Paying it Forward

CPAs can be found in every industry, being experts at more than numbers – and they’re great with those, too.

Every month, CPA Manitoba spotlights the diverse and dedicated professionals that prove CPA is more than a designation. 

CPAs are recognized around the world and are well-suited to be leaders in any industry. I want to be the most well-rounded CPA that I can be. 

Most people go to Mexico to relax on the beach with family and friends, but Leslie Bourns, CPA has seen another side of the country.

“When I tell people that I’m going to work in Mexico most assume that I’ll be working by the ocean. That’s what often comes to mind about the country, but our manufacturing facilities are actually in Northern Mexico, in the mountains. Still, it’s very picturesque there,” Bourns said.

The Winnipeg based Pallister Furniture Upholstery Ltd. has been in Winnipeg for 75 years and Mexico for over 20 years, operating four manufacturing plants, three of which are in Mexico. In Mexico, there are two plants in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, in northeastern Mexico, and the other is in Matamoros further east. As Assistant Controller, Bourns gets the opportunity to visit all three.

“When I’m in Mexico, I work with our team there in areas including operations, budgeting, forecasting and cash management,” explained Bourns. “Everyone who works there is part of the Palliser family and it helps to make those face to face connections. I have really developed a good, strong relationship with the finance team based there.”

Before she became an Assistant Controller, she was amongst the first groups through the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP) after the merger of the designations in 2015. She owes the start of her accounting career to multiple people including her high school principal, teachers and her mother.

“My high school principal and teachers saw something in me and encouraged me to get involved with various student organizations in leadership roles. Also, my mom really encouraged me to take an accounting course when I went to the University of Manitoba,” said Bourns. “She works in accounting and told me ‘You’ll like it, just try it out. You’ll see.’ And once I did, I fell in love with it.”

During her university studies, Bourns wanted to get some job experience and exposure to a variety of accounting roles. She found an opportunity through the Asper Co-op program with MNP.

“I spent all three of my co-op terms at MNP and was really happy there. I was also fortunate to be hired full-time afterwards as a Senior Accountant. I learned so much during that time,” said Bourns.

After three years in that role, she was looking for the next challenge and jumped at the chance to join Palliser as Assistant Controller.

Bourns recalls a rewarding project that she’s been involved with. It was the implementation of a new expense management system.

“It’s one of the biggest projects I have worked on at Palliser. What we had before didn’t meet the needs of our users. I worked on it for the last year and a half and I’m happy with the way it turned out,” she said.

The job is not without its challenges, however. The furniture industry is ever-changing and extremely competitive. In order to stay one step ahead, Bourns keeps up with current trends and strives to make data more useful and easier to understand.

“Our business, like many, operates in a constantly changing environment. You’re affected by the exchange rate, operations in Canada and Mexico, as well as consumer buying trends,” she explained. “No two days are the same and you’ve just got to expect the unexpected sometimes, but it keeps every day interesting.”

Bourns has also found time to give back to organizations that have helped her in the past. She is a CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB) Taxation Module Facilitator and Coach of a JDC West business competition case team at the University of Manitoba.

As a facilitator, she teaches candidates in the CPA PEP about taxation and what they should expect in their course work and exams. As a JDC West coach, she advises business students on how to succeed during the competition. JDC West is one of the biggest undergraduate business competitions in Western Canada and hosts almost 1300 attendees from 12 post-secondary institutions annually.

“I wanted to help out and give back because I know the program is challenging. When I was going through the CPA PEP, it helped to have someone I could go to for advice and feedback so I’m happy to pay it forward,” Bourns explained. “For JDC West coaching, I competed when I was at Asper. It is such a fun competition and you learn a lot. I really enjoy teaching and coaching, and I think the event does a great job preparing individuals for PEP, and afterwards, for their career." 

Speaking of the future, Bourns is always looking for ways to grow.

“I want to keep expanding my skill set with continuing education, taking courses, not just in accounting, but in leadership and management too. CPAs are recognized around the world and are well-suited to be leaders in any industry. I want to be the most well-rounded CPA that I can be,” said Bourns.

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