W. Henry “Hank” Hurst, Jr., CPA

Hank Hurst will tell you that he owes much of his career success to genetics, a family motto and a gregarious personality that one typically associates with a TV pitchman rather than an accountant.

“You’ve heard of these men who look for big-boned, big-hipped women to make them defensive tackles? Well, my father looked for a woman to develop a good CPA for him,” Hank says matter-of-factly. “I’ve got short, fat fingers perfect for hitting a 10-key. I’m genetically made to do this. It’s in my blood.”

Indeed, Hank comes from a family of accountants. He grew up sitting in his father’s lap, playing with the adding machine on the desk at his dad’s CPA firm.

Though he admits a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a prison guard after seeing Paul Newman’s iconic 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, his father’s death when he was 19 years old ultimately inspired him to return to the family business. Soon after, he enrolled at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of business, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting. Upon graduation, he worked for an Atlanta based regional CPA firm, but it didn’t take long to realize his dream of reviving his father’s firm.

“Three years out of college was way too early to do what I did,” Hank recalls. Nevertheless, “On Nov. 24 of 1996, I struck out on my own.”

The timing of the switch proved serendipitous. Looking through his father’s business correspondences, Hank found a press release announcing his dad’s 1966 opening of Hurst & Hurst CPAs – 30 years to the day before Hank opened his own firm, The Hurst Company, in Amelia Island, Florida. Though things were tough in the early days as he worked to build the business, his dad’s motto, “A Hurst never quits,” kept him focused, determined and ultimately highly successful.

The Hurst Company specializes in a range of tax, investment, not-for-profit, real estate development, succession and estate planning services. As of 2016, the company also offers federal research and development tax credit services to clients and colleagues worldwide – a service typically offered only by the largest of firms. Along the way, Hank and his firm have racked up a number of coveted distinctions. Hank was named among the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, which recognizes top young business leaders in Northeast Florida. In addition, his alma mater has ranked The Hurst Company among the Bulldog 100: Fastest Growing Bulldog Businesses multiple times.

Among the factors that set Hank and his firm apart from competitors is his insistence on securing an IRS power of attorney for all clients. This allows the firm’s accountants to be far more thorough and proactive in identifying and addressing issues of concern – particularly when it comes to dealing with the IRS on potentially serious tax matters. This alone has helped the firm save clients tens of thousands of dollars (even millions, in some cases), often via retroactively securing tax claims that prior accountants missed. In multiple cases, it’s also revealed instances of identity theft far earlier than a client would have realized on his or her own, allowing for quick intervention to avert potentially devastating consequences.

“People need advice more than they realize, and I like to give it to them. I love the strategy and I love to be the implementer of it. But I’m not just a show dog,” he says, acknowledging that his gregarious personality isn’t what most expect from an accountant. “I think people realize that if I’m the head honcho and I’m acting this way, the firm must have a culture of doing whatever it takes to get things done.”

This go-getter approach is particularly effective when it comes to dealing with unethical professional practices, family matters or governmental bureaucracy that can negatively affect a client’s finances.

“We take an organized, respectful approach until we’ve got to break bad,” Hank says. “Clients appreciate it because they know we’re looking out for them. They may interview other CPAs, but they’ll say, ‘Give me that other guy. He’ll fight for me.’”

Hank’s soft side sees him regularly extending volunteer services both personally and via his firm to nonprofits working to right a range of wrongs, including Micah’s Place, a domestic violence center; the Barnabas Center, Inc.; the Boys & Girls Clubs of Nassau County Foundation, Inc.; and multiple organizations dedicated to assisting families of children with autism as well as others.

Hank is a proud father of Liza, age 17 and Trip, age 9.