How a CPA approaches work-life balance: Guy Marchessault

CPA Guy Marchessault shares how he achieves positive work/life balance.

  • Title: Partner
  • Organization: BDO Dunwoody LLP/ s.r.l./S.E.N.C.R.L., Montreal
  • Year joined firm: Rooney Greig, Whitrod, Filion in 1989, which merged with BDO Dunwoody in 2002
  • University grad year: 1989
  • Designation year: 1991
  • Number of children: 4

"Discipline. Discipline. Discipline." That's Guy Marchessault's mantra for successfully juggling a 45-to-50-hour work week with his family that includes three sons and a daughter aged four to eight. "The main thing is to have the discipline to stick to a plan, and respect commitments made to both your colleagues and your family," says the 41-year-old assurance partner, who has worked with the same firm during his entire career. In 1989, when he joined Montreal's Rooney Greig, Whitrod, Filion, which merged with BDO Dunwoody LLP in 2002, he didn't have to worry about balancing his time. It's a different story now.

"When I leave the office, I turn on my personal-life switch," says the Université du Québec à Montréal graduate. "I do not take work home and I never go to the office on weekends."

Then, he becomes the "sports director," steering household traffic to swimming and dance lessons, gymnastics, Boy Scout meetings, soccer games and ski hills. There's also the usual help with homework, plus shopping and housekeeping to be done.

During the week, Marchessault is up at 6:00 a.m. and helps with school preparations before heading out on his half-hour commute to St. Catherine St. West. One or two nights a week, he is home for dinner and bedtime rituals.

"All my work gets done during the week between 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. The firm lets me manage my schedule. I condense it as much as I can, doing everything at the office with minimal interruptions - lunch only."

Occasionally, he has evening functions, which he tries to recoup later in the week. He travels two or three times a year, and has participated in the CICA National Conference for SME advisors. His presentation: Achieving Work-Life Balance. In July and August, he works four days a week.

The family skips town for vacations every year — and recently they swam with sharks and sting rays in the Dominican Republic. The BlackBerry stays home. He admits that on local vacations, he may check emails for one to three hours per week.

Altogether, Marchessault books about 25 holiday days annually: two two-week stints and one one-week break. He makes sure clients and colleagues are aware of his absence and arranges for staff to answer any queries. He credits the balance he has achieved to communicating the criteria of his work-life balance to co-workers and clients. He also credits the support of his wife and partners at the firm.

He predicts five years from now maintaining the equilibrium will be easier as it will be the normal course of his agenda, and he will have moved from business-development mode to a more mature client base. He hopes to be back on the racquetball court at least once a week.

"Nothing is more important than balancing my personal life with my work life. Time with family has immeasurable value," he says. To those embarking on a CPA career, he emphasizes, "Communicate your priorities and be ready to be disciplined enough to stick to your plan."

- Lorie Murdoch