CEO Tom Watson tells us about FORVIS, a professional services firm providing assurance, tax, and advisory services. Created by the merger of equals of BKD and DHG, FORVIS is driven by the commitment to use forward vision to deliver an Unmatched Client Experience™.
Tell us about your business.
FORVIS is an accounting and professional services firm with a 100-year history of doing business. On June 1, 2022, BKD and DHG merged to become FORVIS, which is now the eighth-largest CPA firm in the country. FORVIS provides a wide range of services, including audit, attest, tax, and advisory services, and has more than 70 offices across the United States, Canada, the U.K., and the Cayman Islands.
How does your company help other businesses become more effective?
FORVIS’ purpose is to help those we serve to unlock their full potential. We define those we serve broadly – obviously it includes our clients, but also our people and our communities. We strive to help clients accomplish their goals and succeed in business. To achieve this, we make sure that we deliver high-quality work while also helping our clients find ways to solve their complex problems. That means we have people in our firm that hone into industry specialties so they can understand the types of items and issues that our clients are dealing with.
In any of the 10 industries our team focuses on, we want to make sure we truly understand the industry, how it operates, and the issues driving it as well as the accounting matters it must navigate. It all comes back to making sure that our team is deep enough in these industries that they can then go to our clients and help them unlock the potential for what their business can be.
What differentiates your company from others in your industry?
One question we get sometimes is, “Well isn’t an audit just an audit?” Or “Isn’t a tax return just a tax return?”
On one level you could say that, but we believe we’re differentiated by an approach to what we’ve trademarked as an “Unmatched Client Experience™.” When we brought BKD and DHG together, we were evaluating what our alpha assets were and what really made our firms special. We both acknowledged that the way we deliver this client experience is unique and special. We measured our Net Promoter Score, and we were both running 30 to 40 points higher than the CPA firm average on a national basis. It was critical that we continue that as FORVIS.
It all comes down to how we deliver an experience where our clients feel like solutions are being provided in a way that is meaningful and helping them succeed while also respecting our commitment to “integrity first” in everything we do.
We have three principles that we impress on our teams that, when followed, will create a great client experience. First, we “listen to understand” what our clients’ issues are versus going to them and saying, “This must be your issue.” Second, we coach our teams to “be responsive”, meaning that our clients understand that when they seek us out, we will respond in a timely manner and meet our commitments. The third is to consult with the purpose to deliver value – meaning that we are a trusted advisor who is able to collaborate and share knowledge and insight with our clients.
FORVIS has written a book that will be issued later this year detailing these values and how they can be applied in real-life situations. It’s the playbook that we give out to all of our people, and it is about what it means to provide an Unmatched Client Experience™.
What do you enjoy most about doing business in the Dallas Region?
The Dallas Region has been phenomenal from a business opportunity perspective. What I love is that this city and region are built on a spirit of abundance. There’s plenty for everybody to do. We want to create opportunities for people, so there’s a great sense of collaboration amongst the business leaders here in the DFW area. We know that people and businesses are moving here, and we’ve all got to work together to maintain our special business climate so that continues. Our largest practice in the firm is in DFW and I attribute that to being able to operate in such an outstanding business climate.
Why did you decide to become a member of the DRC?
I believe the DRC does a great job of delivering on its purpose of enhancing the business community in the Dallas Region. I appreciate that they’re not just Dallas-centric, they’re region-centric because I think we’ve got a great region here, and the DRC works hard to make sure that the whole region is thriving.
I believe the DRC is a great advocate for our area. I appreciate that they work with potential relocating companies on why DFW is a great place to be. I appreciate the work the DRC does in legislative outreach at the state and federal level that advocates for what is best for the DFW region – knowing that it’s critical we maintain our business advantages. The better the business climate in DFW, the better it is for our community at large because it creates great opportunities.
We have a great focus on inclusion and diversity in our business community, and we’re creating an environment that’s not only a good place to work but a good place to live as well – a place where everyone has a chance to succeed. Personally, I love the relationships that I get to make at the DRC. There are some impactful leaders of the business community that are members of the DRC, so it’s fun to interact with them and share ideas about what’s going on in the community and how we can make it even better.
How has your business changed in the past five years and how do you expect it to change in the next few years?
Our business changed a lot when we merged our two firms; the goal of both firms before the merger was to become a truly national firm. We saw how our clients were growing and becoming more complex, indicating a need for us to be able to grow with them.
We believed creating FORVIS would enhance our ability to continue to grow with our clients and create more rewarding career options for our people. From a more macro perspective, our clients have become more international. The great resignation and the war for talent over the last couple of years have certainly made us focus on creating a great employee value proposition to attract people to our firm. We’ve continued to evolve by thinking about new ways of working while also making sure we are training our people and building a great culture.
I think over the next three-to-five years, we’ll see what happens with the current potential recessionary headwinds that we’re facing, but we believe that the Dallas Region is going to be very resilient, and so we’re continuing to invest to be ready to tackle growth as the economy continues to plow forward.
What are you looking forward to most in 2023 for your business?
From a firm perspective, we’ll be wrapping up a lot of our integration efforts this year. We’ll be able to come together as a single firm even more once we combine many of our systems, processes, and methodologies.
I’m looking forward to continuing to build the FORVIS brand. As of June 1, this was a new brand and name, and many people were wondering who we are or what FORVIS means. We are being very strategic in how we work to get the brand more recognized and as time continues to progress, more people are recognizing the brand.
We’ve been able to, by coming together, jointly invest in interesting solutions for our clients and we have some exciting technology products that are launching that we believe will really help our clients going forward. By the end of 2023, these will be deployed far more broadly, and I’m looking forward to seeing how our clients embrace them and how they help drive some great career opportunities for our team.
Anything else you would like to add about your business?
FORVIS is a new firm from a name perspective, but we do have a 100-year legacy. The combining of two great firms helps ensure we’re relevant for the next 100 years. We’re doing a lot of planning and strategy around ensuring long-term relevance so we can take care of our clients and create great careers for our people. You will see us continue to expand, not only domestically but internationally. I think ten years from now we will be an even more well-recognized brand, and we will work hard to be known for being the firm that is providing an Unmatched Client Experience™.