BV hiring has grown stronger throughout 2011. The momentum we are seeing is the result…
John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker LLC
Business valuation happens all over the US, so it’s possible to take your career to a lot of different places. One of those places is Hawaii.
Before you break out the suntan lotion, however, it might be useful to hear from Ethan Lee, who successfully made the leap to a BV career in the Aloha State in July 2012.
Borrowman: How long had you been interested in getting to Hawaii? How did that interest get started?
Lee: My wife and I both went to school at BYU in Hawaii. We absolutely loved it and hated to leave the island. Coming out of school, there just weren’t many good career opportunities, especially in valuation and forensic accounting at the entry-level. So, I accepted a position with a national firm in the Los Angeles area that gave me that opportunity.
Borrowman: How did this Hawaii opportunity pop up for you?
Lee: Well, ever since my wife and I graduated we never let go of the idea of getting back to Hawaii. Both of my two younger brothers also went to school at BYU Hawaii, and were still living there. One of them had his own business and looked like he was going to stay. We had three sons, the oldest of which was in kindergarten. We were questioning where we wanted to settle and felt the tug to get closer to family.
The ball really started rolling when I flew out to help my brother with some accounting-related issues in his business. Before that trip, I had reached out to a senior-level practitioner to talk about the BV scene in Hawaii. He gave me a good rundown of what it was like, and invited me to meet him for lunch during my visit. He, in turn, invited two other BV professionals. One of them was Ed Kemp, who threw out the idea of my coming aboard to be his succession plan in his practice. We came to terms and the rest, as they say, is history.
Borrowman: What engagements do you see in your practice?
Lee: In the last year, we’ve done a lot of estate & gift valuations. The uncertainty about tax policy in 2012 made us so busy that much of the work got pushed into 2013. That backlog has slowed down and we’re now seeing more business planning valuations, as well as family law and litigation work.
Borrowman: How does that compare to your work previously?
Lee: On the mainland, my work was heavy litigation, usually involving forensic accounting and family law. My work here so far has been mostly non-litigated BV.
Borrowman: What was the hardest thing for you to get used to when you stepped into BV in Hawaii?
Lee: It was not so much about BV, itself, but about shifting from a large regional firm to a smaller practice. At the large firm, you have access to all the resources you need. At the smaller firm self-review is more critical, but you can still provide excellent service and reports.
Borrowman: Are there differences in the way you have to market your practice there?
Lee: You need to use basically the same strategies, but the culture of Hawaii makes a big difference. It’s difficult to go out and just make cold calls. You really need to have someone recommend you in order to have credibility. People are very family and community oriented, and they do business through those channels. They’re very cautious about doing business with someone from the mainland that just moves to Hawaii with no ties to the islands.
Borrowman: Have you run into that?
Lee: Not directly because I am working with Ed who has established a great reputation over the years. I also went to school out here and have family on island. However, you can tell that’s the case when you go out and meet with people. This has been confirmed by many of the networking contacts I’ve made. People do business with whomever they’ve been doing business with for years because that’s who their family or friends have been doing business with. That’s how business is done here.
Borrowman: How do you go about building a BV practice in Hawaii?
Lee: Once you have earned the trust of others, then that’s when more traditional marketing efforts can begin to pay off. The population of Hawaii is only 1,400,000 and almost two-thirds of them live on Oahu, where I am. There are only a handful of full-time BV practitioners.
Borrowman: And is that about what the market would support?
Lee: Yes, I think so.
Borrowman: And, therefore, anyone reading this interview should not be thinking about packing their bags and heading to Hawaii for a BV career.
Lee: That’s right. I have heard that many professionals out here have a protectionist attitude and are reluctant to refer business to anyone who just moves here seemingly for the weather.
You might be surprised to know where you can take your BV career. Contact us for a confidential conversation about your options (even if it’s not Hawaii).