Nicole Stewart CPA, CA, LPA

Partner at Grant Thornton LLP (Oakville location)

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Lianna Harrington

Who is Nicole Stewart, could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Nicole Stewart and I am married to my high school sweetheart, Rob and we have two sons, Jackson and Ben.  Both of my boys are currently enrolled in Engineering at the University of Waterloo.  My husband and I both attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo so it is officially a family tradition to attend post-secondary in the city of Waterloo.  We have a Bernese Mountain dog, Murphy who is over 11 years old and a 13 year old cat named Shadow.

For my career, I am a partner at Grant Thornton LLP, a public accounting firm with offices across Canada and I sit in our local Oakville office.

What is your business and when did you start?

As a partner in a public accounting firm I have the opportunity to work with many clients in various industries across southern Ontario. I work in the area of assurance as well as independent business and advisory services. We assist our clients to meet financial reporting requirements and 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 LLP.  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. On February 1, 2023, MDP merged with Grant Thornton.

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 enjoy developing relationships with business owners and helping 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.  Grant Thornton has the expertise in-house to help our clients, colleagues and communities thrive.

What motivates you about your business?

I enjoy helping people and constantly 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, a global pandemic or AI. 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 three months, a year, three 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…

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


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