Being a principal in any organization requires having drive and passion that very few possess. Reaching that role by the age of 28 takes something a little extra.
Being able to pursue a Master’s in Professional Accountancy (MPA) in tandem with a bachelor’s degree and landing an internship that turned into a full-time offer — before even being handed a diploma — are evidence of that point. Accomplishing all of this while losing a father to a long-term brain illness speaks to his ability to overcome incredible obstacles.
Nick Norton could have worked for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms in the big city — it’s more than evident that he has what it takes — but Norton chose to forgo those opportunities and instead return home to Maine.
Why? Because, as Norton says, “Growing up in Maine, I knew I didn’t want to live anywhere else.”
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Before returning to the state, Norton made a five-year stop in Providence while attending Bryant University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and his MPA, which Norton describes as essentially an “MBA with an accounting twist.”
During his final summer of school, he had secured an internship at Macpage, a Maine-based accounting firm, working in the CPA firm’s audit team. The team at Macpage was impressed with his work, so much so that they presented him with an offer to remain with the firm. Norton left the internship knowing he was returning to Macpage as a full-time employee upon the completion of his Master’s Degree that December.
When Norton began as an associate at Macpage, he moved from working on traditional audits to working on information technology audits in the firm’s fairly new Information Assurance Services (IAS) department. A quirk of regulations, only CPA firms have the ability to perform such audits, and because of his experience, Norton proved to be the perfect fit for the new department.
At the time he began as an associate, Norton wasn’t actually sitting down and auditing. Instead he was involved in the business development and client relations part of the work. As a result, he was able to be involved in a more dynamic aspect of the business, which he knew was a better fit for his personality and goals.
As part of the IAS team, Norton worked with Durward Ferland, a boss who became a mentor to him. He credits both Ferland and Macpage CEO Ralph Hendrix as guiding and him and providing opportunities that have helped him become a principal at the firm in the short time of just six years.
Ferland and Hendrix aren’t the only people who Norton has turned to for guidance, however. He has put together what he describes as his own personal “board of directors” to help him make decisions and stay on the right path. Norton began reaching out to this group when he was still in college, as he knew he needed to make decisions about his career and adulthood in general. But where most people would turn to their father, he couldn’t do that. Norton’s father passed away when he was 20. So when the time came to start making decisions about where to head after graduation, Norton had to think creatively about where to seek guidance.
“Why don’t I ask people smarter than me and make a decision based on that?” Norton says of his thought process.
Those conversations helped lead Norton back to Maine, where he has been able to build relationships and find success in a way that might not otherwise have been available to him. Had he gone to a “Big Four” firm, he says he wouldn’t have been seen as a person, but just as a number based on some sort of internal rating algorithm. As for community, Norton thrives in Portland’s smaller network.
“The Portland culture as a whole, but also the Portland business community is such a tight-knit scene, and a trustworthy community, it’s easier to be successful,” he says.
Rather than going out to networking events and making inconsequential small talk, Norton prefers to use those events to exchange contact information and get together for one-on-one meetings where he can start to establish a meaningful relationship. The approach has paid off for his career, and for his overall enjoyment of simply meeting new people and learning from them.
Norton has already established himself as a leader in the accounting and business community in just six years, and he’s already a principal at Macpage – so what does the future hold for him?
He believes that Macpage will continue to adapt to fit the changing accounting and cybersecurity needs of businesses. Now that Norton is a principal and leader of the Client Accounting Services team, it’s likely he’ll play a large role in that adaptation and growth.
“It’s been a hectic ride the last year, especially the past 3 or 4 months, but it’s been a blast,” Norton says of his rise to the role of principal.
And with the reduced travel load his new role affords him, Norton’s life has become slightly less hectic. In his IAS role, Norton was flying often, visiting firms to develop relationships and market Macpage’s services. It worked — the firm has clients across the country — but it also cut into Norton’s availability for community service.
He’s currently involved with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Council, but wants to do more. In college, Norton was a dedicated volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and hopes to again become involved with that and other organizations.
A smart, talented, and driven businessman, Norton is an advocate for his community and his state, and he never stops seeking to improve himself and learn more. He’s gone through tough trials, but has reached an admirable career level at a very early age — and is quick to give others credit for helping him get there. He could have worked at a top firm in a big city, but instead opted to return home to Maine and contribute to the business community here.
That’s why Nick Norton is an Emerging Maine Icon.