Mentors influence Ingram’s drive for success

Business of the Year

Spencer Ingram

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

At age 25, Spencer Ingram found himself at the center of negotiations for the million-dollar sale of 160 acres of land.

The man whose interest he represented had that much confidence in the young CPA.

It might have been the ultimate test that Jack Sisson, a wealthy entrepreneur, gave Ingram. He aced it, as he did almost everything that Sisson trusted him with. 

Ingram soaked up every bit of the experience he could from the opportunity to put his CPA skills to work.

“The things I learned from him have had a profound impact on my development as an advisor and entrepreneur,” Ingram wrote in an email that followed a lengthy interview.

Ingram still practice the things he learned more than two decades ago and today at age 50 he owns a thriving business — Ingram Accounting & Consulting LLC. The rise of Ingram’s business has been so methodical and far-reaching that it was selected as Business of the Year by the Capital Outlook.

A lot of what Sisson saw in Ingram was the outgrowth of seeds that were planted when he was a student at FAMU. He was a student member of the National Association of Black Accountants when veteran CPA Jim Thielen spoke to the group.

Ingram recalled how Thielen was dressed for the part, but Ingram was more impressed by the message he delivered to the group.

“He came in and blew us away,” Ingram said. “He just made it appealing. I just basically followed his directions. I don’t believe in recreating the wheel so whatever he said do; I did. He said go and get a master’s (degree) and I did.”

Ingram earned his master’s from FSU after doing undergrad work at FAMU. In July of 1997, he took the four-part CPA exam and passed it. He immediately started his business, which at the time was the only Black-owned CPA firm in town. 

Two internships prior to graduation exposed Ingram to corporate operations, but he has since settled into services from tax planning to other areas that include bookkeeping, profit planning, tax resolution and compliance. That’s in addition to Certified Financial Officer services and business planning and acquisition.

At times he also finds himself counseling families who are caught up in probate issues, too. He’s even been an expert witness in finance-related court cases.

As much as he is focused on his business, Ingram makes time for family. He and his wife, administrative law judge Janeia Ingram, have been married for 11 years and they have a 6-year-old daughter, Olivia. 

The gamut could be much larger for a CPA, but Ingram is focused on handling what he can do best to produce results.

“It’s very difficult to be broad in this day and age,” he said. “You almost have to focus on certain areas, with accounting emphasis.”

By the time Ingram came to FAMU from Gifford, a small town near Vero Beach, he was already acting the part of a businessman. He remembers toting a briefcase and the Wall Street Journal.

He was labeled a nerd.

“Thankfully I was pretty self confident and that didn’t bother me,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something with business.”

Even before then, Ingram watched his grandfather work for himself, using a huge tractor to mow citrus groves for his livelihood. 

At the same time, his father worked for Piper Aircraft and his mother, Margaret, was an educator who was named Florida’s Teacher of the Year in 1988.

The work ethic of his parents impressed him, but even more he liked the idea of doing for self.

That desire drove him to find inspiration to get into Dave Del Dotto infomercial on the “Cash Flow System.” By age 19, Ingram owned his first property and he’s still a licensed realtor.

As much as Ingram advocates the entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging business partnerships isn’t something that he’ll do.

“When things are going good and everybody is happy that’s what it is; everything is good,” he said. “But when things go south, you have to be able to talk about those things or you have to be able to anticipate those things so that when those things happen we already have a blueprint.”

As his business grew, Ingram developed a reputation for being one of the best CPA instructors. So much so that he is called to offer classes around the country, something that the pandemic has limited to Zoom conferences these days.

Shannon Kirk, a successful CPA who lives in Colorado Springs, was an Ingram protégé when she interned with his company for five years, starting in 2007.

Her takeaway was more than crunching numbers, Kirk said.

“He taught me that at times you have to be a counselor to your clients,” she said. “Working with Spencer, you definitely have to hone in on your people skills.

“He had people coming in and out of his office from all walks of life of all ages so I definitely had to impart my people skills.”

Ingram’s passion for his clients runs so deep that “he’ll celebrate with you and he’ll mourn with you as well,” Kirk said.

That’s something that Lurea Simmons, office administrator for the firm, sees every day. Since starting at the job in 2014, Simmons has gotten to know her boss very well.

For good reason.

“My thing is to extend the personality of Mr. Ingram, which is to build that relationship from the first phone call,” she said.

Getting to that point took some coaching from Ingram. “That teaching was amazing,” she said.

Simmons, a military veteran who had worked at the legislature for 27 years, said she was astonished by Ingram’s mannerism when she made beginner’s mistakes.

During her first month she said she realized “I have a different type of boss here who doesn’t blow up under pressure.”

Not even when she made a payroll mistake that she laughs about today.

“He just let me see what I did wrong and helped me fix it,” she said. “We’ve never had another problem since. He didn’t lose his cool about it.”

Ingram has a lengthy list of clients that provide an avenue for him to give back with his pro-bono work. 

“I’ve probably left a lot of money on the table but I know that the good lord has blessed me with opportunities and has given me knowledge to do what I do,” he said. “I just don’t try to nickel-and-dime people.”

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