Father-son team happy with partnership path

By STUART KORFHAGE – St. Augustine Record

14159147Richard Waler remembers the day when he knew he had to start his own business.

It was many years ago in the 1980s, when he was working as a CPA for a Jacksonville firm. It was a slow week, and the young father wanted to take a day and off and visit the zoo with his son. He was told no.

For Waler, it was a sign that he didn’t want to live his life chained to a desk, working at the whim of someone else.

But he also wasn’t impulsive. Waler started to solicit business in St. Augustine while keeping his day job. He gradually built up the private practice to the point where he was simply too busy to handle dual responsibilities.

So in 1989, Waler went out completely on his own. He finally had the only boss he really wanted: Himself.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t keep doing both,” Waler said. “I took a leap of faith and jumped in and never looked back.”

Since then, the firm has grown in ways that are nothing but pleasing to Waler. The company moved to its current office off Dobbs Road in 2001, but the most exciting development came when Waler added his first partner.

A well-oiled machine

Richard Waler III joined his father in 2008 right out of college, and he said it’s turned out to be a great fit for him.

Skilled in math as any accountant should be, the younger Waler first gravitated toward science, thinking he might be a physicist.

However, his experience in the world of scientific academia revealed a few too many Sheldon Cooper types (you have to watch “The Big Bang Theory” to understand the reference).

He decided that didn’t suit his personality but also wondered if accounting would be too mundane. As it turns out, Richard III discovered that being personable and interacting with clients was just as important as working the numbers in the accounting business. It turned out to be a great fit.

“I figured I’d be locked in the office, but it’s the opposite,” he said. “This has become the perfect niche for me.”

It’s been gratifying for Waler to have his son join the firm, and he said there are no real issues with them working together.

In fact, it’s gone so well that daughter Rebecca has also become part of the office staff.

“Everybody knows their job,” Waler said. “It’s like a well-oiled machine.”

That’s especially important during this time of year, which is tax season. Accountants who aren’t busy now either don’t handle traditional tax work or won’t be in business for much longer.

Waler said there’s always a daunting amount of work from January through April.

“It would be very easy to be overwhelmed,” he said.

Not letting that happen is probably Waler’s best gift. He said managing the firm’s and his own workload is the key to a happy work-life balance.

He doesn’t want to be the guy who can’t take his son to the zoo. He doesn’t want his own son to be that guy, either.

Waler has practiced the mantra of balance during his career. He doesn’t work Sundays and tries not to work Saturdays.

Not just about work

He always wanted to be involved in the lives of his five children. He has always been more than just a provider.

Nowhere was that more evident than with sports. Waler coached Richard III for seven years in Little League and also was involved with his other children.

Now, even with his youngest child out of high school, Waler is still involved with St. Augustine Little League. He’s a regular umpire who is so well-respected that he’s been selected to work the Little League regional tournament that decides the World Series participant from the South.

“I used (Little League) as an avenue to get away so that I didn’t have to think about work,” Waler said.

Not really prepared to be a coach at first, Waler found that he loved it. In fact, he said it was a little emotional when he coached Richard III for the last time.

Now father and son are St. Augustine Little League board members who work to keep the program viable into the future.

Before long, Waler will probably be watching his grandchildren playing on the local fields. He’s certainly not going to risk missing that experience just to make more money.

When baseball kept him busy, Waler might sneak back into the office at night or get in early the next day. He always serves his clients but not at the risk of missing out on family life.

“Everybody needs some days off,” Waler said. “We get our work done and have the weekend to rejuvenate.”