Smith + Howard: A Career Conversation with Darcy Copeland

What motivated you to join Smith + Howard?
In the accounting & financial services world, the reputation of Smith + Howard is one of a top-notch firm that focuses on creating extraordinary value for our clients, people, and community.    And rumor on the street is, they give out $100 to each employee at the holiday party?!

How does Smith + Howard convey to employees a sense of belonging?
S+H does a fantastic job of recognizing their employees’ successes, both personally and professionally.  At each event, the managing partner, Sean Taylor, makes a point to celebrate weddings, births, awards, and important milestones.  My co-workers are friendly and truly support one another.  Instead of being competitive with other coworkers, everyone works as a team.  And they sure do love to have food in the office for all to share!

In what ways has Smith + Howard supported your professional development and growth?
S+H gives me the tools I need to grow in my professional development by providing access to training, continuing education, performance reviews ongoing throughout the year, and access to senior management.  If I ever need something to help my career grow, they encourage you to do the research and ask.  The senior management makes it comfortable to approach them with questions.  Since I am a recovering CPA (ha-ha), I am taking on a new role at S+H in Business and Community Development. My Business Development team has gone above and beyond to help me by providing practical tips and best practices for this role.

In what ways are you supported in maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
Other than the cookies and donuts in the break room, it is obvious their focus is on their people having a meaningful work-life balance.  This is unusual for the financial services sector, which is known for overworking employees.  Not S+H.  For example, one of the values that we read before meetings, is “People- We grow stronger together. Our firm is a united group of bright, motivated individuals who embrace our values, purpose, and vision. Because effective leadership is crucial to our future and permeates at all levels of the firm, we encourage mentoring and coaching to move people forward along their career path.  Rewarding and retaining the best people ensures the future success of our people and the firm.”  Wow- S+H practices this and preaches it.  I have no hesitation in asking when I need support or personal time off for family.

How do you know that you’re making a difference/having an impact with the work that you do?
My passion is for nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in society.  One of the main attributes I love about S+H is their expertise with nonprofits.  Their service for this industry is evident in their responsive, creative, and practical approach to providing valuable solutions and meeting their needs. By providing reliable advice on financial statements and taxes to these groups, they make better decisions, therefore, providing more efficient and improved services to their constitutes.  S+H is saving the world, one financial statement at a time!

What makes you proud to represent Smith + Howard?
It is easy to be proud of where I work because I know that I can count on the S+H team to provide thorough, top-level advice for clients.  We bring a values-driven approach, coupled with deep expertise, exceptionally strong listening skills and noteworthy responsiveness, often making us a better choice for businesses.  We have a passionate commitment to responsive, personal service.  Since I am in Business Development for S+H, it makes my sales job very easy.

In what ways do you feel like you’ve grown since working for Smith + Howard?
As I mentioned I am a recovering CPA.  I have an accounting, mathematics and education degree.  Throughout my career, I have been a CPA in public & private accounting, bank controller, private equity accountant, financial advisor, a HS math teacher, and a HS girls sport coach.  At S+H, I am doing sales, HR and PR.  Whoa! That’s a big career change. S+H has been patient with my newness.  I have had the opportunity to obtain new skills and refine my skills. The jury is still out on the finished product, but I certainly appreciate the encouragement from my peers.  (Other growth- my bank account, my waistline, and miles on my car.)

What do you wish you had known about the professional world when you were a student?
Great question.  Considering it was a long time ago I have to dig deep in the memory bank…… what I wish I would have known then was how important writing and communication skills are in the business world.  Having an accounting & mathematics degree, I ignored this importance.  For example, when you are asked to answer questions for “Career Conversations,” the writing does not come easy.  (Thank you, spell/grammar check.)

In thinking about emerging young professionals, what advice would you share to those seeking their first opportunities?
Network.  Even in careers that don’t require that.  Never go to lunch alone.  By that I mean, take the time to talk to coworkers, clients, other business associates and be a sponge. Find common ground with them; your hobbies, interests, schools, where you are from, religion, passions, and then capitalize on it.  This gives you an instant bond.  BUT, if you can’t find common ground, capitalize on that!  Ask questions about what you don’t know.  It is even more important to understand and appreciate our differences.  This is an opportunity to learn from someone who has different experiences and knowledge than you.  Embrace their strengths because you can become a powerful team if you put your strengths together.

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