In 2021, BDO Canada will celebrate 100 years as an accounting firm. They have offices across the country, including in Sarnia. “The original Sarnia office grew out of W. L. Smith and Partners, which dates back to the 40’s. Lyle and Jimmy Smith joined their father’s firm, and were integral in growing the business,” says Peter Thomas, one of the partners at BDO. A merger in the 1970’s saw the firm join G.H. Ward and Partners, which was a rural firm. “The firm continued to grow and had satellite offices in Watford and Alvinston. The firm has always had a strong tie to the rural community.” Through a number of subsequent mergers, the firm became BDO Dunwoody, which was then shortened to BDO Canada LLP.
While a global company with 1,500 offices, the Sarnia office staff consists of mainly Sarnia natives. “We’ve always had a good market presence in Sarnia. Our biggest competition was always Hazlitt Steeves Harris Dunn LLP (HSHD).” In January of 2017, HSHD merged with BDO. “We had two very similar philosophies in terms of prioritizing client service,” adds Randy Dunn, also a partner at BDO. Hazlitt and Steeves was started in September 1998, with Randy Dunn and Jason Harris joining in 1999. “We had grown the business to 25 employees when we merged, including a branch in Lambeth that Scott McKay, another partner, had started.” Other partners include Pete Barnes and Brent Steeves. “Doug Johnson has announced his retirement, and Bill Hazlitt will be finishing up this year as well,” adds Thomas.
The transition has been a smooth one, and the partners are thrilled with the early results. “We have great employees from both sides of this latest merger. We have close to 50 staff members, so our challenge so far has been space,” adds Dunn, with a laugh. Some staff are celebrating thirty and forty years of service with the firm. “In this industry, it’s all about the people, both staff and clients. In many cases, you become friends,” says Thomas. The firm has adapted to the changing work environment in recent years. “There is more of an emphasis on flex-time. We also benefit from the BDO network when someone from another office wants to relocate to Sarnia-Lambton.”
BDO works with businesses of all sizes, as well as local not-for-profit organizations. “We do basic accounting, tax services, including tax and estate planning. We also offer auditing services for non-profits to larger manufacturing companies, to First Nations. Most of our clients are owner-managers,” says Thomas. The local office has a wealth of knowledge, as well as access to expertise from across the network. “We offer valuation services, wealth management, risk advisory services; anything to do with financial and tax services,” adds Dunn. As a firm, they give back to the community often and share the same desire to see the community thrive. “We all enjoy public practice. Our days are all different and we get to interact with the community. That’s very rewarding.”