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Our Firm. 
Our People. 
Our Community.  

We understand the distinctive opportunities an ESOP provides business owners and employees and know the key to staying ahead is having a trusted advisor by your side throughout the lifecycle of your ESOP. From the initial feasibility assessment to addressing sustainability, fostering culture, and fulfilling third-party administration needs, we provide a one-stop solution tailored to your unique requirements.


Phillip Hayes’ career launched in the early ’90s in commercial banking with SunTrust Bank – (Now “Truist”) and then Huntington Bank, managing all aspects of underwriting and commercial lending that included:

  • Commercial and Industrial

  • Public Companies

  • Acquisition and Development

  • Merger and Acquisition Financing

Working in these multiple industries, he gained a solid understanding of finance as he transitioned into Berman Hopkins CPAs in 2000. From there, he completed his Masters in Business Administration (“MBA”) and Certified Valuation Analyst (“CVA”) designation and began his succession consulting practice. He was the first non-CPA partner in the firm’s history and the first to be a Managing Partner.

Berman Hopkins ESOP practice goes back to 1985. Phillip had merged his finance and succession work into the ESOP practice and has taken it to the national market. In 2020, he launched an ESOP podcast under the “ESOP Guy” with a approach to explaining the process of the ESOP transaction. Phillip addresses ESOPs from a business owner’s perspective. The podcast aims to educate business owners and management team members interested in utilizing ESOPs as either a growth strategy, succession strategy, or exit plan. Phillip illuminates the simplicity of ESOPs as he, along with other professionals, debunks widespread misconceptions about ESOPs.

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The ESOP Team


Phillip Hayes, MBA, CVA

Succession Planning Partner


Jim LaHam, CPA  

Senior Tax Partner


Justin Knox, CPA

Tax Partner


Katie Hardin

Director of Audit and Assurance Quality

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Diana Clark

Director of ESOP Operations

100+ Experts at Your Service

ESOPs have many complex and moving parts that require specialized knowledge, skill, and expertise. Our proven process will help you efficiently navigate and transition to your newly-formed ESOP. We combine our in-depth understanding of audit, tax, and consulting services with our ESOP financial advisory experience to service middle-market transaction environments. Our team routinely provides expert financial and tax diligence designed to identify and evaluate value propositions in business combinations while minimizing the risk and exposure to our clients. Our method highlights proactive communication, responsiveness, and high levels of partner participation throughout the transaction.


We work closely with financial buyers to provide customized ESOP services. For each engagement, the necessary resources are coordinated through a single point of contact to provide maximum coordination, efficiency, and focus throughout the acquisition or divestiture transaction.

Our experience can help educate and communicate to employees, guide board members, and suggest options that enhance your ownership culture. As advisors practicing at a national level, we are actively involved with many state chapters of The ESOP Association and the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO). As thought-leaders, we contribute to numerous outlets on ESOP-related topics and frequently speak at industry events and webinars.

Culture & Community

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Berman Hopkins has been named one of INSIDE Public Accounting's 2021 and 2022 Best of the Best Firms. Ranked on more than 50 metrics, we are one of the highest-performing public accounting firms in North America. We produce superior results while planning for long-term sustainability and growth, offering both clients and staff alike a successful future.

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