Member Spotlight: Christi Williams Cruzen, Firm Administrator
Firm Name: CRS CPAs
Location: Jackson, TN
# of Offices: 6
# of Partners: 6
# of Employees: 42
Learning from other operations professionals to support firm growth and accelerate success
Christi Williams Cruzen, Firm Administrator at CRS CPAs, learned to manage money at a young age. Cruzen’s father passed away when she was just 14 years old, and since her father had always handled the family finances, Cruzen’s mother didn't quite know where to start managing money for the family.
"We just kind of put our heads together and started learning how to budget and invest. I started from there, and it was something I enjoyed doing," Cruzen says.
That knack for numbers eventually led to a career as a financial analyst for a large medical practice in Jackson, Tennessee, where she handled the practice's accounting. One of Cruzen’s team members was married to a partner at CRS CPAs, and she got to know him over her 12 years working for the medical practice. So when he offered her the job of Firm Administrator, Cruzen was excited to take on a new challenge.
Today, Cruzen has been in that role for over a decade, and her responsibilities have grown and evolved along with CRS.
Having a peer community means you're no longer alone
Cruzen is always looking for ways to improve her role and the firm and do things more efficiently.
"I really didn't have one place to go for everything my job includes," Cruzen says. "I could find a piece here and a piece there, but when I found out about the Boomer Operations Circle, it literally encompasses everything I do, so I know at least one person in my Circle is going to have the answer I need."
At one point, Cruzen handled the firm's internal accounting, e-filing all tax returns and extensions, human resources, all the W-2s and 1099s for the entire company, daily deposits, accounts payable, and even some IT.
That's an enormous responsibility for any one person. So, inspired by conversations at the Operations Circle, Cruzen approached the firm's managing partner with an idea: hiring an admin person to take on some of that work. The result? CRS hired Kristen Carey for the role of Firm Coordinator.
"We've had Kristen for not quite a year," Cruzen says, "and she has just taken off. She's taken so much of the admin and day-to-day stuff off of me. Now, I'm able to focus more on where we're headed and how we're going to get there."
You don't have to reinvent the wheel
In addition to inspiration to help grow the firm's admin team, Cruzen relies on her peers in the Operations Circle for help making software decisions. She enjoys not having to reinvent the wheel every time she has an issue or evaluates new technology.
"I can pick up the phone and call another Circle member and get valuable information, feedback and ideas," Cruzen says.
As a result of conversations with her peers, CRS started using BILL Spend & Expense (formerly Divvy) to automate the firm's expense management.
"I can't wait for our next Circle meeting because I'm looking for HR software," Cruzen says. "I can't wait to dig into what everybody has to say about that. The connections I've made and learning about what other firms are doing give me ideas to bring CRS."
Retaining talented employees
One of Cruzen’s responsibilities at CRS is chairing the HR committee. Over the past two years, the committee has worked to change firm policies with an eye toward attracting and retaining talent.
"We've asked why people stay with firms and what benefits really make them want to stay," Cruzen says. "I've brought so many ideas back from the Operations Circle, including half-day Fridays, paid parental leave, and dress-for-your-day. We re-wrote our entire employee handbook because the committee has just blown away employee benefits over the past two years, and we're really making people want to stay."
When we asked Cruzen what she would say to someone considering joining the Boomer Operations Circle, she didn't hesitate.
"Come see the camaraderie that we have when we all get together. It's just electrifying, and the discussions we get into are deep and amazing. The whole thing is about the people there."