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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Jim Vaughn, partner-in-charge of the Chattanooga office of Mauldin & Jenkins.

In the final weeks before the usual April 15 tax deadline, the top floor offices of the Tallan Office building are usually bustling with Mauldin & Jenkins accountants working long hours to finalize tax returns.

But this year for the first time ever, the tax deadline was pushed back 90 days and the coronavirus moved the usual work done in the office to homes of M&J's 50 local employees. With the tumult of uncertain economic times and the debt restructuring caused by the economic downturn, however, Mauldin & Jenkins' staff is as busy as ever even with the three-month reprieve.

"We're all just trying to get through this together working in a far different environment," says Jim Vaughn, a 21-year accounting veteran with Mauldin & Jenkins, who has been the partner in charge of the Chattanooga office for the past three years. "We've got some very flexible policies related to how you record you time and how you do you work that we normally don't have at this time of the year. I think the culture we have built here has helped us during this period."

Mauldin & Jenkins entered the Chattanooga market in 2013 when it merged with Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter, LLC, a 70-year-old Chattanooga accounting firm started in 1943.

Vaughn, who previously worked at the company's Albany, Georgia, headquarters said the company has stuck with the philosophy of founder Charlie Jenkins, whom Vaughn worked with until Jenkins's death.

"He believed, and I think Mauldin & Jenkins has embraced, that quality work should always come first and you hire quality people to do that," Vaughn says.

Through six generations of ownership since the company's start in 1918, that approach has remained the same. Mauldin & Jenkins has expanded from its Albany origins to start other offices or merge with other CPA firms in Atlanta, Savannah and Macon, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Bradenton, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; and Chattanooga.

In the company' Chattanooga office, there are seven of the roughly three dozen accountants on staff and partners in the firm, which has about 35 partners across the entire firm.

Mauldin & Jenkins serves clients in a range of industries including government, health care, construction, not-for-profit, financial services, film and entertainment, entrepreneurial and higher education.

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Staff file photo by Angela Lewis Foster / Rachel Ragghianti, Josh Hightower, Bethany Mercer and Derik Cooper, from left, plant milkweed at the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in 2016. The center received 500 milkweed plants from a grant and employees from Mauldin & Jenkins Public Accounting volunteered their services to plant them and do other tasks as part of the firm's volunteer efforts in the community.

"We work hard for our clients, but we try hard to also make this a fun and family-friendly place to work by being flexible and supportive of our staff," Vaughn says. "With technology and the ability to do more telework, we've tried to make it so that as long as you get your work done, we try to be flexible in people's personal lives."

During tax season when they are still at the office, the company brings in dinner every night. In March ahead of the shift to at-home work, Mauldin & Jenkins Chattanooga staff gathered for a night of Olympic competition involving games with office supplies, including teams shooting cups with rubber bands.

"It broke up the monotony and challenge of tax season," Vaughn recalls.

Mauldin & Jenkins

* Founded: 1918 in Albany, Georgia. Expanded to Chattanooga in 2013 when Hazlett, Lewis & Bieter, LLC, merged with the firm

* Employees: 50 in Chattanooga and more than 300 in the company with eight locations in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Competitive pay and exceptional benefits mean a lot to staff and partners alike, but so do the little things. Whether it is laughing during our traditional white elephant party, enjoying firm-provided dinners during busy season, or letting loose at a tax party once crunch time is over.

* Online: mjcpa.com.

To help build team spirit and help the community, the firm also undertakes at least a couple of volunteer philanthropic efforts with most of the staff a few times a year.

The employee-friendly approach has helped Mauldin & Jenkins maintain a lower turnover rate than most CPA firms. The company locally recruits most of its accountants from the business college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and works to provide career opportunities and staff development to both keep and improve its staff.

"UTC has always been a good place to recruit from, but I do think it is getting even better," says Vaughn, who serves on the the advisory board to the UTC Business College dean. "We have a scholarship at UTC and regularly recruit most of our local staff from UTC and try to make this a place where people want to work and grow."

 

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