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Protea Conversations: Tracey Welch

Protea Conversations: Tracey Welch

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

Tracey Welch is an accounting and finance professional (CPA) with hands on experience in multiple industries, most recently in wine, agriculture, and winery management software. After obtaining a BS in Accounting at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and passing the CPA exam, she progressed through the ranks from staff consultant to senior manager at Price Waterhouse in financial systems consulting. She has worked in businesses ranging from family-owned to multinational corporations and has also had the opportunity to run her own business. She has strong project management and exceptional communication and presentation skills.

Currently, Tracey is the centerpoint of the long-term goal of making DaVero Farms & Winery sustainable economically, as well as agriculturally and environmentally. In addition to the normal juggling of the books and internal administration, she coordinates all of the certifications, including Biodynamic®, organic, and Fish Friendly Farming, as well as production. Tracey is also the President of CompleteDTC, a comprehensive DTC management system, where her passion for great customer service and support is driven this system to exceed expectations of its users.

Tracey is married to Carter, a business coach, and they have 3 almost-adult sons.  Since their nest is semi-empty, they spend a lot of free time playing golf together.  She’s also very active in her church, working with both youth and women’s groups.  Now, that life is almost back to normal, Tracey is excited about doing more travelling to see family around the country and (hopefully soon) going abroad again.

 

How did you get into the wine industry and what was the journey to your current role at DaVero Farms & Winery? 

I didn’t set out to get into the wine industry but it’s proved to be a really rewarding and interesting industry.  I love working with people who are so passionate about the entire life cycle of the product from the agricultural side to harvest/crush, making wine, selling wine and building and maintaining customer relationships. My background was as a CPA and financial systems consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers from the time I graduated from college to the time I had my first child.  I stayed at home raising my boys for about ten years which was about the same time my husband took a new job in Northern California.  When we moved here, I was looking for a position where I could start part-time and move into full-time as the boys got older.  The first job that I applied for that fit that description was at DaVero and it just happened to be in the wine industry.  It really felt like I was meant to be there.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)? 

Both leaving and reentering the work force to be at home with my kids was challenging.  While I think it was the right choice for my family to stay home, I missed the intellectual challenge of being in the working world.  I definitely went through a mini-identity crisis those first few months.  And then coming back into the work world, there was the challenge of balancing work life and personal life and playing catch-up to some degree in what I had missed while being at home for ten years. The balance got easier and easier the older my boys were and the catch-up was much quicker and easier than I had imagined it would be.  And the great thing is that I don’t regret my decisions at all.

 

What are your short term goals of your career and yourself? 

In addition to my role at DaVero, the owner and I are involved in an exciting launch of a winery management software system for small direct-to-consumer wineries called CompleteDTC.  Our goal is to increase our market share dramatically over the next few years.  I’m looking forward to introducing CompleteDTC to wineries all over the country and helping them grow their businesses.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success? 

There are two things my dad advised me to do that have served me well.  First, in middle school he made me take a typing class which I didn’t want to do because I told him that didn’t want to be a secretary.  But now that I’m on a computer all the time, I’m so thankful I’ve got that skill.  Second, he really encouraged me to major in accounting.  It has opened so many doors for me including my first job and helping me to reenter the workforce after I had my family.  It’s a skill that’s always in demand but also in terms of education, I think it really helped me to understand business from a higher and more wholistic level.

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

To look at a career as more of a journey that doesn’t have to be a straight path of just climbing the corporate ladder.  It’s been fine to take detours along the way including trying new industries, new positions,  moving to new places, working for myself, being in a start-up and even jumping off the ladder entirely for a time.

 

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

To not be afraid to be themselves and to stick to their values and principles.  At the same time, not to ignore where they have weaknesses and see out advice, help or training that they need to fill those gaps.

 

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices (https://www.vitalvoices.org/). Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

Protea Conversations: Alicia Cronbach

Protea Conversations: Alicia Cronbach

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on a successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In May 2021 we spend time with Alicia Cronbach. Working in the wine industry for over 15 years, Alicia has held general counsel positions at Treasury Wine Estates and Duckhorn Wine Company, guiding the regulatory integration of Treasury’s acquisition of the Diageo wine portfolio and Duckhorn’s integrations of Calera and Kosta Browne. While supporting those transactions, Alicia and Sarah Spiller, the firm’s Director of Compliance and Integration, saw an opportunity for a law firm focused on project-based compliance work, M&A due diligence, and integration planning. Alicia founded Cronbach Law Group PC in May 2019 to focus on steering wineries, law firms, and brokers through the complex maze of winery transactions. 

A native Northern Californian who settled down in Napa, Alicia can often be found hiking in Tahoe, camping on the Albion River, or cooking meals with her husband Eli and son Will.  As a former military and public safety spouse (Eli is a USCG veteran and retired Fire Captain), Alicia is passionate about causes that support military and first responder families. She also thinks that every lawyer has a secret superpower that helps them relax and stay grounded – hers is gardening and teaching the canning project for her son’s 4-H club.

How did you get into the food industry and specifically your current role at Alcohol Beverage Law, Napa, CA, Cronbach Law Group, Wine Deal Law?

Several years ago I was on a transaction team that doubled the size of the business in a single transaction.  When I went to the external transactional firms on the deal with what I needed from an alcohol regulatory due diligence and integration planning perspective, I learned that it wasn’t an area of focus for them.  During the debrief after the deal, I learned that there was this ‘gray space’ between compliance firms and alcohol beverage law firms that wasn’t occupied – my team and I nicknamed that gray space the ‘Industry Solution’. 

The solution was a firm that would play in that space and help bridge the gap between the due diligence needs and the post-close integration planning.  50 states and 51 sets of rules (you can’t forget the TTB) makes for some complex playbooks and the need to constantly check the impact of deal decisions against business priorities and integration planning.  While these conversations were going on, I moved from a publicly traded global company to a privately held luxury wine company and supported two more acquisitions as their first in-house attorney. The more I defined what this gray space looked like, the more I realized that the part of the deal I liked the most was making deals go more smoothly while keeping everyone’s priorities in mind.

A little over two years ago I called one of my former teammates and said ‘I think it’s time to build what we always talked about. I’m ready to jump – want to jump with me?’ Cronbach Law Group PC opened for business in May 2019 with just the two of us.  As the firm turns two years old this month, we celebrated the firm’s growth by hiring three more employees in the first half of this year.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Personally, making the time to recharge my batteries and remember why I love what I do. Professionally, trusting my instincts while we were vetting the niche that we’d identified. 

 

What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?

Short term to me means one to two years.  In that time, I would like to re establish a workplace that is a mix of in-person and virtual work, respecting that while the original face time isn’t a requirement to good work, it is where a lot of our magic happens.  I miss my team.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

‘What are you waiting for?’

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses – both contribute to who you are and can help or hurt you on your journey.  And don’t be afraid to invest in yourself by hiring a coach.

 

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Show up as who YOU are, not as who you think others want you to be. Learn from good bosses as well as bad ones – keep the traits that resonate with you.  Learn to listen with the intent of hearing what the other person has to say, not just for the sake of responding with your opinion.

One of the best compliments I have ever received was that I taught someone the value of choosing their fight wisely.  They expected their lawyer to be aggressive in all things, all the time and were surprised and ultimately happy that I showed them how to pause and take a breath before choosing a path forward. 

 

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

Protea Conversations: April Gargiulo

Protea Conversations: April Gargiulo

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In April 2021 we spend time with April Gargiulo the Founder and CEO of Vintner’s Daughter, a luxury skincare company committed to performance-driven quality-focused, non-toxic skincare. She launched her first product, Active Botanical Serum in February 2012 bucking industry standards by using whole organic plants and methodical formulation methods versus low-quality fillers and formulation short cuts. Vintner’s Daughter quickly became a benchmark for quality and performance in the beauty world and is coveted by top beauty connoisseurs and industry professionals around the world. Before starting Vintner’s Daughter, April spent 8 years at the helm of her family’s Napa Valley winery, Gargiulo Vineyards. There, she helped build the winery’s reputation for terroir-driven, “first growth” Cabernet Sauvignon. Before Napa, April spent 6 years in Manhattan where she worked for design leader Vitra. Through Vintner’s Daughter, April commits 2% of every bottle sold to charities benefiting women, children and the environment. She is married to a fellow entrepreneur, Mitch Lowe (also her Executive Chairman) and has two young daughters. 

It is a story that has been told many times, but please share with us how Vintner’s Daughter came to be?

I was someone who had struggled with my skin for my entire life. I had acne, discoloration and all the fun things that come along with getting older. I was using what I thought were the very best “luxury” products. They were the most expensive and were written about often in glossy magazines. One day I started looking at the ingredients. I was shocked to realize that they were .01% active ingredients, the rest was low quality filler that was also in many cases toxic. Coming from where I was coming from, none of that sat right with me. I come from Napa Valley, a community dedicated to making the finest wines in the world through attention to detail and craftsmanship. Short cuts are not allowed and practically every grain of dirt is considered for its quality. That to me is the true definition of luxury; beginning with the finest raw materials and honoring them through the most thoughtful formulation practices to achieve something even greater than the parts. These products I was using were anything but. 

This was the genesis of Vintner’s Daughter. I wanted to build a true luxury skincare company that made products from the finest ingredients in the world, using time-honored techniques in order to bring about profound and lasting balance and health in the skin. It sounds lofty, but I wanted to build a skincare company on the very same philosophical foundations and principles as fine winemaking. There have been many bumps along the way from labs shutting their doors in my face when they find out about our weeks-long formulation process, or retailers who didn’t want to work with me because I had too few products. Overcoming these challenges has made me believe in our purpose to create fewer, higher-quality products fueled by whole plant nutrition even more. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

We are a brand that is going against the grain of traditional beauty in so many ways from our whole plant sourcing, to our unheard of formulation timelines to our snails-pace product introduction schedules. This has proven to be a challenge when finding manufacturing partners, retail partners and even garnering press who need “new” to sell their stories. Instead we have taken a slow approach in our weeks-long whole plant formulations that go against the 6 hour industry average formulation time and we have only introduced 2 products in 7 years versus the standard every 4-month product introduction schedule. We do this not to be contrarians, but because we believe that fewer, but better made products not only improve your skin, but improve your life and our planet. It is a kind of quiet activism that we pursue joyfully. 

 

What are your short-term goals of your career/business and yourself?

My short term and long term goals for the company are the same, to create skincare that has a dramatically positive effect on our customers’ skin and lives. 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Find your north star and follow it relentlessly. 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

I’m not sure I would have taken it, but I certainly wish I would have more fully understood the classic line “team eats strategy for breakfast.” No matter how great your plan is, if you don’t have a highly functioning team of A or aspiring A players, it’s going to be nearly impossible to achieve. 

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Don’t rush yourself. Gain experience and knowledge with every step. It might not feel like a straight line and that is okay.  In the end, you have to decide what makes the most sense for you and follow that journey truthfully, with a full heart and a lot of hustle.

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long-term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

 

Protea Conversations: Destiny Burns

Protea Conversations: Destiny Burns

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on a successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

Destiny Burns is a native Clevelander (born and raised in Euclid), and she recently moved back home after more than 30 years to be near family and to live my dream of opening an urban winery here in her beloved hometown. Destiny is a retired U.S. Navy officer (served for 20 years on active duty (thank you!), and then spent more than 13 years as a business development executive in the defense industry in the Washington DC area. Destiny is also a former volunteer firefighter/EMT and has a great love and respect for first responders and for all those who serve our country and communities in uniform.

Wine has always been a great passion of hers having lived and traveled all around the world throughout her adult life, studying and enjoying wine and food. Destiny has advanced degrees in Business and professional experience in all aspects of business development, marketing and management, and also pursued formal and informal training and professional development opportunities in the wine industry. All of her experience and education, combined with a passion for wine and for her wonderful hometown, has culminated in her decision to open and run her own winery in the metropolitan Cleveland area and provide the “wine companion” to all the great craft beer and spirits made here! As they say, let’s have fun, celebrate, connect, support charitable causes and drink some great wine together at CLE Urban Winery! 

How did you get into the wine industry and how did you come up with the concept of CLE URBAN WINERY?

I always wanted a food- or wine-related business of my own as a “someday” dream. When I turned 50, newly divorced after a long marriage with an adult child fully launched, I decided to get serious about achieving this dream. I left my high-pressure career in the Washington DC area and returned to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to open my own business.

After performing a market analysis, I decided that opening a restaurant was too risky (too much competition), but I discovered that I absolutely loved the craft brewery culture of Cleveland. I decided to build my business based on my love of wine and my hometown, so I created a craft brewery-style urban winery and Tasting Room in a 100 year old former auto repair garage in my suburban Cleveland neighborhood. I call it Good Wine Made Fun that Celebrates Cleveland and Creates Community, and I will celebrate my 5 year anniversary this July!

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

I would say the biggest challenge that I have faced as an entrepreneur (aside from COVID-19, which has presented a number of significant challenges for all of us) is really understanding the costs, key performance indicators and other financial measures of my business. The unique business model I created is a bit of a hybrid, and I struggled with generating the financial reporting I needed to truly understand how to profitably manage and grow the business. I finally found my financial bookkeeping partner in Protea Financial – I can’t say enough good things about how they have helped me truly understand the unique financial aspects of my urban winery business model and to effectively manage my books. The resulting financial confidence has been a godsend as I have worked to successfully navigate my business through the COVID-19 crisis.

 

What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?

I think I have the same short-term goal as many other small business owners… to survive the pandemic, both personally and professionally. Both aspects are challenging in this stressful and unpredictable environment, and that is doubly so as an entrepreneur. I have had to continually hustle and pivot throughout this crisis – no staying home and making a sourdough starter for me!
The other short term goal that I have been working on in 2021 is to launch the Urban Wine School™ – a comprehensive wine appreciation and education learning community that is affordable, accessible and fun! I plan to bring the first courses online this spring.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

The best piece of advice I ever received was from a former boss who once told me that “Hope is not a strategy.” The only way you will be successful is through hard work and by developing a strategy and executing a plan to get you where you want to go… just hoping everything will work out is not going to get you very far.

  

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

I knew this when I started out as a small business owner, but I didn’t fully understand how important this advice was until I was neck-deep in it… CASH IS KING.

  

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Don’t be afraid – and the best way to mitigate that fear is through knowledge. Do your homework, leverage resources, work hard and stay focused. Don’t take no for an answer. Set clear expectations and goals, and then hold yourself and your team accountable for achieving them. Surround yourself with great people and do everything you can to make them successful and productive, both personally and professionally – they, in turn, will then take care of you and your customers.

 

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

Tax Preparation Enablement

We provide your organization a true end to end solution to all of your tax needs. Tax season is year round to Protea – if you aren’t preparing daily, it’s too easy to get behind. We are always working with your organization to streamline your businesses tax management.

Protea Conversations: Nastassia Lopez

Protea Conversations: Nastassia Lopez

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on a successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In February 2021 we spend time with Nastassia Lopez. Nastassia is a partner in Booker and Dax, a kitchen equipment design company. Additionally, Nastassia co-hosts the weekly podcast “Cooking Issues,” with host Dave Arnold, the highest-rated show on the Heritage Radio Network. She also co-founded Pasta Flyer, the critically-acclaimed, fast pasta concept with Chef Mark Ladner. 

Nastassia also created the controversial Wine Santa and introduced it to bars and restaurants in NY and LA. Dave hates it because he didn’t think of it.

Prior to her work with Booker and Dax, Nastassia opened Salumeria Rosi with Chef Cesare Casella in New York’s Upper West Side in 2010. She also managed the Culinary Technology Department at the French Culinary Institute with Chefs Nils Noren and Dave Arnold before launching Booker and Dax.

Nastassia currently sits on the Culinary Board of the Museum of Food and Drink, and the Junior Council at the American Museum of Natural History. 

Nastassia worked in restaurants to pay her way through Stanford University, where she earned degrees in both Creative Writing and Communications. In 2015 she graduated from Stanford Business School’s Entrepreneurship Program. She lives in Hell’s Kitchen and has a passion for hosting and entertaining.

Now, this is what we call a successful leader.

 

 

How did you get into the food industry and specifically your current role at Booker and Dax?

I paid my way through college by working in restaurants in Palo Alto (I went to Stanford). I was the first in my family to ever attend college. I hated working in restaurants—I would see a lot of my classmates come in and I’d have to climb under their table and fix the wobbly leg or pretend I knew the difference between Grey Goose and Absolut when making their bloody mary. When I graduated, I resolved to never work in food again. I went on to work in music at MTV and fashion. On a trip to Italy to visit a former roommate when I was 24, I remembered how much I loved food. When I got back to NYC, I applied and started working as the assistant for Italian chef, Cesare Casella. The Food Network had just launched, and “foodie” wasn’t a thing yet. Cesare introduced me to Dave Arnold, who was/is a crazy, food tech, philosophy undergrad at Yale/art master’s at Columbia. Dave and I became friends for a few months, and then eventually became business partners because we both realized we had similar weird backgrounds, but also loved food and could think strategically.

 

 

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Misogyny, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, some physical abuse. This industry is no joke, and I’ve had to act like one of the guys to get by, while also taking on a lot of shit.

 

 

What are the short-term goals of your career/business and yourself?

Sell our business to a larger company, and do something completely different career-wise after that. 

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

Be nice, work hard, and never sign the contract.

 

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Don’t hold on to the way things “should be.” Everything changes in ways that you will and won’t be prepared for, so don’t try to control the environment or the outcome. Ride the wave and be flexible. Everything usually always shakes out the way it’s supposed to. Worrying and fretting makes you age faster and does absolutely nothing for you.

 

 

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Managing people is incredibly hard, and trusting a team execute your vision is even more difficult. Go with your gut if someone isn’t working out. Don’t waste time thinking they’ll “get better.” Cut them as soon as you feel they’re not on course.

 

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. The scale and accelerate impact through long-term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

Tax Preparation Enablement

We provide your organization a true end to end solution to all of your tax needs. Tax season is year round to Protea – if you aren’t preparing daily, it’s too easy to get behind. We are always working with your organization to streamline your businesses tax management.

Protea Conversations: Suzanne Briel

Protea Conversations: Suzanne Briel

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

 

In January 2021 we spend time with Suzanne Briel. Suzanne is a successful business owner with an accounting practice, Bobst & Briel Certified Public Accountants, in Auburn California.

Suzanne has been providing valuable advice to her clients since 2012. Her practice consists of closely held businesses, typically family owned in a variety of sectors including fuel, solar, real estate development, manufacturing, technology, automotive and service providers. 

Prior to joining Bobst & Briel, Suzanne was a Senior Manager with Brown, Holder, Alfaro in St. Helena, California focusing on wineries, farming and high net-worth individuals. Suzanne began her career at Ernst & Young LLP in the Sacramento office working on a variety of publicly traded and private entities, primarily in the tax department. Suzanne graduated with Honors from UC Davis with a degree in Agricultural and Managerial Economics in 1993 and has been a licensed Certified Public Accountant in the State of California since 1997.

In her free time, you will find Suzanne enjoying time outdoors with her husband of 25 years and their 2 college age children.

How did you decide to become a CPA and how did you get your start with Bobst & Briel Certified Public Accountants, Inc. ?

My major at UC Davis was Agricultural and Managerial Economics and I was fascinated by the tax classes that I took while there.  During that period, I spoke with a Price Waterhouse Partner who told me that their ideal tax candidate was someone who was not a strict Accounting major.  He explained that being successful in the tax specialty required one to be able to problem solve and analyze law; I have found this to be true.  After several years at Ernst & Young LLP, a few years working in a private company tax department and many years at a Napa Valley Accounting Firm, I was excited to run my own tax practice.  I was fortunate to find a terrific practice in Auburn, CA with a retiring owner and purchased the practice in August 2012.

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Before owning Bobst & Briel, I had managed teams that were larger and managed a similar size book of business.  The responsibility of being the sole owner and person who is solely responsible to the clients was the most challenging aspect. It was an intangible pressure that I should have expected but did not.  It took me about a year to integrate this extra weight of responsibility so that it no longer felt like a challenge.

What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?

It is easy to slip into thinking of Tax and Accounting as a transactional commodity.  At Bobst & Briel, we focus on the transformational aspect of our relationships with our clients. We rely on an agreed upon fee structure so that we can stay in contact with our clients throughout the year without the clients being concerned with an increase in cost.  Our clients can meet with us at will and we become integrated into their planning structure.  Many small business owners do not have an advisory board to bounce ideas off and we are able to provide that feedback and strategic planning for our clients.  Our continued goals are to bring this type of transformation to more clients.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

The first year I was working, the tax partner at Ernst & Young told me two things: 

1) the employees are the most valuable asset in a professional service firm, and

2) you can never have too many employees.

I worked for many partners and including this partner, only three agreed with this philosophy.  Those three partners had the most successful clients, client relationships and all the employees wanted to work on their jobs.

I strive every day to live up to the example of those three partners.

 

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Everything will work out in the end, so take a day off here and there.

What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Make every decision as if it will always be made public.

As a thank you to Suzanne and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices.

Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

Tax Preparation Enablement

We provide your organization a true end to end solution to all of your tax needs. Tax season is year round to Protea – if you aren’t preparing daily, it’s too easy to get behind. We are always working with your organization to streamline your businesses tax management.