As I listened to Debbie Stanley describe her career, it struck me that she clearly impressed everyone she worked for and their clients, because she would leave one organization to work for one of their clients.

Born in Mississauga, Debbie wanted to become a lawyer when she left high school, but instead she became a teen mom. With a baby to raise, she worked numerous office jobs, always getting promoted up the ranks. Proximity to home also became a factor in her choosing where to work, so she could more easily juggle her work and home responsibilities.

An example of how one job led to another is when she worked for a home décor store where she would help customers choose their appliances for their new condos. She would then arrange for deliveries, and it was the transportation company that handled those deliveries that poached her for their business.

And so the pattern continues, with one job leading to another, until she ended up working for a local accounting firm, focusing on estate planning. “I was lucky in that I had a great manager who became my mentor.” shared Debbie.

As she learnt more about estate planning, she recognized that there was more to sorting out the estate than just the accounting and she started to consider starting out on her own to offer a more comprehensive service. “It took me ages to decide.” admits Debbie.

But she did it, gaining her MTI certification as well as taking other courses. Because she couldn’t decide whether to leave or stay, she started Guelph Women Leaders Learning as she thought some of the women in the group could help her and provide answers. She was looking for a safe place to ask questions. The group started in 2016, with just five members and today there are 30 women who meet monthly for breakfast.

And that is not the only group Debbie has started. Recognizing that many different professionals get involved in all aspects of an estate, she started the Guelph Estate Planning Council in January 2018.

“We had such a silo approach to providing service, so I approached the different professionals and they all signed up.” Today there are 40 paying members in the Council who meet monthly for dinner.

So what exactly does Debbie do? She helps the family administrate the estate and can get hired by the family to help them or can be appointed by the family to be the Executor. “We have several packages and families can choose the level of involvement they want from us.”

Up until last year, Debbie had been mainly hired by families, but her business expanded after she approached local lawyers. Her first contract was with a law firm that was short-staffed, and she did so well, they sent other work her way. Once word was out that she offered this service, other law firms hired her.

Realizing that she could not manage it all, Debbie started to think about her options. She toyed with the idea of hiring someone to do data entry, or maybe to clone herself .

“I found once I stepped outside of the internal tornado and was not so caught up in the whirlwind of the chaotic day-to-day, it came to me that what I needed was a partner, not an employee.” And that would be her advice to someone looking to take her business to the next level. Slow down and take an objective view.

Since 2020, she has a partner working on business development, leaving Debbie to do what she loves best, working with the families.

As the 2019 recipient of the Guelph Chamber’s Emerging Business Award, you just know that Debbie is going places.