accountrain inc. - Sandy Tunwell

accountrain inc. - Sandy Tunwell

accountrain inc.

160 George Street, Suite #1102

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Interview: Michael Irwin

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio

You have worked in the accounting field both teaching and balancing the books for companies in Ottawa, how have you seen the needs of companies big and small change?

accountrain has been in business for over 25 years, and prior to that, I did books for over 10 years. 

The biggest change has been technology.  My career started in Toronto, so I was advanced when I came to Ottawa, as computers were just starting to be used for accounting, and I already knew how to use them. 

Because of this, my career advanced quickly.  Now, it’s all about the cloud and social media.  This I find hasn’t been as positive of a change, as people are looking for a quick fix / answer.  Accounting is full of rules and processes, sometimes there just isn’t a short cut.   And the cloud accounting, is promoting just that!

In my opinion, the new cloud accounting is not where it needs to be YET!  In the past few years, we have been hired a lot to “clean” messes, of people “thinking” they could do their own bookkeeping because they are using cloud based software.

Being in business for yourself means you are not tied to a desk all day. What is it you enjoy about working with multiple clients and having a team of bookkeepers ?

I am an odd breed, as I am a “talkative / social” accountant.  I discovered this early in my career, so use it to every advantage.  This is why we excel in working with start-ups and with our training, whether it be, one-on-one or workshops.  The feedback is ALWAYS, I learned so much, it’s been so helpful, I am now more confident…

I try to hire the same type of people for my team, as we’ve become known for this. We love what we do, and love sharing information, and it shows!

The financial side of business is full of jargon, acronyms and can be overwhelming. How do you help clients navigate this area? 

Well for starters, we have key accounting terms defined on our website, in layman terms.  I prepared them myself, and avoiding referring to text books.

When dealing with clients I try not to use too much jargon, or choose key terms to ensure the client understands.  I will often “translate” what they have read or been told by other accountants, into “English”!.  One of my networking colleagues recently coined it – “trains-latting”!

Also, when I am working with someone new, every so often I’ll stop and look at them and say something like, make sense or so far so good?  I also encourage questions by clients, students, and my team! I am a good trainer and mentor, and know it.

You mentioned that you love to travel. What is the most exotic trip you have taken?

Well that’s a tough one.  I’ve been blessed with several.  I returned to Asia last year, that itinerary was unique, from Beijing to Singapore. It was something special!  And this last trip, still suffering from jetlag, it’s so recent, was the coast of Norway, including the lovely Fjords and passing through the Arctic Circle with no sunset for several days.

accountrain's logo is a pink umbrella along with a tagline "keeping you in the pink, not the red". Is there a story behind this?

Of course there is!  Our old tag line used to be “keeping you in the black, not in the dark”, although it was a clearer message, we tried to keep the same idea but tie it into our new brand colour, pink.  I chose pink as it’s soft, accounting is conceived as so rigid, and confusing.  I researched and found out pink was the very first colour ever recognized / found in ancient times.

What is your favourite spot to grab lunch in the Market? 

Who has time for lunch, lol!  Kidding aside, I enjoy the fresh pizzas and outdoor atmosphere of Il Vicolo (it translates to Ally, which is where it is tucked away and easy to miss, on Clarence, near Dalhousie).  The wood oven is outside and super-fast.  The ingredients are fresh and they have yummy drinks! 


At what point does a new business need to engage your team's services?

The best time, is at start-up.  We start with a consultation, let the client ask all their questions, then tell them what else they need to know.  “You don’t know what you don’t know”!

If we are training, we suggest a follow up, no point in all that training, if you misinterpreted and are doing things incorrectly.   And lastly, at yearend.  Let us do a final review and ensure all the yearend extras are done prior to tax time, it’s the last chance to clean things up. 

Of course, the best scenario is on a regular basis, which depends on external deadlines and volume.  The most popular is bi-weekly and monthly.

When you aren't busy with numbers, clients and your team of professionals what do you do for fun?

Well, you hit that in questions above, travel and spend time with friends.  My father is in a senior home and I go their weekly to visit him but also to hang around with all his friends, they know me very well there!

What is your favourite part about living in Ottawa?

I think Ottawa is the perfect size, big enough to have a lot of culture, events, etc and as Canada’s capital, it’s kept so clean.  And I think it’s beautiful.  My friends tease me about my love affair with the canal.  They say I am a reincarnation of Colonel By! (there’s a lot more to that story, but we digress…)

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