Fergus Cleaver is a senior accountant and equity shareholder at Auckland, New Zealand-based Cleaver Partners. He has an extensive background in accounting and business advisory services, and more than a decade of on-the-ground experience.
Cleaver attended the University of Auckland, where he majored in business and minored in economics. Following graduation, he moved across the Pacific to British Columbia, Canada, where he studied graduate economics at Simon Fraser University on a partial scholarship. While there, he learned more than he ever thought possible about Canadian culture and cut his skiing chops on some of the world’s finest snow.
Upon returning to his home country, Fergus Cleaver started in a ground-floor position at his family’s accounting firm. At the time, the senior partner roster had more than 50 years of combined accounting experience, covering an impressive range of industries representative of New Zealand’s diverse economy. Cleaver credits that first year on the job as the capstone of his education—a crash-course introduction to the rough-and-tumble world of accounting and business advisory services.
“I applied myself at university and feel that I received an excellent education, but there’s nothing quite like serving clients,” says Cleaver. “With no disrespect to my outstanding instructors, I learned more during my first year on the job than in the half-decade I spent earning my degrees.”
Over the years, Fergus Cleaver has honed a singular style that’s all his own. He is particularly committed to mentoring and counseling small-business founders, who are often simply overwhelmed by the thought of launching and growing a new company.
In a 2012 statement, Cleaver embraced one step in particular that can help business owners make sense of it all: securing the proper business structure prior to launching. He noted that a “cost effective” framework that empowers business owners to grow their own businesses is “absolutely critical” to success.
Unsurprisingly, Cleaver is evangelical about the need to involve an accountant—preferably one with a long, verifiable track record in international business. “By involving your accountant from the inception of the business, you give yourself the best chance to get it right from the start,” he said in the statement. “Remember that it is cheap to make a mistake, but expensive to fix one.”
One of Cleaver’s core competencies is tax law, a formidably complex concept that is absolutely critical for companies looking to do business internationally, especially in the politically fragmented Asia-Pacific region.
“Clients often underestimate the resources and attention necessary to manage a global strategy and ensure compliance with the various jurisdictions in which they do business,” he says. “This is especially important in countries with opaque political systems, where ‘who you know’ is often as important as ‘what you know.’”
Fergus Cleaver and his team are dedicated to shepherding their clients through this complicated world of international accounting and business growth. In this capacity, Cleaver has developed an approachable style, helping clients understand what’s at stake in every decision they make—even those that seem inconsequential or unnecessary at first blush.
“I find joy in illuminating boring or complicated concepts to clients who, frankly, haven’t thought much about them in the past,” says Cleaver. “It’s probably the most satisfying part of my job.”
Cleaver works with New Zealand-based businesses that represent a wide range of industries, including property development, construction, travel, trades, professional services, hospitality, freight and logistics, legal services, and marketing and advertising.
When Fergus Cleaver isn’t at the office, he can be found traveling the world, skiing in New Zealand and elsewhere, advocating for sustainable hydropower and other forms of eco-friendly development, or simply spending quiet time with his family.
Cleaver and his family are committed arts and charity patrons as well. Cleaver’s charitable interests span a wide range of causes, from local arts and culture organizations and disaster and humanitarian relief groups to animal welfare charities and science and technology incubators. Cleaver devotes a substantial amount of his professional bandwidth to pro bono charity work, about which he is positively evangelical.
“I truly believe that the best way to help people is not to give them your money and send them on their way, but to donate your time, energy and skills to their cause,” he says.