FORT LAUDERDALE — Shifting from the use of “we,” to “I,” may take a while for Anthony “Tony” Brunson. The consummate team player is taking the entrepreneurial plunge after more than three decades at a highly successful accounting firm, yet Brunson’s penchant for sharing the glory with his colleagues and staff remains conspicuously present even when asked to describe personal aspects of his success.
Bitten by the business bug at an early age, Brunson explained that as a youth, if he wasn’t selling trinkets at sporting events himself, he would have someone else selling on his behalf. He credits his father with exposing him to the fundamentals of business.
“His teachings about expenses, and business and how to treat people,” fueled Brunson’s desire to pursue a career in accounting. And after spending nearly 30 years as a partner at Sharpton, Brunson & Company, the largest African-American full-service CPA firm in the southeast U.S., and a noted “Top 25 Accounting Firm” in South Florida, with offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tallahassee,” Brunson has decided to “test his entrepreneurial mettle,” by launching Anthony Brunson P.A.
Known for being very detail-oriented, Brunson’s in-depth knowledge of the audit and reporting requirements of various industries undoubtedly played a major role in his success, however, he said that being “an incredibly spiritual and thankful guy,” was the primary factor.
“Having faith…has shown itself time and time again throughout my business career. When things really seemed to get tough and we didn’t know where the next payroll was coming from, good things just seemed to happen and appear,” he said.
Second to his father, boxing great Muhammad Ali’s unapologetic confidence impressed a young Brunson. “He lived in the neighborhood, we got a chance to see him as a kid and follow his success. He was a gentleman who was grounded and lifted others up,” Brunson said about the former heavyweight champion who lived in Miami for a few years during the 1960s and early ‘70s.
The opportunity to also lift others up prompted Brunson to leave national accounting powerhouse, Price Waterhouse, where he was responsible for managing and conducting audits.
“In the early 80s there weren’t many options for folk that looked like me, so I wanted to be a part of creating an opportunity for creating professional firm that was top notch and provided that opportunity,” he said of his motivation to help establish Sharpton, Brunson and Company in 1985.
He sees the firm’s ability to “provide an opportunity for a lot of minorities and women and others that didn’t necessary get the opportunities with the national firm,” as his biggest accomplishment, so far.
At 56, Brunson said, “I’m at the stage of my life where we want to go out and test my mettle, to test my entrepreneurial fitness.” His mother, Juanita Brunson, 79, said that she and the entire family have no doubt that Brunson’s new endeavor will be a huge success.
“He can make things happen,” said Brunson’s first teacher, who, as a former Head Start instructor, homeschooled her son before he began public school. “I taught him a lot at home. When he started school, he was ahead of the other students.”
Former clients also sing Brunson’s praise. Max Rothman, president and CEO of The Alliance for Aging, said that his agency’s experience with “Brunson has been very positive.” Rothman said Brunson and his staff maintained an outstanding level of professionalism, including timely submission of audits and an “excellent working relationship with our staff.”
Germaine Smith-Baugh, president and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County shared similar sentiments. Smith-Baugh said that Brunson’s assets are many, and “his integrity, professionalism and I’ll be there for you attitude” has helped her agency to excel. Smith-Baugh said Brunson’s support helped to make her transition into the CEO role a success and he was instrumental in the organization’s ability to acquire its new headquarters, an $8.2 million 28,000 square feet, state-of-the-art center adjacent to the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Ft. Lauderdale.
Displaying a confidence similar to his childhood idol, Brunson said that with his solo effort, he expects to “fully achieve what capacity may be within me as a professional. We bring a number of years of wisdom and a wealth of industry knowledge,” to the new endeavor. “It’s time to bundle that and see how far it can carry the next organization.”
When he’s not crunching numbers or blazing new trails, Brunson said he can be found in a park enjoying the tranquility that the open space provides or engaging in his favorite pastime, fishing. The divorced father of five is also a jazz and blues enthusiast whose playlist is likely to include “folk like Sara Vaughn and Dizzy Gillepsie, Louis Armstrong…B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland.”
The Jackson State University graduate attended Dartmouth College, where he completed his fellowship in the Minority Business Enterprise Program. Brunson’s solo practice has two locations; 333 Las Olas Way, CU 4, in Fort Lauderdale, and at 801 Brickell Avenue, Suite 900 in Miami. Both locations will offer comprehensive CPA services to a host of businesses and organizations throughout South Florida.
“We’re open and available for business,” said Brunson.
Michelle Hollinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.