B. Comm. (Co-op) (Hons.), 2002
CEO, Rocky Mountain Liquor Inc.
Allison Byrne, 34, has received national recognition for her success as the chief operating officer of Rocky Mountain Liquor Inc.
In 2012 she was ranked number five on the W100: Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, an annual listing that is a partnership between Chatelaine and PROFIT magazine.
However, Ms. Byrne didn’t set out to be a businesswoman. In fact, it wasn’t until she started her studies at Memorial University that she realized a career in business was for her.
“Like a lot young people, when I started university I didn’t have a clear picture of where I wanted to end up,” she says. “At the end of my first year I had a serious decision to make. I had narrowed it down to studying education or business. Growing up, my family owned and operated pharmacies, where I had worked, so I think that is why I gravitated towards business.”
Early in the bachelor of commerce program Ms. Byrne decided to concentrate her studies in accounting.
“I had always had a knack for math and the accounting classes felt very comfortable,” she says.
She completed her first two work terms with the accounting group of a public company.
“I think the co-operative program offered in the business faculty is a great learning tool. As a student you learn a lot of the concepts of business but it isn’t until you go to work that you are able to apply them. In the co-op program you are able to integrate into a business environment from an early stage.”
Ms. Byrne recalls having a pivotal decision to make before signing on for her third and final work term placement.
“I had decided that the path I wanted to take was to obtain my chartered accountant [(CA)] designation,” she says. “So did I continue working at a corporate office or try to obtain a position in an accounting firm?”
It turns out that there was another choice – one that set her on her future career path.
“Being ever the entrepreneur, my father had spent some time in Alberta with my sister’s family and had decided to purchase a liquor store up there. I knew the opportunities for CAs were great in Alberta, so with my family’s decision to relocate cemented I decided that it would be best for my career to head west as well. The business faculty allowed me to serve my final work term in Alberta setting up the new business.”
Ms. Byrne graduated in 2002, following which she headed back to Edmonton. She spent the first five years of her career working with Deloitte & Touche in the audit department and she obtained her CA designation in 2005.
“Throughout this time I still had my accounting fingers in the family business. On weekends I would do the accounting and prepare the financial statements. In early 2007 the company had grown from that one store I had help set up to 16 stores. It was at this time I felt that it was time for a change in my career,” she says.
“I joined the company full time, as the vice-president of operations and finance. Within a year the company was on the path towards going public. Once this occurred in 2008 I moved into my current role as chief operating officer.”
Ms. Byrne feels that her training and work experience have proven beneficial in her current role in operations and that Memorial’s bachelor of commerce program provided an invaluable foundation in business.
“Most decisions made have a financial aspect to them and my training has given me the ability to be able to assess the risks properly. Rocky Mountain Liquor now has 44 stores and I work closely with the accounting group to help foster our growth plan.”
When looking back on her studies at Memorial, Ms. Byrne recalls pleasant memories.
“The experience I had at MUN is one of the fondest times of my life. Not only did I obtain the skills to help me move through my career, I also learned some of the most important life skills. A large portion of the program is working together in teams. This is invaluable to learning how to work well with people. As a leader of my team now, I am able to appreciate the different characteristics each person brings.”
“Growing up you always hear that the friends you make in university last a lifetime. That couldn’t be more true in my case,” says Ms. Byrne, noting that she met two of her best friends during her first week of school. “We faced each new challenge together and navigated the world of university with the knowledge that we always had someone to lean on.”