Then and now: the River Thames helps revive accounting

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Editor’s note: The following story appeared in the December 20 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is the profile of a former member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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After working 40 years in banking, Jeff Thames was ready for a change. A college friend had restarted her accounting business around this time, and she encouraged Thames to work with her.

In August 2019 Thames joined Bookkeeper Plus and is a co-owner. Mary Schopp originally launched the company in the early 2000s before selling it to an accounting firm of Rogers about nine years later. She reopened the business in early 2019.

“Mary and I have been friends for a long time,” Thames said. “She said, ‘You have strengths that I don’t have, and I have strengths that you don’t have. So together we should be able to do it 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 customers has grown from around 15 to 115 over the past two years. The number of accounts has grown from nearly 20 to around 120. Meanwhile, revenue is expected to reach over $200,000 this year.

“In 2019 we grew some, but in 2020 we saw a lot of growth, he said. “A lot of it was because there were nonprofits saying, ‘We have to do something. We can’t manage it internally anymore, or we need someone 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 was working remotely. He said customers can meet staff in person or remotely via Zoom. But as the company continues to grow and add customers and staff, he said it may open an office. For now, the owners are operating from their home offices in Rogers and Springdale.

About 75% to 80% of customers are small and medium-sized businesses, while the rest are non-profit organizations. The company’s staff includes Thames, Schopp, a part-time employee and a contractor.

“We provide all kinds of financial accounting, bookkeeping, payroll services until it hits the tax part,” Thames said, noting that he and Schopp are not CPAs. “We usually work with the person the client has as the CPA.”

The company has 20 to 25 salaried customers. Most are also accounting clients. The company also offers to consult as a financial director.

Thames, 59, said he was responsible for the company’s contracts with customers. The company specializes in QuickBooks, but it will work with software that customers use specifically for the industry in which they operate.

“Everyone is a little different,” he said. “There is no typical customer as we deal with non-profit organizations, sole proprietors, partnerships and LLCs. … They are all different due to different industries and different regulations.

Thames was senior vice president and teller at First National Bank of Springdale in Springdale when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him in the Forty Under 40 class in 2000. He remained at the bank until 2004 and took it helped 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 open it a few months later. He worked at the bank for about nine years, including as senior vice president of operations and information technology 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 resource manager and was responsible for budgeting and finance for the IT division with a nine-figure 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, I’m hoping to have a few more good years to work, but retirement is looking very 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 likes gardening to relax.

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