Life at DHG Podcast Series

Episode 65: Path to Partner Series – Allison Ballard

As we celebrate Women’s History Month at DHG, we are excited to share a four-part Path to Partner Series, featuring interviews with some of our most esteemed female partners. We have selected partners from various career stages to help provide perspective and insight on their careers and their career paths. Joining us in the first installment of the series is Allison Ballard, Managing Partner of our Charleston, WV office. She’s an active member of the community and a super mom!


Episode 65 Transcript:

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear the things that matter the most to us – flexibility, careers, and of course, our people.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month here at DHG, we’re doing a four-part Path to Partner Series, featuring inspirational interviews with some of our most esteemed female partners. We selected partners from various career stages to help provide perspective and insight on their careers and their career paths.

Joining me today is Allison Ballard. Allison is the Managing Partner of our Charleston, West Virginia office, she’s an active member of the community and a super mom. Thank you for joining us today, Allison.

AB: Thanks for having me, Alice Grey. I appreciate it.

AGH: Since we’re celebrating Women’s History Month, let’s begin by discussing diversity. Diversity comes in many different forms, and at DHG, we talk about it in a lot of different ways. We have diversity of thought, diversity in background, and diversity in color; there are so many different ways to talk about diversity. Why do you think it’s so important for us to have diversity on our DHG teams?

AB: I think it’s important because it brings different perspectives and experiences to the team. Every team is different, every situation is different, and having different perspectives and people with different backgrounds just makes the team more thoughtful about what they’re trying to accomplish. People have different ideas and overall it makes us more efficient. On a team you have the leaders and you have the doers. You have to have a group of people with different experiences and backgrounds in order to really deliver great client service.

Our clients are also diverse, so diversity helps us relate to them on many different levels. That diversity can be gender-based, and it can also be newer folks versus more experienced folks.

AGH: That’s great. For me, I feel like I bring diverse thought to DHG because I don’t necessarily think like an accountant. It’s really great for me to be able to work to think like an accountant and seek their feedback. So I completely agree.

Do you think that there are unique obstacles and barriers that women continue to face today in 2019? What advice might you have for helping women overcome these barriers? I know that along your career path you have certainly overcame barriers.

AB: I’ve been in public accounting for more than 20 years now, I feel old! There’s definitely been progress, but there still are not enough women in top leadership positions. While it occurs much less frequently than it did, I often find myself to be the only woman in the room when I’m with leaders. I do think there is still implicit bias regarding the typical role of women or in how women are perceived in becoming leaders.

I think education is really the primary way to overcome that implicit bias and generate awareness around it. I know it’s part of our I&D strategy. We’ve also developed trainings on implicit bias to make all of our people aware of it. We need to take it upon ourselves to make sure we keep that in mind in all situations when we’re thinking about promotions or leadership opportunities.

The other thing I think relates to our own perceptions as women. You know, a lot of times when I talk to our younger women, I really try to push them to ask for opportunities and to take risks. Women tend to be risk averse to some extent, so it’s important to encourage them to step up, put themselves out there, and take risks. I think that’s a really good way to overcome any obstacles that exist.

AGH: That is amazing advice. That’s something I’m going to write on a post-it note and put on my computer as a reminder.

Let me switch gears for a minute. At the beginning of the year, we rolled out our DHG client experience guidelines. I’d love to have you share your thoughts on what makes an excellent client experience. And, as Managing Partner of our Charleston, WV office, how do you motivate your team members, men and women alike, and challenge them to deliver a great client experience?

 AB: You know, one of the key things in terms of great client service is our focus on helping our clients meet their business goals. That’s really what they’re looking for from us. One of the important things in doing that is talking to our clients and understanding their businesses. A lot of times, you can just talk to your clients about their business and goals and from that conversation identify a way that we can help them.

Really, the key to client service is helping our clients. That’s what I really enjoy about this profession, when you’re really able to help your clients and provide them with guidance or assistance. Tax reform has been a great thing recently. We’ve been able to provide perspective on that and insight on how that affects our clients’ business.

We encourage our people to interact and develop relationships with the client at all levels, because that’s how we can help our client across their entire organization. In serving the client as a team, we are able to identify their challenges and issues and then help them find solutions.

Again, just talking to our clients, helping them understand their challenges and asking the question, “How can we help?” That’s what I think client service means in a nutshell.

AGH: As we think about Path to Partner, can client service be a catalyst and a differentiator for career advancement, regardless of your gender?

AB: Absolutely. I always encourage our people to look for something that will make them famous, because really, if you’re famous for helping clients, not only will you be recognized by our clients, but you will also be recognized internally within the firm. Those are the people who are going to excel and succeed because good client service leads to additional opportunities. That’s what gets you on the path to partner.

AGH: Absolutely. Okay, I have one final question for you. You’ve already shared some great advice, but if you had to give one piece of advice to someone just beginning in the profession or someone still in school, what would that advice be?

AB: We say this sometimes here at DHG, but I would say own your career. We want to develop careers with our people, and that means owning your career, being inquisitive, being eager to learn, getting involved, stepping outside your comfort zone, asking questions, and developing yourself. That really goes a long way with client service, positioning yourself as a leader, and growing your career.

AGH: That’s great advice. This has been so much fun. Thank you so much for taking time out, especially during tax season, to talk with us.

AB: Thank you, Alice Grey.

AGH: Thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our Life at DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers. Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.