When you need an accountant, you need someone who is meticulous, organized and regimented.
Tad Goodenbour, CPA and tax partner for BKD LLP, is nothing if not regimented and precise.
He runs six miles each morning at 4:30 a.m. and works seven days per week. By way of apology for being a workaholic, he says, “My clients know where to find me.”
Goodenbour grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, a town with “midwestern values.” His family attended a Lutheran church, where his mom played the organ. During high school, Goodenbour played the “usual” sports — football, basketball and baseball.
His chosen career path was not immediately obvious.
“Accounting is not exactly the first thing that pops into your mind,” he said.
It was during a high school accounting class he discovered a passion for order.
“It was so logical — debits and credits,” he said. “Now a lot of accounting is subjective with (changing) tax rules, but, originally, it was so black and white.”
He worked at a grocery store through high school and college, graduating from University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in accounting.
BKD is the 10th largest accounting firm in the U.S. An instructor at BKD’s national tax conference, Goodenbour was named one of the firm’s three technical experts in partnership and LLC taxation.
Goodenbour said his work ethic came from his mother.
After his father died, she went back to school while still teaching full-time and earned a doctoral degree.
“I will never forget her tenacity and will to live,” he said.
Goodenbour’s sister, Molly, is the head women’s basketball coach at University of California at Irvine, and his brother, Jay, lives in New Zealand.
He volunteers with Ecumenical Social Ministries, and he is treasurer and trustee of Silver Key Senior Services Foundation and trustee for El Paso Club and Silver Key Senior Services.
His philosophy about community service is simple — be an active member on boards, not a “nod your head once a month at a meeting” type.
Goodenbour said his biggest career break was the loyalty of clients when his mentor, Don McKenzie, died. “I was still a young CPA with not a lot of experience. They (McKenzie’s clients) knew my work ethic and (were loyal). That core group of clients gave me their confidence, which allowed me to have the critical mass of clients necessary to become a partner in a national firm.
“Accounting is about relationships,” Goodenbour said. “You’re not looked at as the accountant — you’re family. When they have family issues, they call me for advice.”
That could be because he attends weddings and funerals of clients’ family members. They know he’ll be there for them.
“Their appreciation is what drives me,” he said.
And the “really interesting part” of his job is the diversity of clients and sectors, he said.
“Last week I was in Lakin, Kansas, working with farmers and ranchers and their crops and cattle,” he said. “This week I’m dealing with casinos.”
And, contrary to CPA stereotypes, he doesn’t wear a suit and tie every day to work — sometimes he works with clients counting cows or steers.
“There’s an actual art to counting cattle,” Goodenbour said. Usually this involves driving a truck down the middle of a herd. The driver counts the cattle on the left as the passenger counts the cattle on the right — but those bovine critters have the audacity to move whenever they please. And ranchers have been known to take pleasure in “making the accountants look funny.”
“They drive city slickers around in a circle, so you count the same cattle twice — cows all look the same to accountants,” he said.
When Goodenbour visits western Kansas, he locks his car door, but not to keep thieves out.
It’s a precautionary measure, in case his farming clients should have the urge to place a coiled — albeit dead — rattlesnake in his car.
It’s all part of being treated like family.