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In one major respect, Abacus CPAs LLC was already well positioned for a pandemic.
“We already had a 100% flexible work environment. We don’t really care where employees work, as long as they get the job done,” says Bill Dunton, Abacus’ managing partner.
Still, Dunton and other company leaders knew when the COVID-19 pandemic swept into the Ozarks, changes needed to be made and minutes counted.
“Some industries the pandemic hurt, and others it potentially helped,” Dunton says. “How you responded to the pandemic dictated where you were going to come out of it.”
Dunton was determined Abacus would be among those that turned out on top.
The company immediately began hiring, in large part to rise to the challenge of consulting with clients and working on Paycheck Protection Program loans. Dunton estimates the company worked on over $50 million in PPP loans.
The company added 35 employees in 2020, bringing the count to 95. It also opened a fifth office and exceeded its business development goal of 20% growth.
Other 2020 accomplishments include increasing billable rates by an average of 5%, purchasing 50% of a wealth management firm to create Abacus Wealth Advisors and increasing staff bonuses and giving employee raises.
Because hiring tenured CPAs can be a challenge, Abacus has created internal programs to help employees develop their careers – through feedback and leadership training, mentoring, in-house education and partner track programs.
Abacus also requires employees to commit time to community nonprofits. Some examples include packing food boxes at Ozarks Food Harvest and gift boxes for U.S. armed service members.
At certain job levels, employees are required to participate on a nonprofit board. Abacus employees currently serve on 30 boards of directors in the Ozarks.
“Once on the board, staff are encouraged to consider any board tasks as work time and can count it toward their annual compensation,” explains Andrea Battaglia, the firm’s conveyor of communications. “This also includes any accounting work that may be performed for the nonprofit board.”
Dunton expects Abacus to continue its annual growth rate of 20%-30%.
“What do we need to do to serve our clients and the community better? That’s really our focus,” he says, noting business success ripples throughout the community. “It allows us to give the economic impact to our clients that they need and the community at large needs from the success of our client base and us and those around us.
“We plan to continue to do that and at a higher level every year.”
The first downtown Springfield branch for Arvest Bank opened; a longtime licensed massage therapist became a first-time business owner; and 7 Brew Coffee opened its fourth shop in Springfield.