Don’t Be Afraid to… Take the Initiative
TURNING TO ONE ANOTHER by Margaret Wheatley
There is no power greater than a community discovering
what it cares about.
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness. Stay together.
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Bill is a Consultant & Traveler
Bill Penczak, CEO of MICA Ventures, returns to the podcast to talk about his most recent trips, starting his own consulting firm right before the pandemic began, the status of the accounting professional world, and much more!
• Recent trips
• How the pandemic affected his value of relationships
• Starting his firm in March 2020
• A shift of focus towards making connections
• You do a disservice to everyone if you do not bring your authentic self
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It’s Christmas Day! We’ve finally made it to the end of 2020 so I wanted to take a moment to recap what a year it’s been on the show. We’ve had so many great guests sharing their “And”–from rollerblading to NASCAR to ju-jitsu and even two volunteer firefighters!
Thank you for subscribing to this podcast to hear about the “And” of other professionals and how that applies to their work. If you or someone you know has an “And”–that hobby or passion or interest outside of work–please reach out because I’d love to share this with everyone listening.
There will be a slight change in format going forward with a little more of me sharing what I’ve learned from the research sprinkled with some more follow-ups about how the book has impacted workplace cultures.
Speaking of the book, What’s Your “And”?, the audio version will be coming in the first half of 2021! The exact date is pending–just like everything else in the world. If you prefer the paperback or e-reader version, the links are at WhatsYourAnd.com. And if you have the book, please take a minute to leave a few sentences as an Amazon review.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
• Happy Holidays message from John
• John shares some exciting updates about the book and podcast
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Welcome to Episode 344 of What’s Your “And”? Normally, the follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett and I wanted to just take a week off to say Happy Holidays! We made it. Hanukkah has happened. Christmas is today. New Year’s is next week. Thank goodness we made it. What a fun year on the show. We had such great guests this past year with “ands” like rollerblading, NASCAR, playing indoor soccer, jujitsu, volunteering, even two volunteer firefighters like, what?
So if you’re listening and you would like to share your “and” with everyone, don’t hesitate to reach out to me yet, whatsyourand.com. I’d love to have you on as a guest and share your story. Maybe it’s someone you know like an attorney, an engineer, an accountant, a banker or any other white collar nerd like me. The more we share these “ands”, the more normal it becomes and then we can shatter that stereotype of what it takes to be a successful professional because these dimensions to our lives that are outside of work, these “ands”, these hobbies, passions, interests and then other things like family, friends, faith, these dimensions are so crucial for our lives. I think that we’ve all realized that in the past nine to ten months of COVID. Before, it was important, but we didn’t always see it. But wow, did it come out and our “ands” are needed now more than ever.
I remember seeing when the pandemic started, someone had a meme on social media that said, “Apparently, my hobby is going to restaurants and bars” because they were all closed and now, they had nothing to do. Having those “ands” is really, really important so you don’t get sucked into all work and then burn out. Especially when you’re working from home, it’s hard to leave the work behind. It’s always there depending on how your house is set up or your apartment is set up. That computer is always there looking at you and you’re going to burn out. So you really, really need those “ands” not only to create those connections with coworkers and clients, but also just for yourself, just for that mental wellness piece of it.
Also, too, we found that if you build your culture from the outside in, in other words, that culture core that I talk about in the book, “What’s Your And?” that culture core is so important that the core of your organization’s culture is your people’s “ands”, those outside of work hobbies, passions, and interests. So shining a light on those and celebrating those and getting to know what those are is so, so important especially because we’ve been in each other’s homes now. On these video calls, you’ve had coworkers in your house and see you at 8:00 a.m. where you maybe haven’t showered and you’re wearing a sweatshirt, your kids are into homeschooling, and the dog is barking because you have a delivery being dropped off on your porch. It’s just chaos and you can’t put on this facade anymore of, “Look, I’ve got everything together. I’m an uber professional person and super slick and everything’s together.” It’s not. We’re all human. We’ve seen each other be human. So now that that’s out, please don’t let that go. Don’t let that leave. When you see somebody next time, “Hey, how’s your dog that we saw on the chat?” or your cat or whatever pet. What about the art hanging on their walls or the pictures? Things that you saw in their home just creates those genuine connections between each other that are so, so important.
For the podcast, some exciting news. The format is going to change just a little bit going forward. We’ll always be doing the Wednesday interviews in sharing people’s “ands”, but people seem to want a little more of me, I guess. So what I’ve learned from my research as well as some of the follow-ups that we’ve been doing, just to hear how the book has impacted workplace cultures because it’s really making a difference out there and it’s cool to see and hear about, and I’m the one hearing about it, so it’s only right that I share it with you guys as well.
If you don’t have the book yet, it’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. Just in case you’re interested in buying 25 or more maybe for your clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com so you can get discounted pricing from my publisher. It’s the least I can do to hook you up with that. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. They’re so, so important just to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds and Amazon to keep liking it. Thank you so much for those.
Many of you have asked about the audio book version especially since you’re used to hearing me talk on here, so your wish has been granted. The audio book will be coming in the first half of 2021. I wish I had an exact date to share with you right now. It’s pending just like everything else is in the world, right?
The only thing not pending though is the end of 2020. Wow, what a hard year for everyone, each of us in a different way. We’re not all in this together necessarily. I don’t like that phrase, but we’re all in it because some of us had to work more than ever before. On the other hand, some of us were furloughed or laid off. Some of us had businesses just completely decimated. I’ll tell you what. Being a keynote speaker, I was on the front end of that. Maybe it’s your clients. Maybe it’s your friends. Maybe it’s your neighbors. It’s just really, really a hard year for all of us in a different way. I just hope that we could all agree that we don’t have to hear the word “pivot” ever again. Let’s just hope that that was the last time you hear it especially for the next year. Please, can we all just agree on that one thing, just pretty please, maybe just for me?
But Happy New Year! It’s just a week away and I just look forward to 2021, continuing to share this message, hearing how the book and the message is impacting you and making a difference where you work, and then sharing people’s stories. Again, if it’s you or someone you know that has a hobby or a passion, and it can be anything, let’s talk about it and share it and just shatter that stereotype. So if you haven’t already, please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing those interesting stories each and every week. Now, a little more of my thoughts will be added and how this message applies to you and your workplaces.
Thanks again for sharing this podcast with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Chris is an Investigative Accountant & Podcaster
Chris Ekimoff returns to the podcast from episode #83 to talk about his new hobbies with running and starting his new podcast, inSecurities. He also talks about what he does around the workplace as a director to encourage an open workplace!
• Moving away from competitive swimming
• Taking up running marathons
• Starting his podcast
• Typical first-time interactions with clients and co-workers
• How Chris sets an example at the office for an open workplace
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Welcome to Episode 292 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in September, yes, this September, and will be available on Amazon, Indigo and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know when it comes out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Chris Ekimoff. He’s a director with RSM and the Southeast Region Leader for Financial Investigations and Dispute Services and on the side, he’s the co-host of inSECURITIES podcast with the Practicing Law Institute, and now he’s with me here today. Chris, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Chris: Glad to be here, John. So great to chat with you again.
John: Of course, man. You’re a busy, busy dude. That’s why I appreciate squeezing into the schedule. You know the drill, rapid fire questions. These are ones I probably should have asked you a couple of years ago on Episode 83. My God, bless you, man. That was long ago.
Chris: Yeah, we’re dating ourselves. Everybody knows that we’re the old guys on the podcast right now.
John: Exactly. It’s one of those things. I’ve been doing this for X — that means you’re old.
Chris: That’s right.
John: That’s what that means. I am ancient. All right, here we go. First one, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Chris: Game of Thrones definitely.
John: Okay, okay. How about a favorite cereal even when you were a kid?
Chris: Captain Crunch will be well-known, but we had this baseball slam bootleg cereal that everything was shaped like baseball bats and baseballs. I don’t know if that was something that you got from the corner store or — I’d have to do some research, and if that was a real cereal, but made me fall in love with baseball as a kid too.
John: Yeah. That’s incredible, man. How about brownie or ice cream? Ice cream, okay. How about a favorite Disney character?
Chris: Aladdin has always been my number one, the music, the atmosphere. I’m also a big fan of vests, so I think that’s a good — it’s the reason I lean towards Aladdin.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, cats or dogs.
Chris: 100% dog.
John: There you go. Yeah, me too, me too. Two more. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Chris: I usually go for a Hoppy IPA, but from a cocktail perspective, I usually lean more on an old-fashion, something bourbon-based.
John: Oh, okay.
Chris: I like to mix it up. I used to love to go to bars. Now we’re in this quarantine area where it’s just — whatever is in the fridge maybe is the best answer for you, John, in terms of adult beverage now.
John: The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Chris: Over. That’s a deal-breaker.
John: That is a deal-breaker.
Chris: You got it. No, that’s great.
John: I had somebody on once say, “If it wasn’t over then this conversation is over.”
Chris: I agree with that person, 100%.
John: That’s awesome. So, yeah, Episode 83, we talked swimming back from your college days.
Chris: That’s right.
John: I love that example of when you started at a huge Big Four firm and the Olympics was just happening where everyone was breaking all the records. All of a sudden, everyone knew you were the swimming guy, so they were talking to you about that. I thought that was really cool.
Chris: Yeah. That suit technology part of the interesting window in the swimming history world is there were two or three years where times are dropping like crazy because people were wearing basically wet suits that helped them float. I was the only guy in the office who had at least a little bit of understanding of why that was happening.
When it’s being covered on Good Morning America, in the Nightly News, everyone wants to talk about it at the water cooler the next day, so I was more popular than I should have been but thankfully for a good reason, to stand out with some of my peers as well, so it was excellent.
John: No, no, l think it’s cool. So is swimming still a passion of yours or has it transitioned to something else?
Chris: Yes. Again, quarantine limiting, pools aren’t really open to go do some laps. I’ve actually moved away from competitive swimming as an adult and jumped into the running bug. I’ve done a handful of marathons in the past ten or 12 years.
John: Oh, wow.
Chris: I always try to stay current. I’ve got a couple of friends who do Masters swimming, so I’m checking in on their times to maybe let them know they’re not as fast as they used to be. A bunch of my college friends and I got together last weekend at a lake up in Kennedy and we swam the lake together, much slower than we did back in college but always laughing and looking back at those elements too. So, not spending as much time in the pool anymore but still definitely a passion of mine.
John: It’s still part of your life.
Chris: Yeah, definitely.
John: And what have you. I think that’s fantastic, and marathons, those are not easy.
Chris: That’s what I tell people, especially with the swimming discussion, is I used to spend two hours at practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. Now I get to run for an hour and see all these things and breathe whenever I want to and maybe slow down and walk instead of having to do a flip turn and turn around. It transitioned well, but definitely different medium.
John: That is funny. Yeah, I never even thought about that. Yeah, I guess you’re not really looking at anything.
Chris: I tell people, you play soccer. You play football. You don’t play swimming. It’s not a game. It’s not fun. Just back and forth, over and over again.
John: You’re exactly right. You don’t play.
Chris: You don’t play running. You run. You just swim. All that happens.
John: Yeah. I also don’t run because there’s no play involved. There’s no joy in this. That’s awesome, man. Why do you hate yourself so much? What’s going on? Just teasing, man.
Chris: It balances out the adult beverages on the other side. If I go for a good run, then that old-fashioned is a little bit sweeter at the end of the day.
John: That’s very true. That’s very true. The podcast, which is great by the way, how did you get into that?
Chris: It’s one of those weird stories. My co-host, Kurt Wolfe is an attorney at the law firm, Troutman Sanders, and I had actually met each other by tweeting at a Securities Enforcement Conference using the conference hash tag, four or five years ago.
At the networking event after the conference, I was talking to some of my colleagues. They were like, “Hey, Chris, saw you on Twitter. Ha-ha, you loser.” Kurt was on the other end of the table, and he’s like, “Hey, yeah, we were tweeting each other back and forth.” The partner that Kurt worked for and the partner that I worked for looked at each other, oh, maybe that was a valuable use of their attention and time today. It’s always about collecting business cards.
So, Kurt and I have had, for the past couple of years, this relationship where we’re discussing securities, law and regulatory enforcement issues over Twitter, sharing articles with each other and giving each other a good ribbing and speaking with the Practicing Law Institute which is a global provider of continuing legal education services, who had asked if we’d be interested in doing that as a podcast. Instead of just bantering on Twitter, why not get you two guys in front of a microphone and talk through some of the issues you’re already sharing in the social media world.
I’m amazed and, John, I know you’ll feel the same way, we had that initial conversation in the fall of 2018 and then our first episode didn’t launch until January of this year. The amount of practice and planning and effort that goes into it was a huge lift, and it’s really become not only a hobby, but a complement to some of the professional stuff that Kurt and I do as well. It’s been a heck of a lot of work but a heck of a good time too, when you get to speak with interesting folks on topics that touch all of our lives from a professional perspective.
John: It’s a lot of work to do a podcast well. It’s the same as writing a book. You could just slap some words together and hit print on Amazon, CreateSpace or whatever and there you go, you’ve got a book, put your picture on the cover, but there are typos. It’s not good. It’s not well thought out. Same with a podcast. So, kudos to you. At some point you do have to just jump. Hey, it’s go time. Here we go.
Chris: I listen to a lot of podcast out there too, and hearing some of the well-known and storied folks like yourself. Going back and listening to the first five or six episodes that I ever did and just cringing at how little we all knew of what we were doing and how it went. I’m hopeful someday that I’ll look back and say, yeah, we were at stage one, and now we’re at stage two or three, and it’s going much better.
John: Yeah, because it is hard. It’s the same with any creative outlet. You never see Steven Spielberg’s student film. You only see the masterpieces and the Picassos and the whatevers. It’s hard to just get out there and do it.
Chris: Or hacking the system too. Kurt and I are — there’s a full production team at PLI that is supporting us. We’re sourcing the content. We’re talking about these issues. We’re following the news. We’re getting the gas, but we’re just hitting record, talking for 90 minutes and then signing it over. Our guys are editing and reviewing that from a content perspective, as well as a sound quality and improvement perspective. So I’m thankful to the guys at PLI every day for taking the conversations that we have that are kind of muffled and getting them into a little bit brighter and more interesting medium there.
John: Yeah, yeah. So cool. It’s so cool. Just to hear, it’s swimming, you’re running marathons, it’s doing the podcasts, so many different dimensions to you which is awesome. When you think about it, you’re not just the forensics accounting.
Chris: Yeah, and, John, that’s something that I’ve always loved about the work that you do, is I always laugh when I first went to college and I said, “I want to get into accounting.” My parents we’re like, “What? Chris, we can’t keep you sitting still. How are you going to count beans all day?”
John: That’s right.
Chris: Think, over however many, 200-plus episodes that you’ve done, every single one of those episodes shows that it’s not just making sure the Excel spreadsheet is formatted right. We’ve all got these sides to us that make for a very interesting profession and takes away from the suspenders and the green visor and moves us to a more dynamic spot. It’s a testament to you, John, all the work that you’ve done, as well as any folks who gravitate to this type of work, both from the technical side as well as from the personality side.
John: I really appreciate that, man. That means a lot. I mean they’re out there. It’s not like I created this. All I did was give permission and let’s kick the door in. Because in my research, 92% of us has a hobby or passion outside of work that we do regularly. That’s not even close to 50 — how is the stereotype, this narrative, sits in the corner all the time and does work and goes home to do more work. That’s not who we are. It’s not even close. Yet we’re all acting that way. It was just enough is enough type of a thing.
Chris: Kicking in the doors is a good way to say it. Really changing that paradigm is great.
John: A little bit. Do you feel like people are sharing hobbies and passions more now? Maybe social media is helping with that?
Chris: When I first interact with either a staff person new to the team or we’re doing recruiting or interact with an attorney team that we’re doing work with and getting past that professional phase, first question is like, what do you do when you’re not here? How do I build a mental heuristic about John or about Steve or about Stacey, based on what they do?
It’s, I’m a runner, or I’m a piano player, or I do a pop-up restaurant. I like to cook and help support my sister’s catering business. All of those things is just, they layer into a better conversation you can have with the people you’re talking with. Yeah, listen, we’ll get to the billable hours. We’ll do the legal research. We’ll do the damages model. It sounds bad. I care less about that than hearing more about what you’re making tonight for dinner because that’s —
Chris: — that’s interesting to me. Maybe it’s because we’re taping this around lunchtime, but that’s where my focus is right now.
John: No, you’re exactly right. There are follow-up questions to that side. There are really not many follow-up questions to the what do you do for a day job? Oh, okay, got it, whatever.
Chris: I went to an American Bar Association Conference in Atlanta last year for white collar litigators. Hey, I’m Chris. I’m with RSM. I do forensics accounting and work on legal cases and testify and all that. What type of law do you practice? They say, “White collar.” I’m like, guys, we’ve moved beyond the general. Talk to me about the caseload you have. Talk to me about who you’re interacting with. Is it financial services? Is it — all those kinds of things. After two or three conversations, it was like, yeah, we should stop saying white collar. I was like, yes, let’s get to that next level of detail. Same side of that, on the personal side is let’s move past the regular assumptions and talk to me about what really matters to you.
John: Absolutely. That’s what I love about what you’re doing and that mentality. That’s fantastic. Hopefully, one day, you could just go to a conference and say to people, “What’s your ‘And’”? Then they’ll just say swimming or running or food trucks or whatever. Awesome. Because that’s where we can now have a conversation. The other ones are dead ends after dead ends after dead ends.
Is there something that you do to set an example? Now you’re at a director level, it’s the flip of that story when you started at Big Four. You’re the guy that sees people, and it’s cool that they know you as Chris and not the director. Is there something that you do that maybe people listening can put in their back pocket?
Chris: Yeah. I think now is a great time to stop being the utilization czar or the chargeable time reviewer and start to be a little bit more human, obviously for everything going on in the world. I laugh — I work closely with five or six people on the East Coast with our practice and got a message from one of my colleague, saying, “Hey, just so you know, I want to take a couple of hours on Monday afternoon because it’s the first time the hair salon I go to has been opened in three months, and the next appointment they have is in August.” I said, “Honestly, I’m a little bit upset that you would ask because I completely understand.” Just, if you get your work done on time and you’re not missing anything substantial, walking up the street to get your hair done isn’t an issue for somebody who has been locked in their apartment in New York City for three months.
It’s those kinds of extensions where, when I interact with people on my team or with people on the client service side, external RSM, it’s, how is your weekend? It’s not really just, hey, how was your weekend? This is the first phrase I’m going to say to you before I then talk about work. It’s, “Yeah, I remember you said your dog was at the vet last week. How is your dog doing?” Or you went up to visit your grandmother in New Hampshire. What’s the weather like up there? Just building out a more full picture of who you’re dealing with and doing it from a sincere level. I don’t have an agenda to understand what the weather is in New Hampshire. It’s just I get a better understanding of the person I’m talking to and being able to connect those dots.
It’s about opening up and, like I said, now more than ever, I think it’s important to understand the situations people are dealing with, outside of, if the analysis is QC’d appropriately or if the report is properly formatted. It’s more of, how are you doing? What’s going on outside of your office or outside of the home office, I guess, now for a lot of us. To know what’s really coloring people’s day and how they’re feeling and being conscious of that is a good way to check in with the people you work with, to take a pause, take a breath. We’re all trying to get through this together, specifically, but also just to be a good co-worker, colleague and human is really to look at those other points for those folks as well.
John: Yeah. I love that. It’s asking specific questions that show that you paid attention to the last conversation, and you remembered, and you care about them genuinely.
John: That’s such a great takeaway, Chris. That’s so awesome.
Chris: It’s how you build friendships. It’s not just colleagues. Maybe I never get hired by that firm again or that case goes away. I’ll always remember that Brian is the guy who loves National Bohemian Beer from Baltimore because that’s where his wife’s family is from. The next time I have one, I send him a text with a photo of it. We all laugh about it and have a good memory and a good chuckle with it.
John: Or he just really loves the letter B.
Chris: That’s right. Brian in Baltimore with Natty Boh, that’s right.
John: Right? That’s a lot. Yeah. This has been great, Chris. Before I wrap it up, sometimes people like to rapid fire question me. So I can hand the podcast over to you. You’re now the host if you want to fire away. You’re used to being in the host chair, give it back at the end but, yeah, anything you’ve got for me?
Chris: All right, I’m going to hit you with three of them.
Chris: East Coast or West Coast.
John: Oh, East Coast.
Chris: 100%. You’re a high energy type guy. I don’t see you surfing out.
John: I mean I will go surfing, but just cut to the chase. Tell me you like me or you don’t. Just I don’t need to guess. When I was doing comedy, we’ll get back to you tomorrow. Three months later, you’re still following up. It’s like, get out of here.
Chris: That’s good. All right, number two, a piece of advice you got early in your career that you think has helped develop who you are today.
John: Oh, okay. I started at PwC and they had a phrase. It was — and I made fun of it, to be honest, because it rhymed, but I remember it so I guess it worked. If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. I thought that that was a good phrase because you can’t rely on outside forces to determine what you actually want to go get. Go get it. Go do it. It’s also, no one else can do it for you.
I wrote my book. Sure, I had several editors and people that helped me and coached me along the way, but I wrote every word. You can’t just tell someone, “Go write a book for me,” and then write. You have to go do the work. I think that applies to all professions. You have to do it. You can’t just sit there and complain. Why don’t you just turn that energy around and put it towards what you actually want to have happen as the outcome.
Chris: I’m with you, and definitely good tenet. I hadn’t rhymed it before but I’m going to take that with me. Finally, John, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now and money and all that was not an issue, what would you be doing all day?
John: I would be on a Tesla rocket to the outer space. I don’t know. I always wanted to do that when I was a kid.
Chris: That’s awesome, kind of space game writ large for you. That’s awesome.
John: I don’t know. Maybe it was the space ice cream I got at the Air and Space Museum in DC but I just always love that stuff.
Chris: That’s awesome. I don’t know. I just thought of that.
John: It will be cool. I don’t know if I want to do all the training that’s involved.
Chris: I hear it’s not just like in an Uber. You don’t take Uber to the moon. It’s a little bit more involved with that.
John: I’m probably going to throw up, but I made it. That’s great, Chris. Well thank so much you for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was fun.
Chris: Always a pleasure, sir.
John: Awesome. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Chris in action or get a link to his podcast or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
David is a CEO & Attorney & Cyclist
John visits David Kendall, Founder and CEO of Bold Legal, at his office in Denver, Colorado to talk about how his passion for cyclocross and his career as an attorney both involve leadership skills, taking risks, and how both satisfy his desire to pushing limits!
• Cycling with future pro cyclists
• Discovering cyclocross
• Importance of being a part of a team
• Handling high pressure situations
• Pushing the limit
• Talking about cycling in the office
• Nobody remembers an accountant or lawyer
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Welcome to Episode 281 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and the changing the cultures where they work because of it, and the book will definitely help spread this message.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, David Kendall. He’s the founder, CEO, and an attorney at Bold Legal in Denver, Colorado. Now, I’m with him in his office. David, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
David: I’m glad to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this and I think we rescheduled about ten times already. At last we’re here.
John: I know where you work, so I just outside in the lobby and finally, you let me up. No, I’m excited to have you be a part of it for sure, but you know the drill, 17 rapid fire questions out of the gate.
David: All right.
John: We’ve hung out many times, and I’ve never asked you any of these. I’m interested. Favorite color.
David: Duke blue.
John: Duke blue, okay. How about a least favorite color?
David: Carolina blue.
John: Interesting, two blues, okay. How about more chocolate or vanilla?
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
David: Harrison Ford.
John: Oh, that’s a solid answer. I get that actually several times. Yeah, that’s a good answer. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
David: Night owl.
John: Night owl, all right. More pens or pencils?
David: Neither. Paperless. No writing utensils.
John: Oh, look at you, man, typing. Okay. I like that. All right. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
David: Can I go with neither again? I like the 500 to 1000 puzzles.
John: Oh, jigsaw puzzles, okay.
David: Yeah. That’s more my roll.
John: All right. I like it. This is a good one. Criminal or civil law?
David: I’m going to go with civil.
John: Civil? Yeah. Just less dirty. How about your computer? More of a PC or a Mac?
David: PC computer, Mac phone, so I’m an Apple phone guy.
John: Yeah, yeah. All right. On your computer, more right-click or left-click on the mouse?
David: I’m going to say I’m a left clicker.
John: Left-click, making decisions. That’s where you pick. How about a favorite band or musician? Or more than one, rattle it off.
David: Okay. The first favorite was Billy Joel when I was a kid. I’m a Long Island boy, without saying the G. Then nowadays, my latest find, Streetlight Manifesto. It’s a ska band.
John: Look at that, yeah. I was a trombone player in college. Yeah, I’m the only one who knows what ska is.
David: As a trumpet player in college, right back at you.
John: There you go.
David: I was once wanted to be the trumpet player for Chicago because it was the only rock band that had a trumpet as far as I could figure out. Like many other dreams, that one didn’t work out either.
John: Right, okay. That’s awesome. How about a suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
David: Suit and tie.
John: Okay, yeah. I like it. How about a least favorite vegetable?
David: Cauliflower, easy.
John: Solid answer, and now they’re trying to make it into rice, like get out. And nuggets? Like what? That’s crazy. How about this? TV show. Suits or Law and Order?
David: Law and Order.
John: Okay. All right. Old school. How about a favorite adult beverage?
John: Wine, yeah. Is there a kind?
David: For me, it’s one glass of white, one glass or red.
John: It sounds like a Billy Joel song.
David: It is. It really is.
John: Then it’s Rosé, why not? How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
David: It’s the number that I wore playing soccer as a kid.
John: Okay, all right. No, that’s a great answer. The last one. Favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
David: Probably my bicycle.
John: What kind of bike is it, to be fair?
David: Whichever bicycle I happen to be on at the moment. I don’t know if you know. I lived in Boulder, and so one of the things that is kind of a thing in Boulder, is there’s a formula in Boulder for how many bicycles you need.
John: You need? Not want.
David: And the number is x+1 with x being the number that you currently have.
John: Okay. You’re always one short. I need another one. Need is such a strong word. That’s awesome. That’s fantastic, man. Very cool. That dovetails perfectly into your passion of cycling. How did you get into this?
David: It was mostly due to slave labor. I grew up and worked in a family business, and that family business, strangely, we had a retail bike shop and a retail furniture store. Bizarre combination, but it worked.
Given that my family owned a local bike shop, if there was a local bike race, clearly, it was critically important for the first person to cross the line to be somebody wearing the right outfit.
John: Fir the picture that gets in the newspaper.
David: Country Time Cycles needed to be, because clearly, if you were looking where do you buy your next bike, if the faster ones seem to be coming from Country Time Cycles, clearly, that’s where you go.
John: Which is really that simple, because that’s how people think even though it may or may not be correct all the time.
David: Exactly. I started racing because our business would host races. Then we would put on local races to get people excited about riding bikes. Nobody spends money on bikes better than bicycle racers, and particularly aging bicycle racers because at some point, if you’re a bike racer, you find out that you can’t get faster and the only way to keep up is to buy more speed. That means buy a lighter bike, buy faster wheels, buy faster everything because your legs aren’t getting faster after 40.
John: Right, yeah. That’s interesting. So you would be in these races?
David: Yeah. This started when I was roughly aged nine and ten. There being a whole group of races, starting with the juniors, and the technical title back then for the category of under 11 was midgets. I think that became non-PC, and so it’s probably just called under 11 now.
But it was what it was. There would be the kids races all the way up to — and I remember that there was a guy in his 70s that would constantly win these 60 plus race and put the six-year-olds to shame clearly by getting woofed by a 70-year-old. That’s how I grew up in the cycling world is everyone from kids to folks on social security out there racing their bikes.
John: Wow. That’s fantastic. You would do this several times over the summer or –?
David: Yeah. It was mostly of the summer, and so it coincided with the non-school sports in my world. So when I was in middle school during the school season, it was soccer and then into basketball or baseball in the spring or track. It was mostly my summertime pursuit was racing bikes.
John: And that keeps you in shape, for sure, especially for soccer and track.
David: Yeah. It’s funny. One of the things that my dad steered me or indoctrinated me, I’m not sure which it was but he convinced me back in the day that perhaps, instead of continuing along my first dream to be the short stop for the New York Yankees, he steered me towards running track in the spring and giving up baseball because it would help me in soccer and in cycling. I think it turned out probably for the best because this Derek Jeter guy —
John: Yeah, some guy named Jeter came along.
David: Probably would’ve made life difficult for me.
John: You never know. I mean you never know.
David: Who’s to say?
John: I mean I’d like to see him on a bike. I mean let’s see.
John: You’re the Bo Jackson out here. Then you grow up and you do it through middle school, high school, and then did you continue doing it in college?
David: Yeah. So essentially, I hit the pinnacle of my career as a bike racer, as a bike mechanic, as a furniture delivery boy, and I retired and I went to college. I tell a lot of folks that along Long Island, back on those days, there was a guy that I would race against on occasion and his brother, his name was George Hincapie. He was a couple years younger than me and his older brother was older than me, George wound up racing in the Tour de France and was riding with Lance Armstrong, all seven times that he won or didn’t won depending on your view. Finish line first.
As I tell everyone, George and I each made the right decision. I went to college and then to law school, and he became a pro. I think it worked the best for both of us.
John: Right, yeah. It’s also interesting too because when you grow up with that, and you’re like, well, I can’t beat the kid two years younger than me, I should never do it, little did you know who he would become.
David: My claim to fame is that I could beat him.
John: Oh, there you go.
David: But then again, I was 13 and he was 11. That’s kind of like beating up on your little brother if you’re nine and they’re seven.
John: Which is always okay, but you know, as the older brother like you know, it’s always —
John: But that is cool, and just looking back on those races and how much fun you had and close races, I’m sure.
David: Oh, yeah. It’s funny. There was one kid who grew up in Jersey and there’s only one place in Long Island can look down on, and that’s New Jersey.
John: That’s very accurate.
David: But back in the day, there was a guy named Jonas Carney. He was a year younger than me. I couldn’t beat the kid. I could not beat him no matter what. And then 20 years later, I find out that Jonas went on to race and is now, to this day, a sports director for a US-based cycling team, and so he kept with it. So guys that I used to race against and kid around with, they kept with it. They kept following their dreams and made careers in their passion of cycling which is super hard to do.
Then my lovely wife, Kathleen, when people ask about my bike racing, she is often the one to remind them that like they see in the NCAA commercials, David went pro in something else.
John: Right, yeah. But I mean that’s so good though. But you didn’t give it up totally. Because clearly, it’s back.
David: The randomness of the universe, I kept playing soccer and it was just harder when I moved to New York to do a lot of cycling when I was in New York, so I started my legal career in New York City, being a Wall Street corporate lawyer type.
John: Yeah, you’re going to die on a bike in New York City. It’s crazy.
David: Yeah. You look around and you see these bike messengers and it looks cool in the movies, no, it is crazy. It’s a death wish.
John: It really is.
David: For me, it seemed a little bit safer to just run in Central Park late at night even.
John: Okay. Maybe not that part.
David: But yeah, so for me, I like to say I’ve went into kind of a hiatus for two decades, and then I tore an ACL playing soccer and my physical therapist happened to be a cyclo-cross racer and said, well, you used to race as a kid? Well, our new rehab goal is clearly to get you back into shape, to go ahead and race with me on my cyclo-cross team.
For those that don’t know what cyclo-cross is, it’s sort of like the X Games of cycling where for kicks, the pros in Europe used to in the off-season decide, well, we’re kind of bored just riding on the roads and the weather kind of sucks, so let’s just go ahead and ride on trails off-road and through parks, and then put things in our way.
So we have to jump off our bikes, put our bike on our shoulder and run up a flight of stairs or and they would do this to work on their keep-fit, work on their bike handling, so before mountain bikes existed, these guys were putting knobby tires on regular — you know, what we used to call 10-speed bikes, which there’s no such thing anymore. They just look that way. They now have like 22-speeds.
John: Oh, gosh!
David: Yeah. But anyway, that was the genesis of this kind of riding and people had said to me, so you have a perfectly good bike and you jump off it, and throw it on your shoulder and run for a little while. That seems silly, but then again, probably people said the same thing about Mogul ski racing.
John: Yeah. Why would you go where all the bumps are? You just go on the smooth car.
David: It’s faster over there. I did, I went out, finished my rehab, showed up for the first race of the season, and had never done it before. Well, this whole thing of clipping into your pedals, clipping out, and then jumping off your bike as speed, so I finished muddy, bloody, but happy.
I came back the next week. Essentially, since then, I’ve been racing probably from April through the cyclo-cross season is in the fall, up until kind of Thanksgiving, probably racing at least once every other weekend, if not more.
John: That’s awesome. These races are — I mean I guess in Colorado, they probably have them every half mile.
David: Well, then, that’s the thing. Certainly, because there are so many cyclists and there are so many opportunities, admittedly, my home’s in Boulder, so I admittedly have become a rather Boulder-centric bike racer. I don’t think there’s any need to drive longer than I’ll race.
John: That’s a good parameter.
David: If you have a luxury of there being so many races nearby all the time, it’s almost as easy as going hiking. There’s always an opportunity. Most of the guys that I raced against and guys who do a lot of cycling, they’re like, you’re doing another race again? Do you have to be in every race?
John: I need the t-shirts, all right?
David: I think what people, you know, that get to know me well enough, I just get a kick out of that competitive situation to be lined up and pushing myself to the limit, and to a certain extent, it’s just fun to see some of your buddies out there, and just saying, okay. I’m going to get you this time.
There’s another guy that I became friends with over the years, just as we’re cycling because when we do cyclo-cross, they actually call you up in order so that the fastest guys are on the front row, the next eight fastest guys are on the second row.
John: So somebody not running somebody over.
David: Right. The better you do, the better your call up.
John: Got it.
David: This guy and I kept getting called up right next to each other and we would finish you know, one in front of the other, one behind the other, time and time again. Now, we have a standing bet for the big championship. Whoever wins essentially gets free beers and the other guy’s buying, and we don’t even mention that the bet’s on every year. At the end, we decide where we’re going to go to drink.
John: So there’s a state championship. I mean this I legit.
David: Well, and admittedly, this is what I would refer to as my category being the medium old, medium fast guys.
John: That’s so cool though.
David: Yeah, and so they do the age group categories. The funny thing is once you’re a masters racer, when people get older, a lot of the population like oh, boy. I turned 40, I turned 50, I’m getting old. With masters’ racers, it’s like, oh, man. I’m almost 40. Now I can be the young guy again. Instead of being the 39-year-old guy racing against the guys who are 30 and 31 or the 49-year-old racing with the guys that are 40 and 40, this year, I turn 50 so I get to race in the 50 to 59-year-old category. I’m finally not the old guy as I have been the last two or three seasons.
John: You’re going to break out that Country Time Cycles t-shirt again just like when you were a kid, like yeah. Get your picture because you’re going to be crossing first now. What’s up, mom?
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. Do you feel like cycling has given you a skill that you have brought to — or even running and soccer before that that you brought to being an attorney?
David: Yeah, so I think without a doubt, I am the person I am today because of athletics. I learned the importance of being part of a team. It was an area where I’ve started to really develop confidence. As a kid, I was shy yet the one place that I found myself being most popular was on the sports field. It’s one of those things in I think at least every guy I know remembers when you would pick teams on the playground.
John: Oh, man. Brutal.
David: If you were the last one picked versus being the first one picked, the absolute jolt of ego and self-confidence and truly, that is what in part helped a shy kid become more outgoing and being willing to go after anything and everything out there in the world was that I saw that I could take a chance and people wanted me to take the chance.
In soccer, it was about who’s going to take the penalty kick. I was always the one that wanted to step up and I was lucky enough that my teammates also wanted me to be the one to step up.
John: That’s a huge vote of confidence.
David: Yeah. For me, that’s kind of what I do today in my job. What I’m all about is I want to be the champion of my clients when they’re doing their deal, when they’re trying to get a financing done, when they’re trying to sell the business that they founded and turned into a great company, and it’s time for them to cash in and go spend the rest of their life at the beach vacationing wherever, or it’s time for them to cash in and do the next thing.
It’s something where they look and say okay, I want somebody to step up and do this for me. Who is going to be my champion in this deal? For me, there’s a bit of that. I think a lot of people that do what I do find it can be awfully stressful. For me, I just thrive on it. For me, a little bit of stress or sometimes even a lot of stress, to me, that’s when I feel like I’m at my best.
John: Yeah, because it’s more of like let’s do this. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid kicking penalty kicks or riding in races.
David: Yeah, and this whole theory of flow, like being in the flow. You hear about the basketball player that’s just in the zone or unconscious. When people are finding areas in their life — when they can do that, when they can recreate that feeling of they’re just in the zone, and things are just going their way and that same feeling that I have on the bicycle where when I’m racing like a criterium on the road, it’s essentially 90-degree turns on asphalt, and there’s potentially somebody on your left elbow, somebody on your right elbow. Guess what? I’m not thinking about what’s for dinner.
I’m not really worried about my to-do list. I am 100% focused on getting the right angle, coming into then turn, keeping an eye on who’s to my right, knowing which guy in the pack is squirrelly and you want to stay away from because he’s going to take down half the guys out here and for me, that sort of what other people would be a stressful scary situation, to me, that’s an adrenalin rush. I’m like yeah, this is awesome.
When there’s that sort of stressful, scary thing of negotiating a deal, trying to come up with — negotiating the final points and it’s a position where people sometimes freak out. And me, I’m like all right. Let’s go. I’m ready. I think that that just being comfortable with those kinds of situations so in comparison to putting life and limb at risk, coming through the final corner, and sprinting for the line, if you’re just negotiating terms in an M&A deal, well, at least you’re not going to be physically harmed so in comparison, for me, it’s more just adrenaline and fun and excitement.
John: And it’s something that you’ve been doing. I mean this is something you still do every other week on the weekends and it’s a muscle that you’ve been exercising that now, in the office, it’s like oh, I can do this. It’s nothing during law school or even undergrad where they told you to go and play these sports or get into cycling because it’ll make you a better attorney, but clearly, it does. Is cycling something you talk about with co-workers and clients?
David: Absolutely. Certainly among my friends and clients, everybody knows that if they want to talk either cycling or college basketball, that they’ve always got a willing participant with me. It’s funny. There are clients that I have today that are clients because we did Wednesday morning group rides at 6:30 in the morning out of Boulder. There are some times where I get introduced to people and truly, it’s hey, do you know David Kendall? He races cyclo-cross too. You guys should talk. Oh, and by the way, he’s an attorney too. Don’t you need one of them?
John: But the lead is never you know, the attorney part. Never. But you know, the stronger connections are on something else.
How much do you feel like that matters to clients or how much does it matter when you’re looking for staff or people to work at Bold Legal? Is it something that’s important to you or is it just kind of a nice to have?
David: The name, Bold Legal, in it of itself, it is about going all out in everything you do in life. What does that mean for me? It means going all out and putting yourself on the line for your clients and doing legal work but that’s how I want to live all of my life. I want to push myself to my limits. I want to take advantage of the experience and the talent I have but not hide in the corner when I describe to the web designer what I was looking for on a website for Bold Legal.
I said well, here’s the analogy, and it was easy because happen to be a guy who was a mountain bike rider. He got the cycling thing and I said, here’s the vision for Bold Legal. Do you know that finely-tuned race bike that’s getting the last little adjustments by the pro mechanic, and it’s like shiny and you know, you can see the chain clicking up the gears and back down and it is just so finely-tuned. That is not what that bike is made for.
You need to get that thing out of this stand and you need to lean it over in a corner, coming through at breakneck speeds, with people on either side of you knowing that if you hit the brakes, you lose, and know that you’re a good enough bike handler and you know what your machine can handle so that you don’t have to hit the brakes. You go all out, and it’s not that you’re being a crazy risk taker, no. It’s about knowing what you can do, knowing your abilities, and pushing to the limit.
That, to me, is what good lawyering is about. You need to know the law, you need to know the risks, you need to know your trade and your craft. In order to do a great job for your client, you need to be able to push yourself to the limit.
John: Right. You need to get out of the stand, get out of the textbook, get off from behind your desk and actually go.
David: Exactly. When I first taught how to be a lawyer in New York, again, as the Wall Street corporate type, we were told, truly told as young attorneys, try and divvy up all of the issues in a deal between business issues and legal issues. Don’t do anything on the business issues, only address the legal issues, and leave the business issues to somebody else. Let them take the risk on that.
I thought that was terrible. Here I am, I grew up in a family business which is like what I call my first business degree then I got an undergraduate business degree from University of Richmond, and I went to law school to be essentially a business guy who happened to be a lawyer.
The idea that well, why would we not participate in those business issues? Because there’s risk. Wait, what? Truly, we were being conditioned and taught when those really hard questions of you know, the last final toughest point in the deal and it’s not like a technical legal thing, just put your hands up, walk away from the table and tell your client, good luck with that. Just tell me what to write down.
I was always talk about look, if you’re going to be at Bold Legal, to work here, you need to understand what the name is about. It is about stepping up. It is about when your client says, hey, John. I don’t know. There’s three different possibilities here. I’m at a loss. I don’t know which to pick. Which would you do? If anybody is not willing to step up and put their butt on the line and tell the client, if I were you, I would do option A, option C, whatever it may be, then go work somewhere else.
I think that attitude is in part, because in sports, I didn’t want to sit on the sideline, I wanted to take the penalty kick. I didn’t want to hit the brakes because gee, it might be a little bit dangerous, no. I wanted to go faster through the turn because I knew I could. In soccer or in cycling, a lot of people think of cycling as individual sport but often, you have guys on your team that are helping you during the race and help bring you to the front if you’re the sprinter and bring you through the wind up to that last moment where you have to come around and sprint. They brought you there. If you’re going to hit the brakes after they did all that work —
John: Right. You’re off the team.
David: That’s not right. When everybody is sacrificing for each other, that teamwork in cycling is also something that translates really well to what I do as a business lawyer because I’m doing a bunch of work to set up my clients for success. It’s very much like being the last guy in a lead-out train for a sprinter like the pros do where there’s two or three guys and the fastest guy is the fourth guy in line.
One after another, everybody uses up everything they’ve got in their legs and they pull to the side and say, I’m done. It’s up to the next guy. For me, what we do at Bold Legal is a lot like the lead-out rider.
Here it is. We’ve got an opportunity to get a deal done. We’re going to do everything we can to set up our client for success. At the end of the day, they got to keep peddling, and they got to be doing the work right alongside, they can’t get dropped off the back of the pack, they can’t wipe out three turns ago. They need to be right with us. They’re working hard and we’re just trying to block a little bit of wind for them, trying to help them avoid some of the difficulties and bring them to the front when it’s time for them to go ahead and win.
That’s just that idea of knowing that if everybody fulfills their role, that success comes not because everybody is just out for themselves, but it’s because everybody knows what their role is. If they can be the best at their particular role, then that’s how the team succeeds.
John: No, that’s perfect. What a perfect analogy as well. Before I wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that may think that their hobby or their passion outside of work has absolutely nothing to do with their career?
David: Well, I guess speaking to a former accountant and coming from a current lawyer, nobody remembers an accountant or a lawyer.
John: Totally, even if you’re also an accountant or a lawyer.
David: You know, and it’s something where what is it that makes people interesting? It’s usually not what they do for a living unless you have one of those great jobs like Derek Jeter. But it’s something that for me, I love what I do. It works out well because it’s something that I’m passionate about and that makes me better at it, but what makes me more interesting are the stories I can tell.
John: About outside of work things.
David: Right. What sets me apart from other lawyers, well, if people know my personality and they understand where it comes from, if you know that here’s a guy that’s turning 50 and still wants to go out and race bikes.
John: Right, off-road and then carry them half the time.
David: You know, this is somebody who is going to go all out that is not averse to doing the work and wanting to really perform at a high level. I still have that competitive nature in me. I hate losing. That’s the part what makes me a good lawyer. If somebody sees me in those you know, what passion I have for going fast on a bike on asphalt or in the mud or whatever, here’s a guy I can count on to go all out for me.
John: That’s true. Yeah, yeah. Maybe we all get a little road rash, but it’s good. No, that’s so perfect. It’s only fair that I allow you to question me since I started out the beginning questioning you. Since you’re a lawyer and I’m in your office looking you in the eye, it makes me a little bit nervous. I’m not going to lie. But you’re the host now. So what do you got?
David: All right. The first rapid response I want to know, South Bend, Indiana is best known for?
John: Notre Dame football. I mean that’s pretty much it. South Bend and Notre Dame are actually two separate zip codes. Notre Dame existed before South Bend actually. So South Bend is a town, yeah, wow. I mean I guess the Studebaker I think was made in South Bend.
David: All right. So then my next question is something I know about your “and,” being funny. So tell me. Up and coming comedians that I should check out.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, well, I mean I don’t even know if they’re — I mean they’re friends of mine, so they’re not necessarily up and coming, I mean it depends on what that means, but I mean there’s a lot of really funny guys that are out there, they just don’t have sitcoms but they’re really close like Tommy Johnagin is so funny. He was on Last Comic Standing so a lot of people might know him from that.
Nate Bargatze’s really funny. He’s got a development deal going. Keith Alberstadt, really funny guy. Ryan Hamilton, he’s got a Netflix special out, very funny guy. Those are all, you know, people that I did shows with and hung out with, and yeah, they’re all still making it happen. It’s cool to see where they go.
David: Then well, you asked me. Drink of choice.
John: Oh, yeah. I’m a wine guy as well, and there’s a white wine called Vermentino that I guess is traditionally Italian but is now being grown in Sonoma and it’s a really great white wine, so that’s now the go-to. Chardonnay, there’s too much of a variable there with the oaky-ness, I just can’t do that. Some of them are really great because they’re not the oaked, but then you get the oaked one, you’re like yeah, it’s like the lime on the Doritos chips or whatever.
David: All right. Based on that answer, would any of your college buddies have expected you to become part of the wine and cheese crowd?
John: No. For sure, not. For all the reasons, that will be on another podcast episode. No, but thanks so much, David. This has been so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”?
David: Thank you.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of David on his bike or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com, all the links are there. While you’re on that page, please, click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use, and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Jose is an Accountant & Hunter
Jose Zavala talks about his passion for hunting and how it has given him the skills of being patient and taking a step back to breathe in stressful and fast-paced moments in the office! He also discusses how the idea of dressing for success does not always have to be a suit and tie!
• Getting into hunting
• Hunting and bonding with family
• Skills acquired from hunting that he applies in the office
• Closing deals with clients on hunting trips
• Dressing casual with clients
• If someone tells you it’s dumb, they’re dumb
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Happy New Year and welcome to Episode 241 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And.” Those things that are above and beyond their technical skills, the things that actually differentiate them when they’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know, my book will be published in a couple of months. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures of they work because of it and this book will allow you to be able to spread it to your co-workers and friends even better.
Please don’t forget to subscribe on the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Jose Zavala. He’s a principal at ZTX Advisors in Houston, Texas. Now, he’s with me here today. Jose, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Jose: No, of course, John. Thank you for having me, man. I’ve been a big fan of your podcast. I love what you’re doing. We’re more than just number crunchers.
John: Appreciate it, man. Thank you so much. Yeah, but you know the drill right out of the gate, 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Jose on another level here. Let’s do it. Now, everyone listening that knows Jose will be like, I had no idea. Yeah, favorite color?
John: Nice, okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Interesting. All right. When you fly, window seat or aisle seat?
Jose: Aisle all day.
John: I’m the same. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Jose: Actor, I would say it’s going to be probably Will Ferrell.
John: Oh, there you go. How about more pens or pencils?
Jose: Oh, pens.
John: There you go. No mistakes. I like that. That’s confidence. How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku’s exactly how I do my tax return.
Jose: I’ve never thought about it like that. John. I’m just letting you know.
John: Well, if you go to jail, it wasn’t my idea. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Jose: Night owl.
John: Night owl. Okay, all right. How about more chocolate or vanilla?
John: All right. Since you’re an accountant, I have to ask, favorite number?
John: Oh, is there a reason?
Jose: It’s my birthday.
John: There you go. All right. How about prefer more hot or cold?
John: Yeah. That’s easy in Houston for sure. I don’t even think you have a choice. Even right now, it’s probably over a hundred on January 1st, like who knows?
Jose: I’ll tell you this. We spent probably the last six Christmases in shorts and tank tops. That’ll tell you something.
John: Oh, wow. I think everyone listening just wants to punch you right now. For financials, balance sheet or income statement?
Jose: Balance sheet.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite sports team? Any sport.
Jose: The US Men’s National Soccer Team although they’ve really made me upset lately but I’m a huge soccer fan.
John: Yeah. When they’re good, it’s fun. That’s for sure.
Jose: I’m a diehard fan. I’ve gotten in trouble for cancelling plans with family and friends because their game is on. During the World Cup, don’t even think about even calling me, don’t bother.
John: That works, man. That works. That’s awesome. Awesome. How about would you say more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Jose: Oh, jeans and a t-shirt.
John: My bad. Shorts and a t-shirt. All right. How about for your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Jose: Oh, PC all day. I tried a Mac and it slowed me down way too much.
John: Yeah. I don’t even know. I’m not even allowed in the stores. I’m not cool enough. On your mouse, are you right-click or left-click?
John: Right-click, fancy. All right. Two more. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Jose: That’s a great question because I love both. Lately, I’ve been geeking out with Star Wars because of the new movie coming out.
John: Yeah, and the new show on Disney Plus or whatever.
Jose: Oh, yeah. Right now, it’s Star Wars, but I go back, I love them both.
John: Sure, 51, 49. It’s right on the fence. All right. Fair enough. The last one, favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.
Jose: Favorite thing I have is actually my freedom. The ability to do whatever I want to do it and how I want to do it.
John: There you go. That’s hard to argue that one, man. Hard to argue that one.
Jose: It’s a long time coming. Now, I can call the shots and that’s been the most amazing thing in the world.
John: Good for you, man. That’s awesome. Very cool, very cool. I know we talked a couple of weeks ago. You’re quite an avid hunter. Is this something that you grew up doing?
Jose: You know what? No. I got into it probably my teenage years. My uncle has a pretty big range down in south Texas. For those of you guys that know hunting in south Texas, that’s like prized deer. You’re talking big old bucks. We were lucky enough and blessed enough to be able to go down there with him. That’s where I got the edge.
Ever since then, we were going and then my dad saved up enough and now he has his own little property in east Texas. They’re not as big but it’s still nice to go out there and do that. So now, we have our own property. I’ve got a couple of different places I can go now.
John: Nice. That’s fantastic, man. That’s really great. Is it something that you mostly do with your dad?
Jose: It’s a whole family event. Opening Day, at least in Texas, is a holiday.
John: Right, right.
Jose: I actually changed the baby shower date for my daughter because they wanted to do an Opening Day and I told them no. I made everybody changed their plans for that because it is a holiday. I mean you see camos and trucks and four-wheelers and side-by-sides and for the small towns, that’s the majority of their economy, all of those “city slickers” coming in and spending our money.
John: Right, yeah. That’s funny. I went to high school in Southern Illinois outside of St. Louis and you could tell during school day what kids were hunting because that first day of hunting school, I mean they might as well just cancel school. I mean it’s half of us are there. Yeah, that’s awesome, man. That’s really funny.
Do you have any interesting stories or cool more rewarding story from your hunting experiences?
Jose: Yeah. For me, there are days where I’ll go and sit with my dad. We don’t talk. You have to be quiet but it’s just there’s still that bonding time because you’re together or whenever I shot my first buck, we decided to process it ourselves, doing that together with my brother and my dad and everything.
That’s been kind of to me, the best thing is it’s just that time I spend with them and then trying to get ready and then the arguments of no, your feeder needs to go here, no this needs to go here. It’s all part of the process but the most rewarding thing is something I can share with my family. It’s something that brought us a lot closer together.
I’ve got friends that have a couple of places so I go with them so it kind of really solidifies the relationship with those people.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome, man because I mean it’s a long day. I mean you’re out before the sun, I imagine. I don’t know. I’ve heard stories anyway. But you’re up super early and then it’s a long day. I mean especially if you’re able to shoot something, then there’s the cleaning and taking care of that and getting it all processed and all that side of it. So yeah, it makes for a long day together.
Jose: I’ve got a funny story. When I first started, my uncle and my dad still made fun of me for this. You have to be up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. because you want to sit out there before the sun even comes up because you want to sit yourself and just stay because any little movement, you know, they’re going to hear you or smell you.
I remember we’re up late and we get up, we had two hours of sleep. I’m like man, who made that rule that you had to get up this early? They just started laughing at me. Ever since then, every morning, it never fails. Every Opening Day, we get up. It’s like, okay, I get it now.
John: Yeah. The deer did, Jose. That’s who. It wasn’t our idea either. That’s awesome. But now, it’s a tradition.
Jose: Oh, 100%.
John: That’s really funny. Do you feel like hunting has given you a skill that you’re able to bring to your accounting profession besides waking up early?
Jose: One hundred percent is patience. Having to seat there and wait because you can sit there and literally not move for four hours because any little movement, any little noise you make may scare something off. For me, it has been patience. I’m go, go, go, go, go non-stop. I mean I don’t stop. I’m always on the go.
Having to take a step back and really just relax has been helping me too because sometimes, I get into the thick of things and I start working, I’ve got a lot of client work and next thing I know, it’s six, seven hours in. I’m just okay, I need to take a step back and just kind of you know, decompress a little bit. That’s to me has been the big thing, has been the patience and that ability to be able to step back and slow down.
John: That’s huge, man. I mean especially in this day and age because I mean we get all caught up in looking side to side on what other people are doing or even just getting excited about what we’re doing. It’s easy to overheat, if you will. That’s great that you have that outlet.
Jose: I mean I’m horrible about it but this has really been able to show me just take a step back and essentially smell the roses and it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. With the whole instant gratification that people want stuff now, now, now, and I’m guilty of it too. This is kind of taught me like hey, if you wait — what was the movie? If you build it, they will come?
John: Yeah. Field of Dreams.
Jose: Yeah, Field of Dreams. That’s kind of what would stop me a little bit is that like okay, I can take that time off, I can take a step back, and the world isn’t going to end.
John: Right. The work still gets done. Really cool that you’re able to see that because not everybody can see that because they’re out there in the field and their brain is still doing work. That’s a good release for you. Is this something that you talk about with clients or co-workers?
Jose: There’s a few clients of mine that really enjoy it. We’re talking about finding a way to get them out there, you know, maybe one weekend to go out there and let them enjoy it too or kind of you know, get a taste because it’s really hard to find because you got to find a lease or you’re going to own some property. It gets hard. So that’s what they were looking. It’s kind of like a thank you to some of our clients especially the ones that are local. Hey, this is something that we can do for you as a thank you.
John: That’s a great idea because I mean I’m sure that they didn’t teach you that in business school but it’s just hey, you light on, so do I. You happen to be my client but so what? Let’s go do this.
Jose: My clients know that Opening Day, probably that whole week afterwards, getting to me is going to be very limited. They already know that. It was just kind of nice, unless something’s an emergency then of course, I’ll take care of it but if it’s not an emergency, we’ve been able to really distinguish what is an emergency and what isn’t.
John: Right, right.
Jose: Everybody thinks everything’s an emergency.
John: Exactly. Yeah, but I mean that’s great that you have that relationship with them and they have that relationship with you. They get it. I’m sure you get it on their side as well when they have hobbies and passions that are going to lock them out of something for a couple of days or whatever.
It doesn’t make you less professional or less good at your job at all. If anything, it makes you better because you’re able to focus at the time when you’re actually there. Before you had ZTX, was it something that would come up when you had colleagues?
Jose: Yes. One of my good friends now, we both worked at the same firm. That’s how we started bonding originally was just talking about our stories and what not and then —
John: How great is that?
Jose: Yeah, that was awesome. He had his own property which is about an hour from where our property is now. We started talking, he left the firm, I left the firm, we stayed in touch and now, we work closely together and we’re friends but we’re also work colleagues I guess because we work together a lot on some of these clients and so it’s actually been really, really good. It’s a good opening line if you’re trying to get to meet someone or something then hey, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies? If they say hunting, then it’s like oh, instantly, you’re like you have that connection with them.
John: Yeah, we’re best friends right now. I pull out the scent and start spraying you right now. Wait, whoa, whoa. Not that kind of — what? But that’s really powerful, man. Because you didn’t bond over financial statements or debits and credits, you bonded over the passion that you have outside of work, that’s carried on. I’m sure that you worked with a bunch of people when you’re at that firm. It’s much bigger. You had that somebody that you’ve stayed in touch with not because of the accounting side of it as much as the other which is really powerful I think.
Jose: It definitely has been amazing. We were trying to close a deal. We actually brought them as like hey, you guys want to come hunt ad we get to know them a little bit better and really kind of pitch them and ended up closing a deal with the clients.
John: That’s fantastic, and while you’re hunting.
Jose: You’re talking, you’re hanging out, you’re outside, loosen up. It’s no longer about you know, hey, here’s what I can — no. It’s just like hey, man. This is me. This is him. This is what we can do. This is what we’re about. If you want to work with us, great. If not, let’s just go have some fun. It was a very non-sales pitch, just kind of like a hey, let’s just have a good time. Then afterwards, it’s like all right, guys. I like you. Let’s do some work together.
John: I really honestly believe that, and there’s a lot of brain science behind it as well for my research is that that trust is actually developed from being interesting, from those passions and interests and if it’s a shared passion, wow. Anyone can probably do the work that they needed done or there’s quite a few people that could’ve but you’re the one who took them hunting and bonded over being just a real person.
Jose: I think sales talk was minimal if none. Just like hey, this is who I am. Just give me a chance to show you who I am or what I can do. It worked out.
John: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, because I have a thing that I call the trust rut where the more that we try to convince someone that we’re good at our job, the less that they actually trust you.
If you were to rent a car in the north in the snow and you get stuck and you just gun it, you just sink down into a rut. Because I mean now, when I need somebody, I assume you’re good at your job. You don’t have to keep telling me this. I think now, you’re trying to convince yourself you don’t suck at your work. It’s cool that you’re able to you know, that confidence comes through. That’s really awesome, man. That’s fantastic.
How much do you feel like in a larger organization, it’s on the leadership to set that tone or how much is it on the individual to just within their little department or their little circle to create that?
Jose: Personally, I think just going to start at the top, I mean you got to set that culture, you got to set that mentality of openness and welcoming because I’ve worked at firms where it was just very professional, very that old school, this is it and this is how it works, you’ve got to do your job because I told you so and I don’t care what you have to think. What we do is right and what you think is wrong.
John: Right. Oh, man.
Jose: It’s just like, okay. I have ideas too. You don’t have to implement them but at least listen. Hear what I have to say. I mean I’m implementing of this stuff now and I’m just like, and now you know I’ve got some of these people calling me hey, how do I do this? It’s just like now, you want to hear me. But I think honestly, it’s top down because yes, there is kind of with us, as an individual to go out and kind of get yourself out there and things like that which is the hardest thing to do, I mean you do your standup.
I do videos all day but setting up for the people, I still get deadly scared talking to people, top-down. It should start at the top. Set that precedence. Let people know, hey, it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay if you’re quirky, be quirky. If you’re this or you’re that, but just creating that culture, that good culture.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I think it makes it a lot easier because then people can you know, just see it modelled in front of them. I mean that’s what I did when I got out of school and started at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I was modelling behavior of people in front of me because it’s like oh, well, they’re successful and that’s what you need to do in order to be successful and then you find out that their modelling behavior in front of them and no one’s actually being themselves totally. It’s that tone at the top can be set. You can show that and be a little bit vulnerable that definitely helps big time.
One thing I’d like to go back to is when you were saying that it was just really professional, and the definition of what’s professional is really vague. The work that you do now is just as professional as when you were in that office, whether you’re wearing a three-piece suit or not. I mean it’s still professional. So yeah, I think that that’s one thing that I think the listeners hopefully can start to think differently about what is considered professional really?
Jose: I agree with you 100% because what I thought was professional was the three-piece suite. You go in, you know, now is a lot of clients. I show up with sometimes shorts and my button-up and it’s all about you know what I can deliver and this is who I am and I work polos a lot. I don’t have to wear a three-piece suit every time. That shoes too? That’s great.
John: We’re talking about you, JJ, the CPA.
Jose: That’s exactly what I was thinking about. Don’t get me wrong.
John: No, that’s his brand though. Absolutely.
Jose: Yeah, depending who I talk to. I’m part of the NAHREP which is the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. Part of their mantra and what they talk about is you know, dressing up for success. When I hang out with them, I dress to the part. Okay, I want to look my best and everything but a lot of my clients, I go and visit them, I mean flip-flops, shorts.
John: Because they probably are too.
Jose: Yeah. They are too. That’s the kind of client I’m attracting and that’s who I like to work with. I think professional, it’s just the way I said it, you’re right. It all depends on you. I was always told you had to be it was that very strict just kind of like three-piece suit. But at the end of the day, just be yourself. Going back to that, being yourself and these people are going to like you. They’re not going to work with you. If not, then they’re not.
John: JJ’s personality comes through like whether he’s wearing that suit or not. Don’t let it hamper you and suffocate your personality. No matter what outfit is, it doesn’t matter.
Jose: I got a pick on JJ though because we did the Accounting and Social Media Symposium and he was rocking some pretty short shorts there. JJ, I love you my friend.
John: That’s hilarious.
Jose: But I got to hang out with him and I got to see him. JJ is one of the coolest, most down-to-earth guys. You see him with a suit. You think, oh, he’s a stuff. No, he’s not. He’s the complete opposite.
John: Right, exactly. He was on the show so people can look him up and listen to that. That’s a really great episode as well. I think it’s easier to define unprofessional. To me, unprofessional is when you’re inhibiting someone else’s ability to do their job. Everything’s pretty much fair game up until the point where you’re stopping others from doing their work.
That’s why I think it’s easiest to look at it. If you really like to play the electric guitar, you can’t bring it in with your amp and just start jamming away in the office. Talking about it and sharing those stories and all that within reason should be completely acceptable if not mandatory type of thing or the hunting stories.
I mean yeah, you can’t just walk in with your gun to the office and be like, hey, everybody look at this or drag a deer in like hey, look. It’s just that’s going to inhibit people’s ability to do their job. Talking about it and sharing stories obviously creates relationships that matter.
Jose: It’s a lot better than talking about hey, well, how did that last audit go?
John: Right? We’ll get to that eventually but let’s start with some cool stuff first.
John: Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think hey, my hobby or passion has nothing to do with my job so I’ll just keep it to myself because no one cares?
Jose: Oh, no. Not at all. Your hobby and passion is what you love and that’s how people get to know you because when you talk about it, you’re passionate about it. Passion comes out and at least for me, it does. When I talk about something I’m passionate about, I really like it, it comes out and so people can see it and they get to know the real you.
I feel like that kind of — when you talk about that, it brings down your barriers, your walls that you have of okay, they get to see the real you. You and your prime. This is what I love to do. This is what I love to talk about. I think for sure do it. If somebody tells you it’s dumb, they’re dumb.
John: There you go. I love that. That’s at simple as it gets. That should be on a t-shirt right there. That’s it. If someone tells you it’s dumb, they’re dumb. That’s it in a nutshell. That should be the title of my book. I don’t know what What’s Your And is all about.
Jose: I mean it’s true because I mean if they’re going to hate on it, let them. I mean obviously, they live a miserable life. They’ve got whatever and then this is funny because I was watching some kind of podcast webinar thing and somebody was talking about being a Youpreneur where you can essentially make a business model out of what you love. I mean look at people that have podcasts that are huge based on Pokémon. It’s like okay, someone may think oh, that’s childish. Okay, but that’s what you like then that’s what you like.
I like hunting, I like soccer, people hate soccer, okay. Well, good for you. It’s what I like and that’s what I’m passionate about.
John: Right, yeah. That was Chris Ducker by the way, the Youpreneur, and he’s great, really good book as well. You have these passions and these hobbies and yeah, sure. You’re good at accounting or you’re good at whatever your job is. Law or engineering or IT or whatever, but you have these other dimensions to you as well. The longer I found that you let them go dormant, that they will eventually be instinct and then that’s when it gets really scary.
Jose: Yeah. Your job doesn’t define you. Your job is what you do to support yourself. It doesn’t define you. I feel like, and I was really bad about this where I defined who I was or I tried to label myself on who I was based on my job and what I did and my label and my title and once I kind of started to step away from that and really focus on let me just be the best me I can be, I mean I’ve started delivering a lot better to my clients, I started feeling a lot happier, started being a lot better, and it kind of opened up this whole world of possibility now.
That would be my biggest advice. Don’t focus too much on it’s a title, it’s a job, and everything. But that job does not define you. If you’re doing tax returns and you’re working at X company and they let you go, you can always go work at Y, you can always go work at Z, you can always open up your own shop. The sky’s the limit.
John: That hunting passion or soccer passion that you have is going to be with you no matter what firm you work for or what title you have at that firm. You get promoted. The technical skills change but your passion stays the same.
John: This has been awesome, Jose. Really, really great. Really powerful, man. That’s good stuff. But before I wrap it up, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid fire question me back since I so rudely open the gates on that right at the beginning.
All right. I’m ready.
Jose: Hot or cold coffee?
John: You know what? I’m not a coffee guy, but hot chocolate.
Jose: Okay, hot chocolate. Tax or audit?
John: Oh, audit. I have no clue what tax people do. Do they leave the office? I don’t even know. They are always on a different floor. I don’t even know my own taxes. It’s audit all day if I had to choose between those two.
Jose: Amazon or Google? Smart Home devices.
John: Yeah, I mean I guess Amazon.
John: I just got a Smart Plug. It’s pretty cool. I don’t have the listening devices things because I don’t need them knowing how crazy I am at home. But it is pretty cool because on my phone, I could just open the app which is probably listening to me all the time anyway and just be like turn on the living room light and then click, it’s on. I’m like wow, we are in the future now. This is nuts.
Jose: I don’t know if this is relevant to you or not, I play video games. Xbox or PlayStation?
John: Nintendo. Old school. I have the original Nintendo from when I was a kid. You know the original Nintendo?
Jose: Oh, you still have it?
John: Yeah. I still have it. What’s really cool about that is that technology is advanced so far now that you can actually fit 100 games on one cartridge. I just have one cartridge that’s in my Nintendo now that has 100 games on it that I got out of Etsy for $30 or something. But I have the original Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt cartridge. Yeah, and several of the games that I used to play when I was in fifth grade when it came out. That’s how I old I am. But yeah. So yeah, I’m a Nintendo guy. Some of those controllers with too many buttons. I don’t know what they’ll do.
Jose: Funny you say that. I don’t have the Nintendo but I’ve got the Super Nintendo, the original one. It’s got a bunch of games and yeah, I still play that to this day. I mean nobody can beat me at Mario Kart. I’m just going to put that out there right now.
John: Challenge accepted, man. Next time I’m in Houston, it’s on, buddy. I missed the final exam because I was playing Mario Kart.
Jose: Oh, really?
John: Yeah. I’m pretty into it, man. I’m pretty into it.
This has been so fun, Jose. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Jose: Of course, man. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Jose in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on that page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture that I’m doing.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Mayur is a CFO & Over dresser
Mayur is a CFO and business advisor to startups to small/mid-size companies. With 15 years’ experience (most of it at PwC), he’s been an auditor, management consultant, and corporate trainer. He now supports clients with tax planning, investor relations, due diligence, and financial projections. He enjoys working in a high-performance environment while keeping the team motivated through humor and encouragement.
Mayur talks about his passion for dressing sharp, being an individual, and how he applies humor and being casual towards motivating his team members and providing an environment of ease for his clients!
• Dressing slightly different to stand out
• How custom suits can motivate you to stay in shape
• Mayur’s first custom suit experience
• Providing a comfortable environment for clients through conversation
• Talking about his passion for fashion in the office
• How PwC encouraged him to be an individual in the office
• Encouraging his team members to give suggestions in the office
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 221 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like you’re an accountant and something, you’re a lawyer and something. It’s those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, and it’s the things that actually differentiates you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book is being published in just a few weeks. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it, and this book will help really spread that message and share with it everyone.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Mayur Vyas. Before becoming the CFO at Finconoso in Washington, D.C. area, he spent 10 years at PwC, so we got the hook up there. Now he’s with me here today.
Mayur, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mayur: Hey, John, thanks so much for having me, sir.
John: I’m just excited to have you on. We’ve been talking on social media for like two years since you first started listening to the podcast. Now the magic is happening. So I’m just excited for that.
Mayur: Certainly, yeah. No, it’s been so great hearing you these times and seeing the progress you’ve made. At long last, you finally said, “Hey, is that guy still alive?”
John: Exactly. You’re a real person. So let’s just jump right out of the gate and not even get to know each other, but just 17 rapid-fire questions. We’re just taking it to the extreme right here. So here we go. I’ll ask you, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mayur: Star Wars.
John: Okay, all right. When it comes to your computer, more PC or a Mac?
John: Your mouse, left click or right click?
Mayur: I’m all about that left click.
John: Okay, making decisions. There you go. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Mayur: Jafar from Alladin.
John: Oh, yeah, that’s a popular one. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Mayur: France, yeah, Southern France.
John: Southern France. Yeah, yeah. As an accountant, I have to ask you, more balance sheet or income statement?
Mayur: Well, it’s all about the income statement because what goes on the balance sheet without your retained earnings anyway.
John: There you go. How about do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Mayur: I mentioned the French thing, so Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the regional wine that would be my adult beverage.
John: Yeah, absolutely. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Mayur: I think it’s my dad’s lucky number, and I just use it.
John: Yeah, no, that works for me, man. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Mayur: Over. What kind of savage goes under?
John: Right. I don’t know either, but they’re out there. Here we go. More brownie or ice cream?
Mayur: Oh, man, one on top of the other.
John: Probably, the only right answer on that one as well. Puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Yeah. Okay, how about a favorite color?
John: There you go. How about a least favorite color?
Mayur: Ooh, beige.
John: That’s a good answer. How about cats or dogs?
Mayur: I’ll say dogs.
John: Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Mayur: Let’s see. Jeff Goldblum.
John: Really good answer. When you’re on an airplane, more window seat or aisle seat?
Mayur: Aisle seat.
John: Last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Mayur: Everything I have, I’ll say my family.
John: Good answer. Very good answer. So yeah, so let’s jump into this with the fashion. Is this something that you were like as a kid, or was it something that came around later in life?
Mayur: I think it was like when I was a kid because I’d always try to be dressed slightly different than everyone else. As an adult, it’s easy to be like, okay, you can dress nice and everything. But as a kid, obviously, you don’t have the resources. It would come up as awkward and kind of zany that it would as an adult.
John: Because I mean, yeah, you can’t just go buy what you want, and your parents aren’t just going to go fill your closet with every wardrobe item you want. That’s interesting. Was it something that you just wanted to stand out, or you just didn’t want to be a part of everyone else?
Mayur: I think it was more the latter, not like in any sort of rebellious way. It was more just I like to do my own thing, and it was just for me. When I got older, then I realized I need to probably look like other people.
John: Totally. Lady Gaga up here and show up in your meat suit or whatever.
Mayur: It was on the clearance so, you know.
John: That’s funny. They didn’t have it in my size. That’s really fascinating because you wanted to do your own thing, wanted to stand out just a little bit. And then as you became an adult, you just figured out your own way to do it. And so now, is it more of just colors, or is it like a pocket square type of thing, or what is it now?
Mayur: I’ll say I had my peacock face, probably in my mid to late 20s and then as I’m aging myself here, then as I entered my 30s and mid-30s and now I’ll just leave it at that, now it’s more of a traditional. I’ll just kind of stick to my blacks, my grays, dark navys, usually just a crisp white, sometimes with stripes. The only thing I will add probably on my socks or the pocket square.
John: Or even like when I get the major measure suits or what have you, then the linings on the inside, those are always where you can —
Mayur: Oh, yeah.
John: When somebody catches that, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought that person would be like,” where it’s just like a fun little party going on.
Mayur: You’re always looking for an excuse to like, “Oh, let me just take my jacket off here. Oh, pop a color.”
John: What? Look at that. That’s funny. But the socks for sure is super fun. Is there like a cool or more rewarding experience that you’ve had from this? I do the made-to-measure suits because it’s just cheaper than custom. Do you go in and have suits made, or you went off-the-rack guy? I’m sure you’re not.
Mayur: I do have plenty of custom suits and whatnot and much to my wife’s chagrin, but it ends up taking up more space in the closet than her stuff.
John: I’m with you on that, man. Good for you. Good for you. That first moment, the very first one, I’ll never forget because you get measured and then they make the suit. And then when you put it on, you’re like, “wow, like this is for me.” It fits perfectly. I don’t have to get it tailored now. I don’t have to feel like I’m wearing my dad’s pants or whatever because we’re both kind of slender guys, so it’s hard to find those.
Mayur: That’s so true. I took that point, though. It also motivates you to stay in shape. Firstly, you work out so you can fit into them, and then that’s the point, you got to stay in that shape. A suit that wouldn’t have made custom made in college or early days would be one thing.
John: Maybe a little extra half inch here and there, just in case. I hear you on that. Do you have any favorite suits or favorite experiences from buying them?
Mayur: Yeah, the first time I got a full custom made was, I want to say, five years now. And I’ve taken forever to do it. I was joking about my wife, but she was the one who encouraged me to do it. And that was like a fun experience because there’s the old-school Italian tailor and then they had the leather mahogany wood room, everything. They’re all chatting. I thought it’d be all formal, but everyone’s joking around in there. Just that whole experience and then, okay, great. And then they select all the fabrics and all that stuff. It’s like the first time that I got to feel like, “Oh, my God! This is my day.”
John: Yeah. Right. It’s like you’re the bride, finally.
Mayur: My turn.
John: It’s my turn. But that’s really cool. I think it’s interesting to how fun and casual and jokey they were about it. You would think, oh, it’s going to be firm and proper and all of this because you’re spending a good amount of money on a formal outfit. And then you get in there and they’re real people. I would imagine that that translates to you in the office a little bit as well. People probably expect you to, “Oh, he’s a CFO. He’s an accountant. He’s whatever.” And then once they get to know you, there’s another side there.
Mayur: Actually, that’s a great analogy too. I didn’t even think about that. It’s true because I will obviously be dressed up, and I try to have my business partner also do his best. And then the staff is usually looking pretty sharp too. When we have a new client, they do come in and they see all of us looking dressed to the nines, and it could be intimidating. They’re like, “Oh, great, what am I paying for?” I always try to make this experience for them as fun as possible between all the people you’ve spoken to. It’s not like the stereotype is accountants wear green visor, boring. We try to make it fun for them and create, if it’s a tax plan client, we’ll try to make it fun, or whatever it is. Yeah, the idea is to put them at ease and just have a good time because what’s the point if you’re not having a good time?
John: I think that that’s exactly the same parallel there. They’re spending a good amount of money on something that’s important to them, and you’re creating that experience for them that they’re going to remember and they’re going to gravitate towards. I would have to imagine that people appreciate that.
Mayur: I think so. I mean, I don’t think so. A lot of them have said so afterwards too and that’s reassuring.
John: It’s not like you’re losing clients, like people are leaving. Yeah, you’re not for me. You’re smiling. I’m out of here. What’s with these socks? Come on, man. What the hell?
Mayur: I’m so offended.
John: Right. I would have to imagine it’s the other way around. When people come in, they’re like, “What kind of socks you got today? Let me see them.”
Mayur: I think it’s the only reason they come in sometimes.
John: Right. That’s funny. So do you feel at all like fashion or this wanting to do your own thing kind of idea gives you a skill set that you bring to the office at all or your accounting profession?
Mayur: Yeah, I suppose. So everyone has their own unique thing about them, and that just goes for nothing specific. We all have, of course, our accounting knowledge, and we have the things we help our clients with, whether they’re necessarily tax issues or would it be something more CFO-outsourced accounting type related. That’s one thing. That’s, of course, why they’re there, but the fact that we are just our own people, and we encourage that, we talk about it. A lot of our clients are entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized businesses themselves, so they had already been there like left like, hey, do this, act like this, and that’s how it should be. The fact that we’re the kind of the same kind of people. Myself usually I give my many examples to class. We end up just chatting about our lives, and that’s kind of the natural admiration that we have for each other.
John: You are just chatting about your lives. Do you at any point think this has nothing to do with work, or they’re going to think this is unprofessional, or we’re wasting our time chatting about life?
Mayur: Yeah, I’d say that’s the minority of people who just get to the point. I’m only here for this. And honestly, I don’t think we actually have those kinds of clients. I think we’ve pitched to people like that, and they stopped responding to anything. It just didn’t work out. If it is one of our current clients who are just like, “Look, I only want to talk about the deliverables or the work products,” it’s like an emergency like they extended a tax filing, but now they had to go line of credit or something, like we need this like yesterday. That’s a unique situation. But most of the time, we’re happy to just kind of — I don’t want to call it idle chitchat. I think that’s the more valuable part of the conversation that we’re all knowing about each other. So now we’re all like, okay, now that we got that stuff in our back of our heads, we can actually understand what’s there and what’s the thing they’re working on and how can we support them get there?
John: Yeah, because it’s not like you’re taking an hour to chat about the weather. You’re actually just getting to know each other, and it’s just for a short amount of time, and then you’re better able to serve them. So when there is that code red, level 10 alert, then you’re ready to go and you understand why it’s such a big deal. No, that’s fantastic. Really great. And so, is this something that you outwardly talk about at work, or is it just something that just people know just from looking at you with the fashion and the silly socks and the stuff like that?
Mayur: Oh, I actually work in the area where there’s lots of other business owners. I think all my co-located fellow business owners all know. It depends on whether it’s a referral from a current client or even a friend type of referral. I think they’ll have an idea. But I’ll say most of the people who I initially work with, I don’t think they really know what to expect. I think they’re just thinking like we’re going to be talking to a financial professional, a tax guy, a CPA.
Usually, when clients come to us, it’s either depending if it’s through a referral from a current client, whether it’s external, meaning through a friend or something like that, I think they always talk about subject matter, something more in the realm of accounting their tax. So I don’t think they’re expecting anything. Most people don’t expect, only those who like directly know us. Actually, the people who directly know me are actually surprised that I’m actually sticking to the point. They’re like, “Oh, I thought this was going to be fun.” I’m like, “Oh, this is fun compared to like…” But, no, we’re not throwing back beers here. We have work to do.
John: Right. Yeah, definitely, but it’s casual and it’s real. You’re a human. The person on the other side is also human. So let’s just be normal people and just like the Italian tailors that are making your suit type of concept and making that an experience. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization, a company or a firm, to create that culture where people can share their hobbies and their passions and encourages people to get to know each other on that level, or how much is it on the individual to maybe just create that little circle on their own?
Mayur: Well, I think it’s typical big four answer, but it’s two-part, right? It’s like the firm has to make you feel that you can be an individual, and then it’s on you as an individual to be willing to kind of think outside the box or do something original or do something that you think would work. Of course, there’s levels to it. If you’re one of the staff, you’re not going to just go off and recommend a very risky approach to a client. You’ll check first. But we want to encourage people to be able to think freely. There’s no dumb ideas, right? There’s dumb actions, but not dumb ideas.
John: Yeah, because if you think it through, then it doesn’t become an action. And that’s such a great idea of just encouraging people to be original. And then I have to imagine when you were in PwC days, is that something that you were like, I’m going to be original, or just like when you were a kid, do your own thing sort of a thing from the beginning, or was it something that took a little bit of time to open up on?
Mayur: As a kid, my parents were fairly hands-off. That’s from early aged encouraged just kind of be weird when I was very weird.
John: Yeah, I love it, though.
Mayur: Yeah. It’s a big firm. So with many different departments, I was lucky to work with a lot of folks who did encourage originality. But at the same time, they themselves, like partners are beholden to national advisory, whatever the rule is from each group, like an audit, in a subgroup, different vertical, different horizontal. Same thing in the advisory side, they’re the ones who were dictating the thought leadership. They have their own staff who are dedicated to creating the message, and it’s up to us to kind of show that message.
So I would do my part to present information in my own way. They were like, “Okay, cool.” And they like the way, you know, I did trainings on behalf of the firm and with clients and just presentations. I think the longer you’re at a firm like that, I was there like 10 years, so the more I think they trust you, okay, you’re not going to do something crazy. So I always had fun. I still wanted to do it my way, and that’s why, ultimately, I did my own thing.
John: But that’s all great that they allowed you to do that and even encouraged it. It’s within reason. If they build the sandbox and then say, “Okay, here are the boundaries and then go play,” then it’s a lot better than you have to do this exactly this way all the time. It’s like, oh, man, like you hired some pretty top notch professionals that might know a thing or two. So let them do that.
Mayur: The caveat to that is I think these days, people, they don’t stay at firms as long. If you’re never really truly part of a firm’s culture, something, I think it’s hard. My early days at the firm, I was still a little nervous because I was new here. I assumed everyone was smarter than me and just like, I don’t know if I speak my mind. I think it took basically aging, the big four, to have that confidence and then realizing the partners are actually just like us. They’re actually hardworking people who just want to have fun too.
John: They have a life outside of here. They have other things that drive them as well. Sure, we’re all good at accounting or law or whatever our job is. If we won Powerball, we wouldn’t do accounting for free. You’re spending money to buy suits. Would you spend money to go do accounting? Like, no, of course not. I’m not going to pay to go do tax returns. That’s stupid. That’s the real passion of the people around you. Is there anything that you guys do there specifically to encourage this or things that you’ve seen in your career whether it’s clients or firms that you’ve been around?
Mayur: Our firm specifically, we don’t have anything formal that we’ve implemented. I think it’s just monkey see, monkey do sort of thing. My business partner, he’s going to listen to this eventually too. He has his style, and he’s very to the point. He also makes a light joke here and there. I think with me, it’s my presence online as well which I’m trying to get more into. But this is 21st century. If you’re not there, you’re not really doing anything. I also just enjoy it too. It was he’s like, “Okay.” If he actually likes, I do it because we all have our own styles. There’s only two of us who are managing partners right now. So when the managers and staff see us doing activities, it’s up to them how do you want to do it. We more ask them to get the work done and have empowered them. A couple of guys who were actually far smarter than any of us at the top, we’ve empowered them to just physically lead client meetings even if we’re not there and just go with it, however they want to present it, anything, just as long as it’s clean, professional-looking, and you’re not cursing in the meeting.
John: Yeah. And you’re professional about it. Yeah, absolutely. That’s great because you hired them to be them and let them work their magic. Worst-case scenario, it’s not really that terrible. The whole company’s not going to blow up. That confidence then I think is reciprocated and them believing in you guys as well, which is really cool. And I guess when you work for a smaller organization, is it easier to get to know people and know what their hobbies and passions are?
Mayur: Yeah, I think we know pretty well about everyone who works for us. We’re like a small shop. We have our partner organizations we work with. We even know about their staff than we know each other. Different firms have different styles. One thing we are, and this is more work related, but we are trying to tighten up our business processes. And our quality control and our timeliness and things like that, that’s something we can always work on. But the culture isn’t open and feel free to speak your mind because then people are afraid of the processes, I think. A lot of people are like trying to get involved and provide ideas like when we have our weekly meeting, there are so many project manager of softwares. Why don’t we do away with all these bells and whistles? Someone wouldn’t recommend something like that if they didn’t feel like they would get in trouble for saying something.
John: That’s a great testament to the culture that you have because they feel comfortable. They know you and they feel respected. If there’s critical feedback that’s going to come, it’s not hurtful, it comes from a good place because it’s someone who actually knows me and genuinely cares about me as a person. And then before you know it, people are going to ask you where you got socks, and then they’re going to start having sock competitions and it’s going to be all over. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think that whatever their hobby or passion is has nothing to do with their job?
Mayur: It doesn’t have to be together, right? As long as you’re enjoying being who you are and you feel like you’re not having to hide who you are, I think keep doing that. And if, this is speaking as someone who has made drastic changes in my life to do what I want to do, be prepared that it is not easy. You’re never going to get exactly what you want, so just do the best you can. Honestly, what exactly you want isn’t what you want. So every month, every day, every year changes and what you want is different. So just relax and just have fun. That’s my simplest way.
John: That’s it, exactly. It’s just relax because a lot of times people are just trying to be what they think they’re supposed to be, and you’re supposed to be you. It’s that simple. You’re the person with the title at that company or firm, so be that. A lot of times, especially at the bigger firms, I found myself modeling behavior of people ahead of me. But then when you actually get to know them, you find out that they’re modeling behavior of someone before them. I don’t know. We go back 100 years and there’s some nerd that everyone’s modeling behavior after.
Mayur: Mr. Waterhouse.
John: Yeah, exactly. Why aren’t we just being us? So that’s great, man, and you’ve nailed it. So I love that. It’s only fair I rapid-fire questioned you right out of the gate for me to offer the opportunity to fire some questions at me if you’d like.
Mayur: Oh, yes. So you, John, if you went missing, where’s the last place your friends and family would think to look for you?
John: If I were missing, where’s the last place I would be? At USC football stadium on the USC campus at the Coliseum. That is the last place I would be.
Mayur: Good to know where you will be hiding.
John: No, I will never be there.
Mayur: Would you rather be able to speak any language or be able to speak to animals?
John: You know what? I’d rather be able to speak to animals because I feel like I would be one of the only people that could do that, me and like Eddie Murphy and Dr. Doolittle.
Mayur: Yeah, that’s true. If you had to be handcuffed to anyone for a month, who would that be?
John: You, buddy. That’s for sure, man. You. That would be so great. We would drive everyone insane. It would be fantastic.
Mayur: We also have to coordinate which mouse clicker we’re going to have to coordinate on.
John: Exactly and we’d have to have matching socks, of course, because, otherwise, it would be weird.
Mayur: Okay, so yeah.
John: We’ll definitely coordinate that the next time or the first time we hang out. That’ll be great. So thanks so much, Mayur, for being with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really, really awesome.
Mayur: Thanks for having me, John. This was awesome. Honestly, I like that you keep us open and loosen now considering it’s still middle of the day for me. I got plenty to do, but now I’m much energized to get on with the rest of my day.
John: Very cool, man. Very cool. For everyone listening, I hope you’re energized as well. And if you’d like to see some pictures of Mayur outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, check out his Twitter, for sure. Be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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