Not quite four decades into its history, there’s a sizable change at Dunning & Associates, but it’s one that managing partner Debbie Chizek thinks won’t be that noticeable.
She and partner Jim Wurbs have purchased the CPA firm from Jim Dunning Jr.
While there’s no longer a Dunning who owns the business, Dunning will still be there.
“Now he is a consultant to us,” Chizek says.
Jim Dunning Sr., who founded the firm on Jan. 1, 1980, also is still there.
“He opens the office every morning at the ripe old age of 81,” Jim Dunning Jr. says.
Jim Dunning Jr. joined his father in business in 1985. Over the years, he took over from him.
Chizek became a partner in 2008 and Wurbs became one in 2009, though Jim Dunning Jr. still owned the majority of the company.
Other companies approached the firm a few times over the years about acquiring it.
“We had a recent offer in October that kind of … got our wheels turning,” Chizek says.
Chizek and Wurbs decided they wanted to secure the firm’s future – and that it wouldn’t be acquired – for clients and staff.
“I want to develop a firm that’s going to be around into the future,” she says. “Accounting firms are having to redefine themselves as we go forward.”
That means working in more of an advisory capacity for clients in all business matters.
“When we do best is when we do everything for a client,” Chizek says. “We’ll still always do tax returns. You just do.”
She says she wants to emphasize technology-driven back-office support and advisory services, which include suggestions about how to improve business, trim expenses and make other smart changes while taking tax planning into account.
Jim Dunning Jr. says he thinks Chizek is a better visionary than he is and is more connected to a younger generation.
“I hate to sound old, but I think that’s a true statement,” he says. “She sees what’s coming better than I do.”
Even he, though, says, “I think the old standard CPA firm is going to disappear.”
He says younger employees won’t work crazy hours.
“They’re wise for that.”
He says he thinks the younger generation has it figured out “or else just put their foot down and (said), ‘We’re not going to do it.’ ”
Jim Dunning Jr. says the offer was fair and close to his asking price.
“I always thought if you get your price, you better take it,” he says.
“If I had mapped out the course of things in my perfect world, it probably would have been five or six years from now.”
Chizek says the firm will be able to train new partners who might come along to one day take over the firm. Even though there’s not a Dunning in an ownership position anymore, she says the firm has a great name and reputation, and there was no question about keeping it.
“We’re still here at Douglas and Lulu,” she says. “We’re gearing up for tax season just like normal.”
The firm notified clients of the sale. Chizek recently changed her last name, though, and that created some confusion.
“They’re like, ‘Who is this Debbie Chizek?’ ”
Jim Dunning Jr. says his management responsibilities will be fewer, and he says he likes that he’ll still get to work with clients and get paid for it but also will have more time to take off for hunting and fishing and other things.
Well, he adds, “Probably not until after April 15.”