SAN FRANCISCO – After he graduated college, Charles Sterck wasn’t planning on being hired by a prestigious financial firm, but when it happened, he didn’t take his good fortune for granted. “Fresh out of school, I started working for Forbes & Company, which is the largest CPA firm on the west coast,” he says. “It was an amazing organization to work for, but it was also a very competitive environment. Fortunately, I enjoyed the daily challenges I faced and was able to succeed through a lot of hard work and diligence.”
Charles made his way through several financial firms before eventually becoming partner at what is now Sterck Kulik O’Neill Accounting Group, Inc. After 20 years with the firm, he says his focus remains the same as when he first started: to help small- and medium-sized businesses thrive in a challenging economy. “There’s no question that my favorite part of what I do is working with local business owners to help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.”
Born in Hong Kong, Charles came to the United States as an infant and was raised in the Bay Area. Despite having traveled all over the world, he says there’s no place quite like his San Francisco home. “I’ve visited many places, including much of Europe and Asia, and while I appreciate the distinctive things those cultures have to offer, I still think San Francisco is the most special place in the world. Cultural diversity, great food, amazing people—we pretty much have it all.”
Outside of work, Charles devotes much of his time to his great passion: breeding canaries. “I breed 30 to 40 pairs of birds each year, and it’s something I’ve been doing off and on for the past three decades,” he says. “I have an outdoor aviary on my property that typically houses about 450 birds by the end of breeding season.” Additionally, Charles stays actively involved in his local community, serving as treasurer of the San Francisco Food Bank and volunteering as a facilitator for the AIDS Health Project.
Whether in regard to his personal interests or his professional career, Charles says success is all about process. “As a financial professional, I love process, from setting initial financial goals with my clients to helping them achieve those goals step by step. In a similar way, the work I do with my birds is also about process—I have to make sure certain things happen at certain times in order to keep them healthy, happy and physically able to get through the breeding season.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Charles says he’d play a little catch-up. “I have a ‘to do’ list that just keeps growing,” he laughs. “My everyday responsibilities seem to occupy much more time than seems reasonable, so if I was to retire tomorrow, I’d treat these loose ends as if it was my job to get them done.”