Hello Everyone,

It seems like forever since I have reached out in text to our clients and I apologise for radio silence. It’s high time I bore you with some probably misguided commentary. The problem is these days things change so quickly that by the time I get around to writing it’s always yesterday’s news. Last week it was all about electricity, it went from Solar tax breaks to ANC allegedly sticking their greedy snouts into the Eskom money trough. This morning Durban apparently spent R600 Million on replacing streetlamp light bulbs. They managed to spend that in 3 months and I believe the budget was supposed to be R100 Million in 24 months. To rub salt into this wound I believe that the bulk of the Durban Street Lamps are currently out, because they have no bulbs!

This would be an awesome news item to launch into a discussion about the importance of forecasting and budget maintenance as this is a real life example of how, left unchecked, the expenditure for a year would be 2.4 billion vs a budget of 50 million. How any system can leave this to run rampant is mind blowing and how a KPI, such as, ‘are the lights working’ would highlight a resounding fail, yet still no one cares. If the light bulb replacements of Durban were a business it would have been bankrupt in 8 days. It’s a statistic I find very difficult to get my head around, yet almost daily I seem to read or hear equivalent statistics. Anyway , let me reign myself back in, this narrative is supposed to be about us and not you, so I will force myself off my soap box, I will climb back on before the end of March to try and offer some vaguely useful opinions to help steer you through what I think will be a very challenging year.

The main purpose of this letter is to bring everyone up to speed on MRM’s internal changes. The big bombshell for the firm was Shireen leaving the partnership to pursue a life in the land of the long cloud, or Aeoteroa, if you have a penchant for Maori . Whilst I knew she was tossing the idea around, when she decided to go, it was a bit of a whirlwind to be honest.

For those of you who she used to deal with, I apologise for any delays you experienced but I believe we have got everything back on track and are looking forward to a more sane 2023/2024 financial year.
I have spoken before about the dynamic nature of a business, especially one with solid roots and a long
pedigree. After having watched more businesses than I care to remember I believe this with increased
conviction. Businesses take on their own life and personae, they are forged by their incorporators, as a
projection of their own belief system, and then are influenced by the additional role players who come and go through as the years pass. The longer a business trades, the more these tenets become entrenched, so much so that not only do the people influence the business, the business has the reverse role on the people themselves essentially creating a symbiotic relationship.

At MRM, as many of you know, the firm was founded by Michael Rogers in the mid 80’s. He was a
nonconformist with a penchant for challenging authority and a hatred of anything unjust. I joined him in 1992 at the tender age of 23, and was drawn to his refreshing outlook on a career historically made of dour people in pinstripe suits.

We both shared an obsession with technology, and a similar sense of humour, and he became my primary
mentor in business. This was the case until his very sad passing almost 7 years ago, when I picked up the baton as senior partner in the firm. At this stage, the firm continued in the same manner as it did before, as the ethos of the firm continued as it had become stronger than any one individual.

At the same time I was more than ably supported by Shireen, who had been a part of the MRM family for 14 years last year when she decided to spread her wings, and again, much of her skill set (OCD to the max) , has benefited us, and added to our firm’s methodologies. Whilst she may have left MRM, the systems she meticulously designed live within us, and have once again, left the firm stronger and more able.

There is a common misconception that people need to be replaced, like with like, when leaving, and whilst this is often the case, not always true. If a business follows that path it runs a very true risk of stagnating in the face of the rapidly changing landscape we all dwell in. After some long thought I chose to once again reposition the firm and look forward instead of backwards. At about the time of Shireen’s departure there were some events which happened which I considered a portent for change. Firstly we had just moved into our new offices, as the final stroke in our remote work plan. Secondly, a chance meeting with the firm’s old friend Jimmy Shankland who I hadn’t seen for some years. Lastly Arnold Makore , heading MRM – IT, decided to move into the world of full time computer programming, in more or less the same month which Shireen had decided to leave for New Zealand.

In addition to this, and as mentioned in previous circulars, we are welcoming in a steady flow of new clientele and we are being called upon to perform a fair amount of high level consultancy. This requires a subset of high level skills on the one side, and an increasing need for more ‘feet on the ground’ on the other side.

A really long buildup I know, but here’s the summary.

Jimmy Shankland has been running his own practice, under the name Makes Cents AFS, since early 2000 when we disbanded the commercial aspect of Eureka. He is an experienced Professional Accountant, and represents a collection of clients, along a very similar ethos to us at MRM. Whilst, as a Professional Accountant, our skills are all multidisciplinary, his expertise is in what we loosely define as business advisory. This comprises consulting on the day to day mechanics of businesses through systems and analysis. Those of you, who know me, will know that my skills, aside from Taxation, are forward planning and strategic business management or ‘the big picture’.

We have therefore agreed to merge Makes Cents AFS with MRM from 01 March 2023, into a new company, MRM Financial Counsel Incorporated. For those of you unfamiliar with Incorporated’s or “Inc’s”, they are reserved for professionals who previously were forced to trade through partnerships or sole proprietorships.

The incorporated company requires that all shareholders be directors, and that all participants be registered with the same professional society, in this case SAIPA.

As much as I relish not being the eldest member of the tribe (Jimmy got to see the first moon landing, I was just around, but only got to read about it!), it makes little sense having just the two of us staggering around on our walkers.

Two additional partners are therefore being admitted to the company, and they are Derane Pillay and
Tamantha Bosch. (They are both of the age who think the moon landing was staged and suspect it may have been made of cheese).

Whilst they are probably both known to you, Derane has served as a Professional Associate to the partnership for around 3 years but has been with us for substantially longer than that. She has shown herself to be highly skilled in Business Services and we value the youthful insight she brings to that aspect of our practice. I must add, she’s really good at stretching a rand, one of Shireen’s skills which will be sorely missed.

Tammy, on the other hand, came to us barely a year ago to replace Minesh, but hit the ground running. She has proven in a short period of time, to embrace the firm’s ethos, and have a strong and perceptive insight into business which belies her young years. She has taken control of the ever expanding group of trainee accountants, and keeps them in line with a strong hand, bred ‘op die plaas’.

Both these ladies bring not only youthful energy but also bridge a generation gap for the firm, as many of our clientele are coming from a time which causes Jimmy and I to scratch our heads in confusion.

As I said, the Inc. is reserved for members of SAIPA however the firm’s pillars are Taryn O’Niel (Payroll services), Devasha Girdharie (Taxation) and Tanya van Heerden (Everything!) all remain as an essential part of what makes up MRM, and they all continue to keep their respective departments on the straight and narrow. In addition I am pleased that Lushan Ramachandra is still growing from strength to strength as team leader in the review and compliance department. He is also working himself in the ‘long serving club’ as his tenure with us must now be around 7 years.

To keep up with all of this we have chosen to staff up all of our departments to make sure we do not sacrifice our firm’s service delivery as well as in an attempt to create capacity as our workload continues to grow. By the end of March we expect to have added around 10 new members to the MRM family which is one of the biggest leaps the firm has made in the past few years.

Lastly, most of you would have seen us driving people into the world of Xero, and I can’t be more excited about this. We have been awarded Gold Status by Xero, a prestigious award shared by very few in South Africa, and are well on our way to the converted Platinum Status, an accolade even more rare. All our staff are either Xero qualified or on their way to completing their Xero proficiency exams (Much to Tanya and Taryns disgust). For me, aside from Xero’s handle on technology, what I find more appealing is the various side technologies which integrate in the Xero platform, bringing a level of analysis and systems to SME business which I never thought possible. Exciting stuff which we will be sharing with you in the forthcoming year.

Sorry this has gone on so long however I felt guilty that Shireen’s departure wasn’t better announced but the chaos of the time was high, to say the least. As we share a deeper relationship with you, than an ordinary supplier, we consider ourselves important components of your businesses and feel that you need to be fully appraised of who the various role-players are as well as changes made within the practice.

So under this broad outline we march into the 2024 financial year. We are in the process of converting our practice management software to Xero Practice Manager, and are hoping the transition to be smooth. We are prioritising turnaround times this year as I know the banks are becoming increasingly unforgiving; if you need early financials please get hold of Tammy for scheduling. If, for any reason, you find anything that has aggrieved you, please do not hesitate to contact me in order for it to be resolved. Despite best intentions sometimes things go pear shaped, but usually not anything which cannot be resolved over a cup of coffee.

Warm Regards,