This profile was originally published in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of CPABC in Focus magazine.
Sole-practitioner public accounting firms aren’t often compared to small, family farms, but the women and men who run them have much in common: an independent spirit, the ability to plan for coming seasons, a massive appetite for long hours, and the ability to weather storms caused by external forces.
Hsiu Jung Wu, CPA, CGA, who goes by Amy, knows the inner workings of both worlds.
“I may not look it, but I’m a farmer’s daughter,” says the founder and executive director of HJ Wu & Company Inc., Chartered Professional Accountant in Vancouver.
The fourth of five children, Amy grew up on her father’s rice and vegetable farm outside Pingtung, a mid-size city in Taiwan.
At 16, while studying accounting at a commercial school, Amy decided she wanted to make business her life’s work. After holding a series of low-level jobs, she realized she needed more education to advance. That meant leaving home at 25 to take on post-secondary education in the US.
Homesickness wasn’t an issue during those first years alone earning her bachelor of science (majoring in finance) at Southern Illinois University, nor when she studied for her MBA at Temple University in Philadelphia. And she didn’t find studying and living in English to be a major barrier—she was already near-fluent in English (as well as fluent in Taiwanese, Mandarin, and Hakka). No—according to Amy, the toughest aspect of culture shock she faced was “the temptation of junk food!”
After earning her degrees and a US CPA (North Dakota) designation, Amy returned to Taiwan. Twelve years and several high-profile finance positions later, fate intervened and inspired a new plan.
“I was visiting Vancouver on vacation and immediately fell in love with the city,” she recounts. “So I decided to apply to the skilled immigrant program for a permanent residence.”
When Amy subsequently returned here in February 2007, she gave herself a year to find work. “If I could not, I would go home.” She found contract accounting work within two months, and landed a permanent position with Vancouver Community College shortly thereafter. A promotion from accounts payable to budget officer soon followed.
“I really enjoyed my time at VCC,” she says. “I learned so much.”
Her enjoyment of that time might also be attributable to the fact that she met Lawrence Ng, now her husband, while at VCC. Today, Lawrence also happens to be her technology officer, marketer, webmaster, and “personal porter” to boot.
It was also while at VCC that Amy entered the CGA program. She smiles at the memory of her taxation classes. “I really loved those courses because you learned a lot, especially in terms of tax planning, which I still find rewarding and enjoyable today.”
Amy completed the CGA program in 2010 and opened her own practice that same year.
Now five years in, her firm is almost too successful—Amy currently works 12 hours a day, seven days a week serving 20 corporate and 50 individual clients. In fact, HJ Wu & Company Inc. will be moving to a larger office in downtown Vancouver this coming February.
“Next, I have to expand the business,” she says. “I want to hire a trusted partner… or buy out another accounting firm.”
For all her boldness—leaving home for higher education, moving alone to a new culture, striking out with her own firm and continuing to expand its scope—Amy doesn’t see herself as a risk-taker.
“I always have a plan,” she explains. “I make plans for whatever I want out of life.”