My Broken Dreams
Ever since I was a little boy, my biggest dream, like most Canadians was to play in the NHL, followed by being a policeman, or a firefighter, nonetheless being an accountant wasn’t even on the list. Some would say I came close to making my childhood dream come true, but deep down, I know I was a few steps away. Even with deception of not making it, I still got to play professional hockey in Italy in 2015, getting paid to play the sport you love is still incredible. Fast-forward to 2017, I’m planning a hockey tournament In Italy for 2018 and both my bosses are behind me 100%. Now I’m sure you’re thinking: how are your bosses happy that your taking 10 days off work? Because they are coming with me, of course. Now let’s backtrack to how I got here.
Where Do I Go from Here?
It was December 31st, 2016, with a major snowstorm hitting the region, and I had decided a while back I was moving to Montreal on this date. I wasn’t going to let a snowstorm change my plans so I strapped my mattress on the roof of my Mazda 3 and left Ottawa. I remember I use to hate Montreal, in my junior days I would always complain to my teammates on the traffic, the skills of Montreal drivers, the roads and their potholes. The ride took me 4 hours instead of 2, I was scared my mattress would fall off, so I was driving 70 km/h on the highway. I had a lot of time to think; I had just retired from professional hockey due to concussions and I wasn’t sure where my life was heading. I decided to pack up and head to Montreal, with no job, no leads just my usual positive mentality that this will work out. After all, I did have a business degree in hand, what could go wrong? My parents have always supported me in my decisions, whether it was hockey, school and friends, but to be honest, I still think that while they watched me leave for Montreal like this, they were scratching their heads and in hindsight I don’t blame them! However, for those who don’t know me, I have always been a big believer in Karma or that everything happens for a reason and I don’t think my philosophy was too far off as you’ll see further below.
Welcome to the “Adult Life”
The first week of January in my apartment on the Montreal “plateau” district, I began making a list of potential contacts who could help me start the “adult life”. At Christmas, just prior to my departure, I was talking to my cousin from Montreal who works for a technology firm called Gsoft and he told me that they were hiring weekly and that he could help me out. Evidently, after that conversation he jumped to the top of my list for contacts to follow up with. After sending him my resume and a cover letter he had already set me up with an interview. I remember asking him what interview attire expectations were over there and he just said, “keep it basic”. Regardless, I showed up dressed slick and of course I was way over dressed. I remember people looking at me, knowing I was coming for an interview, but I was too busy being hypnotized by their amazing office. In my mind, I was thinking ‘’yeah sure, I can definitely work here!’’ After a little tour of their office, my cousin brought me to my interviewer, named Jean-Gabriel. To be honest, it wasn’t much of an interview as it was more like grabbing a beer with a friend. We talked about hockey, travelling, hobbies etc., but I’ll never forget the curve ball he threw at the end of our conversation, being: he was the Chief Financial Officer at Gsoft and explained he also had a start-up business in accounting called Le Chiffre (LCLT back then). He then told me he would love for me to meet his business partner at LCLT. In my mind, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be working in this office, but at the same time I was not discouraged as the vibes I had during my interview with Jean Gabriel and his intention to introduce me to his partner were positive. I obliged to meet his partner, hoping he would be has nice has Jean-Gabriel was, but it was a leap of faith to me as we hadn’t discussed what work was like at Le Chiffre versus Gsoft or even what Le Chiffre was all about.
Taking a Leap of Faith
Two days later, I had my second interview with the other partner Thomas-Louis over Skype. I could tell the office was less glamorous than the one I had just visited. Thomas spoke faster than Jean-Gabriel, so I quickly learned this would be the “real” interview and got slightly nervous. In my defense, this was probably my first actual interview for a job. Thomas-Louis went on to explain what Le Chiffre’s core values are and to this day these values are still what we thrive for, being:
- Revolutionize the business world starting with accounting;
- Prop up young entrepreneurs in developing their business;
- Use technology to simplify and adapt to all types of businesses; and
- Have fun at work
I’ll return to these core values a little later, but to be honest, I was intrigued, from one to four. The interview went on and I remember quite vividly one question asking: “where would you like Le Chiffre to take you?”. My answer was: “I want to become a swiss army knife, able to help in accounting, finance, marketing…” Back then I could not believe my answer. What was I thinking? There goes my shot to work at Le Chiffre! The rest of the interview went along nicely and to finish off, I had to complete a small test. Mind you, I still had some side effects of my concussions and I had been done University more then a year and half prior to this. Not knowing what to expect I finished the test an hour and a half later. I think most people do it in under one hour now, but I guess at the time they didn’t have the pick of the litter, so I got the job!
To be honest, I didn’t even look at the salary when I accepted! I simply wanted to be in a company that wanted me, that had room to grow (we were 4 at the time), that had great employers with great visions and that the company would be successful. I have always had good insight with regards to people and situations and I remember calling my dad when I got the offer to tell him the news and predict that this company would go on to big things. I might sound like a suck-up to my bosses right now, but I don’t care because I truly believe it: my bosses are very knowledgeable accountants and are even better human beings. Jean-Gabriel is an accounting bible, he knows all the ins and outs and if he doesn’t, he will go research it and find out. I’ve learned that there’s no point in arguing with him, he knows almost everything about anything (except hockey, I feel like I still have an advantage there). Thomas-Louis reads more books than a second-grade class learning to read. He could probably take any struggling business and bring it afloat. It’s too bad that he only has 24 hours in a day. On a side note, if you haven’t read his articles on Lechiffre.ca, I suggest you do. Even my mom is impressed about his writing, and trust me, she’s hard to impress.
The Struggles of Reality to the Joy’s of Success
I must admit, the first few months, it was a wake-up call for me to work here. School was its own environment, whereas real-life accounting was not what you learned in the classroom. Furthermore, I still had issues with my head from my last concussion (concentration level, minor depressions, over tired), so my start at Le Chiffre wasn’t what I wanted and expected it to be. When did it all turn around? I would say March 2016, three months after my hiring. Remember the nice offices at Gsoft I was talking about earlier? Thomas and Jean-Gabriel decided to rent out a space in the same building. This was exciting news for the company as this meant we were growing and heading in the right direction. I remember giving my time to come paint on the weekends and after work to help with the transition. I knew I wasn’t producing as much as expected at the office, but I wanted to show that I was willing to do whatever it took to help. As we officially moved in April, the days got longer, the sun started to come out, my head was finally healed and the move to the new office brought a wind of fresh air for all of us. We soon hired three more employees and by May, the team started to gel and I feel like we were hitting our stride. To be honest, at the start we were over our heads on some of our clients, always playing catch up, trying to put in processes to respects our deadlines and adding new services for our clients to add value to our work. As a team, I would have to say we have found solutions to most if not these problems and that comes from the leadership up top, the hiring of competent people working for the same goal, and a work ethic that does not compare.
Where is Le Chiffre now?
I have been a part of this amazing ride for more than a year and a half and hopefully for more years to come. The team has grown from four to thirteen employees since my start and the hiring’s doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. We have an amazing team, built on the foundation of employing only good people. We have team activities once a month, for example; three other employees and myself organized the first ‘’Le Chiffre Golf Tournament’’ and it was a huge success! We usually spend Friday lunches together on a restaurant patio or in a conference room. We are revolutionizing the business world starting with accounting. Our clients receive monthly reports on their business numbers and we offer consultation advice to help them in anyway we can. I like to think of ourselves as chameleons as we are propping up the young entrepreneurs of Montreal. I am convinced that Thomas has a plethora of client testimonies thanking us for our help. We have incorporated many software’s that make life for us and our clients easier. For example; taking a picture of a receipt instead of bringing a box to your accountant at year end. I think it is a necessary evil for the accountant practise to evolve, instead of maintaining the old methods. Finally, the famous core value number four of Le Chiffre… we are having fun at work! Like any office, it can get tense and stressful, but we are all young individuals who want to learn, who want to help and at the end, we come to work hungry, thirsty for knowledge and wanting to make a difference.
There is Life After Hockey
One day I would like to have my own business, but everyday working at Le Chiffre is experience gained, knowledge in my repertoire and challenges to be handled. If you own a business and are looking for accountants who will work their tail off for you, don’t be scared to contact us! If you’re a student, an accountant or someone who wants to take a leap of faith like I did in January 2016, get in touch, we are always looking for people willing to take on new challenges. Retiring from hockey wasn’t easy as it was something I did for my entire life, but ending it, this way has been bittersweet. Knowing that I make a difference in people’s businesses, in my coworkers lives and coming to work with a smile everyday is a sweet consolation prize. If ever our hockey trip to Italy becomes a reality, my bosses won’t have a choice to buy me a beer or a glass a wine, trust me, I know some sweet spots.
Simon Lacroix, the ex-hockey player turned accountant at Le Chiffre.