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Monday, April 15, 2024

Family First

Kevin Schwartz still has the first dollar he ever made.

Tucked in an old yet rather ornate gold frame against a simple piece of cardboard, it sits atop his desk to serve as a reminder that every task, no matter how big or small, is worth the effort.“I was probably 5 or 6 years old,” Schwartz recalls. “I went to play with a friend, and he and his dad were picking up twigs. I helped for about 30 minutes. He paid me a dollar, and I was so excited to take it home and show my dad.

“He put in that old frame, and I have kept it ever since,” he says. “He told me that if I saved it, I’d always have it to spend. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about more than just that dollar.”

A love of family and a commitment to hard work has been a running theme throughout Schwartz’s life. Every decision has come back to staying true to those two values — values that led him down the path to being a successful CPA and, now, a partner with Myriad CPA Group, one of the Tri-State’s largest accounting firms.

“When I talk to people wanting to start their own business, I can draw from a lot of experience now,” says Schwartz. “I’ve been through that psychological, emotional process of making those tough decisions. And they are tough.

“When I first started my own firm, I started it from scratch, with experience and knowledge but limited resources. But it was all worth it.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Schwartz graduated from Apollo High School in 1992. A track and cross country stand out, his image now adorns its Athletic Hall of Fame.

He went on to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where graduated with a degree in finance in 1996, but it wasn’t until he attended his brother’s graduation from Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina, that he finally felt called to a specific purpose.

“I had no military interest at all,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even come from a military family. But it was my senior year. I was 21 and going to be graduating in a few months. I was trying to figure out what kind of professional job I wanted to take. That’s when I watched my younger brother graduate from Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). I decided, then and there, on the drive back, that I wanted to join the military and serve my country, too.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, a small base whose overall purpose is to provide support to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. In civilian’s terms, he acted as a liaison between those who needed to spend money to support the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the lengthy federal guidelines to which they had to adhere.

He spent his nights working on a graduate degree from Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, says Schwartz, and volunteering to help troops with their tax returns.

But after four years in the military, opportunity came knocking, and Schwartz was offered a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the country’s Big Four accounting firms.

“It was my dream job,” he says matter-of-factly. “I mean, the training you receive at a Big Four accounting firm, the people you meet, the projects you get to work on, it was a really awesome experience. My goal was to stay there and try to make partner. I was in St. Louis. I was relatively close to home, but then everything changed.”

Schwartz’s grandfather died in 2002, and the then 28-year-old began questioning the goals he had set for himself. Family suddenly became more important, he said, than continuing to climb the Big Four corporate ladder.

“It was really the first time I’d thought about life and how important family is,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like I needed to be closer to home.”

So after a year of soul searching, Schwartz quit his Big Four job and moved home to Owensboro. He started his own accounting firm, Schwartz CPA Group, and a year later met his wife, Rebecca, also a CPA.

He focused his energies on growing his small business, picking up clients and even took on businesses from as far away as Northern Indiana. He was elected president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs and was named the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s director and entrepreneur of the year.

He also got involved in the Owensboro community, serving as a Chamber board member, on the board of trustees to Brescia University, treasurer to the Owensboro Rotary Club, and he sits on the executive board to Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. He was on the Downtown Development Committee and is treasurer to the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Then in 2011, Schwartz was at a training seminar when he met a group of four other like-minded CPAs from the Tri-State area, each with a love of community but each also with their own special brand of expertise in the field.

Their friendship grew and flourished, and later that year, the men joined to form Myriad CPA Group, a company with a broad tax and accounting-based service with offices in Owensboro, Evansville, and Henderson.

“Everything has gone so well,” Schwartz says of the partnership. “The accounting industry, public accounting, is very fast-paced, and there are lots and lots of challenges.”

But with his professional life finally coming together, Schwartz began losing control over aspects of his personal life. The one-time track star put on nearly 60 pounds. Then, in early 2012, he vowed to make a change and hired a personal trainer. He took up running once again, and he and his wife began eating clean, organic foods. In a year’s time, he dropped nearly 10 pant sizes and 60 pounds. Today, he logs 20-25 miles per week.

Schwartz turned 40 in April, and when he looks back on his journey he’s humbled by how far he has come. The decision to return home was a difficult one, but as it turns out, the path to success doesn’t always come by way of the Big Four.

“I can’t believe how fast time has gone by,” he said. “I spent all of my 30s growing the business, staying active, staying involved. And that makes you really appreciate time because it has absolutely flown by. But I guess that means I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“What I find myself reflecting on more than anything,” he said, “is that the more you give, if you give with the right heart, the more that comes back to you.”

For more information about the Myriad CPA Group, visit myriadcpa.com.

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