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Kevin Rose, a partner at Market Street Partners, and Kyle Bryant, founding partner of Market Street Partners, talk about their innovative style in the accounting world that helped them gain 500 clients in their first year of business Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Market Street Partners works with small to midsize businesses, and about 30 percent of their clientele comes from startups.
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New, millennial-friendly accounting firm, Market Street Partners, hits 500-client mark

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Market Street Partners is a new accounting firm downtown that just surpassed 500 clients, has roots in Chattanooga's startup scene and is run by two men who don't wear ties to work — a departure from the staid environment of big accounting firms.

"We're trying not to be 'the suits,'" said Kevin Rose, who runs Market Street Partners alongside founding partner Kyle Bryant. "Most [male employees at big firms] wear ties or at least business casual. They're keeping the dry cleaners in business."

The accounting firm, which launched in June 2016, had a head start lining up clients because Bryant is the former director of finance for the Lamp Post Group.

Lamp Post is a Chattanooga "incubator" of startup businesses that got its start when its three founders, Ted Alling, Barry Large and Allan Davis, made tens of million of dollars (the exact amount was undisclosed) in 2014 when they sold their startup logistics company, Access America, to Chicago-based Coyote Transport.

Bryant worked at Access America before its sale. He's from Jackson, Tenn., and moved here in 2003 to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he got degree in accounting.

Market Street Partners is the accounting firm for the Lamp Post Group and a number of startups it nurtured, such as Chattanooga Whiskey, Steam Logistics and the commercial insurance business Reliance Partners.

"We kind of started off with a pretty decent client base out of the gate," Bryant said.

Market Street Partners is housed in the space that Reliance Partners outgrew on the third floor of the historic, brick Flatiron Building at 825 Georgia Ave., that's home to SmartBank.

Help with business strategy

Word-of-mouth has brought in other clients from the real estate, construction, hospitality and restaurant sectors, Bryant and Rose say.

A typical new client is a small- to mid-sized business that wants more than just bookkeeping and tax preparation — the owner wants help with business strategy.

For example, Market Street Partners can use its knowledge of the tax system to help a business decide whether it makes more sense to finance or pay out of pocket for a large, new piece of machinery or equipment.

"We just kind of serve as their chief financial officer or controller, not only to keep the books but make strategic decisions," said Rose, an Ooltewah High School grad who went to the University of Georgia and Georgia State University and worked in Atlanta until his wife, from Cleveland, Tenn., convinced him to move their family back to Chattanooga.

Launching a new business makes it easier, Bryant and Rose say, to put themselves in the shoes of their business-owner clients.

They worked at other accounting firms before they decided to start Market Street Partners, which has around 15 employees and ranks in the top 20 of local firms, they say.

"I certainly don't know exact numbers, but it feels like we are top 10 to 15 in Chattanooga," Bryant said. "We're definitely a long way from the top five, but I think we have something pretty special going."

Generational shift underway

There's a natural generational shift going on, under which the reins of businesses in the Chattanooga region are being handed from older to younger leaders that Bryant, 33, and Rose, 40, believe will help grow Market Street Partners.

"We're seeing that leadership batons are being handed off to a younger group of managers in the region," Bryant said. "Those new decision-makers are looking to establish relationships with service providers who will be with them for the remainder of their careers."

Along with its laid-back dress code, the accounting firm aims to attract employees from the millennial generation by offering such perks as flexible work hours, a more cooperative and less-hierarchical workplace — even a pingpong table in a break room.

Market Street Partners also is open to hiring older partners away from other accounting firms who often are phased out at age 55.

"We've had a couple reach out to us," Bryant said.

Market Street Partners has a satellite office in Athens, Ga., that's run by a friend and former coworker of Rose.

The long-term plan is to have other such brick-and-mortar offices around the country. Market Street Partners expects interest from long-time, experienced accountants that want to leave big firms but don't want the risk of starting from scratch.

"That's how we're going to grow exponentially," Bryant said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com.

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