Love of math leads to career

Rudell Richardson proves that once you find something you like to do, you can make a career out of it.

Richardson, 53, a certified public accountant, is owner and founder of Richardson Financial Inc. on Pio Nono Avenue in Macon. His office handles primarily taxes for individuals, small businesses and partnership, but also does accounting, bookkeeping and payroll work for small businesses, nonprofits and churches.

The road to entrepreneurship was not a straight one.

Richardson grew up with five siblings in rural Sparta, and while he was raised “in what I consider poverty,” he had a close family.

“We are always proud of each other’s accomplishments,” he said.

He played basketball in school and played the trombone in the marching and concert bands at Hancock Central High School.

His first job when he was about 12 was picking up pine cones with a brother and selling them for the seeds.

As a kid he wanted to work in the entertainment business as a singer, he said.

“But I learned later on I really didn’t have the skills to be a singer,” Richardson said. “I never had the desire to be a doctor, lawyer or an accountant.”

Even though he still didn’t know what he wanted to do, he knew he wanted to go to college after working in a dusty cabinet manufacturing shop during the summers in high school.

“I think the thing that enticed me to go to college is I knew what I didn’t want to do,” he said. “I didn’t want a job where I couldn’t sit down when I wanted to.”

Richardson has liked math since the first grade and when a high school classmate mentioned that accountants made a lot of money, he decided to take principles of accounting during his first year at what is now Georgia College & State University. By the end of that year, he declared his major in accounting.

Just before beginning college, Richardson started working full time at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville as a health-care technician and stayed there until 1978. When he couldn’t find an accounting job right away, he decided to go back to school for his master’s degree.

A year later, Richardson landed his first accounting job at Rheem Manufacturing in Milledgeville and worked in cost accounting. After obtaining his master’s degree in 1980, he landed a job with Philip Morris cigarette manufacturer in Richmond, Va.

“It was a good opportunity,” Richardson said. “I got an opportunity to see some things I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t leave home.”

One of those things was seeing CPAs who were black and realizing it was something he could strive for, too.

“Then I got homesick,” he said. “I wanted to get back to Georgia.”

Philip Morris was expanding and he took a job in sales based in Macon. His territory took him from Warner Robins to Dublin. About three years later, he transferred to Charlotte, N.C., and was still in sales. But after two years, he decided he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life.

“It got to the point where I had a problem with the product I was selling,” he said.

He resigned, started studying for his CPA exam, moved to Atlanta in 1991 without a job and passed his exam. While looking for an accounting position, he took a job at Macy’s selling men’s and women’s shoes.

During a conversation with a customer, he mentioned he was trying to get back into accounting, and she told him to send her his resume. She was the assistant director of nursing at Southwest Hospital and Medical Center in Atlanta. After an interview, he landed a job there as director of finance.

“I went from $6 an hour to $40,000 a year,” he said. But he was laid off a year later.

That’s when Richardson decided to strike out on his own. He set up a practice in Forest Park for awhile, but after doing some research on accounting firms in Macon, he thought there was a better opportunity to set up his practice here.

Richardson opened his first office on Napier Avenue as a one-man shop, and while he had family here, it was a struggle at first to build up business relationships.

“For the first five years, I kept my resume updated,” he said.

He moved to his current office in 2002 and “I talked my wife (who is a physician) into setting up her own practice” in the adjoining space.

Richardson now has five employees he refers to as co-workers.

“I like to make them feel more a part of the business,” he said.

His favorite part of the job is doing taxes.

“It’s so complex and such an interesting field,” he said. “I can stay in my office a full day and work on taxes, or I can be out of the office mingling with people.”

The worst part of owning a business is collecting money owed, Richardson said.

“Having to call people (to pay) — I just don’t feel I should have to do that,” he said.

The toughest business decision for Richardson was to stop updating his resume, but he is committed to making the practice successful, he said.

Richardson’s long-term goal is to grow the company and see his co-workers grow as well.

“I don’t anticipate retiring anytime soon,” he said. “I want to try to put things in place that the organization will continue in place long after I’m gone.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.