IPA Profile: Laura Sprouse

What is the single biggest challenge facing your firm now? 

The entire accounting industry is in a panic about staffing. Firms around the country have a lot of work that needs to be done, and there are not as many college graduates with degrees in accounting. We’ve been going back to the drawing board to produce ideas outside the box to not only attract and retain top talent in our firm, but also how to bring awareness to students about the accounting profession to increase the candidate pool. We’ve taken some good steps over the past couple of years with initiatives targeting high school students and college underclassmen, as well as enhancing our employee experience.

I am looking forward to sitting down with our team this summer and working on how we can set ourselves apart as a premier CPA firm and establish a strong base to build upon to remain independent. Right now, many accounting firms are selling out to private equity, and it’s important to Brown Edwards to remain independent. 

Our goal is to improve both our employee experience and our client experience over the next fiscal year. We’ve already begun laying the groundwork this past year by conducting employee and client satisfaction surveys. The overall feedback we received from both surveys was very positive, which speaks volumes about our staff and the culture of our firm. The surveys also revealed areas for improvement, and we have already established two teams to evaluate the feedback in those areas and put action plans into place.

Where do you expect to be focusing most of your attention in the next two to three years? 

I will be primarily focusing on growth. The firm’s leadership and I are committed to remaining independent, and our goal is to continue to grow the firm organically and through acquisitions of other CPA firms and affiliated services that supplement our business.

We are in the process of expanding a handful of our service lines and industry specializations nationally, including private colleges and universities, financial institutions, construction and employee benefit plan services.

By expanding our service offerings, we will continue to add to the resources of a top 75 firm while still maintaining the accessibility and personal guidance of a local firm. I also plan to evaluate services outside the traditional scope of a CPA firm, giving us untapped growth potential from cross-selling opportunities within our current client base.

What is the biggest and sometimes often missed opportunity for the profession? 

The biggest opportunity comes when we better leverage our teams. We need to recruit more people, but also the right people. We need to evaluate our current staff to ensure we have the right butts in the right seats. We provide our team members with the opportunity to try out positions in different service lines and work in different industry verticals. Sometimes, where they are isn’t a good match for them, and we need to be flexible in getting them into the right seat to best serve their careers at Brown Edwards and our clients. Pushing someone to be something they are not does not create a great experience for the employee and frustrates us as leaders when they do not perform.   

What was the best advice you received as a young up-and-comer in the profession? 

The best advice I ever received as a young professional was to never say no, and tackle all challenges handed to me. I think that advice has served me well over the years, because it allowed me to become well versed in all areas of the firm, not just our client services, and has led me to where I am today.

What advice would you offer to someone entering the accounting profession today? 

I would say to accept the challenges given to you. Find what area you are passionate about. If you don’t like a particular area, ask to try something else before giving up on the profession. Embrace learning, even if this is not your final career path; there is so much to learn, so take every opportunity you can to continuously grow. 

What motivates you most as a leader? 

I am motivated by enthusiastic and high-energy employees. These qualities can get you through a lot and allow us to conquer more things as a team. When our team is enthusiastic about their work, we are more efficient, effective and passionate about what we are trying to accomplish.

I am not a micromanager. I try to give people the opportunity to share their input and ideas and have some leeway in their creativity to create a more engaged and open company culture. Seeing my team and our staff get excited about projects or clients that they are working on drives me to keep pushing to grow to give more people the opportunity to shine. 

Where do you see the accounting profession in five years? How do you see it changing/developing and/or how would you like it to change? 

The biggest change I see is continued enhancements of technology and the use of AI. I’m all for working smarter and not harder, and technology helps to reduce redundancies and limits manual work. AI is going to change the game and I am extremely excited for the future of it, but we are cautiously approaching it until we can get a better handle on the ethical value of that data.

What is a business book you’d recommend to other leaders? 

Several books come to mind: Blue Ocean Strategies by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leapand Others Don’t by Jim C. Collins, and Think Big, Act Small: How America’s Best Performing Companies Keep the Start-up Spirit Alive by Jason Jennings. Some of the comments I made in earlier questions make me think of Blue Ocean Strategies. How do we think outside the box and do something different versus trying to continue to follow what others are doing? How do we create something new that will really engage our employees? 

What is your proudest professional achievement? 

By far, my proudest professional achievement was being voted in as the CEO of Brown Edwards. I’ve hit many milestone achievements during my career, but to start at the firm as a staff member and rise to this position of CEO is something I am truly proud of. During my journey, I embraced every opportunity made available to me, learned all that I could, and took that knowledge and developed a vision of what our firm can become. I am truly proud of this firm, and I look forward to leading us into the future.


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