Phillip W. Cox of JPMS Cox (Lifetime Achievement in Accounting)

Phillip W. Cox, who has worked in public accounting since 1970, says the biggest challenge in his career was learning that clients want more in an accountant than a “numbers person.” People, Cox said, “want someone they can connect with on a truly personal basis.”

Clients expect the accountants of JPMS Cox, the state’s third-largest accounting firm, to be skilled at the nuts and bolts of accounting. “Where we add value to our clients’ business is in the ability to translate the numbers into meaningful communication with the client that helps them manage their business,” Cox said.

“The ability to communicate is by far the most important element of what we do for our clients. It is truly the key to our world, communication is. Once our clients know that we are personally interested in their business and not just doing a job with their numbers, we become their highly trusted and valued business adviser.”

Cox agreed that for many people, the subject of money is an intimate one. “And that is one of the reasons that I constantly preach to students who are still in school to take as many communication courses as they possibly can,” he said.

Cox, 64, was born in Hot Springs and raised in Malvern. His father worked for Reynolds Metals Co. in Jones Mill, and his mother was a bookkeeper for a radio station in Malvern. Cox graduated from Magnet Cove High School and went on to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

While at Tech, he encountered an accounting professor whose influence led Cox to pursue accounting as a career. The professor “modeled a vision of what I wanted to be in terms of character and professional conduct,” Cox said.

“From the moment I walked on campus, he took me on as a mentee, serving as a valuable mentor throughout college and even beyond,” Cox said.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University, graduating with honors, and received his Certified Public Accountant designation in 1972.

Cox began his accounting career with KPMG (formerly Peat Marwick Mitchell) and was a founding partner of Cox James Boschetti, which evolved into Lloyd & Co. He went on to join Deloitte & Touche, helping to open its Little Rock office in 1983. While there he became a partner and director of tax services. In 2004, he merged Deloitte’s tax practice with Jeffrey Phillips Mosley & Scott to form JPMS Cox.

Cox’s clients include health care entities, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, and construction and real estate firms.

Cox called his greatest accomplishment the development of high levels of trust on the part of both clients and staff. He specifically cited the culture of JPMS Cox and its mentoring program.

“I have always believed that the accounting profession gives one an opportunity and a responsibility to touch lives in many different ways with both clients and in the development of the culture of your firm. That’s a great responsibility that I take very seriously, as do my partners,” Cox said.

“We have always wanted to have an impact on our employees that made their choice of profession and their choice of firms one that they feel proud to be a part of. We believe in a very balanced lifestyle of work and family. We try to promote a lifestyle that people want to be a part of.”

The mentoring program helps young accountants develop skills that often make them “very marketable to private companies,” Cox said. It also benefits the firm.

“What we have found is that we have a great opportunity to impact people’s lives in ways that go with them after they leave here,” Cox said. “Many times accountants who leave our firm go to work for clients of the firm, and in many cases people who leave here go to work for companies that are not clients but they become clients because of the good relationships that [the accountants] formed while they were here working in our firm.”

Cox believes in giving employees “the freedom to utilize their abilities without fear of failure or of any desire on my part to take credit for what they do.” He recognizes that the highly educated, highly motivated employees JPMS Cox attracts have the necessary skills, so “I try to give them the opportunity to be stimulated and then to get out of their way.”

His partners at JPMS Cox have made his accomplishments possible, Cox said, helping him foster the kind of work culture he always wanted to develop. “It’s truly been a marriage made in heaven,” he said.

In addition to his practice, Cox serves a number of nonprofits and civic organizations. He is now or has been on the boards of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Tech University Foundation and Junior Achievement, among other groups.

Cox has no plans to retire. He loves what he does, the firm, his co-workers and his clients, Cox said. “I don’t see how I would want to live my life in any other way.”