We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennis Duban and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dennis, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
There were several components of my decision to start my own business. During High School and college I discovered my interest in accounting and taxes. I had always enjoyed figures and early on considered being a mathematics teacher but I also wanted to be in business so I studied accounting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not many people end up with a passion for accounting but for me it was finite, if you did your work correctly then typically everything “balanced” and when I realized how useful accounting could be in terms of helping people understand how their business was doing and also how important income taxes were to retaining as much of ones income as possible, I had no doubt that this was to be my profession. I excelled at school by studying intensely and staying focused and then upon graduation I was able to go to work for a large international accounting firm and hoped that someday I would make “partner”.
About 5 years in I realized that the accounting world I had signed up for was designed for a certain type of individual if one wanted to make partner. Typically that would mean a white, straight male who was married, played golf or basketball and fit a very specific mold. Yes, there were some rare exceptions and yes, this was the 1970’s and many things have changed since then, but as a gay male, regardless of my talent, it was doubtful “partner” would be in my future.
Additionally, even though a partner is technically a co-owner in a CPA firm, having thousands of co-partners did not seem like it was going to feel like I owned my business. Lastly, I realized that the difference between my hourly billing rate and my (hourly) salary was so great, that even if I billed, on my own, only a few hours per month at standard CPA billings rates at the time, I would make a lot more money being on my own than as part of a company where a significant portion of my billings were paying for retired partner salaries; overhead that I might not consider necessary and expenses over which I had no control. So, I guess it was the ability to be who I was, earn a lot more money and be in control of my destiny that let me go “go out on my own” as they say. That is when I formed what was a pretty small firm, Dennis Duban, CPA.
What should our readers know about your business?
We are a boutique Los Angeles CPA firm with a very loyal clientele and a few dozen employees that are like family. I believe that one if the ways in which we differentiate ourselves is that we truly care about each and every client. We make sure that they know this and that it is obvious from our work, our communication and our commitment.
We have always said that it is extremely important that the client be assured that we can handle the task at hand and that everything in the end “will be okay”. Money is a stressful topic for most people and taxes are often frightening. It is up to us to handle the pieces of these puzzles so that the clients understand their situation, see the options, opportunities and realize that they have choices along the way.
We can guide them and show them the possible outcomes, but we must advise them while understanding their goals and motivations. I think that our connection with our clients is one of our major strengths.
Over the years we have realized that because so many areas of finances and wealth building are interrelated, we did not want to practice taxes or accounting in a vacuum. So, I think my most important accomplishment would be the idea to vertically integrate so many facets of finances into one purpose driven group of companies that can handle business management, accounting, taxes, investment advisory services and capital management, real estate brokerage sales and acquisitions, property management and mortgages. By providing each one of these services from the same location, it is actually called the Dennis Duban Building now, with all these trusted advisors under one roof, sharing similar philosophies and ethical standards, we are able to know that the client is receiving the best possible advice from professionals that know all of his or her financial life components intimately and can give a holistic solution to income, wealth building, retirement and estate planning.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Living in Los Angeles gives one an opportunity to experience an incredible range of opportunities. And we often brag that in Southern California can you get from the beach to the snow to the desert all in a matter of hours. I think I would start at the ocean and provide a taste of Malibu and Santa Monica, as that is what I am most familiar with. The restaurants would need to be on the water or with a water view (Geoffrey’s in Malibu; Malibu Beach Inn at Carbon Beach) staying at hotels like Casa Del Mar or Shutters and having drinks at the top of the Huntley.
Then perhaps a drive to Lake Arrowhead and or BIg Bear to enjoy the coolness (or snow depending upon the time of year) and then off to the desert, visiting Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Indian wells (with a side trip to Joshua tree ) to enjoy the dry desert air and fine dining like Wallys, Las Casuelas Nuevas, Maestros and an infinite selection of golf courses. A trip on the Palm Springs tramway is a must as is a tour of the Annenberg estate Sunnylands, and the Living Desert Reserve.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I truly owe my success to so many members of my family. My parents stressed the importance of a great education and working hard at every subject. They made sure that I was able to focus on school work and encouraged me to pursue subjects (mathematics; accounting, etc) that I truly enjoyed.
My sister Helene was there at the formation and inception of my firm and stayed with me her entire adult life, growing my business, supporting me in the trenches and on the front line and had my back the whole time; living, breathing and nurturing our company.
My husband of 41 years Kevin has been there encouraging me, helping me, counseling me and holding my head when the pressure seemed overwhelming and is still there on a daily basis listening to me when I come home and helping me plan for the future.
Last but not least, my daughter Chelsea gave me the motivation to succeed beyond my wildest dreams and to create a legacy that she could be proud of. To this day she is my encouragement, my moral compass and my shining star. And she has given me a son-in -law, Dominic, who loves the industry as much as I do and will be able to carry on to the next generation what I have built over the last 4 decades.
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