Published on August 13, 2021 by Morgan Black  
James Moody
James Moody '06, M.Acc. '07, partner at Dent Moses LLP, is the 2021-2022 chair of the Alabama Society of Certified Professional Accountants (ASCPA). In this interview, Moody reflects on his time at Samford, provides advice for accounting students as they prepare for their careers, and discusses his vision for his statewide leadership role.

When did you know you wanted to go into the accounting field?

After my first accounting course at Samford, my professor Sharon Jackson insisted that I should change my major and pursue a career in accounting. She knew it would be a good fit, and she was right! Professor Jackson also played an integral role in helping me get an internship with Dent Baker & Company and got me plugged in with my first volunteer role with the ASCPA.

How did Samford’s accounting program prepare you for your career?

Samford’s accounting program absolutely provided the appropriate level of knowledge and experience to begin a career in accounting. While I do believe that experience is the best teacher, it is important to have a sufficient foundation for your experience to build on. My time studying accounting at Samford, along with the investment made by each of my professors, provided that foundation. From day one of my internship, I felt like I was prepared for the job. The accounting program had (and still has) highly qualified faculty and smaller class sizes than other universities, which allow professors to invest in each student. In addition, I think the emphasis on real world internship experience is important to any accounting program.

Are there any relationships at Samford that you still maintain?

Absolutely. I still participate in on campus events from time to time and look forward to resuming those as soon as we are able to, and I am a member of the Accounting Advisory Board in Brock School of Business. Many of my business and accounting professors from 15+ years ago are still at Samford, and I enjoy catching up with all of them when I’m able to.

What are a few highlights in your career thus far?

  • Passing all four parts of the CPA exam within a few months after completing the Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.) program at Samford
  • Becoming a partner at Dent Moses in 2014, and later that year being named the 2014 Distinguished Accounting Alumnus by Brock School of Business
  • Helping a number of clients complete transactions to sell their business, and helping some acquire another business. That work is always challenging, but it can be very rewarding.
  • I find great satisfaction any time my relationship with a client turns from being their accountant to becoming their “most trusted adviser.”

What has been one of your biggest professional challenges during the pandemic?

What hasn’t been challenging over the past 18 months? First, helping our staff and clients navigate through the ever changing legislation and government programs (like PPP and ERC) has been a difficult task. From FFCRA to CARES to CCA to ARPA, and ERC, PPP, PPP 2.0...the list goes on and on. In addition to our “routine” work, we often get surprised with new guidance from the SBA, IRS or Congress. Throughout most of 2020, it was a real challenge to get any routine work done due to the constantly changing guidance on the PPP program. I also have to mention how hard it has been to cultivate relationships with new team members and new clients, and to manage jobs in a remote environment. For the students who are concerned that a career in accounting means sitting at your desk and working for eight hours without any interaction with others, I can assure you it isn’t that way at all. We thrive off relationships with our team members, clients and other professionals in the community, even other CPAs at competitor firms.

What are some of the goals you have as the 2021-2022 chair of the ASPCA?

I would like to make sure our members are aware of the work the ASCPA does on our behalf each and every day. It is a great organization, and the work they do for Alabama CPAs is extremely important. I’m sure our members sometimes feel like they are bombarded with email overload (who isn’t?), but I hope they will read the ASCPA messages and find the content is informative, valuable and well worth the time to read. We also have a strong desire to be sure our members find value in their membership, and let us know if there is something else we can do to serve them better. Finally, I would like to participate in leading the organization back to normal times with face to face events and interactions, but right now COVID is working hard against us!

How important is it for accounting students to be prepared to participate in continuing education and professional development activities after they graduate?

It is of critical importance to have a mindset of continuous learning. The most successful accountants (whether in public accounting, industry, government or education) are constantly improving their skillsets and engage in daily education and re-education. Accounting standards and tax laws change all the time. My clients don’t call me with PPP and ERC questions because I went to Samford and passed the CPA exam 14 years ago. They call because they know I’ve read the legislation and subsequent guidance and they know I can tell them how it impacts their organization.

Can accounting students get involved in ASCPA before they graduate?

Absolutely, and they need to! They should go to ASCPA.org and click on “Get Involved” and “Future CPAs”. Here, they can join the ASCPA and AICPA for free, apply for scholarships, and download the ASCPA guide to becoming a CPA in Alabama and guide to accounting firms. These are excellent resources for accounting students.

Do you have any advice for students as they prepare to study for the CPA exam and seek out careers, especially in this new virtual world?

Embrace all of the benefits of technology, but do not let technology replace having real relationships with others. I do not believe you will find as much meaning, value or success in a digital world with virtual relationships. Instead of an email, consider a phone call. Instead of a phone call, consider a video call. Instead of a video call, consider a face-to-face meeting. As far as the CPA exam goes--study hard as soon a possible once you are eligible and ready for it. Don’t put it off a minute longer than you have to. As time passes, your life and career get more and more busy. When you are ready, subscribe to a study program and follow the plan. Don’t cut corners or take shortcuts on the time commitment. Trust me, you will be glad you did!