SAINT JOHN – A few months back, I sat down with Saint John-based accountant Owen Green of Adams Green Accounting to chat about how freelancers and self-employed people could avoid getting gauged at tax time.
It was a story idea that came out of my personal experience. Nobody had taught me how to manage what is essentially my own business in school, and I made a really expensive mistake when it came to taxes. It was certainly one I did not want to make again.
Near the end of our conversation, Green told me that this was actually a topic that he planned on tackling in a workshop on at the Wheelhouse, a co-working space Adams Green Accounting also owned.
“We don’t have the details yet on specific course offerings, but I do think it’s important. You’re not the first person that’s come to me asking these questions,” Green said to me at the time.
“I think as a society we do need to do better at educating people. It’s taken for granted that people are going to figure this out on their own and the reality is often times you find yourself in situations you didn’t expect to be in.”
Three months later, I was spending my lunch hour in a room with other freelancers and entrepreneurs in a workshop called “Taking the worry out of cash flow management,” led by Green. I was learning about things like accounts receivable, budgeting, invoicing, all things that keep a business going, big or small
The workshop is part of The Wheelhouse Institute, which offers professional development courses out of the co-working space.
“We got the idea because Owen and I as accountants have to have so many hours of professional development every year to maintain our designation. It’s sometimes a struggle to get those hours,” said Haley Adams-Green, who is also the other half of Adams Green Accounting. “We were like, ‘maybe there are other people out there who are also struggling to get those hours and maybe we have the solution.”
Adams-Green said getting a certain amount of professional development hours isn’t just a challenge accountants deal with. It’s something a lot of professions and companies require their employees to do. The good thing about it is that many employers pay for it.
“Our idea is we can curate professional development programs for companies so they don’t have to worry about it,” said Adams-Green. “Because often times, these PD hours are paid by your employer, so it’s an expense that companies are incurring anyway, why wouldn’t they just give us their PD budget as we can curate the programs for their employees?”
But when they first started hosting workshops back in March, they realized it wasn’t just professionals looking to get their professional development hours who wanted to attend.
“Why would we limit ourselves to accounting professional development?” said Adams-Green. “We have space. Why not bring instructors from all sorts of different areas together to offer courses and see what people want to take?”
Now, Wheelhouse Institute Workshops are open to any individual looking to learn new skills. Since launching back in March, sessions have included a video workshop by Greg Hemmings, a marketing workshop by Cait Milberry, along with other courses facilitated by Green and Adams-Green on financial literacy, and using Microsoft Excel.
They are also developing a series of “soft skill” workshops with the Saint John Learning Exchange, such as one of giving positive feedback, which was hosted back in April. They are also in the works on developing workshops on pricing, salesforce, and workplace equity and many more.
“To this point, it was always our end-game to take this approach of going to business and curating,” said Owen Green. “But as we’ve gotten our feet under us, it’s leaned more towards, ‘ok, we got a facilitator, who wants to offer a course? Let’s see who is interested.’ ”
So far, the majority of participants have been small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to grow their skill set. Going forward, the plan is to develop and offer courses based on the needs of the business community. They also hope to have their offering subsidized on the provincial department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour’s Labour Force Training programs.
“I think what we’re into now is going out and contacting businesses directly and saying, ‘how can we help meet your training needs?’ said Adams-Green. “That gives us more of a base to build off of where we have even more courses to be able to offer the small businesses who want to do the one-off kind of thing.”
The Wheelhouse, located in the Waterloo Village neighbourhood in uptown Saint John, has been open as a co-working space for about a year now. Adams-Green said the addition of the Wheelhouse Institute not only benefits current members but is also helping to attract new ones.
“As a co-working space, we have lots of people working here on a daily basis who have different organizational needs, now the Wheelhouse Institute is providing another resource for them on-site,” she said. “It’s helping our existing members and it’s drawing in new people who might not have been to the space before.”
Ultimately, the goal is for Wheelhouse Institute will help fill a gap in Saint John’s business community.
“I think we’ve hit on there where there is a need for interesting. convenient professional development” said Green. “We’ve got a great space here that people love to visit and it just so happens that it lines up with our desire to bring more people into this neighbourhood … It fits into that community building aspect of the Wheelhouse.”