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Alumni Spotlight: Jim Stirbis, MAcc/BAcc ’92

pioneerblog-jimstirbisJim Stirbis has always been a smart, practical person. When he was growing up in the southwest suburbs of Denver, it was Jim’s grandpa who offered him a piece of career advice he’ll never forget. “He told me that I should pursue a career that someone else will always need,” says Jim, “so early on, I started thinking about medical school.” His senior year in high school, however, Jim took an accounting class and found that the subject came naturally to him. His teacher encouraged him to think about majoring in accounting and advised Jim to consider applying to DU for their strong business school and accounting program. Though he also considered CU and Pepperdine, DU was the right fit.

Early on at DU, Jim decided to apply to Daniels’ 3/2 master’s program, which would allow him to receive both a Bachelor of Accountancy and a Master of Accountancy in five years. He also became involved in campus life and pledged the Kappa Sigma fraternity—where he became an officer on the Interfraternity Council—and joined Beta Alpha Psi, an international honorary organization for accounting, finance and information systems students and professionals. His final year, Jim was a teaching assistant for the late Dr. Jerry Kesselman’s introductory financial reporting class.

The turning point in Jim’s education occurred as a sophomore, when he was enrolled in an intermediate accounting class—a course known for “weeding out” students from continuing on to the upper division accounting courses. After getting through the first exam successfully, Jim wrote a paper on discontinued operations for a subsequent assignment. He received a perfect score of 100. “That was the moment I felt like I’d made the right decision in choosing to study accounting,” Jim says. “I started feeling that I would have a successful career.”

And indeed he has. His senior year, Jim was hired through an on-campus interview by the Big Four accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick to start after graduation. “Daniels did a phenomenal job of helping accounting students narrow down a path early on,” says Jim. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into industry or public accounting, but I had a lot of help from the career center and my professors figuring it out.” At KPMG, Jim focused on oil and gas and mining clients—industries known for their complex accounting issues. After four years being focused on the partner track, an opportunity arose with his client Consolidated Nevada Goldfields Corporation (CNGC), who was planning to acquire mines in Mexico. They wanted Jim to become their controller. He was torn about leaving KPMG, but decided to take a chance.

Two years into his career at CNGC, Jim was asked to relocate to San Antonio to be closer to Mexico, however, as a newlywed and a Colorado native, he opted to network for a local position. In his search, he came across Republic Financial Corporation, an Aurora-based investment company with divisions in distressed debt, structured finance, aviation and private equity. From 1998 to 2007, Jim climbed the ranks at Republic, serving as their financial controller for four years, chief accounting officer for four and senior vice president of finance his final year with the  company.

After nine years at Republic, in 2007 Jim felt it was time to try something new. “I loved my career at Republic, but I knew that if I stayed there longer, I would be limiting myself professionally,” he says. Despite his desire to move on, Jim admits that finding an employer as philanthropic and thoughtful as Republic would not be an easy task. “Republic cares a lot about the community and their employees. I knew that would be hard to find.” A recruiter called him up about an opportunity at Local Insight Media, the fifth largest print and online directory publisher and search provider in the country. The company made a good impression.

“What resonated with me most was that the senior management was all hand-picked by the company’s private equity investors,” says Jim. “It was an incredible opportunity to work with intelligent, well-respected people who were all hired for very clear reasons.” As Local Insight’s chief accounting officer, Jim has helped work on the financing documents for a number of large acquisitions and is responsible for integrating and transforming such acquired companies from an accounting and financial reporting perspective. Needless to say, the job has kept him quite busy. In fact, since 2006, the company has grown from $70 to over $700 million in annual revenues.

What’s next for Jim? “I want to continue to develop my skill set so that I can eventually become a CFO of an organization, but really, the title isn’t that important to me—it’s the experience I gain along the way,” he says. As for a long-term plan, Jim admits that he may not ever fully retire, but hopes to one day try his hand at entrepreneurship. A father of two young boys, he says, “It’d be great to establish a business that my sons could potentially come up in.”

Today, Jim is pleased with how his career has unfolded. “I love accounting and I love what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m always going back to that core foundation I developed at DU. Along the way, I’ve learned how to utilize and apply it, but I feel like I was well-prepared in my Daniels education for the responsibility that was ahead of me. I received a lot of guidance during those five years to get me to where I am now.”

Perhaps Jim’s greatest lesson learned both at Daniels and afterward is that he loves to stretch his brain. “It’s important to recognize that there is always someone that knows more than you do,” says Jim. “I feel like there’s always more to learn, so I’ve never stepped back and said, ‘OK, I’m done learning,’ I know I have a lot to learn still, and I’m ready for that challenge.”

At a Glance

University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, MAcc, 1992
University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, BAcc, 1992

Why Daniels?

Was drawn to Daniels’ strong accounting program.

Daniels Influences:
Dr. Jerry Kesselman, former Professor, School of Accountancy

Dr. John Bazley, Professor, School of Accountancy

Dr. Joyce Frakes, Instructor, School of Accountancy

Dr. Kevin O’Brien, Chair and Professor, Business Ethics and Legal Studies

Post-Daniels Résumé:
Local Insight Media, Chief Accounting Officer (2007-present)

Republic Financial Corporation

  • Senior VP Finance (2006-2007)
  • Chief Accounting Officer (2002-2006)
  • Financial Controller (1998-2002)

Consolidated Nevada Goldfields

  • Corporate Secretary and Treasurer (1998)
  • Corporate Controller (1996-1998)

KPMG, Supervising Senior (1992-1996)

Daniels Organizations Involved With as MAcc Student:
Kappa Sigma

Interfraternity Council

Beta Alpha Psi