Retired Kansas City Partner Tim Wilson spent most of his 36-year career at FORVIS’ predecessor firm BKD, crafting the connections needed to establish and grow the firm’s Construction & Real Estate Practice. Today, fondly referred to as Mr. Ambassador, Tim is still passionate about building connections. But now it’s all about connecting FORVIS’ alumni and Ambassadors to the firm—and each other.
Tim, you’re a member of the Alumni Steering Committee and have been a strong proponent of the firm’s Alumni Network efforts since retiring in 2021. Why?
So, it actually began well before I retired. During the last five or six years of my career, I witnessed many of my fellow partners retiring. And some were telling me that, after June 1, they just didn’t feel that connection to the firm anymore. Others weren’t sure if it was even okay to remain in touch. Most of us spend more time during our career with the firm than with our families. And to feel suddenly cut off, that’s completely opposite of what we desire as a firm, and it frustrated me.
So, what did you do?
Initially, I pitched an idea to our Innovation Lab, a program where you could suggest ideas that might lead to growth opportunities. Specifically, I was pitching a vehicle to link Ambassadors, i.e., retired partners, with board service opportunities. It didn’t become an official incubator project, but I believe it raised the overall awareness of our need to proactively stay engaged not only with our Ambassadors/retired partner group but with all alumni. And I distinctly remember (former BKD CEO) Ted Dickman telling me that building a stronger Alumni Network was “on his list.”
Today, you’re a member of the Alumni Steering Committee. What does that tell you?
Well, first, it’s great fun now having the opportunity to provide guidance and input from the “Ambassador side” of the table. And what it tells me, is the firm is committed to building a world-class Alumni Network. The fact that we even have an Alumni Steering Committee—let alone 26 Alumni Champions across most larger markets—is an indication of the value the firm places on strong alumni relationships.
Other than serving on the Alumni Steering Committee, how else are you personally involved?
I’ve especially enjoyed working with Michael Flaxbeard, the Alumni Champion in Kansas City, to kick off a series of lunch meetings with some alumni there. It’s usually a small gathering—an alum, and active partner, maybe a few staff and an Ambassador from the Kansas City office—and we just spend time reconnecting. We’re mostly trying to tear down walls and encourage alumni to stay in touch. It’s important that we do this with retired partners and non-partners alike. Also, I think it’s great that we involve younger, active staff. It gives them a better appreciation for our alumni and lets them experience firsthand the value of FORVIS’ Alumni Network.
What are some lessons learned?
FORVIS’ Alumni Network is a win-win. Alumni win. The firm wins. Active partners and staff win. But it’s a two-way street. Both sides need to be engaged. I’ve seen too many times when a retired partner walks away and never reaches out again. Sure, we’d love it if every alum would refer work or great people, but that’s a byproduct of a great relationship. And that’s what we’re focused on. And it’s why I was so excited to meet Chief Talent Officer and Alumni Executive Sponsor Lori Haley, and Anne Creasy on the Strategic Communication Team, who is spearheading communications for our Alumni Network. Hearing about—and in some cases participating in—the many ways FORVIS is actively working to keep alumni engaged is energizing and refreshing.
What advice do you have for FORVIS’ alumni?
I tell my fellow Ambassadors—and this goes for all alumni—that they should feel a responsibility to stay engaged. As I said, it’s a two-way street. The firm is working hard to create an Alumni Network that offers real value and opportunities for alums to stay connected. But we can’t do that by ourselves. We need our alumni to reach out, participate, and strengthen the network.
What does it mean to be an alum of the firm?
Watching the success of people I worked with who are still at the firm is incredibly rewarding. But more than anything, I’m incredibly fortunate and feel a deep sense of accomplishment that I was able to spend 99% of my career at just one firm. Very few people get to experience that. And it says a lot about the character, culture, and values of our great firm.
More About Tim
- Born and raised in Trenton, Missouri
- Received his bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Truman State University
- Joined FORVIS’ predecessor firm BKD in 1987 in Kansas City, Missouri
- Made partner in 1996
- Served as managing partner of the BKD Cincinnati office from 2002–2006
- Returned to BKD Kansas City in 2007 and in 2013 was named leader of the firm’s Construction & Real Estate industry group
- Retired in 2021
- Has been married to his wife, Michelle, for 36 years, and they have two adult sons
- Enjoys golf, the Chiefs and Royals, hanging with friends and family, and spending time at his vacation home outside of Scottsdale, Arizona