Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Mauldin & Jenkins in Chattanooga on Monday, March 29, 2021.

A career in public accounting often requires sorting through pages of financial ledgers and complex reports, working long hours during tax season, or having to travel to conduct on-site audits at different businesses. For all the challenges of the profession, the accounting firm of Mauldin & Jenkins tries to make sure its accountants have fun and are highly rewarded.

"Competitive pay and exceptional benefits mean a lot to staff and partners alike, but so do the little things," says Jim Vaughn, a 22-year employee of Mauldin & Jenkins who heads the firm's 55-employee office in Chattanooga. "Whether it is laughing during our Office Olympics, enjoying firm-provided dinners during busy season or letting loose at a tax party once crunch time is over, the M&J team appreciates dozens of opportunities to let off steam together and make each day fun."

Vaughn says the company has stuck with the philosophy of founder Charlie Jenkins, whom Vaughn worked with in the past in Albany, Georgia, 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, Georgia, 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. 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.

Mauldin & Jenkins

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

* Employees: 55 in Chattanooga and more than 330 in the company with nine locations in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Despite all our fun, we are committed to excellence and ensure each employee can fulfill their potential through mentoring, career guidance, leadership training and opportunities for professional involvement outside the firm.

* Online:

he COVID-19 pandemic created extra challenges to building the fun culture of the CPA firm, especially last year when the company emptied out most of its 11th story offices in the Tallan building in downtown Chattanooga and sent workers home. Most of the staff returned to their cubicles and offices downtown by the start of 2021, observing safety protocols within the office. But client visits and other tasks still require working outside the office and some staff is still working remotely.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Jim Vaughn speaks at Mauldin & Jenkins in Chattanooga on Monday, March 29, 2021.

"COVID has certainly been a challenge for all of us, but we try to be flexible and figure out what works best for each individual," Vaughn says. "We have regular company-wide meetings each week online to help encourage one another and to build our company culture."

To help broaden and diversify its staff, M&J has both a Diversity Initiative and a Women's Alliance to provide internal mentoring, networking and educational support for accountants who are women or people of color. The firm also supports volunteer initiatives to allow employees to work on nonprofit ventures in their community.

"We focus on employee growth and learning and we try to make work here fun and enjoyable as much as possible," Vaughn says.