Issue: October 2008
Director of Taxation, Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co.
Family, career and community service are Laura Culp’s passions — and she successfully juggles all three.
It’s clear Laura Culp has a passion for people. Even in what some might consider the dry realm of the tax accountant, Culp goes out of her way to create relationships. As director of taxation for Brockman, Coats, Gedelian & Co., an Akron accounting firm, Culp jokes that many call tax work the “dark side” of the accounting world. She sees it differently.
“With taxes, you learn so much about people and their families,” she says. “It’s important to me to help them solve their problems.”
It’s not only BCG & Co.’s clients who reap the benefits of Culp’s relationship savvy: As the first and only female shareholder and director at the firm, she also helps her younger colleagues, particularly the women, gain a foothold in the corporate world. She always takes time out to mentor, offering advice and words of encouragement. Once, she even brought in a wardrobe consultant to demonstrate how to convey a professional image through one’s clothing.
“Today, our firm is constantly hiring young people,” she says. “Twenty-two years ago, when we formed this company, I was one of only two women. I had a lot of support from the men I worked with. It’s important for me to do the same thing for other women,” she says.
Despite the changes in the business world over the past two decades, Culp admits, “It’s still a man’s world, to a certain degree. Women have to learn how to relate to men — not so much the other way around. We communicate very differently from men.”
She often warns her younger female colleagues, “You can’t be Superwoman. Instead, be realistic in your expectations for yourself.” But she doesn’t always take her own advice. “I work a lot of hours —maybe a little more than I should,” she confesses.
Judging by the long list of community service organizations she’s involved in, it’s clear Culp’s work ethic extends outside the office. She was named 2005 Woman Philanthropist of the Year by the United Way of Summit County and received the 1998 Woman of Distinction for Community Service by the Girl Scouts of the Western Reserve. She’s also been involved with the Akron Area YMCA for 10 years and counting.
“The Y’s child care programs serve families who need it most,” she says. “It’s so important to have a place to bring your child where they can receive a good education [and] spiritual and moral guidance, as well as care.”
She also finds great hope for the future in the East Akron YMCA’s Phoenix school, a fully accredited behavior modification school located on the campus of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Phoneix serves as an alternative for adolescents 12 to 18 years old who are involved with the court system or have academic or behavioral problems. All credits earned while attending Phoenix transfer to each student’s home school.
“We have had wonderful success stories with this program,” she says. “Many of the participants have turned their lives around, gotten their high school diplomas and even gone on to college. Now they may even be mentoring other young men and women who have gotten themselves in trouble.”
When you’re as busy as Culp, it can be hard to juggle family, career and service.
“I just make do and find the time,” she says, noting she has always had support from her husband of 22 years, Robert, and teenage son and daughter. “Family comes first for me and for everyone in this firm. I tell [my female colleagues], it’s always OK to turn down a work function for your child’s soccer game.”
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