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Ingram sees accounting as an ever-changing field

Vicksburg — Donna Ingram says it’s a good day so she has no regrets about becoming an accountant. However, everything about this amicable professional indicates she would be positive no matter what was happening around the office of May and Company.

Born and reared in Detroit, Ingram realized how much she enjoyed numbers when she took a bookkeeping class in high school. An auditing instructor at Michigan State University was a big influence, and she went on to earn an accounting degree. She says she’s still learning about her field every day.

“After graduation, from 1981 to 1983, I worked in the small office in Kalamazoo, Mich., of a large, national firm and had the best of both worlds,” she said. “I had to learn by the seat of my pants, but I had an excellent mentor.”

She did audits and tax work, predominantly auditing, and says she didn’t have the opportunity to “cookbook” or copy the previous year’s work, but had to think for herself. “That experience helped me to be able to grasp what needed to be done,” she says.

Marriage brought Ingram to Mississippi. Armed with a phonebook, she set out to find an accounting firm in Natchez, Jackson or Vicksburg that would hire her. She found a spot at May and Company and became a certified public accountant in the same year, 1983. She has been there ever since and is now a partner in the firm.

“Because I was from Detroit and had audited a Chevrolet dealership in Kalamazoo, they thought I was an expert with car dealerships so I’ve been doing them ever since,” she said.

Ingram does have a diverse range of clients that includes construction, wholesalers, manufacturers, retail and nonprofit organizations in addition to car dealerships. She places an emphasis on accounting and consulting but she says she does a fair bit with clients to help them protect themselves from fraud. A certified fraud examiner since 1991, she was one of the first in the state and is active in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Central Mississippi Chapter. The association works closely with CPAs to better address concerns about fraud.

Ingram became interested in fraud investigations when a client had some embezzlement and she wanted to arm the accounting firm with as much knowledge as possible.

“Fortunately, the embezzlement happened in a period that we had not audited,” she said.

Noting that there’s a huge expectation gap about fraud investigations, Ingram said the perception is that examiners are coming in and looking at every transaction to be able to put a Good Housekeeping stamp of approval on it.

“The goal is to get reasonable assurance and people expect absolute assurance,” she said. “I advise business people not to be too trusting or let their guard down. At a minimal cost, and sometimes no cost, they can help prevent fraud.”

May and Company has always tried to be involved with the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, Ingram said. Through that organization, she was asked to serve on a national peer review board and continues that service at the state and national levels.

What Ingram likes most about her profession is the interaction with people, saying she has no opportunity to get bored or sit around in a chair at the office. All the compliance CPAs are having to deal with, often unfair to small businesses, is the thing she likes the least.

“It’s a good field for females and getting better,” she said. “It was hard when I first started, but the profession is recognizing that women are an important part of it.”

She says it’s been a very interesting road and accounting will be an ever-changing profession. She thinks regulations will have to have a differentiation between corporations and mom and pop businesses. Also, she hopes to see students with an understanding of financial matters choose accounting.

Will one of those students be either of her sons, John or Christopher? “I don’t think so,” Ingram answers with a laugh. “They say I work too many hours and get a lot of calls at home, but that’s changing and I’m starting to say no. I’m learning how to do that.”

Her 12-year-old and 13-year-old sons were born after Ingram was well established as an accounting professional. She says the main thing that makes it all work for her is having good people to work with who place an importance on quality of life and keeping families first.

The whole family, including her architect husband, Paul Ingram, has taken up running three to five days a week, often in the Vicksburg National Military Park. The Ingrams also enjoy gardening and traveling together.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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