National Association of Women Business Owners Orange County selects Debbie Dickson to receive Lifetime Achievement Award

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1 National Association of Women Business Owners Orange County selects Debbie Dickson to receive Lifetime Achievement Award Deborah Dickson, CPA, CFF, MAFF, President of Smith Dickson, a CPA firm based in Irvine, received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners Orange County (NAWBO-OC), a premier organization for Orange County women business owners. The award was presented in front of over 400 hundred guests at NAWBO-OC s 20th annual Remarkable Women Awards on Thursday, May 19 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Santa Ana/OC Airport. According to NAWBO, the annual event honors remarkable women who have demonstrated success, leadership and passion in their chosen fields. Since 1996, NAWBO-OC s Remarkable Women Awards has recognized local businesswomen, women business owners, and women entrepreneurs who have dared to step out, follow their dreams, and inspire others by their commitment to what is possible. Below is Ms. Dickson s speech from the Remarkable Women Awards : Thank you, I m very honored to receive such an incredible award. NAWBO has gained prominence to the point where I believe many recognize it as the premier organization in America for women business owners, so it is with great delight that I accept this award. Thank you to the Board and selection committee for recognizing me. I d like to take a moment to thank a few very important people in my life, because this award is really a shared award with so many who have contributed to my personal success and the success of my firm, Smith Dickson CPAs. My husband, Guy, is always amazing and supporting without him I can t imagine doing what I do. Thank you, Guy! Guy and I have six children and most have been able to attend today. Thank you, Kristin, Courtney, Michael, Ashlee, Heather and Brooke you all know that family is my top priority and I cherish everything you mean to my life. Could all of my family please stand for a moment? To my employees at Smith Dickson, you are all incredible and make our day-to-day work a rewarding, fun and enjoyable experience. To our clients, some of whom are here today, you are the reason why we work so hard, and we are privileged to have the opportunity to serve you. I share this award with all of you! I d like to use the occasion of this speech to help encourage and build up other women in business. Some of you are owners and others aspire to be. My life sure isn t over, nor is my career, but I ve learned a few things and I thought I d pass them on to those who are looking to build their own career success. So let me start

2 Lifetime Achievement Award Since my name is Debbie Dickson, naturally I d like to offer to you Debbie s 5 D s for Success. These are the key factors that have helped me to manage being a wife, mother and CEO of a thriving CPA practice. I think that every woman in this audience facing similar challenges can benefit from applying these concepts. Determination, my first D, has always been a fundamental part of my personality. I think that many successful women could say the same. Let me give a few examples, some of which you may see in yourself the same way. I ll start with my upbringing and how that helped form me into the person I am today. I grew up in Fullerton as the oldest child of six children born in eight years. By the time I was in junior high, I was helping to raise my younger siblings, since both of my parents needed to work to provide for our large family. I started working at age 12, canvassing the neighborhood for babysitting and housecleaning jobs as well as doing my brothers paper routes. By age 15, I got a job as a secretary at an insurance company, working 20 hours per week while taking honors classes in high school. I sewed my own clothes, never having a store-bought dress (or a car either) until I graduated from college at age 22. During my junior year in high school I took a job as a secretary at an engineering firm and, earned enough money to attend BYU Hawaii for the summer, so I got an early start on college. While a high school senior, I took a legal secretary class at Fullerton College and started working as a legal secretary. I also continued with my 11 years of classical piano training, and accompanied the school s concert choir. With all of these responsibilities, I still managed to have a social life and to achieve a 3.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale, plus 12 units of straight A college courses, and was accepted to BYU. As in high school, I worked in several jobs while at BYU, including: working as a legal secretary; typing for BYU law school and for masters theses; and working as a research assistant for a department chair. I d typically work 30 hours a week while carrying a full load. In addition, I married my first husband when I was 20 years old, continued in college, and we started a maintenance business for the many apartment complexes around the BYU campus. I ran the accounting aspects of the business, while working in my other jobs and taking 18 units. By the time we both graduated, we had no college debt, and even made a nice profit selling our business before moving back to Southern California. You have to understand that at that time, most women were still expected to go to college, get their M.R.S. degree, get married, raise a family and stop going to school or pursuing a career. It took a certain amount of guts and determination to go on a different path. With my degree in Business, I landed a job at the Big 8 accounting firm, now called Deloitte. Since I wasn t an accounting major in college, I spent 3 years going to Cal State Fullerton at night, taking accounting classes which were essential to earning my CPA certification. I next accepted a job offer from another Big 8 accounting firm now called PricewaterhouseCoopers to run their entrepreneurial services division. This experience was critical for my career, as I was trained in audit, tax and consulting, as well as the fundamentals of building and managing a portfolio of clients, everything that was needed to eventually become a partner. After 3 years in this position, while pregnant with my first child, I opened up what became Smith Dickson, Accountancy Corporation.

3 Lifetime Achievement Award So I believe that determination is essential to success. I ve been very specific with my examples, so that you, too, can have hope that all your hard work will pay off in life. Let me move on to my second D, which is Drive. For me, this has meant persevering no matter the circumstances. Looking back, it wasn t easy growing up with all the responsibilities that I had, but I always knew that nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals. I encourage other women to do the same. Drive helped me to land the first major client for my new CPA office, a title insurance company. Drive was also a key trait in growing my business and providing great service to clients, no matter any personal or family demands. Drive (or maybe desperation, another D word) helped me to handle being pregnant while calling on clients, which simply was rarely done at the time by women in business. Drive was my backbone in dealing with personal and business trauma. When I was 33 years old, I went through a divorce, as so many women have had to do. I had two young children at the time and knew that they counted on mommy to remain stable, persevere, and support them. On the business side, during this time my practice unfortunately went through periods where trusted business partnerships twice caused me to lose up to 75% of my client base. Once again, my inner drive helped me to recover and build a thriving practice. Ladies, I know that you have it in you to achieve the best and persevere, no matter what. If I can do it, so can you! This brings me to the third D in my success formula, Discipline. I ve found that having the discipline to set goals, prioritize and structure my life has been essential for success in my field. Women accountants are now becoming firmly entrenched as recognized equals in their fields of expertise. Need I mention that this wasn t always the case? In my first two CPA firms, the partners had to ask the clients if it was OK if they put a female auditor on their account! I had learned a lot about the law through my legal secretary jobs that I had worked in during high school and college. Through these and my CPA audit experiences, I found that forensic accounting and litigation support were fascinating, as well as a perfect fit for my skills sets and personal attributes. But to be accepted in a field dominated by men, as well as to equip myself to be at the top of the profession, I chose to earn certifications as a CFF and MAFF, which stand for Certified in Financial Forensics and Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. Of course, these required discipline to earn while running a CPA firm as well as a household with 6 children! Any working mom knows that it takes discipline to manage working with family life. I have to say, once again, that my husband Guy was and is absolutely essential for me to achieve these goals. While working as an attorney for a large law firm and handling the demands of his own legal career, Guy took care of our family needs often in order for me to earn these certifications and to build Smith Dickson.

4 Lifetime Achievement Award Discipline is essential for success in accounting and tax, as you might imagine. Who wants to hire the accountant who says That s close enough?! Discipline is also critical for accounting work involving litigation support. This field demands nothing less than the very best work in order to be successful in court as an expert witness or in forensic analysis. I strongly encourage women professionals to give nothing but their best, so that no matter what happens you will know that you gave it your all. Smith Dickson has been growing every year, especially for the last 8 years, with a staff of 13 highly trained professionals now, which is substantial for a boutique practice such as ours that has a significant litigation support and forensic accounting focus. In addition to our corporate work, we serve nationwide, household name clients and major law firms, as well as numerous excellent smaller law practices and business clients. Our disciplined approach to client engagements is a key reason why we are selected. My fourth D for success is diversity. For me, diversity is not only essential in work but also in my personal life. At Smith Dickson, our practice is diverse, yet very focused. We are a formidable team member in litigation support, sought after by the best law firms. At the same time, we have an incredible corporate accounting, tax and business consulting practice that clients describe as providing support and insights that few accounting firms could offer. Our amazing staff, thank you to every one of you, makes this all possible. They have diverse abilities that, when combined, create a synergistic effect of unbeatable service. On the personal side, diversity provides me with balance and an even greater desire to achieve the best for my family. Every working woman knows the challenge of balancing a career with personal issues. My personal diversity includes not only being a wife and mother but also pursuing a love for music performance and giving hundreds of hours of volunteer efforts in professional and community activities. Music has always been a part of my life and I use my piano and organ skills to help others. I enjoy playing a 1500 pipe organ and piano as a volunteer for a congregation in Newport Beach. I believe that giving to others on a regular basis makes us better as human beings and, personally, makes life just a whole lot more fun! Some of my greatest joys have including running a youth group and teaching them life skills, or camping with my daughters Girl Scout troop, or feeding the homeless with my church and a local synagogue. My recommendation for other women is to find something that you are passionate about and then volunteer in an organization that allows you to contribute in this way to make society better.

5 Lifetime Achievement Award My fifth and final D is for Dedication. I ll use this to describe our firm s dedication to clients and our dedication to others as a Smith Dickson CPA team. For our clients, we truly do care about each client and their situation. We are very relationship oriented. This makes our work very rewarding. We love to take care of our clients, solve problems, and deliver whatever is needed when they need it. As for our Smith Dickson team, my employees know that I m there for them, not just professionally but personally. Our approach is that each of us needs to have our family affairs in order so that we can do our best in serving clients. So if troubles at home need to be taken care of, we go above and beyond to support those needs. We truly act as a team, covering for each other as needed, to get through any challenge. Our office administrator recently went through a difficult time with breast cancer surgery. Simultaneously, the husband of another employee spent two months in and out of the ICU. Our Smith Dickson team rallied together to fill in when these employees could not be at work. We all face personal challenges, so it is wonderful to have a work team to help get us through it. For us at Smith Dickson, it isn t a matter of devising a company policy to be good team members. It s a matter of caring from the top down and simply treating each other as human beings first and accountants second. We don t need policies to make us act this way, it s just what we do. I believe that if you take good care of employees, they will good care of clients. So it s a circle of success. I ll close in saying that through my career, I found it very helpful to listen and learn from others who were more experienced. By listening to my story, I hope that I ve provided at least some of you with inspiration and some ideas to guide your own career. Thank you again for this opportunity to speak to this wonderful group. Thanks NAWBO!

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