People on the Move: Doug McLarty has always enjoyed the people behind the numbers

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Lynn Honsberger and Doug McLarty are planning to do more golfing when McLarty retires as partner from MNP LLP at the end of this month. Photo by Caroline Phillips

As Doug McLarty gets ready to retire from MNP LLP, what he’ll remember most about his four-decade-long career as a chartered accountant in Ottawa is not the ways he helped his clients minimize inheritance tax, it will be the people he’s met and the relationships he’s built.

McLarty, 69, has been with the firm since 2014, when he merged his former professional practice with MNP, a national accounting, tax and business consulting firm. MNP wanted to make a jumpstart into the Ottawa market and saw McLarty & Co. as the perfect fit.

Today, MNP has a team of 300 in the region, including offices in Kingston, Cornwall, Brockville, Hawkesbury and Gatineau.

McLarty has decided to step down from his partnership at the end May. “I think the timing’s right,” he said in an interview from the firm’s Carling Avenue eighth-floor office, which offers views that stretch all the way to the Ottawa River. 

He plans to continue doing succession planning, board work and angel investing. He’ll also work on his golf game at the prestigious Royal Ottawa Golf Club, where he’s a long-time member and former board treasurer. His wife, Lynn Honsberger, who’s on the board of governors at Carleton University, recently took up golf.

McLarty didn’t grow up dreaming of numbers and spreadsheets. He’s an outgoing sort and natural raconteur who’s lived most of his life in Ottawa. He moved here as a boy when his father, Donald, a former Second World War pilot and lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Air Force, became president of Canada’s Spartan Air Services.

McLarty played football, first with his St. Patrick’s High School team, followed by the Ottawa Sooners, and finally with the Ravens at Carleton University, where he studied commerce (teammates included well-known real estate developer John Ruddy).

McLarty says he pursued his CA designation after university because it seemed like a smart move. 

By his late twenties, he had opened his own accounting firm in Ottawa, teaming up with tax wiz Jim McIntyre. They had no money and no clients but that didn’t stop them from buying an old building at 360 Bronson Ave., near Somerset Street West, to run their business, McIntyre & McLarty.

The deal would never have gone through if former Conservative cabinet minister Robert Layton, father of former NDP leader Jack Layton, hadn’t loaned them $27,000. They paid him right back.

Among their clients were Jack Layton, Dalton McGuinty, Jim Watson, John Baird and Peter MacKay. “We had the whole political spectrum. It was wonderful,” said McLarty, who had a knack for business development and marketing. 

He was still in his 40s when he received the highest mark of distinction for a chartered professional accountant: the Fellows designation by CPA Ontario. Only about three per cent of CPAs have been named Fellows.

McIntrye & McLarty was successful but eventually ran its course after 21 years, when the two parted ways, dissolving the firm. It was time for McLarty to start over. Fortunately, he had a strong enough client base that he didn’t have to build from scratch. He also had his chartered accountant wife, Honsberger, to help him develop his vision for the future. It involved adding integrated succession planning and wealth management. She was “critical” to the firm’s success, said McLarty. 

They also created marketing segmentation strategies that allowed them to focus on specific clientele groups, such as car dealerships and physicians. 

McLarty credits his career success to strong teamwork. “My strength has always been to have a vision and to see where we need to get to and to see the pieces, but I would never have been successful if I hadn’t been able to attract people around me who had all the skills.”

Accounting is one of those jobs that allow professionals to work with both numbers and people. “I love talking to people and I really enjoy understanding people; I’ve always been that way,” said McLarty, who co-founded the Ottawa Networking Group (which was exactly what it sounds like). “When you’re helping someone with a service, if they’re comfortable and you develop a trust, then your relationship is much more helpful.”

It’s advice he’s shared with the younger accountants in his office. “It’s all about trust. It’s all about listening to the clients.

“Some of the most satisfying moments in my career have been when people come up to me 10, 15, 20 years later and say, ‘You know that advice that you gave me and my family that day? Well, we actually did it and it worked out really well.'”

McLarty has been involved with numerous boards over the years, including the Ottawa Board of Trade, Bayview Yards Innovation Centre and Hydro Ottawa. At the young age of 42, he was hospital board chair at the Riverside (now a campus of The Ottawa Hospital). He’s currently on the board of the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario. “It’s such a positive experience,” said McLarty of having the opportunity to work with “really interesting people.”

Just doing well in a job doesn’t meet McLarty’s definition of success. It also needs to apply to home life and community work. “You’ve got to have balance. I think I’ve accomplished that in my career and it means that we’ve had pretty happy times.”

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DOUG MCLARTY:

  1. Not only are he and his wife chartered professional accountants, but so are their two daughters. Roslyn, 29, is co-founder of the Toronto-based startup The GIST, which provides sports news by women for women. Daphne, 27, is working in the U.S. with tech platform Employee Cycle. They both graduated from business school at Queen’s University.
  2. His former Ottawa Sooners coach, Jim Chiarelli, inspired him. “He’s an absolute gem of a human being.”
  3. He’s tried on three separate occasions to master the French language but without success. C’est la vie.
  4. He co-authored a book, “The Golden Telescope.” No, it’s not about astronomy. It’s about financial planning and wealth management.
  5. He briefly considered running for federal politics but got a resounding “no” vote from his wife.

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