Profiles: Chris Frederiksen

Chris Frederiksen

Chris Frederiksen

BS Accounting 65, Alumnus of the Year 81

EVP, CEO Consultant & Chairman at Panalitix USA Inc., President & CEO at FREDERIKSEN-CRAWFORD CPAs Inc.


Chris Frederiksen is a dynamo. He has achieved career success that many professionals would envy: winner of the coveted John F. Forbes Gold Medal for earning the highest score in California on the CPA exam; one of the youngest people ever named a partner at one of the legendary Big 8 accounting firms; author of a half dozen books; founder of four accounting firms; and internationally recognized consultant and speaker. No wonder he's repeatedly ranked as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession by Accounting Today.

Chris Frederiksen was the son of a Danish diplomat who had been part of the Danish government in exile during World War II. The elder Frederiksen, the largest exporter of Danish bacon in his native country, had originally come to England in 1935 when the British government changed its rules on imports and duties. The eldest of three sons, Chris was born in Bristol, about a hundred miles west of London.

One day a cousin whom Chris had never met telephoned to extend an invitation of sponsorship to the US. His father had helped the cousin him get to Canada, and then ultimately ended up in America. He wanted to return the favor by sponsoring Chris. Chris then continued the tradition by sponsoring his younger brother, Peter, who also later graduated from Golden Gate.

Frederiksen landed in the Bay Area from Bristol, England in the early 1960s, got his green card in four days, and worked for his cousin for a year or so. He started off by taking a few UC Berkeley Extension courses, but a series of roadblocks interfered with gaining admission to a state university. At UC Berkeley, they did not understand his credits from the UK. He met with GGU's iconic registrar Alice Parker. She analyzed his credits carefully and initiated academically tests (much like the CLEP exams). Alice Parker patched enough credits together so that Chris could enroll at Golden Gate as an undergraduate.

"To come to Golden Gate and be able to learn something in the morning, and then go home and apply it in the afternoon was just absolute magic. There is no better way of learning."

Chris finished the four-year program a year early and began studying for the CPA exam. After taking a review course at GGU, Chris sat for the exam and was stunned at the outcome. His score was higher than any among the California test-takers. As a result, he won the 1965 John F. Forbes Gold Medal from the California Society of CPAs. He immediately started his own practice. It was 1966 and Chris Frederiksen, still in his early 20s, was hanging out his shingle in San Leandro. He started out from scratch without a single client, but within the first few weeks, gained the Straw Hat chain of restaurants. The chain expanded from about six units to multiple units that were eventually sold to Saga Foods.

Chris' San Leandro firm grew rapidly, and soon he decided it was time to expand. He was starting to develop some big clients, but couldn't handle them in a small practice. Later, he met with Ulrich Kraemer, a German who had escaped the Holocaust. He invited me to join Touche, Ross & Company and started as a supervisor in 1969. After just a few months, they made him a manager. Chris Frederiksen was still in his mid-20s. In 1973, when he was just 30 years old, he made partner.

It was Chris's longtime friend Frank Weinberg who convinced his former student to join the adjunct faculty. Another side benefit for both teacher and students was that he kept a keen eye out for top achieving students to recruit for Touche, Ross & Company.

Chris had been with Touche, Ross & Company for six years when he left to start a practice with Ted Mitchell in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center. Over the next five years the business grew exponentially, with about 40 employees by decade's end. The firm was very heavy in real estate partnerships and real estate development. So when that market crashed in '81 they merged with Grant Thornton, a San Francisco firm with about 50 people.

A few years passed and in 1984, Chris began consulting with CPA firms on successful growth. He continued this work for nearly three decades. Today Chris lectures and conducts seminars throughout the world and is well-known in professional circles for his seminar, "How to Build a Million Dollar Practice," an intensive marketing seminar for CPAs, lawyers and other professionals, and his books How to Build a Million Dollar Practice and How to Manage a Million Dollar Practice. As prolific a writer as he is speaker, Chris is the author of a half dozen books on accounting and management. His latest is Fifty-Seven Ways to Grow Your Business.

Other titles include, Successful Partnership Agreements for CPAs, and Biting the Bullet: How to Start Your Own CPA Firm. As one of the best-known and most highly rated seminar leaders in the world, as well as a consultant to accountancy firms worldwide, he helps small and medium-sized accountancy firms achieve their goals of greater profitability and greater personal satisfaction for the owners. He is now committed to helping CPAs and tax professionals excel in wealth management, strategic planning and other new service areas.

In addition to his challenging lecture schedule, he also has an accounting and tax practice with his wife, Tara Crawford. After dating for several years, the couple married in 1989. So in January 1990, Frederiksen & Crawford, CPAs opened in the basement of their suburban home. The business was successful and within a few years had outgrown the house. Then the economic downturn in 2000 caused a merger that he decided to dissolve in 2006. He and his wife revitalized Frederiksen & Crawford, CPAs, with one big difference: clients who would give all their business, not just their accounting and tax, but also their wealth management. As a result Frederiksen & Crawford is now a comprehensive wealth-management firm of about six people.