25 Years - HHA

25 Years Software-807

In an industry renowned for the pace of change and constant re-invention Helen Henderson has not only managed to stay the course but over the past 25 years has taken her fledging business software firm, operated from home on the family farm, to a renowned industry leader with a reputation for innovation and excellence, operating in  multiple locations around the South Island and servicing clients nationally.

As if that isn't enough of an achievement Helen has over the years quietly broken the traditional wife/mother stereotypical mould to prove that women can have a very successful career on their own terms.

Helen moved to Geraldine in 1985 when she married Bill.  Resigning her IT position at a Dunedin based Charters Accountants firm she expected to take up life as a farmer's wife, however a drought in the region meant that additional income was needed for the household and an unexpected call from her former employer at around this time started Helen's odyssey into business ownership that is ongoing some 25 years later.

From that phone call, it was agreed that Helen would operate from her home in Geraldine servicing her employer's clients remotely.  Requiring what was then 'state-of-the-art' dial up cabling to her home office, Helen worked with local telecom engineers to overcome electric fencing and other farm hazards to complete the installation.  Next came the mobile phone she refers to as 'the brick' which required an extra-large handbag to accommodate the bulk of the phone!

Helen slowly but surely built up the client base and in time began working on her own account with her very first employee, Jenny Timblick joining her in 1993.  Jenny is still an important part of the HHA family as a finance software consultant.

Long service has been a common thread at HHA and is a reflection of this supportive and flexible culture says long serving office manager Amanda Taylor.  Helen has worked hard to surround herself with a highly talented and dedicated team over the years and strives to offer an environment where people can work to their strengths and interests while also enjoying a life.

Recruitment of staff has come from different approaches over the years at HHA but Helen reports that it has never been a problem as Geraldine is an easy place to attract talent due to the high quality of family life and education opportunities in the area.  She says local businesses often work together to find a placement for a partner when a job opportunity draws a family to the area from further afield and notes that the Christchurch earthquakes also offered an opportunity to recruit to the Geraldine office as people dispersed from the city in the aftermath.

She describes 'team fit' as the most important attribute in potential candidates and looks for people who will complement the existing team and their skill set and whom demonstrate an ability to learn and develop into their role.

Helen Henderson and Associates was officially formed in 1992.  The business aimed to service the finance lending industry by taking commercial software and customising it to the client's needs.  As HHA's reputation for excellence grew in this highly specialised field they attracted a loyal client base, many of whom still have a relationship with HHA today.

Other strings to the HHA bow developed organically as Helen brought on more staff - payroll bureau processing, accounting systems and transport management software are all areas that grew from the strengths and talents of the HHA team.

Helen states that while HHA provides business software it is not a business advisor and this is where the 'associates' aspect of the name comes from.  HHA partners with a number of other businesses, from hardware companies to business advisors, to prove a comprehensive service to the clients to meet all their needs.

As the client based increased in the 1990's so too did the workload coming from clients in the Christchurch area, requiring a base to work from in the garden city.  Helen purchased an apartment which provided accommodation for herself and Jenny as a base for work when in the city.  Soon after a Christchurch based employee Phil Forman, was brought on board and also worked out of the apartment.

When asked how Helen managed her work/life balance during the early years she credits "very understanding in-laws and a full time nanny" although she does ruefully admit that she raised the eyebrows of a few locals as she bucked the traditional female role of home management.  Helen says managing this balance has been one of the major challenges of her career but as the resourceful woman she is made it work, remembering times such as when son Stuart honed his driving skills in advance of going for his licence by ferrying her to client appointments during the school holidays.

Bill-88Asked what role husband Bill has played in the business Helen responds that he has been the handy man and supporter, most notably in the several office moves the firm has made over the years and is justifiably very proud of his wife's achievements.  "For 25 years he has said that he had me to deal with technology and didn't need to get involved but now he has been swayed.  He now has a mobile phone and even joined Facebook and TradeMe" smiles Helen.

Today HHA employs 10 staff across three locations (Christchurch, Geraldine and Dunedin) with flexibility underpinning the operations of the business.  Helen encourages her staff to work remotely and reminds them that they don't need to be present in the office to be achieving their goals.  An example of this is when HHA software developer Giancarlo Cherubin worked from his home town in Italy for 18 months while spending time with family.

When asked what the future holds Helen thinks remote working will become more prevalent but notes it needs to be supported by more consistent technology to make this easier.  She also comments that while moving systems online has been in vogue for some years clients are now beginning to look at bringing their software back offline due to improve processing speeds.  Payroll processing is also an area where she sees change coming as many businesses find they do not have the expertise to keep up with the complex legislation surrounding this area and seek to outsource.

Aside from work Helen is a life member and very active supporter of the Geraldine Rugby Club and other local organisations, offering practical support as well as sponsorship and encouraging and enabling her staff to volunteer and get involved in the community.

Talking to Helen you get the very definite impression that she has taken everything in her path in her stride, addressing challenges and embracing opportunities as they come and although she is very modest about her success HHA is a credit to her drive and commitment.  Here's to the next 25 years at HHA Associates.

Interview by Janene Adams
Go Geraldine


Canterbury Today

Advertisement Feature on HHA Associates Limited celebrating 25 years.
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What our Associates had to say;

quoteIntersoft Systems Limited

I first met Helen way, way back in 1996 – I was new to Intersoft and we were on a training course for Dealers in Napier to learn all about the recently released Performer Series modules. Helen was pretty inspiring to me. She had been a Reseller for Intersoft for about 4 years already and with her knowledge and experience of programming and IT it appeared there was nothing she did not know. Since then she has always been a leading member of the Dealer network and has continued to inspire those around her.
Life has taught me that a measure of a person is always the company they keep. If you look at the team that Helen has assembled you will see a team of dedicated professionals that are committed to ensuring their clients are well and truly looked after and their software requirements are fully catered for. These core values that the team at HHA have are a reflection of Helen herself and what she herself believes in.
Helen has built a great business over the 25 years and her commitment to her clients is reflected in the growth of her client base – both in numbers and the size of the businesses. Her clients are well spread around the South Island and is often seen driving all around them. I was nothing to leave home at 4.30 in the morning to be in Dunedin on time for a client meeting at 8.30am, work all day then head home again at 6pm.
 finPOWER Connect Logo-558-429
It has been a great 25 years and I am sure there will be many more to come.
Paul Thompson

quoteMYOB|IMS Payroll

The team at MYOB IMS would like to congratulate Helen and the HHA team on achieving the milestone of 25 years in business.  The HHA team were one of the first resellers of IMS Payroll; the team did more than just sell software, they invested in themselves and grew their knowledge of payroll in order to better support their clients.
The support provided to clients has been extensive and included initial implementation and training, the first contact for client queries, health checks and on-site training.  This was particularly important in the early days when technology did not allow us to provide online training.  Helen and team have always been there to help, they have helped us out  by hosting training sessions in their Christchurch office.  HHA have been a great source of ideas on how to develop and improve the IMS product
It has been a pleasure to partner with HHA to help clients.  The dedication of the HHA team is illustrated by this tale:
One of the HHA team was due to be in Auckland for a day of training, and then fly that evening to our offices in Hawkes Bay for a second day.  As is often the case the flight from Auckland to Napier was cancelled.  However, the 8.30am still went ahead - the team member came to down on an overnight bus – arriving around 3am and not skipping a beat – this shows real dedication.
 MYOB IMSPayroll logo RGB-824
Thank you Helen and the HHA team for being a great partner of MYOB; we wish the very best for another 25 years helping New Zealand businesses.

Elisabeth Reid
Regional Manager

quoteEnfinit Software Limited

Timefiler Web SpotCongratulations – 25 years is a great achievement. We have enjoyed working with you for ten of those years, and look forward to many more.  
Regards from all at TimeFiler
Ian Johnson

quoteMark Hubbard - Accountant

Congratulations to Helen and all the hard-working, innovative crew at HHA Associates Limited on reaching the 25 year milestone. In today's fast moving business world, especially the world of IT, that is a worthy and commendable feat. I've loved doing your accounting work over that time, Helen, and watching the business grow to be a great server of its customers, and a not-so-small employer for the region. Especially great to see an IT company making it good in South Canterbury. All the best.

Mark Hubbard

quoteWillis White & Company Limited

I am delighted on behalf of Willis White and Exodesk to offer many congratulations to Helen Henderson and her team at HHA upon celebrating a significant 25-year milestone in business this year. Helen started in business at a similar time to ourselves, and we formed an early association providing customers with complementary solutions. The IT industry is among the fastest moving of all industries, and HAA has grown and developed over all that time, through all those changes, prospering as a result of hard work and a commitment to customer service.
From the early days of the Intersoft Legacy series of software, the Ready /2 Prosper association with IBM (who remembers the IBM PS/2?), Funeral Directors (somewhat unkindly nicknamed Ready /2 Die – thank you Derek Olson), Hire Purchase and Freight, software has evolved to the point where it is critical to business, and Helen and the HHA team have risen to the challenge.
Needless to say, Willis White values its on-going association with HHA and we are confident that the forthcoming years will bring exodeskcontinued innovation from Helen and the HHA team. As they say in the song, if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere…
Chris Willis

25 Year Celebrations

Cake-348 Support Team
Finance Team

Payroll Team-574-166
Sarah and Andrew Mike and GC-207