Progressive adds in-house tax/accounting but growing pains ahead

From left, Tyler Atkinson, Wayne Cravens and Sam Sandlin.
From left, Tyler Atkinson, Wayne Cravens and Sam Sandlin.

COOKEVILLE – Another step forward.

That’s how Wayne Cravens describes the most recent addition to the Progressive Savings Bank fold. Company officials recently announced the formation of Progressive Tax & Accounting, adding yet another option for its customer base. But the move could also mean growing pains are ahead as the Cookeville office reaches its max for space.

Cravens, president of Cravens & Company Wealth Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of PSB, said the in-house service – and new sister company – is a long-time coming. Progressive Tax & Accounting is headed by G. Sam Sandlin, CPA, PTA, who has more than 35 years experience in his field.

“It’s been very commonplace for our clients to ask us to do more for them – taxes, reconciliation work, project work – that involved a greater accounting capacity than we had,” Cravens said. “So the idea of bringing an accountant, a seasoned CPA, into our company is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time.”

Sandlin and his six-member team moved into the Progressive building on Interstate Drive in November, and Progressive Tax & Accounting started serving clients in January.

“It’s a huge advantage on multiple levels,” Cravens said. “We now have a tremendous amount of depth, knowledge and experience in house, that’s available by picking up (the phone) and hitting an extension, rather that trying to get on someone’s schedule. I haven’t quantified the value of that, but I see it every week. The second is, we really want to give busy folks – individuals who are running their businesses, who are successful – a turnkey, a complete solution. They don’t have to have the discomfort of financially disrobing all the time, if you will, trying to share information. We give them that single relationship. When you come here, you don’t have to go other places. You don’t have to go from one place to the other.”

In addition, Cravens said they’ve added another team member. Tyler Atkinson, a Tennessee Tech graduate with dual degrees in accounting and finance and an Emory University law school graduate, is working directly with Sandlin. Atkinson recently passed the Tennessee bar exam and is currently preparing to sit for his CPA designation.

Sandlin, Atkinson Tyler, Cravens and Matt Curtis, J.D., in addition, have also formed Cravens & Company’s “special projects team.” The team will focus on complex family and business issues like valuations and sales, intra-family business succession, income and estate tax reduction and other concerns.

It’s just the latest in a series of additions. PSB has, for decades, envisioned incorporating banking, insurance, investments and wealth management into a one-stop shop. Cravens & Co. – a 2016 Ovation Award winner for Excellence in Professional Services – recently grew its team by roughly a third, bringing on board, for example, an in-house attorney.

There are discussions to add another CPA in 2017. And next? Likely, there will be trust services soon.

“We do not have a trust company in this town that’s indigenous,” Cravens said. “We have some banks that have trust departments, but the people who make the decisions are in cities far, far away. We want to be able to offer that service in the future.”

But with those additions come growing pains. Progressive/Cravens is close to maxed at its current locale at 1080 Interstate Drive. The company is currently examining next steps.

“We are not at capacity yet. We do have some capacity left,” Cravens said. “But when you look at the five-year horizon, we’re going to be challenged. We’re going to have to make some difficult decisions.”

Whether the company expands internally – there’s a community room, for example, at the location that could be converted – or decides to build elsewhere, that remains to be seen. But those discussions are happening now.

“That decision is going to have to be made soon,” he said. “Our community room is used about four days out of the week, every week. We don’t charge people. We love to have people come and use it. Then there’s discussion about opportunities for other facilities and other branches banking wise. The outcome of those decisions, I suspect, will play into the greater organizational needs as well.”


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