Led by Managing Partner Tom W. Watson, CPA, FHFMA, BKD Dallas was established in June 2009 when Dallas-based KBA Group LLP joined BKD. The office consists of 95 team members, including eight partners, who offer focused experience in audit, tax, risk management and transaction advisory services for public and private companies in a variety of industries.
BKD Dallas is located in the nation’s ninth largest city and is surrounded by many sites and recreational opportunities, including Six Flags over Texas, SpeedZone — a racing track that includes four kinds of racing, mini golf and other activities — the Dallas Zoo, Dinosaur Valley Park where visitors can hand feed roaming animals and Nasher Sculpture Center that features modern art, in addition to a host of shopping and dining options.
Smart Business spoke with Watson about BKD Dallas and how the organization innovates and impacts its community.
Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
The Dallas office has a deep history of working with private equity funds and their related portfolio companies. When the economic crisis in 2008 started, many of the funds we worked with stopped doing deals, causing a potential slowdown in our business. We recognized the need to diversify our Dallas practice office to cover more industries. A benefit of being with BKD is lots of experts around the firm in lots of industries. Government/non-profit and health care were two of the areas we knew BKD was deep in but that had not been developed in Dallas. We were able to identify two top BKD partners in each of these niches who had a desire to come to Dallas and build these practice areas. We’ve had great success in these areas, adding multiple governmental and health care clients over the last two years. As a result, we’ve been able grow our business despite the economy and create rewarding career options for our employees.
In what ways are you an innovating leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
There are a number of CPA firms that are technically competent to provide audit, tax or advisory services to companies. We believe that the innovative firm is the one that provides highly technical solutions with unmatched client services. We wrote a book about our client service, which we share with every employee and many of our prospective clients. It’s a big step to put a very high set of client service standards in writing and then tell our clients to judge us on those. By following through, we believe we really differentiate ourselves from other firms, resulting in long-term satisfied clients. Even though our book was written a few years ago, it continues to be time-tested and useful in virtually every business setting.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, and how have you applied it?
It’s funny how the lessons you learn early in life seem to have applicability throughout your professional career. Telling the truth is one of these, and it’s as valid in a business environment as when you are in grade school.
When working with clients, integrity and honesty are paramount. It includes being honest and upfront about meeting deadlines and not setting expectations that cannot be met. It also means addressing issues quickly, whether its good or bad news. Clients expect us to be upfront with them, and as part of our client service standards we practice that every day.
How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
Being part of the community is important for both BKD’s partners and employees. We are active members of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and we regularly support their initiatives to improve the business environment in the north Texas area. We have a number of our partners and staff involved in charitable organizations and community events. We encourage our staff to participate in coordinated charitable activities, such as supporting the North Texas Food Bank.
Through our charitable arm, the BKD Foundation, we’ve initial corporate sponsor of the First Tee of Dallas. This is a great organization that impacts the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life enhancing values and promotes healthy choices through the game of golf. We also support numerous other charity activities, including Go Red for Women. The foundation’s main goal is to support causes in the communities in which we work, and we’ve tried to do that.
How have you added “value” to the products and services you provide to customers and clients?
One of our client service standards is true expertise. One way we promote this is having our staff become true experts in a particular industry early in their career. The fact that we have partners, managers and in-charges on nearly every project who have significant industry focus — whether it be energy, banking, health care, manufacturing, government or real estate — brings value to the product.
We also operate under the idea of principled innovation — we bring innovative solutions to clients with a principled base. We do not let innovation lead us into new, untested, unproved or unprincipled solutions; we try to retain true professionalism in the solutions we offer.
What is your philosophy on going “above and beyond” for customer service?
Client service is at the heart of everything we do. We have a service contract with our clients that says we will offer the five core tenets of our philosophy: integrity first, true expertise, professional demeanor, responsive reliability and principled innovation. While it seems on the surface to be a pretty simple concept, in practice it isn’t executed by very many people as well as it should be. We live those concepts every day, and it shows in our client service.
Tom W. Watson, CPA, FHFMA, is the managing partner of BKD Dallas. Reach him at (972) 702-8262 or email@example.com.