This profile was originally published in the July/Augusts 2015 issue of CPABC in Focus magazine.
Profile by Michelle McRae
Passion, planning, and mentorship. According to Al Esmail, these are the requirements for anyone looking to make the leap from employed to self-employed.
First off, you must be passionate about what you do,” says Al, who launched his own consulting practice, Advisory IS Solutions (AIS), in November 2011. “You’ll be taking a risk going out on your own, and you won’t be able to rely on a consistent income. Second, you have to be able to make money at it—the product or service must be marketable so you can sustain the lifestyle you want. Third, you should have a mentor who can guide you as the company is developing and growing.
Lastly,” he adds, “even if you think you know all you need to know about your business, do more research! Make sure the move you make will enable your company to thrive and be successful.”
Al definitely did his homework before branching out on his own. By the time he founded AIS—which specializes in enterprise resource planning (ERP), helping companies plan, implement, and maintain business management software—he’d been involved in over 200 systems implementations, in over eight countries, over a 15-year period. From his early days as a systems conversion/accounting manager for Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto to his role as a professional services manager for Infor in North America, to his most recent previous gig as a business development manager for Lawson Software, he was able to experience the ERP industry from a variety of angles.
Over the years, I’ve been involved with several implementations as the accountant for the companies I worked for,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work for multiple ERP vendors or the resellers for companies like SAP, Microsoft, Infor, and Sage, and I’ve held positions ranging from project management to solution delivery.”
The idea to branch out on his own was sparked by a trend he’d observed in the marketplace.
When I started in this area, the process of implementing accounting systems was pretty straightforward,” Al explains. “But over time, ERP applications have become more sophisticated, with lots of overlap among the software solutions on the market. As a result, buyers have become increasingly reliant on software vendors for guidance, and this can make the decision-making process more challenging. I wanted to change that.
I also saw a need for experienced project managers—particularly ones with strong accounting skills—to help clients with system implementation,” he adds. “I wanted to help clients avoid some of the problems associated with these kinds of projects—problems like project scope expansion, cost over-runs, and extended timelines—and help them manage their system implementation successfully.
Since becoming his own boss, Al, who now employs a his team of five at AIS, has helped multiple clients do just that. And it’s the sense of satisfaction that comes from helping these clients, combined with the variety inherent in the work, that he enjoys most about his job.
I love the variety of working with different people, different systems, and in different industries,” Al says. “I love being challenged. Most of all, I must deliver value in everything I do, and I believe that’s the ultimate reward and the feeling of real success.
In addition to his professional accounting designation, Al holds the project management professional (PMP) credential from the Project Management Institute.