Greg Stewart, CPA and founder of Stewart & Associates and member of the Riverside Ward in the Colville Stake, walked across the stage in the Grand Pennington Ballroom at the Davenport Hotel on June 2 to receive a prized honor
amongst Spokane area business owners.
Spokane’s chamber of commerce, Greater Spokane Incorporated, has been presenting The AGORA Awards for the last quarter century. Being honored with an AGORA has become a mark of business excellence over the years.
“The Agora” was a marketplace in ancient Greek city-states where merchants sold their goods. GSI’s annual formal AGORA Awards ceremony honors businesses in a variety of categories. Stewart & Associates received 2010’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for their own entrepreneurial success and the help they offer to struggling businesses.
“We actively pursued the AGORA Award because we wanted to show a level of excellence for services offered to small businesses,” said Stewart.
Greg Stewart, founder of Stewart & Associates, receiving The Entrepreneurial Spirit AGORA Award. Contributed Photo.
Being honored with the award was especially exciting to Stewart and his staff because they had been told in the past that an accounting firm was just too boring to win. “We were able to prove a hundred dollar bill could be just as exciting as other products,” he said.
During a short video clip shown at the awards, Stewart and his staff proved they at least have a sense of humor, as they were portrayed as nerdy accountants, complete with taped glasses, busily counting beans into large jars at their North Spokane office.
Stewart & Associates is a small accounting firm, with just five full-time employees. They typically grow to around 15 employees during tax season. Greg is the only CPA. They cater to small businesses that are great at making their product or providing their service but not so good at running a business.
“We do much more than help businesses file their taxes,” says Stewart. “We become part of our client’s business, assisting with business decisions, providing tax planning and offering plans for businesses that are struggling.”
Stewart’s firm has shown steady growth over the last several years because of the niche they have found in helping small businesses, instead of offering tax planning to large corporations. “We like being a small office helping small businesses,” says Stewart.
Their plans for future growth include opening additional small offices in the surrounding area. “We don’t want to be a big firm,” Stewart noted. “We want to remain personable.”
The staff of Stewart & Associates. Contributed Photo.
Owning a business can be challenging, “like riding a roller coaster,” Stewart said. The unpredictability of owning a business can be stressful. One of the greatest challenges Stewart has faced has been developing the people skills necessary to have a successful service based business. “In school I learned about debits, credits and taxes but people skills are a must and can be challenging to master,” he said.
One plus of running his own business is the freedom to give back to the community. Once each quarter Stewart, his employees and their families donate time to a community service projects. Over the years, they have benefited various organizations including Second Harvest Food Bank, North Idaho Elder Care, Cup of Cool Water and the Spokane Humane Society.
Stewart has found that taking time out to serve the community as a company has been a bonding experience for his employees. “It boosts employee morale and production always seems to go up after we’ve finished a service project,” he said.
Teaching money management skills has also been a fulfilling experience for Stewart and his Staff. They have adopted Mead Alternative School by volunteering at career days and teaching high school students money management classes through a fun game they developed. They have also had the opportunity to teach classes to local businesses through Greater Spokane Incorporated’s business development programs.
Another benefit of owning a business includes a flexible schedule. Originally from Pocatello, Idaho, Stewart re-located to the Spokane area to take a job after graduation from Idaho State University in 1987. The plan was to eventually move back to Pocatello, but he and his family fell in love with Spokane and just never left. Stewart said that even though he expends considerable effort at work, he’s still able to spend more time with his family because of the ability to arrange his own schedule.
Stewart’s membership in the Church has influenced how he does business. Although he is the sole member of the Church working in his office, he expects his employees to maintain a high standard of integrity. “We don’t actively promote to members of the Church but many of them come in and are pleased with the quality of our customer service and the integrity with which we do business,” he said.