How Gauvreau and Envolta used tech to successfully merge accounting practices
Bringing two companies together is like bringing two families together. There will always be strong personalities and quirks that need to be understood and balanced. But if it’s done right, the result can be powerful—and the bonds between team members will only grow stronger with time.
The Gauvreau team is a big one, now reaching over 85 people. They’re based in Peterborough, Ontario but their clients and team stretch all across Canada. They provide a range of high-quality services from bookkeeping all the way through to advisory and coaching.
Not too long ago, their team was half that size, but they grew very quickly after acquiring Envolta, a similarly-sized Canadian accounting firm.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2d8FTkFrRo
The story of the Gauvreau and Envolta merge
Victoria Peters, once the COO at Envolta, played a large role in the merger, and is now the CFO at Gauvreau. She knows that the acquisition was made possible through shared vision, focus, and the right technology.
Victoria Peters, CFO at Gauvreau
Finding common ground (and a lot of it)
Robert Gauvreau, founder and CEO of Gauvreau, and David DiNardo, founder and CEO of Envolta, had a shared vision of how an accountancy firm should operate. And with David looking to move on, it was important to him to find the right home for Envolta.
“David wanted to make sure that the clients and the team would all go together,” says Victoria. “He wasn't just selling a book of clients. He wanted it to be something that fit, which is why he stayed on for as long as he did once the merge was complete.”
The similarities in leadership style and ideals inspired her to remain after the merger. “It made it a no-brainer for me to stay on, even though I was seriously talking about retirement.”
For Victoria, there is a word that describes the two teams just prior to the merger: aligned.
“How they feel about their clients, how they feel about the teams, how they feel about entrepreneurship—both Robert and Dave were completely aligned. It was such a good fit.”
“Both firms already had a really good set of core values which lined up really well with each other. But we decided as a group that we didn't want to choose one or the other. We wanted to make the best of both worlds.”
Victoria and the team distilled their respective goals and priorities into four tenets:
“It was a really useful exercise. Everybody came together. Nobody said, ‘but ours are better, or ours made more sense to us’. Instead, it was: ‘this is who we are as a big group.’”
Bringing the systems together
Getting people to work well together was one focus, but combining two sizable client bases into one was the other major hurdle to jump. But both firms having a similar tech stack made it much easier to execute.
“Another one of the draws,” says Victoria, “was that both firms were in Karbon. Both firms were using BambooHR, Envolta was already on Ignition and Gauvreau was just making the move there. The tech stacks lined up really well.”
“There were definitely hiccups, but for the most part, it just felt right. It couldn't have lined up better as far as people, tech stack, and attitude were concerned.”
Managing change and using Karbon
Victoria had been a part of acquisitions with different practice management software before. The limited access and system incompatibility had made it very difficult.
“With differing practice management software, you’re often having to go to the client and ask questions they feel they’ve already answered… You spend a lot of time saying sorry.”
But with both Envolta and Gauvreau being early adopters of Karbon, it was like night and day for Victoria.
“With Karbon everything is there. We can see history from long before the merge for either side, ensuring we can answer questions as a complete group with the complete picture.”
When figuring out how to approach the database merge, Victoria looked to see how other firms had approached it.
“I am involved in the Karbon Community, and it’s great to see how other people use Karbon. Before I got into Gauvreau’s Karbon account, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find or if we're gonna be able to coordinate with each other. So, the first step was just getting in and having a look.”
But Victoria was pleasantly surprised, and soon saw a learning opportunity in seeing how Gauvreau was using Karbon.
“I found there were aspects to Karbon that Gauvreau was utilizing really well; they were amazing with Client Requests, for example.”
Best of both worlds
With both Envolta and Gauvreau being strong Karbon users, it gave Victoria and the management team great options when choosing how best to adapt it firm-wide.
“It was about looking at how both teams use it and then finding best practice, which is an ongoing process. But because both teams were using it really well in certain areas, it gave us an opportunity to figure out which way is best, and go from there.”
Small features coming up big
Victoria found the ability to pin notes very useful for navigating a customer base that her and the team weren’t familiar with.
“We use pinned notes a lot to communicate important things to the rest of the team. Both teams before the merge were using them. Sometimes timelines can get quite full, but it's great to know even small things, for example, a client’s name is Joseph, but he likes to go by ‘Joe’. It’s awesome to know because it keeps the personal touch.”
Using technology in the most effective way
The entire team at Gauvreau understands the importance of tech in the rapidly changing accounting industry. But it’s one thing to have the right software—actually using it to its full potential is critical.
“We try to use technology to the highest level possible. And we know that we're not anywhere near that. We're always trying to figure out how we can use it better.”
Testing in batches
The two teams were already working in similar ways, and it was a matter of identifying best practice. But the benefit of having a large team is being able to try out different methods with small groups before rolling it out company-wide.
“We test the tech. We do beta testing. We pick different parts of both teams to make sure that they can work together, so we can be one team, instead of two teams that have come together.”
Helping customers to embrace technology
Victoria pushes to get clients tech-educated and savvy, knowing it will save everybody time and money.
“We encourage our clients on all levels of tech. We use Plooto, so we encourage our clients to use Plooto. We’re not currently using Wagepoint but Envolta was, so all the clients we brought over are using Wagepoint, and Hubdoc for receipt capture—all of that. It’s so important that we use it and that the clients use it.”
Expanding and flourishing
Gauvreau has experienced huge growth from its inception in 2008. But without purpose, planning, or the right motivation, that growth will rarely be successful.
That’s where Victoria, Robert, and the whole team have excelled. They’ve chosen their clients carefully, and have successfully incorporated the team and clients at Envolta, a firm that shared their vision of the future.
Bringing two teams together will always have its challenges, and growing into the future of a changing industry will bring uncertainty, but true to their core values, the team at Gauvreau know they’ll always be better together.
Smoothly integrated two sizable client databases using Karbon
Combined large teams without sacrificing service quality
Always have a complete client picture by pinning notes to client timelines