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DFK Blog Series 2

Martin Sharp, Executive Director and Demetris Demetriou, President

DFK blog series

Following a successful tour to China earlier this year, DFK International president Demetris Demetriou and executive director Martin Sharp are in the West Coast of the USA over the coming days.

During their visit, Demetris and Martin are visiting DFK member firms and other key contacts – to foster relationships and co-operation across the association.

Martin and Demetris have kindly agreed to keep us updated on the progress of their trip.

Day 1

The trip began with a visit to RJI at their offices in Irvine, Orange County, California. We learned about the firm’s capabilities and niche skills from the partners Manuel Ramirez, Fernando Jimenez and Gordon MacLean and discussed how DFK International could better support the firm and its clients.  

The firm had worked with DFK members in a number of locations worldwide and was currently discussing a possible project with the DFK member firm Rivera y Associates in Lima, Peru.

They also saw potential for working with DFK members in London, Singapore and Barcelona, so we arranged introductions to partners in those cities.

Our second office call was with HKG in Arcadia, north eastern Los Angeles. Partners David Hinton and Curtis Natham outlined the firm’s services and industry sectors and we discussed their experiences with DFK.  

We learned about the services offered by their office in Newport Beach, which specialises in Captive Insurance and met partners and staff in the Arcadia office.

After the meetings we drove to our hotel in Century City ready for our meeting with Gursey Schneider the next morning. En route we took in some of the glamour of nearby Hollywood and Beverley Hills, eschewing the indulgence of the luxury hotels on Wilshire Boulevard for a rather more modest chain hotel in Century City.  

Day 2

We started the day by visiting DFK USA member firm Gursey Schneider at their offices in Century City, Los Angeles. We enjoyed discussions over breakfast with founder Stanley Schneider and partners Stephan Wasserman, Tracy Farryl Katz, Marie Ambrosino and Gary Krausz.  

The offices overlook the world famous Hollywood area - where many of the firm’s clients are based. The firm is renowned for leadership, experience and its pioneering role in litigation support and we discussed ways in which members of DFK International in other countries might be able to assist with providing these services to clients with overseas interests.  

We learned how Gursey Schneider’s range of services goes well beyond traditional accounting - extending from the boardroom and into the courtroom, with experience and resources not normally available at other accounting firms.

After the meeting, we hit the road for an eight hour drive north through the California countryside to Santa Rosa located in beautiful wine-country to the north of San Francisco.

There we met our friends Betsy Stewart and Linda Kachiu for a delicious dinner. Betsy and Linda, partners with local DFK USA member firm Zainer Rinehart Clarke, have been active participants in DFK activities worldwide for many years are very well-known to DFK members everywhere.  

It was wonderful to enjoy their hospitality on their home-ground and sample the superlative local food and wine. We look forward to meeting more of the ZRC team at their offices on Wednesday.

Day 3

Visiting our friends at Zainer Rinehart Clarke was one of the highlights of our tour. Demetris was delighted to renew an old acquaintance with founder Rick Clarke who still works at the firm and we enjoyed meeting all the staff at their Santa Rosa office.

We took the opportunity to discuss some issues of the moment with Betsy and Linda before joining them for lunch at the stunningly beautiful Mayacama Club - set among the wooded Sonoma County hills, studied with gleaming vineyards and oak trees.  

After lunch we took an hour’s drive south to San Francisco, stopping briefly to take in views of the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge against the backdrop of the sparkling city.

Located in the heart of downtown, Shea Labagh Dobberstein is a long-established San Francisco accounting firm, but is a relatively new member of DFK International having joined in 2012.  

We enjoyed our conversations with managing partner Jim Dobberstein, whom we met together with partners Bob Zurcher and Bill Wright. Demetris and Martin learned about the services offered by the firm as well as their strong and diverse client base.

Together we explored the potential for increasing international business and the continued discussions over dinner at a delightful waterfront restaurant. We really enjoyed our time with Jim, Bob and Bill, whose friendliness and professionalism are a perfect fit for DFK.

We now look forward to our move north to Seattle and Portland ahead of our flight to Denver at the weekend in readiness for our visits to member firms in Colorado.

Day 4

San Francisco was under a thin vail of cloud as we departed early morning, but the cloud soon dispersed as we flew north towards the Pacific North West.

The massive Mount Rainier was gleaming white in the morning sunshine as we approached Seattle.  

We reached the offices of DFK USA member Bader Martin, located in the heart of the Seattle business district, where we met firm principals Susan Queary, Mary Dickinson, Steve Bishop, Mark Hanson, Scott Usher and Andrea Flores.  

We were hosted to lunch and it was good to have the opportunity to get to know the team and learn more about the firm and its services and clients.

Together we discussed how we could continue to work together to ensure that DFK International could ensure that their clients get the support they need for their international activities and discussed opportunities for the firm to become more involved in DFK International.
After the meeting, Demetris and Martin enjoyed visiting sites in Seattle, including the famous Pike Place Market, home to the original Starbucks, and the iconic Space Needle, which presented stunning views of the greater Seattle area under cloudless skies and bright sunshine.  

In the evening, we enjoyed a delightful dinner in the company of Susan and Andrea, learning more about Bader Martin and the ethos of the firm.

Days 5, 6 & 7

Our intrepid duo visited Geffen Mesher, the DFK USA member firm in Portland, Oregon, where they met with partners David Porter and Tania Gitch from the firm as well as founding partner Mr Robert Mesher.

Discussions covered the types of clients served by the firm and the nature of business in the Portland area, as well as how the firm might make more use of international resources.  

The firm has a significant Asia-Pacific practice and has considerable interaction with DFK members in the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the weekend, Martin and Demetris drove from Portland back to Seattle for a flight to Denver, Colorado, ahead of meetings in Colorado Springs and Denver in the coming week.

Day 8

A 90 minute drive south from Denver saw us head to DFK USA member firm Stockman Kast and Ryan + Co in Colorado Springs.

The firm is based in modern offices in the city centre with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains - albeit that they were shrouded in cloud on the day of our visit.  

The firm is the largest CPA firm in southern Colorado and offers a wide variety of tax, audit and consulting services to individuals and businesses throughout the region and the state of Colorado.  

We had the pleasure of meeting and discussing with most of the leadership team, including Trinity Bradley-Anderson, Dave Kast, Steve Hochctetter, Judy Kalternbacher, Anne Koenigsman, Ellen Fisher and Jordan Empey.

We learned about the expertise and industry experience of the people in the firm, encompassing small businesses and high-net worth individuals, to not-for-profit organisations, medical practices, and construction and real estate.

The firm values its affiliation with DFK International/USA and we spoke about how Stockman Kast and Ryan + Co can leverage access to like-minded firms worldwide, providing clients similar personal care and attention wherever needed.  

In the evening, it was a pleasure to meet the staff of the firm at a cocktail reception and to chat informally with everyone about living and working in Colorado Springs.


Day 9

The last of our office visits on this tour was to member firm EKS&H in Denver, Colorado, one of the largest firms in DFK.  We were joined by DFK USA staff Graham Hauck and Maureen Dillmore for our meeting with partners Bob Hottman, David Steiner, Joseph Adams, Chris Stewart, Paul Edwards, Ken Berkeley, and Sandy Shoemaker.  A significant proportion of the firm’s clients had international activities and we discussed how DFK can better support clients of the firm.  EKS&H is an active member of DFK International, with involvement involvement in the International Tax Committee and with regular attendance at DFK International conferences.  The partners explained that while many referrals to DFK members had been successful, including those to Germany and Brazil, some clients had needs that could not be met by DFK members in some countries.  Bob emphasised the importance of having access to good quality firms of a size that could meet client expectations and that growth was essential for firms to remain sustainable.  We explained that DFK remained focussed on helping members meet their clients’ needs for cross-border support and was continuing to seek new members capable of providing the high quality services they expect.

As with all other meetings during this tour, we felt that the meeting had been very positive in building our understanding of member firm capabilities and needs and provided us with a valuable opportunity to outline DFK International’s strategy and plans and to highlight some of the opportunities available to members to become more involved in DFK International activities.  We look forward to meeting more members at the forthcoming DFK USA Managing Partners Conference being held in Denver in the coming days.

Day 10

With a gap in the programme before the start of the US Managing Partners’ Conference, our dynamic duo took to the hills, accompanied by DFK Vice President Americas, Paul Panabaker for some “high-level” talks.

They visited the Buffalo Bill Museum on Lookout Peak for an historical perspective on the West and took in the panoramic views of the Plains before heading up Mount Evans, encountering a snowstorm at 9,000 ft.   

In the afternoon, all three joined the DFK USA board meeting, providing updates on DFK International and developments in DFK Canada.  

It was encouraging to see the level of interest among DFK USA members in international activities, especially as an increasing number of them seek to serve their clients international portfolio.

In the evening, they joined a reception for the conference, joined by Deputy DFK International President Roland Graf and colleagues from Ireland, Canada, Mexico and UK that are attending the conference.

Day 11

The DFK USA Managing Partners’ Conference got underway with an inspiring presentation from internationally acclaimed speaker and bestselling author Tommy Spaulding on the subject of heart-led leadership.  

After the talk, delegates divided into three groups to spend the remainder of the day sharing their firm’s management experiences to identify best practice and provide peer-to-peer advice and guidance.  

Many managing partners of DFK USA member firms find this activity to be one of the most valuable elements of their DFK membership, and the increasing participation of partners from overseas DFK members shows that the wider appeal of this activity.  
In the evening, delegates enjoyed building relationships and networking at a cocktail reception and ‘dine-arounds’ in restaurants in the down-town Denver area.