A co-founder of Conway MacKenzie, Van Conway serves as CEO of the company that will mark its silver anniversary this summer.
Van Conway, who in 1987 co-founded the firm after spending 13 years as a partner with the former Deloitte & Touche, prides himself in attempting to "keep things simple" despite the inherent complexity of the work in the restructuring field.
"We don't have a company manual per se," Conway
says in his
trademark matter-of-fact way.
"Our company manual boils down to this - right and wrong.
The way we operate is pretty basic.
If you live and work by the Golden Rule, there is no need for a 100-page manual."
It's a philosophy that Conway
has embraced throughout his
career as a CPA and licensed professional, in which he
has gained a national reputation for his
expertise in the fields of "insolvency/bankruptcy; financing, reorganization and management of troubled companies; mergers and acquisitions; debt restructuring; and litigation support.
company's success has had a nice spillover effect for various area charitable organizations (see related story), including the Oakland County Bar Foundation
is a product of Detroit Austin High School
, a former Catholic League powerhouse that counts the late NBA great Dave DeBusschere among its distinguished alums.
"My parents had four kids and we lived in a tiny house in Grosse Pointe, even though my dad owned a foundry type business," Conway
never made much money, but he
provided everything I needed and he
taught me how to work and for that I will always be grateful."
began working at the age of 10, earning a dollar an hour for various odd jobs around the foundry on the northeast side of Detroit.
At age 16, Conway
first pay boost to $2.12 an hour, the entry-level wage for union workers at the plant.
father also had four basic rules for his
son to follow, according to Conway
"First, get all A's in school," Conway
says of his
said for me never to bring the cops to our home.
Third, I needed to respect my mom.
And fourth, 'Do what I tell you to do.'"
The last directive, of course, was a catch-all that Conway
took to heart as he
embarked upon his
collegiate career at John Carroll University
, a Jesuit school in suburban Cleveland.
"I have to admit that I had a good time in college, but I also appreciated the importance of getting good grades," says Conway
"I knew it was all about my GPA if I was going to have a chance at getting a good job following graduation."
Two days after graduating from John Carroll in June of 1974, Conway started work with Deloitte in its Detroit office, one of 25 new hires in the so-called summer class.
"I was an outlier and I knew that I needed to step it up if I was going to compete with all of the University of Michigan summa cum laudes," Conway
"I was not heralded and needed once again to prove myself worthy of the job."
was among those assigned to the GM account, helping conduct the worldwide audit of the giant automaker's finances.
His work soon began to speak for itself, leading Conway to a path to become the only partner out of the 25 in "Detroit Class of 1974.
At the age of 32, Conway
was chosen to address Deloitte's
800 partners at an annual meeting in Florida, a plum assignment that spoke volumes about his
future with the company.
"I knew that if I stayed I had a shot at running the firm worldwide," Conway
"But I always had an itch to be my own boss."
So, two years later, Conway
and his friend and accounting colleague, Donald MacKenzie, formed the firm that now bears their names, taking the proverbial "leap of faith" that didn't appear to make much financial sense at the time.
"We didn't have any clients, but we had a vision about what kind of firm we wanted to build and we were committed to working hard to make it happen," says Conway on behalf of MacKenzie, who also is a CPA and works out of the firm's New York office.