story by Jordan Pupa | photography by Fred Sally
Sharon Norris developed an interest in accounting after working as a receptionist in a one-man CPA firm immediately after high school. She was given the opportunity to take on other responsibilities above her clerical duties, which lit a fire under her, encouraging her to go back to school. The accounting, bookkeeping, and tax information just clicked. Sharon graduated from Francis Marion University in December of 1985, sat for and passed the CPA exam in November 1986, and the rest is history! She has been with WebsterRogers since its start thirty-five years ago.
Today, Sharon leads the Agribusiness Tax Group where she specializes in specific tax strategies and business structures that provide the most benefit to farmers. WebsterRogers launched an Agribusiness Farm Group about twelve years ago. “I love working with farm families,” shares Sharon. “Farmers are special people. I like that they are loyal, down to earth, and very family-focused. Their character and work ethic continue to impress me.” Sharon explains that some of the farmers are working on farms that have been in their families for 100 years and almost all of them are multi-generational family businesses. “I am humbled by the honor of helping them shepherd those farms to the next generation,” says Sharon. “Take for instance Dargan Farms; I work closely with them on various aspects of family farming with all three of their companies: Dargan Farms, Dargan Turf Farm, and Dargan Farm Agribiz. They were one of my first farming clients. Now we have worked together for over ten years. Very special people near to my heart.”
Sharon is also the lead for the Not-For-Profit Group at WebsterRogers. She enjoys helping people in these difficult areas. “I also work with individual clients and their associated small businesses. This gives me a lot of client contact which I love,” explains Sharon. “I have clients who have moved all over the country and continued to send their tax work to me. My clients have become extended members of my family. Some of them have known my girls (34 and 36) since they were two and four years old. My work is largely consultative and concentrated on problem-solving.”
While Sharon often helps clients overcome obstacles, a memorable moment dates back several years when two of their farms were pulled for an IRS audit at the beginning of tax season. At the time, the IRS was auditing specific partnership structures that were being used mostly by farmers, so, these were “routine audits” which typically take up to two years. “Given the complexity of the farms involved—multiple counties, etc.—I worked closely with our Business Services Group. Our Business Services Group handles bookkeeping and creating financial statements. It is an important part of addressing needs outside of ‘traditional tax’ work. We work together to support a business owner so they can focus on managing the business. We focus on the financial details. Because of the detailed records we kept, I was able to represent the farms/farmers to the IRS and produce the records they needed in a timely manner. We closed those audits in less than six months with NO changes on both!”
Sharon’s drive developed early on in her career and has helped her to continue to thrive. She has always stretched to work just above her comfort level. “An early memory I have when working for a CPA firm WebsterRogers ultimately acquired was when a partner asked me, ‘Can you type up an audit report?’ While I had never done it before, I immediately answered, ‘YES!’ My experience with the firm has been, if you work hard and show interest, you will be given opportunity.” A strong work ethic is something Sharon proudly inherited from her father. “My father brilliantly used common sense, Godly wisdom and a hard work ethic to help him succeed. This trait is something I truly value and believe has helped shape me into who I am.”
Overall, Sharon is grateful for the opportunities for diverse experiences, growth, and relationships over her career with WebsterRogers. She is also thankful that she is able to put her family as a top priority. “I have been supported and given opportunities to grow that inspired me, however, it all comes down to the people to me. My co-workers, my clients, and the chance to mentor our upcoming associates. The people brought me here and have kept me here over the years. People I meet often say, ‘You’re an accountant. You must really love numbers.’ My response is always, ‘No, I love people.’”
Sharon and her husband, Larry, have been married for 45 years and have two daughters, Laura and Callie. They are members of Florence Baptist Temple where Larry teaches eighth-grade boys and they both serve in the music ministry. Sharon also serves on the board for the WebsterRogers Foundation. They enjoy spending time with their family, camping and hanging out with their English Springer, Sydney. They also enjoy living on the lake where they spend a lot of time boating and fishing. Sharon’s mother, husband, brother, two daughters, and many other relatives also attended FMU, making it a family tradition!
With one deadline behind them, WR is still working diligently on client projects. Given the new tax laws, they have been planning with many of their clients since late last year as there are a myriad of changes impacting individuals and businesses. Taxpayers are impacted in different ways. Fortunately, WR has the expertise and experience to navigate the most complex issues.