Celebrating 70 Years: My Journey to BRC
By Tim Hooks, CPA, Partner
I grew up without often following the mantra “look before you leap.” I was a smart kid and trusted my gut instinct. What’s the worst that could happen? Certainly I could figure it out along the way. Right! Right?
So, after breezing through high school, I attended Wake Forest in the fall of 1995. I quickly learned that perhaps I wasn’t as smart as I thought. That was more than a little sobering for this 19-year-old, who let’s just say was a little confident. After a needed reality check, I eventually found my way to accounting, and I was back in my comfort zone. It just made sense. Plus, I could graduate with a master’s degree in five years, get out, and start making money. Sign me up! Finding a job back then with a degree from a school like Wake wasn’t terribly difficult. I just had to decide who would be lucky enough to incur my services. Or so I thought…
Naturally I chose the “best” accounting firm at the time, Arthur Andersen (“AA”). The internship was a breeze, thus confirming my choice. Yes, I would take my talents to AA when I graduated. Little did I know in the year and a half before graduating (Spring 2000) that a company halfway across the country named Enron would greatly change my world and the accounting profession in general. I was given a nice letter assuring me that my offer was still good and I still had a job. I thought, “Great! How big of a deal could this really be?” Certainly nothing could stop the freight train to the top that I was on!
Within two years, AA was essentially shut down. Not exactly the best environment to be starting a career. In addition, I wasn’t enjoying the work. I’m not your typical accountant (side note: while there are a few typical accountants, most of us are just like you). Working in AA’s tax department, I’m not sure I met more than one of my clients in those first few years. While I’m not the life of the party, I am a natural extrovert. I really wanted (needed) to meet the people I was helping and to feel some sense of satisfaction in what I was doing. I was second guessing my career. For a kid that had historically followed his gut to mostly good choices, this was the closest I had come to a life crisis.
I was ready to give up my public accounting career when I had a conversation with a former fellow AA employee that had left a year earlier to join a small, local firm in Greensboro called Bernard Robinson & Company (“BRC”). He told me how great BRC was, how much he had learned, and how different the environment was. There was a true open door policy! The partners would sit down with you and teach you what you needed to know. So, trusting my friend and my gut, I decided to give it a shot.
It is now fifteen years later, and my friend was absolutely right! BRC has changed a lot since I started, growing from 35 to 130 people and from one office to three. The culture has surely changed a little over the years, but only a little. The people make the firm. We support each other in work and personal matters. We build relationships well beyond just co-workers. And we stay. There is very little turnover here, and in the accounting world, that’s saying something.
A small, but very rewarding part of my role at BRC is recruiting. Every year I do my best to advise young adults ready to embark on their careers. In my experience, sometimes the best accounting firm is the local firm. The one that doesn’t treat you like a number. The one that will personally invest in your future. The one that directly impacts the community you live in, by supporting the local non-profit community. The one that won’t work you so hard that you want to leave after a few years or when you want to start a family. And the one that will likely be the most intrinsically rewarding as you will meet and get to know the people and businesses you are helping and see how your work directly impacts their lives.