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Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Balcony People are inspiring

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Years ago when a friend was starting out in his career, one of his first jobs was in New Zealand’s oldest bank. He asked why the few Maori working in the bank never worked at the counter as tellers. He was told it was management policy not to have any Maori or Pacific Islands staff in the customer service area. Clients wouldn’t feel comfortable with Maori working behind the counter.

We have often laughed at this stupidity but perhaps the bank had its finger on the pulse of the nation at that time. Hard to believe now isn’t it?

My friend who was Maori went on to have a successful accountancy career with stints working overseas and at the Treasury in Wellington.

He came to mind last weekend when I attended the opening of Glenn Hawkins & Associates (GHA) building here in Rotorua and the celebration of his 10 years in business as a chartered accountant.

It’s the reverse in Glenn’s business. It is difficult to spot the Pakeha in the line-up of professionals who make up the GHA team. Not that I believe there is a definite strategy to hire only Maori but, today, there are plenty of Maori professionals getting snapped up. They are young, ambitious and career minded. It was a pleasure to be in their company. They would all have made a commitment some years ago to pursue accountancy, law or management studies.

They put the effort into successfully completing their degrees. Some may have been lucky enough to be financially supported by the many Maori trusts that provide educational grants, always gratefully received, but they were the ones that year in year out turned up at class and handled the required study and workload.

In his speech, Glenn acknowledged and gave credit to local accountant Andrew Kusabs who, when Glenn was a student, encouraged him to look at accountancy as a career. He believed in Glenn, provided him with work during the holidays and was constantly in his corner.

I call people like Andrew Kusabs Balcony People. They are the ones who give encouragement. They inspire, support, motivate and coach others to strive to reach their potential. They don’t allow them to think “near enough is good enough”. They see the best in them and are constantly praising and cheering people on.

Of course, Balcony People probably don’t realise the effect they are having. But it can be a game breaker for some people. We all have the potential to be Balcony People but how many actually are.

I believe Glenn Hawkins is one. He has two points of difference; his business and who he is. Glenn’s business vision is to be “a kaupapa Maori professional services firm that is sustainable, based on quality people and relationships”. This is a business that has its heart set on helping more Maori be successful in business and to develop their commercial assets.

A far cry from when Maori had limited options as to who they could go to for professional services to help them grow their business.

As a kaupapa Maori firm, this means traditional Maori values and te reo Maori in the workplace and in services is applied. The work environment is built on the combined cultural strengths of the team. And with 15 of the team of 20 being Maori, that’s a strength not to be underestimated. This will be welcomed by Maori clients, appreciated and valued.

Glenn’s own point of difference is his quiet unassuming manner. His leadership is not just a role played but demonstrated in life. At the opening and celebration it was obvious he is admired and respected.

I suspect one day several of Glenn’s team will speak of him as he did of Andrew Kusabs last week. I hope we see more Balcony People in the future. They are the ones who make a difference.

-Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.

Rotorua Daily Post

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