Rise CPA Featured Staff: Trevor Sutherland, Partner

1. Tell me about yourself and what your role is at Rise?

As a Partner at Rise, I am proud to be part of a team of highly skilled professionals dedicated to providing exceptional service to our clients.  My interest in technology and its impact on our business operations has allowed me to become involved in both technology and process improvement initiatives. I look for ways to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and enhance the level of service we provide to our clients through cutting-edge tools and techniques. 

In my role as a Partner at Rise, I am not only responsible for overseeing the technology and process improvement initiatives but also for supporting the growth and development of our team and ensuring that our clients receive the best possible advice and support. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had, and I look forward to continuing to grow and contribute to the success of Rise in the future. 

On a personal level, I have a family that brings me immense joy. I am married to my university sweetheart and we have three wonderful children, one of whom has recently graduated from Simon Fraser University, another who is currently attending, and my daughter who is in high school and looking forward to finding her first job soon. 

2. You have been with Rise (formerly known as EPR Coquitlam) for over 25 years, can you talk about what’s changed over the years and where you see us going?   

My journey at Rise has been both exciting and fulfilling. Being a part of the growth and evolution of the company has been a true privilege. From my perspective, the biggest change I have seen is the technology revolution. When I first joined Rise, everything was paper-based, including client files. We had to order a skid of photocopier paper for tax season, and we had a full-time person dedicated to copying and compiling personal tax returns. But now, with the advancements in software, we can work much more efficiently, and access information at our fingertips. The work has become much more interesting and challenging as we use technology to provide better services and advice to our clients. 

However, one of the most interesting changes I have seen is the shift towards remote work. This has allowed for greater flexibility in when and where work is done, giving us the ability to accommodate our clients’ needs while also allowing us to strike a balance between work and personal life. It’s amazing to see how we have adapted to these changes and leveraged technology to continue delivering top-notch services to our clients.  

3. Talk about your journey from student to partner, how did you get there and what challenges did you have to overcome? 

I started in industry working with two CA’s, where I did monthly accounting and prepared year-end packages for auditors. This solid foundation set me up for success when, in 1997, I joined Rise (formerly EPR) as a junior accountant working towards my CGA designation. 

As the firm grew, so did my career. I embraced new challenges and demonstrated my ability to take on more responsibilities, which led to opportunities for growth. I eventually became a manager, a role that allowed me to have deeper relationships with clients and make a meaningful impact as their advisor. In 2005, I was brought in as a partner, and I credit my retired partners (Bob and Ken) and Sheralynne for their trust in me. 

Since becoming a partner, we have grown from 18 people to over 40. Managing change and processes to maintain exceptional service and quality has been our focus, as we have faced challenges due to our growth. Nevertheless, I’m proud of our team’s ability to work together and provide the best possible experience for our clients. 

4. What is the best thing about your job?   

One of the best aspects of my job is the opportunity to interact and engage with my staff, clients, and colleagues. I find great fulfillment in coaching and guiding my staff to successful solutions and developing long-lasting relationships with my clients. Being a trusted advisor to them is an honor that I do not take lightly. The process of working with my team and clients to address their challenges and find solutions is incredibly rewarding and helps me to feel fulfilled in my role. 

Additionally, building relationships with my clients goes beyond just being their advisor. I value getting to know them on a personal level and understanding their business and industry. This allows me to provide a more personalized and effective service, as I am better equipped to understand their unique needs and goals. The connections I have developed with my clients over the years are something I hold in high esteem and find to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. 

5. What would be your biggest piece of advice for a student starting their accounting career? 

Take your time to build a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding of accounting principles and concepts. Read books, attend seminars and conferences, and constantly seek opportunities to expand your knowledge base. Remember to develop both technical and soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem solving. Network with others in the industry and establish professional relationships, attend events, and join organizations. 

Be ethical and always act with integrity. Your reputation is everything in the accounting field, and a single mistake can have significant consequences. Adhere to the highest ethical standards, maintain transparency and honesty in your work, and always prioritize your clients’ interests. Stay organized, maintain a positive attitude, and focus on continuous learning, building relationships, and maintaining integrity. These habits will serve you well in your accounting career. 

6. If you could go back to the beginning of your career at Rise, is there anything you would change? 

If given the chance, I would change the approach I took towards networking and relationship building. Early in my career, I did make some valuable connections, but I believe that I could have been more proactive in reaching out to others in the industry and establishing professional relationships. Networking is crucial in any career, and I regret not placing more emphasis on it earlier on. Having a strong network opens opportunities for growth and success, and I wish I had given it more focus at the start of my career.  

7. How do you balance work and family life as a partner at an accounting firm?  

Balancing work and family life as a partner at an accounting firm can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to prioritize and find creative solutions. I try to disconnect from work during evenings and weekends and find new ways to recharge, like going for a hike, taking a long walk, or running while listening to music or podcasts. This allows me to return to work refreshed and focused, ready to tackle the demands of my position. Additionally, I understand the importance of setting boundaries and being available for my family. I try to keep work at work and make sure I am present and engaged with my family when I am home. By taking small steps like these, I am able to maintain a healthy balance between my professional and personal life. 

Your Business. New Heights. 

Rise CPA provides professional accounting, tax and business advice to help you make the right decisions at the right time. Since 1979, we’ve been helping clients create businesses and lifestyles they envision by delivering expert insights and financial guidance. At Rise, we excel at advising business owners and their families in a caring and personal way. Our services cover a wide range of Tax Planning, Auditing, Accounting, Estate Planning, and Business Advisory. Please call (604) 936-4377 or use the online contact form to book an appointment with one of our accounting professionals.