Celebrating 70 Years: For the Love of Financial Statements
By Ginny Colvin, Quality Assurance Manager
I joined Bernard Robinson & Company, L.L.P. in June 1993 – 24 years ago. I still remember the suit I wore to my interview: it was teal green. I was initially hired to help bring BRC into the 20th century with regard to its computer presence, and to do administrative support. Mr. Bernard Robinson was semi-retired at this point, but came into the office almost every day. The very professional and proper atmosphere of the office was a little daunting to me in my first days. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, but buttoned-up professional. The men of course all wore suits, and the women also had to wear suits (skirts). If the women wanted to wear pants, then it had to be a pant suit (purchased together). I was told not to look Mr. Robinson in the eye, and never ever speak to him unless spoken to first. I came from a large family, raised in the country where everyone talked at the same time and all 10 children were treated as and expected to be individuals. So, I made it my personal challenge to set about changing this proper and austere place – but very quietly, and on the down-low, so no one was aware of it. Soon, Mr. Robinson was greeting me with a smile and asking how I was doing, as I had started doing the same with him. We even started having birthday cakes! I can’t take credit for changing the dress code (maybe a little of my free spirit rubbed off), but that changed too, and everyone loved it.
Also, another thing I discovered early on was the very low turnover rate in employees. People just did not leave this place very often. The Firm was just that good to everyone. It may have been professional and austere, but there was tremendous respect for all the work you did, and there were a lot of perks I had not experienced anywhere else. All these things added up to more than 40 years of service from the office manager, more than 30 years for a couple of the accountants, and between 10 and 25 years for others in the administrative department. Most of the positions were created for these people; they were not stepping into someone else’s vacated job. Over the past 24 years I have been here, many of the people that were here when I started are either still here or have “aged” out and retired.
In the early days, I reported directly to Bob Shuman, the partner over the operations end of the Firm. I was quite surprised on my first day when I learned that out of the less than 20 person office, there were only a few stand-alone desktop computers. Some of the accountants shared computers and saved all their work to 5¼” floppy disks. Everyone had disk file cases on their desks for all their floppy disks. The partners and the office manager all had stand-alone desktop computers on their desks. The rest of the administrative staff used dedicated word processers, which resembled the console on the Starship Enterprise. Everything was done in pencil, on paper, and every piece of paper was kept! Mr. Shuman and I got to work, and it wasn’t too many months before everyone had their own computers and the whole office was networked (wired) together. It also didn’t take but a few short years that I learned being an IT person was not for me!
With the advent of the new network system, we did away with the dedicated word processors and dot matrix printers in the administrative department. This brought a new set of duties, including setting up (typing) all the existing clients’ financial statements into the system. We tried various software to accomplish this over the years, from Lotus and WordPerfect to finally Excel. The audit and accounting administrative department was where I worked when I wasn’t doing “computer” stuff. I soon fell in love….with financial statements. I may be a bit of a free spirit in my thinking about people and interactions, but I am very detailed in my work. I loved the detailed work involved in proofing the financial statements. And I was a sponge. I asked a million questions of the audit partners, much to their dismay at times I’m sure. I have had so much help and encouragement over the years from the entire audit department. Dan Hayes, the head of the Firm’s audit department, has been my mentor, teacher and critic for 24 years. So after 24 years, I am still in the audit and accounting department as the Quality Assurance Manager, and I am still in love with financial statements.