OUM is one of the leading CPA firms in California, with offices in San Francisco and Carlsbad, CA. Since its formation in 1976, OUM has grown to over 85 professional staff members by providing a diverse range of client services to individuals and public and private companies across multiple industries. Learn more in our Partner Spotlight with managing partner Chris Millias.
What was the original philosophy behind creating a firm like OUM & Co. that provides more than just accounting or tax services?
That’s easy; it was born and bred with an entrepreneurial spirit and that’s what drew me to OUM. Back in 1982, I had been in working as an auditor for a large regional firm and was ready to get the heck out of public accounting. It was too boring, always looking at last year, one company after another. I wanted more excitement and I thought private industry was the next step. My recruiter insisted that I still interview with a CPA firm; he said he knew of one that was very different than the usual firms. I relented, and to my surprise he wasn’t wrong. At that point OUM’s practice was primarily tax, but during the interview they told me they wanted to build a great “sustainable” firm and they needed someone to help build their audit practice. They said, “We don’t know much about auditing, but we’ll give you the ball so you can run with it and be there to back you up however we can.” I was in and never looked back. This wouldn’t be just working for a CPA firm; this would be helping to build something special.
What makes OUM & Co. different from other big firms?
It’s our ability to deliver large firm experience with a personal touch. Many of our partners and managers came from Big Four firms. We have the technical skills that enable us to service our public & private companies and our individual clients and the deep business acumen to become a trusted and valued business partner. Our mantra is “Just Ask Our Clients” because we are proud of the exceptional personal customer service we provide. It’s evidenced by the client testimonials found on our website, which results in our clients often being our best source of referrals. To this day, we are serving clients that we had when I started in 1982. We get involved with our clients as part of a strategic team, and they trust us to handle more than just one aspect of their finances. It’s not a revolving door of different associates doing audits every year; it’s a personal relationship.
How has OUM & Co. been able to sustain its practices for over 40 years?
Two things: attract, develop and retain the best and the brightest (take care of our most valuable asset, our people); and to continue to challenge ourselves to develop deep expertise in niche areas and new skills such as expanding our IT/SOX consulting practice. We also set ourselves up to successfully manage a transition plan for when partners would retire. This is a critical challenge that many firms are facing right now with baby boomers retiring and can have dire consequences if you don’t have the next generation ready to take the baton. We have already successfully transitioned four founding partners, and the next generation has continued to grow the firm and expand our practice areas. We have a large number of clients across many niches including but not limited to Life Sciences/BioPharma, Technology, Real Estate, Consumer products, and Financial Services.
Why was it important for OUM & Co. to start and remain in San Francisco?
San Francisco is the center of the universe; it was back in 1976 and it is now. It has a vibrant financial district, it’s attracting top talent in all areas, it’s filled with top tier strategic partners and clients, it’s close to Silicon Valley, it’s a city with a heart – shall I go on? Our lease was up in December 2016 and because rents have gone sky-high we considered moving (for a split-second) then found the perfect space at 601 California Street. We‘ve been on California street for 23 years in three locations and have managed to move up one city block at a time! Our staff love working in the City and enjoy all it has to offer.
How is OUM & Co. involved in the San Francisco Community?
We have OUM community event days where the entire firm volunteers for various activities, including park and beach clean-up days, Glide Memorial, SF Food Bank, KQED phone bank, and Family Giving Tree among others. OUM has also helped non-profits over the years by offering consulting services, such as Thunder Road in Oakland that focuses on drug and alcohol abuse resources for teenagers, and the Bay Area Community Resources. We had the personnel to help out, and we wanted to do this because we could.
We have and will continue to support many charities and communities and strive to be as involved as possible, because we care and our employees have so many individual interests and passions.