George “Trey” Jackson III of Pruitt Tool & Supply (CFO of the Year Finalist, Small Private Companies)

Since starting at Pruitt Tool & Supply Co. of Fort Smith six years ago, Trey Jackson has helped the company grow into its new generation and adjust to new methods of business.

Jackson was born and raised in Fort Smith. He received his bachelor’s in accounting and political science at Westminster College of Fulton, Mo., and then decided to go for a law degree. “I thought it was something like a universal degree,” he said. “I could use it for just about anything.”

He chose tax law, he said, because of its high level of academia. “It’s very code-heavy,” he said. “It’s always been a challenge, like a game or puzzle.”

After getting that degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., and spending a few years in private practice in Washington, D.C., he was able to return to Fort Smith for a new job.

The job was at Pruitt, an oil and gas exploration company, which at the time was transitioning to a new generation of owners and was entering a period of rapid growth.

“It’s like being at a startup that happens to be 55 years old,” Jackson said. “They didn’t have a whole lot of high-level tax advice. I was able to basically take supervision of the code and was able to reduce their tax liability quite a bit while increasing revenue.”

The company started implementing board meetings and introduced an organization structure that it hadn’t needed for the first 50 years.

“Before, it was you didn’t know who reported to who; you just knew what you were supposed to do,” Jackson said.

“Now we all have titles. We’ve grown in the last five years from 23 employees to over 100, so it’s been needed. When you’re four or five guys in a room, titles don’t matter, but when you get to 100 people, someone has to know who to report to and who your supervisor is.”

Jackson is now executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Pruitt.

He said his leadership style involves setting an example. “Be the first in the morning and the last to leave,” he said. “If employees see that, they’ll be willing to work harder.”

In the past few years, Pruitt has started doing business in several overseas locations.

Jackson said the company has its sights set on eventually opening an office in South America or Southeast Asia.

“I see Pruitt continuing to grow, and I see us having an even larger international presence,” he said. “I think we probably now are the premier name in what we do, and I think that’s going to expand. We could quite likely expand into other product lines in the same business, and I see myself continuing to manage these operations here.”