Mississippi is fortunate to have long standing businesses and accounting firms are no exception.
Three of the oldest are Taylor, Powell, Wilson & Hartford of Greenwood; May & Company of Vicksburg; and Fred T. Neely of Greenwood.
Founded in 1917, Taylor, Powell, Wilson & Hartford long ago developed an acceptable annual owner compensation arrangement that depends on several performance factors but primarily individual productivity and a fair workable buy-out arrangement for retiring owners, spokesman Howard Davis said regarding the firm's longevity.
“That provides incentives for staff members to remain and grow with the firm and to become owners when the time is right. All owners have spent most of their professional careers with the firm, and the firm has never merged with another firm or brought in owners from outside,” Davis said.
Davis says the firm has fared okay during the pandemic. “We have had to adjust like most other businesses, such as having fewer in-person meetings, attending no in-person educational seminars and providing a drop-box outside so clients would not have to come in,” he said.
“We kept all of our employees. Seven of our employees caught the virus and so were out for several weeks but fully recovered. Our work was slower coming in and going out, but the extended May 15 deadline was a big help.”
The firm also had a lot more work helping clients obtain the Paycheck Protection Program loans and other pandemic related government financial aid. Davis says it has been a busy year.
May & Company was founded in Vicksburg in 1922 and has changed with the times as part of their success story. Firm Administrator Wendy Pritchett says they've adapted to the evolution of technology and workplace culture to find the best way to serve their clients and employees.
“We strive to never become complacent,” she said. “We believe our longevity is based on our ability to offer superior service to our clients and invest in our employees. Our partners pride themselves on being deeply rooted in the community, which has aided them in forming strong bonds with their clientele. This people-focused culture has created a solid connection between the employees and the people we serve.”
Fred T. Neely & Company was formed in 1929 by Fred T. Neely. One of the current partmers, Robert K. Vandevender, tells the interesting story of Neely, who was born in 1897 in Huntsville, Kentucky. He married Pauline Standefer of Leland, Mississippi, and found himself practicing accounting in Greenwood with one of the first CPA certificates in the state, number 141.
“Fred observed that much of the accounting work in the Delta was being performed by CPAs from Memphis. He noted that the heads of many Mississippi CPA offices were former employees of the old pioneer Memphis firms, and you would really find that most of the early history of Mississippi public accounting would be the history of the early offices in the city of Memphis,” Vandevender said. “Memphis accountants would ride the Illinois Central and the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley trains back in those days when the Mississippi roads were poor.”
Fred Neely served as the president of the Mississippi Society of CPAs during World War II. He held the longest ever tenure of the State Board of Public Accountancy, serving as chairman from 1950 until his death in 1967. “He was a frequent speaker at professional meetings and was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Accountancy to which he was a frequent contributor,” Vandevender said. “He died in Chicago in 1967 on his return trip from the American Institute of CPAs in Portland, Oregon.”
In the late 1940s, Neely was joined in the firm by his son, Ralph F. Neely. “Like his father, Ralph Neely was actively involved in state accounting affairs, serving as president of the Mississippi Society of CPAs in 1966,” Vandevender said. “Ralph Neely retired in 1996 and at age 95 is living in Oxford with his wife, Lewise.”
Vandevender attributes the company's longevity to paying special attention to the needs of the firm's clients, community involvement of the staff, and a workplace that has created a family type environment with very low employee turnover. The firm currently has the three partners, eight staff accountants and four administrative support staff members.