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.

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.

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