JONES CPA GROUP
Celebrating 40 years of helping businesses grow and succeed
by Cristi Sanchez
The shareholders of Jones CPA Group. From left: Vice President/COO Ali E. Gunbeyi;
Assistant Vice President Nell M. Green; President/CEO Stephen M. Jones; Assistant Vice President Cathy C. Nadeau.
Photo by Terry Young Air Aspects
Congratulations are in order for Jones CPA Group, P.C. as the accounting firm turns 40. Over the last four decades, the company has grown to become one of the most successful independent accounting firms in the Hampton Roads business landscape.
With open communication and easily accessible CPAs, the respected firm has developed a unique expertise in providing comprehensive business and financial services for small to mid-sized companies. Under the leadership of President and CEO Stephen M. Jones and his dedicated team of shareholders- Ali Gunbeyi, Nell Green, and Cathy Nadeau- the firm continues to employ a personal touch in guiding their clients towards growth, profitability, and success.
Thirty associates, including 15 CPAs, now work out of the firm's three Hampton Roads offices. These three offices- each impressive in its own right- belie the firm's humble beginnings forty years ago.
"My former firm partner, Jimmy Strickland, started the business in 1979 and ran it out of his home in Norfolk," Steve recalls with a fond smile. "When I joined the firm, there were less than ten employees," he chuckles.
The firm started out small, adopting the name Strickland & Jones, P.C. in 1992. Though its office space and staff were limited, it nevertheless excelled in delivering personalized service to its initial pool of clients. The accessibility of the small dedicated team, their reliability in communicating and their attention to details, impressed those clients. Buoyed by their positive experiences, those clients began to spread the word that this new firm was something special. Strickland & Jones, P.C. began to thrive and grow.
In 1995 an opportunity arose to expand into Virginia Beach. "Sadly, a CPA in Virginia Beach became ill and could no longer continue to work," Steve explains. "He was looking for someone to take over the business, so we acquired his practice."
Any reservations that the Virginia Beach firm's clients might have initially entertained regarding Strickland & Jones evaporated almost instantly. The personalized attention and services that they received were benefits that could not be ignored: they continued to do business with Steve's firm. "We had excellent client retention for that practice- so much so that we needed to open a new office," Steve says. So, Steve and Jimmy found a location to accommodate their practice and allow room for growth on Virginia Beach Boulevard between Willis Wayside and the Myra Obendorf Library.
"We still have those same traditional CPA services,
but just as our locations and teams
have grown over the past 40 years,
so have the variety of the services that we offer."
- Ali E.Gunbeyi
The success of the firm's Virginia Beach office didn't stop there. They expanded the footprint in that original office three times to accommodate their steady growth. However, by 2009, the firm had utterly exhausted the potential of that space and moved to their current location on Constitution Drive.
Steve explains the exponential growth of his firm: "Over the last 40 years, we've acquired 17 smaller firms. That's played a big role in our growth." He is quick to point out, however, that those acquisitions are not the result of Jones CPA Group seeking to gobble up their smaller competitors. On the contrary, generous and soft-spoken, Steve finds acquisition opportunities through the natural course of business.
"CPAs retire over time, and that's generally when we acquire their firms," he explains. "Clients of the acquired firms are so satisfied with our service that they stay with us. As a result, we grow our staff base in order to continue adequately providing excellent service for our clients." One of the last firms acquired from a CPA was a firm in Newport News. That acquisition helped Jones CPA Group establish a presence on the Peninsula in 2013.
In addition to providing an opportunity to serve Peninsula clients, 2013 brought an even more significant change to the firm. In December of that year, Jimmy Strickland chose to retire, handing the reins over to Steve and the firm's three new shareholders. Changing the firm's name to Jones CPA Group in 2014, Steve decided to rebrand the firm in a way that reaffirmed their values, vision, and accessibility.
"To promote market growth, we wanted to recreate our brand in a way that communicated our values with clarity and impact, so we hired a marketing firm," Steve explains. "We shared with them those aspects of our approach to work that we feel truly set us apart: conversation, relationships, and accessibility to our clients. They took that information and designed a new logo that perfectly embodies those values: the speech bubble and a tagline that reads, "Let's talk success.'"
Steve also provided the marketing firm with the results from a client survey used to determine what they liked best about Jones CPA Group. Consistently and overwhelmingly across-the-board, the results were praise for the firm's reliability in quickly responding to correspondence and in being readily available. "From those results, they came up with the perfect description of our team- The Accessible CPAs," Steve says with pride.
"Yes," Nell adds. "We really do live up to that. Whenever a client calls or emails, we try to respond within hours. In fact, we even travel to our clients if necessary."
"While we work with data and numbers for client profitability, ultimately, we're in the people business," Ali affirms. "Having that personal touch and being able to connect with our clients is important to us."
Jones CPA Group is able to add that personal touch and connect with their clients so successfully because of the unique service they provide in Hampton Roads: serving small to mid-sized business.
"In this region, there are companies that handle individual businesses or firms that handle large businesses." Ali explains. "We're in a unique position. We accommodate the needs of those in the process of growing small to mid-sized businesses. We personalize our services to provide an environment where clients can call us to discuss their ideas for growth, business strategies, and industry trends."
Steve agrees. "Yes. There's a definite service void for the small to mid-sized companies. We like being independent. It allows us to service that particular business population."
The Virginia Beach office of Jones CPA Group is adjacent to Town Center of Virginia Beach.
Photo by Terry Young Air Aspects
Jones CPA Group doesn't just provide traditional accounting services. In fact, their services are as unique as the client-base they serve. When the firm started 40 years ago, it was a typical, traditional public accounting firm performing basic tax, bookkeeping, and accounting financial statement services. But times change, and so did Jones CPA Group.
"We still have those same traditional CPA services," Ali explains, "but just as our locations and teams have grown over the past 40 years, so have the variety of the services that we offer."
"It's not the humdrum vocation that people may think," Nell adds. "Every day is different, and it really is an exciting field. There's so much more to accounting now than just bookkeeping and taxes."
Exciting, indeed. Ali used his forensic accounting skills to aid in a high-profile multi-million-dollar embezzlement conviction. "Ali was involved in one of the largest embezzlement investigations in Hampton Roads," Steve states with pride. "He led a special project requested by the client and compiled information given to the FBI that resulted in a guilty plea without a trial."
Litigation and forensic accounting are but one facet of the firm's many offered services. Perhaps one of the most unique, however, is Jones CPA Group's outsourced CFO services. "That's been a significant area of growth for us," Steve points out. "Growing companies may need the advice and expertise of a CFO but can't afford to hire one full time. So, we provide those services for the amount of time that they need us. We fill that niche for them so they can get the advice they need at a budget that's affordable for them."
To best serve their clients, every accountant at Jones CPA Group stays up-to-date on the latest industry trends, standards, and technologies available to stay relevant. "Everyone in the firm is on a special committee. They bring new ideas to the shareholders," Cathy states. "It's a collaborative process to keep us up to date. We share and talk about new ideas, developments we've heard about, new rules, or new technologies."
Perhaps the best way that Jones CPA Group serves its clients is one that is as unique as the firm itself. They provide quality service through their company culture of teamwork.
"We can't overestimate the importance of having a good team that pulls together to make everything happen for our clients," Ali states with passion. "We work to ensure our clients' success, but it's not just the shareholders who make it happen. Team members from every level of our firm contribute. From support to professional to shareholders, we cannot be successful as a firm if the team doesn't share the same values and isn't dedicated to helping the client. The knowledge that our team brings to the table, the diversity they bring to collaborations and discussions- these have been instrumental to our success for the last 40 years. It started with the hiring of our first employee, and each one that has joined us since then has been a building block in our success. Most of our people have been with us for a long time."
"We have enjoyed a very low turnover," Steve adds in agreement. "Many of our employees have been with us for over 10 years."
"From day one, we've been the only firm in the area that does not work weekends, except for shareholders," Cathy shares. "We believe in employees having a high quality of life. We're family-friendly."
"Every single person here is valued," Nell nods in agreement. "Every employee is treated with respect."
"It may sound corny," Steve says, "but I always say that there are no unimportant jobs. Every single employee can contribute to our clients having a positive experience. We must treat everyone properly with dignity and respect. I encourage the management team to be a coach, not a critic. Praise publicly; correct privately. It's a successful leadership philosophy I learned as a former navy officer. A critic will never get 100 percent out of anybody. If someone is yelling at someone else here, the building better be on fire!" he laughs. "And we always express appreciation to employees. They're not going to know if we don't tell them."
Clearly, the success of the employee team-dynamic at Jones CPA Group translates to client success. The company culture of connecting with people, combined with respect and value for the clients, and one another, was a foundation laid 40 years ago â€“ a foundation of success.
Jones CPA Group
120 Atlantic Street
Norfolk , VA 23510
100 Constitution Drive, Suite 200
Virginia Beach, VA 23462