SAN JOSE – Russell Barnett started college as a music major, but eventually, he realized that his true talent was in arranging accounts rather than compositions. Perhaps the clearest sign of this was when he passed his qualifying exam to be an enrolled agent—a specialist in tax preparation for individuals, corporations, trusts or any entity required to report taxes. This test usually requires years of study and several attempts to pass, but Russell did so not only on his first try, but while he was still in school working toward his accounting degree. When he passed, he was astonished, but he also knew he was finally on the right career path. “Being an enrolled agent is just my calling,” he explains. “I’ve finally ended up where I’m supposed to be. I like my work, especially the people I get to meet and the opportunity to help my clients.”
After working for other firms for a couple of years, Russell decided to strike out on his own in 2007. He says being his own boss has allowed him a level of flexibility that has come in handy for balancing work and life. “Obviously, during the tax season the time commitments are intense, but the rest of the year I have a lot more discretion as to when I’m in the office or when I’m working from home, which allows me to spend time with my wife, Jolene, and our two kids.”
A California native, Russell has lived in the San Jose area since he was six years old and loves that all his family lives in the region, too. When asked what he likes most about the Bay Area, he points to the region’s vibrancy and embrace of technology, describing himself as a bit of a techie. Russell also appreciates that most residents care first and foremost about results. “If you can do the work, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like or what degree you have on the wall,” he says. “It’s just about the results.”
Outside of work, Russell’s life centers around activities with his young children, but he still makes time for music and enjoys playing the ukulele. When asked how he might spend his retirement, he says he hasn’t considered it much since it’s still decades away, but he imagines he’ll spend more time playing the ukulele, enjoying his family, volunteering and helping out around the house.
In his life and career, Russell acknowledges the importance of accountability. “The buck stops at my desk, for good or bad,” he affirms. “I’m accountable to each of my clients, which means making sure all their accounts are handled with accuracy and honesty. Overall, I think simply being true to your word is at the heart of treating people well, and that’s what I always try to do.”