A new era for GGFL: Deborah Bourchier steps down as Managing Partner
Deborah Bourchier has handed the mantle of GGFL’s Managing Partner to fellow partner Josh Engel after 11 years as the firm’s leader.
Deborah, who has spent her entire career at GGFL, joined the firm as a co-op student in 1980 and became a full-time employee in 1984.
When she was appointed Managing Partner in 2008, she became one of the first female managing partners in Canada.
She succeeded the firm’s late co-founder and first managing partner, Gerry Levitz, who had held the position for 25 years.
While continuing to work with her clients, Deborah will be focusing on an enhanced role of coaching and mentoring senior leaders at GGFL.
“It has played such a huge part in my professional life that I feel I want to give back to help others,” she says.
The time is right to transition out of the managing partner role, she says.
“I’m part of the third generation of partners. We are now into our fourth generation and it’s important to me that this role of managing partner reflects and represents that new generation. It’s an ideal time for a change and this is a great opportunity for Josh.
“It’s a great job and will be hard to give up,” she adds. “I have been immensely proud to be the leader of such a great firm.”
Evolution has been a constant during Deborah’s tenure as managing partner.
During its first 62 years – from 1946 to 2008 – GGFL had 10 partners. Since 2008, nine partners have retired and seven others admitted.
In 2008 there were seven male partners and two females. Today, in a male-dominated profession, GGFL is now owned by four women and five men.
“Succession planning has been a major part of the past 11 years,” she says. “It’s been one of the greatest challenges but we’ve done it well and without the loss of clients.
Levitz, who had mentored Deborah and encouraged her to succeed him as managing partner, died in 2009.
“We lost a strong leader,” she says, “but since then, we have evolved into a very strong leadership team. So today, our leadership doesn’t rest with just one person.”
Despite the loss of Levitz, Deborah says he has continued to be an inspiration.
“When I’ve faced difficult decisions,” she says, “I have often thought ‘what would Gerry have done?’ I had such high regard for him.”
When she assumed the managing partner role, GGFL employed 60 people. Today, the firm has 100 staff.
“We have stuck to our core values and our reputation is stronger than ever,” she says. “We know what we do well – take care of entrepreneurs and owner-managed privately held businesses.
“Our strength has always been our relationship with clients and with each other within the firm,” she adds. “We pride ourselves on our inclusive culture where our employees are engaged in any major initiative.”
GGFL has won numerous awards during her tenure and has consistently featured on the Ottawa Business Journal’s list of Top 10 local firms.
Deborah has had the personal distinction of being named a Chartered Professional Accountant Fellow (FCPA), which is the most prestigious, and highest, honour to be bestowed on a CPA. In 2016 she was also honoured as Ottawa Businesswoman of the Year.
Deborah says her decision to pass the managing partner post to Engel isn’t about impending retirement but about a realistic business assessment that the time is right for change.
But she knows her clients will ask the retirement question.
“I’ll retire one day,” she says, “It is certainly not in my plans right now.”
But the past few months have naturally been a period of reflection.
“When I accepted the role of managing partner, it was daunting to me,” she says. “It was a successful firm and I had big shoes to fill even though the person whose shoes I was filling had faith in me.
“I remember when I first took the job getting calls that were a mix of congratulations and condolences. Some said it was a thankless job.
“They couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Please read the stories:
GGFL begins a new era and is delighted to announce Josh Engel as its new Managing Partner.
Beginning of a new era at GGFL