From the November 2012 Issue.
Andrew Poulos has never worked for somebody else. Well, to clarify, since graduating from college, the tax and accounting professional has never been an employee of somebody else’s business.
While his name is not as recognizable as tech mavens who went straight from campus to multi-billion dollar dot-coms, he is nevertheless a very self-made entrepreneur, moving from success or failure, to the next opportunity for success. That said, working for himself wasn’t necessarily his intention at the outset.
Born in Atlanta as the oldest son of Greek immigrant parents, he lived in New York and later in Georgia as a child while his parents were involved in family-owned restaurants in Atlanta. As he grew up, he had seen how instrumental proper accounting was to the success of a business, and had struck up a friendship with the family’s CPA, Jake Grisewood.
“When he would come to the restaurant to go over the books, and also when he visited at our house, we would joke about me becoming an accountant,” Andrew said. “He influenced me a lot, and I eventually took his suggestion that I consider accounting as a career. I wouldn’t be doing accounting for a living if it wasn’t for Jake.”
Still in high school, Andrew decided to try an accounting class in his junior year. It came naturally to him and he went on to place in the top 10 percent in a regional student accounting competition. He knew then that he had a knack for it, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting and real estate at Georgia State University in 1994.
While in college, he was president of the school’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the national scholastically-focused accounting and finance fraternity, which achieved national honors under his leadership. He also worked part time in the accounts receivable department for Norfolk Southern Railroad. At 22 years old, he had no idea that would be the last employer he would ever have. Despite his degree, drive and readiness, after graduation he found a tight employment market with many more applicants than positions.
“I had a lot of interviews back then, but I think the human resources interviewers could see something in me that I couldn’t even see yet myself,” he said. “I can see now that I wasn’t really cut out for corporate life.”
Starting from Scratch
Although getting tired of rejection letters, Andrew did not let it deter him from his goal. He still believed that the accounting profession could provide him with job stability and the potential to earn a good living. He was just going to make that career for himself, and by the next year, he had an established payroll service, with a growing client base. He would go on to earn the Enrolled Agent credential (EA), as well as credentials for Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) and Accredited Business Accountant (ABA).
In the 18 years since then, Poulos Accounting & Consulting, Inc. (www.poulosaccounting.com) Andrew’s perseverance has helped the practice grow stronger. Based in the Atlanta suburb of Tucker, Georgia, payroll is still a core offering, with the firm producing more than 10,000 paychecks per year. He has also expanded to offer accounting and CFO services, tax compliance, tax audit representation and real estate and small business consulting to about 200 individuals and small businesses. Andrew likes to work hands-on with his clients to make sure that all their needs are met.
Also in the years since then, technology and business practices have caught up with his business model. He was a bit of a pioneer back in 1990s, starting a firm that was completely home-office based.
He said he recognized early that understanding a few client industries would help him develop a niche. The firm has many business client types, but has developed specialties with food and beverage clients, construction and service-based businesses.