A top Hawke's Bay bookkeeper who suffered a cardiac arrest in her 30s uses her life experiences to guide "burnt out" business owners through turbulent times.

Haylee Wrenn, of Puketitiri, was crowned the Institute of Certified New Zealand Bookkeepers 2020 Bookkeeper of the Year at an online ceremony recently.

Wrenn, the owner of small business specialists Accountabill, said she knows all too well the toll poor stress management can take on a business owner after narrowly escaping death at 37.

"I call it the day of my big sleep," she said. "Clients come to me for business advice and next thing; they're giving up smoking or taking up yoga.

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"It's quite a powerful guilt trip – I can show them the defibrillator sitting just under my skin, and it's a real wake-up call for many."

Wrenn specialises in helping businesses deal with tax debt, insolvency issues and growing business demands, with more than 400 small businesses accessing her educational training videos online.

The business owner said Hawke's Bay businesses will thrive with guidance, ongoing education and excellent support post-Covid.

"Our clients have actually done quite well through Covid-19 because they've been able to make decisions quickly, with our support," she said.

"I'm finding it's the bigger companies – the ones who haven't paid attention to their clientele – who are in trouble, and having to do things like restructure.

"There's also been a wave of new trade for their businesses as more Kiwis decide to support local."

The owner of Accountabill, who employs a team of four, said the acknowledgement was equal to helping businesses owners in need.

"The best reward is seeing people who were about to be bankrupted by IRD, or have their assets liquidated, operating as profitable and compliant businesses," she said.

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"But I have to say that being judged the best by a panel of people I really admire is awesome too."