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Banking Image Makeover: Fort Worth accounting firm rebrands, looks to future

Image Makeover: Fort Worth accounting firm rebrands, looks to future

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net Fort Worth certified public accounting firm JTaylor is embracing a fresh start with the new year. Launched in January 1999, the firm spent last year going through a rebranding process that resulted in a new logo, a rejuvenated focus on company values, a redesigned emphasis on professional/personal development and a new simpler name.

The process also re-engaged the firm’s leadership, helping them find a renewed energy they say will help grow the company well into the next generation. “The process took 12 months but it was very beneficial,” said Joe Taylor, one of the firm’s three co-founders and a managing partner. “It helped us to look at how we see ourselves and how to better present ourselves. We hadn’t done anything to update our image so it was good for all of us, especially our younger partners. Our very successful branding effort has been one of the many initiatives that have been driven by our young leadership.”

Taylor, along with partners Shannon Schumacher and Courtney McKay, left positions at accounting firm McCaslin & Co. in 1998 to spin off their new business. The company, known then as J. Taylor & Associates LLC, began as a registered CPA accounting firm with a focus on business consulting, particularly in health care, a practice the trio had started within McCaslin. “Sixteen years ago when this (then) 42-year-old and two 28-year-olds formed the firm, our driving goal was to do a great job in serving our clients, and enjoy doing it,” Taylor said. “We did not have aspirations to grow to be a large firm. In fact, we probably had some aversion to this given what all we saw in other large firms. We seemingly all of a sudden find our firm to be one of the larger in Tarrant County. It’s been a total team effort.” Today, the firm has grown from three to 48 employees – including 10 partners – and provides specialized tax and accounting, assurance, valuation and consulting services for national and international clients in a range of industries. JTaylor has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading health care advisory and valuation firms. Thanks to an intentional business strategy that combines seven guiding principles with strong recruitment and development programs and the forging of deep relationships with clients, the firm has enjoyed consistent double digit growth year over year. JTaylor experienced a 40 percent increase in revenue and professional staff in 2014 and projects the same amount of growth this year. “We haven’t grown by acquiring other firms. We’re very protective of our culture and don’t want to lose that,” Schumacher said. “We want to grow organically through our client relationships and through referrals and recruitment efforts that are intentional from within. That’s always been our method of growing.”

The firm’s adherence to its core values – faith, empowerment, fairness, family, mutual respect, quality and teamwork – is a determining factor in its success and growth, say Schumacher and Taylor. “Focusing on our values helps us in our decision-making. We refer back to those values in all the decisions we make for our firm and our clients,” Taylor said. “We are careful not to forget who we are, where we came from and what is priority for us.” Taylor says he is unaware of other accounting firms that offer a “stakeholder” role for partners. This position is a launching pad for prospective partners, where they are invited to and actively participate in the monthly business management meetings and semi-annual strategic retreats. “They see all financial information for the firm and get to understand our firm and its decision-making at a fairly deep level,” Taylor said. “This also gives the partners the ability to see the stakeholders in a firm management context and see another perspective in decision-making.”

The age and energy of the staff is another factor, the founders say, that makes JTaylor stand out. Half of the firm’s leadership team is 40 or younger. Taylor’s co-managing partner, Mike Malloy, who joined the firm in 2006 as the 12th employee, is only 36. Schumacher and Gary Scarborough, the directors of the tax division, are 44 and 36, respectively. The directors of the consulting division are Herd Midkiff, 40, and Anna Brewer, 36. The director of the assurance services division, Jan Neal, is also 36. Myra Speer, director of the business services division, came from McCaslin & Co. to JTaylor within two weeks of its formation. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit here. You feel empowered. It’s been fun to participate in that youthful component,” Malloy said. Malloy says one of the main factors that makes the firm stand from competitors is its relationships with clients. “We are fortunate to have deep client relationships. It’s rewarding to work in a place where you have the chance to work very deeply with the clients,” Malloy said. “Our client base and the way we work with them distinguishes us. Other firms don’t work with clients at the same depth. I think that’s unique about us.” Successfully empowering and incorporating younger leaders into the firm makes a strong statement about the company, Taylor says. “The youth factor really adds to the excitement level of the firm,” Taylor said. “Jim [Chapman, another partner] and I are some of the older ones. I think having a balance of some older folks with experience and younger ones is good and is helpful in the transition of one to the other. One of the biggest challenges and one of the greatest measurements of success for a professional services firm is whether you’re able to hand the firm from one generation to the other – a succession – and to do it well. I’m proud that we’ve had such a good succession, succession in management and ownership. Our succession has been outstanding and the leadership with so much youth has made us a success.”

When it comes to hiring and retaining women, JTaylor takes the lead. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, women may represent more than 50 percent of accounting graduates entering the profession in the last 20 years, but make up only 19 percent of the partners. Half of JTaylor’s partners are female, and 27 of the 48 employees are women. In 2013, JTaylor won the “Best Workplace for Women Award” from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. The firm was recognized for demonstrating best practices in creating a woman-friendly work environment. The company was judged on compensation and leave, ethics, work flexibility, training and mentoring, facilities, community involvement and wellness initiative. “I think we have a culture that’s very appealing to the recruitment effort of women who want to have a career and a family. They can see it can work. Here you have the opportunity to be successful and part of the leadership and management and maintain a family life,” Schumacher said. Chapman, who in the 1980s worked with Taylor at Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), joined JTaylor in 2001. In January 2014, he was named director of professional development, charged with helping both the professional and personal development of all employees.

“We believe in not just having people come to work every day but investing in them and helping them to grow personally,” Taylor said. “I don’t know of any other firm that has a position like this.” Chapman says the idea is to promote personal and professional growth not only within the company but within the community. “We’re grooming people who are going to go other places eventually and we want to give them a good background of skill sets to serve the community better,” Chapman said. “It’s something new – it’s a challenge and something I have a passion about. It’s a very important initiative we have to invest in our people to serve the community better.” Taylor says the firm is always searching for new talent, employees who will fit in culturally. “We’re trying to manage our growth by attracting the right people,” he said. “That’s one reason we’ve done so well. These talented people just attract more talent and positive energy.”  

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