Welcome to the Inspired Entrepreneur Series.
The Inspired Entrepreneur Series: An Interview with Jeff Schwan, CPA, CGA
In this series, we’ll be exploring what it takes to be an entrepreneur by going straight to the source! Read interviews with successful local entrepreneurs, and take away motivation and inspiration from business-savvy people who have proven they have what it takes! To be featured in the series, please contact Danielle.
Jeff Schwan, CPA, CGA of Schwan & Associates CPA
The accounting industry is changing rapidly. Ten years ago, the word “accounting” dredged up images of ledgers and scrolls of tape from a manual calculator. Some people might still think of accounting that way, but Jeff Schwan, owner of Schwan & Associates CPA, has a different viewpoint.
For Jeff, accounting is anything but tedious. Like his approach to business, Jeff’s approach to accounting is flexible, modern, and distinctively creative – and it’s why he loves his work. It’s ingrained in his personality to be in front of the next wave of technology and pushing onto something new. He’s an entrepreneur at heart – always has been, and always will be.
I spoke with Jeff to learn more about where his entrepreneurial spark was first ignited. As a child and young adult, Jeff’s interests were broad. His original plans to become a high school math teacher were offset by a love of Greek mythology. “I’m a lifelong learner,” Jeff laughs. “I’ve set a goal for myself – one course per month. I never want to stop learning.”
So how did this creative thinker with varied interests settle on accounting as he entered secondary school? Three things drew him to the BCom program at MacEwan: a love of numbers, a love of technology, and a love of problem-solving. Simplifying complex data using technology and new techniques was a skill that helped him excel in accounting. There was another source of help though, and that came in the form of a job offer.
Eager to get started in the industry as soon as possible, Jeff left his position as a retail store manager and set out in search of an accounting position. At the lowest of his expectations was a job punching numbers, but what he really wanted was a position where his learning could continue outside the classroom while he finished school. He found the latter at Daytona Homes, an Edmonton home builder willing to take a chance on an eager student.
“I worked there for seven years, and they were very good to me,” Jeff says of his time at Daytona. “I learned so much, and they were so willing to help me in every way I needed. From scheduling around school, to helping me solve problems and answering questions – they really guided me through while I was in school.”
At Daytona, it wasn’t just about crunching numbers. What Jeff enjoyed most was the opportunity to streamline processes and implement procedures. Seeing the front-facing effects of changes to behind-the-scenes operations was rewarding. It was the rush of those – of knowing that he’d had a true impact and seeing the results – that eventually pushed Jeff to begin planning the launch of his own public firm.
Jeff’s accounting days might not have begun in the public arena, but it was his background with Daytona Homes that gave him the know-how he needed to set out on his own. His ultimate goal was to bring this knowledge outside the realm of private enterprise, and into a public firm. Fully-pivotal entrepreneurs and scaling businesses have more creative power and can go deeper into building solutions – and that was exactly what Jeff wanted to do.
Schwan & Associates CPA was built in 2016, and since then, it’s been pushing forward on a path of growth Jeff is happy about, and eager to continue. Never one to settle into the moment, Jeff has begun to see Schwan & Associates CPA in terms of a five-year-plan, complete with firm goals to track their progression as a high-performing accounting firm in Edmonton.
Of course, the best thing about owning his own accounting firm has just as much to do with his clients wins as his own. Being an entrepreneur, while also being able to help entrepreneurs, is the reason he started out, and the reason he pushes forward. “There’s something different about helping other businesses grow and succeed,” Jeff says. “It’s rewarding to know I can make a real difference for people, and for other businesses.”
Schwan & Associates CPA is unique among Edmonton accounting firms thanks to a targeted focus on cloud-based accounting. Applying apps and software to accounting processes, and training and integrating these tools, makes life easier for business owners who need to track and view their financial information in real time. Jeff works with programs and apps like Quickbooks, TSheets, and Hubdoc, and helps his clients get full functionality out of them.
According to Jeff, another benefit of working in the cloud is flexibility. Many of Jeff’s clients are small business owners who thrive on creativity and innovation in their daily operations. Just like their business models, these owners need to be able to set up accounting systems that are responsive, rapid, and self-generating. The days of waiting for your accountant to call you back with a report are over. Jeff is more than willing to help his clients find systems that are as self-sustaining as possible, saving them money and time with streamlined and automated processes.
Of course, it’s more than just the adrenaline of entrepreneurship that motivates Jeff to work toward lofty goals on a daily basis. When his mind isn’t on improving systems for his clients both internally and externally to the business, he spends time at home and around Edmonton with his girlfriend and their children, Bella (5), and Logan (7). Spending time away from work is something he values, and hopes he can help his clients achieve.
Between time at home and the office, Jeff sets a rapid pace on the track. Running is a hobby and sport, but it also gives Jeff the opportunity to give back to the community. When he isn’t participating in charity runs himself, he’s on the sidelines volunteering, an experience which lends a pleasantly unique perspective. “It’s great to be able to be part of something that I love, but to be helping others do it too,” he says of a charity run he volunteered at last September.
The road to establishing the firm has been rewarding thus far, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. As nearly all business owners know, getting out there and getting started is a big hurdle, and you have to be a true go-getter to make it happen. More than that, you have to be willing to bet on yourself. “I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to my own ventures,” he says. The risks he’s taken in the last few years in opening his own accounting firm have paid off, and it’s only a matter of time before we see Schwan & Associates CPA making headway on their business goals.
Jeff has also started an online book club for entrepreneurs, with a focus on business and self-help reads. Never one to pass up an opportunity to add to my reading list, I’ve joined the club! If you’re an avid reader, or just want to set a goal to read more, get in touch with Jeff to join! Also, be sure to follow Schwan & Associates CPA’s blog to get up-to-date tips on taxes, bookkeeping, accounting software, and more!