Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, PA

Medium Firm with offices in Hickory, Statesville and Taylorsville, NC

PCPS Member Since 2003
Victoria A. Martin, CPA, CSEP, CGMA, PFS – Managing Partner

Fighting Compression in a Specialized Practice
I founded Martin Starnes & Associates in 1987. Prior to going out on my own, I worked for a large regional firm for several years before they were acquired by Deloitte. Since the firm’s inception, we have grown to a staff of approximately 70 employees in three offices. Over the years, we have shifted from a primarily tax and bookkeeping practice to having a focus on governmental audits. We did a lot of targeted marketing to gain governmental audits at the state level, and at one time we were the largest governmental auditor in North Carolina. 

Because we perform so many governmental audits, many of our clients have the same deadlines. In order to mitigate that compression, we have a heavy focus on front end planning and shifting our workload accordingly as needed. We work on planning audits year-round, which provides a lot of interim work and allows us to more efficiently complete our field work. Often times, we will have the financials completely drafted during our down time, which typically makes the field work go quickly and smoothly. In order to smooth out the workload even more, we have made a conscious effort to diversify our practice by acquiring several other local practices with heavy tax and for-profit practices. This helps to spread the work year round.

Steady Growth and High Employee Retention 
The firm has experienced consistent growth over the years. We experienced a lot of organic growth in the early 2000’s, with only one or two down years. However, in the last four years we have been through two acquisitions, which has been a valuable learning experience. It’s incredibly important to take a step back both before and after the effective date and ensure that the culture is a good fit and that employees are happy and adjusting to the change. 

Our staff retention, both post-acquisition and in general terms, is fairly high. I think a big contributor to that is our firm’s early adoption of flexibility and emphasis on work-life balance. We don’t have set hours for our staff, and allow them to come and go as they please so long as they are getting their work done. We’ve had this mindset for years, even before it became a trend in the profession. We have even had several instances of people leaving the firm and returning later because they could not find the same flexibility and freedom elsewhere. We have consistently been included as one of the Best Accounting Firms to Work For by Accounting Today, as well as being named one of the Best Employers in North Carolina in 2014 and 2015. 

Why We Joined PCPS
I was first prompted to join PCPS when I was approached by a PCPS staff member at a conference and learned about PCPS networking groups. I made the decision to join PCPS and participate in the Medium Firm Networking Group, and have been an active member in that group ever since. Joining the group is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my practice. I’ve made a lot of great connections over the years, and leave each meeting with a number of valuable takeaways for myself and the firm. The networking group meetings are a great venue for idea sharing and staying on the cutting edge of what is happening in the profession. 

In addition, PCPS has a number of useful tools in the Human Capital Center that we frequently use, like the sample job descriptions and performance management resources. The Firm inMotion toolkit is another valuable resource, and I was fortunate to be able to contribute to the Clients & Relationship Building secton. We regularly participate in the MAP survey and use that information extensively each time it is completed. PCPS is an excellent resource for firms, and does a great job of helping manage the issues we often experience in public practice.