Get to know Crystal Buhler
June 23, 2020
Get to know Crystal Buhler, BAccS.,CPA, CGA, CIRP, LIT who studied Business Administration (‘00) at Assiniboine and is currently self-employed at C. Buhler & Associates Ltd. as President and a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT).
Can you describe your occupation? I’m the type of accountant who helps people and businesses in financial difficulty. As a LIT, I work with debtors and creditors to negotiate restructuring plans, proposals and/or bankruptcies.
What is the most challenging part of your job? Every day it’s something different. I can go from discussing the impact of debt on one’s mental and physical health, to reviewing and commenting on draft federal legislation, to analyzing the value of assets, and attending court hearings all in the course of a day. As we practice in both Manitoba and Northwest Territories, we use technology to help us be accessible to our clients and staying current with technology can be very challenging.
Why did you choose this career path? It’ll sound cliché, but this is what I was meant to do. I’ve tried other areas of accounting, but nothing ‘clicks’ for me quite like working with and for those affected by debt.
Did you find it difficult to find work in your field? Yes and no. There are approximately 1,000 licensed insolvency trustees in Canada, so we aren’t overly common to start with. That is both good and bad—there’s lots of work, but mostly in the major cities in Canada. As a born and raised Brandonite, I wanted to stay close to home, where my family lives. I was mentored by amazing professionals in Winnipeg, but ultimately found that starting my own firm in Brandon was the best fit for our family. Also, because we use technology so extensively, we have been able to open remote offices in Winnipeg and Yellowknife, while working from Brandon.
Did you do any further education? After Assiniboine, I enrolled in the (then) Certified General Accountant (CGA) program and obtained my Bachelor of Accounting Science through the University of Calgary, and my CGA designation. Following several more years of training, I received my Chartered Insolvency Restructuring Professional (CIRP) designation and passed the examinations to become a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. All in, it took over a decade to achieve the credentials necessary, but my time at Assiniboine was a necessary foundation for all the years which followed. It’s an investment I’m very glad I made.
Did you receive a scholarship, award before you came to Assiniboine or during your time as a student? I do recall that having been active in high school sports and having good marks did provide funding that covered most of my first year, by way of scholarships and bursaries. It made it possible for me to concentrate on my studies while in school, and made me feel responsible to do my best, knowing others had chosen to invest in my future, even before I knew exactly what that would look like. Now, as a parent with children considering Assiniboine for their post-secondary education, scholarships and awards are one of the significant factors they consider when evaluating colleges. I’m proud to say Assiniboine has made the ‘short list’ as our children make their selections.
What career related volunteer or community activities are you currently involved in? Starting one’s own business doesn’t leave much time for volunteerism; however, I’ve been actively involved in the CPA Financial Literacy program over the last year and a half. I enjoy discussing budgeting and financially related topics with all ages, but especially school-age kids. I also enjoy riding with “The Prairie Gunslingers”, a group of 1880’s-esque horse-back bandits who rob the Prairie Dog Central railroad (near Winnipeg), with proceeds of each robbery going to various charities, with an emphasis on charities supporting those with cancer. Having lost three family members in the last three years to the disease; I carry a special memento on my saddle for each of them when I ride.
Do you have a career ‘highlight’ that you’re most proud of? In summer 2015, I received the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professional’s New Member’s Award of Merit. I was honored to have been nominated, but even more honored to be handed my award by my mentor, for whom I had worked with, and who was one of the pioneering females in our industry. To top it off, the awards dinner was on top of a mountain in Whistler, and my husband and many close friends were there.
What first attracted you to the program that you took at Assiniboine? I chose Assiniboine because it was a two-year program. After having just finished high school, the thought of launching into a four-year degree was daunting, and I assumed I would finish my diploma and work. Which I did while continuing to go to school. The transferability of Assiniboine’s courses into CGA was vital to my eventual choice to pursue my current career.
What were the most important skills that you gained at Assiniboine? Networking. Every significant job I’ve had from my time at Assiniboine to starting my own firm was in some way related to an Assiniboine alumni. Even today, many of my professional friends are connections I made while at Assiniboine. Networking is a valuable tool for any professional.
What advice do you have for people who may have similar interests in this field or a related one? Accounting as a profession is a fantastic choice and will only become more diverse and progressive because of the integration of technology. Some of my best friends are accountants, and for each of us, our days look very different. Very few have a traditional accounting ‘desk job’. It is a growing and exciting area of business. As for being a LIT, all across Canada we are still a relatively rare commodity, so it’s a promising field to get into. It’s very gratifying to use my education and training to make a positive impact on someone’s life in a measurable and meaningful way.