Refusing to settle for less

Jennifer
Jennifer MacKinnon
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Candace Enman says she loves working at the Welch Group - even though her first stint with the local accounting firm ended in 2000.

Candace Enman.

The P.E.I. native joined the firm after graduating from the University of Ottawa in 1996. Although she loved auditing, Mr. Enman realized it wasn't the career path she wanted to pursue. Luckily, two of her not-for-profit clients at Welch were in need of a director of finance. She decided to take the plunge and worked for both non-profits, helping them build financial reporting packages and create proper internal controls to re-establish faith at the board of directors level.

The work was very different from what she had been doing at Welch. She now had to become very hands-on and roll up her sleeves and do the actual work, rather than just auditing it.

After three years it was time for a change, and Ms. Enman opted to work in the for-profit sector. She was introduced to an Australian-based company through Welch that was looking for a financial controller for its North American operation. Although based on a pre-established company in Australia, the North American operation was a start up in this new market. Working alongside the president and chief operating office, Ms. Enman's built the finance team and positioned the company, Club Assist, for growth.

The firm is a wholesale distributor of batteries that partnered with CAA and AAA  to provide mobile battery replacement service to the Automobile Club's members. During her seven years there, the battery service was one of the highest-rated offerings of CAA and AAA. Furthermore, Club Assist grew at a remarkable rate of 40 to 50 per cent per year.

Getting there, however, wasn’t always easy. Early on, Ms. Enman's team was comprised of mostly junior staff that she felt was not the right group to build the company. Ms. Enman wanted to make changes when she arrived, but not all of her decisions were well received. Building the right team is not easy.

After seven years and a ton of success, Ms. Enman was expecting her second child. Upon her return from maternity leave, Club Assist offered her a position with standard working hours, less stress and modified tasks. All were intended to help her manage both being a mother and an employee, but it meant she would no longer be a part of the management team.

Although many women would appreciate the modified work role, it wasn't what Ms. Enman wanted. She loved what she was doing prior to maternity leave and needed that fulfilment in her career.

"I spent a long time building my career and I wasn't going to give it away. I wasn't going to settle. It isn't always easy to manage work and a family, but I wanted to be happy doing both and that meant doing a job that was fulfilling and challenging. My kids are my No. 1 priority, but I won't settle for a mundane job when I know I can have more," explains Ms. Enman.

Indeed, with two sons - currently aged four and six - Ms. Enman and her husband, Chris, spend all their free time is spent with them swimming, camping, skiing and fishing. But that doesn’t mean she wanted to sacrifice her professional objectives.

Welch re-appeared and offered her a unique opportunity to help create a new division within its Chairman's View consulting practice, which helps small and medium-sized companies position themselves for growth and a future exit. Ms. Enman immediately connected with the offering. It also offered her the opportunity to continue doing something she loved - CFO work.

Recognizing the need for strong senior-level finance resources with her clients, she created a network of contract CFOs and controllers who can work with businesses on an as-needed basis.

"Not every company can afford a full-time CFO and the network fulfills a much needed service at a fraction of the cost," explains Ms. Enman.

She says she’s happy at Welch, as the job allows her to meet new businesses and help create growth strategies.

"Consulting isn't a career path I would have chosen initially, and there are aspects of it that I am not always comfortable doing, but I'm a big believer in taking risks and putting yourself out there. Getting out of your comfort zone every now and then is important for personal and professional growth," she explains.

A big part of business success is simply knowing what you want, she says.

"I know what I like to do and I think that's important. You can't be shy to ask for what you want and it's important to take risks in your career."

Fenix Solutions Inc. CEO Jennifer MacKinnon writes a monthly column, Ottawa Women of Wonder, to profile and celebrate local women in business.

Organizations: Club Assist, North American, University of Ottawa CAA AAA Automobile Club Fenix Solutions

Geographic location: P.E.I., Australia

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