It’s a new year and Saville, Dodgen & Company is growing steadily! With the start of 2013 and many new employees still to come this year, we thought what better time than now to revisit how the firm began with John Saville and Allen Dodgen, and be proud of how far it’s come as we look forward to a positive future.
This new year, Saville, Dodgen & Company PLLC will turn 48 years old. The firm, founded by John Saville and Allen Dodgen in 1965, has grown into one of the best and most reputable middle-market firms in the DFW metroplex. In the past two years Saville went from #20 to #17 in the Dallas Business Journal’s Book of Lists.Things have evolved quite a bit from its early days when the firm’s only piece of technology was an orange and white copier.
“I started in 1982 and right after I got started, we packed everything up and moved to the 6th floor of the Univision tower.” Pugh added, “In the Univision tower, we were on the 6th floor and McCarthy Rose & Mills were on the 7th floor. Our claim to fame at the time was an old orange and white copier, our only copier. When it would break down, we would go upstairs to McCarthy and use their identical orange and white copier.” – Clint Pugh, Managing Partner
Partner Virginia DeBrow joined the firm in 1987 and has similar memories of the technology. “There were only two computers in the office when I started in 1987. We had software for the individual returns only.”
As is true with all accounting firms, there was a time when returns had to be prepared by hand! Debrow recalled, “It took a lot of time. The rule was a typist should not have to think at all when typing your work. We had to write clear. We had to add up to the 1000’s and 100’s and foot every number. If the totals did not tie out when the typists did the work, it was a problem.”
The firm’s atmosphere and core principles were established by John Saville and Allen Dodgen. Financial integrity and loyal, personal client relationships have always been what Saville is about. However, the two men were both very different and possessed contrasting personalities. Pugh reflected that “John was more about relationships than anything else. Allen was more of a keep your head down and work your tail off kind of guy. He was bottom-line driven and very technical. They were good friends in a different kind of way. They trusted each other implicitly. They were just very different. When John retired in 1992, he turned in his parking card and said he didn’t need his office anymore. He truly retired and was not involved in the business at all. When Allen retired, he still wanted access to his office and to be involved.”
Tom Gilbert, a former partner at the firm, remembers their contrasting personalities. “Mr. Saville and Mr. Dodgen were a good blend,” Gilbert said. “Mr. Saville was funny and had a good sense of humor. Mr. Dodgen was profit-driven. They were just both really good men.”
DeBrow recalled Allen Dodgen’s intelligence. “I worked a lot with Mr. Dodgen over the years. He was very much a bottom-line individual. He was big-picture and an extremely brilliant man. He could work through multiple AJEs in his head at one time. He would do it very quickly and I was always asking him to slow down. He was technical, very intelligent, and knew how to get to that bottom-line.”
The two individuals had very different upbringings. Pugh recalled, “Allen was from Shamrock, Texas and grew up working at his dad’s feed store. He understood the value of every dollar and he would squeeze every dollar. John held a law and accounting degree. He was a Highland Park guy and the only boy out of a family with five kids. He went to SMU and I think he felt like there were too many lawyers, so he settled on accounting.”
Pugh, DeBrow and Gilbert all have fond memories of John Saville as a mentor and leader. DeBrow commented, “He was always upbeat and positive. I never heard him say anything negative. Most people called him Johnny Saville. From time to time, he would let me be in on a conference call. He would introduce me to the client and say, ‘this is Virginia DeBrow, one of my best, young staff members.’ He could make people feel very at ease and very comfortable.” Pugh added, “One thing John used to say was, ‘he who has the relationships carries the deal. If you don’t have relationships, you’re not much.’” Gilbert recalled, “Mr. Saville was a great mentor to me. He taught me how to manage clients, but also taught me so much about life.”
DeBrow and Pugh agree the firm owes a lot to John Saville and Allen Dodgen. DeBrow said, “They left a great base for us to continue to grow on. They were financially responsible; they had financial integrity and incurred no debt. Therefore, if there is a downturn at all, you’re able to weather the storm better.” Pugh agreed, “They were both good men. John was one of the best mentors I ever had. Allen was a great mentor from a business standpoint.”
Pugh recalled how the firm grew exponentially in the 1990’s. “You go through different phases as an accounting firm. The first phase is typically revenue of a couple million dollars. In the 1990’s, we blew past that first phase. Once you get past a few phases, most firms usually split or get bought out. We just kept growing. In 2006, we were at about $6 million in revenue and in 2012 we will do about $11 million in revenue. We just kept trying to build it up and roll it up.” DeBrow added, “We’ve never bought another practice. Our growth stems from organic growth. We’ve never had a marketing plan. We get a lot of business from referrals and our clients’ growth comes from their businesses growing. Our best clients are clients referred to us from other clients. It’s just less risky that way.”
Pugh imagined what John Saville would think of today’s firm. “I hope he would be gratified or as satisfied as he could be that we have kept the same values that he started. Yet, I think he would be surprised at the firm today.”