By Alison Bailin
The phone was always ringing at Mike Allen’s childhood home in Milwaukee.
“My father ran The Boston Store, a family of department stores across Wisconsin akin to a Macy’s or Dillard’s here,” Allen says.
“Given the nature of his job, much of his role was to serve as an ambassador for our community. He took great pride in being the first call most businesses and charitable organizations would make if they needed help and support.”
The youngest of three boys, Allen often tagged along with his parents as they supported the causes who reached out.
“While I am sure they were just trying to keep me out of my older brothers’ hair, seeing both my parents take on these leadership roles helped shaped the man I wanted to become,” says Allen, adding that watching his father lead a business inspired him to work toward that goal as well.
A diligent student, once accepted into the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Allen was at a crossroads of what to study.
“I landed on accounting as it was explained to me as the language of business,” Allen says. “I figured if I wanted to work in business, I should know the language.”
Allen quickly found he had a knack for accounting, surprising even himself. Given his aptitude, even before he graduated, Allen developed a plan to earn his CPA designation as soon as possible and then use it to make his way in the world, eventually as his own boss.
“By 1984, with my degree and the CPA designation in hand, I sought to spread my wings, relocating to Albuquerque as much for the adventure as possible accounting jobs,” Allen says. “My then-wife and I moved out there jobless and threw a mattress in an apartment, eager to take on New Mexico, which more than lived up to its nickname as the Land of Enchantment.”
Over the next several years, Allen started his own accounting firm with a colleague and became a father for the first time. His phone also began ringing, much like his father’s.
“After the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988, the firm started getting calls from Tribal Nations, work that exploded in ways we could have never imagined,” Allen says. “Personally, I started getting calls about volunteer opportunities in the community, which was a very full-circle moment given my childhood.”
Allen went on to serve on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation – Albuquerque and as board chair for the New Futures School for parenting teens. He is also a graduate of the inaugural class of Leadership Albuquerque.
“This brings us to the mid-1990s, and a major turning point,” Allen says. “My son and his mother relocated to Scottsdale,” Allen says. “Unable to adjust to the idea of life without my son close by, and as my current wife and I discussed expanding our family, we decided it made the most sense for me my to leave the business I had started and for us to start a new life in Scottsdale near my son so he could build a strong relationship with his siblings as our new family grew.”
Looking back, Allen calls it the best decision of his life.
“We moved in May 1995, and my phone started ringing pretty quickly, something I was used to in Albuquerque but did not expect here,” Allen says.
The first call was from a longtime Tribal client seeking his expertise in leading management operations of a casino, to which Allen agreed to do if he could do so from his new homebase in Scottsdale. Among the next calls was from a colleague asking him if he liked football.
“When I replied yes, he invited me to a Fiesta Bowl Committee meeting,” Allen says. “The next thing I knew, I was literally sweeping up horse droppings along the Fiesta Bowl Parade route. For 10 years, I served as a Fiesta Bowl Committee member and eventually as chair of the board of directors in 2005.”
Along the way, Allen earned his MBA at Arizona State University, welcomed two more children and served with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix as well.
“By 2011, I was ready for a new challenge, and there was that phone ringing again,” Allen says. “That particular call was from colleagues at REDW, asking me to help open their firm in Arizona.”
The award-winning, independent advisory and accounting business recruited Allen as the managing principal of its newly established firm in Phoenix in April 2011.
Among the biggest selling points?
“Certainly, the chance to help build a business in my adopted home state was special, and I was absolutely intrigued by their depth and breadth of work with Tribal Nations given my own decades of experience. But what really sold me was our shared love of a ringing phone,” Allen says. “REDW wants to be the call that clients, colleagues and even competitors make for anything and everything they need. With any question. With any idea. With any challenge.”
During the next decade-plus, Allen recruited, managed and empowered a dream team. Today, the 70-plus person office is thriving and has eyes toward further expansion. Earlier this summer, REDW was named among the Top 200 Largest Accounting Firms in the United States by INSIDE Public Accounting, a newsletter for the public accounting profession. REDW came in at 112, which is the firm’s highest ranking and its 13th consecutive year making the list.
“My focus today is still answering that phone when it rings but inspiring our team members at every level to want to do the same,” says Allen, who actively empowers every member of the firm to take an active role in the community, supporting those who are engaged through formal REDW support and his own mentorship when asked.
Allen is also still very focused on his close-knit family, especially his two grandkids, whom he and his wife regularly babysit, and still finds time to answer the call to community service himself. In 2019, Allen completed service as board chair of the Arizona Society of CPAs and was selected by the Arizona state treasurer to serve on its Task Force on Financial Literacy, and in 2020, Allen was elected to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) Executive Committee. PCPS guides programs to help improve the quality of services and operating success of member firms nationwide.
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