Profiles: Chris W. Strand

Chris Strand

Chris Strand

MS Taxation 87

Co-Manager at Seattle Deposition Reporters, LLC, Owner at Chris William Strand CPA, Chief Financial Officer at Acequia Companies & Novus For a LLC

Part of the Family

Chris hails from a long line of Seattle-area entrepreneurs. His grandfather presided over the popular upscale Wharf Restaurant, welcoming generations of Seattleites during the halcyon days of the 1960s. Keeping customers coming back is the heart of success. Like his granddad, Chris is a man with an open smile and a winning way. One of the city's high-profile natives, Chris seems to know just about everyone. Specializing in integrating tax strategies with wealth planning, accounting and business consulting for affluent individuals and families, his client portfolio includes a range of clients. For many of those clients, Chris has become more than just another advisor; he has become part of the family. This meant meeting clients on-schedule every week for 30 years, scheduling vacations around appointments times and even programming a phone.

It was this attention to detail and to his clients that caused Strand to be named one of the best personal wealth managers in the Seattle area in 2008, 2010 and 2012, and a top CPA in 2013. Bader Martin is consistently ranked as one of the best places to work in Seattle and even in the country, according to Accounting Today. Moreover, Chris is often recognized as one of the top personal wealth managers in the Pacific Northwest. There is no secret to that success: hard work, finely honed skills and an honest desire to provide exemplary service to the clients.

Today Chris is at the top of his game, but it didn't start out that way. He started out to be a court reporter, like his wife. Chris recalls meeting Colleen back at the Sunnybeam Preschool on Mercer Island, although her first memories of him are from a few years later, when they began dating in junior high. High school sweethearts, they set off for Washington State University. After a year at WSU, they settled on court reporting as a career choice and enrolled together at Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington. They graduated from the program, married soon after, and started their new careers. They were both 20 years old.

When the young couple returned from a week-long vacation, they discovered the agency he'd worked for had folded. Chris, who saw no viable future for himself in court reporting, started casting about for a new career direction. When he took his first accounting courses, he found a match. When Chris's friends lamented the difficulty of accounting, he would reassure them. He never wavered. As the courses became more advanced, his fascination with the field grew.

While still a student, he wrote a cost-accounting program for the first business in the country that produced printable tickets in movie theaters. Before that company's innovation, movie tickets were more like raffle tickets, pre-printed on a big roll. He was just 22 years old and on track to becoming a great cost accountant.

It was the late 1970s and Chris Strand, with his long hair and beard, didn't think he would fit the image of a public accountant. Like most young graduates, he set out in 1980 making the rounds, looking to launch his career. After hearing that message a few more times, he asked the interviewers why. Their response was they couldn't see Chris sitting in a room by himself all day working with numbers. He realized they were advising him to become a public accountant. He ramped up the interview schedule, got a haircut, shaved his beard, and started making the rounds, albeit a bit later than his fellow accounting grads.

New Year 1981 brought big changes. Chris started work for the Seattle office of Laventhol & Horwath, the largest second-tier national accounting firm in the country, and three weeks later became a first-time father when his daughter, Kirsten, was born. Four years later to the day, his son, Alex, arrived.

By then, Chris was a CPA specializing in tax work, another serendipitous move, as it turned out; although there were a few hurdles he had to clear. Laventhol in Seattle had just merged with a smaller firm that dealt with taxation. Chris agreed to work in the tax department and began preparation for the CPA exam. In three days, with a thick book and his family on vacation, he studied for the exam and passed on the first try.

Armed with his new CPA license, Chris continued to work in taxation and climb the Laventhol career ladder. His first post-busy season had been earmarked for the CPA exam; his second lap began when he was introduced to Golden Gate University's taxation program at the Seattle center. It was a natural fit for a man seeking to advance in his field. Chris Strand had never heard of the place. The invitation had come from the professional tax community; some of the area's most prestigious tax professionals comprised the faculty. That, alone, was a strong selling point for Strand.

"At work, I accelerated past a lot of my peers because I had gathered so much more tax knowledge than those who hadn't taken the courses."

Strand recalls one night when all of the students arrived unprepared. Finally, in frustration, Bob declared: "We're done for the night. Next week we're having a six-hour class and you'd better be prepared, or the next week we'll have a nine-hour class." It was the last time the students arrived unprepared. Strand graduated in 1987 with an MS in taxation, but his relationship with Shaw continued. The two families, each with young children who attended the same daycare center, had become personal friends. The two men often called on clients together. Chris recalls a fateful Thursday when he called to make arrangements to ride together with Shaw for a client visit the following day. When his friend didn't pick up his private line, Chris dialed the main number at the firm and was told he needed to talk to a partner. Instead, Chris learned that his longtime mentor and friend was hospitalized with terminal cancer. He died within a few days. That was in June 2000; just a year earlier Bob Shaw had been named Washington Super Lawyer by the State Bar Association. He also had been named one of the Best Lawyers in America by American Lawyer magazine, and became a Golden Gate University Outstanding Faculty member. In his honor, Chris and other area practitioners started a scholarship fund at Golden Gate University in Bob Shaw's name.

Many firms, including Bader Martin, reimburse their employees for taking Golden Gate taxation courses, so it was important to those designing the fund that the scholarships go to a student with financial need who was not receiving tuition reimbursement. The Bob Shaw Scholarship currently funds one student annually, and Strand estimates that eight or nine students have received the scholarships. Strand is such a strong supporter because he believes that GGU's Tax program provided him with the foundation required to become a top-flight tax professional.

Chris Strand had been with the firm for a decade when in 1990 Laventhol became one of the first national accounting firms to declare bankruptcy. But Laventhol in Seattle had none of those problems. There were a handful of partners and principals capable of starting off on their own. They started Bader, Martin, Ross and Smith the following Monday. During the weekend, they'd determined which Laventhol employees they wished to retain, which was approximately 80%.

During the interim week, the partners sprang into action in some unexpected ways, like driving trucks and hauling furniture and equipment, even cubicle walls. Some clients prepaid for the services — one large client paid the whole year's fees, enabling the fledgling firm to make payroll and overhead from the start. The firm easily adopted its new identity.Today, about 60% of the firm's business is taxation, with the remainder devoted to financial statements and consulting. Since its inception, Bader Martin has grown steadily from about 55 employees to approximately 80.

Simply put, families and family ties are important to Chris Strand. It shows in his work and his personal life. When Chris has an out-of-town business meeting, he sometimes extends his stays in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco to vacation with family. His two preschool-aged grandchildren, who live next door, are a constant source of entertainment and joy. In many ways, Chris Strand is still the exuberant boy Colleen met in junior high.

He credits that, at least in part, to Golden Gate.

"I developed my passion for tax during my formative years at Laventhol. That passion grew during my busy seasons at tax time and my stimulating classes at Golden Gate. Golden Gate really gave me my extreme passion for tax."