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Johns chooses to keep Andersen fires burning

WHEN former Andersen tax partner Keith Johns received his formal job offer from Ernst & Young last year, he saw that he had two choices.

He could pursue the safe and steady option of staying with a major accounting firm, or go out on his own.

“The offer to go to EY financially was very attractive,” Mr Johns said.

“The alternative was to pursue my passion and vision, with no guarantees. Going out on my own was the Andersen way.”

Mr Johns opened his new business, boutique tax consultancy KD Johns & Co, last June, with financial backing from listed investment company Australian Heritage Group.

The business has enjoyed rapid growth, with staff numbers rising from four at the opening to 13 currently.

“When we look back at the business plan we are three times ahead of where we thought we’d be,” Mr Johns said.

While KD Johns & Co may not have the Andersen name, it has clearly retained much of the Andersen culture.

“The Andersen spirit has been kept alive here,” said Mr Johns, who remains intensely proud of his old firm.

The links with Andersen apply in several ways, some obvious, some subtle.

The 13 staff at KD Johns & Co include 10 former Andersen people, such as director Martina Crowley, senior tax manager Marc Worley and supervisor Cara Nichols.

Another link applies interstate and inter-nationally, where Mr Johns is able to tap into a network of like-minded firms run by former Andersen people.

Mr Johns’ business premises, in a grand old West Perth mansion, have even become a popular meeting spot when former Andersen people gather for social drinks.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr Johns remains very proud of the values and spirit that he believes made Andersen a great firm – values that were built around highly talented, energetic people who strived for excellence.

“One of my aims was to build a firm that would provide opportunities for Andersen people,” Mr Johns said.

He even cites the Andersen link when describing KD Johns & Co’s service proposition.

“We are applying Andersen technology in the local market at local rates,” Mr Johns said.

He believes his target market – private companies, mid-cap public companies and high net worth individuals – are overcharged and under serviced by the big firms.

A number of former Andersen clients followed Mr Johns to his new firm but he said new clients accounted for two thirds of the growth.

Looking ahead, Mr Johns expects the debate over audit independence to boost the growth of his firm.

“We offer companies a chance to separate their tax accounting from their audit work,” he said.

As well as the core client work, Mr Johns sees tax consulting services for small accounting firms as another growth area for the business.

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