Christian James - 2013 40 Under 40 Honoree

Christian James — 35
COO, Xcentric
Alpharetta, GA

Education: Texas Wesleyan University, BBA Information Technology
Professional Associations/Memberships: Vistage
Hobbies: Family, Camping, Mountain Biking, Fly-Fishing

Have you embraced cloud computing for your practice? Are you moving your clients to the cloud? We not only embrace it, we wholeheartedly believe and have experienced many times over the benefits it offers CPA firms. As a business owner, you strive to bring true value to your clients. You’re always pursuing an offering that is so unique and worthwhile that it truly impacts the client’s ability to do business. The past seven years of offering cloud services to CPA firms have been a wonderful (sometimes difficult) experience. Anyone who’s honest with him or herself will concede that technology will always be closely tied to troubleshooting and problem-solving. As a cloud provider for this industry, we take on those challenges so our clients don’t have to bear the weight of technology headaches – similar to how the Accounting Industry provides peace of mind to people, like myself, who don’t feel comfortable preparing their own taxes.

On a broader scale, how do you see new technologies changing the accounting profession in the near term (3-5 years)? Technology will continue to change exponentially over the next 3-5 years. In parallel, the primary Accounting Industry application vendors are working on next generation applications, and the technology vendors are introducing new technologies. In other words, technology is becoming more capable but also significantly more complicated. At the moment, we are all faced with a slew of new technologies that each have to be researched, tested and implemented. This challenge creates a strain on staffing resources, increased budget and, in many cases, interruptions. Of these new technologies, the ones that are most likely to prevail are virtualization, mobile device dependence, enterprise storage, advanced security and all things cloud.

How mobile are you regarding your work? How have mobile devices and apps impacted your productivity and work-life balance? Our company is very mobile – our team is spread across the US. While most of our team work from Alpharetta, GA , some work from home offices and still others are on the road quite a bit. Additionally, we have a branch office in Bozeman, MT that’s entirely mobile. I believe there is no doubt that productivity is enhanced by mobility. However, work-life balance can be affected either way. After years of trying to find that balance, I’ve come to understand the best way to achieve something that resembles balance is to make the choice to pursue both appropriately. Unfortunately, they both can’t win all of the time, so we must be intentional to dedicate time to both.

Have you found business success via social media, either via recognizable ROI, new customers, marketing or networking? We do use social networking both internally and externally for marketing and personal use. This stems from the belief that our business isn’t brick and mortar but rather a bunch of real people with real life situations. We find the more we celebrate and encourage who we are as humans, the more enjoyable it is to do what we do. One of the areas that’s often overlooked when it comes to social networking is the breadth of knowledge and skills within a firm that should be leveraged. We use a free online software called SocialCast to encourage interoffice sharing and communication. While we were initially concerned about wasted time and energies talking about things that weren’t directly work-related, we have since come to a point where we would never choose to do without it. We are constantly reminded of the positive impact it has had on our internal communication.

What tips on social media do you think are essential, but perhaps missed, by professionals and small businesses? I believe the biggest pitfall a company can have is to not throw in some personal items within their social networks. For example, if you want me to get excited about your CPA firm, don’t just tell me about the free QB training you’re doing. I want to know about an employee that spent the weekend working on a Habitat house or even how the partner threw a great birthday party for her four-year-old son. Things like that bring a company to life and give it a personality.

What single piece of technology do you find the most important in your professional life? For better or worse, I would have to say my iPhone. I’m not saying that I don’t take the time to unplug and spend time with my family, but the reality is, more often than not, being connected is a necessity these days.

Not including your current employer, what company do you most admire and why? West Paw Designs ( is an eco-friendly, values-driven company that produces high quality toys, beds and apparel for pets all right here in the USA. I’ve gotten to know some of the leadership and really appreciate how they choose to run their business. A few things that I admire about the company is how they are in a constant state of improvement on what is already a premier line of products and how they never compromise on their values.

What brand/model mobile phone do you use? iPhone5

Do you use a tablet for work purposes? iPad

What is your favorite accounting mobile app, and why? Evernote – I love having my notes synced to all of my various devices.

How many monitors do you have on your desktop workstation?  2


Read more about this year's 40 Under 40 Honorees.