Dallas Business Journal by Jessica Huseman, Staff Writer
Date: Friday, October 21, 2011, 5:00am CDT
BKM Sowan Horan says it treats its customers differently from most other CPA firms. When you begin working with it, you don’t only have access to one person, you have access to the entire firm.
Addison accounting firm uses a collaborative approach
“Accounting firms have a history of being very silo-oriented. ‘My clients are my clients, and his clients are his clients,’” said Rick Sowan, senior partner. “We do things differently.”
Sowan said his firm focuses on collaboration, making it so that multiple people can service clients’ accounts. While this outlook is helpful to clients, Sowan said, it is also an intelligent business model.
“People have their clients, and then they’ll leave the firm and the clients’ relationship with the firm will end. That doesn’t happen with us,” he said. “Our junior partners will eventually take over the firm, and because we have pulled them into all of our client relationships they will maintain all of our clients.”
Sowan started the firm with fellow senior partner Tim Horan in June of last year. The two began as coworkers in 1986 at BDO.
“We were working together, and we shared clients. We have the same philosophy about this business,” Horan said. “We thought opening up our own firm would be fun to try, and we wouldn’t have to worry about other people’s agendas.”
Their philosophy has led to plenty of old clients following them over, including TNW Corp., which operates several railroads.
Dennis Prewett, TNW’s president and CEO, said that BKM Sowan Horan has been “wonderful to work with” and that the firm’s collaborative process has been useful.
“Things come up here and there that we need something, and we get it right away,” he said. “They are really quick, and Rick himself checks on a pretty frequent basis to be sure we are satisfied with everything.
Prewett said he has never had a complaint about the company’s work and plans to remain a client. “I would sure hate it if I had to change. They pretty much have us as long as they want us,” he said.
In addition to old clients like TNW, Sowan and Horan estimate that 25 percent of their clients are new. And after starting out in 2010 with only seven employees, the company now has 25.
In addition to their collaborate strategy, Sowan said the company’s success can be attributed to the quality employees they hire.
“We are hiring kids right out of college, so we can really mentor them and bring them up in this company,” he said. “Right now, two of our junior partners are people we hired when they got out of school.”
Sowan said the company also strives to make sure systems are in place that allow growth within the company. While Sowan said he understands that people may not stay forever, he wants them to be able to get everything they can out of the company while they are there.
“That’s how a small company like us can beat out the big guys in these talent wars,” he said. Horan said the company can only provide these opportunities to their employees by continuing to grow, which he doesn’t expect will be a problem.
Sowan estimates that the firm will grow 15 or 20 percent each year “with no problem.” This growth, said Sowan, can be attributed to the way the firm treats its clients.
“I am trying to instill that this is not an industry, it is a profession,” Sowan said. “When you become trade groups and lobbyists you are often working against the interest of the public at large and only taking yourself into consideration.”
He used the Occupy Wall Street protests as an example of how angry the public is about the greed of companies that are making short-term decisions to benefit themselves.
“We are guardians of the public,” Sowan said. “That is how we should behave, and I steadfastly believe that we will.