Aaron Dawson

Accounting is in Aaron Dawson’s blood. With nine certified public accountants in his family, Dawson got to see what a career in that field looked like and it was a no-brainer that he should go that route, too. After graduating from Western Washington University, he worked for a decade with large CPA firms in Seattle.

While working as a certified public accountant (CPA) is something that Dawson had success in, his accomplishments as an entrepreneur are even more notable.

After moving to southwest Washington and purchasing his current firm from George Opsahl in 2009, Dawson took the reins of the business. Now known as Opsahl Dawson, he has grown the company from 15 people to more than 130 people in locations across Washington state. Headquartered in Vancouver with offices now in Longview, Kelso, and Lacey, the company was voted third fastest growing accounting firm last year by Accounting Today.

“I get great satisfaction working closely with clients and helping them with their business and achieving their goals,” Dawson shared. “I have always been a very sociable and helpful person. I like to be the friend and neighbor who will offer to help someone and have enough tools around my house that my neighbors know who to ask if they need to borrow something. This center of influence and servant leadership trait has been helpful in business. I enjoy helping our clients and being a ‘go to’ guy, I also believe that it has helped me build a great team at work with a very positive culture. I believe tone at the top is a real thing. I like to have a sense of humor and a ‘can do’ attitude – this is reflective in the culture at Opsahl Dawson.”

Dawson shares that he has a couple of mentors that have helped him learn the ropes as a business leader. The first person was Rob Wheeler, the head of the tax department at Clark Nuber, the Bellevue firm that Dawson left to buy Opsahl Dawson. He was a supportive and approachable leader, remembered everyone’s names, and made sure people knew how to learn from their mistakes – all things that Dawson works to model today. He also says that Matt Lee, his current business partner, has also been critical to both business and personal growth.

“The best way to make new friends and find new clients is to get out of the office and socialize,” Dawson said. “I’m very thankful that he taught me that valuable lesson.”

While his success in business has been notable, Dawson explains that it hasn’t come without its challenges.

He said, “The largest challenge so far in business is always doing an A++ job on any task you set out for. Even the simplest task should demand perfection. If you want your business to be unique and a step ahead of everyone else, you must be intentional about that. I try and think ahead, see what is coming, and make careful decisions to be the firm of the future. It takes a lot of detailed thinking and execution to be great…being great doesn’t happen by accident.”

Dawson credits much of the firm’s growth to the outstanding team of people that work to serve clients day in and day out.

“I focus my efforts on the success of my team members,” Dawson said. “They have helped build our firm to what it is today. I take great pride in the responsibility that I have to help shape their lives, help support their families, and help them accomplish their professional goals. I found that if I focus my efforts on my team, they in turn can focus their positive energy and enthusiasm towards our clients…everyone wins! It is a beautiful circle of life in our public accounting profession.”

While accounting is what Dawson lives and breathes, he is also passionate about his family and helping in the local community. He and his wife and three kids are Ridgefield residents, and he’s been active as the treasurer for the Columbia Theatre in Longview, treasurer for the Vancouver Boys & Girls Club, and now, the treasurer for the premier Salmon Creek Soccer Club named FC Salmon Creek. He has also been involved with Leadership Clark County and the firm is a strong contributor to WSU Vancouver, where he also sits on the fundraising board.

Looking at the future, Dawson is excited about what’s to come. And for other aspiring young professionals, he gives this simple advice: surround yourself with the best people you can find.

Brooke Strickland
A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Brooke Strickland is a full-time freelance writer that specializes in writing blogs, website content, and business news for companies & publications around the country. She is also the co-author of Hooked on Games, a book about technology and video game addiction.

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