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Cover Story
BPM|MacKenzie: Because people matter in San Francisco

By Kenneth Majer
Photos by Jane Richey

An internationally famous wild animal entertainment corporation wanted to hire MacKenzie Communications to develop their image and brand. During the interview, the company representatives assured the MacKenzie team that treating their animals humanely was a high priority. When visiting the company’s operations, however, that was not the case. In spite of the potentially lucrative engagement, MacKenzie turned down the project because the company violated not only the values of trust, authenticity, and integrity, but MacKenzie’s sensitivity to animal rights.
Burr Pilger Mayer (BPM) sponsors a fundraiser every year at opening day for the Giants, last year raising over $100,000 for a young woman afflicted with cerebral palsy. Because people matter, BPM lives by the company’s core values of community, respect, integrity, creativity, knowledge, excellence, teamwork, and success.
Janis MacKenzie and Steve Mayer run successful companies by managing their corporate cultures. Their companies are great places to work, and I experienced firsthand courtesy and enthusiasm that can only come from satisfied employees. These firms are efficient, productive, and profitable; they have longevity, and their customers value them and the work they do. MacKenzie and Mayer are living proof that companies with cultures built on a foundation of core values outperform their competition.

Steve Mayer is the managing partner of Burr Pilger Mayer, the largest California-based public accounting firm, with six offices in the Bay Area. Since its inception in 1986, Mayer has grown the firm significantly. The driving principles guiding BPM to where it is today are providing full service across industries, a commitment to the community, and having fun. One measure of the firm’s success is that 12 of its partners go back 30 years when they all worked together at Coopers & Lybrand.

Burr Pilger Mayer has another definition for BPM: Because People Matter. The firm publishes a booklet by that title that explains “Who We Are, What We Do, and How We Act.” It’s a compilation of inspirational quotations, statements of philosophy, mission, and core values that describe BPM’s culture.     

More than simply issuing a philosophy statement, BPM puts its money where its mouth is. Each year, the firm donates 40 hours of staff time to 50 nonprofit organizations. That’s 2,000 hours of free consulting to the community.
After BPM provided financial training to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), executive director Gabriel Metcalf had this to say: “We had a great experience with the training that [BPM employee] Sherwin was able to provide … He was patient and clearly knowledgeable with Excel and she [SPUR’s employee] learned skills which will improve the productivity in SPUR’s finance department.”
As another recipient of BPM’s public service, Kim Ondreck Carim, CFO of the  San Francisco Ballet, said that the insight provided to their staff helped to move the ballet’s projects forward, and it was a “generous donation of time to help us tackle two critical projects prior to our year-end. I can’t express what a great feeling it is to have made such progress ...”
There’s also BPM Day: a day the entire staff of 400 spends cleaning, painting and otherwise improving the buildings and conditions of homeless shelters and other community organizations.
MacKenzie, a pioneer in starting a woman-owned company, founded her public relations, advertising, and communications company in San Francisco 26 years ago and she continues today as president and CEO.

Unlike BPM, MacKenzie has only 10 full-time employees. But like BPM, MacKenzie Communications shares a passion for doing the right thing for its clients and the San Francisco community. Their mantra, “Doing well by doing good,” expresses their core values of trust, authenticity, honesty, respect, and positive relationships. How they work with clients, how they make decisions, and their commitment to providing the highest quality of service is guided by one fundamental principle: It’s the right thing to do.
This philosophy of values has enabled this small, but impressive company to work with a wide range of local organizations, but MacKenzie Communications does far more for the San Francisco community than engage top-level clients. Pro bono work is a regular and important part of how they operate. Charlotte Burchard, executive director of Friends of the Children San Francisco, is effusive in her appreciation: “The MacKenzie Communications team provided strategic advice and practical services pro bono with sensitivity and respect for our mission at Friends of the Children. We are extremely grateful for their help in communicating our message to the community and to prospective funders.”
John Lipp, president and CEO of Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) put it this way: “As a growing nonprofit that is privately funded and doesn’t have the resources to hire a marketing staff, PAWS depends on the generosity of our community’s business sector. MacKenzie Communications is the perfect example of a local business that stepped up and played a critical role in the 30 percent growth we’ve experienced.”

Their joint venture
Mayer and MacKenzie joined forces because of their shared commitment to “do well by others.” MacKenzie sums it up this way: “Steve is a very close friend. That’s the foundation of our business relationship and our personal relationship. We’ve come together because of our shared values and our belief that what sustains a company is its responsibility to the community, its clients, and, of course, its employees. I believe that’s the underpinning of any successful company that sustains itself year after year.”
Mayer added, “At BPM, we’ve been doing the right thing since the beginning. We didn’t need to wait for the film An Inconvenient Truth to become a socially responsible business. We’ve been promoting green applications for ourselves and for our clients since our inception.”
After years of serving on the same boards, working together on community projects, and after BPM hired MacKenzie repeatedly for marketing and branding advice, Mayer approached MacKenzie and said, “Perhaps we need to team up. Let’s help other corporations learn how to monetize our ‘do it because it’s the right thing to do philosophy.’” And BPM|MacKenzie was born (see sidebar).

Committed to core values
When asked how to live company values, MacKenzie explained, “When you are small like we are, it’s more about the everyday interactions that define our commitment to what we believe in. If your organization is bigger, like a 400-person BPM, you can institutionalize programs in the way they have with their all-employee volunteer day or the Giant’s opening day fundraiser. Our commitment is more organic.”
MacKenzie believes in the importance of balancing work and personal life and enjoying each day. Expressing how important it is for her people to get out into the community and learn what’s going on, she said, “With a small company like ours, expensive training and development programs aren’t feasible. So it’s critical for our folks to get out and learn from meeting new people and experiencing the world around them.” Recently MacKenzie closed the office on a Friday afternoon and took her team to the Richard Avedon photographic exhibition at SFMOMA.
“Everyone came at the exhibit differently, and each person walked away with what they needed or wanted to kindle their individual creativity,” she reported. It sounded like a perfect way to combine creativity, learning, enjoyment, and balance, a few more of the values that drive MacKenzie Communications.

Kenneth Majer is a S.F.-based author, speaker and management consultant. His specialty is values-based leadership and building values-driven corporate cultures for his clients. His Web site is and you can e-mail him at

BPM | MacKenzie:
Corporate responsibility and sustainability

BPM | MacKenzie is a joint venture between two talented San Francisco companies that provides corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S) as a service offering to clients. CR&S has become a vital topic as organizations recognize the importance of managing all their assets – financial, human, environmental, and reputation in the community. How businesses consider the interests of society and the environment is becoming an essential part of strategic planning.

This focus on CR&S led BPM and MacKenzie to join and offer services that both measure and communicate the value and impact of an organization’s corporate responsibility agenda.

“We saw an opportunity to fill a need in the market,” says Steve Mayer, BPM’s managing partner. “In financial terms, studies show cost savings and growth in revenue when a company gets serious about corporate responsibility. They are able to recruit better talent, enjoy lower turnover, improve productivity, and earn the respect their clients.”

The BPM|MacKenzie mission is providing cost-effective services that help businesses perform more effectively. The joint venture blends BPM’s financial analysis services with MacKenzie Communications’ communications services. “BPM has always invested in our people and our communities,” Mayer says. “We find that our focus on CR&S is a true differentiator in attracting and retaining talent. Our employees care passionately about how the firm does business, and about the respect and care we have for people and the environment.”

MacKenzie adds, “Many of our clients have a sense of frustration. They are doing ‘good things’ in the community, investing in their people, making sound environmental decisions, yet they don’t have a plan for how to communicate and convey the value of their efforts. That’s where the nexus between our communications practice and BPM’s financial practice comes into play: if you can’t quantify it, you probably can’t communicate it most effectively. ”

Corporate responsibility is no longer discretionary; it’s a requirement to secure competitive advantage, foster innovation, manage risk, attract and retain high-quality employees, and secure the future success of a business. The time is right for CR&S.

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