VOL. 11 | NO. 6 | Saturday, February 10, 2018
Dixon Hughes Goodman Taps New Managing Partner
By Andy Meek
Buddy Dearman’s new role at accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP is as much about cars and automobile dealerships, and the entrepreneurs behind them, as it is about numbers on a spreadsheet.
The way Dixon Hughes is set up, the firm – one of the top 20 public accounting firms in the nation, with more than 2,000 people in 13 states – offers comprehensive assurance, tax and advisory services. And in addition to serving clients in all 50 states as well as internationally, it focuses on several distinct industry lines.
They include dealerships, which Dearman was just tapped to lead in December from the firm’s office at 999 S. Shady Grove Road.
Dearman is the new managing partner of DHG Dealerships, whose clients sell everything from cars to heavy trucks, motorcycles, four-wheelers, Jet Skis and the like. It’s a unit of DHG that serves more than 2,500 dealerships across all 50 states, representing businesses of all sizes – including six of the top 10 dealership groups in the country.
By arraying the firm’s talent and industry focuses the way it does, DHG can learn all it can and make itself hyper-attuned to the needs of dealership clients. And the firm can use its knowledge and relationships with the industry to help identify solutions surrounding dealership trends and issues specific to the sector, such as mergers and acquisitions, facilities and factory matters, performance, succession planning, risk and regulatory, and people and talent acquisition.
“It’s not dissimilar to what you see in lots of other businesses,” Dearman said. “People that can efficiently understand the business issues, the terminology, how they make money, all the different things like that are going to have an advantage. If I own a bank, for example, I’m going to probably look for a CPA firm that has an industry focus in banking so that I’m not having to train my accountants when they walk in the door about my business.
“That’s one of our value propositions – that we understand the industry way beyond just their financial, accounting and tax needs.”
It’s also no accident that Dearman is in the position he’s in. He’s had this same focus throughout his career – and, technically, he’s been with the same firm for his entire career, if you take into account the mergers that have been part and parcel of the accounting industry in Memphis.
He started with George B. Jones & Co. in the 1980s. That was an automotive-only accounting firm that worked exclusively with automobile dealerships. Its founder also used to work for General Motors a few decades prior.
“I stayed with that firm until ’93,” Dearman said. “Then I went to Rhea & Ivy, and somewhere about 2002 George B. Jones merged with the Dixon Hughes firm. And then Rhea & Ivy merged with Dixon Hughes, so it’s kind of full-circle for me. I started out with a firm that was nothing but automotive that ultimately became part of the firm that I’m now with and where I’m now the managing partner of that group.”
The mix of businesses Dearman’s group works with is skewed heavily towards automobiles and heavy trucks – about 98 percent falling into those buckets. The rest include, among others, so-called “power sports” clients that sells four-wheelers and the like.
Dearman has more than 30 years of experience working with dealerships and their owners. He heads a 25-partner leadership team and more than 160 professionals focused on serving the dealership industry.
Dearman succeeds Tim York, who served as managing partner of DHG Dealerships since 2012. York has been working with Dearman and the dealerships team and clients as he assumes the firm-wide leadership role of managing partner of industries.
“What I really enjoy – and I’ve kind of been through several phases in my career – what I really enjoy is the ability to be able to focus on kind of a single industry,” Dearman said. “I like the ability to have a deep knowledge about what I’m working on, rather than working across half a dozen different industries and having a shallow knowledge.”
His group, relatively speaking, is small compared to the entirety of the firm – it’s 165 employees out of DHG’s more than 2,000.
But it’s a crucial part of what the firm does and how it’s served the Memphis area for more than 60 years. It also works with other businesses and industries including health care, real estate, governments and more.
“This is very much a relationships business,” Dearman said. “It’s about being able to have deep relationships. Because we are an industry specialist, we’re able to get through all the other things and able to forge really deep relationships with our clients. We have plenty of competitors out there who understand accounting and tax issues.
“And our clients, these are folks who’ve endured all kinds of change. Right now, they’re getting bombarded with autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles and where’s all this headed and people doing a lot more shopping on the internet. They’re resilient, and a heck of a lot fun to work with.”