At the end of this month our Chairman, and my friend, Kent Satterfield, will begin his retirement. Throughout his tenure at DHG, Kent has been a mentor to many, truly embodying our DHG values and teaching us what it means to make an impact. His contributions to the growth and success of the firm are endless, and his steadfast leadership and sharp wit will be remembered long after he leaves us on May 31st to begin retirement. Before Kent embarks on his next adventure, I asked him to share reflections on his time at DHG and some lessons he has learned. Please enjoy this blog from my friend, Kent. - Matt Snow, CEO
After working 465 months in my public accounting career I’ve now reached the final one. That’s almost 39 years, with 34 of those years at DHG. What a trip it has been! I’ve loved the work, which has changed and evolved as I’ve gone along. What’s fascinating is that I’ve likely touched 20,000+ tax returns over this time span but I don’t have a specific memory of any one of them. Not one, even though I was competent and diligent in executing the work, and had fun (mostly) doing it. Okay, maybe sometimes calling March and April “fun” might be a stretch but hey, it’s what we do here. So if I don’t remember the contents of the deliverable, what do I remember? That’s an easy one, although the answers might seem Pollyanna and hokey. I remember the thrill of the chase, the pride in a job well done, the joy in learning and applying new-found skills to solve clients’ problems, the camaraderie of great teams, and most prominently, I remember the people. Our clients, who sometimes may seem a challenge, but always call out the best in us, and are the only reason a firm like DHG can exist. To all of our clients I say a heartfelt Thank You! I have especially fond memories of the great people of DHG. This truly is a special group, and is the secret sauce that makes DHG the wonderful place that it is. We’ve shared the wins, the losses, the highs, and the lows. As odd as it may seem it’s the lows that rest in a special place in my heart. In recent years I’ve been able to see and know how truly amazing DHG people are when tragedy strikes one of our own, in our communities, or half way across the world. Deaths, serious illness, fires, floods, we’ve had it all, which I guess goes with the territory for a firm our size. Each and every time our people step up to support, give, pray, care, and help however they are needed. It is amazing to see, and gratifying in a way that a few extra dollars of revenue or income can never be. So to all of our great DHG people I also say Thank You!
Though I’ve probably forgotten much of what I’ve learned over these years there are two big “ah ha’s”, mostly realized with the benefit of hindsight, that I’d like to share.
First, mistakes are often doorways to opportunity, so don’t be afraid to make them. My most serendipitous “mistake” was leaving a national accounting firm to buy a small chain of retail auto parts stores from my in-laws. They had no succession plan, I saw opportunity, and the entrepreneurial bug bit me. I don’t know a tailpipe from a drive shaft then nor now, but why let the details get in the way of a grand vision? And one can’t let a cut in pay and assuming debt impede the launch of a business empire. But there were bills to pay and groceries to buy so I reached out to Ken Hughes at a predecessor to DHG and immediately began working several days a week with the firm. Luckily, as far as I know, I never met with a client in the office about their taxes one day and sold them auto parts in the store the next! In only a few months it was clear this wasn’t one of my more stellar decisions. But things have a way of working out. Within 18 months my in-laws had sold the stores and retired and I was back full-time with the firm and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve always believed that had I not made this “mistake” I wouldn’t have ended up at DHG and had the wonderful career I’ve had!
Second, the more effective you are at helping other people grow and succeed the more successful you will be. This idea doesn’t come naturally to many of us high-drive types who like the light shining on us, and our society might make you believe otherwise, but I know it to be true. I wished I’d learned this sooner. We don’t play a zero sum game. The more successful anyone on our team is, the more successful we all are. When people, be they clients or teammates, realize you have a genuine concern for their success, and that you’re willing to sacrifice or defer some of your own success for them, the results are truly amazing. Putting the focus on relationships instead of transactions is how trust is built, and in our business, trust is everything. As my time as DHG Chairman draws to a close I’m more convinced than ever that the way to go far at DHG, or any firm for that matter, is to help as many people as you can go as far as their drive and abilities can take them. This is the essence of ONE DHG, and it’s much more fun this way!
I’ve passed third base and I’m sliding into home with a smile on my face, fond memories in my heart, and excitement about the future. I’ll be down the road around the bend…I hope to see you there…