Employee Spotlight: Welcoming Jim Wallace to BPM
As many of us are embracing New Year’s resolutions and embarking on our 2016 goals, at BPM we are beginning the New Year with a new CEO. The appointment of Jim Wallace follows a year-long national search to find an executive with the right combination of proven leadership ability, vision, experience and drive to lead our firm through its next stage of growth. In addition to these qualifications, we also needed someone who would embrace our people-centered culture.
Any change in leadership requires some amount of transition, but we also believe this is a year of opportunity for BPM! While we have many exciting changes to look forward to, I believe a lot will stay the same. I had the opportunity to speak with Jim and ask him more about his new role at BPM as well as some advice he would give to recent graduates and current students starting their careers in public accounting. While growth is on the horizon, BPM’s culture – Because People Matter – is here to stay!
KS: What about BPM intrigued you when you learned about the opportunity to become our next CEO?
JW: The focus on people, “Because People Matter”. Many people think being a CPA is a numbers business, but in reality it is a people business. Understanding the needs of clients and meeting them. Understanding what makes a great work environment for associates and providing it.
KS: Building on our existing culture we define as “Because People Matter”, what kind of culture do you hope to cultivate as our new CEO?
JW: Continued focus on people, both clients and associates. As an organization BPM is not interested in changing our current culture; I was not brought here for that purpose. My goal is to continue to drive our culture, support those things we do very well, improve those areas that need it and drive growth and profitability for the benefit of our people (clients and associates).
KS: How do you see the company changing or evolving in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
JW: BPM has benefited from great leadership over the last 30 years. To grow to an $80 million firm and one of the largest firms in California in that time period is a testament to the quality of the past leadership. As firms grow leadership requires change. My experience from running a larger firm along with experience in business combinations will allow BPM to take advantage of new or different opportunities to accelerate growth. My role is to be that accelerant.
KS: If you were talking to a prospective client or candidate, how would you differentiate BPM from other public accounting firms?
JW: “Because People Matter” – there are many good CPA firms and
almost all claim to focus on their employees. Only BPM is the number one place to work in the country among large accounting firms as recognized by Accounting Today. On the client side, it is important to point to our team approach to providing services along with our deep industry and technical expertise in the services we provide.
KS: What made you interested in returning to the Bay Area?
JW: The easy answer is weather, but of course there is a lot more to the decision then that. My wife and I are both from the Bay Area and graduated from high school in San Mateo. We had always desired to return to California to be near her family and where we met. The opportunity at BPM was a significant attraction because it is such a great firm. Finally, the overall business climate and potential for growth on the West Coast is so much stronger than almost any other place in the country. When you combine all these reasons the decision was easy.
KS: What changes do you see occurring in public accounting in the next 15 years?
JW: I believe how we deliver services will be changing. There is a large focus on millennials as employees, which is important, but even more important is millennials as clients. This group will become the dominate client for firms in the next 15 years and we need to hire and train associates to deliver services in a manner that this client base of the future finds effective. This will mean more flexibility, more technology, and doing things both better and differently. We will continue to find ourselves delivering services in an ever smaller world which will mean more international services and clients doing business internationally. One more change will be the way technology interacts with service. Technology will no longer simply support the services we offer, but will begin to drive and determine what services we offer. Changes in tax preparation and data mining will determine how and what we do.
KS: What advice would you give a student or recent graduate about to start their career?
JW: Find something that you can be passionate about. We spend too much time at work to not be spending this time doing something we enjoy. Look through the job to the effect the job will have on those around you locally and in the world. Being a CPA is about helping others to be successful, not about “numbers”. Remember that every job is not for every person. Some careers, like being in the professional service business, are demanding by their nature. When you make a living serving others, like clients, you exchange a certain amount of flexibility for the reward of seeing others succeed.
KS: What advice would you give to a student making the decision between multiple offers at different firms?
JW: There is no right or best choice when choosing a firm, but there is a best firm for you. The best firm for you is where you feel most comfortable, both with its culture and people. You also have to decide whether you prefer a large corporate structure or a more entrepreneurial environment. Both are great, but provide different opportunities. At the former, you can “climb the ladder” in the existing structure. In the latter, you get to create that structure!
KS: When you aren’t busy being a CEO, how do you spend your free time?
JW: The answer to this question is new to me. Up to this point I have spent my time either at work or with my family. My youngest daughter is now off to college and I will have to figure out what I will do when not at work. My wife and I work around the house a lot. I am sure there will be more of these projects. We plan to travel along the West Coast. My wife is an artist and I spend some time helping her with art projects.
KS: If you weren’t an accountant, what would you be instead?
JW: This is a great question and a discussion that I have had with my children often. I chose accounting because I wanted to help others be successful and I wanted to be a dad. I thought being a CPA with the flexible working hours would allow me to spend the right time, not more time, with my kids. For example, I have coached over 30 sports teams for my children. If I was not in the CPA business, I would look for another career that helped others and allowed for family time.
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