The New (Old) Culture at ScrogginsGrear
Pictured left to right: Paul Trenz, Terry Grear, Robert Scroggins, Luke Trenz and Mark Scroggins
Photography by Bruce Crippen
Clayton Scroggins Associates and Grear & Co., two of Cincinnati’s most trusted businesses, combined in 2014 into Cincinnati’s seventh largest accounting firm serving more than 1,500 clients.
The power of service. It's a simple phrase, but for ScrogginsGrear Consultants and CPAs the power of service dictates the firm's way of conducts business. It is an adage embedded in the cultural roots of a team that merged together in 2014.
“We brought two successful firms together that both had well-grounded cultures,” says Terry Grear, partner. “We’re looking to keep that culture well-grounded so we can fulfill the promises we’re making to our clients.”
Prior to the merger, Grear and the Scroggins Associates partners spent a year-and-a-half in meetings and retreats, going over the painstaking details of how to best combine the two family-owned CPA and consulting firms.
“Our primary objective was to focus and bring together two cultures without creating anxiety,” Grear says. “Change elicits anxiety, but building a good foundation helps bring people together.”
Grear knows culture begins at the leadership level, which is why the partners (pictured next page) spent those 18 months prior to the merger discussing spiritual, business and personal values.
“In our culture and society it is the norm to segment your life – personal, work, spiritual, and so forth – but you don’t ever really leave one behind – you take parts of your personal life to work and parts of your work life home,” says Rob Scroggins, partner. “The healthiest approach is to achieve an integration and balance between all of them. Our goal is for a ScrogginsGrear culture that enables us to live by the same core values and principles throughout all aspects of our lives.”
By joining forces and combining two of Cincinnati’s most trusted businesses, ScrogginsGrear is structured to serve a wide variety of business needs as a single source solution. The 100-person team provides traditional CPA firm services, such as auditing and tax planning. But is also able to add value and support clients through management consulting, business and family bookkeeping, HR consulting and recruiting, retirement plan design and administration and full-service payroll. “Our clients look to us for advice beyond the numbers,” Scroggins says.
Such was the case for Bob Scallan, president of Pathway Guidance, a group of Cincinnati advisers who help their clients with strategy and strategy implementation. Scallan, a good friend of Grear, relied on him as a key adviser in the purchase and eventual sale of a business Scallan owned. “The wisdom and insights I got were priceless,” Scallan says.
Scallan further praised the firm’s dedication to getting to know its clients, despite being Cincinnati’s seventh largest accounting firm serving more than 1,500 clients. Thirty years ago, when he was looking to move from a national accounting firm to a local one, Grear caught his eye.
“They’re business people,” says Scallan. “They know business and they care about the people they work for. Terry and Rob are a good fit for each other because they share a complementary vision and hold the same values and beliefs.”
One of those beliefs is the desire to be a partner to their clients.
“I don’t make a significant move without calling them first,” Scallan adds. “And it doesn’t matter when I need them, they always answer.”
That’s the power of service at work.
“We really do flourish in the concept of serving as one phone call for our clients,” Grear says. “And we encourage them to call us.”
Encourage, but not charge. To serve as a true partner, the firm is revolutionizing the way accounting firms typically bill its clients. Rather than charging hour-by-hour, wherever possible, Scroggins Associates has always served its clients based on a fixed fee structure, established up front, so the cost is known and clients will not hesitate to call. ScrogginsGrear is now beginning to implement this approach across other clients of the merged firm.
“What’s important is that we do the best we can for our clients and their needs,” Scroggins says. “We don’t want concern over an extra charge to hinder our clients from calling. We want to be part of their decision-making team and don’t want any obstacles. If a client doesn’t let us know what is going on we can’t help. Bringing us in upfront helps to keep problems from developing or escalating.”
“This way of pricing an engagement so that a client knows upfront what will be done and what will be the cost made all the difference for a customer of mine,” says Kevin Garrett, a commercial lender.
Just like Scallan, Garrett’s relationship with Grear has been vital to some of his success in his career.
“That client needed business advice,” Garrett says. “When it came to the accounting stuff, I recommended Terry. To my surprise, during the meeting we had, not only was Terry there with my client, but Rob was there, too. “It’s rare to see one, let alone two partners at a meeting, but that’s Rob and Terry. They are their clients’ true partner.” Continuing to be a partner is what pushes the ScrogginsGrear team forward into success.
“We want to help people,” says Grear. “We want to help them be the best they can be. That goes for our clients and our employees.”
“When we talk about our success and future, we talk about accountability and responsibility to our clients,” says Scroggins. “And we also talk about the responsibility for the work and careers of over 100 people.”
That’s where culture comes to play another big role. Both firms, before merging, worked hard to develop healthy and energized cultures. Grear’s firm was named a top place to work in Cincinnati a handful of times while the Scroggins office received a 2011 Perfect 10 Corporate Culture award for its positive corporate culture.
“We haven’t set growth goals for our future,” says Grear. “If there are new conversations to be having and new services we can offer, we want to be able to do that. We want our growth to be for the sake of making an impact.”
For more information, call 800.359.3970 or visit www.scrogginsgrear.com.