The firm’s sweet spot is a client mix of accounting for venture-backed startups, consulting for rapidly expanding ones, and traditional accounting work for the industries that sustain Chattanooga.
Market Street operates according to three Ps: ‘Professional. Proactive. Partners.’ The motto describes the firm's focus on meaningfully supporting clients for long-lasting growth.
The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has seen quite an evolution in the last decade. Though traditionally a hub for many large trucking companies, it’s become an incubator for venture-backed tech companies in recent years.
Noticing the city’s changing landscape—and that “a lot of the CPA firms were having trouble keeping up with the startup world”—Kyle Bryant and his colleagues formed Market Street Partners in 2016. The accounting firm’s goal: cater to the needs of venture-backed startups.
“We understood that [startup] space pretty well,” Kyle recalls of the company’s beginnings. “We started with a team of eight, doing the back-office accounting, tax, compliance audits, and helping with investment decks and projections around fundraising.”
Since then, Market Street has expanded its offerings to include consulting to serve more conventional small businesses.
Kyle shares more of Market Street’s story with Karbon CEO and host Stuart McLeod on episode 40 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, covering staffing for growth, building with startups in mind, and effective marketing. He also explains the three Ps of employee success that guide Market Street’s client relationships.
Part of being in the next generation of CPAs is being on the leading edge of tech usage. Market Street Partners built tech into its early plans to meet the needs of its tech-driven clients. As a result, cloud-based audit and bookkeeping are central to the firm’s operations.
With that base in place, Market Street is able to get its venture-backed startup clients off the ground. But what happens when those companies have exponential growth? In comes Market Street’s consulting arm.
“Those VC-backed companies evolve pretty quickly, moving to their next round of fundraising. Then they need a Big Four firm audit. We will pass that assurance work or tax work up to the bigger firms, and we still stay on as consultants,” Kyle explains of the evolving relationships.
But Market Street doesn’t solely focus on startups.
The majority of the company’s growth has come from more conventional small businesses, like manufacturers, real estate firms, and construction groups. These clients often need more than a one-man firm, but less than a very big firm.
Market Street enjoys operating in that middle market, and word gets around. New business frequently comes from referrals from their satisfied local business partners. Between the verticals of consulting, startups, and conventional industries, it maintains a healthy mix of clients.
Since starting with eight employees in 2016, Market Street has grown to a team of 42. And it’s not stopping there. Kyle thinks the company will be up to 50 employees by the end of 2022. What’s contributed to this growth in the last year?
Kyle admits that Market Street, like many accounting firms, thrived during the pandemic. Thanks to referrals, he and his team continue to generate new business (more on that and the firm’s marketing later).
But Kyle’s also a firm believer in 'hiring up'—having more staff than needed so that when new work comes, the group is prepared.
“We're always trying to be overstaffed. It's a weird phenomenon in this profession: you're either looking for staff or you're looking for clients, and it comes in cycles,” Kyle explains to Stuart. “Our growth stretched us pretty thin early on. Last year, we grew by 70%. This year, we're already at 40% growth. Staffing comes in proportion to that.”
Most of Market Street’s employees are based locally in Chattanooga, but the remote work market gained from COVID worked to the firm’s benefit.
“It's given us access to talent that we wouldn't have had otherwise,” Kyle says.
That access is a good thing considering the general shortage of new accountants coming out of school, as well as the different expectations between the incoming and outgoing generations of accounting. A self-identified millennial, he thinks that people aren’t as drawn to accounting’s rigid traditionalism.
“We millennials aren't as willing to give 80-hour weeks to sacrifice things the way that other people did,” Kyle says on the podcast.
“People want to find purpose in what they're doing. That's one of the reasons why we stick to our core values and try to find purpose in what we do.”
Speaking of core values—Kyle builds Market Street’s into the company’s everyday work and business ethos. They’re conveyed in the firm’s working motto: Professional. Proactive. Partners.
Here’s how that breaks down:
Professional: This isn’t the typical suit-and-tie wearing professionalism, but rather “being available, courteous, and doing what you say you’re going to do.”
Proactive: Kyle describes this as taking the initiative to examine how today’s strategies are going to shape the future for each client. Where can they be ahead of the game?
Partners: Employees are an extension of the client’s team and a real part of the action. This mindset helps foster long-lasting relationships that focus on getting clients through their growth challenges.
Recommended reading: How to identify and solve gaps and problems in your accounting team’s structure
Kyle is proud to say that clients frequently brag about Market Street’s work, which brings many referrals. But beyond this organic growth strategy, Market Street also relies on a PR team.
“We want to be providing value and publishing content that's useful to people. That's been an attractive method to gain new clients. If we can give some guidance around new legislation that's coming out, they're likely to call us with follow-up questions,” Kyle says of the strategy.
To that end, Kyle leans on his PR team for speaking opportunities and press mentions where he can provide quotes to the media. Any chance to tell Market Street’s story and spread the word about its services is valuable to the firm.
What’s in the five-year plan for Market Street? Besides providing excellent service within its three verticals, the company may expand outside of Chattanooga.
“We're going to make sure that we don't grow too fast and lose the ability to serve the people we have,” Kyle says of the future. “For the next four or five years, this looks like potentially opening up new markets, and finding new places to go that are like Chattanooga, needing a fresh approach and some new blood in the market.”
Dedication to the three Ps will serve as a guiding light during this era of growth for Kyle and Market Street Partners. In the end, it all comes down to helping the small business and startup community use accounting as the language of business.
“We call it business beyond numbers,” Kyle says. “We want to help clients understand what their numbers are telling them and how that translates into their day-to-day operations.”