By Deanna C. White
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC (CRI), one of the top 35 accounting firms in the nation, extended its Southern footprint into an eighth state in September, when it announced its merger with South Central Kentucky accounting firm Holland CPAs, PSC, with offices in Bowling Green and Russellville, Kentucky.
The merger announcement was CRI's second within less than a month as the firm executes its aggressive expansion plan, extending its reach into Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
"When we looked at the current state of the economy we felt the marketplace was more stable in the south," William H. Carr, chairman and managing partner of CRI said of the firm's focus on southern states. "We felt there was a great opportunity here."
With the addition of Holland CPA's, CRI currently has more than 16 practice units and 27 offices in a territory that extends east to west from Austin, Texas, to Atlanta, Georgia, and north to south, from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Tampa, Florida, Carr said.
"CRI's continued geographic expansion parallels our growing industry and service specializations, and this growth is indicative of our firm's ability to provide our clients with the highest levels of expertise," Carr said.
But despite the sheer scope of CRI's offerings, the firm is ranked at the 32nd largest firm nationally and 3rd regionally in the south, and is recognized as one of the fastest growing firms in the United States, both Carr and partners from Holland, insist this merger is anything but a case of a big fish simply gobbling up a smaller, local firm.
"We value our local culture and felt it was very important to keep a close knit bond with that culture. That's what people in our local arena want," said Lanny White, partner in charge of Holland CPAS, PSC, which has done business in the south central Kentucky area for more than 75 years. "The merger with CRI allows us to offer new services to our clients, while at the same time still allowing us to decide issues at the local level."
White said the CRI merger would allow Holland a broader array of services and a larger platform to better serve both their industrial and individual clients.
"We shared many niche areas, like government and the construction industry, with CRI," White said. "The merger was a natural migration that allowed us to bring more depth of service to those clients. It was a way to take our smaller piece and make it a bigger piece….to transform from a local office to a regional firm."
White said Holland found CRI's technology platform, knowledge base, and familiarity with industry specifics particularly attractive. The new resources CRI provides will make it possible for Holland to pursue larger clients, like larger universities and larger construction companies.
The merger will also provide more Holland more resources to tackle today's increasingly complex government regulations, he said.
"We will not only have more expertise in our niche areas, but we can now enter into new areas in government, not-for-profits, banking, and healthcare…areas where we have never been before," White said. "This just broadens our horizons to let us better serve the community."
As for Holland's 50 employees, both White and Carr agree, every member of the team will not only be welcomed into the CRI family of more than 600 employees, but they will also receive extensive professional development and technical training that may not have been accessible to them as a member of a smaller firm.
"You won't find any firm that invests more in bringing staff together and creating a common culture than CRI," Carr said.
Carr said a team of CRI representatives has already met with Holland employees to expose them to CRI's values and methods of operation to make sure they are "fully integrated with the firm."
Employees from firms that have been acquired by CRI will have the chance to participate in CRI's professional and leadership development programs like the annual CRI Leadership Academy, which teaches staff how to hone soft business skills, like business writing and presentation skills.
Carr also points to CRI's proven dedication to education as a boon to the Bowling Green community home to Western Kentucky University.
CRI partners have launched a corporate blog, http://blog.cricpa.com
, which allows the community to access their expertise, and, Carr said, CRI is also committed to recruiting accounting and business graduates from the Western Kentucky University, allowing that talent pool to stay in Bowling Green.
"We have done a lot of mergers and we understand that every business brings its own culture to the mix. We want to create a great fit with our new partners and the local community and create one solid culture for everyone," Carr said. "That's CRI's value and vision. It's our philosophy. It's how we operate the firm."