2017 Hot Firm & A/E Industry Awards Conference sponsor is led by Dawson Fercho, a business development guy who is part social worker, part psychologist.
By Liisa Andreassen
Dawson Fercho says he likes to laugh. And why not? At 46, he’s co-founder of a growing firm, Corporate Tax Advisors, is an IRS enrolled agent in all 50 states, and is licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
He’s oftentimes out on the road doing his thing – selling tax and financial services to architecture and engineering firms, and helping them enhance their bottom lines. He also has a wife, three kids, and is a coach of youth sports.
So it’s pretty easy for Fercho to laugh. He’s got a lot going on, and it’s all going his way.
But don’t let the easygoing nature fool you. Fercho is a hard-charging businessman who knows how to fill a niche and can walk into a room full of engineers and not meet a stranger. Not the easiest thing to do. But for Fercho and his company, that’s how it has to be.
“We want to know the firms we work with,” he says. “We want to be a valued member of their financial team. But I don’t want to always talk about business. There are other things going on.”
But when it comes down to business, Fercho and his team know the score. Experts in three sections of the tax code – the research and development tax credit, the energy efficient commercial building deduction, and cost segregation – Corporate Tax Advisors finds dollars that firms didn’t know they had.
“There are 9,000 different code sections, and we focus on three,” Fercho says. “Pick a beach head and be the best at that thing.”
And the big benefit for qualifying firms? Reduced costs for research, labor, and an overall lower taxable income. In a video embedded in CTA’s website, Fercho says he wants to “demystify” the R&D tax credit. The biggest mystery for firms, Fercho says, is simple: “Do they qualify?”
Of the three specialties handled by CTA, efficiencies through the R&D tax credit are the most sought after. But firms oftentimes consider the R&D tax credit and think of white coats, petri dishes, and the scientific method. While those staples are certainly covered under the umbrella of the credit, the definition captures a much broader array of endeavors.
“I unpack what R&D really is in terms of the U.S. Congress’ interpretation,” Fercho says. “When the credit first came out, it applied well to the widget makers, and they didn’t think it could apply to a design package.”
But it does. And in Fercho’s experience, most of the firms looking at the tax credit end up qualifying. And word has trickled down from the big firms to the firms that have around $5 million a year in revenue and around 20 employees. CTA also works with software firms, light manufacturing, aerospace/defense, and construction, among others.
Founded in 2014, CTA is based in Huntsville, Alabama, but has offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. Flexibility, Fercho says, is key for the firm, which has a staff of 15 attorneys, CPAs, and engineers.
“We’re decentralized,” he says. “We go where the clients are.”
CTA is a small firm and wants to grow, but not necessarily by too much.
“There’s certain things you lose – aggressiveness and spontaneity – when you get big,” he says.
Fercho worked at two firms prior to co-founding his current company with co-principals Mike Woeber and Rob Kling. While he learned the tools of the trade prior to CTA, he also figured out what he did not want the new firm to be – “fee-centric” rather than “client-centric.”
“If you’re in it just for the money, you’ll burn out quickly,” Fercho says.
Clients range from those with $5 million in annual gross receipts to those with $250 million. Regardless of the size, Fercho’s approach is the same. A born people person and a salesman, he gets to use his skills when out on business development trips.
“You can’t be afraid,” he says. “At some level you’re a social worker, or a psychologist. You can’t be an introvert. You have to be able to talk and be able to listen.”
If you want to learn more about CTA & Dawson Fercho, see about attending the 2017 Hot Firm & A/E Industry Awards Conference. Admission is open to all and attendees can earn valuable continuing education units, while networking with the most successful firms in the industry. www.HotFirm.com for more information.