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Chris Matlock

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Chris Matlock complemented his accounting degree with another in kinesiology, figuring if an office job proved an uncomfortable fit, he could always teach and coach.

“I haven’t had to use the backup plan yet,” he noted.

That seems unlikely now. The professional success of the 34-year-old partner at the accounting firm Armstrong, Backus & Co., coupled with his civic and church involvement, has landed him among this year’s 20 Under 40.

That journey began in a Mitchell County classroom where he first learned accounting from a tough, old-school teacher. He placed seventh in the state accounting meet as a junior. Afterward, his teacher retired. So, he taught the class his senior year and led his team to the state competition.

Today, Matlock’s work hours aren’t spent hunched over spreadsheets, but connecting on a personal level with clients – be they oilmen or business owners. Successful accountants, he said, have a knack for understanding clients’ needs through relationship-building.

“You want the client to know they can trust you with every decision they have to make,” Matlock said. “You can do that only through developing a rapport.”

Matlock relates to his clients’ entrepreneurial spirits, saying he inherited the same from his grandfather, a used car salesman, and his father, a third-generation business owner. He has helped grow his firm’s client accounting solutions department and launched his own ventures.

“Honestly, I like to take risks,” he said. “I like to try new things. You can’t be successful if you don’t make attempts.”

He said he also tends to say “yes” to volunteer opportunities … and then figure out how to accommodate them. Learning to more carefully consider where to invest his time and talents, Angelo State University Alumni Association has emerged as a main focus. He’ll serve as president next year.

Saying his service must be driven by passion explains Matlock’s dedication to Celebration Church, where he serves as intern director and occasionally plays guitar for the worship team, and to Closer Walk events. He grew up in a church ministered by his grandfather and then his father.

“My faith really does guide and impact every area of my life,” he said. “It’s not let me down yet … and it never will.”

His grandfather’s example also gave him a leadership model. As a pastor, his grandfather encouraged new ideas from the congregation as a way to excite and empower his flock.

“Allowing people to spread their wings is a great leadership quality,” Matlock noted.

He also admired his grandfather’s tendency to listen and to disagree respectfully.

“Our country could use that a lot right now – to say, ‘We’re going to disagree, but let’s make a solution that works best for everybody,’” he said.

The dichotomy of influences is striking. Matlock has been shaped by a lifetime of exposure to his grandfather and by the relatively brief encounter with his high school accounting teacher.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said, “without her pouring into me even for that brief period of time.”