Charleston accountant goes beyond basics

SC Biz Daily

Charleston, S.C.– As an accountant for a large corporation, Chris Nowell gained invaluable experience and opportunities to advance his career within a corporate setting. For many, that would have been the perfect job. But for Nowell, a family man with a desire to grow roots within his community and his business, a smaller firm was a much better fit.

Nowell left the corporate world about three years ago with two co-workers, who are now his business partners, to run a small but multi-faceted accounting and business advisory firm in Charleston. In this setting, Nowell relishes the opportunity to work on a highly personal level with his clients and help their companies flourish as well as grow a successful business relationship with his customers and their employees.

“In a larger company you spend most of your time in meetings,” Nowell said. “I can have a greater impact on my clients if I’m out there working with them. It’s much more rewarding.”

In 2004, Nowell and his partners Bill Jarrard and Will Russell combined their extensive experience in corporate financial management and public accounting and took over leadership of deBrux & Associates CPA firm, founded by Joe deBrux in 1978. The three partners previously worked together for about 14 years for industrial products giant Cameron & Barkley Co. According to Nowell, the move was a calculated effort to take the skills they acquired working in the corporate world and apply them to smaller, family-owned businesses and individuals. Running their own firm would offer greater challenges with greater rewards—as well as job security.

“The good ol’ days of lifelong careers in corporate America are gone. We wanted to create our own destiny, with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Nowell said. “Yeah, tax deadline season can be horrible, but it’s better than not knowing whether you’ll have a job in two weeks.”

Because of the principals’ combined experiences in myriad aspects of accounting, Jarrard, Nowell & Russell LLC is able to offer a suite of services that isn’t readily available from other firms. In addition to traditional accounting practices, such as auditing and tax services, the firm provides financial management services, business advisory services, 1031 tax-free exchange services for buying and selling property, business modeling and valuations, captive insurance consultation and auditing and wealth management services.

“We’re not just tax preparers,” Nowell said. “We want our clients to call us for advice. Most of my colleagues see businesses they’re working with from the outside looking in. We have the advantage of having worked in the middle of a business. We’ve seen the tricks of the trade. If I’ve got a customer who’s having trouble collecting receivables, I have no problem picking up the phone and help- ing them collect receivables. I’ve done it before.”

One of Nowell’s specializations is providing financial advisory and business evaluation services to companies in ownership transition and subsequent business exchanges. During his tenure at Cameron & Barkley Co., Nowell worked extensively on acquisitions involving international Fortune 500 companies. While the projects he works on now aren’t near that level, he says his experience working on such a high level has helped him create a basic roadmap for clients to follow when considering buying or selling a business.

Over the past three years, the company has enjoyed increased revenue of approx- imately 20% annually and, according to Nowell, is on track to have doubled its revenue stream within four years. In addition, the company has retained nearly all of deBrux’s former clients and then doubled that initial client base. The firm has grown to such an extent that it recently relocated to a larger office.

To augment his professional presence within the community, Nowell is active within civic and charitable organizations. He has served as treasurer for Charleston Stage and now serves in the same position for the Anne Scandalios Cancer Ends Now Directive (ASCEND) Foundation, a Charleston-based organization that works to promote awareness, education, prevention and scientific research funding in the battle against cancer.

Nowell and his wife, Lynn, live in Charleston and have six children and two grandchildren.