At a glance
By Katie Langmore
When Michael Wilson FCPA is asked what his reasons are for joining a board, his response is perfectly unadorned and blunt in his no-nonsense, Aussie style: “Because someone asked me to.”
Talking to Wilson, it becomes clear that a fair few people have asked him to volunteer his time over the years. Yet it is equally clear that it’s not the only driver in his directorships.
Wilson clearly loves a challenge, to join an organisation that is in need of some financial guardianship and give it his all.
On more than one occasion, Wilson has recognised a definite need for his finance skills on the boards he has served on. In his experience, directors bring and diverse skills to a boardroom, but not always the skill set to manage the books.
“Some people who join boards can overplay or underplay the technical skills they bring to the organisations, but at the end of the day the most important thing potential directors require is an enquiring mind,” says Wilson, who has certainly brought the trait to his roles as deputy chair at Volunteering Victoria and treasurer at Brite Services.
Brite Services is a not-for-profit and social enterprise that offers employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. It was established in the 1970s, after a group of parents and carers lobbied for an inclusive workplace for people of all abilities.
In response to their efforts, local and state government, local service clubs and families came together to purchase land in Broadmeadows, Victoria, build a factory and offices and establish the organisation.
“We manufacture goods such as the 2kg and 4kg Peter’s ice cream tubs. We pack Brite Muesli.
We grow plants – in fact all the plants used for the new green spaces along the Epping Line were from Brite,” explains Wilson.
The organisation is also paid by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as part of its employees’ disability support packages.
“It’s such an essential part of their social wellbeing – for some of our supported staff it means everything to them,” says Wilson.
It’s clearly a worthy and respected organisation with a solid record, but when Wilson was asked by a friend to join the board, he soon realised how much it was struggling.
“Not everything had been going to plan financially for a couple of years,” explains Wilson.
“The finances needed some work… But the intent was definitely still there among the staff.”
As treasurer, Wilson has helped to steer the organisation through the difficulties of the pandemic while getting it back on track financially. It is even taking steps towards a new product called a Brike.
“It’s an electric-powered pushbike with an attachment at the front for a wheelchair, so someone in the wheelchair and someone on the bike can go for a ride together,” explains Wilson, clearly and justly delighted by the product.
“Toyota is coming onboard to support the project.”
It’s an enthusiasm that surpasses a mere obligation to a friend, and it’s a real interest in the nuts and bolts of a business that has seen him invited to bring his skills – gained over 30-plus years managing Wilson Business Services – to many boards and committees.
There are countless reasons accountants join boards, but perhaps the primary reason is that their skillset is deeply needed. If you’re recruiting for someone as dedicated and capable as Michael Wilson, you just need to ask.
Brite Services is a Melbourne-based not-for-profit social enterprise and charity that offers disability employment services, support and training.
Brite Services was established in 1976 and now employs 200 staff – including 140 supported employees – who work in manufacturing and a plant nursery.