According to a recent study completed by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, First Nations organizations and entrepreneurs are doing good business. Since 2010, aboriginal businesses have increased their customer base across the private sector and all levels of government. Additionally, there has been strong growth in the percentage of Aboriginal businesses reporting a net profit.
Helping to structure First Nations organizations (and non-aboriginal organizations that work with First Nations) for success is something that Manning Elliott’s Jeffrey Hunt and his team are passionate about. Hunt, a partner at Manning Elliott, and a leader of assurance and tax engagements, has been working with First Nations organizations for over 10 years, since starting at a national accounting firm.
We spoke with him about the work Manning Elliott does to help grow First Nations businesses and communities.
Long-Term Relationships with A Diverse Clientele
“When we get a new client, we’re looking for long-term relationships,” explains Hunt. “We want a mutual trust that we’re going to work together to do really great things for that client’s community.”
Manning Elliott works with a diverse range of clients, including First Nations communities, businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as non-aboriginal organizations that work with First Nations.
These individuals and organizations span sectors that include real estate and land development, independent power production, retail, aggregates and farming.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
There are several opportunities that exist for First Nations organizations. “Obviously, there’s a tax-exempt status,” says Hunt. “So, if they structure their affairs the proper way, there’s the ability to shield income from tax.” First Nations organizations are also frequently able to take advantage of preferential treatment in certain bidding processes.
But Hunt also believes that a major strength of the First Nations clients he works with is their cultural perspective. “[These clients] certainly are well-grounded in their culture and have the ability to take the long-view on any business endeavour,” explains Hunt. “They’re looking a lot further down the road — the term 'seven generations' is one they use a lot — which provides really good perspective. Many also believe strongly in environmental stewardship.”
Hunt sees Manning Elliott’s role as helping these organizations to structure themselves in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them.
More Than Just Audits
“Certainly the largest part of our First Nations practice is providing assurance services or audits for First Nations communities,” Hunt says. But what sets the firm apart is the holistic approach they take to business growth. Hunt explains: “For those same clients, we do a lot of tax structuring for their on-reserve economic development activities, as well as being their trusted business advisers as they navigate opportunities for businesses and for partnerships.”
Hunt has cultivated a small, focused team of in-house experts who assist with everything from audits and assurance services to tax and business advising.
“I also do a lot of work with non-aboriginal people who want to do work on-reserve, helping them structure the deal as well as working through impact-benefit agreements,” says Hunt. “Working through the deals that will benefit the First Nations community they’re working with, as well as structuring it beneficially for the non-aboriginal partner.”
Because Manning Elliott has nurtured so many strong, lasting relationships with organizations and local communities, they are often able to facilitate connections between First Nations and non-First Nations organizations. “A lot of non-aboriginal clients work with aboriginal organizations, either with individuals or with the bands themselves. We’re often able to make introductions that are really great for both parties.”
Working with their clients to ensure that everyone benefits — from the individual entrepreneurs to their communities — is really what Hunt’s team at Manning Elliott is all about.
“The idea is that if we can structure really great businesses, aside from the audit piece, the proceeds of those businesses can go back into creating healthier communities.”
To contact Jeffrey Hunt, CPA, CA, CAFM, please click here