Little accident, big problem!
Little accident, big problem!

IT STARTED INNOCENTLY enough – a short bike ride with the kids.

It ended with a crash, and a seemingly small hand injury, which it turns out has seriously impacted my ability to work.

For the medically minded, I have broken a very small bone in my wrist which has trapped the ulnar nerve (the one that

controls the little and ring fingers).

As a result my right hand is in a cast. I can type only very slowly, I can’t drive or write, I can’t carry very much, I’m in

constant pain which affects my naturally sunny disposition … and this will be my lot for much of 2017.

I consider myself reasonably technologically savvy, but technology can only take you so far in situations like mine.

You can record meetings, but that’s not always appropriate; a keyboard is the main interface with technology, and I can’t

really type.

But in a way I’m lucky. As an exec in a large organisation, I have an assistant and a team who can help me, to some extent,

overcome these difficulties. (Including typing up this column).

Putting myself in the shoes (cast) of an owner of a small business, I don’t know how I’d cope.

SME owners, of course, don’t have such an ample support network.

Plus there are other pressures they face which execs in a large organisation don’t. While just ‘shutting up shop’ till you can work again may make financial sense, it’s often not going to be the right thing to do. What would be the impact on customers who are relying on you for a service, or on your employees?

A related example of the reality of being a small business owner is holidays, or lack thereof. A survey by accounting

software provider MYOB found 13 percent of small business owners have not taken a holiday in the past 12 months.

They just don’t have the stretch to take a break from the business.

I have some inkling here of the situation confronting business people. My father owned a small-town business – a

funeral parlour – and as a child I was aware of how tied he was to his business, which really was 24/7.

In the early days, he was the business.

While the consequences of an accident such as mine may be very different, I believe there are common things

business owners and execs such as myself can do prevent this type of situation arising.


Get your personal health and safety sorted. Are you taking “reasonably practicable” steps to ensure your own health and safety, not only at work but outside of work?

On the fateful bike ride I was being a good role model of a safe cyclist – I was wearing a helmet, I was doing my hand


But a misjudgement proved there is no such thing as zero risk.

So have fun, but be careful out there.


I had never thought of, and consequently planned for, something like this happening.

With a string of earthquakes, and being based in Wellington, business continuity planning has been on our minds lately. We planned for our key staff and the physical stuff, the buildings etc, but I didn’t have my own personal BCP.

So my lesson? Plan for being taken out of action.

Don’t think ‘it will never happen to me’. The day after my accident I had to take one of my children to an orthodontist …

who had his hand in a cast.

Have a plan. And expect the unexpected.


By Kirsten Patterson, New Zealand Country Head, Chartered

Accountants Australia and New Zealand.  www.charteredaccountantsanz.com   +64 4 460 0600 

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