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Firm’s 30-year growth parallels successful South Miss. economy

In the 30 years since Hattiesburg-based Nicholson & Company, PLLC, started in the accounting business, the firm has gone from manual tax returns and ledger entries to tax accounting software that operates with lightening speed. And the firm that started with just a handful of employees now employs 55 people and is one of the largest CPA firms in the region.

Nicholson & Company was founded by Carl L. Nicholson Jr., Richard G. Topp and Frank H. McWhorter Jr. in 1977.

“I’m proud to see how this company has achieved a reputation in the regional business community as providing unsurpassed accounting and financial consulting services,” Nicholson said. “Factor in more than 100 years of combined experience among its partners, and Nicholson & Company provides services that rival those of any national firm.”

The success of the firm, which now has more than 1,000 clients, is reflection of the economic growth in South Mississippi.

“We have a strong economy,” Nicholson said. “Over the years, we have developed close relationships with our clients in assisting them to grow their businesses. We call it a comfort zone that you create with the client and the firm.”

Nicholson said when building an accounting firm, success is based on the quality of the professional staff put together.

“Now, most CPA firms offer some consulting in addition to auditing and tax returns,” Nicholson said. “The list of services provided by most firms is very lengthy, and there is a need for specialty expertise. It has become a very specialized profession.

“Some employees handle only litigation, some only estate planning, and some only complex transactions.”

The accounting profession received a severe blow to its reputation from the WorldCom and Enron scandals.

“It was up to our profession to police itself, and I think we have done a much better job of doing that,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said he may slow down in the future, but currently has no plans for retirement.

“I think as long as you have good health, you need to keep an active mind to stay healthy,” he said. “We enjoy the relationship with our clients and our employees.

Managing partner Frank McWhorter Jr., CPA, said Nicholson & Company has attained success by consistently providing one-on-one attention with each client, regardless of the size of their company.

“Our status as one of the largest firms in the region has not changed the way we treat each client with individual attention, with the personal touch of a smaller firm,” said McWhorter. “Along with personal service, clients have come to expect the highest quality work, conducted with the strictest policy of confidentiality.”

McWhorter said the number one change through the decades he has worked for the firm has been the dramatic improvements in technology. Tax software programs and the speed of the technology give the firm the opportunity to do more and more, and service more accounts.

“It allows you to do things other than number crunching like counseling,” McWhorter said. “We now do business evaluations, we have a separate department that does retirement planning and administration, and we do a lot of forensic accounting providing litigation support to attorneys. After Katrina, we did a lot of work on estimates of damage and lost profits. We have an IT department that will consult with people on their computer and software needs such as firewalls and protections they need for safeguarding their accounts and records. People think CPAs do tax returns and certainly we are busy in the spring doing taxes, but it is a 12-month-a-year profession now.”

The company does most of its work for businesses from between Jackson and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but also has clients in surrounding states such as Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina.

“South Mississippi has been our bread and butter,” he said. “When we started in 1977, Hattiesburg was a nice town. But it has experienced a lot of growth in the past 30 years. A lot of our success has been due to the success of the region. The area has a huge medical community. We are encouraged about future prospects for our industry. People will always need work like tax returns and reliable, third-party analysis of financial statements for investment decision making.”

McWhorter attributes the success of the company to its people. And the firm is proud that all of its employees are involved in helping make their community a better place.

“We encourage everyone who works here to be involved in the community whether it is in churches, the United Way or their children’s schools,” McWhorter said. “We are heavily involved in civic organizations. We work hard.”

Over the years, the firm has developed a staff diverse in ability and experience. Out of the more than 55 employees, 23 team members have been designated as CPAs with a license to practice public accounting in Mississippi, and several are licensed in other Southeastern states.

“It is rewarding for me to see our company’s ‘team philosophy’ employed in practice daily,” said Nicholson & Company partner Richard G. Topp, CPA. “Our team of professionals has a wide range of strengths to complement each other. That experience in the marketplace has allowed us to be more selective with the clients we represent.”

Partner Susan Riley, CPA, said the firm’s philosophy is to provide the most complete accounting, auditing and tax services to clients, in the most efficient manner possible, to make a positive difference in the lives of clients.

Another partner, Dawn Jones, CPA, said the firm has the type of relationship with clients where they know that the firm’s employees care not only about the client’s financial success, but also them individually.

The company recently broke ground on a new 24,000-square-foot office building on Memorial Drive in Hattiesburg, across from the Family Y.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette4@cox.net.


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