Meet Ellis Orlan, a Principal at Fuller Landau LLP, and Co-Leader of our thriving Business Enterprise Solutions Team (BEST). Although Ellis is one of the newer members of our leadership team, he comes to us with many years of experience in the public accounting industry.
To give you a sense of the story behind his journey to Fuller Landau, and the driving forces that have made him an important leader at our firm in such a short amount of time, we sat down with Ellis for a brief Q&A, in our latest #FullerFamily feature profile.
Q: Unlike some of the other partners we’ve featured, you’re a relatively new addition to the partnership group at Fuller Landau. What caused you to uproot from your previous position and join the Fuller Landau team?
I was a Principal with my previous firm for over 14 years. At the time I was contemplating leaving, the firm had gone through a significant culture change, and was heading in a different direction from my vision of the future. Even so, the decision to leave wasn’t an easy one.
I knew almost immediately after meeting the partners at Fuller Landau that it was where I wanted to be. But we both took our time and did our due diligence to make sure it was the right move for everyone involved. I really respected that they went to such lengths to get comfortable with me and make sure I would be a good fit. The feeling was mutual, and I’ve now been at Fuller Landau for over three years.
Q: You have over 30 years under your belt in accounting, tax, and business advisory services. Has the advisory business changed significantly over the past few decades? Do you anticipate the industry changing more in the future?
Over the years, I have always been client-focused, operating with a sense of urgency to my approach, and that hasn’t changed. Delivering uncompromising, timely service always has, and always will be, central to my service mantra.
There is a general mindset today that everything is disposable and temporary. Doing good work just isn’t enough. You absolutely have to go above-and-beyond to add value to the relationship in order to retain clients and earn their loyalty.
I take great pride in the fact that my client relationships have remained steady, throughout my career. I even have one client who has been with me for over 30 years. It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that!
Q: You are a partner on Fuller Landau’s Business Enterprise Solutions Team (BEST). What is BEST? Who are your target clients and how do you serve them?
Our BEST group handles corporate clients that meet a minimum reporting requirement of compilation/Notice To Reader, and do not require review or audits.
For our BEST clients, we prepare annual corporate financial statements and tax returns, as well as back-office support for bookkeeping, payroll, HST filing requirements, outsourced CFO/controller services and support, cash management, and troubleshooting with CRA on the client’s behalf.
I co-lead the BEST group with Sabrina Polletti, one of our newest partners, who was instrumental in building the practice prior to me joining the firm. We provide a lot of coaching to our 5 BEST managers, keeping lines of communication open in order to ensure that our clients are fully cared for in a consistent and timely manner. I also mentor 2 other members of the team on process, time management, multi-tasking, management skills, client service, and business development.
Q: You are the co-leader of the Food and Beverage group, and have considerable experience in other service and hospitality-related industries. Is there a reason you’re drawn to these industries?
I actually grew up in the Food & Beverage industry. My father was part owner in a chain of taverns, and as a teenager, I always worked in the family business on weekends and during the summer. It also helps that I consider myself a foodie, and have always had a keen interest in every aspect of the sector!
Q: What are the advantages for someone in the Food and Beverage sector to find an advisor with a focus on their industry?
Advisors with industry-specific knowledge will be familiar with all the benchmarks (i.e. industry averages for net profit, gross profit, food costs to sales, wages and rent as percentage of revenue) that help clients measure their performance against other players in the industry.
At Fuller Landau, we are active members of Food & Beverage Ontario and the Canadian Franchise Association. Over the years, we have developed strong working relationships with complementary service providers in the Food & Beverage space, and we serve as connectors to industry-focused bankers, lawyers, insurance advisors, real estate brokers, and so forth. Being well-connected is a huge benefit to our clients.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I was quite shy. Being an accountant helped me overcome that, believe it or not. Accountants have a stereotype of being quiet and bookish, but we are front and center of our clients’ world. When you represent the firm as a partner, you must put your best foot forward. Getting to this level of comfort was an evolution and I must say, I am enjoying the profession, now more than ever.
I’ve since been told that I’ve missed my calling as a stand-up comedian. I get a big kick out of making people laugh. I’ve found that having a sense of humour allows me to manage stress in life and at work, by keeping things light. Life is short and we just can’t take ourselves too seriously!
It doesn’t hurt that I have a few impersonations in my bag of tricks. I’ve been told that my Ronald Reagan and Howie Mandel impressions are pretty spot-on… but sometimes I get the feeling that my Rodney Dangerfield impression gets no respect. No respect at all!
Q: How would friends and family describe you?
People would say I have very strong principles and ethics. They would say that I love to engage and interact with people, and that I am very sincere and passionate about helping others. I also have an overall cheerful disposition, even in the busiest and most stressful of times. It’s contagious.
If my family was describing me, they wouldn’t be able to resist mentioning my love for my Volvo. My wife and 4 daughters actually joke that I love it more than them.
Q: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I won a silver medal in the 1977 Ontario Junior Olympics for weightlifting. I really enjoyed the challenge and the competition, but I valued the use of my back and knees too much to continue with it.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?
I’m a life-long fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which has taught me the value of patience and optimism. I’m also a foodie and enjoy trying new food and restaurants, and of course, I love my Volvo. I have been married to my best friend, my wife, for 31 years and we have 4 amazing daughters, aged 16 to 26. We love to travel. We’ve been to parts of Europe and Israel a number of times, and we’re currently working through our travel ‘wish list’: Italy, Japan, and—for me, the mother of all vacations—Sweden, home of the Volvo, for a tour of their assembly plants. I’ll probably have to go alone on that one!
Q: What’s your best advice for people starting out in the industry?
Stay focused, work hard, and have fun. Be a sponge – absorb absolutely everything you can by listening, learning, and asking lots of questions. The more you know, the better you can serve your clients, and that’s a win-win for everyone! I always say: I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. Never assume and always ask!