Sandy Tunwell’s journey from bookkeeper to head of Ottawa’s go-to provider of bookkeeping and accounting services for new and small businesses began 25 years ago with a modest request.
After being told she’d be a good teacher, Tunwell approached the Ottawa Board of Education to ask if she could lead an accounting course for small businesses.
With many of her students asking for more oneon-one help, Tunwell quickly saw the demand for a different type of bookkeeping help and opened her own business.
From day one, Tunwell has focused on changing the relationship between clients and accountants. By combining her vast accounting knowledge with her social skills, she developed a new and unique approach to bookkeeping.
Accountrain’s team works on site at their clients’ offices as needed – biweekly sessions are the most popular – and log extra hours as required, such as when preparing year-end financial statements or working with auditors.
Accountrain also specializes in helping not-forprofit organizations, which face unique challenges stemming from reporting standards that are different than those for private businesses.
“Bookkeeping at these organizations can be complex because of the involvement of multiple funders and the need to have every year-end reviewed by an outside auditing firm,” Tunwell says. “Our clients have become known for consistently having ‘clean’ books.”
Additionally, it’s critical that the board of directors – which is responsible for the organization’s financials – is confident with the accounting team.
One of accountrain’s longstanding clients is the Charlotte Birchard Centres for Early Learning (CBCEL). When Cathy Romano-Franzese joined the organization as executive director in February 2013, part of her onboarding process included working with Tunwell on financial strategy. She had one-on-one training sessions to learn about financial reporting, which she concedes was “not one of my strong suits” when she entered the position.
“It’s great to have someone knowledgeable like Sandy working with us,” says Romano-Franzese. “We see accountrain as part of our team.”
Last year, Tunwell also created new financial reports for CBCEL to help with key decisionmaking. Tunwell and her staff created a report template – based on many years of experience working with project-driven organizations – that can track which programs are the most profitable to help CBCEL decide on future programming.
CBCEL’s provincial and federal funding is tied to specific programs. So Tunwell and her team created a system where the funding could be matched with each program in great detail so that the report clearly shows where the money was spent and which programs were profitable. It’s one example of how accountrain was able to accommodate a unique financial need.
“It’s great to have someone consistent and competent working alongside us,” says Romano-Franzese.
Financial tips for startups
To mark its 25th anniversary, accountrain underwent a complete rebrand, redesigned its website and held a huge client appreciation party.
Many of those clients have attended various workshops hosted by accountrain that help break down financial issues facing organizations.
Accountrain founder Sandy Tunwell says one of the most common questions she’s asked is whether a company should incorporate and, if so, when. She says part of the answer lies in how the company plans to use its net profits.
For example, a young entrepreneur leading a company that’s pulling in funds not needed for company expenses may want to use the money for personal items, such as buying a home.
In that case, Tunwell says the entrepreneur may be incorporating for the wrong reasons or at the wrong time. Understanding the reasons to incorporate is important and should be reviewed with a professional.