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  • Writer's pictureSabatigo Disruption Guides

Paul Heiselmann Grows Business Success as a Passion. On Sabatigo, He Grows Yours

Updated: May 10, 2021

Sabatigo's Executive Team are all Disruptors. Nobody more so than Paul Heiselmann, who hasn't met a concept he can't brainstorm toward improvement. For our team, this means we all do our deep homework before Zooming with our VP for Strategy and Finance. It also means we take his counsel seriously. If Paul can be "force-of-nature" smart, what he is even more is a rare combination of kind, considerate and passionate. He has made an amazing career at the Big 4 and beyond leading top strategy, while mentoring more business leaders than a posse of MBA faculty. Along the way, he has fearlessly cultivated two keys to his success that Sabatigoers will celebrate when they Wonder-Walk with him on the streets of our cities: A razor-sharp mind for idea-scaling, and EQ for days.

Toward Tax Strategy in the Big 4

Paul grew up in a corner of Idaho where people know each other and each other's business. His family raised him to listen first and keep his playful smarts in check when respect was due. (It's accurate to say he learned some of this lesson.) Along the way, he also learned to make success for himself by pairing his mega-watt charisma with a detail-oriented follow-through, worthy of the global tax strategist he studied at the University of Idaho to become.

When the Big 4 called, Paul jumped. An exciting move to the SF Bay Area followed. At Coopers and Lybrand and then PWC, he absorbed a rarified culture of success, performing at the highest level along the journey and climbing to the rank of partner. But if tax accounting at PWC was where he hung his first hat, it didn't feed Paul's heavy need to engage with strategy and drive new ideas forward. Plus his sense of self had been battered by a decade of 80 hour work weeks and relentless travel for his career. As a parent and a highly intentional person, Paul knew he needed to regenerate his passions through time away from the firm or work. In describing this time in his life recently, Paul reflected:

Most of us can do those work weeks at first. And probably many of us can do them for a decade or more. But when you make partner and see that it literally won't ever end, you think as an accountant and as a human being: what is my time alive on this Earth worth? I ran my own numbers, and the ledger looked bad.

Building Back from Burnout

On a sabbatical that lasted over a year, Paul took the time he needed to do major soul-searching and build back from burnout. His plan was to re-emerge on the other side with a better vision of what work-life-balance could be. Northern California offered him the perfect setting to find tremendous growth away from the PWC environment:

I hiked Mt. Tam and the Berkeley Hills most days. And my guitar playing got better than ever. Yoga became like a church for me. And the hours each week I could reflect on who I was and where I wanted to go in my life became the hours I counted with huge pride. It was a watershed time for me. The sabbatical changed my life.

Innovation All Day

When Paul was ready to test his new commitment to balance and a compassionate experience with work, he went hard for innovation and tacked far away from the Big 4. First he took over the helm of The Idea Factory, and thrived in the hothouse environment of start-up incubation. Then he added still more entrepreneurship to his brief by assuming the Presidency of the Arlen Group. Along the way, he kept his commitment to working and living with better balance than the old days. The yoga and mindfulness continued.

After taking time to grow start-up energy into profitable businesses, Paul got a "lighting-in-the-bottle" chance to combine his business-development passion with his deep experience in global tax strategy. The stalwart firm BDO called, and he accepted their offer of senior partnership, That began a 17 year run that saw him lead complex tax-strategy teams globally, as his work helped to produce jaw-dropping growth for what had long been a prestigious but compact firm. Honored with appointment to BDO's Board of Directors in 2017, Paul served his three-year term on the board, retiring in 202o as BDO's much beloved National Managing Partner for Tax.

The Special Sauce of Mentorship: Enter Sabatigo

When Sabatigo first talked to Paul about joining our organization, we had deep roots together to call on. As Sabatigo CEO Doug Mackaman recounts:

I've known Paul for three decades. His infectious positivity about mentoring others toward compassion and respect is just flat-out who he is. He is also never sated when it comes to creativity and "getting it right." The fact that he had a pronounced mid-career pivot away from a burnout made him a person we knew we needed as a leader on our team. We are grateful for Paul every day.

Sabatigo's Wonder-Walks will showcase Paul's supple mind and infectious curiosity. In both Paris and Berlin, Paul will open up the amazing innovation ecosystem to our Sabatigoers, yes, and that will be powerful, But even more impactful will be the questioning and brainstorming Paul will bring to every conversation, coaching session and mentorship moment he has with our travelers. Finally, his personal example as someone who sustained an intense career at the highest level is also key for our travelers. Paul's personal success proves many things. But certainly it proves what mindfulness, regeneration and yoga can do,


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