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The History Man Chris Coopey, Practice Director at Chartered Accountants Carpenter Box, has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Interview by Ian Trevett

“Most people think that Carpenter Box is a made-up name,” declares Chris Coopey, “but it isn’t the case.” There is no doubt that Chris is about to explain the origins of the company name. “It started in Brighton in Midland bank chambers. Mr Carpenter, who was a chartered accountant, trained Mr Box. When the training was complete, Mr Box was about to set off on his own career, when Mr Carpenter suggested they form a partnership, and thus the firm was formed as Carpenter Box 90 years ago.” There is something quite infectious in Coopey’s enthusiasm. He is just so interested in the personalities that started the practice, that you get drawn in. You get the feeling that he would have loved to have met both Mr Carpenter and Mr Box. He recalls the excitement of discovering Harold Box’s World War One medals and wonders what his experiences were like. Mr Coopey would have been the perfect history teacher. Maybe one day he will be, but for now he has plenty of business matters to embrace. After a varied career he trained as a lawyer, 52│

April/May 2014

becoming a partner at Wynne Baxter (prior to the merger with Mayo & Perkins). Inevitably he is an authority on Mr Wynne Edwin Baxter, the coroner who presided over many of the inquests into the victims of the infamous Jack the Ripper cases. He then made the unusual step for a lawyer in joining an accountancy firm. “Usually it happens the other way around. An accountant joins a law firm as a Financial Director. But I was massively impressed when I met the partners of Carpenter Box they understood things very clearly. They measured their success by the success of their clients. They felt that if they could do anything to help a client to grow, develop and become more successful, then in doing so Carpenter Box would become more successful. And they are not wrong. This client-centred approach is the best way to be.

‘The yardstick I use is that if any member of our agricultural team were to walk into a pub full of farmers, they would not only understand the language but could speak it too.’

“They really are businesspeople who understand business. And in the last couple of years we have taken this idea on a step. I think we are quite unusual. You expect accountants to do the accounts and tax returns, and even give tax advice - and we can. But - Accountacy -

we have also developed a number of specialist sector teams that can give real advice. We have strong property & construction, manufacturing, health, automotive, not-for-profit sector teams and many others. The yardstick I use is that if any member of our agricultural team were to walk into a pub full of farmers, they would not only understand the language but could speak it too. “Many of my partners are from national firms but they had decided they wanted to get out of big firm culture to row their own boat so to speak. I was asked to join to think about branding and projecting the firm’s expertise out there and because I believe in our product, I am real advocate, and in truth I do enjoy talking!” There is a touch of self-deprecation in this statement. Admittedly, Chris does enjoy a chat, but a better description is that he is a communicator, and he encourages the company to be proactive in the business community. He isn’t afraid to voice an opinion either. “Our sector approach is more than finding new clients,” he explains. “We look to influence the sector itself.

Absolute Business Magazine Issue 2  
Absolute Business Magazine Issue 2  

The Business Magazine for Sussex and the south east