Lessons from Athletics Followed Him into Accounting
John Lee Fulcher’s roots in accounting go all the way back to his grandfather, who was a Registered Public Accountant in the small town of Millen, Georgia, in the 1960s. Though he died when Fulcher (who goes by Lee) was only five years old, he still remembers his grandfather and the work ethic he patterned for his family.
“My Millen office is in my grandfather’s old building,” Fulcher said, adding that it is the second oldest building in the town. Carrying on his grandfather’s tradition of personalized service coupled with knowledge-based competence is something Fulcher is proud to do each and every day.
As he puts it, “I look beyond the numbers – exploring all possibilities, finding solutions, and adding value to my clients’ decision making. Put simply, I always want to provide good service.”
How does Fulcher define good service? “Being proactive with advice, sticking to deadlines, being accessible with tax expertise, exceeding expectations, and remaining fully committed to helping my customers succeed.”
It might sound like he always focused on accounting as his career choice when he was a youngster growing up in Waynesboro, Georgia. That was not the case, however.
He entered Georgia Southern University in 1985, interested in studying in athletics and medicine. His father was a pharmacist and his mother a Registered Nurse.
“I started college as a pre-med major,” Fulcher recalled. “I was going to do sports medicine because of my interest in athletics—especially football. One day a doctor in the field looked at me and said, ‘Do not go into medicine.’” Though the advice was discouraging at the time, Fulcher feels it turned out to be sound.
“I decided to take some different classes … one of those was Accounting 1. I loved the class so much that was the path I decided to go on,” he said.
Of course, athletics continued to be a top priority for Fulcher as well. He worked as an athletic trainer for Georgia Southern during his entire college career from 1985-89. The highlight was being part of the program when the Eagles claimed two back-to-back I-AA national championships in 1985 and 1986.
Legendary football coach Erskine "Erk" Russell was the reason Georgia Southern's football team had such tremendous success. Fulcher recalled that Russell came to the college in the early 80s to restart a program that had been dormant for 40 years. In just a few years, he led the new team to three national championships 1985, 86, and 89.
"It was amazing to work for such a great man," Fulcher said. "He was by far the greatest mentor of my life. Erk (as he was known in college sports) only had one rule: Do right!" Fulcher has worked hard to apply this rule in his own accounting business.
Whether you are the head of a college football team or an accounting office it is important to motivate your team and be a positive example, Fulcher explained. He still remembers the T-shirts Erk printed for his football players: "TEAM" printed in large letters and "me" in small letters.
Fulcher is currently looking forward to a major motion picture about his mentor entitled "Erk." It is due to start production this summer. Erk was a very successful and innovative coach, but he was an even better and more interesting person, Fulcher noted. "I can't wait to see this movie!"
After completing his career at Georgia Southern University in 1989, Fulcher graduated with his BBA in Public Accounting. He joined an accounting firm with offices in Louisville, Swainsboro, and Wrens honing his skills for two years before opening his own practice.
Owning his own business enhanced his ability to understand the needs of businesses of all sizes, Fulcher said. He served as controller for the city of Millen from 1994 until 1997 and as chief financial officer for a franchise of Huddle House restaurants from 1997 until 2006.
When he started his own firm, Fulcher attended a seminar in Augusta, Georgia, called Drake Ventures. It was there that he met Warren Drake and learned more about Drake Software. Warren's singing and Drake Software's customer service had Fulcher hooked from the start.
"Drake's customer service is number one," he said. "It makes my business so much more fluid. It is so much easier and smoother than opposing products I've tried." In fact, each year when he receives the new Drake Software, Fulcher considers it his "Christmas present."
Fulcher said he trusts Drake Software because the tax preparation business is always changing and ever-challenging and Drake is always on the cutting-edge of these changes. He is happy that GruntWorx is now available to his business. He uses the secure web-based application to automate the time-consuming tasks of organizing and populating client tax data into his Drake Software. Scanned documents can be converted into an organized, bookmarked PDF file making the data much easier to review.
“I use it (GruntWorx) for trades because it is time and money saved.” Fulcher emphasized. “I have a client with 200 trades from Merrill Lynch. It used to take up to five days to key all those in. Now it takes three hours. Drake just makes things so much easier!”
Fulcher and his staff of five, run two busy CPA firms and serve more than 1,600 clients, having reliable tax software like Drake is essential.
Long days are the norm for Fulcher and his staff during tax season, but they consider it necessary to walk their clients through the process and look beyond the numbers on their tax returns. “I’ve had lots of customers since the get go,” Fulcher explained. “I appreciate each one of them. I may not remember each name but I remember faces.”
With the end of tax season each year, Fulcher looks forward to some time away from the business. He packs his bags and heads to Myrtle Beach or a mountain getaway near Murphy, NC. The downtime helps him recharge for his demanding business schedule.
His love of athletics also helps Fulcher relax. He is still a huge college football fanatic and enjoys going to Georgia Southern and other games with his brother and nephew. He has also become an avid fan of NASCAR and has traveled to Bristol, Daytona, and Talladega to watch his favorite racers. There is one week in February that everyone knows will be “no appointments” for Fulcher. That is when he takes off to attend the Daytona 500, which he and other NASCAR enthusiasts call “The Great American Race.”
It’s a busy life for Fulcher, who just completed a two-year term as president of the Georgia Southern Alumni Board and has been a member of that board since 1998. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accounts. He is thankful for the opportunity to run a business where he can carry on his grandfather’s legacy and help others succeed.
To learn more about John “Lee” Fulcher’s CPA firm visit his website at www.johnlfulchercpa.com