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BKD, whose core values include integrity, humility and hard work.

February 9, 2014
Paula Burkes

Executive Q&A: Same mantra guides Oklahoma executive over career

Executive Q&A: Todd Lisle, managing partner with BKD, always has aspired to do interesting work with good people.

Todd Lisle, managing partner of the Oklahoma branches of BKD CPAs & Advisors, has nearly 30 years of experience in public accounting. He worked more than a decade with Arthur Andersen, 11 years with his own firm, and the past seven, has been with Springfield, Mo.-based BKD.

BKD managing partner Todd Lisle poses for a photo Tuesday at the firm in Oklahoma City. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman CHRIS LANDSBERGER - CHRIS LANDSBERGER Lisle - who specializes in business valuation and fraud investigation - said he throughout has maintained the same mantra.

"I wanted to enjoy what I did; find the work interesting and fulfilling, and enjoy who I did it with," he said. "It was important that I was around good people, who shared my values and didn't take themselves so seriously." BKD's Oklahoma City office employs 56 and has annual revenues of roughly $7.5 million - $25 million counting its branches in Tulsa and Enid.

From his offices in Leadership Square, Lisle, who turns 52 on Tuesday, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I grew up in Enid. A WWII vet, my dad - who's 92 and lives at the Touchmark retirement community in Edmond - worked as a pharmacist: first as a pharmaceutical salesman for Squibb and then as head of pharmacy at St. Mary's hospital. My mother, who passed away five years ago, was a homemaker. I have two brothers, eight and 11 years older. Growing up in Enid was great. It was large enough that I wasn't bored, but not so big to get in trouble. I played on the high school tennis team, worked on the school paper and made decent grades. But I didn't really apply myself until I pledged Beta at OU and had four-hour nightly study halls. I started in engineering, but soon switched to business, and decided accounting was the major that afforded me the best opportunity and pay.

Q: I understand your OU ties run deep.

A: They do. My (paternal) granddad, parents and brothers all graduated from OU, and Lindsay Street in Norman is named after my great uncle - my granddad's sister's husband, who was the first bursar at OU. Growing up, my family would go to a few football games a year and stop by the Beta house to visit with my brothers before the game. So I was indoctrinated early.

Q: How did you meet your wife?

A: We met our sophomore year at OU. My fraternity house, Beta Theta Pi, and her sorority house, Chi Omega, are right next to each other, and we both attended a party across the street at the Sig Alph house. We married soon after graduation. In fact, I managed to do four of what is considered life's 10 major events the first three weeks of that summer. I graduated, married, started my first professional job with Arthur Andersen, and bought a house. Our parents loaned us the down payment.

Q: You worked 11 years for Arthur Andersen before starting your own firm. What was your inspiration?

A: My faith was gnawing on me. Instead of putting God first followed by my family and career, I had it backwards and felt like I couldn't reverse the order while I was working in such an intensely competitive environment. After six months of prayer and discussion, I took a leap of faith and started my own firm in '95. For the first few years, I was a one-man operation, but then partnered with Randy Compton and eventually added folks to become Lisle, Compton, Cole & Almen, with about 20 full-time employees. It was the right decision. During those years, I coached 16 straight seasons of my sons' soccer teams, taught Sunday School and led small groups for teens at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond. Some of the friends I met there are part of a small men's group who - for the past 15 years - has gathered at 6 a.m. every Wednesday at Panera Bread in Edmond, to share prayer, advice and encouragement.

Q: What led you to merge with BKD in 2006?

A: For the five years prior, we'd been growing at a rate of 25 percent to 30 percent annually, and I felt like without the infrastructure, our wheels might start coming off the track. I'd just mentioned at a company retreat that I thought we should quit growing, reinvent ourselves or merge with a larger company. Soon afterward, we merged and about half of the staff chose to stay with BKD, whose core values include integrity, humility and hard work.

Q: What does BKD stand for?

A: The last names of the men who founded our firm in the 1920s. I know it's not uncommon for some people to transpose the letters. About the same time my firm was being acquired by BKD - sometimes mistakenly referred to as BDK - a Wichita man known as the "BTK serial killer" was on trial. I was helping on a big case with McAfee & Taft, whose lawyers razzed me relentlessly about the perceived parallel.

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