Canada: Gillian Lee: Doing What She Does Best
Last Updated: February 24 2015

Gillian Lee joined Crowe MacKay's Yellowknife office as a staff accountant in 2003, and over the last 12 years has developed within the firm, becoming partner in 2009. As the youngest individual to ever make partner in the firm, she is one of only seven female partners and lives in a remote northern community. Gillian, having successfully crushed the obstacles of age, gender and location, was the perfect partner to feature in our Entrepreneurial issue.

Gillian spent most of her career in Crowe MacKay's audit practice, but transitioned almost entirely to taxable clients. Now, she works with wide-ranging client types and sizes in personal and corporate tax, review and Notice to Reader (NTR) engagements, business planning and other financial services.

Helping solve clients' problems is Gillian's primary motivation, as she thrives on the variety and challenge that each new client brings. Her strength in every client relationship is her empathy; a real ability to demonstrate to clients that she understands and relates to the issues they are facing. "I think it's important for my clients to understand that I am a small business owner as well, and deal with many of the same challenges they face everyday."

Her advice to fellow entrepreneurs?

"It's important to spend your time doing what you do best, but not to the detriment of neglecting other elements required to successfully run a business. Often, I see entrepreneurs who focus solely on their product or service, that they neglect their overall business planning and day-to-day administration. To stay on track, it's crucial to map out where you want to go, and understand where you've been."

Not a Yellowknifer by birth, she is an import from Corner Brook, Newfoundland and a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's. So how did she find herself at Crowe MacKay so far from home? "I originally thought I would graduate in biology and pursue a career in medical research. However, after spending a summer in a lab sequencing cod fish DNA, I realized that the life of a medical researcher was probably not for me. I needed something besides beakers and centrifuges to talk to. After that summer, I changed my major to commerce because I thought it was a field where I could interact with people while still using my analytical skills. Following graduation, I was intrigued by the idea of living and working in the North – I saw it as a big adventure, moving across the country to such a different place all on my own. "

Her summer sequencing codfish DNA didn't kill her love for nature. During her down-time you can find Gillian seeking refuge by spending time with family at their cabin on Prelude Lake. And when asked about the best thing about living and working in Yellowknife, she enthusiastically responds: "Summers! We have the sunniest summers in Canada and nature right in our backyards to enjoy. Yellowknife is also a very active city with so much to get involved with."

And what about the unique challenges to living and working in the North?

"The coldest I ever remember feeling was performing an inventory count at one of the diamond mines. It was an interesting assignment, counting explosives stored in sea cans, but at -54 Celsius it was like working in a very big and very cold deep freezer. I had to have a good supply of pencils on hand because it was too cold to use my laptop and my pens kept freezing!"

Crowe MacKay LLP is an integral part of the Yellowknife business community because, in Gillian words, "we value our client relationships and enjoy working closely with our clients. We could sit at our desks and just churn out annual tax returns and financial statements, but then we'd be missing the big picture and opportunities to really add value for our clients."

Get in touch with Gillian or listen to her during tax season on Moose FM 100.1 for tax tips and updates.

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