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An advisor who knows your boots are hard to fill, Meet Cindy Thomson

2020-12-14


When you need help with your forestry business, you want an advisor who understands where you are coming from and the challenges you face. Cindy Thomson, a Partner and Advisor in MNP’s Prince George office, grew up in forestry and today works extensively with forestry and forest-related companies, including sawmills, logging contractors and support service businesses. In this Q & A, Cindy talks about growing up in the business and why she’s so passionate about the industry.

Cindy Thomson

1. Did you always want to become an accountant?

No. Accounting found me when I was in grade 12. I got very lucky because I love it. Initially, I moved from Quesnel to Prince George to do an accounting diploma because I wanted to get back to my small, quiet hometown community as quickly as possible. At a presentation night at the college (there was free pizza involved), a presenter told us about his CA practice and lifestyle.  It sounded really great and that convinced me to continue my education at University of Northern BC and become a Chartered Accountant.

2. What led you to specialize in forestry?

I grew up in forestry, riding in my dad’s logging truck, going to the mill. For much of my childhood, he hauled logs. He also drove lowbed for years, hauling equipment, and later switched to hauling fuel to the bulk plant in town. My first job as a kid was washing his logging truck. When I started working in public accounting, my mentor’s clients were primarily in forestry, so I got to learn from her. It’s what I love to do, honestly. Forestry is what I am the most passionate about, by far. I work with some of the largest privately held sawmills in northern B.C., as well as value-added industries throughout my career so far - pulp and finger joint operations, pellet plants and silviculture companies.

3. How did COVID-19 impact your work with clients?

The focus was immediately on clients who had to close, none of which were in forestry, and how to help them survive. I dropped what I was working on, and helped them understand government programs, which had frequent changes at the start. I was there to help. I encouraged people not to take advantage of every deadline extension, because the work still needs to get done.  I focused on preserving cash, and cash flow forecasting, understanding the aid programs and their timings and strategies to lean down their operations. 

4. What are the top three questions you get asked by clients?

  1. How do I make more money? – This leads to how to best strategize for the long term, and how best to maximize growth and profit.
  2. How can I pay less tax, or delay paying tax? – This leads to discussions on tax minimization strategies and how to minimize exposure.
  3. What do I need to do to plan for the future? – This leads family wealth and succession planning.  

5. What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Interrupted! You’d think I have a desk job and I just sit here all day. The reality of my day is helping clients, answering their calls, helping them deal with what comes up. Responding and reprioritizing. Helping grow our firm and team, doing informal teaching and mentoring. I try to stay flexible, to be able to meet the needs and opportunities that present themselves.

6. How would you characterize your professional self? 

Flexible and organized. And fun. I believe in being me in my job. Being a professional and a parent, I don’t try to keep work and life in balance - there is no tally or scoreboard that can keep things even. Things will not be equal, and one thing may need to take priority for a while. As soon as I changed my mindset which implied trying to keep things equal – it got easier. It’s ebb and flow, give and take – you can do well at everything.

7. If you could see into the future, what information would you find out for your clients?

I wish I could tell clients what the future of wood supply will be, where it will come from and what the changes will be that impact them. I would love a view into the softwood agreement getting settled so that clients can move ahead with their capital projects with confidence. Recent confirmations of a reduction in the tariffs currently being applied against shipments into the U.S. are long overdue, and will greatly impact B.C. lumber producers. It would be nice to see a future with regulatory regimes, like the stumpage and royalty system in B.C. be more agile and responsive to market prices. The current outdated process sees time lags of several months when compared to what the market is doing, while other provinces have built a structure that allow a more timely interaction of the two. If I had a crystal ball into these things, I would sleep well knowing there’s greater certainty for our clients and our communities.

How does MNP help?

We understand forestry, from start to finish. We have experts with a depth of experience in sawmilling, value-add products, and contractors from stump to dump. We have experienced the peaks and valleys of the lumber market over generations, with lumber being a global commodity, and the significance of the U.S. market to our Canadian producers. We have seen our mills reinvest, many times over, continually improving and being innovative in their approach to logging, and milling, as well as waste management and energy systems becoming part of the way they do business. To support this sector, we also have Registered Professional Foresters on our team, who contribute to our understanding of key issues in forestry and forest planning.

Our logging contractors must contend with unpredictable fuel costs, longer hauls, constant pressure on rates, as well as hiring operators and drivers. We can help mitigate some of the challenges they face. We have the benchmarking program, so that they understand where they are relative to their peer groups in key costs. If you can’t control key costs, you’re going to be in trouble.

For all clients in this sector, we deliver strategies to improve financial position, streamline operations and help increase business confidence with every business decision they make.

We’re happy to help – just give us a call. Contact Cindy at 250.612.4012 or  [email protected].