Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors is pleased to congratulate shareholder, Carla Grant, for being selected as one of The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. While we know how influential Carla has been for women as well as for the profession, it’s validating to see her receive this honor!
Carla received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Michigan Technological University in 1985. When Carla joined Hungerford Nichols the same year, the landscape of the profession was much different than it is today. The firm had 12 employees (compared to nearly 100 today), women were expected to wear suits with skirts in corporate blue every day and “work-life balance” was certainly not a common term at the office. Now, work-life balance is one of the core values practiced at the firm which helps to drive our company culture.
Fast-forward five years. Carla was doing well within her role at the firm and was considered a talented and highly technical CPA. She was challenged with a dilemma. She was expecting her first child and wanted to be able to continue to work, while also spending time at home with her child. Nervous to share the news with the shareholders at the time, they surprised her by not only being excited for her, but offering her the opportunity to work part-time so she could have that balance. They felt that it made good business sense to help improve women’s workplace and economic opportunities.
Keep in mind, in the 80s, this was not a common practice, especially in the accounting profession. “Women were still scrambling to get recognition as CPAs. Back then, you had two choices: work full-time hours or don’t work,” shared Carla. The shareholders knew that Carla was a phenomenal asset to the firm and wanted to do all they could to keep her talents with them. The vision they had would help drive the culture for many years to come. This type of flexibility and genuine care for the employee would help lay the foundation for Carla to work her way to shareholder, taking a part-time path. Word got out quickly within the profession of her unique situation. Carla was asked to speak within the profession on how to create this culture for women. Internally, she took on the role of Human Resources and began recruiting to help implement initiatives to retain women and men within the firm.
Carla has since celebrated 30 years with the firm. She became the firm’s first part-time shareholder in 2001. She is considered an expert in her specialization (Employee Benefit Audits) and works with clients ranging in size from one employee to tens of thousands. She also provides consulting services in ERISA compliance, plan design and administrative issues. That doesn’t mean she is resting on her laurels, though – far from it. She still works part-time, averaging 2000 hours per year vs. a full-time employee’s 2600 hours, which allows her to spend a day each week caring for her grandson. She still finds time to speak at several conferences around the country, acts as treasurer for the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and plays piano and sings at her church. But Carla’s big passion is literacy. “Reading is a basic skill. If a kid doesn’t get it by the time they’re out of elementary school, they are set up to fail later in life.” She volunteers weekly at the United Way’s Schools of Hope program tutoring elementary students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.
We thank Carla for her contribution to the profession and to the firm! Congratulations on this tremendous achievement!