When you visit the website of Dean Dorton Allen Ford, the prominent CPA firm based in Lexington with a branch in Louisville, Ky., you see a large photo and tribute to Richard Dorton, one of the founders of the firm, who died Oct. 22 at age 60, following a brief illness.
Not long ago, after 15 years as CEO, Dorton had decided it was time to alter his role with the company.
“True to Richard — he was somewhat of a visionary,” said David Bundy, the CPA firm’s current president and CEO, in a recent interview. “Richard had decided over a year ago it was time to transition some of his responsibilities at the firm to allow him to do other things at the tail end of his career. It’s sad for us and sad for the clients Richard worked with, but it’s a reminder of who he was, who we are, and how we’re able to move forward through things like that.”
Dean Dorton Allen Ford actually had two beginnings. Dorton, along with Doug Dean and Joe Ford, started the company in 1979 in Lexington, growing it into one of the largest CPA firms in Kentucky. A Louisville office was opened in order to compete for accounting business in the state’s largest city, as well as western Kentucky and southern Indiana.
In 2011, the business merged with the 86-year-old Louisville CPA firm known as Cotton + Allen to become Dean Dorton Allen Ford. The firm serves many clients, including some of the state’s signature industries.
“Health care is our largest; second is equine. We work with a lot of colleges and universities in Kentucky and in other states. We work with coal, oil and gas companies, electrical co-ops and in manufacturing, construction and real estate,” Bundy said. “Those industries are about 65 to 70 percent of what we do.”
Bundy felt it was important for the firm to keep the three Lexington founders’ names and to add one of the new Louisville names, Allen, to the title.
“Those gentlemen are part of who we are today. The way they taught client service and approached business decisions are part of what we continue to be,” Bundy said.
Some had advised four names in the title might be too much, even confusing. Market surveys were conducted. They discovered the new name was highly recognizable in Lexington, but not so much in Louisville. Bundy didn’t want rebranding to wipe out the legacy of the four names.
“I was reluctant, to be honest,” Bundy said.
Finally, the firm settled on officially keeping the four-name title, but using Dean Dorton for short. Its logo includes the two names prominently displayed on top, with the four names listed underneath in smaller type.
Dean Dorton offers a solid core of business services including tax returns, monthly financial statements, insurance offerings and audit services, among others.
“Over time, as our clients required additional services, we added them, like in health care or technology,” he said.
The economy hit most companies hard this decade. That’s when the services of a good CPA were needed more than ever, according to Bundy.
“We want to be advisers when a client picks up the phone and says, ‘What should I do?’” he said.
He said CPA firms like to work with clients on solid financial ground but sometimes must assist those that are still being pinched.
“Some are now beyond the economic downturn, but others are in struggles or feeling the repercussions of the economy,” Bundy said. “Or you see a health-care base dealing with the Affordable Care Act, such as what to do as a provider or as an employer. We navigate all that.”
The requirements of a CPA firm continue to be to provide strong, basic services, no matter what the scenario. Bundy said Dean Dorton handles national and regional issues, tax changes, the sale or purchase of a business, a transition in leadership, a shortage in cash flow, growth plans and more.
“You want to help them make the right decisions for their company and for themselves, personally. That’s the role of an accountant. That hasn’t changed. But you have to remember that [your CPA firm] will always expand,” he said.