The following is an Executive Profile produced by Mark Calvey, Senior Reporter at the San Francisco Business Times. This article originally appeared in the November 9, 2018 issue of the San Francisco Business Times.
Jim Wallace is steering BPM through an increasingly competitive environment for the accounting industry. That means searching for growth through acquisitions and expanding advisory services.
“Compliance services, which are the core of most CPA firms, are becoming incredibly competitive. Everything is about price,” Wallace said.
The San Francisco-based firm recently expanded into Orange County with the acquisition of an accounting firm there, with additional deals likely.
BPM CEO Jim Wallace talks about the importance of transformation to address unforeseen changes and the business advice he received from his father.
“Expansion will require business combinations,” Wallace said, eyeing BPM’s future as a West Coast firm. “It’s hard to go to a new geography, hang a shingle and think you’ll generate business.”
That means Wallace spends a lot of his time focused on his team while nurturing BPM’s entrepreneurial culture and spurring innovation within the firm.
Wallace learned many lessons on building a successful career and business from his dad, who was an executive at a publicly-traded lumber yard business. “We couldn’t go on vacation without stopping at a lumberyard,” Wallace recalled.
His father was keen on the value of hard work, a lesson Wallace now credits as a key to his success.
“You can always work harder. That makes up for a lot of shortcomings,” Wallace said.
That work ethic is also evident at home, where he’s digging out what he believes was a pristine English-style garden in the 1940s.
“It’s a continuing adventure in discovery,” Wallace said of the weekend project unfolding at his Marin County home. “We are excavating one brick at a time. There’s a whole patio that overlooks the Bay that was completely covered.”
He takes that same tenacity over to his management style.
“Your success comes from helping others be successful,” Wallace said, recalling a time that he went out and bought a chair for an employee with back trouble so she could be more productive.
Wallace also looks for “high energy” employees to join his team. A big turnoff for him are accounting professionals who aren’t good team players, talking with a lot of “I’s” or referring to clients as “theirs.”
Wallace, who says he’s taken plenty of Dale Carnegie courses, also looks for common sense when hiring. “You can’t teach people common sense and enthusiasm.”