ALA Behind the Scenes: Meet Steve Leung
In the second installment of ALA Behind the Scenes we speak to Steve Leung one of the firm’s original co-founding partners and the resident tax expert. Raised on Vancouver Island, Steve was inspired at a very young age by his father, a restaurant owner and successful entrepreneur, developing an insatiable thirst for business knowledge as a result.
Speaking from the Akeroyd Leung Amlani offices in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Steve discusses his accounting acumen, unique skillset and how he implements life experiences each day to inspire others to succeed by overcoming challenges and developing their own business and entrepreneurial skillsets.
What is the most common misconception about accountants?
The assumption that we are all just human calculators and the only thing we know how to do is add up numbers. My interest in accounting wasn’t necessarily because I had a knack for numbers but more so because I had heard about the importance of accounting knowledge in relation to business. Accounting is a lot more than simply adding numbers: it’s a sophisticated knowledge of data, the ability to plan and forecast that data, understanding how to grow your bottom line, all of which is far more useful!
Growing up, did anyone influence your interest in being a business owner?
My father owned two restaurants in my early childhood, and I was very hands on even as a child. I knew from an early age I wanted to get involved in business myself.
When I was choosing a career path after high school, I realised accounting was a good entry point and would provide a strong business foundation to succeed as an entrepreneur. This is a message I often reiterate to our team now because being in our field is a gateway to exploring many professional and business avenues, whether it be a role with an organization, a government role, an analytical or advisory role with a bank, or running an accounting practice, there are a lot of options out there.
How did you knuckle down and begin building your business? What steps did you take to make it happen?
I took inspiration from the first accounting practice I worked with, a firm that also specialized in tax. Essentially it was a combination of seeing what they had built, the desire to build my own business, and my keen interest in tax which lead me in the direction of becoming a business owner. I knew after my first year of practice that my goal was to open my own firm and I began thinking about what courses I needed to take to make it happen.
The first major move I made was leaving my stable job as a Manager of Tax of a mid-sized CPA and convince my business partner, Sean, to come along with me. I figured, the accounting profession is relatively stable so the worst thing that could happen to us was that we would have to do the walk of shame if we didn’t succeed. Some said we were crazy, but I can honestly say I have no regrets, it is the best decision I’ve made in my career.
Can you explain how you became a specialised tax practitioner?
I took a three-year program after my bachelors in accounting. It was a post CPA designation program called the CICA In Depth Tax Course. It’s a course for tax focused professionals, you’ll find not only accountants in the program but also lawyers that are looking to focus on tax. In addition to this program, I practiced at a mid-sized firm, primarily focusing on tax planning and compliance for companies of all sizes from small to large.
Having a tax background when working with businesses is advantageous as many small to mid-sized firms seek our services with the primary goal of minimizing tax. Having the in-depth knowledge and ability to provide knowledgeable advice and tax planning is very appealing to almost all of our clients and is a significant advantage we have to distinguish our firm from others.
Does your Tax Brain impact your day to day life, outside of the office?
Absolutely, every waking minute. I am always thinking with my tax and accounting brain. I’m always taking the work home with me in my mind and often think of solutions at the dinner table or sometimes even in my dreams. That’s probably the most difficult challenge I have with this industry, separating the business from my personal life. Every single time I see numbers put together I immediately begin analysing them mathematically. When I go to a business of any kind, I can’t help but analyse their business model and try to work out how they are making money and what they should be doing differently. I wouldn’t be thinking about these things unless I was passionate about it though, so I suppose it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
How do you like to spend your personal time, when you’re not living, eating, and breathing taxes?
I love spending time with the wife and kids and being involved with the kid’s daily activities. It’s very cool to see my son partake in activities, I live vicariously through that little guy. My other passions in life is watching sports, I follow American football almost religiously, I enjoy travelling the world and eating good food. I really enjoy cooking at home and wish I had the time to experiment in the kitchen a lot more.