Judy Shelley of Flake & Kelley Commercial (Small Private Company Category Winner)

Judy Shelley’s 30 years as a CPA have led her around the South and finally to Flake & Kelley Commercial as CFO.

Shelley, 57, grew up in Decatur, Texas, and received her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of North Texas in Denton. Her degree led her to Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., the company that is now the “P” in KPMG. “I was with KPMG for a number of years in their tax department,” she said.

Shelley went on to operate her own CPA and consulting firm in Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C. Then she kept books for Alabama, the country music group from Fort Payne in the eponymous state.

“After that, we moved back to Houston, where my husband was with another bank,” Shelley said.

Her time there was spent as a volunteer with the American Red Cross and her church, West University Baptist. “I ran the financial services section of the Little Rock Katrina service center for the Red Cross to aid refugees,” she said.

Finally, Flake & Kelley contacted her in 2006, and the couple moved to Arkansas.

Shelley said being female in a business leadership role had always been part of the challenge of her jobs. “I was one of the first female managers at KPMG,” she said. “I enjoyed bringing in more business than most of my male counterparts.”

The executive team at Flake & Kelley, she said, makes the company strong. “We are a tight-knit team,” she said. “We meet monthly and take the pulse and heartbeat of the company, making sure it’s [going] in the right direction.”

She said the firm prides itself on keeping accurate books, especially for the firm’s managed properties. The company recently transferred to a cloud-based accounting system, and it helps accounting for the firm’s properties.

“We went from a smaller to a larger Web-based accounting program where the owners have access to their records,” Shelley said. Building owners can check their accounting records on any computer with access to the company’s cloud-stored data, she added.

“So we strive to stay abreast of the current technology and make certain to do the best we can to present timely financials.”

Shelley said technological innovations also helped the firm withstand the recession. “We started noticing a lot of tenants were having hard times. We started noticing [non-sufficient fund] fees and NSF checks bouncing,” she said. “It was our job to ensure the collection of rents on behalf of owners.”

The firm implemented check scanners that moved funds from tenant accounts to owner accounts faster. “We’ve found a lot less NSF as a result of that,” she said.

While not at Flake & Kelley, Shelley is still active with the Red Cross, where she recently left the local board of directors after a five-year tenure. She also co-chaired the American Heart Association’s 2011 Heart Ball with her husband.