Interviews

Not Your Grandpa’s Accounting Firm: Robby Mathis On Success and Taxes

By Noelle Brooks

Not Your Grandpa's Accounting Firm: Robby Mathis On Success and Taxes. Picture of Robby Mathis, owner of the Robby Group.
Robby Mathis

Typically, accounting does not produce the warm-and-fuzzies. If anything, it’s a term that fills many of us with dread. Between the paperwork, the foreign terminology, and the ever-changing regulations (oh and did I mention paperwork?) accounting is a task postponed for more pleasant activities. Robby Mathis, CEO of The Robby Group, understands this dread and tackles it throughout his work. “It’s our job to try and identify the best places to optimize in a business,” Mathis said. “We need to understand the psychological aspects of the business owner and the practical aspects of their business model and how it all relates.” This concept of relation influences every aspect of the firm, creating a unique accounting experience.

The Heart of Accounting

For many of us, accounting conjures images of stuffy, humorless professionals hiding behind big desks and even bigger fees. Mathis definitely defies this concept. More comfortable in jeans than a suit, Mathis takes the same no frill approach in his work. He views accounting as the “language of business,” which can be broken down into small, digestible pieces. It is communication, not numbers, that is the heart of accounting. “Communication is everything,” Mathis said. “Everyone has different things that are important to them…we take a lot of time to learn our client’s personalities so we can have some idea what works for them.” As a result, The Robby Group empowers their clients, offering guidance every step.

The Science Factor

In addition to a client-first ideology, The Robby Group is influenced by scientific principles. Instead of reviewing information in isolated pieces, the firm takes a holistic approach that looks for meaning behind the numbers. The goal is to create a plan of action that addresses accounting needs and business objectives. This is key since good accounting depends on accurate facts and circumstances.

“The reality is, the client is going to have their own understanding and you’re going to have your own perspective and those to have to align on some point,” Mathis said. “So usually what happens is you go away with the information that you have, you do the research and you come back and if the research makes no sense when you look at the facts and circumstances, well chances are you are probably missing a fact.”

Mathis’s science background has helped throughout his career. At PWC, he used these skills to translate the language of accounting to engineers and scientists. This ability to switch perspectives has allowed Mathis to place himself in the shoes of his clients. It has also taught him how to keep his cool no matter the situation. “They really taught me how to be a professional at PWC because at the end of the day the only thing that matters is the client, ” Mathis said. “It was learning the difference between what is too much to say and what’s not enough. And having to learn that balance.”

Empowerment In Action

This balance helps Mathis take an objective stance that puts his clients in the driver’s seat. The Robby Group also empowers through the use of technology. A key product the firm uses is Xero. This product allows clients to update and view their finances on the go 24/7. “This allows me to be in a fully educational role,” Mathis said. “And that’s pretty awesome because it’s more like dealing with a coach than going to meet your accountant. I can’t think of anything that sounds more dreadful.”

Technology aside, The Robby Group empowers by demystifying the process. One of Mathis’ favorite stories is about a woman left with enormous tax debt after her husband passed. So overwhelmed by the situation, this woman was terrified of going to her mailbox. It took some effort, but Mathis convinced her to come down and meet with him.

“We pulled up her tax account and as it turns out the statute of limitations had run out,” Mathis said. “The IRS had kept their word and put her as currently not collectible. And she literally got up and gave me a big hug. Someone I had only known for 20 minutes. And that meant the world to me. It reminded me why I do what I do.”

Not Your Grandfather’s Accounting Firm

The Robby Group believes in the idea of teaching people how to fish. This goes for clients as well as employees. Through his firm, Mathis provides guidance and resources to foster more effective leaders. He wants his work to be more than just managing books. He hopes it can create a more connected world.  “We’re not your grandfather’s accounting firm,” Mathis said. “I sure as heck don’t sound like one.”

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