Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
After working 40 years in the banking industry, Jeff Thames was ready for a change. A college friend had restarted her bookkeeping business about that time, and she encouraged Thames to work with her.
In August 2019, Thames joined Bookkeeper Plus and is a co-owner. Mary Schopp initially started the business in the early 2000s before selling it to a Rogers accounting firm about nine years later. She reopened the company in early 2019.
“Mary and I have been friends for a long time,” Thames said. “She said, ‘You’ve got strengths that I don’t have, and I’ve got strengths that you don’t have. So, together, we should be able to do this really well.’”
Thames dabbled in bookkeeping and accounting throughout his banking career, and joining the business “seemed like a good fit at the time,” he added.
Thames said the number of clients has grown from about 15 to 115 in the past two years. The number of accounts has risen from almost 20 to about 120. Meanwhile, revenue is expected to rise to more than $200,000 this year.
“In 2019, we grew some, but in 2020, we saw a lot of growth,” he said. “A lot of that was because there were companies that were nonprofits that were saying, ‘We need to do something. We can’t handle it anymore in-house, or we need somebody to help us because the bank wants to see another set of eyes on the books.’”
Thames added that the pandemic has not hurt the business. And even before the pandemic, it had been operating remotely. He said clients can meet with staff in person or remotely via Zoom. But as the company continues to grow and add clients and staff, he said it might open an office. For now, the owners operate from their home offices in Rogers and Springdale.
About 75% to 80% of clients are small- to medium-sized businesses, while the remainder are nonprofits. Company staff comprises Thames, Schopp, a part-time employee and a contract worker.
“We provide any type of financial accounting, bookkeeping, payroll services up until it gets to the tax part,” said Thames, noting that he and Schopp are not CPAs. “We usually work with whomever the client has as a CPA.”
The company has 20-25 payroll clients. Most also are bookkeeping clients too. The company also offers to consult as a chief financial officer.
Thames, 59, said he’s responsible for the company’s contracts with clients. The company specializes in QuickBooks, but it will work with the software that clients use specific to the industry in which they operate.
“Everybody is a little different,” he said. “There’s no typical client because we deal with nonprofits, sole proprietors, partnerships and LLCs. … They’re all different because of different industries and different regulations.”
Thames was senior vice president and cashier at First National Bank of Springdale in Springdale when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2000. He remained at the bank until 2004 and helped it through two acquisitions, including when Searcy-chartered First Security Bank acquired it.
In early 2005, he joined Legacy National Bank as one of the first employees and helped it to open a few months later. He worked at the bank for about nine years, including as senior vice president of operations and IT and senior vice president of information technology.
In 2014, he joined Arvest Bank and worked for the bank for five years. He served as IT resources manager and was responsible for budgeting and financials for the IT division with a nine-digit budget at the bank that included a four-state footprint, mortgage division and 23 cost centers.
“Since I’ve been in banking for so long, hopefully, I’ve got a few more good years to work, but retirement’s going to look really good one of these days,” he joked.
Thames and his wife, Angela, have been married for 36 years and reside in Springdale. They have two sons. Thames said he enjoys yard work to relax.