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Reflections: What Three Outbound Directors Say about Public Accounting

Published on by Ian McManis in Careers, Firm News

Reflections: What Three Outbound Directors Say about Public Accounting

One of the things that I have been good at throughout my whole career is surrounding myself with really smart people,” Alvin “Chip” Dennig said. Flanked by Jim Donnellon and Kathy Ahearn on either side, the three Directors addressed a crowd of nearly 150 employees at the 2022 Barnes Dennig SuccessFest.

The panel, facilitated by Managing Director Jay Rammes, gave each of the retiring directors a chance to talk about the path their career took, what advice they had for those new to the profession, and what they would miss most when they took on the Director Emeritus title at the end of this year.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve built,” Chip continues, “there’s a family atmosphere to it. Our culture is having someone always invested in your success, in getting you to the next level.”

People were a common theme throughout the discussion. Not just the people that Chip, Kathy, and Jim worked alongside, but their families, and the people they helped serve as Certified Public Accountants along the way.

“I came back to public accounting because of the flexibility it gave me to manage my personal life that I would never have gotten at another company,” said Kathy, “I found the right mix of clients that I loved and loved working with. Aiding the non-profits with their missions helped feed my soul.”

“Bob and Al started a firm that was going to be different, that was always going to put people first,” said Jim, “I benefitted from that, and I wanted to create the opportunities that I received except better. I’m proud to see our firm doing things better than firms twice our size.”

The founders, Bob Barnes and Al Dennig famously strode across Fountain Square in Cincinnati with nothing but a single briefcase in hand and founded Barnes Dennig in 1965. They endeavored to build a company based upon the principles that they felt lacking at their previous firm. Those values, which all three directors on the panel were proud to proclaim, are alive and well today.

When asked for advice he would give to those new to public accounting or thinking about getting into the industry, Chip said, “The amount of opportunity today is off the charts. Learn, try new things, and most important of all; be patient!”

“It’s a unique space to work where you not only get to be challenged every day, but you also get so much flexibility and still have the opportunity to work towards being an owner,” said Kathy.

Jim offered up his “Five-C’s” for career success: Care about your fellow employees, clients, and your profession. Be Competent to learn and grow every day. Always be Curious and ask yourself why are you or they doing something that way? Always have Conviction about what you’re doing. And lastly, Compete each day to be your best self.

Finally, when asked about what they will miss most about Barnes Dennig and public accounting, Kathy said, “I’ve met so many fantastic people over the past 30 years on the client and engagement side, and some of them I’m still friends with to this day. I’ll miss the people I worked with, especially my staff. I could always rely on them to teach me. They kept me young!”

“People outside the industry would always ask me: how can you do accounting all day?” said Jim, “but they never understood that it’s a people business. The relationships I developed along the way made all of the difference.”

“I’ll miss walking through the halls and saying ‘hello’ to everyone, but most of all I’ll miss that feeling of walking out of a meeting with a client where everything went right and we solved that big problem, and I got to look around to my team and just say: that was awesome!”

We at Barnes Dennig will miss getting to work with Chip, Kathy, and Jim every day, but we’re also eternally grateful for the tremendous impact they have had not just on this firm, but the lives and careers of those they’ve worked with along the way. Join us in wishing a happy retirement to all three!


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