At 37 years old, Bill Dunton took a big risk. He broke off from managing a branch office for The Whitlock Co. accounting firm to start his own.
It was called Dunton & Associates – and the associates were just four staff members. But that didn’t deter him from his vision.
After all, Dunton had 11 years of varied experience under his belt, first with an international corporation, Deloitte & Touche LLC, where he cut his teeth as an audit staff accountant and was quickly promoted to senior staff accountant. Then it was on to managing internal audit and tax work for regional company Mid-America Dairy Farmers before The Whitlock Co. called on him to start its Branson office. He grew it to five staffers in the five years he ran the branch.
Each stop, he says, provided a building block for the ultimate move of starting his own firm.
“I had experienced firsthand that there was so much more to each business,” he says of client interactions. “I learned that the people in the business and their goals and plans were more important than the numbers of the business.”
The entrepreneurial move has paid dividends, he says, not only for him, professionally and personally, but also for his clients and staff members. Dunton’s firm, Abacus CPAs, now employs nearly 90 people at four offices and has clients throughout the country. He quantifies the company’s annual growth at 20%. Industry stats peg typical firm growth at 3%-5% a year, he says.
Two mergers – one in 2011, with Perryman & Associates, and another in 2014 that took the firm into Lee’s Summit and the Kansas City market – catapulted the company. The first deal created the Abacus CPAs name.
“After recognizing the need for a people-focused accounting firm that truly appreciates innovation and communication, I started my own firm,” Dunton recalls.
“We have grown to 86 employees and have had steady financial growth each year.”
He acknowledges the financial numbers still have their place.
“We know running a small business, a corporation or even your career can be overwhelming, so we help each client by following three significant themes: growth, trust and confidence. We ensure our clients understand what the numbers mean – with personalized insight and guidance; they know what’s coming and how to proactively respond for the best possible outcome,” he says.
To ensure late-stage growth for Abacus, Dunton is active with industry associations. He credits two: Boomer Consulting Inc. and the Strategic Coach 10X Growth Program for Entrepreneurs.
Boomer Consulting, he says, provides services to hundreds of the highest-performing CPA firms, while Strategic Coach is a support system for business leaders hungry for growth – 10 times growth, hence the 10X name.
“They work closely with over 16,000 entrepreneurs from more than 60 industries and have evolved a complete, proven support system that has helped me to transform my business and quality of life,” Dunton says.
Beyond Abacus, Dunton has served as trustee for Second Baptist Church for 12 years and the Girls on the Run of Southwest Missouri board as treasurer for four years. And, at over 14 years, he’s the longest-standing board member of Gillioz Theatre.
As treasurer, he worked to regain lost tax credits for the historic downtown building and helped pull the Gillioz out of bankruptcy – a few years after the board led a $10 million rehabilitation to reopen the theater.
His personal community involvement didn’t always extend to the firm, however. That changed about seven years ago.
“I’m passionate about supporting entrepreneurial drive, passionate employees and good ideas – and a small group of committed staff members had them all. They asked to build a more considerable emphasis on community involvement in the firm,” he recalls. “I agreed, gave them a small budget and wished them luck, figuring it would be the end of it.”
That decision, Dunton says, changed the company culture for the better.
“I laugh now about my attitude when staff presented the idea, but I’m thankful I supported it,” he says.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May the all-items inflation index surged 8.6% over the past year, the highest increase since 1981.