She helped Squar make a name for itself via an aggressive acquisition push over the past decade, rising to become the fourth-biggest accounting firm headquartered in California, and the No. 7 accountancy in OC, with about 210 employees locally and 583 companywide.
It was the largest accounting firm based in Orange County until last November when Squar joined Baker Tilly US LLP.
A few months before that happened, Jackson jumped to San Francisco-based BPM LLP where she became chief operating officer and a principal at one of the 50 largest accounting firms in the country.
The firm, which specializes in technology, real estate, nonprofits, and mergers and acquisitions, has tapped Jackson with prominent growth plans of its own, including the goal of the quadrupling of its new Irvine office to 100 accountants.
“We’re doing pretty well,” Jackson told the Business Journal, saying the employee count is close to 100 and continuing to rise. “We have opportunities across all levels. Irvine and Long Beach. We’re looking to continue to expand in a variety of industries, manager and partner levels.”
Last year, BPM acquired Warnick, Maestas & Maroney; in 2018, it entered OC via the purchase of Santa Ana’s Kramer & Olsen Accountancy Corp.
It’s a race to grow and consolidate in the accounting world these days with several notable deals involving OC firms.
In the past few years, KSJG merged with WithumSmith+Brown PC; HMWC with Eide Bailly, White Nelson with CLA LLP; Bolar Hirsch with Armanino LLP, as well as Squar Milner with Baker Tilly.
Last month, Irvine’s Hall & Co. joined Los Angeles-based MGO LLP; see the Feb. 8 print edition of the Business Journal for more.
The reason for this trend is because larger firms need to have a presence in Orange County, MGO officials said.
Lake Forest Home
Jackson, who has been in accounting for 35 years, is well known in Orange County accounting circles. In 2011, she received a Business Journal Women in Business award.
Successfully blending different operations and corporate cultures as the result of acquisitions by Squar was a primary responsibility for Jackson.
“My 20 years at Squar Milner was absolutely amazing,” Jackson said. “It was time for me to continue to fly. I really wanted to leapfrog into a different organization.”
At BPM, Jackson, who continues to call Lake Forest home, oversees business operations such as development, information technology, human resources, and marketing; the only unit that doesn’t report to her is client sales. Her experiences span from industries such as manufacturing and distribution, real estate and construction to property management, food services and professional services, BPM said.
“We want to continue to expand our footprint in Orange County, as well as San Diego and Los Angeles,” she said. “We’re looking to attract amazing talent in banking, finance, technology, real estate. BPM is a firm where culture really matters.”
Jackson is also well known in nonprofit circles where among other entities, she sits on the boards of the Pacific Symphony, Presidents Advisory Board of Concordia University, California State University, Fullerton’s Board of Advisors Center for Leadership and the Center for Investment & Wealth Management Advisory Board.
In 2015, she began Leadership in Heels, a women’s speaker series.
Within the firm, Jackson supports BPM’s Inclusion Now! diversity initiative and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Women Inclusion Executive Committee.
Jackson received the Los Angeles African American Vanguard Award and Farmers & Merchants Bank’s Woman of Courage Award, among other accolades.
Jackson said her greatest accomplishment has been raising “three amazing sons as a single mom.”
When asked to provide some examples of challenges Jackson faced in her career because of race or gender, she quipped, “How much time do you have?”
“When I started going to major firm events 15 years ago, I was the only Black in the C-Suite. Nowadays, I’m still the only Black in the C-suite,” Jackson said. “There are still just a handful of women. It’s challenging when you are the different person in the room.
“The biggest challenge is the lack of diversity of thought. There are perceptions. Your style is challenged. I don’t communicate the same way. Men are known to have few words. Women talk much more.
“We Blacks are very direct where people may focus on being politically correct.
“When we have diversity of thought, it’s not just about race. We have an ability to attract more talent and a variety of clients.”