"Not Your Basic Bean Counter" isn’t just a slogan.
A RETIRED CPA!!
That is correct….I am now officially retired as of June 30, 2021. Two of my senior staff bought my practice. Each of them had been with me for over 20 years and they are WELL TRAINED. Susan Watson and Kim Phelps are their names and they are very capable of handling any client needs. In addition, they enjoy a network (thanks to yours truly!) of sophisticated tax professionals who can help and supply answers when needed.
But enough about that stuff. Below you will find a detailed account of my journey in this professional life…..
A STRANGE JOURNEY INDEED
My first job as a CPA was in early 1978 when I joined the Denver office of Arthur Andersen (they were the largest CPA firm in the United States). Yes, this is the famous Arthur Andersen that went belly-up due to the Enron accounting debacle. I was with them for 5 years…but that was before the scandals! Actually, my experience with them was awesome. The training they provided was fantastic. I specialized in helping small businesses and their owners. My client list included retail stores, real estate developers & contractors, wholesale distributors, ski resorts, manufacturers, doctors/dentists….and lots more.
I left Arthur Andersen in late 1982 to join a large, prestigious insurance broker who handled only very wealthy clients. The majority of my time was primarily focused on analyzing tax shelters for my employer as well as putting together analysis portfolios for those wealthy clients.
After a year there my father asked if I would move back to the West Coast (Los Angeles) to help run his business, which was an optical chain with 10 retail offices and 120 employees. Sales were about $7 million annually and we spent over $750,000 a year on advertising. Believe it or not, I was not doing much CPA work for the business because my father already had a good local CPA. So, he wanted me to run the day-to-day affairs of the business. That meant I had to do the hiring and firing, purchasing, lease negotiations with the malls, advertising and tracking of employee performance. I did this for 6 years and learned things I could never have learned as a CPA….seriously!
A RECOGNIZED NATIONAL SEMINAR SPEAKER
In 2008 I joined the ranks of 20 other tax professionals who, at various times during the year, travelled around the country teaching tax seminars to thousands of other tax professionals. It was a great honor to be chosen by Gear Up for this position. This company (Gear Up) had decades of experience and put on the most successful tax and accounting seminars in the United States.
I did that for 6 years and finally stopped in 2014. Why? Well, my wife told me that “enough is enough” and she wanted me home more. Hey, who could argue with that?
So, I still teach many seminars but limit them primarily to Oregon. She says that’s okay, as long as she gets to come along!
As you know, tax rules are complex, and despite Congress telling us that they will “simplify the tax laws”, the average American cannot keep up with all the rules. It takes hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to keep up on an annual basis. Well, at my firm, that’s exactly what we did (and the new owners are continuing that).
As a client, it’s really critical to be with a firm that commits that amount of resources toward knowing all the ins and outs of tax laws and dealing with the IRS. As part of our family, you have that peace of mind.
DO WE DO ANTHING ELSE?
Absolutely! The new firm continues to do accounting and payroll and financial statements for many of our clients. They spend a good deal of time analyzing and consulting on the tax impacts of various business transactions such as buying and/or selling a business, setting up the proper entity for a new business, real estate transactions, year-end planning and much more.
Some of our wealthiest clients live in other states and many of them require multiple state tax returns to be filed. With emails, portals and other high tech “stuff”, geography is fast becoming a non-issue. We have LOTS of personal and business clients all over the country. So, we do far more than just Oregon returns!
In addition, many think that we ONLY prepare very complex and high-end tax returns. Not true. We prepare LOTS of simple personal returns as well.
THIS CPA GOT HIS EYES OPENED
Most CPAs have never run a “real” business. By working in my dad’s business, I was able to gain a completely different perspective on the business world (and pass this on to my staff). I can’t think of any one thing that has impacted me more (in a positive way) when it comes to understanding clients and being able to see things from their viewpoint. In my opinion, there are very few CPAs who can say that…not because they are not smart, but because they have never had the opportunity to be out there in the “real world” running a “real” business.
In addition, most CPAs have little to no experience negotiating large, complicated leases with huge malls like I did in Los Angeles. Most CPAs have never had to deal head-on with labor laws as they impact 120 employees! I also had to centralize and improve our purchasing system, saving the company over $490,000 the first year. I had to computerize the entire business and develop sophisticated tracking software so we could monitor the performance of each employee and office. This same software monitored our response rates from the various advertising media and allowed us to better allocate the $750,000 we spent annually on advertising. Our rate of return for our advertising dollars went up over 200%. I also had to take and coordinate the quarterly physical inventory counts in all the offices…over 2,000 frames per office! I know what business owners go through trying to get an accurate inventory figure (it ain’t easy!).
THE INFAMOUS "MEAL DEAL"
Over a decade ago, I became concerned that some of my clients might hesitate to make an appointment with me (for some tax advice, for example) simply because they didn’t want to get a bill! Well….I thought long and hard about that and came up with an idea that, quite frankly, has been WAY MORE SUCCESSFUL than I could ever imagine. I call it the MEAL DEAL.
The new firm will be continuing this wonderful transaction….happily! Here’s how it works. It’s ridiculously simple. It’s based on the principle that I LIKE TO EAT!! Basically, YOU take ME out to lunch…to the restaurant of MY choice…and YOU pay! Well, NOW you take the new owners out to eat, but it works the same!
Here’s what is so great about that…the “meter” doesn’t run for that hour! That’s the cheapest hour of their time you’ll ever get. They do NOT do this during tax season, obviously. In addition, word of this has gotten around town so much that many of these MEAL DEALS are with non-clients! That’s right…non-clients. Why is that? Well, a lot of people just want to ask questions, or pick their brains for a second opinion. Either way, it’s okay. They love to meet new people and eat lunch! It’s a real WIN-WIN.
Feel free to call the office and book a MEAL DEAL with Susan or Kim. They get booked up, so call early. If you’re really desperate, they could be convinced to do a dinner! Or breakfast!
FOR EXISTING CLIENTS
I hope this story was a bit entertaining and informative. Our intention was to give you a fresh peek into why we use the slogan “Not Your Basic Bean Counter”.
So, if you are already a client, THANK YOU!! You are treasured…and our commitment to you is ongoing. We hope you will tell your friends and business associates about us.
I DIDN’T WANT TO BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
I moved my family to Oregon in August 1990. My wife is a native of the area. Her dad taught wood shop at the local high school for several decades. She comes from a big family (last name Davison…many local folks know the family. Many even took wood shop from Mr. Davison).
The “big” firm experience allowed me to bring serious expertise to a small town environment where the people and businesses are so darn nice and friendly! And with over 20 years together, I have been able to pass that experience along to Kim and Susan. That’s a real WIN for you!
After being in Oregon for 3 years (teaching for a few colleges and doing some tax consulting) I realized that it was time to get back to doing full-time CPA work. This was a tough decision for me because I knew very well what most CPA firms were like: stuffy, overworked (especially in tax season), stressed out, too formal and not a very happy group of people.
So, there I was thinking thoughts like: “Is it possible to have a CPA firm where people are NOT stressed out?” “Is it possible to hire people who are technically fantastic but also very friendly?” “Can I find front-office personnel who smile and are actually GLAD to see clients when they come in the door?”
Well, I am here to tell you that I am thrilled…and also humbled, because we did it! Our office has been a HAPPY place to be…not only for us, but for our clients as well. I want you to know that this office has the BEST staff I have ever worked with…no exaggeration here. I treated my staff like gold…because they WERE and STILL ARE gold!! I hired a massage therapist weekly for them during tax season and monthly the rest of the year. My staff deserved it. In addition, my wife is a chef and baker who cooked a gourmet lunch for the office each Thursday. We are now the second largest CPA firm in the area and still growing (we must be eating way too much!!).
So, by “thinking-outside-the-box” we succeeded in living up to our slogan of “Not Your Basic Bean Counter”!! We have been able to offer the best quality services along with a casual, happy, stress-free environment.
“Not Your Basic Bean Counter” is not just a slogan. A brilliant marketer once said “If all you do is what everyone else in your industry does, then you’ll never be any better than anyone else in your industry.” Those words found a home in my heart. We pride ourselves on NOT being like everyone else. This firm listens, returns phone calls and actually cares…a LOT….about the clients. We treat the clients like family. We communicate regularly with them (and vice-versa). When we mess up (and, yes, it does happen!) we cheerfully fix it. You don’t find THAT very often in todays business world, do you?! Kim and Susan are proud to carry on this tradition.
NOT A CLIENT?
If you are NOT a client, no pressure. This story is being told for telling purposes only. I hope that you found my journey a bit interesting. Kim and Susan do not hustle or hassle people in any way. It’s too small a town for that. All of our growth has come from word of mouth. This firm enjoys a fabulous reputation and want to maintain that for many years to come. If we can ever be of service to you, it would be a pleasure to assist you in any way possible.
Feel free to pick up the phone and call. You can come in, meet them, see how they operate and spend some time with them….all at no charge or obligation. And, don’t forget that you can take advantage of the MEAL DEAL!
NOTE: Some of this has been modified since I retired. That’s probably obvious as I refer to “them” a lot. That’s okay. Remember, Kim and Susan have over 20 years experience EACH with me at the helm training the heck out of them! It would be difficult to imagine you being in better hands.