But before approaching its southern neighbours, Rimess began to expand at home. In autumn 1995, the opportunity arose to open a office in Võru, just about the furthest Estonian city from Tallinn. The initiative for this came from Southern Estonians, the auditors Maire Otsus (now Maire Otsus-Carpenter) and Ulvi Sloog, who worked in Antsla. “We came up with the idea of starting a company, but we didn’t want to do it on our own, since it felt safer to work under someone else’s wing,” recalls Otsus-Carpenter. Mati Nõmmiste was one of the few auditors we knew, so we decided to contact him.” Sloog picked up the phone, called Nõmmiste and suggested that Rimess open a office in Antsla.

Sworn auditors Maire Otsus-Carpenter (left) and Ulvi Sloog (centre) at the 10th anniversary party of Rimess MRI at the Russian Theatre in Tallinn.

Otsus-Carpenter explains: “Mati liked the idea, but said Antsla was too small. He suggested that a office could be opened in the county centre, Võru, instead.” And so it was: rooms were found and renovated on the premises of the Association of Consumers, and the first audit firm in Võru, the Võru office of Rimess, was ready to start working. At first, Otsus-Carpenter and Sloog were the only employees, but soon a third person was hired to serve as secretary and accountant.

In 2004, a major change took place in the Võru office: Rimess MRI merged with Capital, an accounting and audit firm in Tartu owned by sworn auditor Raul Koni. As a result, Rimess Capital MRI, a subsidiary of Rimess, was established in the university town, and it was also joined by the Võru office of Rimess. However, work in Võru continued for another three or four years until the time came when Rimess was solely represented in Southern Estonia in Tartu.

Raul Koni with the Tartu office team at the 2014 Christmas party.

The initiative to merge with Capital came from Rimess. Both Koni and Nõmmiste were members of the management board of the Estonian Auditors Association in 2003. Koni recalls that once, after a meeting, Nõmmiste came up to him, grabbed his arm and said: “Raul, let’s start working together!” Raul Koni explains: “I agreed, because I’d felt for some time that I could no longer keep up with the times on my own. That’s why I felt that joining a larger company would give me and the other Capital employees the opportunity to develop professionally. Also, Rimess offered a wider range of services, so I thought we would be able to offer our clients better service.” In turn, Rimess, with its 50 employees, saw the launch of its operations in Tartu as an opportunity to become more accessible to clients in Southern Estonia and thus increase its visibility.

The merger agreement between Rimess MRI and Capital, whose turnover was almost ten times lower, was signed in January 2004. Koni became the CEO of the Tartu subsidiary Rimess Capital MRI, which had seven employees, and the fourth partner of Rimess MRI, alongside Nõmmiste, Veinberg and Artur Suits. The addition of a new partner also led to some funny incidents. “The younger partners thought the firm could be renamed to Suits (Estonian for ‘cigarette’ or ‘smoke’), Koni (Estonian for ‘cigarette butt’) & Partners, but the older partners found out and nipped that idea in the bud!” Koni laughs, recalling the joke.

The merger enabled Rimess to become more active in Southern Estonia. In addition to the increased audit and accounting capacity that came with the addition of Capital’s staff and clients, a lawyer and tax consultant were hired a few years later, bringing the number of staff in the Tartu office to a dozen, and it has remained more or less at the same level ever since. All of the basic services of Rimess were obviously available in Tartu as well, such as accounting, auditing and financial, tax and legal advisory. If a client needed something more specific, there was and still is close cooperation with colleagues in the Tallinn office and, if necessary, with those in Latvia and Lithuania. After all, it is the company’s policy to assemble a team according to the client’s needs, regardless of whether the client is located in Tallinn or Tamsalu, Valga or Viljandi.