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Q&A: Catherine Dahl, founder of Beanworks, is disrupting the accounting industry with her venture-backed software company.

Here’s how she managed her business through the pandemic.

Catherine Dahl

Catherine Dahl is the co-founder and CEO of Beanworks, an automated accounting software company that is disrupting modern methods of accounting. Leveraging her 25 years of operational accounting and management experience, Catherine built Beanworks into an industry-leading software company that is widely respected in the Fintech industry. Catherine and Beanworks have also been awarded by highly respected organizations, most notably by CIX as one of Canada’s Most Innovative Tech Companies in 2020, moving on to represent Canada at the Startup World Cup finals in 2021.  


How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?

We are a venture-backed company and when COVID-19 hit, we decided to take more funds through internal investors only and shored up our cash position, just in case. We qualified for a couple of government programs, payroll assistance, and one program through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). With all of that, we managed very well. We did revise down our financial forecast and played out various scenarios to ensure we were ready to alter our spending course if need be.


Has your approach to sales and marketing changed? 

We altered our marketing message to reflect the benefits that our software provided in a pandemic. We automate payables workflow, so when our customers suddenly went remote, it made the demand for the software even higher. We already sold and implemented our system remotely; we are a fully cloud-based company and always have been, so we did not have to change much in our day-to-day functions.


How has technology played a role in your business during this time?

We moved our staff to home-based working, and so we did have to adjust who we interacted with. To ensure our strong culture was maintained with everyone, we organized online events and tried to ensure people interacted regularly.


“Culture has always been at the forefront. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That means without a strong cultural base, as a business we will not survive.”

How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?

As CEO, my mindset has always been one where company culture is at the heart of everything we do. I obsess over it. Culture has always been at the forefront. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That means without a strong cultural base, as a business we will not survive. And during a pandemic, this was more important than ever. We added more mental health support. We worked through the management teams, both formally and informally, to ensure burnout was not occurring anywhere. We did regular employee surveys and focused on their work-life balance. 

Personally, I ensured I kept up my workouts with my trainer, and just moved them online. I continued with my mental health support, also online, and eventually got back to my weekly massages — it’s the best thing I do for myself! Taking care of yourself is key. I was worried in the early months, perhaps for the first 60 days, then as people do, we found a way through this strange time. Never just accept, always question is there a better way?


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?

My industry is tech, and in tech, things are never easy, and always interesting. What I have learned is that our industry is resilient and very creative. My advice to most people is never give up. Keep searching and you will find a way. The old saying, “where there is a will, there is a way,” is very true. Someone out there is better off than you while someone else is in a worse situation. Don’t take your life for granted, but know that you can find a solution to whatever problem is in front of you. Ask for help, build or leverage your network, and help others where you can. I have found that this approach to life was even more productive during the pandemic.

Looking for more advice, stories, and inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs? We’ve partnered with Cisco Designed for Small Business and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to bring you What Next — a resource to help you plan your next step in every aspect of your business.