KBH Chartered Professional Accountants is celebrating 40 years. At this milestone, the now-retired founders look back at how it all began and how the decisions they made then set the course of KBH’s future.
In 1981, Ken Kouri was four-and-a-half years into a partnership with an accounting firm, but he saw himself going in a different direction.
“To be blunt, that firm was falling apart,” Kouri says. “My best option was to leave. I said to myself, what was I going to do? I was 30 and came from an entrepreneurial family and I knew accounting, so I decided to go into business on my own.”
Kouri shared this information with his friend David Berezan and his wife over dinner. Berezan casually said, “Do you have room for me?”
“I laughed and we went home,” Kouri admits, “but then I thought, ‘hey, was he serious?’ I called him the next day to ask and he said, ‘Yes. I’m getting ready to leave this place and set up on my own too.’ So, I said, okay let’s talk.”
Now the upcoming firm had two members, and both knew there was a piece of the puzzle still missing.
“One of the things in accounting I can’t stand is tax work!” laughs Kouri. “So, I called up John Heinrichs and said, ‘would you do consulting for a small firm?’ Heinrichs said, ‘yes,’ but a week later he called back saying, ‘I know where you can get a good tax man. Me! I’m thinking of moving on and I’d like to join you.’”
“Just like that there were three of us, and Kathy. She was our receptionist, secretary, and assistant,” smiles Kouri. “So, we all said, let’s get to work.”
The founders saw the company continue to grow up to, and after, their retirements but among the growth, there were challenges.
In 2003, a fire ripped through their building. Their offices were destroyed and what wasn’t burned was damaged by smoke and water. However, luck was on their side. The file room with all their clients’ information was smoke damaged, but the files were able to be cleaned and used.
“For several years after that when I came home my kids would sniff and say, ‘you were working on an old file weren’t you?’” laughs Kouri.
Even though their paper records were smoke damaged, KBH had been an early adopter of technology. Approximately 70 per cent of their data had already been computerized and backed up. Their IT team restored their files, and the firm was operational again in a temporary location just two days later.
Berezan, who had a career in accounting that saw him travelling across the western provinces and into the states, says KBH’s success can be attributed largely to hard work.
“We just did the work. We kept going. We worked long hours,” says Berezan. “Hard work was a value from day one.”
He continues, “When we started, I brought in some clients and we expanded geographically too, such as in Saskatchewan and our work in the U.S. markets.”
Berezan cites the American work and the courses he was able to take to continually fuel his knowledge as career highlights.
“From my standpoint, we started with three people but no matter the size and resources of the firm we set out to see our clients. We spent time with them to help them plan for their futures. We connected and built relationships. We were loyal to our clients and as we grew, we never lost that loyalty. We saw other firms grow and collapse, but we never did. I have always enjoyed the people side of the business. I enjoyed the job and working with John and Ken.”
Heinrichs was the youngest of the founders. He says, “Even though I was the least experienced among them, I brought the ability of the firm to do tax work in-house. That was one of the unique things about our practice. For a small firm we didn’t have to farm out our tax work or leave it to lawyers.”
Heinrichs was happy to help found KBH because not only did he resonate and was familiar with the other two founders – they were all from Saskatchewan – he didn’t see a partnership happening with the firm he was with at the time and liked that he could be an equal partner with his friends.
“A milestone for me,” Heinrichs continues, “was getting our first computer. It was about three feet high, two feet deep and two feet wide. It cost $50,000 and couldn’t do then what your smartphone can do now! Another highlight was when we added Ward, our first partner. As the years went on, we added more. That is one of the truly nice things about the firm – how many of the partners are people that actually articled with us.”
What started with three accounting professionals is now a thriving firm with a dozen partners and more than 50 team members. Business advisory, accounting and audit, tax planning, wealth planning, and more are offered from experienced, dedicated professionals.
Perhaps the success of the firm can be summed up in a story that resonates strongly with all three founders.
There was a client that had been with KBH since day one. His firm grew to the point where he was able to sell it to a larger interest. Now that client had a national firm and plenty of resources behind it, but they remained with KBH. As the years went on that client diversified into a group of companies and continues to enjoy a large market presence and rapid sustainable growth. That company remains with KBH. When you care about your clients the way KBH does, those clients remain loyal to the firm that supports their journey.
The founders conclude, “We were always willing to get down to business and get the work done. Roll up your sleeves and treat the customers the way you want to be treated. The key to our success was simply going to work.”
As the founders reminisce, the current partners are excited to look forward.
“KBH is the accounting and advisory firm that the founding partners set out to establish,” say the partners. “We are leaders in the industry and strive for a one-of-a-kind experience for our clients and our team. With clients we start with ‘right now,’ then look at where they want to be in the future and plan how we can get there. We meet on a regular basis to ensure progress towards the goal. Our diverse team stands by your side through your whole journey from start-up to succession/sale.”
The partners continue, “Our office is inclusive, whether that is assistance with establishing funding that may be more difficult to attain for some, or ensuring your child is taken care of during meetings. We have toys and activities to help kids stay occupied. Some of our rooms have glass walls that kids can colour on. If a parent needs to pause the meeting to tend to their child, that’s OK too.”
The partners are grateful to the team, clients and community, including, “numerous lawyers, investment advisors, lenders and more. Their support has been instrumental in our growth.”
Here’s a snapshot of KBH’s evolution:
KBH was founded on June 1, 1981. During the 1990s, “Luggables,” the firm’s first portable computer, joined the team. The Provost office opened on January 1, 1990, the first of many acquisitions to come. In the early 1990’s the first articling students were hired and KBH decided it would be an official training office for CA students.
Ward Thompson became the fourth partner in 1994. KBH established two awards in 2001: Outstanding Facilitator and Outstanding Professor for the Chartered Accountants School of Business. The year 2003 was pivotal as it was the year of the fire and the retirement of KBH’s longest standing employee. The firm was quick to bounce back and by 2006 added its first two female partners, Mohini Kumar and Louise Chauvet. The growth also meant a move to a larger space in 2007 and the progression to a paperless firm. That year, Shabir Ladha and Karen Masuda, were promoted to partner.
Ken Kouri retired in 2008, and Chireen Chick was added as a partner. KBH joined Allinial Global, an association of independent accounting firms, in 2009.
As KBH celebrated 30 years in 2011, Chris Pfliger became a partner. Next year KBH moved again to a larger office. The last remaining founding partners retired in 2013 and the following year the name Kouri Berezen Heinrichs rebranded to KBH . In 2015, Tony Edgington and Aman Perhar became partners.
KBH Wealth Planning was added as a new service in 2016. One year later , KBH was proud to become a founding member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Edmonton.
Derek Schultz became a partner in 2019. Despite adapting to working from home and virtual meetings through 2020, growth continued, and in 2021 Jenn Miller and Lucas Heath were added as the firm’s 11th and 12th partners.
KBH is grateful to have weathered fires, recessions and a pandemic and still be going strong after 40 action-packed years. With a legacy set by three hardworking founders and a lifetime of support for businesses across Western Canada and into the U.S., KBH is the professional accounting firm you can rely on to help you succeed.