Marston Group Grows Globally, Locally

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Daily News

A growing accounting and finance firm is going global and local at the same time.

While The Marston Group’s clients branch outward, its members share a wealth of business experience with future business leaders here at home.

“We’re real proud of our community leadership,” said Chip Marston, senior partner and CEO of The Marston Group. “Throughout our firm we have people who are involved in all manner of community, civic, and charitable endeavors, and it’s something we encourage as a firm. We’ve seen it to be effective in terms of leadership development for our people.”

Specifically, Marston and senior member and chief operating officer Jimmy Dickey took on mentorship roles in February’s Everywhere Else Startup Conference.

Jimmy Dickey (from left), Chip Marston and Bill Drummond have The Marston Group focused on global and local growth. (Photo: Courtesy of Lewis Clark Advertising Design)

The event drew about 1,000 startup entrepreneurs from all 50 states and several other countries to Memphis to compete for $60,000 in startup prize money. In the end, three women-owned businesses, Coyote Case, Care 2 Manage and AspirEDU went home as winners.

But it wasn’t Marston’s foray into the growing Kickstarter generation of businesses.

“Chip and I got involved in Seed Hatchery, both as mentors, and we’ve had team members who did that as participants in the Wolf River Angel Fund,” Dickey said. “It is exceptionally rewarding. I’m a lifelong Memphian. I love this city. We all believe wholeheartedly that helping startup companies in this town is good for everybody.”

Businesses entering a startup competition can be at any level of establishment ranging from those with a good idea but no clue where to start, to those whose business plans are well-refined but not well financed. Some are working on public-private partnerships.

“First of all, it’s fun,” Dickey said. “It’s great for the city. We need businesses to start here and stay here.”

Some business owners do find reason to leave Memphis, though, but continue to work with The Marston Group from abroad. Particularly in the last five years, the firm’s one office, which is in Memphis, has come to serve clients from Shanghai, London, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Singapore to name a few.

All have transactions taking place inside the United States and need accounting support, tax, preparation or financial consulting as allowed under U.S. laws.

“We have clients who used to be based in Memphis and for one reason or another business took them elsewhere,” Dickey said. “We also have clients who are overseas and are now back in the states. With globalization growing by leaps and bounds over the last decade in every single area of our business practice, we just have an increasing number of clients whose business take them all over and we maintain those relationships.”

The Marston Group works with both individuals and companies, though often the individuals are members of multigenerational families who own companies, trusts or estates.

The firm’s services include accounting and consulting, tax preparation, general business consulting, litigation support for contract disputes and divorces, and also the attest function, an independent review of data and research from an audit.

“It’s our fastest growing service line,” Marston said. “I think that the marketplace has seen a lot of change and we’ve been fortunate to have clients with growing needs in the financial reporting realm. A lot of our MNA consulting transactions are aided by financial reporting services a long the way.

“We’re continuously building our tax department as well as the attest function at all levels. Based on that, our consulting practice grows as well because the consulting area relies on the skill sets of our tax people and our financial reporting people. So it’s three main practice groups, but they’re integrated in a team approach.”

That also includes financial planning, specifically, helping individuals plan for retirement and other long-term financial goals. While the firm does not act as a broker, they have certified financial planners and attorneys on staff who provide the support needed to make planning decisions.

“We’re looking at it almost like a chief investment officer of a family group,” Dickey said. “We’re concerned with our clients’ long-term retirement planning, taxes, business or estate planning. We stop short of actively managing their accessible funds. That’s where we work with their particular broker. We’re not buying low and selling high directly.”

Currently The Marston Group has 22 employees, 16 of which are CPAs or other degreed professionals. In January, Bill Drummond joined a principal and partner after a long career at Ernst and Young where he served as managing partner of their Memphis office.

“Chip had worked for Ernst and Young and I had worked with him in that role so we had known each other professionally,” Drummond said. “I’d also known him socially and played golf with him. I retired from Ernst and Young in June 2012, and although I did enjoy a rather brief retirement, I became restless and wanted to continue on in the business realm.”