There’s an old adage that advises that it’s not ideal to mix business with pleasure.
But some businessmen, like Derek Hiscox from Mills Holloway Insurance Agency, value business relationships rooted in professionalism, loyalty and friendship. And in today’s business environment, these types of partnerships are few and far between.
“When you work with someone for 32 years, it becomes much more than just a working relationship,” said Derek. “We consider our relationship with Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer to be a friendship on both a professional and personal level. This has been a great long-term partnership.”
Mills Holloway Insurance Agency is an independent insurance agency specializing in automobile, homeowners, recreational vehicles, life and commercial insurances. They have offices in Columbiana and Lisbon with clients in Columbiana and Mahoning counties and western Pennsylvania.
The company was founded in 1956 as Mills Insurance Agency, where Derek started his insurance career in 1982. Derek initially engaged with BWLK (then A.S. Fricano) in 1986 when Gene Byler from the firm began preparing his personal tax returns. Now, more than 30 years later, Byler is responsible for Derek’s personal taxes, partnership taxes and estate perpetuation planning.
In 2015, Byler and the BWLK team assisted Mills Insurance Agency with the sale of the business to Holloway Insurance in Columbiana. The current owners of the business are Sean, Jessica and Denny Holloway.
“We insure many contractors and farmers and have always received great feedback from our clients when referring them to BWLK for their accounting services,” said Derek. “I have always been cautious when referring my clients to other businesses for anything, but I have never hesitated to recommend BWLK to family, friends or clients.
“It gives me peace of mind to have the ability to discuss personal or business financial issues and potential tax concerns with Gene [Byler] and Rick [Lutsch]. We always receive great information and explanations with quick responses.”
When it comes to making purchases or hiring a company to complete a job, customers and clients seek quality work at a fair price, done in a reasonable amount of time. But perhaps even more importantly, consumers thirst for excellent customer service, which often seems hard to come by.
Whether it’s struggling to reach a live human when calling tech support or getting a rude response to your concern, good customer service is hard to find these days.
Brad Gilson, owner of Brad’s Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning, knows that the success of his business is built on the level of customer service he provides – especially in emergency situations. So when he needed to hire an accountant to handle his business affairs, he sought out a CPA firm known for its excellent customer service.
“The biggest thing I enjoy about my business is satisfying my customers,” said Gilson, whose company specializes in carpet cleaning, and fire and water restoration. “In my business, I get emergency calls from customers who need immediate attention, and I do my best to deliver results quickly.
“Dan [Wolfe] has been handling the accounting for my business for more than 10 years, and he does a fantastic job of customer service. His availability is above and beyond – I can reach him in the office or on his cell phone anytime I need something. I’ve referred him to anyone who has mentioned needing an accountant.”
Dan takes care of business taxes and consulting for both of Brad’s businesses – carpet restoration and property management. When the latter company was launched, Brad called Dan for advice on how to set it up and hired him to handle the accounting.
“He walked me through everything to make sure nothing got missed,” explained Brad. “I can call him anytime for his opinion before making any business decision. He is a great person and really responsive to any need I have. I couldn’t be happier with his work.”
To learn more about Brad's Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning, click here.
Cars and calculators.
Those are the two things that have captured Bob Martin’s attention the most during his 40-year professional career.
After spending the first two years of his career crunching numbers on his 10-key as an accountant at an accounting firm in northeast Ohio, the Kent State graduate shifted gears to join the family car business at Grand Ford.
Although he still dabbles in accounting by keeping the books at his car dealership in East Liverpool, Ohio, he had enough business sense to leave the most complicated accounting to the professionals at Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer.
“They are a reputable firm and we’ve never had a problem,” said Bob, who hired A.S. Fricano & Co. (the predecessor to BWLK) to do the dealership’s taxes more than 40 years ago. “Al [Fricano] was a friend of my father-in-law, who owned the dealership. They’ve always done a great job for us, so we’ve never had a reason to make a change.”
Shortly after Grand Ford retained the CPA firm to complete its annual business tax return, Dan Wolfe took over the account. Throughout the decades of service, Bob has relied on Dan for more than just the annual tax return. And, as an accountant in his early years, he knows quality work when he sees it.
Knowledgeable and Responsive
“Dan is very knowledgeable and does a great job for us,” said Bob, whose dealership will begin its 42nd year of business in 2016. “Through the years, he’s helped us with a variety of important accounting functions. He helped during our change from a C corporation to an S corporation, and he stepped right in to get us through an audit back in 1991.
“Having the support of a local firm like BWLK, and specifically Dan, gives us peace of mind and allows us to focus on running our business and making our customers happy. We know we can count on Dan whenever we need help with something.”
From Wolfe’s point of view, the Grand Ford account is much more than a typical client relationship. In some ways, he’s received just as much knowledge as he’s given.
“I have enjoyed the relationship - both business and personal - that Bob and I have had over the many years.” Said Wolfe. “I feel that I have learned a great deal from Bob about the automotive industry during our connection.
“I consider Bob Martin to be the consummate business professional, and I rank him at the top of the list for business ethics and consideration of his clients.”
About Grand Ford
Grand Ford, Inc. was started in 1974 by Anthony, Dom and Al Ludovici. Robert Martin joined the business in 1975 as the General Manager.
In 1990, there was a change in ownership with Anthony Ludovici and Robert and Linda Martin buying out the other partners. Robert Martin became President and Dealer Principal at that time.
Grand Ford is the oldest family owned dealership in the tri-state area.
The Miller family once enjoyed a strong relationship with its accountant, but service declined when his practice was acquired by a larger firm, George Miller recalls.
Fortunately for the family’s oil & gas business, the Millers found their way to a new accounting firm, Byler Wolfe Lutsch & Kampfer CPAs, Inc. As a result, they’re back to appreciating responsive accounting service and tax counsel.
“They [BWLK] have a full understanding of the oil and gas industry and how to maximize value from a tax and accounting standpoint,” said George, president of the company, William S. Miller Inc. in Kensington. “When we need them, they’re right on the spot.”
About William S. Miller Inc.
The company was established in 1983 by George’s father, William, primarily as a provider of services to companies that drilled oil and gas wells. Eventually, the company began drilling its own wells, and now manages 120 of them, primarily in Columbiana, Stark and Carroll counties but ranging throughout northeastern Ohio.
Miller’s wells reach the Clinton and shallower formations that have produced natural gas in Ohio for decades. The family is not engaged in larger-scale Utica and Marcellus shale drilling, but they do lease some land to deep-well drillers.
William is still part of the management team, now as chairman. Others include George’s brother Dave, vice president, and their sister Jane Todd, secretary-treasurer.
BWLK was referred to the Millers by the administrator of their company retirement plan. “He saw how frustrated we were” with the accounting firm serving the Millers and he knew BWLK principal Gene Byler, George said.
One of the best results of the BWLK relationship so far has been the shift of the company from a C corporation to an S corporation, Miller said. BWLK’s Gene Byler worked with the Millers’ lawyer to execute the transaction, which created tax savings and efficiency.
The change made sense because of the variety of assets and revenue streams in the business, including equipment, oil and gas assets and royalty income, George said.
“The transition put us right where we need to be,” he said.
Although revenue in the oil and gas industry suffers when prices are low, the Millers are accustomed to the ups and down of the business.
Moreover, they continue to benefit from the transition they made years ago from primarily servicing drilling companies to drilling and managing their own wells. In pricing downturns, drilling dries up and so does service work.
“But wells still do generate some income,” George pointed out. “You just tighten down the hatch again. The prices will come back.”
Shortly after buying out a partner last year, Green Valley Seed President Jeff Hum made another big business decision: He changed accounting firms.
Since then, he says, he has been impressed by the upgraded service he enjoys from Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer.
“We worked with a larger firm, but the primary people working on our business were junior people,” said Jeff (pictured). “Now, we have a senior person looking at our taxes line by line and understanding our business better than any of our previous accountants ever did.”
About Green Valley
Jeff is now the majority owner of Green Valley Seed, based at 7472 W. Akron-Canfield Road, Canfield, and his son Bryan owns a minority share. Opened in 1966, Green Valley sells and delivers grass seed, as well as fertilizer, hydromulch and erosion control products, throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Much of the reclamation work on pipeline and drilling projects throughout the Utica Shale play has sourced Green Valley products. Last year, the company opened a warehouse in Cadiz, Ohio, to capitalize on that business and wound up posting a record year.
More support at tax time
Jeff had been a part-owner of Green Valley since the 1990s and always had significant involvement with its accountants.
When tax time approached, the old firm sent personnel to download business information and review a set of questions. Then they would compile tax returns for a senior partner to review and finalize.
Now, Jeff works directly with Gene Byler, a partner at BWLK and head of its tax division.
“Gene told me up front that he would be the guy doing our taxes, and he goes over things line by line,” Jeff said. “He doesn’t just look at those figures, he’s actually thinking about how they affect our business and what recommendations he can give us to reduce our taxes.
“Most of our accountants in the past never knew our business. But that’s not the case with him … he understands my business a lot more than the other firm ever did.”
BWLK has also provided fast and good advice about decisions, including recent ones on whether to buy or lease equipment and how to manage a huge receivable.
“I don’t have time to go out and research,” Jeff said. “Gene has a lot of knowledge and deals with a wide array of companies, and his expertise saves me time.”
Jeff heard about BWLK from two business owners he knows who were happy with its service. He said he would recommend the firm to other business owners.