For Kuhn & Koviak (K&K) founder Stephan Kuhn, finding the right fit for his firm and its partners and staff was one of his final wishes before he passed away in August of last year.
“Steve was really concerned about making sure he could find a soft place for everybody to land, and I think in his final months he wanted us to connect with another firm that had the same values that he did,” said Jennifer MacPhee, a former partner at K&K. “I think he’d be pleased about where we landed.”
Last month, K&K announced it had found that soft landing at Baker Tilly.
MacPhee, now a partner at Baker Tilly, said her new firm was at the top of Kuhn’s list as he explored succession options for his firm and how it could expand as he prepared for his passing.
One of the main attributes both K&K and Baker Tilly point to for their successful merger is a matching culture of treating clients and fellow partners like family.
“It was very clear from initial meetings with Jennifer and other leaders at K&K there was a true care for their people ; there was a dedication to providing a home where they can land, continue to grow and advance their careers and that dedication to their people was evident early on,” said Thomas Bennett, managing partner of Baker Tilly Southern California. “And it was clear that it flowed to their clients as well. The clients they serve are more than just business transactions, they are long-term relationships. They had developed a legacy within San Diego that was, culturally, very much a fit.”
Kuhn & Koviak grew from a small accounting firm initially started by Steve Kuhn’s parents who immigrated to San Diego from Germany. When Steve Kuhn took the reigns 28 years ago, he began growing the firm by landing “more sophisticated and more high net worth clients,” and developed an expertise in real estate and estate trusts.
“I can’t think of a lost client, one that left voluntarily,” MacPhee said. “All of the clients that were there when he took over from his parents, they stayed. We had clients that were there 30, 40 years – that was a real testament to what he was building.”
MacPhee also credits Kuhn’s “exceptionally high standards” for his firm’s work advising clients on taxes and consulting on their businesses.
“Beyond that, Steve also understood the importance of human connection. He was viewed as a friend, mentor, business partner and counselor by his clients,” she added. “He listened, thrived on solving problems and created relationships over the last 30-plus years that will be remembered. I feel fortunate to have been part of his legacy and think he would be pleased to see it continue with Baker Tilly.”
Although Bennett never had the opportunity to meet Kuhn before he passed away, he said his impact on the K&K team was evident because “so many of them have been with the firm their entire careers.”
Now that the team has moved over to Baker Tilly – whose own roots in San Diego stretch back to the 1950s – there are new opportunities for growth as part of the tenth largest CPA firm in the country.
“I think the opportunities are enormous,” MacPhee said. “Kuhn & Koviak was a local firm. It had grown to a very respectable size for a local San Diego firm, I think we were very competitive within the market, but having the ability to access Baker Tilly’s national resources – it’s going to be exciting to explore.”
Bennett said Baker Tilly is excited to add K&K’s “top-notch talent and dedication to client service.”
“Together, we will leverage our borderless resources from coast to coast, ensuring continuity of service for Kuhn & Koviak’s clients and enhancing offerings for them, and allowing its team members to do even more,” he added.
CEO: Alan Whitman
Business: National CPA firm
Employees:6,500 including 550 partners in U.S.
Notable: Baker Tilly is the tenth largest CPA firm in the U.S.. The firm has 52 offices nationwide — 34 full-service offices, including eight in California, and 18 specialty offices.