How often do you get to say that your work literally saves lives? For Joe Rugger, CPA,
CGMA, MPA, that’s an everyday occurrence. Since 2006, Joe has been the chief financial officer and chief operations officer for Jonesboro Prosthetic and Orthotic Lab (JP&O) in Little Rock, Ark. A graduate of the 2013 AICPA Leadership Academy,* Edge sat down with Joe to talk about how he transitioned from fraternal association work to providing life-saving services, his journey through life, keys to success, and much more.
Edge: Tell us about yourself and your work.
Joe Rugger: I’m 32 years old and was born and raised in Little Rock. I attended Lyon College in Batesville and played on the Scots Varsity Baseball Team. My first job after Lyon moved me to Indianapolis where I worked for my college fraternity, Tao Kappa Epsilon (TKE), where I travelled the country and met with members. After a year of working for TKE and earning a meager salary, I decided I wasn't living up to my earning potential. I enrolled in a Master’s of Professional Accountancy program at Indiana University and spent two years in public accounting before returning to Arkansas to take over as the controller at JP&O in 2006.
I loved Indianapolis, but scraping ice off my windshield well into May got really old. I was happy to move back home. JP&O is a six-location, 47-employee regional provider of prosthetic limbs, orthopedic braces, and prescription footwear for adults and children, and is located in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Edge: What did you get out of the Leadership Academy?
Joe Rugger: It was refreshing to sit in a room filled with like-minded young professionals who care deeply about the CPA profession and where we are headed. I learned a lot about myself and my individual leadership strengths. Taking a 10,000-foot view of our profession and our impact on capital markets and on our society, in general, was very empowering! I made connections that will develop into great contacts.
Edge: What is most rewarding about your job? What do you love about it?
Joe Rugger: I enjoy helping small businesses grow and succeed. At JP&O, I get to do that in a very concentrated effort each day. I find it very rewarding to help my team members grow and develop their skill sets, and truly enjoy what they do every day. I do my very best to make JP&O its own version of Disneyland where we go to enjoy ourselves. But, on a much more serious note, our business changes lives. An amputee enters our waiting room in a wheelchair, and within a few short weeks, is able to walk out on his own power with a prosthetic limb. We are able to restore mobility, independence, and in the most rewarding cases, someone’s life. Watching that process happen in the lives of our patients is unbelievably rewarding.
Edge: Tell us about some of your philosophies and principles toward work and life. How has your background and experience shaped who you are today?
Joe Rugger: I believe that we were all put here to help make a positive difference in each other’s lives, and we all have unique ways of making our own difference in the world. I want to make a difference in two very distinct ways. I want to help create company cultures in which team members thrive and work in their individual strengths. If we had companies where each individual team member enjoyed meaningful work, was autonomous to be creative problem solvers, and reached out toward the same goals, companies and individuals, alike, would thrive. I also want to help people understand how money flows and how to manage it well. I want to arm people with the tools to spend, save, invest, and give wisely with good information.
Edge: What is the secret to a business? What has worked for you?
Joe Rugger: The biggest secret to our success is a two-fold philosophy. First, we treat our team members the way we would want to be treated. We want to create a great culture and an environment where they are given the tools they need, have the understanding that they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves, and know they are the winning formula. On the flipside, our people provide outstanding customer service to our patients. They treat our patients and their families in ways they would want to be treated. Doing the right thing by our patients and our people has built a great company that has more than doubled in size in the last five years. We will continue to grow and provide service that is second to none.
Edge: Congratulations on winning the 2011 Arkansas Outstanding Emerging CPA Award. What does this mean to you?
Joe Rugger: Winning the award in its inaugural year was a great honor. I’ve been a part of the Emerging CPAs Committee in Arkansas for the past several years, and we started this award in 2011. I was humbled to be selected for the award by my peers in the Arkansas, and it has been a pleasure to watch this award grow in popularity and scope since 2011. The 2014 winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2014 AICPA Edge Conference in New Orleans in August. I am proud of the work that our committee has done to create this award and watch it grow.
Edge: What influences or inspirations have helped you in life and in work?
Joe Rugger: One of my favorite quotes is, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Over the course of my life and my career, I’ve had many people invest time and energy into me from a coaching, mentoring, and teaching perspective. My grandfather grew up in the depression and was a World War II Veteran who served at Pearl Harbor. He instilled in me and my father, at an early age, the value of a dollar and the necessity of hard work. Since leaving college, I’ve been a big reader. I have been influenced by great authors such as Jim Collins, John Maxwell, and Ken Blanchard. I’m always on the lookout for a good book. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You’ll be the same person today as you will be in 10 years except for the people you meet and the books you read." I hope to be a connector and to be a reader. Leaders are both.
Edge: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
Joe Rugger: I enjoy being outdoors, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, running, and spending time at the lake. My wife, Haley, and I also enjoy travelling. Our trip to Alaska in summer 2013 was the trip of a lifetime; we got to see southeast Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Denali National Park.
Edge: Have there been any interesting stories or anecdotes in your work or your life that you would like to share?
Joe Rugger: My wife and I are followers of personal finance guru Dave Ramsey. In December 2012, we were guests on his radio show because we celebrated being totally debt free by paying off our mortgage. This past week, we paid cash for a new car. Being debt free is an unbelievable feeling of financial peace!
*Editor’s Note: If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you should consider applying for the 2014 AICPA Leadership Academy. Applications are due by May 31st. Click here to get started. Don't wait any longer.
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