The History of Howard – Where We’ve Been, Where We Are Now, and Where We’re Going

October 27th, 2023

In October 2023, The Bonadio Group announced that Howard, LLP will be joining the firm, effective November 1, 2023. Check out this blog to learn more about the history of Howard and why we’re so excited to become one firm!


Note: This blog was previously published on on October 26, 2023.


Humanizing accounting, redefining growth partner.” Why are these words something we repeat over and over at Howard? We’re sharing all the answers today! As a firm, we have a rich 42-year history, full of immense growth, emerging leaders, clients that we’re honored to serve, and defined values that make Howard CPAs different. Take a walk with us down memory lane to learn about the journey we’ve taken through the years and the next big step we’re taking to continue humanizing accounting and redefining growth partner.

The Beginning – The 80s

In 1981, Jim Howard was a partner at the national firm now known as BDO. He was a young CPA with a goal of one day serving local clients and giving them highly personalized tax and audit service. At age 33, Jim left his job and founded Howard, LLP in hopes of starting a firm with a more local presence rather than national.

Howard started small but quickly saw growth. From the early stages, the firm was identified for its expertise in real estate, a niche area of tax and audit. The real estate industry is close knit, which allowed Howard’s client base to multiply rapidly as clients referred their colleagues to the firm. By the mid-80s, over half of Howard’s clients were associated with real estate in some way, including developers, investors, and operators.

Additionally, Howard was quickly recognized as a firm made up of industry experts because of Jim’s participation in the Texas Society of CPAs and the Dallas Chapter. He served at various levels in both organizations, which helped the firm gain trust from clients by reassuring them that their CPAs are credible and knowledgeable.

At the end of the decade, real estate tax law underwent several changes, which caused many clients strife as they tried to keep up with the new developments. As a result, Howard experienced another growth spurt to continue serving real estate clients with all they needed. This success and growth happened quickly, but Howard was just getting started.

The Bonadio Group
Jim Howard, 1985


Creating a Team – The 90s

In 1990, the firm took a step forward as Otey Lumpkin, Jim’s former classmate, joined the team. Otey was the primary Audit Partner, known for being consistent, dependable, and thoughtful in and outside of the office. He was like a steady hand for Jim and was instrumental in forming the firm as we know it today. Otey also helped the firm continue to be seen as a trustworthy firm, as he was active in the Texas Society of CPAs on the Audit Review Committee. In this role, he performed peer reviews of other CPA firms, giving Howard further recognition. He later became the Managing Partner at Howard and went on to provide counsel to the firm.

Another major step was taken in 1994 when Howard Financial Services (HFS) was founded by Jim as a sister company to Howard. The need for this independent company emerged as Howard’s client base got older and required more comprehensive wealth management beyond what CPA firms normally provide. This helped Jim accomplish his goal of giving clients a full spectrum of financial services and meeting their needs as they changed in real-time. HFS now has over 25 staff members and partners who achieve this objective each and every day.

The firm saw more steady growth during this decade, which meant expanding the office. Previous to this growth, Jim purchased large amounts of office space with high hopes that we’d be able to fill it with more Howard team members to serve the firm’s growing clientele. This became a reality as the team grew and the firm continued to hire talented, personable CPAs. During this era of personnel growth, office space sometimes got tight, but Jim was always the first to downsize his office space and share it to make room for others; he has always been known for putting the team first, and this situation was no different.

Finally, two future Howard partners joined the firm in this decade: Melissa Lampert and Gary Kroll. Melissa has been with the team since 1995 and is known for her positive, genuine personality. Gary Kroll joined as a manager in 1999. Throughout the years, he’s consistently been a reliable communicator and teacher for other team members. To this day, they are two of the firm’s beloved Tax Partners.

The Bonadio Group
Otey Lumpkin, 1999


The Bonadio Group
Gary Kroll, 1999
The Bonadio Group
Melissa Lampert, 2002

Keeping the Momentum Going – The 2000s

The first decade of the new century was characterized by (you guessed it!) more growth. The firm was fortunate to continue expanding both in client base and team. The more, the merrier!

An important Howard tradition started during this era: the Dotzour Luncheon. Dr. Mark G. Dotzour, former Head of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, was the guest of honor at a luncheon initiated in 2004. He was a perfect fit to speak with the firm given his real estate expertise and Howard’s orientation for real estate clients. Nearly every year since then, Howard and HFS have hosted Dr. Dotzour at an annual luncheon where he talks about the economy in an educational, and famously humorous, way.

Jim firmly believes that a firm should be judged by the longevity of its team. Developing young CPAs and guiding them into leadership roles has always been a passion of his and something Howard is proud of. This goal became apparent during this era, as several future partners were hired as managers or in other roles, including Tim Pike, Paul Knutson, and Holly Watkins.

In 2004, Paul joined Howard. He quickly became known for his unique talent for breaking down complex structures and making them more understandable. As a Tax Partner, he adds an excitement and charisma to the team. Tim Pike, who grew up under the guidance of Otey Lumpkin, became a Howard team member in 2005. Today, he’s the firm’s Audit and Managing Partner (more on Tim later!). Finally, to round out the 2000’s, kind-hearted, forward-thinking Holly joined the team in 2009 and now serves as one of the firm’s Tax Partners.

The Bonadio Group
Dotzour Luncheon hosted by Howard and HFS, 2017
The Bonadio Group
Paul Knutson, Leisha Gardner, and Holly Watkins at the Dotzour Luncheon, 2017
The Bonadio Group
Tim Pike at a firm meeting, 2023

Expanding Expertise – The 2010’s

In this decade, Howard focused on expanding expertise and developing services in the technology and security industries. This effort was led by the personable and passionate Chris Barns. Chris currently serves as the firm’s Chief of Technology and Director of Operations and Strategic Services. After joining the team in 2006, he set and accomplished his goal of developing an IT infrastructure to catch up with other firms’ CPA technology.

Once the technology was up to speed, Chris’ focus switched to security, which became a pressing issue for firms of all sizes during this decade. Chris continually prioritized taking care of clients and protecting the firm, as he ramped up privacy, compliance, security, cyber insurance, and disaster recovery work. This was a monumental step for Howard, as it allowed the firm to use technology more effectively and efficiently for its clients.

Management also saw changes and more future leaders were added to the team throughout the 2000’s. First, in 2011, Leisha Gardner joined the firm and is now a Tax Partner. She is known for being a phenomenal teacher and keeping everyone around her smiling with her wit. Sarah Hancock became a Howard team member in 2014. Today she is a Tax Partner, and her thoughtfulness, care for others, and analytical decision-making are a huge asset to the firm. Finishing off this segment of Howard’s history, Otey Lumpkin retired from his role, and Gary Kroll became the firm’s Managing Partner in 2018.

The Bonadio Group
Chris Barnes at a Howard Spring Fling event, 2015
The Bonadio Group
Holly Watkins and Sarah Hancock at the Howard Holiday Party, 2016
The Bonadio Group
Leisha Gardner and Sarah Hancock at a firm celebration, 2017

Defining Values – The Beginning of the 2020s

It’s no secret that, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit people and businesses hard around the world. In the face of this adversity, Howard chose to continue to prioritize growth, upsizing office space in a new building across the street from the old office. The firm’s leaders, especially Holly and Paul, made this tough decision as they saw the value of having a physical space where the team could continue to grow. They wanted to foster a community and teamwork, despite much of the world working remotely at the time. Fortunately, this office space has done just that, and the team adopted it as their new home.

In January of 2021, Tim Pike became the firm’s Managing Partner, ushering in a new era of leadership for Howard. He is known to be extremely dedicated to the firm and always uplifting his team members. Much like previous Managing Partners, he has served in various roles with the Texas Society of CPAs, and he currently serves as the 2023-2024 Chair of the organization. With nearly three years down, the firm continues to grow under his guidance and insight.

In 2021, a group of Howard’s team members worked together to structure values, mission, and purpose. The Howard team has always been proud of the personalization and human element they bring to accounting along with their commitment to working as a team. This process helped put those things that make them special on paper to make that mindset tangible. The culmination of all of this led us to their official mission: humanizing accounting and redefining growth partner. These have always been and continue to be the pillars of the firm.

Finally, Howard gained two new partners during these years. In 2021, Josh Whitworth joined as a Tax Partner, bringing expertise on international tax, a reflective approach, and a knack for being a great listener. And balancing out the Audit Team, Rich Koch joined as an Audit Partner in 2023. He’s known for his passion for coaching and development, as well as his warm and genuine personality.

The Bonadio Group
Leisha Gardner and Josh Whitworth, 2023
The Bonadio Group
Rich Koch, 2023

Becoming Bonadio – The Future of Howard

As with every era, the Howard Partners have a responsibility to serve clients holistically and provide members of the firm with resources and opportunities to grow and develop. With this in mind, they recently began seeking ways to accomplish these goals on a larger scale while maintaining the firm’s purpose-driven values. This led them to their biggest change yet. After 42 years of serving clients, growing the team, and establishing culture as Howard, they are joining The Bonadio Group!

The Bonadio Group
Bruce and Tim, 2023

While their firm name may be changing, their commitment to their clients and team will remain firmly intact. Everything they have gone through and learned as a firm over the last four decades will continue to guide them in this new era.

We’re so excited to be joining a team of professionals who are just as passionate about top-notch client service and a humanizing firm culture as we are. We are looking forward to many more years of success with the Howard team!

To learn more about the joining of Howard, LLP and TBG, check out the official press release here. And if you would like to learn more about TBG’s culture, check out our careers page here, which features our blog, open positions, benefits, and more!