A CPA’s career can take different directions. Business advisors, who are increasingly in demand, is one option to consider.

The business world is rapidly changing and entrepreneurs want to be offered efficient solutions to remain competitive in their market and continue to grow.

In our firm, our Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs) must be able to provide entrepreneurs with all the support they need to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, for all facets of their development.

This is why, for the past few years, we have been encouraging our accounting professionals to take on a broader role, that of business advisor to our entrepreneurial clients.

To apply this approach in practice, we give our CPAs the tools and training they need to assess a company’s complete situation and identify the client’s needs.

Once the overall picture has been defined, the business advisor can help our clients move forward by involving our specialists in the relevant disciplines, such as tax, financial advisory, strategy or business valuation.

For CPAs, acting as a business advisor opens the door to new challenges and numerous opportunities to develop their talent and expertise. In a context where more and more accounting tasks are automated, mastering this field of expertise adds substantial value to the accountant’s role.

Pilot projects in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region

Several projects and initiatives are planned or already in place to reinforce this strategic direction and equip the firm’s business advisors.

In the Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie and French New Brunswick, we plan to develop a dozen entrepreneur advisors in the short term. They will serve as strategic advisors to clients and coordinate all of the specialized resources they need.

These entrepreneur advisor positions will be filled by young CPAs who will receive specialized training and be mentored by experienced partners. Similar programs are planned across the Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton network.

Candidates for these positions stand out for their strategic and entrepreneurial vision, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and problem-solving ability.

We offer multiple career opportunities across Quebec, so that all young CPAs can choose the path that interests them, be it in a specialty, as a manager or as an entrepreneur advisor.

We value self-reliance and empowerment so that everyone can achieve their full potential.

Our thanks to Richard Chrétien, Partner, Vice-President, who initiated this pilot project in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, for his invaluable contribution to this article.

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For a young CPA, the best way to grow is to get involved in assignments with experienced professionals right from the start.

This is what David-Alexandre Lamirande-Lamontagne, Manager – Tax, from our Gatineau office, believes. Together with the other managers on his team, he’s leveraging practice-based mentorship.

Why is it important to make young CPAs fully participate in assignments right from the start?

It helps them gain confidence and experience, so they understand what customers expect of them. For example, even before recruits have started their master’s degree in taxation, they are given assignment sections. Then, during their studies, they can already make the connection between theory and practice.

Are they confined to a certain type of assignment?

We want our recruits to touch on everything from the beginning, not just tax compliance. I believe that if it takes a number of years for young people to work on transactional or tax reorganization projects, they lose opportunities to grow within their career.

Do you give them a lot of freedom to act?

One of the objectives of mentoring is to encourage initiative. We don’t tell our recruits what to do. We encourage them to express their ideas and give them feedback on the work they do. Their mentoring is focused on business development: how to build client loyalty, how to put forward their ideas to the client, etc. The sooner they master these aspects, the sooner their career will take off.

What motivates you in this type of mentoring?

My goal is to help young CPAs climb the ladder as quickly as possible. This is how the whole team grows.

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Mentoring is about mutual aid, communication and passion, reminds us of Caroline Plourde, our firm’s assurance partner.

For accountants beginning their profession, what’s better than being able to rely, at any time, on the support of one’s colleagues to grow?

In our Rimouski office’s assurance department, every effort is made to ensure that young accountants can quickly develop their talents and take on responsibilities commensurate with their aspirations.

Caroline, you lead a team of about 20 people. How do you train your recruits?

We get them involved in assignments very early on. We make sure we provide them with the right tools and introduce them to clients under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. This way, our recruits become self-sufficient more quickly. We prepare a detailed integration plan for each, provide them with the right training and assign them a mentor, a young professional available to guide them.

Why do you want the young CPAs to be self-sufficient so quickly?

Our office is growing rapidly and our recruits want to contribute to our success from the very beginning. Furthermore, young Gen Y and Gen Z want to have the chance to take up challenges and develop their careers very quickly. This is why it’s so important to help them develop their skills.

How do you help young CPAs grow in their career?

By constantly communicating with our young talents, we take their interests into account. If they wish to specialize in a particular field of expertise or activity sector, we support them in this process. We also encourage them to participate in various working committees and provide training based on where their interests lie. It’s important that each person makes a personal contribution to the team.

What motivates you most about mentoring?

The recruits inspire us and bring new ideas to the table. For me, as a mentor, I like to make the young professionals feel comfortable, help them unlock their full potential and develop their own business network.

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Being a CPA at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton is never boring. Our firm offers you countless ways to make your career evolve.

Depending on their preferences, Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) may choose to work successively in different areas of expertise, specialize in a particular field or type of clientele, or advance in managerial positions.

Élisabeth Petit, Manager, Talent & Culture, at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, explains how CPAs can pursue a career in line with their ambitions within the firm and presents the skills required to succeed.

Beyond professional qualifications, what essential qualities do you look for in a CPA?

One of the most important ones is that this person focus on human relations and customer service. Life skills are essential.

We are looking for passionate, hardworking and meticulous CPAs who like to have fun at work, creative people who propose innovative solutions to our clients that best meet their needs.

CPAs must have a global vision of an organization. They must understand and even anticipate what the client needs to stand out in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. They must be able to collaborate with colleagues from different disciplines.

For example, in entrepreneurial succession cases, various aspects of a company are affected. CPAs and other experts will help develop a succession plan, assess the value of a business, find the right entrepreneur profile for the succession and prepare for a smooth transition. Tax, financial and human aspects are discussed.

So, it’s important to have good team spirit and leadership skills?

Absolutely. But leadership, it’s not necessarily about wanting to lead others. Leadership can also be proposing different ideas to help clients, without actually coordinating the work.

Can you give us some examples of career development opportunities for CPAs at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton?

There are many possibilities. For example, CPAs may choose to pursue a career in tax, specializing in international tax or commodity taxes, or prefer business valuation.

In assurance, they can opt for risk management or quality management, or even act as a cryptocurrency auditor or get involved in digital transformation projects. CPAs can also manage a team and progress to management positions.

Most of these specialties can be practiced in the hundred or so cities where we have offices in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. And since we are part of the international Grant Thornton group, some of them have the opportunity to work abroad.

Is the CPA’s daily work varied?

Whatever their specialty, our CPAs work with clients in various industries. The CPA’s expertise is therefore continually sought in a variety of ways. However, they may choose to specialize in a specific type of clientele.

How do you help CPAs evolve within the organization?

We have individual development plans. Once a year, we have one-on-one discussions with employees about their ambitions and ways to develop skills in one area or take on other responsibilities in the organization.

I can cite the recent example of a CPA who wanted to move from the assurance service to the M&A service. We supported her decision and contributed to her business valuation training.

There is room for all types of CPAs in our firm, and everyone has the opportunity to develop their talents as they wish.