Circle of Excellence Winner Q&A – Laurie Rauk

Tell us about your career up until now, starting with why you chose this profession.

I chose a career in accounting when, a few years out of university, I had an entry level office position that included general administration work as well as some basic bookkeeping. I really liked the accounting aspect so started taking night classes to further my accounting knowledge. My original plan was to work towards a controllership position, however in an early role at a CPA firm, serving private companies, I discovered I really enjoyed working with the owner managers and their families. I knew I wanted to start a family soon, and I recognized the flexibility in hours and place of work that comes with public accounting, could work well when combining work and family into my life. I continued to work while taking night classes and having two children, and achieved my CMA designation in 2006. Several life circumstances led me to leaving the large firm in 2007 and starting my own small practice with a handful of clients. My practice grew as my children grew. I really enjoyed being able to attend school events and take time away as needed, while still continuing to practice in my chosen profession.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

This spring I purchased an electric bike and have been enjoying getting out more frequently and on much longer bike rides. I love books, I usually have several I am reading at the same time, and find it difficult to go anywhere without a book in my bag. We have a tent trailer and enjoy taking it to the mountains for camping trips.

Tell us about the clients that you serve, which industries they operate in and explain your approach to working with them and helping them achieve their desired results.

I would say I have two main types of clients. I have a special affinity and talent for business owners and families with several holding companies and investment portfolios. I help them understand the tax implications of various life and business events and how it will impact the various businesses as well as their own pocket, so they can make confident financial decisions.

The other type of client I have is incorporated consultants. I help them understand that their corporation is a legal entity separate from them, with its own financial and tax obligations. I help them set up financial recordkeeping systems and compensation options that fit with their needs, time, and technical know-how. Some clients want all the bookkeeping and tax compliance done for them, others prefer to do themselves and simply want it checked over at the end of the financial year. Early in my business relationship with clients I have several conversations about what their needs and pain points are, how we can solve these together, and develop a fixed fee for each client. Clients appreciate the certainty around the fee, and they like knowing they can reach out to me as needed without being billed by the hour.

What amount of your client base would you say have embraced the cloud or would consider tech-savvy?

I would say most of my consultant client base is very tech-savvy and very comfortable with and appreciative of cloud-based technology.

Regarding my business owners and investors client base, they are very knowledgeable in their fields of expertise and are mostly looking for an all-inclusive done-for-you accounting and tax service. More and more they appreciate the cloud-based applications I use to share financial information and obtain signatures, as they see how much time and energy it saves them. Very few people in my client base are solely paper-based.

Which trends do you think have the potential to disrupt the future of bookkeeping or accounting?

I would not be surprised if pure bookkeeping and data entry type accounting work was completely replaced by cloud based technology within my lifetime. At the same time, income tax rules and regulations in Canada get more complicated each year. To me this means it is important that accountants become primarily advisors to their clients, not technicians. Clients will continue to need assistance from knowledgeable advisors whom they trust, to help them navigate their finances and make informed decisions.

What impact did COVID 19 have on your business? What guidance did your clients need during this time? Did you need to pivot or adapt your own business during this time?

I’m happy to say that my business had little negative impact from COVID 19. Because my focus is on advisory services, my clients that needed help knew they could reach out to me to help them navigate the various financial supports and make some very tough business decisions, such as how and when to lay off staff. I did a lot of research and webinars to keep on top of the various financial supports as they came available as well as the changes to these, so I could answer client questions plus reach out to clients who hadn’t accessed supports to help them apply. I also started sending out an email newsletter to my clients with summaries of important dates and programs. Because I use a lot of cloud based technology in my own practice, I was able to transition to working from home or the office as the situation dictated, without any disruption to client services. Particularly in the early days of the pandemic, many days were filled with a lot of bad news and uncertainty, and it was important to structure my days to sustain my own mental health and capacity to be of service.

How does it feel to be recognized as an award winner in your industry?

I’m so honored that one of my clients nominated me for this award. I know that my special niche of services and talent are not for everyone, and to be recognized in this way confirms that I am doing the right work for the right clients.

What advice would you give to the next generation of students considering a career in bookkeeping or accountants?

  • Establish a personal network of other professionals, people that are where you are currently in your career as well as people that are where you would like to be in the future.
  • Pay attention to technology and advisory trends to ensure you are keeping up.
  • Spend a lot of time figuring out who your ideal clients are and then provide the services that solve their problems.
  • Never stop learning.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or mention that have supported you in your career or on the path to receiving this award?

First I would like to thank Sylvia for nominating me! That she values what I do for her and her organization means so much to me, and that she took the time to nominate me is so lovely.

My husband and family have been amazingly supportive. Studying and establishing my career with two small children was a bit complicated and I will always be grateful to Alan for carrying the extra parenting and household management load during that time. I also love and appreciate that they forgive me and accept my virtual disappearance for six weeks every year during personal tax season.