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Linda Smith '86 and Maureen Sullivan '85: Not by the Numbers
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
CPA Linda (Leggett) Smith ’86 (far left) has never spent a day in a corporate accounting office. Instead, her 9-to-5 time unfolds in church basements, orphanages and catering kitchens, balancing the books of nonprofits, small businesses and individuals. She and Maureen (Igo) Sullivan ’85 run a nine-person, all-female accounting firm in Westborough, Mass.
Smith launched the venture in 1993, upon leaving a small CPA practice whose owner was retiring. She ran a solo office in Framingham for four years before hiring her first employee.
Sullivan joined the firm in 2001, after years of moving between public and private practice to accommodate her growing family. Though the pair hadn’t known each other on campus, both had commuted to day classes and worked part time at night.
“When I saw her résumé and that she went to Bentley, I didn’t interview anybody else. I said, ‘I’m hiring that person!’” remembers Smith, laughing.
Smith manages the nonprofit side of the business, which supports about 150 local charities, from special needs schools to Pop Warner organizations to theater companies. Sullivan runs the small business and tax part of the practice, serving nearly 70 family-owned companies and 300 individuals.
The work is highly professional, but with a personal touch. For example, Smith Sullivan accountants often train clients one-on-one in software such as QuickBooks to help improve their operations. The grassroots style permits precious flexibility for employees.
“We’ve got a lot of working moms who want to stay professionally connected and be well paid, but don’t want to commit to nighttime activities,” says Smith. “We promise no weekends, no overtime. They can get their kids off the school bus. You can’t get that at a bigger firm.”
Adds Sullivan: “Our clients definitely appreciate that we’re more relaxed and casual than a corporate accounting firm.”
The appreciation emanates from the top. Smith and Sullivan closed the books on the current tax season by treating staff members to a day of shopping, dining and spa treatments.
“Every once in a while the big guys across the street ask, ‘Are you ready to sell out?’ and we’re not,” says Smith. “I can’t tell you the last time I wore a suit. I gave them all to charity.”
Bentley University’s Co-Provost and Dean of Arts and Sciences Daniel Everett talked with us recently about a wide range of topics, including being featured in a new book by Tom Wolfe, two of his own upcoming books, the importance of studying the origins of language, and the value of a fusion approach to business education.