By NASH NUNNERY
The notion of accountants as ‘bean counters’ huddled together in a cramped office crunching numbers and preparing tax returns is an antiquated stereotype.
It certainly doesn’t apply to the Ridgeland office of Carr Riggs & Ingram CPAs and Advisors.
The array of services that CRI and many nationally-known CPA firms offer is growing exponentially. Beyond audits and tax returns, today’s certified public accountants are delving into other areas of the financial world, including business development, estate planning, management consulting, retirement and college planning, and investment counseling.
CRI partner-in-charge Elton Sims says that along with becoming more diversified in its business model, solidifying client relationships is a ‘job-one’ priority with the firm.
“One thing that distinguishes us (from other CPA firms) is we give critical attention to our clients’ needs,” he said. “The days of just doing tax returns are a thing of the past.”
David McIntosh, CRI’s business development executive, concurred with Sims’ assessment.
“In Mississippi, people expect personal relationships in business. We have the technology to have interactive meetings and we do, but an in-person visit with a client makes a better environment all around,” McIntosh added.
Last October, the firm moved into a sparkling new building just off Steed Road near Highland Colony Parkway.
“In our former location, we had no room and no visibility,” he said. “We have 70 team members now and clients and employees are in a comfortable and more enjoyable setting.”
Headquartered in Enterprise, Alabama, CRI was founded in 1997 and maintains offices in 10 states across the Southeast. With over 1,800 professionals employed, the firm provides a plethora of services, including tax management, wealth management strategies and planning estates.
The Ridgeland office remains CRI’s only location in Mississippi.
Recruiting and retaining top-flight talent is a huge issue in the accounting industry, according to the Journal of Accountancy. As business has picked up in public accounting, so has the competition for talent.
“Part of our challenge is getting people that want to be here,” said Larry May, a CRI partner. “If you want to work for a larger firm that has progressive leadership, CRI is a great place. And, say, if your spouse is transferred to another city out-of-state, we likely have an office in that city where there’s a place for you.
“Having all the resources for both employees and clients is vital to a CPA firm in 2018.”
Sims added that relocating the Ridgeland office to newer and spacious digs brought the firm brand recognition that it hadn’t experienced in the past.
“For a long time we flew under the radar and the move is a benefit to attract the best and the brightest (talent),” he said. “We have areas in the office that were designed specifically for millennials – even a ‘mother’s room’ for female employees to nurse their children.”
As with most larger CPA firms, CRI is laser-focused on helping clients with the overall success of their business, as opposed to offering only deliverables such as a financial statement or tax return.
The old idea of the CPA as a trusted business advisor has been resurrected, says McIntosh.
“Our clients expect us to be a ‘one-stop shop’ and we have that here,” he said. “CRI has experience in data analytics and do lots of work in the automotive and health care industries. We also have investment banker and merger acquisition groups within the firm.”
Sims believes that despite all the talk about niche-driven trends, certified public accounting boils down to nurturing a strong bond with the client.
“Big data and technology is important, but for our group in Mississippi, it’s about relationships – we are in the relationship business.”
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