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Sign of KWC based in Alexandria on West Broad Street. (Michael Schwartz photo)

Driven in part by a tight market for talent and the retirement of a partner, an accounting firm in Richmond merged with a larger competitor in northern Virginia.

Kimble CPAs, a 14-person firm in the West End, joined Alexandria-based KWC last month.

This is the second such deal for KWC in Richmond in five years. In 2017, it added Biegler & Associates and its 16-person team to its ranks as part of its entry into the local market.

Connie Hammel

“We already had a presence there and were looking to expand it when Kimble came across my desk,” said Connie Hammell, managing partner at KWC. “I was looking for a company just to reinforce our current presence and for technical expertise as well.”

KWC was drawn to Kimble’s book on business management tax work for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits, a practice that KWC sought to expand.

From Kimble’s perspective, co-founder Kim VanHuss said her firm needed new talent on the audit side of the practice after co-founder Bill Berry retired in April.

“We were taking on a lot of work and needed additional resources behind us,” VanHuss said, adding that she also needed help with back-office tasks such as HR and IT.

She and Berry started Kimble six years ago when they parted ways with Elliott Davis, a large company that closed its Richmond office.

When Berry retired, VanHuss said she hired local mergers and acquisitions advisory firm Sterling Point Advisors to find a merger partner for Kimble. She said she had spoken to several suitors and that KWC was by far the best fit.

Kim VanHuss

A notable selling point, VanHuss said, was when she brought up with Hammell that Kimble is allowing her employees to work a four-day, 32-hour work week from May through Labor Day as a break. of its busiest months. It’s not a perk that all companies offer, and she wasn’t sure any other company would want to honor this post-merger.

“I said, ‘Connie, we work 32 weeks in the summer.’ She says, “Yeah, we do that too,” VanHuss said. “I haven’t spoken to another company during this process that had this.”

The case was concluded on July 25.

All Kimble employees came under the deal, including VanHuss, which is now a KWC partner.

The structure is similar to KWC’s deal with Biegler, whose founder and namesake Steve Biegler stayed on and is now managing partner of KWC’s Richmond office. The Kimble name will soon be retired in favor of the KWC brand.

Hammell said the mergers are a way for companies like KWC to combat a hiring challenge that has plagued the accounting industry in recent years.

“We are facing an extreme labor shortage which is the result of two things,” Hammell said. “One is baby boomers retiring and there’s an incredible loss of knowledge with that.”

The second is a trend of fewer accounting graduates coming out of colleges, which Hammell attributes in part to additional requirements that may push some accounting students into having to take a fifth year of school.

“Everybody faces the same problems and we all try to solve it in our own way,” she said.

VanHuss, 61, who has worked in the industry since graduating from the University of Richmond 40 years ago, said the pandemic has added to those recruiting challenges.

“During the pandemic, hiring was extremely difficult,” she said. “We weren’t on campus recruiting or attending networking events to make those contacts. The pandemic has really shut down the (recruitment) pipeline. So I think we are feeling the effects.

The addition of Kimble will increase KWC’s annual revenue from $18 million pre-merger to approximately $22 million post-merger, Hammell said. That’s up from the $15 million when the Biegler deal was struck in 2017.

The combined company now has 112 employees and, for now, two offices in Richmond. The group led by Biegler works out of 5911 W. Broad St., while the Kimble group is still in its office at 6806 Paragon Place.

Hammell said neither office is large enough to house the entire Richmond team under one roof, so the search is underway to secure a single, larger office by the end of the year. ‘year. She said they lived in Innsbrook.

KWC was founded in 1983. It was represented in the Kimble case by the law firm Rees Broome. Kimble was represented by Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.

Hammell said KWC is not actively pursuing any other deals with Richmond at this time.

“We’re not looking to become a regional mega-company,” she said. “It was the right opportunity at the right time.”