Jim Buxton Brings International Flavor to Software Consulting Firm

Jim Buxton, president of the software consulting firm that bears his name, is a native of the Bay Area. In fact, he's a fourth generation Californian.

"I have forefathers buried at Nortonville and Somersville, which is on the backside of Mount Diablo," he explains. "They were miners."

Once the Buxtons find a place they like, it seems, they stay there. It makes it all the more ironic that the biggest influences on Buxton's career have come through international experiences.

The first turning point came in England, where his wife had received a grant to go study for a year in 1978.

"That's when I started contracting," he says. "It was the middle of a major recession and you couldn't get a job because their laws were so strict about laying people off - you owe them something like a year's severance pay - so they would only accept contractors."

It turned out to be a welcome change from his jobs prior to that time. A math major at UC Davis, he graduated in 1968 and went to work for Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco.

"I worked on what was called the PACE system, their cost accounting system," he says. "It was all mainframe stuff and I went straight into that."

He was there for six years and moved to Western States Bancard, the forerunner of today's MasterCard. Then came the England experience.

"You come in and there's a lot of adrenaline flowing because you've got to perform right away," he says. "They're bringing you in as a hired gun so they kind of set things up so you can succeed - 'here's where we are, here's where you need to get to, boom!' You really jump right in."

To add to the excitement, he worked for Cadbury/Schweppes.

"It was like working in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I would walk past thousands of creme eggs every day on the factory line and into this room and do all the coding in there."

After returning to the Bay Area, Buxton decided that he liked consulting enough that he wanted to continue. Thanks to a network of former co-workers and other contacts made through his previous full-time jobs, it was easy enough to get started.

"Everything was word of mouth- people that knew you from some other job. You'd just call around and see who needs some help," he explains.

His experience as an individual consultant also gave him the opportunity to learn important lessons about running a business, which would prove valuable later.

"You have to identify the key people, the best people, and try to make them happy," he says. "I was around a couple of companies that got into a downward spiral, that just kept losing key people. They basically treated people as though they were plug compatible - 'Oh, if that one leaves we'll bring in another.' A lot of knowledge walks out the door and after a while you've lost so much that you can't respond to your clients anymore."

Buxton's experience led him to found Buxton Consulting in 1993, working with racket ball partner Chandra Reddy, then a senior Oracle DBA.

That's when Buxton's life began to take its second international turn. Reddy wanted to bring his cousin to the United States from India and needed to find him a job. Buxton agreed to do so, it worked out well for all concerned, and the roots of the new business were formed.

"We bring a lot of people over from India and some from the Philippines," explains Buxton. "We're happy to hire American workers and we do, but it's so hard to find good candidates and keep them.

"In India, you can find people from top-notch universities. Over the past five years, the talent pool has just been incredible - really, really bright people have come over."

Buxton feels that bringing employees from India to the U.S. benefits both countries.

"I think we're bringing over a lot of brain power and it helps our country," he explains. "These people, most of them, will stay here, settle, have families, and just become part of the melting pot with their incredibly long list of talents. Some of them go back and that helps India, too."

Regardless of where they come from, it's clear that Buxton is doing something right. The company has doubled in revenues and employee count each of the last three years.

"We've got about 100 people, 60 employees and 40 subcontractors. We have another office in Minneapolis and one in Phoenix, where we've hired some people that we've worked with before that are really talented."

Buxton Consulting also owns 51 percent of a subsidiary corporation in India where another 20 people are employed.

"It's both a training facility and a technology center where we can ship work, so we get revenues from training people and from actually getting some work done there," he explains.

It also operates in the same manner as a minor league baseball club- those with talent and desire can prove themselves there before getting called up to the big leagues.

"That's exactly one of the reasons we wanted to start it, so we could get a consistent pool of talent coming through."

The growth of the company means that Buxton plays mainly an administrative role now.

"I really am more of an orchestra conductor at this point. I try to get everybody moving in the same direction. But rather than working by yourself and trying to work your way through this giant amount of work, if you can coordinate 30 people to do it, it's amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of time. That's rewarding."

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