The Words Most Would Dread: I Met With An Accountant

Last Thursday, January 19th, I had a chance to sit down with, and interview, one of the partners at a local accounting firm, Virtus Group.

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to speak with Mr. Aaron Dillman (CPA, CA, CBV, CFP). I was originally planning on just utilizing my digital portfolio for a final project in my Career and Work Placement 30 class, but when I was having difficulty brainstorming artifacts to display on here, I thought an interview might add to my project (which, frankly, is a combination of about three different ones now). Now, the assignment says to write either a 5-paragraph essay about the interview and what you learned or to piece together interview clips for a digital product to show the class.

Since I didn’t visually record the interview and since I’m not much a paragraph guy (as you can probably tell by now by my use of many – almost – paragraphs and weirdly alone sentences on here…).

Now before I begin, here’s the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Accounting is a great profession if you’re interested in numbers, the University of Saskatchewan is very well known for it’s Accounting major (and it keeps getting better), and ultimately, you can decide how successful you want to be by how hard you work. + the difference between Virtus Group and other firms.

Now for the long version (not that long, I promise). EDIT (after writing): It’s pretty long. 1640 words.

As you can probably tell with the number of abbreviations following his name, Mr. Dillman is a very intelligent, educated member of our community. I learned that going through school for years isn’t necessarily a bad idea, especially when it may help clients out in the future. Yet, as he made clear to me throughout the interview: none of the education you do in the classroom to earn those designations will be as valuable as the learning you gain on the job.

The designations give you the foundation… but you still have to know how to apply and practice it [what you’ve learned].

According to him, after accounting, his business valuator designation (CBV) is what he utilizes the most. That’s interesting to me, as it was something I never knew existed but it just gives me another possible route to consider when it comes to my own education. He even spoke to how much his career has adapted since he began – a few things he does aren’t even found in a “textbook” any longer. That again speaks to how much you learn on the job and not in a book – something I’ve realized recently with my own education.

*at this point there was an awkward pause while I tried to recall a question that popped into my head*

My next question for him was what drew him into this business: accounting and Virtus Group. Without even a slight pause, he answered to the effect of how he’s always had an interest in numbers – and less in English [apologizes to my Careers teacher, who’s also my English teacher: I do like math more too (good thing the semester is over before he heard me say that)]. Mr. Dillman also said how his high school Accounting teacher first sparked his interest in the career – now I’m really regretting not taking accounting! For him, his teacher made the class seem fun, practical and effortless (sounds like he was an exceptional teacher but I do bet the class was effortless and fun for Mr. Dillman due to his own drive and intelligence). It was thanks to this class that sparked his interest in choosing Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan (where I’ve also just accepted my offer to) and then his experience with the aforementioned teacher that led him to choose Accounting as his major.

Other than his choice of Accounting as his career, he gave me an insight that has led me to accept my offer of admission earlier today: Edwards School of Business is one of the most renowned schools in Canada for Accounting, and if it’s not the top, it’s definitely in the top few. Thank you for that advice (it temporarily cured some of my indecisiveness).

Changing pacing a little bit – from school to what he actually does – was intriguing.

He spoke to how he handles business for the majority of his time (at first he said 100% of his work focuses on business, then 99% businesses and 1% individuals… we’ll average it out to 99.5% businesses) and focuses on whatever challenges and opportunities come with them. Owner managed, privately owned businesses are his specialty and by the way the company has grown (12 employees when he started to over 100 in two locations now), I’d say him and his colleagues have been relied on by many and from speaking with him, I can see why.

In a time where large, international firms such as KPMG exist – I can see why a locally owned and operated firm could be beneficial. When I asked him about the difference between Virtus Group and the big four, he took the opportunity to tell me all about the differences. Besides from being locally based and having the ability to make decisions on a smaller scale, Virtus Group is a member of a large network of independent firms which gives them the resources of a large company. While it may not always be true, some of the decisions made in an international company may not reflect the local extensions of the company. However, by being local, Virtus Group essentially lives or dies by its decisions. I compare this to myself, previously working for Indigo Books and Music, a large national company and now presently working for a local company, BOURBON Barbershop and Shave Club. You truly get to understand a business when you’re ten feet away from its owner versus a few thousand kilometers. I’ve definitely seen exactly what he means by, “I would personally have a hard time getting told what to do from Toronto.” Having that entrepreneurial vein constantly running through your workforce makes it that much exciting to come to work each day.

Going back to the network of individual firms, he spoke to how that gives them the ability to service their clients in other geographical areas with support from those other firms, giving them the support they need for their clients – regardless of where they’re located. He said it gives them the best of worlds – local, but yet as large as they need to be in order to support their clients. The network of independent firms is called Allinial Global.

“We’re independent and are in control of our own destiny, but have the same support as one of the larger firms because of those affiliations.”

Going on to the future of accounting, I was curious to get his insight into how he believes Accounting and Finance is going to evolve within the next ten or so years – something I was interested to know about seeing as that would be around the time where I would be entering the line of work if I choose to go that way. Other than just the industry being more technology based and commoditized in the future (as in more tax returns being processed electronically by the individual, etc.), he foresees more businesses getting involved in the generalities of the industry – banks offering tax return filing for example. Going further, advisors will have to truly advise on everything they can to help a client. Whether it’s compliance, succession planning, bookkeeping – whatever the clients need of the day may be. Which I, personally think is great – more one-stop shops and less shopping around (I’m one for ease of use and productive hours).

“The accountant of the past will be dead in the future – they won’t have the right skill sets for what I think is coming.”

Accounting gives one a good foundation no matter what realm of business one partakes in. 

That was a statement I heard from a representative of CPA Canada at the See Your Future Career Fair, and it was a statement that Mr. Dillman echoed. Whatever you do in the future, whether it’s being a business owner, an accountant or in management somewhere else – accounting is going to be there in one form or another so knowing how to deal with cash flow, members from a banking institution, etc. is crucial to operating a successful business. As he stated, the clients that are weak on the accounting side of things usually have a difficult time surviving – they may be great at what they’re offering, but without someone to take a deep look into the books, it’s hard to stay afloat.

In terms of job prospects, openings for accountants vary (as with anything connected to the economy). There’s always going to be jobs for accounting, however, the number of jobs varies due to how the economy is doing. With the job prospects, Mr. Dillman did ingrain the benefits of taking part in the Co-op program through Edwards, and that is something I will definitely consider – not only for the possibility of a job offer but for the hands-on experience it offers (he estimates that Virtus Group takes on 5-6 Co-op students a year).

See, I said it wasn’t going to be THAT long. It was pretty long, but hey, it was a productive interview and gave me an incredible amount of insight into what I may consider doing one day.

And with that, a gracious thank you goes out to Mr. Dillman and Virtus Group for giving me this opportunity and your valuable time. I strongly appreciate your insights and the advice you gave me – not only on the career but on what school to attend and a few observations of what it means to be successful.

If you’d like, you can check out the Virtus Group Website here.

The Words Most Would Dread: I Met With An Accountant 2017-01-26T05:57:45+00:00

Why You Should Listen to the People Who Pay You – Weird, Hey?

Your customers. The ones who support your business – regardless of what it is – are the ones who will be reassuring you that you’re doing things correctly, or they’re the ones openly complaining when you’re doing things wrong.

I mean, they’re the ones who are giving you money… Listen to what they have to say!

I’ve had interactions with many different businesses as a customer and as an independent contractor, as well as lots of interactions with customers as the face of a business. Each time I do, I notice what makes the business successful. Is it the funky interior design of your favorite coffee shop that keeps you coming back?

Maybe. That place is pretty cool. But what is it actually? More likely – it’s the interactions you have with the staff members – the baristas, owners, etc. They’re the ones who are going to give you that home feeling and keep you coming back (unless the coffee is THAT good).

So why do so many businesses fail at their greatest media of marketing – customer service?

It’s ’cause it’s hard. It’s difficult to be an owner, barista, bookkeeper, marketing manager, inventory controller, supervisor and also ensure each customer receives the same degree of customer service that has made your business successful so far. Especially when you cannot work 24 hours/7 days a week and have to trust your business in the hands of your employees.

Now, where am I going with this… I’ve learned a lot about customer service, interactions with clients and just all around happiness in the past few months.

Thanks to the amazing people at Richard Kilburn and Associates, along with the Hampton Inn and Suites Saskatoon Airport, and the career facilitator at Aden Bowman Collegiate, Mr. Adair, I’ve been able to learn a tremendous amount about myself and also how I interact with people.

At Richard Kilburn and Associates, located in Investors Group NE Saskatoon, I was able to grasp a greater understanding of the financial world and how it all works – all while learning about what makes them so successful. Each time a client walked into their office, they were never dreading talking about their finances – in fact, they usually had a smile on their face as the assistants asked how their family or latest venture was doing. And even greater yet, they did this without a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Granted, the appointments were logged, but that type of human interaction and hospitality is appreciated by many and shown by few.

Speaking of hospitality, my placement at the Hampton Inn and Suites really showed me what it was like to take care of people. Hotels and hospitality have always been interests of mine – and I don’t believe there is any other place that could’ve shown me how to interact with guests. Right from the beginning, everyone showed me respect and patience, introducing me to their world.

“To be the best, you have to learn from the best.”

That statement could not be any more relevant as I speak of these two workplaces. Both businesses and their management teams showed incredible passion for what they offer and taught me how I can apply those skills to whatever venture I eventually create.

Why You Should Listen to the People Who Pay You – Weird, Hey? 2017-01-26T02:51:54+00:00

The Touching Story of… A Billion Dollar Company?

As I’m sitting in the car on my way back from Kamloops, my mind is basking in all of the newfound wisdom I’ve gained in the past week. I just (literally) finished my copy of Shoe Dog: A Memoir From The Creator of Nike by Phil Knight. When I first picked it up off of the business story shelf at my local bookstore, I was expecting a somewhat dry, but nonetheless, interesting tale of Nike’s success. Well, about 10 pages of the book were dedicated to that, which they definitely deserve. The rest of it however? It’s failures. It’s battles. It’s ferocious fight to be the best. And while I’m sitting here, writing this post, throwing all of these big words in, I can do nothing but recommend this book. As someone who considers himself to be a very driven person, I idolize Mr. Knight. He had a dream; a dream to create running shoes that would revolutionize the industry. I would say that the man who founded Nike, Inc. has done a remarkable job at just that. Throughout the book, you learn a remarkable amount about Phil and the hardships he endured to create the company as we know it today. It can be somewhat hard to believe that a company who now has sales of billions of dollars, started out in the trunk of a car (but, I guess you gotta start somewhere, right?). Without giving too much away, I urge everyone to pick up a copy and check it out for yourself. Why? Because no matter who you are, what you do for a living, or what you want to do in your life, you will draw inspiration from something Phil has done. Plus, you get to hear his side of the story on things like labour in factories (which, if you recall Nike was negatively portrayed a few years back). 

Seriously. Go pick up a copy. Or don’t, frankly it’s your life so do what you please… A great philosophy to live by. An even better philosophy to live by? Listen to Treyton. ‘Cause I’m awesome.

The Touching Story of… A Billion Dollar Company? 2016-06-06T03:15:51+00:00

One Small Mistake – Can Cost Millions

What if there was a simple change you could make in your life that would result in a few extra million dollars laying around?

As a person who is very interested in the way business works – everything from marketing to consumer decisions – I found this story to be extremely intriguing. Albeit from a little while ago, I’m interested as to this idea. A company (not named) figured out a way to make $300 million extra dollars in one year.

Now that’s crazy. There isn’t a whole lot that could drive consumer decision that greatly to make that much of an impact. As you may have gathered in the title, this wasn’t necessarily something the company did (marketing, etc.) but more something they fixed – their checkout page. If you’re familiar with online shopping, you might know what I’m talking about when I say online shopping can be frustrating. While there are quite a few company’s that have streamlined their online ordering process. For example,  Indigo (disclaimer: I work for the company), has made their process of ordering online extremely simple. However, many companies are brutal when it comes to their online shopping experience (even ones that establish themselves as the top ecommerce websites). Anyways, back to the story. This unnamed company hired a consultant to figure out how to get more business on their website. The solution? Stop asking people to register. No joke: when customers got to the checkout page, they were forced to make an account or login in to a previous one. This created quite a few hassles: some customers can be reluctant to hand over information for another account, and others forget if they even have an account (and then have to scramble to find their info or reset it). What there wasn’t however, was a guest checkout – a way to checkout without an account. That guest checkout was costing this company $300,000,000 (yes that number is correct)!

However, sadly the company didn’t implement the guest checkout and a few years later, went out of business.

KIDDING! There’s no way they’d do that! The company later implemented the guest checkout (and allowed for people to create an account, too), and in the first month reported an extra $15 Million dollars in revenue from their site. That’s kind of crazy, and it was a simple fix.

If you’d like to read more on this case, check out this link.

One Small Mistake – Can Cost Millions 2016-05-12T03:40:15+00:00