Nelson & Nelson CPAs thrives in fourth generation

This piece also appears in the July edition of the Chamber News.

Chuck Nelson and his daughter, Jill, are the “number people” in their family.

That helped draw them into the family business, Nelson & Nelson CPAs LLP, which was founded by Chuck’s grandfather James in 1923.

Wesley Nelson, left, and his father James Nelson.

It’s South Dakota’s oldest homegrown CPA firm and now includes clients in more than 25 states and many foreign countries.

Chuck’s father, Wes, joined the firm in 1957.

“Growing up with it, you see what’s involved,” Chuck said. “I saw how my dad handled the business, and it just always intrigued me. By the time I was in middle school, I knew that was the direction I would be going.”

His daughter took a little longer to decide.

Jill also grew up in the office, but first gravitated toward becoming a chiropractor. A semester in college quickly showed her accounting “was a more natural and better fit and more of what I wanted to do,” she said.

She graduated from USD in 2013, earned a master’s degree at the University of Sioux Falls two years later and has been working in the business since then.

“I like it,” she said. “Right now, it’s just working and trying to understand all the rules and regulations and how everything works, and within the last year understanding more of the operations has been fun. Who better to learn from than your dad?”

Chuck and Jill also take their father-daughter team on the road, teaching a tax course statewide in November.

“We travel together and do a team approach, so I like that part of the year and sure enjoy spending time with her,” Chuck said.

Wes continues to be involved in the business but has transitioned it gradually to Chuck over the past 15 years. Because Nelson & Nelson also helps family-business clients in transitioning, they have had a chance to see potential pitfalls.

“Sometimes, the oldest generation has a hard time letting go because they’ve been in control,” Chuck said. “I was in a unique situation where my father was very open to me taking over, so the transition has been seamless.”

As a family, they bond over common interests other than work, he said, spending time lakeside or hunting.

“Work doesn’t consume us while we’re actually having family time,” Jill said.

They also try to make it a family atmosphere inside the business for their 26 employees, Chuck added.

“We’ve always said family comes first, and we try to run the business not only for the blood family members but the entire staff.”


Family businesses thrive with careful focus on transitioning through generations

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Nelson & Nelson CPAs thrives in fourth generation

South Dakota’s oldest homegrown CPA firm now includes clients in more than 25 states and many foreign countries.

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