Jim’s passion for baseball cards leads to better business skills
Jim Bourke started collecting baseball cards as a kid and now has every Topps baseball card except one – Mickey Mantle’s 1952 rookie card #311. He says he’ll be buying it the day after his last child graduates college. He grew up outside of New York City and was fortunate enough to attend many Yankees games growing up, which fueled his passion for baseball cards. Now, he also goes to the All-Star Game every year and coached his son’s Little League teams.
In this episode, Jim and I talk about how passion for something, no matter what it is, makes you stand out. He tells young accountants that he mentors, “Find something that’s yours and take it to the next level.” He learned early on in his career that in order to be successful, it was necessary to develop both his personal and professional lives. He’s also known for creating experiences for those around him, whether that’s taking staff someone unique while they’re out of town on a client visit or it’s sitting in the front row with clients at Yankees games and taking pictures with some of the players.
Jim Bourke is the Technology Niche Practice Leader at Withum. He’s also a Member of the Board of Directors of both the AICPA and the New Jersey Technology Council.
He graduated from Kean University with a BS in Accounting. He’s also regularly listed in Accounting Today’s “100 Most Influential People” list.
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Hello, this is John Garrett and welcome to Episode 143 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work, making him stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated at how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that this expertise isn’t always earned in degrees and certifications but sometimes it’s experiences from our passion outside of work that make us better at our job.
This week we’ll hear how that passion can easily be transferred into your work and make you so much better and stand out in your career. Really quickly I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute totally anonymous survey about corporate culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com, click the big green button there and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help as I do some research for the book I’m releasing later this year.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the shows you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Jim Bourke. He’s the Technology Niche Practice Leader at Withum and a regular speaker at many conferences all over the world. I know you’re super busy, Jim. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jim: John, I am so happy to be with you today. I listened to your podcast all the time. I’m mesmerized by the people, that thought leaders that you bring on your podcast, man. Absolute. I consider it a privilege to be with you today.
John: Sweet. Well, ditto, man. We’re both privileged. Thank you man, I appreciate it. Yes, I gave everyone a little bit of an introduction and maybe in your own words, what you’re up to now professionally and maybe a little bit of how you got there.
Jim: Yeah, sure, man. I’m a partner at Withum and with a large regional firm, 1,200 employees, 17 offices. I’ve been with Withum since day one, intern literally at a school since I graduated and been here ever since. I started as a generalist. I did audits. I did tax work. I did bookkeeping. I did payroll returns, sales tax returns. I did freaking everything, man. I’ve had an opportunity to see all different aspects of a firm.
Today I am super passionate about technology. I oversee internal technology at my firm so responsible for making sure all of our staff have the latest and greatest technologies as well as exposure to what ornate technologies are on the horizon.
Then my other real job, I’m managing director for advisory services for Withum. We are all in advisory services. We believe that the profession is changing and old digit growth in the areas are over. We are believers that a firm offering advisory services is a firm that’s going to remain totally relevant way into the future, man. That’s the stuff I preach around the globe about technology, how it’s playing a role in firms offering advisory services today.
John: Yeah, man. That’s fantastic. Look at you, all the way from intern all the way up. I mean that’s impressive.
Jim: Yeah, man. Well, you know, it’s funny because our profession is one of the few where you can start as a nobody. Getting coffee for people and crap like that and become an owner of a firm, become a material shareholder in a firm. I mean how many industries offer that opportunity. I would challenge every kid at a school. I mean I know you’ve got a lot of college kids listening to this and young staff. Look, you have so much potential. All you need to do is one thing. You have to differentiate yourself from everyone else in the firm. Find something that is yours. Make it your own and take it to the next level.
John: Yeah, that’s fantastic. That’s a really good take away right away right there. Yeah, absolutely. I mean does a differentiator necessarily have to be work-related or could it be something else?
Jim: Yeah, it could be work related, differentiate. But you know what? If you find something in your personal life, you need to identify something in your personal life that you’re super, super, super passionate about. Take that to the next level and it’s just going to happen. You’ll be so passionate about that. That will ooze into your professional life. That will help you to identify something that you can call your own in your firm. Whether it’s vertical, whether it’s you doing something totally unique in the profession. I’m telling you, personal life and your success stories there, your passions there have a 110% to do with your success in your professional life.
John: Yeah, man. I agree totally. I appreciate that. Why do you think it is that most people don’t want to share those successes outside of work? Those things that seem to be nothing to do with accounting?
Jim: You know what, I think it’s just they’re embarrassed. I mean I have no problem telling people what drives my passion. I recall, I’m listening to a podcast that you had not too long ago with my partner Tony Nitti, right?
John: Oh, yeah.
Jim: As you know, Tony loves mountain biking, right? Tony has a super passion for that stuff. He brings that into everything he does. He talks about, he relates it to tax, he relates it his passion and really, you see that in his professional life. Quite frankly I would argue that that’s probably why he’s been so successful in his professional life because of his passions outside.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean that energy and then I mean people are alive when they’re talking about it and when they’re thinking about it and that energy you have you can bring to work in unique ways. Absolutely.
Jim: Yeah. Here’s the deal. It’s not the Mountain Dew. It’s not the energy drink. It’s someone that has that pure passion. It’s going to happen without all that artificial stuff, man.
John: Yeah. Absolutely, you’re actually alive. Like, can you feel it? Sure. I mean I’ve walked into some firms and I’m like, “Wow, I can’t believe anyone comes here voluntarily.” I mean there’s just no oxygen in the air. I mean I don’t even think there’s any color. It was all black and white. It was just painful right. As soon as I step off the elevator, I was like, “Oh, wow. This is not good. This is not good.” It doesn’t have to be like that. That’s what’s so crazy. It really doesn’t have to be. Before we get into your excitement, I love to ask everyone just how did you get into accounting? What made you want to get into that? Because, I mean, after meeting you, it’s like you’re clearly not what people would think of as the stereotype.
Jim: Yeah, yeah. I grew up in a town in New Jersey called Sayreville, New Jersey. I went to high school with Jon Bon Jovi right.
John: Oh, nice.
Jim: What drove me out of that town into my accounting profession? I will tell you it was my high school accounting professor, high school accounting teacher. He was a CPA and he actually made it sound like it will be fun for me to be involved in the accounting profession. He brought in real life examples of what you do in the accounting profession. Quite frankly it seemed like fun. It seemed like this is someplace that I wanted. He never focused on the books. But you know what? At the end of each semester, at the end of each year, I got so much out of it. I totally understood everything that he was communicating. Because he used stories and I loved that. I love storytelling. I love listening to storytellers because they get the message across and they have that sense of reality with it. It was my high school accounting professor that actually was responsible for getting me engaged in the accounting profession.
John: Yeah, that’s was fantastic Good for him, yeah. Because I mean the brochures don’t always make it seem that fun. Real life stories and examples and this is what it’s really like. There’s an unlimited number of things you can do with an accounting degree, really. I mean you can go everywhere because as long as you understand the numbers everybody wants to talk to you.
Jim: You’re right there. Foundation to foundation is priceless. You get that foundation, you get that under your belt. I tell everyone, you know what? You’ll never be in need of a job. You’ll always have something because you’ll have that financial foundation that you literally can take to the next level and do anything with.
John: Right. Absolutely, man. Absolutely, yeah. When you’re not talking all over the world, speaking or being the managing director of the advisory services at Withum, what kind of hobbies passions interests outside of work do you love to do?
Jim: I’ll tell you probably number one is baseball. I am a huge baseball fan. For example, my son, as he was growing up, I always coached him in baseball. I managed his baseball as he went from minors and majors and all the way up. Huge passion, we basically took that. My son and I, historically, we have gone to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game every year. We go to Home Run Derby every year. We like baseball in general.
Do I have certain teams I like? Sure. I’m a Yankee fan by heart. My dad had season tickets when I was a kid. I grew up in that environment in the Bronx that we would always go to the games. But I have no problem going to a Red Sox game or going to a Mets game or going to see a Dodgers or anyone because we have that passion for baseball. My son and I, we’ve taken that to the next level. I’m sort of like Type A kind of guy. Just whatever I do, I’ve got to do 110%.
Basically, I have a huge obsession with baseball cards. I will tell you today, I have every single Topps regular season baseball card ever issued since 1952. Except for one part, card number 311 from 1952. It is Mickey Mantle’s Rookie card. I blamed my wife for not having that card because she won’t let me buy it. My kids are out of college because the cost of the card is so outrageous. I’ll tell you I got a number of years to go yet before I’m going to be able to buy that because my youngest is not even in college yet. When she’s out, man, the very first freaking thing I’m going to buy is going to be that card.
John: That’s fantastic. Every single Topps. I mean, wow.
Jim: Every single, yeah. It’s wild, man. I just love them. I love the opening up like 1968, 1961, 1956 and going through the cards and seeing these heroes from years past. Everyone from Mickey Mantle, you go through the cards to see so many heroes and guys that people talk about today. That’s the passion I have. I keep up on that collection every single year and make it a point to get all the cards and make it a point to get all the short print cards. I’ve amassed a massive collection just by default. As a kid, I started collecting baseball cards and buying packs of gum. I think I ran of my teeth out with all the gum that I used to buy those type of cards. Today I’ll buy the cards without the gum and it’s all good. But I’ve completed collections, literally full collections starting with 1951. They have blue backs and red X. I’ve got all those cards in and literally everything through, working on my 2018 collection as we speak.
John: That’s fantastic man. That’s really cool. I think I have a Gil Hodges Brooklyn Dodgers Topps card.
Jim: There you go.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean I collected as a kid and then it stopped. But is Topps the oldest baseball card company?
Jim: Well, it’s not the oldest but it’s the one that has survived the longest.
John: Okay. All right.
Jim: You heard out Bowman and things like that other?
John: Right. Because Bowman came back for a little bit.
Jim: Yes, they did. They were around. They were around longer and they started before. But Topps just pretty much sets the standard. Fact is, they’re active. Activity on Topps is like from 1951. That’s why I focus on Topps. They were headquartered out of New York City. I felt close to home, they’re around. Again, I like the cards. I like the offerings. I like the unique things they do with signature cards and prints with pieces of jerseys and things like that. I’ve amassed a decent collection, let’s say.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s really, really cool. Is there a cooler memory maybe from one of the All-Star Games or a game that you went to growing up or something? Just baseball related?
Jim: Well, I’ve got to tell you, just the experience, man. The key experience of going to see the Yankees as a kid, I was overwhelmed. I mean my dad would take me on that day and back then, they have real bats. You’d walk home from a Yankee game. I mean, today, try getting on a subway with a baseball bat, you’ll probably get arrested. You get the bat when you walk into the game. It was a real bat. Real, full sized bat. You go down. You have the players sign in the back. It was freaking awesome. Those are the memories that I grew up on. That’s how I think I got this initial obsession with baseball. I played that obsession out into the whole card.
John: Yeah, man. That’s great. That’s really, really cool. I mean I think that growing up, our parents, certainly, what they’re excited about, I think we inherently get excited about too. That’s how I mean I got crazy about college football, loves watching it with my dad and all that. I mean, I love baseball too. But, yeah. That’s really cool man. That’s really awesome.
Jim: I think what happens, man, is that the reason why it oozes into your family is because if your kids look up to you for what you’re passionate about and they embrace it, they become passionate about the same things. They get it. A perfect example, I was just at the engaged conference in Vegas from AICPA. Tony Hawk came in and spoke for us. We all know, I know Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk today is 50 years old. Yeah, exactly. Think about, yeah, exactly, that hit home for me like whoa. I picture him on a skateboard, man. I remember years ago, he led skateboarding. He was in skateboarding when before skateboarding was cool. He gave the analogy. Back then, you had the jocks at the top of the ladder. The next year, were geeks and nerds, stuff like that. At the very bottom of the food chain were the skaters. Everyone thought all the skaters were going for was just getting up late, just doing nothing, smoking weed all day. That’s the impression of skaters. What happened, skating has taken a whole new– possibly in the Olympics and everything. Skating is cool. Skating is setting the example. He took his passion for skating all the way to the next level and kept it. What I learned which something I did not know, he had a son who’s in his 20s and that is as passionate about skating as he is. He followed in his father’s footsteps. Again, the point I’m trying to make is if your passion shows through, that follows through to your family. Then probably your next step, into your professional world.
John: Right. Absolutely. Especially if it’s genuine. I mean because that’s who you really, really are. I mean your time is fleeting and it’s a resource we can’t have more of. Whatever you’re using your free time to do is probably who you really are. Because I mean that’s what you can choose to do. If you can tap into that, yeah, I mean, absolutely. Is this something that you feel the baseball passion has translated into work at all?
Jim: It has. It’s a sickness, man. Here’s the problem. Okay, I’ll be honest with you. It’s an obsession. I am obsessive, okay? I take that obsession about baseball and obsession about baseball card collecting into everything I do. My other obsession is technology.
As a kid, as soon as I got my hands on the first – oh, man, I think it was a radio shack — Tandy TRS-80. That was the first real computer that I had. When I had that guy, man, I was I was writing games. I was developing action games. I swear to God, if I wasn’t an accountant today, I know I would have been a programmer. Probably I would’ve been mega wealthy. I would’ve created these massive games that really would take gaming to the next level because I would’ve taken my passion there.
That’s my other passion, it was technology. I literally grabbed those passions and I brought it into what I did. When I first started in the profession, we had zero technology. Zero. I had this freaking canvas to work with. That was a blank canvas. I remember finding ways to deploy technology into everything that we did in the firm. Even today, still taking that same passion with technology, looking at all those cool new things with artificial intelligence, machine learning, black chain, all of that and determining how that is going to impact the firm in the future.
John: Yeah, man. I agree. Is baseball something that you talk about with coworkers at times or clients?
Jim: Yes. I use that analogy all the time and talk about baseball, baseball card collecting, my obsession there. I try to relate it too. It just really comes down to passion. When I speak at conferences, with coworkers, they get it. They understand my passion. I don’t even have to say. I think it comes through in your actions. I swear to God, every place I go, they say, “Wow, man. It can tell you’re really super passionate about this stuff.” I am because I’m super passionate about how technology will continue and always play a role in changing our profession.
John: Yeah. I love it man. I love it. I guess one thing is, is the baseball and the baseball card collecting and stuff, something that you talked about even early on in your career?
Jim: No. You know what? It wasn’t. I think growing up in a CPA firm, we’re very formal. We like to focus on the stuff that traditional way of growing business, which is going out, meeting a lot of people for dinners and breakfast until lunch and a lot of golf outings and stuff like that. I did that early in my career. I golfed a lot. I did a lot of those because those were the things that I was told you needed to do to bring in business. You basically followed in the footsteps of the guys before me, who were all members of country clubs and they did all that stuff, which is great. To this day, they’re still members of the clubs and they’re still doing that, the stuff that they grew up on.
But I totally faded away from that. I said, “You know what? I want to differentiate myself.” I know I can bring a business but I need to do it my own way. The way that I do it is I say, “You know what? I’m passionate about this. Let me be a thought leader. My goal was to become a thought leader in the profession around the technology space.” Once you become a leader — I’ve read lots of books — that once you become a thought leader, you don’t have to look for business. Business will find you. I will tell you hands down that definitely happens.
I speak at conferences today around the globe and people come up to me. CEOs from firms come up to me and say, “Hey Jim. Could you come into my firm in a partner retreat” Can you facilitate our partner retreat? Can you please talk to my partners because they don’t get it? We’re all on different ships here. I’ve got to get everybody on the same bus because we got to move ahead and I’m just having difficulty doing that.” That’s how I develop business today. I’m not doing any golf outings. I’m not doing good on all those events, those traditional events. I do it my own way. I do it through thought leadership. I do it just by showing people how passionate I am about this whole space.
John: Yeah, yeah. Then you come across somebody that also collects baseball cards and whammy. It’s like magic.
Jim: Yeah, exactly. That’s a curveball, man. It’s a curveball because they don’t expect that. They don’t expect an accountant to be super passionate about doing stuff outside of the profession. They think, “Hey, my accountant eats, sleeps and drinks tax returns. My accountant eats, sleeps and drinks audited financial statements.” Well, I’m doing this stuff outside the profession. You know what? That’s okay because that helps to make for such an engaging professional that’s passionate about the technology space.
John: Yeah, man. I love it. That’s fantastic. I guess, one question that I like to ponder on is how much is it on the organization to create the culture where it’s okay to share these passions and interests versus how much is it on the individual to just step up and share maybe even within a small circle?
Jim: It is equally shared. Look here, I will not be with my firm today. I’m with Withum over 30 years, right? Withum has been an absolutely amazing culture, an amazing place to be, an amazing place for me to grow as a professional. I mean not only did I become a partner in Withum in a short amount of time, today I sit on the Executive Committee of the firm. We make the decisions, the high level decisions about mergers and growth and the future of the firm. The firm know encourages us to develop our professional and personal lives. The firm is 110% supportive of that.
I became president of CPA. The firm said, “Go for it because it’d be good for you as a professional. It’s really good for the firm. The firm gets the visibility in the space.” My firm has allowed me to take my passion for technology to the next level with the AICPA, with state societies, in my show on the road and visiting various countries to top with international groups about the technology and advisory services. The firm realizes Withum gets it. The firm realizes that, “Hey, if this guy is so passionate about this area, we’re going to support him 110%. If it’s good for him, it’s good for the firm. Yes, he’s going to bring in business and surround himself with clients that we would never have had before.”
I think what makes Withum so unique is that besides the firm, the whole profession knows that we’re out there to cut these videos every year. I’m sure you’ve probably seen our flash mob videos.
John: Flash mob videos? Yeah.
Jim: Exactly. That’s something that’s unique to us. We love it. We love doing that stuff because we get everyone. From the receptionist all the way up to our CEO, we all take participatory action with respect to our art video. It’s part of our culture, man. It’s just that, the firm embrace it. We’re not all taught. It’s not like you sit down with one of my partners in an interview and, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We’re great. We do this. We do that.” We really put our money where our mouth is and our professionals know that we have great culture.
John: Yeah, I know. That’s fantastic. Is there anything from your level that you do specifically to get to know the coworkers or the people working under you?
Jim: Yes. What I do is I try to give them like an amazing experience. My philosophy internally on Withum is “work hard, play hard.” Everywhere I go, when I bring staff with me, we’re going on the road to visit with a client, I will couple up a business experience with a really cool, fun experience. For example, we got this nice client down in Texas. We’ll work long hours, man. We’ll spend 6:30 in the morning, 7:00 in the morning till maybe 7:00 at night. We got a 12-hour day, we do couple of days like that back-to-back. The way I wrap it up is, this client in Texas, we love going shooting with the client. The CEO of the client has a massive collection of guns. I’d take the staff and we go and we shoot. They have an amazing time.
It’s doing things outside the box like that. I take clients and staff to a bench. I love baseball. Withum has baseball tickets. We have season tickets to see the Yankees. But what I’ll do, instead of just going to see the Yankees to one of the season games, I’ll give the client a memorable experience. We’ll get front row tickets right next to the dugout. We’ll get pictures. Two years ago, we get pictures with Derek Jeter and Mariano. It’s really awesome stuff when you give them just an unbelievable experience. Again, it’s every single time I travel with staff, we couple it up with something special that we do for the staff. Every single time that we go on a long trip with the staff where I’ll ask them to work lots and lots of hours, I give something back to them. I show them how fun it can be.
John: Yeah. Plus it shows that you care. I mean you have a genuine interest in them and you’re like, “Hey, I know you guys have been working really hard. Here’s something cool and fun to go to. Let’s get out of the office, let’s get to know each other, relax a little.” Yeah.
Jim: Yeah. Every single time because I want to do things that will help to keep them engaged. I take them under my wing and I mentor many of them. I’ve mentored a number of our staff all the way to the level of partner. I think hopefully I made them a little bit better. I have them see the other side that in life family and your personal life has to be number one. If that is number one then your work life, that is simply going to follow. You’re going to be so freaking happy and so engaged at work, if you have a happy home life.
John: Yeah. I love it man. This has been fantastic. Really, really fantastic and really cool. Who knew? Every Topps card except for one. But you’ll get it soon enough. Yeah.
I have 17 rapid-fire questions to run you through, kind of a get-to-know-Jim a little better before I fly out to New York. Can we go to a Yankees game and sit front row by the dugout? I mean because it’s really rough. I got to make sure that we can hang out together. Let me fire this thing up, run you through these 17 questions.
Okay, here we go. I’ll start you with an easy one. Favorite color.
Jim: Favorite color is blue.
John: Blue. All right. How about a least favorite color?
Jim: Least favorite color is probably purple.
John: Purple. Interesting. All right. How about do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Jim: Favorite movie of all time is Star Wars, man.
John: How about pens or pencils?
Jim: Definitely pens.
John: Pens. All right. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Jim: Crossword puzzle, man. Crossword puzzle.
John: There you go. All right. How about do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Jim: Least favorite vegetable has to be spinach. I really hate freaking spinach, man.
John: Wow. All right. You look like a Popeye kind of guy. How about when it comes to computers? More PC or Mac?
Jim: Oh, I love Mac, man. I hope Mac really rules the world someday.
John: All right. How about do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
Jim: Ice cream, yeah, I just had it on Sunday night. It was chocolate and peanut butter mixed together, man.
John: Nice. That’s a good answer. That’s a solid answer. How about more cats or dogs?
Jim: More dogs, man. Cats really bother me.
John: Right. There you go. How about do you have a favorite cereal?
Jim: Favorite cereal has to be Cocoa Puffs.
John: All right. How about when it comes to toilet paper, roll over or under?
Jim: Definitely under.
John: Under. All right. How about as an accountant, I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
Jim: My favorite number happens to be seven. Not that it’s lucky. It’s just that it’s a great number. I love the number seven.
John: Yeah, that’s a really popular answer. That’s for sure. It’s very popular answer. Okay. When it comes to accounting, more balance sheet or income statement?
Jim: To me, it’s about the income statement, man.
John: There you go. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Jim: Oh, favorite place on vacation? Hands down is Bora Bora.
John: Oh, nice. That’s awesome. Yeah I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s fantastic. Three more, three more. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Jim: Favorite actor or actress? That’s a tough one, man. I love George Clooney.
John: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Are you more early bird or a night owl?
Jim: Oh, my God. I’m an early bird, man. I start my workouts at 5:00 a.m. in the morning so I am up every day at 4:40. Yeah, I am a vegetable at night, man.
John: Good for you. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Jim: A favorite thing I own is something I don’t own yet which is Mickey Mantle’s 195 Card Numbers 311. It is my favorite thing that I want so bad. Yes, I know, it’ll be my favorite thing once I get in my hands.
John: That’s the perfect answer. That’s so awesome. Well, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jim: Sure, John, man. I had so much fun with you today, man. Thank you so much for inviting me on.
John: That was really, really great. I just love that Jim said, “Find something that’s yours and take it to the next level.” As Seth Godin mentioned in his book “Purple Cow”, if you aren’t standing out, then you’re invisible. I know that everyone listening to this podcast isn’t just to be invisible but actually make a difference and be remembered. As Jim said, find something that you’re passionate about and then take that to the next level.
If you like to connect with Jim on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com and when you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.