounting was the profession for him. He says walking down Auckland’s Queen Street when he was at university just heightened that sense of not fitting into the business world.

“I grew up on a dairy farm up here in Kaikohe [260km north of Auckland], which we still have, and struggled with the concept of being an accountant and what I thought was an accountant,” he says. “That ‘having to wear suits every day’ thing, versus my upbringing – the ‘hard, physical, tough male job’ thing.”

But that changed when he went to the Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui (Māori Accountants Network meeting) in 2009. Suddenly, he recognised people he could relate to, including his uncle Roger Dalton – a fellow accountant.

“I realised I don’t have to change the way I am,” Dalton explains.

“A big influence on me was my uncle, the first in our whānau to go through university, and he was an accountant.

“I didn’t even think about that until my second-last year of study, when I went to that hui with my uncle.

“That’s what made me think that, really, if I wanted to role model anybody, it should be him!”

It was not all plain sailing. Dalton had two children during his university studies and battled with going from farm life to being in New Zealand’s biggest city. But with grit, determination, and the support of his family, he made it work.

“It’s funny, because my parents always said to me, ‘go and do this qualification and you can do whatever you want afterwards’,” he says. “But what I realised is I spent a good while to get where I am now, and it would be silly to go and do something else.”

A specialist in advisory

While accounting is changing significantly, the public perception of the profession has been slow to catch up.

Dalton admits he chose accounting at first “because one plus one is straightforward”, but he realised during his study that he had an opportunity to do far more than look at spreadsheets.

“People say, ‘oh, you must be a number cruncher’, but I tell them the calculator does that for me. I know builders who are way more onto it than I am with division and multiplication!” he confesses with a laugh.

“The main thing, really, with being an accountant is being able to help people and grow their business.”

Meet the CA growing Māori businesses: Solomon Dalton CA

“The main thing, really, with being an accountant is being able to help people and grow their business.”
Solomon Dalton CA

Helping people is what drives him, he says. It’s the reason he specialises in advisory and governance, and dedicates himself to upskilling iwi, local marae and Māori organisations.

“For me, it’s especially about helping grow Māori business and help Māori people,” he says.

Growing Māori business

After finishing university in 2011, Dalton started his career in the corporate world, but he knew he wanted to return to Northland and have a role in unlocking the potential in Māori business and Māori land.

He joined BDO Northland in 2013 and the now father of five is a key member of its senior advisory leadership team.

On top of his day job, and true to the CA moniker, Dalton serves on an exhaustive list of trusts and boards. He is a director at Te Hiringa Business Promotions and Kerikeri Area Sport and Recreation Management Limited; a trustee for Te Hiringa Trust and Tau Iho | Te Po; treasurer for Taitokerau Māori Forest Inc.; and a member of Kaikohe and Districts Sportsville Inc.

He says the demand for the skills that CAs have is enormous. For this reason, he and BDO are working on a training scheme to bring more rangatahi [young people] through for work experience.

In part, it’s to change perceptions of what it means to be an accountant; but it’s also about seizing an opportunity to strengthen Māori organisations from within.

“For example, a local Ahu Whenua block [land trust] has 5000 acres of land, and probably 1000 shareholders with ties to that land. If we can get five rangatahi and put some through the CA Program, a farming program, through a legal program, that’s going to bring those skills through to the organisation, like a bonding scheme,” he says.

“People ask me for help or to join their board left, right and centre, because of my skill sets – and I’m always asked to be treasurer,” he laughs. “And I just think, imagine what those entities can do with the right skills.”

‘We help people achieve their dreams’

Dalton’s passion for his work is infectious and he’s enthused about getting more young people into the accounting profession. He says there are plenty of reasons to consider accounting as a career, but he has a simple pitch about why it’s especially rewarding.

“My whakaaro around it is that we help people achieve their dreams. It’s what we do.”

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