Karole Lloyd, a Tuscaloosa native, University of Alabama alum and diehard Crimson Tide fan, remembers the day John Schraudenbach turned her into a Georgia Bulldog.
Named the EY managing partner for the southeast region in 2009, Lloyd arrived in Atlanta seeking to build her management team and wanted Schraudenbach to be her deputy manager. In nearly three decades with EY, Schraudenbach established a reputation of providing top-notch client service, finding first-rate recruits and offering his knowledge to anyone who sought his counsel. At first, he wasn’t sure about joining Lloyd’s team — he enjoyed the role he was in — but when he did one of the first recommendations he made was one close to his heart.
Go to Athens.
“So John and I get in the car and drive to Athens and we meet Dean [Benjamin] Ayers. We spend a good amount of time together with him, and before we leave Dean Ayers shares with us that EY needs to renew its support,” Lloyd remembers. “At that point, John looks at Dean Ayers and says, ‘oh, we’ll just throw a party at Karole’s house.’ And that’s exactly what we did. Just two to three months into my experience of coming to the Atlanta marketplace I became a University of Georgia Bulldog fan. … John is bound and determined, like everybody else that knows him, to make you part of his Georgia family.”
It’s fair to say family is a paramount part of John Schraudenbach’s life. There’s the family he grew up with — his three sisters, who helped raise him after their father died when he was 2 and opened their home after their mother died when he was 17. There’s the family he made with his wife Terri (BSEd ’81, MEd ’85): two daughters, Brooke (BS ’07) and Katie (BBA ’10), and son Adam (BBA ’14, MAcc ’14), all University of Georgia graduates, and the joys of his life. And now there are grandchildren being added to the fold. There’s his UGA and Terry College family, where Schraudenbach is “someone I can always call on if I need something and he’d answer and say yes,” Ayers says.
And there is his family at EY, a company he retires from in June after decades of service.
“Family is absolutely first and foremost,” says Schraudenbach, the Americas Assurance Senior Client Service Partner at EY. “I like to tell people I have truly lived the American dream. I grew up not needing anything but also not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and through hard work and luck and doing the right things I’m sitting here financially at a great point of my life. I’ve got an unbelievable family that all live within 30 minutes of us and are great friends with each other and hang out all the time. I have a great church life, I’ve got lots of great friends. You couldn’t be at a much better spot than I am right now. I’m blessed beyond belief.”
“If you talk to John he probably defines family a lot of different ways,” Ayers says. “It’s clear that family is a priority. He is a great father, great husband, and is also committed to his faith. I believe that definition of family extends to the Terry College. He definitely is, from our standpoint, a key part of our family and the relationship we have is very much like a family member.”
Georgia plays a prominent role in those ties, the state where Schraudenbach grew up, attended school, and spent his entire working life.
He grew up in East Point, a community not far from the airport that was “an idyllic place to grow up,” he says, “it was like Mayberry.” He doesn’t remember much about his father, a salesman for Quaker Oats, but his mother, who worked as a secretary for Delta Air Lines, provided a strong foundation for him and his sisters. “My mother was a very moral person and taught the difference between right and wrong and did it by example,” Schraudenbach says. “All of us, my sisters and myself, are all about doing the right thing for people.”
The East Point community also looked out for the young Schraudenbach, as local small-business owners became father figures and helped him during his adolescence. When his mother died midway through his senior year of high school, he moved in with his older sister. A solid, but not an overly serious high school student, Schraudenbach wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He thought he would wind up being a high school basketball coach.
But that changed during his first years at West Georgia, where he “stumbled” into an accounting course.
“I took it knowing nothing about it, but it came pretty naturally,” he says. “I was taking basic business classes because I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I took accounting and really liked the professor.”
He moved that foundation to UGA, though the main reason for the transfer was for Terri, his future wife and high school sweetheart who was an undergraduate in Athens. He spent the summers loading planes for Delta, giving him the money he needed to keep his education going. By graduation, the non-serious high school student was being recruited by every Big 8 accounting firm. Ernst & Whinney, the second largest accounting firm behind Arthur Andersen, was tops on his list.
“We were No. 2 and a distant No. 2 to Arthur Andersen, but what excited me was Mike Trapp,” Schraudenbach says of his mentor and former EY managing partner for the southeast area. “Mike said ‘We’re going to grow this practice,’ so I was joining the up-and-comer and we began to close the gap very quickly. In a time when most firms did not aggressively pursue growth we were almost like gunslingers. It was fun!”
His first client at EY was The Coca-Cola Co., and for the next 11 years, he was on the audit of the Fortune 100 company. He was also a constant recruiter, making several trips a year to Athens and returning with recruits who would help define EY’s future.
A steady presence in his community, Schraudenbach was asked to leave EY and become president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce in 1993. It required a different set of skills and gave him a new (or better) sense of what it takes to run a small business. But after two years he wanted to return to EY. Seeing Schraudenbach’s recent experience working with smaller businesses, Trapp brought him back to grow his own book of business. It was the early days of the dot-com boom, and Schraudenbach thrived.
“At one point I had 26 clients,” he says. “I was able to learn how people do business because I was there in the early stages with direct access to the founders. I was learning about companies going public. I picked up WebMD, which when we called on them they had four employees. So I was working with startups and then over time I moved back upstream to larger clients. Since then I’ve been the lead audit partner on Genuine Parts Co., Delta, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Acuity Brands, among many others.”
It was this adaptability that made him a perfect fit for Lloyd’s team.
“John has a reputation of being someone that listens very effectively and has always been keen on understanding the pulse of the people in the practice as well as promoting the business EY was going to do,” Lloyd says. “People trust John, and they trust him because John always does what he says he’s going to do. He does it in a sincere and quiet way.”
“John is very humble,” Ayers says. “I’ve never had a conversation with him where he would espouse how successful he’s been or the role he’s played in EY. You never get that from him, which is a great example of being a leader.”
He also leads by “voting with his feet,” says Lloyd. At Terry he’s served as chairman of the Alumni Board and was a member of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting Advisory Board. In his community, he serves as chairman of the personnel committee at his church and is active with United Way. “Your professional job is to give back, of your time and your money,” Schraudenbach says. “I’ve been on a nonprofit board and/or church board for the last 25 years. It’s what I believe — being a good steward of what I’ve been given.” In addition to the good and purposeful work he’s done throughout his life, Schraudenbach also remembers to have fun. He’s a master of reading a room and knows when to ease the mood when warranted, because he understands the people around him and how to promote an uplifting and cheerful environment.
“One of the things I tried to do is keep things light,” he says. “People will tell you in a stressful situation I can crack a joke or make a statement that relieves the tension.
“We ought to have fun. What we do is intense, no doubt about it. It’s important, but you have to keep it light. You’ve got to keep the pressure off your people, and you gotta laugh.”