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SPECIAL REPORT: San Fernando Valley Native Handles Taxing Job

Partner, Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP, Westlake Village office Years at firm: 22 Residence: Westlake Village Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP is so tied to traditional tax work that Gregg Hutchins, a partner in the Westlake Village office, has a copy of the very first U.S. tax form from 1913 hanging on the wall of his office. “Sometime I feel like I’ve been doing tax returns for that long,” joked Hutchins, one of 38 partners in a firm that employs more than 400 people. Founded in 1991 and headquartered in West Los Angeles, Holthouse has seven offices in Southern California stretching from Camarillo in the north down to Costa Mesa in Orange County. Two more are in Ft. Worth, Texas and Park City, Utah. Tax preparation work brings in between 70 and 75 percent of the firm’s revenue, so the four weeks leading up to the April 15 federal filing deadline bring a hectic pace and long hours. The firm orders in lunch and dinner and it is not unusual for staff to arrive as early as 6 a.m. and stay until midnight. “That’s pretty much seven days a week,” Hutchins said. But then once the busy season ends, partners will take much-deserved breaks to recover. Hutchins, however, said he finds himself busier as he spends time meeting with clients and planning on transactional matters. A San Fernanado Valley native, Hutchins attended Cal State Northridge for accounting and later received a master’s degree in taxation from Golden Gate University. He started his career with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. (a predecessor firm to KPMG) where he stayed for nine years. Hutchins joined Holthouse in 1993 when he helped open the Westlake Village office. Holthouse serves clients in multiple industries, including manufacturing, retail, technology and entertainment. Hutchins primarily handles wealthy individuals and the businesses they own. And while there are specialized fields within traditional accounting that have been added to the practice, providing additional outside services has never been a goal. “We’ll leave the asset management business to the asset managers,” Hutchins said. “We leave insurance products to the insurance guys.” The firm also does not put a lot of dollars into marketing itself, relying instead on word of mouth and referrals for growing its client list and the number of partners. “As we get more clients that are happy and get more referrals we’ll continue to hire more people,” Hutchins said. The firm also does no active executive recruitment when making lateral partner hires from other firms. Instead, potential partners have reached out to them, which was the case of some employees of a Big Four accounting firm that opened Holthouse’s Pasadena office, Hutchins said. Fresh hires, on the other hand, are recruited from local universities with accounting programs, such as Cal State Northridge and California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks. Jason Flashberg, a partner in the tax practice in the Westlake Village office, came to Holthouse as a recent graduate from USC with a master’s in taxation and never left – after 19 years. He said it’s a culture promoting autonomy that keeps him there. “The partners can seek business how they see fit,” the 41-year-old added. “There is no pressure to get a certain type of client.” Hutchins characterized the culture as one that is entrepreneurial. There is no emphasis placed on which partner is running the show at each office. Nor are partners looking over the shoulders of their junior staff. “There are constraints of the firm’s goals and objectives – yet you have flexibility,” Hutchins said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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