The toughest career decision Dan Zitting ever had to make was to sell his brainchild, Workpapers.com, to ACL Services.
“It was wild,” Zitting said on the phone from the U.K., where he was spending some time working with ACL’s London office.
“I figured … 80% or 90% of those tech acquisitions don’t work out at all,” said Zitting, who remains in charge of ACL’s product design, direction and strategy as its chief product officer.
“I expected this would be really hard and [thought], ‘Who knows if I’ll even make it six months?’ But it turned out right around the same time that ACL as a company was embarking on a transition in its leadership and culture.”
Zitting started his auditing career out of college with Ernst & Young. “Since then it has turned out to be a good value set for me, and helped me to use those skills to identify fraud, corruption and those sorts of things,” he said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Zitting started Workpapers.com in 2008. It’s a cloud-based audit management system. Two years later he sold the company to ACL.
But he stayed on and led ACL through what he calls the company’s “re-startup phase.”
The company had been in business for 25 years but was intrigued by the potential for change, Zitting said. “How could we take 25 years of history and brand and customer base but lead with some really new and innovative technologies?”
“We turned over basically the entire senior leadership,” he said. The company also went from old-school out-of-the-box software to all cloud-based.
“To make that kind of dramatic transition, it took completely changing our brand and our culture.”
For Zitting, the key to surviving and thriving within the company that took over his firm was to maintain clear expectations.
Sometimes it’s about selling for as much money as possible, but sometimes there’s an opportunity to stay on to help a company grow and evolve, he said.
“Definitely be clear on the outcome that you’re wanting,” he said.
Birthplace: Montrose, Colorado
Where you live now: Coal Harbour, Vancouver
Highest level of education: Master’s degree in accountancy, University of Notre Dame
Currently reading: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Currently listening to: Plans by Death Cab for Cutie
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Paleontologist
Profession you would most like to try: Bartender
Toughest business or professional decision: The decision to sell my company to my current employer
Advice you would give the younger you: No matter how good the product/service/business is, put just as much (or more) energy into improving how you market and sell that product/service/business as you do developing it
What’s left to do: Just had my first kid so I’m excited to watch him grow up
Join us to celebrate the 2017 Forty under 40 Awards on January 23, 2018, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit http://www.biv.com/events/40under40