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Randall S. Davis had every intention of developing his accounting skills and then starting his own business. But those plans changed during his senior year in college when he interviewed with Daniel Dennis.
After talking with Dennis during their meeting, Davis said he was struck by Dennis’ commitment to developing his staff and giving opportunities to African Americans. So when Davis was offered a job with Dennis, Davis reported to work almost the day after he graduated from St. Joseph’s College of Maine in May 1985.
“Dan was very influential in my development,” Davis said. “He taught me the business and how to do business in Boston. But if there was one thing that Dan taught me, more than anything else, was to always strive for excellence. Always.”
Indeed, Dennis was influential. A 1970 graduate of Harvard Business School, he died in February from complications of pancreatic cancer but not before building one of the most successful black-owned accounting firms in New England.
Daniel Dennis & Company LLP, a certified public accounting firm that provides both financial and management consulting services, was founded in 1981 in Boston with one partner and five or six employees. It has since grown to seven partners and about 30 staff members. About 25 of them are CPAs.
Michael O’Neil, a partner, worked with Dennis for more than 30 years and said he was a visionary from his early career.
“He put together a firm that is unique in a lot of different ways,’’ O’Neil said in a published report. “He was a big advocate of the diversity that the firm was built on…[and took pride in] seeing people’s potential and trying to give them the tools . . . to accomplish their goals, whatever they were.’’
In a sense, Dennis’ legacy can be found in accountants like Davis. He is now a partner in the firm that counts as its clients: nonprofit; human service providers; residential and commercial real estate companies; government entities such as the MBTA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Boston; insurance and financial organizations, pension plans and others.
Their services include: financial forecasts and projections; cash flow and budgeting analysis; tax planning and preparation; and business consulting.
Davis said that Dennis was most proud of his company’s diversified staff and client base.
“Dan had a reputation for treating people with respect, regardless of whether they were clients or staff,” Davis said. “He never compromised his integrity or sacrificed his principles. He liked to compare his service to brands of cars. If a client only wanted the services of a Volkswagen, Dan still gave them the services of a Bentley.”
That corporate ethos is spelled out on the company’s website.
“Since our formation,” the website states, “… [we have] developed a reputation of providing quality services at competitive fees to our clients. We believe in the value of these relationships. We view every client relationship like a partnership, and truly believe that our success is a result of their success.”
The commitment extends to staff at the company. “We have developed a work environment that provides our staff with the professional skills needed to serve our clients,” the website states, “… This environment has produced every partner that the firm has promoted since its establishment in 1981.”
As one of the partners, Davis said he too is committed not only to providing excellent client services but also to developing African American accountants.
Originally from the Caribbean island St. Thomas, Davis readily admits that accounting is not the most glamorous of professions. He became interested in the field when he found one of his mother’s accounting textbooks in their home.
“I liked to read a lot,” Davis said. “And my mother had taken a few accounting courses and kept the books in the house. I picked them up one day and thought to myself, ‘I want to go into business.’”
While in college, Davis was trying to decide his major course of study and chose accounting. “Not only did I like it,” Davis said. “But I became pretty good at it.”
But Davis also had a goal. “I wanted to be my own boss,” he said. “That was always one of the things that I had wanted to accomplish: build my knowledge base and then hang up my own shingle.”
After 15 years at Dennis & Co., Davis said he doesn’t regret not starting his own company.
As it is now, Davis said the company has weathered the recent Great Recession and has developed a five-year plan that calls for annual growth in sales of between 5 and 8 percent. So far, Davis said, the company is on course.
“There’s been no drop off in business since Dan’s passing,” Davis said. “He left a good legacy.”
That is also in writing. “It is our intention, the website proclaims, “to carry on in his name and conduct the firm’s business using the same high quality standards and ethical principles that [were] instilled in our firm since its inception.”
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