BDO Alliance USA Member Spotlight – Laura Sprouse, Brown Edwards

BDO Alliance USA is among the industry’s largest associations of accounting and professional services firms in more than 800 locations nationwide. In this series, we introduce you to Alliance Member leaders who are making a difference in their firms.   

Meet Laura Sprouse, Chief Operating Officer of Brown EdwardsLaura-Sprouse-Headshot.jpg
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va. with satellite offices in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee, Brown Edwards joined the BDO Alliance USA in 2016 and has consistently been ranked a Top 100 firm by Accounting Today and INSIDE Public Accounting. They provide a variety of assurance and tax services, in addition to business advisory, valuation, IT audit, retirement plans, and covenant real estate services.

Laura Sprouse is a CPA and has been with Brown Edwards for over 20 years. In her role as COO, she spearheads many of the firm’s special projects and provides leadership to its administrative teams, including information technology, human resources, finance and business development. Laura began her tenure as a traditional associate, but later joined the firm’s IT division to help clients with network and software needs. When the firm transitioned away from providing those services, she shifted her focus to the firm’s internal needs. She was part of the initiative to go paperless in 2005 and was later appointed the Director of Information Systems. She did not have the traditional book of business to become a partner, yet evolved into the role and, today, is an equity partner and valued part of their leadership team.

Did you have a mentor growing up?
My father has always been my mentor. Having a growth mindset, he believes you should never stop challenging yourself and has a passion for always wanting to learn something new.

What types of activities does Brown Edwards do to keep up morale, especially during busy season?
Each office is empowered to do their own activities, especially when it comes to community involvement or local interests that they are passionate about as a team. Past activities have included raising money for autism, the Humane Society, and cancer research, among others. To keep work fun and engaging, each office also celebrates different occasions like St. Patrick’s Day, the March 15th deadline, Fun Fridays, etc., as well as other organized events like playing cornhole in the parking lot, Friday Socials, or gathering for a family day picnic. 

At a firmwide level, we have created some fun social postings that have been organized by our HR and Marketing teams, where participants can win prizes. Two of our most recent challenges have been funny pet pictures and those of the great outdoors. Our Marketing team also created a “joke of the day” for tax season, and I think the Tax team had a lot of fun coming up with creative jokes to share about taxes, including a play on words for team member names.

What makes you most proud of being on the Brown Edwards’ leadership team?
Jason Hartman and I work well together as a team, and we have a good balance with the entire leadership team overall. Not long ago, our revenue was $25 million; today, it is $67 million due to merger & acquisition activity and organic growth. I am the first equity partner in the firm that did not have a book of business. It makes me proud to serve this firm and happy that they recognized my value without the traditional requirements to reach that level.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I really enjoy traveling; the beach is my happy place. My husband and I love the food, culture and people of Mexico and travel there twice a year. In fact, I am learning to speak Spanish, which helps when traveling. Since we go to the same area so often, we tend to have the same taxi driver. The last time I was there, my friend asked me to try and give him directions in Spanish. He was shocked and asked why I hadn’t been speaking Spanish all this time! Our goal, one day, is to own a place in a tropical location. 

To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we have plans to visit Italy. I just love the vineyards, historic landmarks, and the Mediterranean and seaside views. 

Also in my free time, I love to exercise – especially running. I feel as though my best ideas come from my time running.

If you could go back, what advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Focus on your goals! Don’t let “things” get in the way of what you want to accomplish in life; make time for the things you love, too. My non-traditional path got me off track from becoming a CPA. I still took the exam and became a CPA in my 30s, but know that you are never too old to go for what you want.

What would you like to share about your experience in the BDO Alliance USA?
I help facilitate the COO Roundtables offered by the BDO Alliance USA and am excited about the additional new roundtables being created for members. We also thoroughly enjoyed the recent annual Alliance Conference in Las Vegas after not being able to gather like that with other members for several years. These events give us the opportunity to learn best practices and out-of-the-box thinking from others and realize that we are not alone. We also utilize much of BDO’s training curriculum, and our Marketing team benefits from the materials and publications offered by BDO as well.