Who is Nicole Stewart, could you please introduce yourself?
Nicole Stewart, CPA, CA, LPA. I have been in public accounting since 1992. I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University Hons. Business Administration with a focus on accounting in 1995. I obtained my CA designation in December 1997. I am married to my high school sweetheart, Rob. We have two teenage boys, Jackson and Ben. Jackson will be attending University in the fall to study Mechatronics Engineering. Ben will be going into his 2nd year of high school. We have two Bernese mountain dogs – Monty and Murphy and a cat named Shadow.
What is your business and when did you start?
I am a partner in a professional accounting firm. My specific area of focus is assurance, providing audit, review and other independent professional services that improve the quality or context of information for decision-makers with the intention of helping them to make more informed, and presumably better, decisions. I started my career as a co-op student in University in 1992 and held positions at two other accounting firms before finding MDP. I started as a contractor with MDP in 2006 after my second maternity leave and I was also a part-time accounting instructor at Sheridan College Oakville campus.
What inspired you to start your business?
My path is a little different since it was an already established business but my decision to be a Partner was inspired by wanting and needing a change. I wanted to develop and grow my business advisory skills and combine that with the knowledge I have developed over the years I have been in practice. I wanted to develop relationships with business owners and help them achieve success.
What were the challenges in the initial stages of your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was learning that I don’t have to have all the answers. Being an expert in assurance, I was used to having the answers for my other Partners and team as well as the clients we service in that area. Once I started to develop my own client base and meet with clients to understand and assist their accounting, tax and other needs I was forced out of my comfort zone. Although I had been working towards and developing this skillset, there are many details I do not know and I realized the importance of working in a firm and having a team of experts behind me in tax and accounting who can provide the answers needed or would know what questions needed to be asked. Our firm had also had years to develop professional relationships with other business partners who could assist our client base when we could not.
What motivates you about your business?
I enjoy helping people and constant learning. Our profession and the clients we service are constantly changing and adapting to the world, be it cryptocurrency, complicated revenue contracts, foreign exchange, supply chains, and now a global pandemic. It is a challenging and rewarding profession.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Find a strong leader to emulate or hire an experienced coach. Ask for help and do not try to do everything yourself. Before you start, you need well thought out and documented policies and procedures, identify important roles, write out job descriptions and responsibilities for those roles.
Interesting fact most of the people do not know about you?
I am a 2nd degree black belt in karate.
The best business advice I ever received was…
You cannot be an A+ student at everything. Learn to accept a B grade. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Understand and focus on your strengths and hire people to do what you are not good at BUT you need to understand your weaknesses and ensure these are being taken care of by the people you hire and are being followed by the policies and procedures you established.
My definition of success is…
To be true to my core values and honour them in all aspects of my life
If I could go back in time when I started my business, I would tell myself to…
Slow down. Establish my vision for the business. Make sure I have a documented plan in place for the next 3 months, a year, 3 years and beyond. Understand what milestones I need to achieve to ensure I am successful in my new role.
Three books I recommend for entrepreneurs are…
“The E-Myth” by Michael E. Gerber
“Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown
“Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza
My personal tagline is…
I have two:
Spend, share and save in all aspects of life.
Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle. Christian D. Larson