CPA award winners move from non-profit payroll to entrepreneurship during careers

Bill Williams and Ian Mise worked together at the Canadian Payroll Association, then went into business together

That they were recently among the first group to be named fellows of the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) is not the only thing payroll professionals Ian Mise and Bill Williams have shared throughout their careers.

The pair’s history in payroll is one that has been closely linked together for many years.

Previously, they managed the profession’s national association together. Now they run a successful payroll consulting business based out of Ontario.

In the early 1980s, Mise was starting up his financial career when an opportunity came up to fill a maternity leave in a payroll department.

“I immediately sought out resources and information that could help me in the payroll field and learned of a local CPA chapter in Ottawa,” he said. “So I attended a few of their after-work seminars to gain knowledge and insight. At that time, there were very limited payroll educational opportunities available.”

At around the same time, Williams was running the payroll department at TransCanada PipeLines. The company asked him to join CPA as a company member, the only type of membership the association offered then, he said.

He was the company’s representative to the CPA from 1979 to 1988.

“Back in those days volunteers did most of the work, they didn’t use paid staff to do the association work,” he said.

Both Williams and Mise served on the payroll association’s board. Williams was appointed to the board of directors in 1989 and served in various roles, including as chairman. Mise also served as chairman of the board from 1991 to 92.

In 1994, Williams was asked to come on board at the CPA as COO and CFO. At the time Mise was also there, serving as president and CEO of the association.

“In many respects, it was like doing public service,” said Mise. “The organization was in its infancy stages and without very much revenue. So we had to be creative and also it took a lot of sweat equity by a small staff team and several key volunteers who believed in the vision and the need to truly see payroll as a recognized profession.”

In his three years as head of the organization he accomplished many of the things which set it on the path to where it is today. The association established its first true office spaces and hired staff, initiated a National Payroll Week, formalized the delivery of the professional education program (including the launch of computer-based virtual training programs), secured the domain and launched the CPA’s first website.

Mise left the CPA to start a business so he could have more control over his time. The evening and weekend meetings that came with being the association’s president meant he didn’t get to spend as much time with his young family as he liked, he said.

He started LeadingEdge Payroll Group, a boutique payroll consulting firm. When he left the association he asked his COO to join him.

But Williams said he wasn’t quite ready yet to leave the association when Mise first put the offer on the table.

“I said no, the CPA couldn’t stand the loss of both of us at the same time without having suitable replacements,” he said. “He left a standing offer.”

In October 1997, Williams was appointed executive director. He held this post until September 1999. By then a suitable succession plan was in place at the organization and Williams joined LeadingEdge.

“I thought I could make a contribution and grow the association and in fact achieved that, which made me happy,” he said. “But (if) you stay too long you start to be less and less effective, your ideas are less and less fresh, so get out of the way and let somebody else come and have a shot at it.”

The decision to leave the association and venture out with Mise into the business world is one that worked, he said.
“Since I had been in payroll for a long, long time I felt that would be a very interesting challenge for me and it has turned out to be very good and very worthwhile,” he said.

Mise and Williams still attend most of the CPA’s conferences, they always participate in the tradeshow at the annual conference and have their staff participate in the conferences because it’s a great learning opportunity, said Williams.

But despite running a successful business Mise still looks back at his time at the CPA and calls it a highlight of his career.
“I was indeed very fortunate to have been entrusted to lead this initial phase of the organization’s development,” he said. “And, to see how the organization and the profession is continuing to flourish is very gratifying.”

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