July 13

Episode 130: Building Lasting Businesses: Unleashing the Power of Teams and Dreams


In today’s episode, Mike O’Neill sits down with Tim Kenny, founder of Kenny and Kenny, a family CPA firm. Tim shares valuable insights on building businesses that last and the importance of prioritizing long-term success.

Tim’s expertise lies in working with owners and management to create thriving businesses that work for them. He emphasizes the significance of embracing a long-term mindset and putting the team first. Through his experience, he has seen the transformative power of becoming a trusted advisor rather than just a transactional service provider.

Join this conversation to learn how to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, create custom business models aligned with your goals, and build a team that drives success. Don’t miss out on Tim’s wisdom and practical tips!

Tim Kenny’s Bio

CPA, CMA, CVA, and Certified Profit First Professional at Kenny & Kenny, PC

At this stage of my career, I am interested in helping clients achieve next level results and their personal and business dreams. The professionals that I work with do an incredible job. We love working together and getting customer results.

In This Episode…

  • Discover the importance of prioritizing long-term goals over short-term gains in business.
  • Learn how working with a trusted advisor can help navigate the challenges of running a business.
  • Understand the value of building a strong team and putting them first in order to achieve success.
  • Explore the shift from transactional relationships to becoming a trusted advisor for clients.
  • Gain insights into creating custom business models that align with personal goals and aspirations.
  • Realize the significance of falling in love with your business and creating a positive work environment.

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and we help companies solve the nagging people problems that are slowing their growth, the most common people problems being high turnover. Joining me today is Tim Kenny. Tim runs a family CPA firm called Kenny and Kenny.

They work with owners and management to build businesses that work for them. I've asked Tim to elaborate on the importance of foregoing the short term for the long term. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Kenny: Hey, thank you Mike. Appreciate being here and looking forward to our time together.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I am as well. There are several reasons why I wanted to have you on the podcast.

Let me just share those with you and with our listeners. Namely that you joined a firm that was started by your father. You're providing CPA and accounting services to clients. But I also picked up on some other things that kind of gives me the sense that the approach that, that your firm takes. It's different than most, and I would like to explore that a little bit.

But as a starting point, you joined an existing practice. Did you think when you were in high school that you would be working with your dad as long as you have?

Tim Kenny: I did not, no. I went to college in pre-med, so it was not on the radar at all.

Mike O'Neill: So what is it about, you went in thinking you're gonna be pre-med and you came out an accountant.

Was your father happy or disappointed?

Tim Kenny: So when, when I came out as an accountant, I think he was happy and I, I started my career at Pricewaterhouse and then when I, when I decided that I wanted to try small business or privately held business accounting. He tried to talk me out of it.

Mike O'Neill: What was he saying then?

That obviously didn't work, but what was he saying then to try to talk you out of it?

Tim Kenny: I think he was saying that this is not, this is not something that is an automatic, it's not, I mean, we, it's a, it's a tough, grinding job and profession at this level. So I don't want it to jeopardize our relationship.

So I think it was more of I, I don't wanna risk what we have together as father and son. And I said, don't worry about it. I appreciate the warning. Let's go.

Mike O'Neill: I am intrigued by what you just. Shared you were working for a very reputable firm good company, great reputation. If you had stuck with that, you would probably have been on a kind of a partner track.

How long did you do that before you left a, a big firm like that and joined your father?

Tim Kenny: Two years, two years in, in audit.

Mike O'Neill: In two years time, did you conclude that that just was not for you? Or did you feel a tug that was maybe beyond that?

Tim Kenny: Well, it, we were, we were auditing Fortune 500 companies and you know, I was just doing a really small piece of the whole pie and that wasn't really kind of motivating me and driving me and I thought, Before I completely exit the accounting business, let me try to work with smaller businesses and their teams and owners.

And so that's, that's how I ended up pursuing joining my father's firm.

Mike O'Neill: I've fallen this line of questioning in part Tim, because I had the opportunity right out of college to go to work for a privately held family run business. That business grew. It grew fast. Over time, that organization grew into Fortune 500 size.

It was literally Fortune 500. Ironically, I left that company to go work for another small family owned, fast growing business, and low and behold, they too. Now, I would like to think it's all because of me, but I just timed it right.

Tim Kenny: It must be it. It has to be.

Mike O'Neill: But I was, I was leading HR for a family owned business, and I gain an appreciation for the challenges of family working together.

And I also gain appreciation for what it takes to survive. When you are growing fast, you made a choice to leave a secure consulting role with a major organization working primarily with Fortune 500 to now working with small to mid-sized businesses. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a switch?

Tim Kenny: Well, I mean, it's been so long since I made that move. I think I am, the advantages are clearer of working with, with a smaller sized accounting firm from the standpoint that you're able to impact greatly. That business you're able to participate and, and, and help create businesses that last, you're, you're, you know, I, we've, we've transitioned more into advisors and consultants. So we are truly working on business models usually and working with the owners to to create, to create great businesses. Now, please forgive my, that's very, that's very, that's very satisfying.

Mike O'Neill: I can understand why I was about to ask for your forgiveness by how I'm about to ask this question as a non accountant. As I've talked to other accountants, what I'm learning is a lot of the tax services have become almost transactional, whereas it sounds as if your firm, Kenny and Kenny has kind of migrated less transactional and more relationship based where you're seen as advisors.

Am I understanding that correctly?

Tim Kenny: You are. You are. I, I refer to the tax, the accounting as more kind of the commodity. You know, it, you can, you can get that anywhere. The, the connection, the independent advisor, which is what we are with our clients. That is, that is unique. That is the glue. We're operating as a partner without equity.

You know, and, and our, our sole aim is to help the owner and help the team create awesome businesses. One that all of the stakeholders are served well. Everyone always thinks of the customer with the business, but. Probably more important is the team and you coming at it from an HR background, I'm sure you know, I'm preaching to the choir there.

And I. You know, just how we started this and you talked about how, you know, coincidentally, these companies turned into Fortune 500 companies in your role was in HR. I would say that you probably had a pretty, pretty big hand in those companies achieving that level of success. That's, that's what I see.

And you know, like, When we, when we first met, we talked a little bit about short-term, long-term. I think most business owners will think short-term and that really constricts them in a short term type mindset when it comes to the three stakeholders, is customer first, especially at the small business level.

I got to make that next sale. I got to serve the next customer. And you know, if there's a team member casualty, well, you know, this is, this is work. You know, deal with it. I think a long-term mindset is my most valuable resource is my team. So team comes first, then the customer and the owner last.

There's a book Simon Sinek wrote you know, Leaders Eat Last. I think it's, you know, like, and he's come up, come out with some, some other great stuff like Infinite Game and you know, that stuff just kind of gets me going. Recently I rediscovered the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and it's just, you know, it, it's, it's been amazing. Been amazing.

Mike O'Neill: I'm smiling right now. I, as you know, I'm a coach. I'm executive coach. But I have a coach and just before we started recording this, I shared with my coach that I keep the seven habits in front of me. I was introduced to those seven habits early in my career, and it has stuck with me all those years.

You know, when we're talking about choosing to work with small to midsize companies. Versus perhaps Fortune 500. I love working with the decision makers. It might be the owners, it might be the key leaders. But one of the things that drew me to you, Tim, is something that I don't think is just a tagline, but on your website, you, you have here, you do not have to go it alone.

We are your partners without equity, and I love everything about that. But let's start with that first part. You do not have to go it alone. Owning a business, being a leader can be lonely. You include that in what you describe on that. Do you find that your clients, particularly if you're a business owner, it can be lonely?

Tim Kenny: Yeah. I, I think a lot of times owners can approach it. It's me against the world. You know, and, and Who am I gonna talk to? I, you know, like, I can't, I can't share my finances with my team and, you know, I, I, I know I need some help, but I don't know who to ask. And, you know, that's where we come in and with, with most of our clients.

And, and that's the role we fill. We're, we're the, you know, we're with them, we're with them side by side, and, and I hope that, If, if you asked any of my clients, they'd say, well, you know, I can count on Tim. He's gonna be there. I can count on his team to always be there as well. And and I really feel like it's not just me as the owner against everyone, but I have trusted advisors that I know I can count on.

Mike O'Neill: As you're describing this, Tim, what kind of went through my mind is you're referencing owners or leaders should eat last, but you're talking about the importance of the team. It sounds to me that the folks that you've assembled at Kenny and Kenny view their clients as their part of their of the team, if you would, they look to y'all as an extension of their own team because you understand them.

You're guiding them, you're trying to help them achieve what they're trying to achieve. It kind of begs another question for you, and that is you shared with me that listening is very, very important and you strike me as an excellent listener, but you listen to kind of understand what the owner's personal goals might be and what constitutes financial fulfillment.

Those are kind of evasive concepts. They might would think, oh, he, Tim's and his team are only here to talk about the numbers, but it sounds as if you go far beyond just the numbers. Is that a, does that make sense? Am am I understanding? The approach that y'all take correctly.

Tim Kenny: You, you are and, and I think, I think, you know, at the end of the day, as an advisor, we've got to, we've, we've got to eat our own cooking.

And so I think probably, you know, one of the best examples is kind of like our approach. I mean, we're, we, we could just keep expanding and expanding, but. That doesn't really serve my team. My core team, my core team appreciates the family aspect of our business. My team, you know, appreciates the opportunity to, you know, make a good living work with people that we like.

And so, I mean that that is, that has kind of kept us, you know, around 10 professionals, like for the last 30 years, you know? And. I, I think some, you may, some may say, well, you guys are underachieving because you should be a lot bigger. You should be at a hundred. And, you know, at the end of the day, I think the, the key people would say, no, this is this pretty darn good.

We've, we've been able to raise families and be there for everything. We work with team members that have our backs. We enjoy the customers that we serve. And so, so that's the case. So kind of like taking it to how we approach our clients. It's not just about like, all right, how can we squeeze, you know, more gross profit?

How can we. How can we just kind of blow this thing out and go from 10 employees to a hundred? No. It's taking time on the front end to understand who the owner and or owners are, figuring out what's important to them. And ideally getting to know their team a little bit as well. And then digging in to come up with the business model, how that business is gonna financially make money.

And so the owner has the expertise on themselves, their industry. We have the financial expertise. The idea is we can create a custom business model that suits them very well.

Mike O'Neill: You know, as you're describing this something else that I kind of picked up on some of the material that you have on your website, but this resonated with me and I think it will with our listeners, but it reads, every individual has been given a unique set of gifts and talents.

Everyone's dreams are important. They have what they need to achieve them. Our goal is to help you build a roadmap to best use your gifts, talents, and available resources to achieve your dreams. There's no reference to money or profit in that statement. You're helping them achieve dreams. When people start businesses, they probably dream big.

At least in my experience, often those dreams get kind of pushed aside with just the every day. Do you find that the clients that you're attracted to, that you do business with, do y'all, do you have a sense of what those dreams are in, in your work with the clients? Do you get that intimate with your clients?

Tim Kenny: We do. We do. We start out with with a planning session where we. We spend time to get, to get to know them and, and what their dreams are. And over time, those dreams can change. Could even be, you know, their, their needs change. And so, you know, they know that we know them and their business. So we're pretty much a first phone call.

And we've, we work through What the, what the dream or crisis at hand is. A lot of times we know they're team members, so, you know, I, I'm, I, I, I enjoy people. I, I'm happy to, to be a, be a liaison for the business owner and a team member.

Mike O'Neill: This might be a, an expression that's just real common, but when you just said the first phone call, That says to me, that's a sign of the relationship that the first person they think of are, are our friends over at Kenny and Kenny?

Let me call Tim on this. Maybe that first phone call is in all the business books. I haven't seen it, but I love the concept that you are essentially speed dial because you are seen as part of them. I mean, I love kind of where this is going. One of the reasons I was interested in having you as a guest is that you could speak not only from the perspective of, of how you help your clients, but you're also a business owner, and what you've shared is as a business owner, that you and the team have decided bigger may not necessarily be better, and to stay true to them and to what sounds like it's kind of your own.

Core values as an organization, you've made a, a conscious decision of who you wanna work with, how you wanna work with, with them. And as a, as a business owner, it strikes me as that shows maybe a degree of maturity.

Tim Kenny: Yeah. And, and, and I would say that, you know, we're. We're open to change. So we are, you know, it's not like, you know, like we settled on that, that that was how we've, you know, how we've operated, you know, for, for my tenure, the last, you know, 30 plus years.

But you know, we're, we're open to growing, you know, recently we had a, a 22 year employee decide to take another position and kind of pursue another avenue. But you know, that can be very disruptive when you, you lose, you know, someone that is, has been a core team member. But you know, it's a, again, you know, it's a family environment, so you're.

You're, you just wanna make sure, hey, is this what you want? And once you are sure that that's what they want, then you know, it's what can we do to help this? Move to the next and. When you, when you take that approach, that's a long-term approach. That's sort of like an unconditional love type approach versus a conditional, and that's, you know, like where you're walking side by side with team members, with clients and it's not a transaction.

And so in that case, You know, we, we, we've sort of retained, you know, that talent to smooth the transition. So it's a two-way street, you know, and, and you know, like to get back to the great Stephen Covey win-win, you know, all the way.

Mike O'Neill: In your 30 years with this firm, you probably have countless examples you could cite.

But when you think of. Situations where perhaps either you or a client got stuck. What did it take to get unstuck?

Tim Kenny: It, it took, it took time and dedication on the client's part. It took them doing the small things. And, and one that comes to mind is You know, a group therapy practice owner who had a partner, the partner left. And left, left my client with debt. And with with a, you know, cashflow mess.

And we, we worked over five years. To rebuild the cash flow, create a business that was, wasn't one that she felt like she had to run from when we first like embarked on this journey, but one that she loved and she was able to sell it pursue her dream of being a professional speaker. And you know, it's, it brings a smile to my face every time I think of, think of her.

Mike O'Neill: I love this concept of owning a business that you love. I unfortunately encounter folks who have businesses or lead businesses that it becomes something very different than that. It becomes a burden, and when you can help your client get to the point where that love comes through, that really actually helps the.

The value of the business when she sold the business, because she's speaking from, it's her baby. But she's pursuing maybe even a different dream. And through patience, through perseverance, working with y'all over a period of years, you got her to the point where she could pursue that very different dream.

That's got to be a very gratifying

Tim Kenny: Yeah, no, for sure. We, we, we get a lot of. A lot of new clients who are trying to run from their business, they, the business is sucking the life out of them. You know, in a, in a small business, it's just what is, what is the next shoe to drop? And it, it's, There's no guarantee.

You've got to get up and, you know, you, you a lot of, lot of the small businesses eat what they kill. So they're on the, they're on the planes and, you know, they've got to, they, they've got to, they've got to hustle. And so when someone comes to me to help them exit a business or comes to our firm, say, whoa, slow down.

This, this is gonna probably take some time. And my ultimate goal, because I can't guarantee when you're gonna be able to exit this for the number that you want you, my goal is to have you fall in love with your business so you don't wanna sell. And ultimately, if we're successful, Kenny and Kenny as a firm working with that client, That is the finished product, and someone comes in and says, wow, you're having so much fun in your business.

Your cashflow is awesome. Why wouldn't I wanna buy your business and step into your shoes? That's a successful engagement.

Mike O'Neill: I think that's a perfect illustration of a successful engagement in every sense of the word. You know, Tim, we've been chatting about a pretty wide variety of topics. As regular listeners know this is an unscripted conversation, didn't know whether it was going to go, but as you kind of reflect on what we've discussed, what do you want our listeners to have as takeaways?

Tim Kenny: I would say, you know, the main takeaway is that your team members are resources. The most valuable resource that you have. And that you need to take care of them. You, you got, you know, how you take care of your team members is gonna drive how your customers are taken care of, and it's ultimately gonna drive the success of your business from your customer standpoint and then from you as an owner.

Mike O'Neill: That's great guidance, Tim, as people have been listening or watching this episode, if they want to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Tim Kenny: Best way, our website, you can book a meeting.

Mike O'Neill: And that website address is?

Tim Kenny: kennycpa.com. K E N N Y cpa.com.

Mike O'Neill: That's kennycpa.com and I've been spending time with Tim Kenny. Tim, thank you for sharing your insights a little bit about your journey over the last three decades. Thank you again very much for your willing to do so.

Tim Kenny: My, my pleasure, Mike. Just like the first time I met you, I felt like we could, we could hang out for an afternoon and talk away, so it's been fun.

Mike O'Neill: I felt the same and I'd be remiss if I also didn't thank our listeners for joining us today. And if you'd like to subscribe to this podcast, it's real simple, just go to your browser and type in Unstuck Show. And while you're there, you can also subscribe to our weekly management blog we call the Bottom Line. So if you're trying to grow your business, but it's those people problems that have slowed you down, let's talk.

Let me invite you to head over to bench-builders.com and schedule a call that way. So I wanna thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips from Tim that will help you get unstuck and on target. Until next time. 

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