At Wilkinson, our foundation is based on long-term relationships; many of our clients span generations. We understand that longevity is the key to true success, which is why we have always worked closely with our clients throughout the various stages that encompass a business. From inception and expansion, to succession or transition, Wilkinson has celebrated in the accomplishments of their clients. In the articles below, we share some of their remarkable journeys.
As two-time mayor of Quinte West and president of a successful local hotel chain, John Williams knows a few things about keeping people happy. “You look after your clients,” says John. “Treat them like family and they’ll look after you too.”
This understanding that employees and customers are the true bricks and mortar that keep a business standing is exactly what drew the Williams family to Wilkinson & Co., and it is what has kept them loyal clients for the last 45 years. John and his father established the Williams hotel chain in 1978 after John’s father sold Stirling Motors, the family’s first business. Now in its third generation of operation, John takes great pride in working alongside his two sons as the company expands its hotel portfolio in the Quinte area; he sees longevity as a true hallmark of success and knows it would not have been possible without Wilkinson.
“Today’s accounting rules and tax issues are changing all the time so you have to have people who are on the ball. You have to have 100 per cent confidence in who is doing the work and giving you advice. Wilkinson has a great reputation and if there is a way to do things better, they will find it. They are always looking towards the future, and for our business we need that kind of forward thinking.”
And looking towards the future is exactly what John and his family are doing – construction is in full swing on the latest Williams hotel, the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Belleville, due to open in the summer of 2014.
“We are fortunate to still be in business after so many years,” acknowledges John. “The Quinte area has been good to us and we respect that. It may be old fashioned to say “it’s important to give back to your community” and “treat people they way you want to be treated” but it’s worked for us and I know it’s worked for Wilkinson – they paved the way. If your community succeeds, you succeed.”
And, as John points out, once you’ve been around long enough you start to understand: success is a group effort.
Milk may have a shelf life, but Reid’s Dairy is still going strong after three generations – and with no expiration date in sight. Founded by Arthur Quickert in 1967, the business has expanded over the years and today occupies 50,000 square feet of space. Grandson, Stephen Quickert is now at the helm, overseeing the 24/7 operation and its 90 full and part-time employees.
Reid’s Dairy is the largest independent dairy operation in the province, their products are a staple in many homes and they are deeply involved in their local community, yet despite this success, Stephen believes the company’s greatest achievement has been the movement between generations.
“Wilkinson & Co. spearheaded the succession of the business,” says Stephen. “It was a perfect chain of events. A lot needed to be done and without their expertise it wouldn’t have happened. I was surprised at how seamless it was.”
As a company with such a significant profile in the city, Reid’s Dairy tends to be under the microscope quite a bit. “It is important to us to be allied with a firm that is very professional and highly respected,” Stephen says. “Both Wilkinson and Reid’s Dairy operate on a reputation of quality and because we have a unique business with lots of complicated pieces, we really need a firm that has a depth of experience.”
“Our primary relationship is with Brian Kehoe,” continues Stephen. “I have a lot of confidence in his ability and experience but more importantly, I can get hold of him whenever I need him, even if just for an informal chat. To be able to talk about certain ideas and have him tell me whether I am on the right track, or point out things I may need to consider; that relationship is invaluable.”
Just like any long-term relationship, there are good times and bad times. Last year Stephen suffered a devastating loss with the death of his wife to cancer. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows, it is not just mourning that must be done; there are trails of paperwork and decisions that must also be made. Wilkinson guided him through that difficult period and advised him on a number of things.
“It was a brutal year but the people at Wilkinson really helped me. They are more than just a professional group,” says Stephen. “They are close friends now.”
Elizabeth Fry Kingston has been advocating for women’s rights in the Kingston area for over 65 years. They work tirelessly to improve the lives of marginalized, victimized, criminalized, and imprisoned women.
When asked how long Elizabeth Fry Kingston has been a Wilkinson client, Executive Director Trish Crawford struggled to remember. The two have become so intertwined that Trish considers Wilkinson not only an accounting firm, but also a partner in their success.
“A lot of the work we do is from a prevention perspective,” says Trish. “If women are at poverty level they are at a higher risk of criminal activity. We are looking at getting women out of generational poverty, and into a housing program. If you have safe, affordable housing everything can work from there.”
“What makes Wilkinson so important to our operation is they have a very good understanding of the work we do and – as a non-profit – how we organize our funding. They have been very sensitive to the needs of our clients, and are great at making recommendations and suggestions.”
Trish deals mainly with Jennifer Fisher and Colleen Lawrie who are always accessible to the staff and board, and more importantly, fun to work with. “For an organization that is focused on every aspect of women’s issues in the community, it makes a difference to be working with strong women like Jennifer and Colleen who get what we’re doing.”
The partnership has obviously paid off because Elizabeth Fry Kingston is definitely making a difference. They own and operate 16 buildings, including a half way house and community kitchen. Their 45 apartments are a success and they take great pride in the fact that 70% of their clients are not in conflict with the law. With 700 women on a waiting list, they are looking for more housing to achieve their goals.
“We would not make a major decision or purchase another building without first getting advice from Wilkinson,” says Trish. “Yes, there is the non-profit component, but we need to make solid business decisions as well. Wilkinson supports our mandate and is doing whatever they can to help us get there.”
What better client to spread the word about Wilkinson & Co.’s 50 years of service than the Quinte Broadcasting Company? Serving the region for four generations, the company’s three radio stations have a strong relationship with their listeners and support hundreds of local events throughout the year. In fact, both CJBQ and Mix 97 have been recognized by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters for their outstanding contributions to the community.
This shared interest in giving back to the local community is what drew the Quinte Broadcasting Company to Wilkinson – but it was the accounting firm’s leadership and expertise that solidified the business relationship.
“Wilkinson have always been there for us when needed,” says Bill Morton whose great grandfather started the Quinte Broadcasting Company in 1946. Reflecting on one of his company’s biggest milestones – the acquisition of their cable business by Cogeco – Morton credits Wilkinson & Co. for the success of the deal; guiding them through the process, creating a strategic plan and tax structure, and turning a complicated transaction into a smooth transition.
“Wilkinson answers our questions in a concise and timely fashion, keeps us up-to-date on changes to the tax laws, provincial and federal budget issues and any other issues which may affect the way we do business. They have advised us on corporate restructuring, setting up new companies, tax strategies, annual audits, prepared corporate returns for all of our companies and have been invaluable to us with regard to Estate planning and Estate management. Brian Kehoe is our tax professional, and has been like family to us.”
And for a company that has been running for four generations, being considered part of the family is the ultimate compliment.