Behind the Scenes with ATKG
When the new tax deadline ended this July, we sat down with two of ATKG’s partners – Brian Trussell and AJ Sturm. Our focus was on how COVID-19 changed the business landscape for this local public accounting firm. Also, what sparks their passions when they are not working on tax deadlines, assurance matters, or consulting clients.
Brian is a Tax Partner who primarily assists clients with tax planning, compliance, and consulting. After being with the firm for the past seven years, he confidently stated, “ATKG’s culture is the best thing about being on Team ATKG.” Brian leads the firm’s Human Resource efforts and is actively involved in shaping operations at the firm. Dedicated to building lasting relationships with his clients and keeping the firm’s caring values at the forefront of everything they do, is highly critical to Brian.
Before joining ATKG three years ago and becoming a partner in 2019, AJ owned a public accounting firm for 13 years. While his business acumen is broad, his areas of expertise are financial statement reviews, business tax compliance, internal control analysis, and litigation support. His industry expertise includes real estate, construction, professional services, retail, not-for-profits, and foundations. AJ considers himself a “big picture guy” and likes to provide a fresh perspective to clients. He also leads ATKG’s informational technology efforts.
Brian is proud of how quickly team members adapted when the “Stay Home-Work Safe Order” was issued. While industry statistics for public accounting reflect high turnover rates, ATKG continues to thrive. Primarily due to its strategic business model, which accepts a select client base as opposed to larger firms who seek volume when it comes to the number of clients they serve. The result is client teams with higher work productivity and the ability to build deep, lasting relationships with the clients they serve.
With such a non-traditional client business model, we could not help but ask. “How do you define a perfect ATKG client?” ATKG specializes in partnering with closely held businesses and high net worth family groups who desire to be involved in their work. ATKG is not about providing a single transaction for their clients. Instead, they engage their clientele throughout the year. They are committed to developing genuine working relationships, which in many cases, has led to ATKG serving multiple generations for a business or family.
Remote Workforce Transition
Primarily, ATKG utilizes Microsoft Teams for video calls and Zoom for firmwide meetings. Undoubtedly, hardware was their biggest challenge as they shifted to a remote work environment. As partners, Brian and AJ reached out to team members to understand what they needed to be successful as a distributed workforce. Luckily, the transition to working from home was not an issue. ATKG had completed an IT project, with the help of IronEdge, at the end of 2019. They never expected the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic that unfolded in early 2020.
As with any organization, COVID-19 brought big adjustment in terms of culture. Team members quickly adjusted to their new remote work environment. One-on-one check-ins between leadership and employees became an absolute essential. ATKG is known for its culture and its brazen desire to be unlike other public accounting firms. While others are business-driven, as a core value, ATKG prioritizes caring and working as a team above all else. These values are evident by their tight-knit family inspired culture. ATKG’s culture is maintained in numerous ways throughout the year. Whether a casual happy hour in the office or a virtual scavenger hunt at home as part of a Zoom meeting, keeping everyone connected is critical. ATKG is still holding onto the sense of firm community, despite the pandemic, by sending team members occasional special deliveries, such as ATKG swag or margaritas, chips, queso, and salsa from the firm’s favorite Mexican restaurant – Alamo Cafe!
“One of our values is caring, and I have really seen that come through. Obviously, everyone is in a different situation in terms of what their set up is at home. Everybody has kids they are trying to homeschool. You name it– everybody has a situation that they are dealing with. I have really seen everyone step up, contribute and adjust.”
Like all businesses, ATKG understands the importance of maintaining employee cohesiveness, which is even more significant when so many of us work remotely. Nevertheless, ATKG remains committed to its unique dynamic, not so typical accounting vibe. Although the “new normal” is very different for everyone, ATKG is on course to do everything it can to stay connected.
Although 2020 brought frightening levels of layoffs, ATKG was in the hiring mode. With six new hires and three interns about to start, its recruiting and onboarding teams shifted into action. They redesigned the onboarding process creating a mixture of on-site training while maintaining social distancing and virtual one-on-one and group sessions.
Global pandemic or not, ATKG took the time to do what it loves to do best – support others. With the coronavirus pandemic onset, ATKG raised funds to benefit the San Antonio Food Bank, dedicated to serving 58,000 individuals per week. Employees and their families made monetary contributions, and partners matched their efforts raising a total of $18,315. Team ATKG also headed out to volunteer at the food bank to prepare food to give to local families in need. The firm’s community outreach started long before COVID-19, and it is proud of its ongoing community involvement.
ATKG’s ability to adjust to change and remain committed to its values and client service is one of the many reasons IronEdge is proud to have them as a client!
If you need an accounting firm that takes time to understand your closely held business or high net worth family group’s unique needs, reach out to our friends at ATKG.