"On the Job with ..." is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today's interview is with Miles V. Espy Sr., a partner with Draffin and Tucker, an accounting firm.
Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?
A. I would encourage a young person to begin pursuing a job, while they are in their last year of college. Many colleges and universities have placement offices or guidance counselors that can assist them with this endeavor. I would identify the companies in my chosen profession that I think would be best for my career and learn more about those companies via research. Through my research and networking, I would determine the best manner in which to arrange a face-to-face meeting with a decision maker in that company. I would make sure that I was dressed appropriately for the position sought and be knowledgeable about the company.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. I put my entire first ever paycheck in a savings account when I was a sophomore in high school. I bought a new suit with my first paycheck that I earned after college.
Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. To be truly successful in public accounting, self-motivation is a must. To give self-motivated people an opportunity to flourish, it is important that they be in an environment that provides opportunities for continuous professional enrichment with an opportunity to continue to development and advance professionally. In providing this environment it is important to not only encourage them, as they develop, but to provide candid critical feedback to assist in their development. This approach centers on having a sincere interest in the professional and personal development of the people of your organization.
Q. What was your first job?
A. As a sophomore in high school, I began working at a Feed and Seed store in Headland, Ala. I would leave school a few minutes early on weekdays, so I could run the store, while Mr. Killingsworth, who managed the store, drove a school bus. I worked there until I left my hometown for college.
Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?
A. The Lord instilled in me an interest in math and business at an early age. As a junior in high school, He gave me the idea to pursue becoming a CPA, and He has led me to the position I am in today. I enjoy being a part of a team that owns and operates Draffin & Tucker, LLP. As long as I can remember, I have had the desire to grow and develop, and that doesn't just stop with me. My desire is that everything that I am involved with reaches its maximum potential.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. When I think about a role model, I think of my grandfather, Major W. Espy. When my great-grandfather, John Jolly Espy, was killed in an automobile accident, Major, at the young age of 25, became the president of a locally-owned bank in his father's place. Although he passed away when I was just in the fifth grade, I remember that he made others around him feel important. Although he operated a number of business ventures, including a bank, a mercantile store, a fertilizer plant, and farming operations, he was never prideful and always had time for others including his grandchildren. I never heard him gossip or say anything bad about his fellow man. He had a way of lifting those up around him. As I grew into a young man in Headland, people from all walks of life would remind me of what a great man Major was. To this day, I'll be in meetings with people that knew him well, and they will quote statements that he made decades ago. Certainly, my mother and father were good role models as well, but my grandfather has truly been an inspiration for my career.
I am fortunate to have been a part of the Draffin & Tucker team for my entire professional career and have had many mentors along the way. While my partners may not realize it, all of them mentor me in some way. As I developed professionally at Draffin & Tucker, three partners, Larry Ruis, Charles Williams, and Henry Dunn, contributed the most directly to my development. I am very pleased that God guided me into the path of these mentors and my firm.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Being well-capitalized is very important to the long-term success of a business. A thinly capitalized business can find itself too dependent on debt. During challenging times, a business overburdened by debt is not nimble enough to make decisions that are solely in its long-term best interest. Instead, the business is forced to make the repayment of the excessive debt its primary focus. This should be an important lesson for our federal, state, and local governments, as well.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?
A. Although some of the young people in our office probably don't think that I am savvy in regards to technology, I could not maintain my current level of productivity without email or my PDA. However, I do not enjoy automated phone systems at all. I understand that it has its place with businesses that receive an overwhelming number of calls, or companies whose business models do not allow for a person to answer the phone. However, it can send a message to some people that the time of the caller is not important to the business.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. While my PDA keeps me in touch with colleagues and clients around the clock, I cannot imagine doing my job without my laptop computer. It allows me to analyze data and perform complex calculations in a more timely manner, plus it hides the fact that my hand writing is not great. With that said, I always say that real CPA's use adding machines and pencils, as well.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. Recently, I finished re-reading Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life" with some of my co-workers. The last book I read on my own was "Life After Death The Evidence" by Dinesh D'Souza. D'Souza builds a reasoned, scientifically based case that life after death is more than possible, it is highly probable. I enjoy reading the Bible daily. Particularly, I enjoy reading it with my kids in the evening just before they go to bed.
Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?
A. I am generally up at 5:30 each morning. I say good-bye to my family and eat a piece of fruit with a glass of carnation instant breakfast on the way to the office. I generally arrive at the office between 7 and 7:30 to get a head start on the day before office hours begin at 8. On Fridays, during the school year, I slow it down a little and take my kids out to breakfast and arrive at the office a few minutes before 8.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. I really enjoy spending time with my family, so over the years my activities have changed as their interests have changed. Fortunately, for me my boys in particular have developed many of my interests, so we enjoy playing sports together, especially basketball. We enjoy travel in the continental U.S. and spectator sports, and have a special love for the BCS National Champion Auburn Tigers. I do try to remain physically active with light workouts six days a week.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. My job gives me the opportunity to work with a number of different businesses across different industries. Whether I am providing audit and accounting services or tax services, I generally get to play a role in the financial success of our clients. It is very rewarding to watch our clients grow and prosper or overcome obstacles that may pop up in the life of a business from time to time. My job also gives me an opportunity to work with an excellent team of professionals.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Without a doubt the worst thing about my job is keeping track of my time. I never know when a time sensitive issue will rear its head, and since I work with a number of clients, what I need to focus on can change on a dime. Some days I am fortunate enough to really focus on project for a significant period of time. Other days, what I am working on can change every 15 minutes, which can make keeping track of my time difficult.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. The tax courses that I took in graduate school.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. I think I would love to be the general manager of a National Football League team. I can't imagine getting paid to watch a lot of college football to evaluate prospective talent, and to watch a lot of professional football to evaluate the players on my team, and to attempt to build a championship team by bringing in the right pieces to the puzzle. If the Carolina Panthers, called me today, I am already in position to give them a couple of good suggestions on whom they should take with the first pick in this year's NFL draft based upon my work in this area in September through January.
Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...
A. I see myself continuing to enjoy my family, especially any grandchildren that the Lord might choose to bless me with. I plan to travel periodically and remain physically active, as long as the Lord blesses me with good health. I also see myself actively volunteering time to mentor young people through coaching, teaching Sunday school, or through a formal mentoring program. Most importantly, I see myself listening to the Lord's call in my life and responding to it.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Patience with an open mind to the views of others can be a very effective tool in making good decisions. Patience to listen to others and to look at circumstances from multiple perspectives can enhance the effectiveness of long-term decisions. Patience allows you to better serve clients or customers, assists you in maintaining or furthering relationships with key business associates, and can prevent you from becoming discouraged when you encounter short-term failures in working towards long-term success.
Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. I don't think that anyone can definitively answer this one, but I am hopeful that we will see gradual improvement for the next two years and that we can be "in full swing" within four years. However, now that we are more connected to a global market place than ever before, we all have seen in the last several years that one or two events in key places in the world can significantly impact our economy. On a long-term basis, I am concerned, however, about the impact that the continual deficit spending of our federal government will have on our nation.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. You'd find a lot of diverse music on my IPod. I have everything from Perry Como to Michael Jackson to Charlie Daniels to Casting Crowns to The Black Eyed Peas to the Auburn University Marching Band. There's got to be something on there you'd like.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. I believe that Albany and its stakeholders will develop more of a regional focus on growth and development. Albany and Lee County in particular have a lot invested in each other as we are joined at the hip. So we, along with some of our neighboring communities, will need to promote each other's many assets to make our regional community attractive to population growth, to improve the quality of life of our region, and to encourage economic development.
Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?
A. The best trip that I have ever been on was a trip to South Africa, but I did not have all my family with me, so it would not qualify as my best vacation. Our best vacation was in 2006, where we started our vacation in Cleveland, OH and drove to Philadelphia, PA. That trip included a Yankees-Indians baseball game, a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a tour of the battle fields Gettysburg, Pa., a stop at Hershey Park, and visiting numerous historic sites in Philadelphia. For me it was an incredible experience to be in Independence Hall and to stand in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and contemplate who had been in that room in 1776 and what they accomplished there.