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The Boss: How this CEO found his own Neyland Stadium

10/05/2017

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By Meg Garner, Reporter, Nashville Business Journal

Jeff Drummonds has led LBMC — the region's largest professional services firm — for the last two years, leading the company's move to H.G. Hill Realty Co.'s Hill Center Brentwood and buying out a local competitor to boost LBMC's fleet of services. But when he's not working, Drummonds can be found in one place: his screened-in porch overlooking Tims Ford Lake, and if it's a Saturday, then his Vols are probably on the television.

What did you want to be growing up?

It was not an accountant. … We grew up outdoors. We had dogs and horses and goats, you name it, and I would have told you then I wanted to be a veterinarian.

How’d you become an accountant then?

For someone going to college in the 80s [it] was harder to get into UT veterinary school than it was UT medical school. I never actually got that far, because our veterinarian, who was a very well-respected vet, met with me one day and he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said,’ I think I want to be a veterinarian.’ And he said, “Oh no you don’t.” He then started listing all the reasons it sounded great, looked great but wasn’t, so I reflected on that and even though he had it made he was telling me no you don’t want to do this.

Then what came next?

My father was in real estate, and I always liked real estate. I’m probably one of the few CPAs in town when you take the personality test that, believe it or not, is very high on the artistic side. So long story short, I wanted to be an architect, until I got into the applied mathematical physics course or something at the University of Tennessee. I realized that I was not an engineer, and while I was good at math, there were a lot of people a lot better at it than I was. That was the end of that dream. I was always interested in business, so I migrated to the business school and you had to take two semesters of accounting. Took the first one, it made sense to me and was pretty easy, and in that second class, I had a professor — Nick Townsend — take a personal interest in me and pulled me aside to say I had some talent at this, so the next thing I knew I was an accounting major.

What’s the biggest misconception about being an accountant?

I think it can be extremely boring, if you choose to let it be. What has kept me in public accounting, which is what we do, is two things. One is the opportunity to really see a diverse group of businesses and how people approach those, what makes them successful, what keeps them from being successful and there are some commonalities across that. But often times your best clients are also some of your best friends, and you’ll find people tell you things that I don’t think they’re telling their wife, they’re not telling their partners. So you have the opportunity to develop a deeply personal relationship, and it’s more than about the money and the numbers.

The numbers tell a story, right?

Yeah. The numbers tell a story, but the numbers tell only part of the story. It is a good place to be able to sit down and start a discussion, but ultimately, the numbers are just keeping score. … if you can turn that and talk about what’s gonna happen in the next six months — that’s where you add value, that’s where you create those relationships, and that’s the fun part of it.

When you’re not working where can people find you?

It’s our third summer of having a cabin at Tims Ford Lake, and from my perspective, it’s been fantastic. I probably like it better than the rest of my family, and I joke that when I drive across the bridge and see the lake that I can feel the blood pressure come down. It’s been a wonderful place just to go and relax and unplug and try to reconnect with the family. What we do is pretty demanding through the week, and it’s been very good. I play golf too. … I like to make my annual pilgrimage to South Dakota to go pheasant hunting with a group of guys. I like to be outside, just anything outside.

Are you any good at golf?

I’ve got a pretty good CPA golf game on my good days. On my bad days, it’s just a CPA golf. We’re not as good as the insurance brokers or investment advisors, so CPAs are down there.

What your favorite thing to do outside?

Be on the water. Man the grill. Chase a ball or bird dogs.

Are you a good griller?

Limited menu, but yes, I’ve never had anyone turn me down.

That’d be awkward if they did.

The key is to serve lots of beverages before dinner.

You have three children. What’s your favorite thing to do with them?

They are extremely different in what they like to do, and I do think my favorite thing to do with them now is truly to go out to the lake and unwind. We get out on the boat, go hiking and just spend time together. We have to relax, unplug and interact. Get out from behind the phone and out from behind the computer and just spend time talking to one another and trying to have some fun.

Do you have any pets?

We do. We’ve got the greatest dog in the world. It’s a 10-year-old puppy, who has gone from bird dog to lapp dog. That’s the best way to describe it. He’s a 10-year-old Brittany Spaniel named Scooby.

So he can’t hunt with you anymore?

No, he doesn’t hunt. My daughter and he both tore their ACLs in the same year, and his was twice as expensive as her’s was.

Is there a TV show that you can’t stop watching?

Not any longer. My wife and I have an ongoing argument. I would come home most nights, particularly during the election, and she would have CNN going. I can’t do it anymore. Honestly, I’ve found outside of sports, whether it’s golf or football, I just really can’t do TV any longer. I can’t do the news, so I watch very little television. I’m also one of the few in America that’s not binge watching either, nor do I have a Facebook account.

You’re a UT-Knoxville alum, and you mentioned sports. Are you excited football is back?

I’m excited. I’ll be excited if we win. We had season tickets for 40-plus years as a family, so from the time I was about five years old until five or six years ago, I was an avid fan and went to a majority of the home games. I have found now that it’s much more enjoyable to be sitting on the screened-in porch out on the lake, watching it on the big screen. That’s my new Neyland Stadium — a screened-in porch overlooking the lake.

Jeff Drummonds
Title: CEO
Company: LBMC
Employees: About 600; 450 local
Website: lbmc.com
Address: 201 Franklin Road, Brentwood 37027
Age: 55
Hometown: Morristown, Tenn.
Education: University of Tennessee-Knoxville, bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting

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The Boss: How this CEO found his own Neyland Stadium