Numbers speak louder than words for WelchGroup's Enman

P.E.I. native has used work ethic learned from oyster-farming parents to turn accounting firm’s consulting branch into Ottawa success story
Candace Enman

WelchGroup Consulting president Candace Enman’s story begins on the western red shores of Prince Edward Island. That’s where she enjoyed a lovely, low-key childhood full of beach and family life.

It’s also where the tireless business leader first learned the importance of hard work.

She and her older sisters would often tag along and help out their parents, who earned a modest living by harvesting oysters and quahogs. When Ms. Enman was eight or nine, she and her siblings were making enough money to pay for their own school supplies and some clothes by picking quahogs, the harder-shelled cousin of the clam.

It was the mother’s dream that her children get a good education and be spared her life of hard, back-breaking work.

It was an achievable goal for Ms. Enman. She was a shy kid who cried her way through Grade 1, but she was also a straight-A student.  

At 18, Ms. Enman headed to the nation’s capital to get a Bachelor of Commerce degree with honours in accounting at the University of Ottawa. It was a difficult adjustment, going from her small-town rural life to the big city, but she managed.

After graduation, she articled at Welch & Co. (now Welch LLP) and earned her Chartered Accountant designation.

“I don’t think any little girl grows up thinking they’re going to be an accountant,” says Ms. Enman, 43, speaking at the firm’s office on Slater Street. “But I was very good in math and I liked the business side. It was a practical career choice that likely stemmed from the need to have something steady and wanting to earn a decent enough living.”

Ms. Enman then changed career paths and became director of finance for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council. But after three years at the non-profit groups, she was ready for a bigger challenge.

She moved on to become financial controller for the North American operations of Australian-owned Club Assist, a mobile battery replacement wholesaler and retailer. The company was looking to create a niche market by partnering with motoring clubs around the world, including the Canadian and American automobile associations in North America.

During her seven years with Club Assist, the company opened, closed and amalgamated businesses, set up new divisions and expanded into Europe. Its revenues grew from about $5 million to $80 million over that period.

When Ms. Enman started a family, she took six months off work after the birth of Evan, now 10, and a further nine months with her second son, Alex, now eight. She stayed in contact with her co-workers during her maternity leaves, often dropping into the office with her babies in tow.

“I never wanted to give up my career,” she says.

When Club Assist decided to move its core finance team to Los Angeles, Ms. Enman restructured her team. But she soon found out, while on maternity leave, that her position would also be altered due to the company’s growth in Europe and the need to hire someone directly for that market.  

“It was a male-dominated industry, and I believe they truly thought they were doing me a favour, because I had two kids under two. But I couldn’t imagine not being part of the management group, helping to lead the business,” she says. “Sitting at my desk and doing the core accounting would never have fulfilled me.”

Ms. Enman left Club Assist and took on an entirely new role by joining Welch’s consultancy firm in 2010 as one of several people leading a one-stop-shop advisory practice.

“I am definitely not the loudest one in the room, nor am I always the most confident, but I am a strong listener and life-long learner. When I push myself out of my comfort zone, that’s where I find the most success.”

By 2013, the company’s president, Dragan Veljovic, had parted ways with WelchGroup. Ms. Enman faced two choices: dissolve the practice or rebrand it. She chose the latter.  

“That’s been one of my career highlights,” she says. “I didn’t throw in the towel, even though I could easily have done that.”  

She determined where the company’s key strengths lay and what the Ottawa business region needed. She then began growing WelchGroup into a success story (it exceeded its revenue targets, growing 180 per cent in the past year) with a focus on business efficiencies, growth and transitions.

Ms. Enman juggles her parenting duties with her husband, Chris Chartrand, who works at Nokia. She puts in long hours, often tackling tasks after the kids go to bed and on weekends.

In April, the Women’s Business Network of Ottawa recognized her for her years of hard work and dedication to her profession when it named her its Businesswoman of the Year in the professional category.

“I am definitely not the loudest one in the room, nor am I always the most confident, but I am a strong listener and life-long learner,” she says. “When I push myself out of my comfort zone, that’s where I find the most success.”

Five things to know about Candace Enman

  1. She helped organize the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp in O’Leary, P.E.I., in 1992. Unfortunately, she had to leave the day before the players flew in, ruining any chance she had of marrying Eric Lindros.
  2. She’s dislocated her shoulder seven times. Two of those times were while dancing.
  3. She used to hate seafood, despite being surrounded by it as a kid. She’s come around, but still won’t touch sushi, mussels or oysters.
  4. She’s on the finance committee for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and on the sponsorship committee for the Ottawa Network for Education, which, among other things, runs the school breakfast program.
  5. She joined the Toastmasters Club to help with her public speaking. To this day, she still gets nervous every time she has to give a speech.