Dan Richard

Accounting for Community Impact: Dan Richard Counts on Giving Back

For Dan Richard, someone who excels at math, a career in accounting just makes ‘cents’. He lives in and was raised in Winnipeg and founded IND-Genuity Chartered Professional Accountants. He is a Sandy Bay First Nation member and while his uncle was adopted by a non-Indigenous family, his dad was able to avoid being scooped in the sixties. His parents married and had three kids and Richard himself did the same. Two of his kids are in university while one is entering high school. 

After high school, Richard wanted to be a doctor but when he took the sciences he needed, his grades were not good and he wasn’t enjoying himself at all. He transitioned over to a Bachelor of Commerce degree to pursue a career in accounting and found when he was taking more math classes his grades improved and he was enjoying himself a lot more. Richard was in the Aboriginal Business Education Program at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1998. He completed his chartered accounting program, articled and wrote his final exam to achieve his professional designation. 

As he passed, he became the third First Nation chartered accountant in Manitoba. There are many Indigenous chartered accountants when you count Métis and non-status people but there are far fewer First Nations accountants, he’s found, and many opportunities given every business needs an accountant or bookkeeper.  He has connections to a range of reserves through a variety of relatives but hasn’t had a strong connection to his home community given his grandparents didn’t live on the reserve. 

Along the way, Richard faced obstacles because his parents didn’t have the resources to fund his higher education so he had to take out student loans. His band didn’t have funding for him until his second year. The program he was in helped with personal support and mentorship but university was lonely given only one of his high school friends went to university and they didn’t have classes together. Fortunately, after his first lonely semester, Richard met his wife. Post-secondary was a big adjustment with all the time studying and not much time to make money if he wanted to maintain his grades so finding balance was a challenge.

One of the benefits of the program was the Co-op program which helped students gain experience while they studied so they could get better jobs after graduation. That opportunity saved them from the catch-22 of needing experience to get a job but not being able to get a job without experience. He was able to find work with an accounting firm that paid above minimum wage and he was able to work with them until he got his professional designation.  

His advice for students considering accounting is that it’s easier the earlier you start, given it can be hard to juggle a career and go to school as a mature student. He recommends AFOA Canada as a resource and the certified Aboriginal Financial Manager designation and the other designations they offer. Richard recommends researching what supports and programs are available, and asking people working in the field what they have found helpful and what they suggest. 

When deciding to go into accounting, he looked at how much he could make and what he could do with his designation. Professional accountants often become Chief Financial Officers, Directors of Finance, business owners, CEOs, join boards or any number of other things so there were a lot of options open to him. At the time there were three different designation paths and he was interested in the most challenging path. 

If he could give his younger self advice it would be to get started early in high school on the courses he would need and to get a better idea of what he wanted to do. He didn’t have the courses he needed and he would have benefited from an earlier focus.

When it comes to maintaining balance and well-being that became challenging during the pandemic, when he didn’t get as much face time as he would have preferred with clients. Working remotely as an accountant wasn’t hard but the marketing had to shift. It was also harder to disconnect at the end of the day and creating work-life balance was more of a challenge. Typically, with his wife working for an airline, his family travels a lot to see the world and make memories together. Working for himself, extended vacations have been fewer and further between, too. 

As far as inspiration goes, Richard started his business with the support of AFOA Canada and he set it up as a for-profit CPA firm but he hopes it will be a social enterprise eventually. He would like to provide grants and scholarships to Indigenous youth to further their education. He would like to contribute to the community and does so as much as he can. 

He chairs the Indigenous Learning Centre, the charitable arm of the AFOA Canada which provides scholarships and grants for students to take AFOA courses. He’s also the treasurer of the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce in Manitoba and is on another board called Build which helps reintegrating offenders find gainful employment and vocational training opportunities. They also provide training and construction for First Nations communities. Outside of the boards, he mentors students and supports programs when asked.  

"It's important to think about, okay, what makes you happy? What path could you take? Can you make money doing it?... You don't want to just take a job because money is great"

His advice to Indigenous youth is to plan for the future early. “It's important to think about, okay, what makes you happy? What path could you take? Can you make money doing it?... You don't want to just take a job because money is great,” he urges, thinking about the ways his job fits him well. People think as an accountant he can hide in the back and he doesn’t have to talk to anyone but it’s a role that requires a lot of communication, marketing and self-promotion.

Learning how to share the value you bring to the table is an important skill to hone whether for job interviews or business promotion. He also suggests assessing that value so you don’t sell yourself short. He recommends connecting with professional organizations and finding mutually beneficial business relationships. 

For a math whiz like Dan Richard, a career in accounting just makes ‘cents’. Getting his professional designation and building a business that gives back added up to the way he wants to do life. More than just a ‘bean counter’, he’s growing capacity by sitting on boards that create meaningful change and sharing the wisdom he’s learned along the way. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Ontario
  • Date
    May 15, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
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