Hugh Barlow: You know he’s an accountant when…

Oyster Point Profile

Hugh Barlow and Mary Westerman enjoy a good laugh after Barlow spies some spots on the carpet. They enjoy validating his meticulous attention to detail. (Photo by Tess Goldblatt)

When Hugh Barlow calculates a tip, he determines the exact tip amount that will cause his final bill to end in zeros. And, he rounds up to the higher dollar. He will do the same type of calculation when paying for repairs if the work is good and the price seems fair. Barlow even pays 99 cents extra principle on his monthly mortgage payments because the lone penny does not suit his style. He likes round numbers. You know Hugh Barlow is an accountant when he does all these calculations in his head.

Young Barlow grew up on the Virginia Peninsula and always had a head for math. Budding certified public accountant (CPA) Barlow loved to roll coins and count beans — in the form of baseball statistics. Barlow says, “I played baseball. I kept my own stats. My dad coached, and we kept everybody’s stats by hand.” He could also add big numbers in his head. Barlow explains that he thought it was only natural that he should go into accounting in college.

Attaining his accounting degree from Old Dominion University, this Brown Edwards firm partner admits initial shock at the breadth of information and business skills that CPAs actually needed beyond being able to add in his head. “Now I manage an office of 20 to 25 people, depending on the time of year. In college I was a t-shirt and shorts kind of guy so I was also surprised by accountants wearing dress shirts and ties in those days,” Barlow says.

In fact, Barlow confesses he really struggled with what to wear for the Oyster Pointer interview and photograph. His firm has a “dress for your day” policy, so he says he wondered if he should show his business casual side or the more stereotypical CPA shirt and tie image. Says Barlow, “It’s been so long since I’ve actually put on a tie that I was surprised it’s a little snug at the neck!” And, you know Hugh Barlow is an accountant when he chooses his brown oxford shoes for the occasion. In addition to owning those shoes, “I am also time efficient, numbers oriented and meticulous,” he says. “I even still do old school bank account reconciliation by hand!”

Office manager Mary Westerman joins the interview and validates her employer’s meticulous attention to details. He is “also fair, caring and selfless. He will even take the hit for a mistake made by an employee because he wants to protect the staff,” she says. Westerman has been with the firm for 33 years and was promoted to office manager 19 years ago.

Barlow reflects on the large percentage of women coming into the CPA field over the last few decades. “As a partner in the firm, I’ve been very comfortable with the influence our women have had on our policies and values,” he says. “We made the shift from ‘work-life’ balance to ‘life-work’ balance. Our industry has become so highly automated that technology easily supports my own need and our staff’s need for virtual office options. When I have my kids every other week, I also benefit from putting life before work and being able to work from home so easily.”

Readers would think Barlow chose his 10/10/20 wedding date because of the mathematical symmetry of the numbers, but no! “My fiancée, Bella Graham, picked the date. She’s into numerology,” he says. At the time of the interview, Barlow and his fiancée are planning a honeymoon to Italy. “For so many years in a high stress job, I’ve been a ‘toes in the water, feet in the sand’ kind of traveler with my kids. I also enjoy getting away from the rat race by being out in nature with my hunting buddies. That will probably surprise a lot of my friends and clients who don’t know that about me,” says Barlow.

You know Hugh Barlow is an accountant when he proclaims, “I can legally save my tax clients more money than my fees cost! I love creating value for our clients, putting money back into their pockets.”

Wearing jeans and comfortable shoes apropos of her busy workday, Westerman concludes the interview with her review of Barlow as “an excellent boss. And, he’s trainable!”

Brown Edwards
Address: 701 Town Center Dr., Ste. 700, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Hugh Barlow, partner
Phone: 757-316-3203
Business: Certified public accountants

About Tess Goldblatt 20 Articles
Tess Goldblatt wrote for the Oyster Pointer from 2006-2012 and rejoined the staff in 2019 when her nest emptied. Tess and her husband downsized to a condo on Buckroe Beach where she loves photography and crafting with beach combing finds... and writing fun stories for us!

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