You need a strong foundation if you want to build something new, and no one understands that better than the team at Hendry Warren LLP.
For the last 20 years, this Ottawa-based accounting firm has passed on the values instilled by its founders Ian Hendry and Dan Warren: prioritizing client success, building a strong team of professionals, and giving back to the community.
While both retired in 2019 – and more recently partner Marie Fraser did the same – the values they instilled in the team live on. And those values are absolutely about providing stellar client service, but they’re also about building a corporate culture that makes their high standards possible.
“They’re such exceptional professionals,” said CA/CPA and partner Nancy Nicks of the founding partners. “When communicating with the team, they always got to the heart of a problem.” And Hendry continues to share those skills from time to time by role playing client scenarios with the team as part of their training.
Perhaps one of the most critical skills they’ve mastered is giving and receiving feedback, which is a part of their DNA. “As soon as people start working with the firm, we have feedback meetings with them to develop skills and performance — but we’re also getting feedback from them on how we’re doing as a firm” said Nicks. This has led to Hendry Warren being named one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work in Ottawa and being certified as a Great Place to Work in 2022
With that foundation, three of their most recently appointed partners are poised to take the firm into the future.
Bringing in the next generation
New partners Shaina Watt and Michelle Bouchard are leaders in the assurance practice, and Spencer Brooks is a leader in the tax practice. All started at Hendry Warren as co-op students, coming from Ottawa, Carleton and Dalhousie Universities.
“I’m really proud they chose to grow their careers here,” said Nicks. “They had each other’s backs and learned the hard lessons together.”
One of the ways Hendry Warren helps its staff succeed is creating a road map. “We have a competency map and a competency dictionary,” said Nicks. “Staff members can ask their manager, ‘If I want to be a team lead next year, what do I need to do?’ Together they’ll identify the technical and soft skills and competencies they need to display — not just once, but in their day to day.”
The new partners moved up quickly by taking on more challenging work and responsibilities, while also contributing to the community outside of work.
Staff are encouraged to contribute to a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts. Brooks is a tax expert as well as a teacher for the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Income Tax Practice Management course. Bouchard has been very involved with Roger’s House on their finance committee and is now vice-chair, while Watt volunteers on the board of the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation. .
Community support is one of the most effective ways the team builds connections and friendships at the firm. But they also find fun ways to bond — recently the firm hosted an archery tag and escape room event, a children’s Halloween party, and a long awaited in-person Christmas party. Smaller events such as a group getting out for a walk with their dogs together also take place throughout the year.
Perfecting the art of progress
It may sound odd to say a foundation rooted in the past is the pathway to progress, but Hendry Warren proves it works.
They require new hires to come to the office so they get the same opportunity to absorb the corporate culture as the people who came before them. And promoting three young leaders like Watt, Bouchard and Brooks to partner shows that Hendry Warren wants to embrace the future.
Watt stood out by showing a knack for constructive change when she made their training more efficient — she created orientation videos called Hendry Warren University.
“She said after watching video training for a new process , ‘Let’s turn this into an opportunity to teach ourselves how to teach new hires,’” said Nicks about Watt. “The videos give new staff the basics, then we can have a better conversation about the details.”
This is where navigating and negotiating progress really comes in. “They’re not afraid to challenge the norm. With every process we have, they’ll challenge us to ask ‘Why is it this way?’” said Nicks.
At the same time, they know pacing change effectively is also important. “We’ve had to slow down a bit so we’re not overwhelming our team,” said Nicks. “But we’re constantly looking at how we can improve, which is important for our success .”
Their adaptability promises to bring new business to the firm. “Clients bring in retirement plans and ask us to advise them,” said Nicks. “We saw the opportunity to expand into estate planning.”
Like most success stories, the bottom line is building trusting relationships. Bringing new ideas to the table is easier when you know your leadership team has your back and will set you up for success.