James Hislop: An Exceptional Ambition

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN RAFAEL – While few teenagers expect their summer jobs to turn into lifelong careers, even fewer aspire to one day own the businesses for which they work. For James Hislop, however, it was just such an exceptional ambition that led him to where he is today. “I started working at Wesco Screen Company as a production assistant during the busy summer season,” he remembers. “As I learned the craft and became more involved with the business, I realized I could make a pretty good living if I was able to buy the company. It was an ambitious goal for a guy in my position, but after a decade of putting my nose to the grindstone, I was able to purchase Wesco in 2001.”

After 25 years with the company, James says his favorite part of the job continues to be interacting with customers. “I’ve always enjoyed getting to know people in the local community. When I started it was actually more appealing to me than the work itself, and it’s still the most inspiring aspect of running my business.”

Born and raised in Northern Vermont, James moved to the West Coast as a child and eventually settled in Marin, where he lives today with his girlfriend, Kim, and their two-year old son, Kai. As a Bay Area resident, James says he enjoys both the natural beauty and cultural diversity of the local setting. “You might say we live in paradise. Not only are we close to the mountains and ocean, we also have one of the major cultural centers of the world in San Francisco. A lot of wonderful people are drawn to this area, and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many of them.”

Outside of work, James enjoys spending time outdoors, whether up in the mountains or out on the water. “I’m a nature-oriented person, so I like to take advantage of everything the Bay Area has to offer in that regard,” he says. “You’ll often find me up in the Headlands or hiking on Mount Tam. I also like to take my sailboat out on the Bay to do some fishing when I get a chance.”

In his life and career, James espouses the importance of aligning one’s passion with one’s occupation. “If you’re looking for true happiness and contentment, the best advice I could give is to love your job,” he says. While this certainly applies to his current career, when asked what he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, James says he’d pursue a job he’s often dreamed of. “I’ve always wanted to be a freelance journalist so I could travel the world, meet people, write stories and take pictures. One of my interests is religious studies, so that would be a great opportunity to immerse myself in other cultures.”