From left to right: Cathy Hwang, Stanley Woo, Charlotte Tay, S. Scott Seamands, Paul Cameron (Former Partner), Alexis Wong, Duane Frisbie (Former Partner), James Kraft, Rita Dela Cruz, Mark Brittain
Q&A with LvHJ partnersHow did the firm start originally and what were founding partners like?
Duane Frisbie: Rudy Lindquist was a sole practitioner and joined forces with Fred von Husen and Jack Joyce. There were fewer CPAs back then and they knew each other. It was more like a club – Accounting is now viewed as an industry. The first office was located at Bush and Battery Streets in the old Shell Oil Building (built in 1929).
Rudy was a polished, well-known business man in the city and one of the founders of “The Family,” an exclusive member organization for “titans of business world.” He was also a past president of California Society of CPAs (CalCPA).
Fred von Husen was just phasing out of the firm when I joined in the late 60s. I remember him as a gentleman.
Paul Cameron: Jack Joyce was energetic and could be intimidating, especially to partners, though he only stood about 5’5” tall. The firm has never had a managing partner, but you would know who the leader was among the three. He smoked a pipe, and sailed for 22 years after he retired.
Duane: I moved from Indiana and started as an audit manager in 1969. Partners at the time were Jack Joyce, Eric Heden, Art Robin, Fred Lundberg and Norman Thomas. Rudy (Lindquist) and Fred (von Husen) were already retired by the time I joined.
Paul: I lived in Memphis, Tennessee and took a camping trip with my wife to California on our honeymoon in 1979. Two years later, we took a vacation to find jobs here. Back then, many firms did bookkeeping, but I wanted an audit firm and LvHJ was known as an audit firm. I interviewed with the “BIG 8” at the time, but LvHJ offered good advancement opportunities for new staff, with partners in 70s. Duane was already a partner then.
Scott Seamands: It was in 80s, in the middle of recession and hard to find jobs. I lived in Washington, D.C. at the time and my mother worked for a CFO of a big company. Eric (Heden), one of the LvHJ partners, was on the account. I had worked as a Controller in private industry, but the work-life balance LvHJ offered was appealing. I sent my resume to him, got an interview and was offered the job on the same day. I joined in 1980 and LvHJ is the first and only CPA firm I’ve ever worked for.
Stan Woo: I was originally an auditor when I first joined LvHJ in 1979, carried heavy audit bags with lots of paperwork and 10-key calculators. When a big client left, I was laid off unfortunately, went to work for various companies, from a small local CPA firm to a national firm to a large corporation, for several years and worked for another public accounting firm after. During those years, I maintained contact with Scott (Seamands), and had ongoing poker and tennis games. I rejoined LvHJ in 2001. I liked LvHJ’s higher quality and standard.
Mark Brittain: My father had a tax practice growing up. After getting a master in Taxation, I was working in the accounts payable department at the University of California, San Francisco and looking for a non-“Big 8” firm. LvHJ was starting to make the move to focus more on tax and it was a good situation for me. I had never worked for a CPA firm until I joined in 1984.
Jim Kraft: I was a partner in a small CPA firm called R. Shade & Co. in the old Ice House building in San Francisco. Our firm was beginning to grow a niche practice in the affordable housing area. Our main partner, Ross Shade, was reaching retirement and we answered an ad LvHJ put in for a merger. We had a mutual need to grow. We met with Duane and Paul at the City Club in 1988 and we merged in July 1989.
Alex Wong: I moved from Los Angeles and had passed the CPA exam but needed audit hours for the license. By joining LvHJ in 1994, I got the best of both worlds and was fortunate to be able to work with all partners. I was really impressed LvHJ partners, compared to my previous firm, because of their integrity and being hands-on teachers.
Charlotte Tay: I graduated college in 1996 with a degree in Accounting and Finance, but didn’t know much about the industry. I passed the CPA exam, had a 1-year work visa and wanted to get experience in the U.S. before going back to Malaysia. I answered an ad LvHJ put in and was hired in 1998, within 10 days before my visa expired. I left the firm once in 2002 to see what it was like outside of public accounting, but Scott (Seamands) and I stayed in touch and he kept calling me with updates on clients! After returning to LvHJ in 2004, I never had a shortage of work, there was a constant environment for learning and mentoring, and I was always improving.
Cathy Hwang: After college, I needed to work for 2 years to get my CPA license and was looking for a local CPA firm. I was working at a document management company as a computer consultant, and a colleague there had worked for LvHJ and referred me. When I joined in 2000, partners and managers put a blind faith in me and gave me a lot of projects. They were willing to take the risk and encouraged me to own up to the firm’s expectation and standards, which speaks volumes about the firm.
Rita Dela Cruz: I had worked for over 14 years in both public accounting and the private industry (hospitality) in the Philippines before moving to the U.S. with my family. I first wanted to go into high tech after working for the largest telecommunication company in the Philippines, but Leo Garcia, one of the LvHJ audit managers, had travelled to Philippines and I got connected with him through a friend. I had a culture-shock when I started at LvHJ in 2001. Back in Philippines, I had a nice office with a conference table and a secretary, never sent a fax before. But here, partners participated in even the most routine tasks.
Mark: LvHJ had always been an audit-focused firm and there wasn’t much separation between the audit and tax departments until the mid-90s. You would work on engagements from beginning till the end, including tax returns.
Paul: We were client partners and generalists. Our clients were mostly individuals and closely held businesses. Duane did a lot of Taft Hartley trust work and other employee benefit plan audits.
Jim: After the merger in 1989, LvHJ has kept a significant number of audit and tax clients R. Shade & Co. originally had from the 60s. Tax regulation change in 1989 was big and we grew with the industry.
Advertising was considered unethical for a long time. So the business grew through word of mouth mostly. Marketing was not a concept for CPA firms. Now we have a fully-functioning marketing team, leveraging the firm’s credibility and modern technology to expand our client reach across California and beyond.
Duane: When we mentioned LvHJ, people recognized the name.
Duane: BKR was originally founded as the National CPA Group in 1974. The New York and Boston firms were the organizers and wanted audit firms in major metropolitan areas to join. We were invited in and are one of the oldest firms among the founding members. The association name changed to BKR International in 1989.
Paul: We have to give credit to Jack (Joyce) for us being part of a national association. He was the most progressive thinker of the partners and had expected it to be a new wave to come.
Duane: He started the revolution at LvHJ on internal quality control standards.
|Duane Frisbie||National CPA Group: Executive Committee Member
BKR International: Peer Review Committee Member
|1978 – 1980|
|Paul Cameron||BKR International: America’s Region Board Member
BKR International: America’s Region Board Chair
|1990 – 1997
1995 – 1997
|James Kraft||BKR International: America’s Region Board Member||2010 – Present|
Duane: Norman Thomas, one of the partners, would come in late and work all night. Staff would avoid taking the same elevator with him because he would try to get them to work late with him. His office was between two exit doors and people would walk through a file room to avoid him. Norm also had girlfriends who were IRS agents and assisted in getting extensions for tax returns.
Paul: One of our clients was a wife of a wealthy San Francisco businessman and philanthropist. She was a violinist and Rudy (Lindquist) played in a quartet with her. We represented her during the course of her protracted divorce proceeding, which, at the time, was the longest divorce in San Francisco history. After Eric Heden retired, I took over and helped her as a trusted advisor, since she distrusted attorneys. She took up residence at Sir Francis Hotel here, and also at Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. We paid for her rooms, ordered and brought groceries to her, and I remember she served me champagne and graham crackers. She would travel to Europe and say “Just send the bills to my CPA.” After she passed in 1994, I served as executor and had to travel to Montreal to inventory her belongings in her hotel room. The hotel room was full of unpacked suit cases from trips she had taken and I also found a significant amount of money in cash hidden in the room.
Mark: We would get a March Madness college basketball pool going for after tax season party each year, and Rod Johnson, one of our former partners, kept refusing to participate. I forced him to and he kept losing. So we ended up creating an award named after him, “Rod Johnson Silver Sucker Award,” and we still continue to give out that award to the person with the lowest score every year.
Jim: We grew as our clients grew with the maturity of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. LvHJ is a recognized leader in this industry throughout California.
Paul: Emphasis on staff education and bringing them up to the firm’s high standards. Talent has always triumphed the structure at LvHJ.
Scott: Being collegial and sharing. Forward-looking attitude. Investment in talent and long-term interest of the firm.
Duane: National recognition for delivering quality service. Philosophy has been carried on. I am proud of the firm and hope it will continue to grow and prosper.