Spotlight On: Jeff Call, Managing Partner, Bennett Thrasher

Spotlight On: Jeff Call, Managing Partner, Bennett Thrasher

2022-11-28T12:04:52-05:00November 28th, 2022|Accounting, Atlanta, Professional Services, Spotlight On|

2 min read November 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Jeff Call, managing partner of accounting and consulting firm Bennett Thrasher, discussed the firm’s highlights and milestones from the past year, shifts in demand and strategies to recruit talent. Overall, Call is confident about the opportunities that exist for Bennett Thrasher and Atlanta over the near future. 

What have been some of the key highlights for Bennett Thrasher over the past 12 months?

We’ve had some significant growth; we’ve grown around 16% so far in 2022 in top-line revenue. That has been primarily organic in our advisory, specialty services, state and local tax and credit incentives practice. We’ve also had strong growth on the economic side, continuing to build out our C-suite operational team. Lastly, we have experienced growth in new markets, such as Dallas and Denver.

What significant shifts have you seen in demand for your services?

While our compliance services are still needed from a standard audit and standard tax return perspective, many of our clients are looking for the advisory services we provide. We provide substantial operational benefits, tax strategies and more that go beyond traditional compliance services. Our clients expect us to be a trusted adviser that helps them save money, become more efficient and helps them grow their businesses.  

How is Bennett Thrasher strategizing to mitigate the effects of the labor shortage?

We are trying to create opportunities for our people. We are hiring, which has been a challenge for the accounting industry. We are hiring people from Atlanta but looking at a broader region when needed. Over the last year and a half, we implemented substantial pay increases and most of our people got significant market adjustments, causing salaries to rise across the field. Accounting is a 0% unemployment environment, so it has been very competitive. We’ve invested heavily in our team and technology, and we are looking for alternatives to help get the job done with technology efficiencies like AI. Our technology group has created tools to help us drive efficiencies across the board.

We have invested in automation to make some processes easier for our people, which benefits our team’s work experience and allows them to focus on consultative tasks instead of administrative efforts. On the client experience side, we are making investments to improve our portals and tools to help them upload their tax return files easily.

Our strategy to attract talent is multifaceted. Previously we would recruit juniors and seniors in college, and now we recruit on campuses at an earlier stage, when students are in their freshmen and sophomore years. We have started to do some outreach to high school programs to let people know about accounting as a career. In general, the number of CPAs coming out of school is at a 10-year low. There is a push from firms like us to attract more people into the industry and let them know there are great opportunities for people coming into the field.

What advice would you give to the new generation of young professionals entering the industry in the Atlanta region?

Be engaged with your firm, find out what areas you are interested in and define your specialty. Put in the effort to engage with your team. The field is amazing and there are a lot of opportunities for people coming into accounting. Those who put themselves fully into it can expect to learn, grow and develop. 

How is Bennett Thrasher advising clients to navigate the current economic landscape?

It depends on the business. For some clients, inflation has had a negative impact. If they don’t have pricing power with their services and are having to absorb additional costs into their business, or if they are not able to pass it along to their clients, it can create a substantial issue. Most of our clients face this problem. We face this ourselves. We have significant challenges caused by inflation; for example, wages and salaries are among our most substantial costs. We have had to increase our fees and even in some cases where we had fixed-fee engagements, we had to reopen conversations with our clients. We have been advising our clients to do the same.

As the political landscape evolves, how do you see the region changing and evolving?

We recently had an event called Beyond Tomorrow and one of our speakers talked about demographic changes and shifts. He talked about the influx of people into the Southeast, particularly in Texas, Florida and Georgia. There are phenomenal opportunities here. We want this area to continue to be a business-friendly area. The policies that the government has implemented have helped. The incentives for job creation have been great as part of the economic development policies, which is allowing the state to attract more industries and people. At the same time, the cost of living is more reasonable than in other markets, so we are seeing people come from those more expensive areas into the cost-efficient markets.

What is your outlook for the firm and the professional services industry for the near term?

Our outlook is strong for next year, although there are some concerns regarding whether we are in a recession or entering a recessionary period. We continue to make investments as a firm in technology and people. We believe we will be able to navigate whatever the economy brings. During 2008 and 2009 when a lot of companies were going backward and experiencing a lot of issues, we were able to stay flat. I believe we are stronger now. We probably won’t be growing in the double digits but we have a strong firm with diverse talent and industries, putting us in a position to be a strong performer even in a recessionary environment. Long term, I believe we have a positive future. We have invested a lot and we can benefit from those investments. I expect us to continue to have strong growth and to be a very successful firm over the next three to five years. 

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