Ken is an Accountant & Rental Property Manager & Community Volunteer
Ken Healy, a partner at Diversified Financial Solutions, PC., talks about how his colleagues at work got him into rental property management, volunteering for his community, and how his experience from this helps him with creating and managing connections in the office!
• Getting into community service
• Getting into rental property management
• Skills from property management and volunteering that apply to his career
• Finding balance when working in the accounting industry
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Welcome to Episode 447 of What’s Your “And”? Happy Holidays, everybody. 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 in 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 at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the places where they work because of it. If you want to hear this voice read the book to you, that’s right, me reading it, you can check out the book on Audible or wherever you get your audio books.
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, Ken Healy. He’s a partner with Diversified Financial Solutions in Connecticut, and now he’s with me here today. Ken, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ken: Oh, of course. Thank you for having me.
John: This is going to be so much fun. I’m looking forward to it. I have my rapid-fire questions to get to know Ken on another level here. We’ll start with maybe an easy one. Favorite color.
Ken: Favorite color, blue.
John: Blue. Mine too. All right, we can keep going. How about a least favorite color?
Ken: Least favorite color, I’ll say brown.
John: Brown. Man, brown is just getting hammered. Brown is just the least favorite color just nonstop. I’m even going to just stop asking that because I know the answer all the time now. You’re right. It’s not great. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Friday. There you go. How about favorite toppings on a pizza? You’re close to New York. You’ve got to have a pizza favorite.
Ken: I like clam pizza, New Haven clam pizza.
John: Oh, okay. Clam pizza, there you go. That’s very good. How about chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. There you go. I don’t know why I’m doing food right now. I must be hungry. That’s what’s going on. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?
Ken: Sudoku. It’s the only one I could finish.
John: There you go. There you go. That’s awesome. Which is the perfect reason why that should be. That’s so good. How about cats or dogs?
Ken: We have a cat. I don’t know if I have a preference for either, but I know my wife will be upset if I don’t say a cat.
John: You will be homeless, Homeless Ken, if you don’t say cat. There we go. That’s fair enough. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ken: Neither. I haven’t gotten into either of those.
John: There you go. That’s totally, totally honest. How about your computer — I know you for sure — PC or a Mac?
Ken: PC at work, Mac at home.
John: Oh, little ambidextrous there. I see what you’re doing. Okay.
John: All right. How about favorite Disney character?
Ken: I’ll say Mickey.
John: Mickey. Solid. Classic. There you go. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Ken: I like the audio books. It’s easy for a car. I do like a real book in my hands, but most of the time, it’s audio book because that’s when I have time to listen and catch up on books.
John: Right? Yeah. No, I hear you on that one, for sure. How about a favorite number?
Ken: Favorite number, 17.
John: Yeah? Is there a reason?
Ken: I got married in 2017, so 17 is my favorite number.
John: There you go. It’s also an easy reminder. Oh, yeah, that. There you go. That’s awesome. Very good. How about your first concert?
Ken: First concert was 311 when I was at college.
John: Nice. There you go. Absolutely, man. How about, oh, this is a fun one as the accountant, balance sheet or income statement?
Ken: Income statement.
John: Income statement. There it is. Yeah. Are you more of a talk or text?
Ken: Most of the time, text.
John: Most of time, text.
Ken: More efficient, yeah.
John: Yeah, more efficient. Right. We don’t have to do the small talk, just get through it. There you go. Two more. How about your favorite ice cream flavor? I’m a huge ice cream junkie.
Ken: I like cookie dough chocolate chip.
John: Yeah, yeah. I was worried you were going to say clam ice cream. I was going, all right, that’s too far.
Ken: No, not with ice cream.
John: I don’t even know if that exists. Sounds weird to me. The last one, the favorite thing you have and the favorite thing you own.
Ken: The favorite thing I have, the favorite thing I own actually is probably the Bible. My wife got me a Bible when we started dating, and that has significance to me.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, super meaningful and powerful. That’s great. That’s really, really good. Really, really good. Let’s talk. We’ve got two “ands” really, doing a lot of community service, which is awesome, and then also having some rental properties, doing some demo and remodel work on that as well. You want to start with community service? How did you get started in that? Was it something that you were doing from younger or you got into later in life?
Ken: Yeah, I think from younger. We have a pretty tight-knit town and a close community. I grew up in Naugatuck, Connecticut. I think I’m fifth generation Naugatuck. There’s a lot of opportunity. My father is one of ten, and the family’s been around for a long time in Naugatuck. It’s an interesting point, a lot of the people that are volunteering, and they’re really involved. There are two groups. There are some a little bit older and some a little bit younger. I’m kind of in between, so I’ve had some opportunities to be on some different community service organizations and have some leadership opportunities. It’s been nice. It’s been very rewarding. I find it to be very impactful in the town I’m in. I enjoy doing it. I’m getting off of a few of them and stepping down and letting other people step up, but there was a time I was quite involved with it and really enjoyed it.
John: Was there one that you were involved with that you feel made a bigger difference?
Ken: Yeah, I really feel my time with United Way in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, I had a lot of opportunities, over the years, to do different roles and responsibilities. I think the impact that they have on the community has been really rewarding, and it’s been nice to spend a little bit different than other organizations I’ve been involved with. In our local United Way, there’s just over 27 programs and 17 partner agencies.
John: Holy cow.
Ken: It’s one place that if you give your money, they then go and vet the programs and see what their impact is in their community, and they allocate the money as they deem appropriately. I started to have an allocations committee. A group of people get together, and they review all the applications from these organizations and their programs. What I found to be unique is then the representatives in their programs will come in, and they’ll talk about it. They’ll answer questions. We have a chance to see what they’re doing in the community. If there’s less people participating, we ask why. Or if there’s more, we ask about what programs they have.
There’s a lot of back and forth and give and take. It’s nice to see and challenge them and get challenged and see what they see the need is. I’m always blown away. It usually falls during tax season on time, but I found that going and being with them and really seeing what the needs are in the community and how they’re impacted, you get to see a lot of programs that you know existed, but you didn’t really have the names or faces. Or sometimes they’ll bring representatives, Big Brothers, Big Sisters. They’ll bring someone that’s little, and they’ll bring their big. They’ll talk about their experiences. It was just really eye-opening for me.
Ken: That was my introduction to United Way of Beacon Falls. One year, I was able to chair the Allocations Committee because I’ve been on there a few years, and then I served as their campaign chair. For one year, I was helping raise the money. We had different events. I would oversee it. Most recently, I was president. I was working on a succession plan and having a future chairman lined up, or chairwoman or teams of chairpeople. It was interesting, over the last couple of years, they started a Mobile Food Bank in partnership with the Connecticut Food Bank.
John: Holy cow, man.
Ken: Once a month, there’s a place where people could come, no questions asked, anywhere in the community, no income questions. They just asked where you’re from, for demographics. People line up a couple hours ahead of time to go through. People go through and get all fresh food. People from the high school and schools volunteer to bring it out to their cars. It’s really grown and increased. Now there are wraparound services. There will be nurses from schools. There will be barbers, and people giving haircuts for back-to-school for kids.
John: Oh, wow.
Ken: It’s amazing to see. We do have a local food bank, but it’s only open a couple of days a week. This one’s at night. To see the people and to see who’s in need, and their thank-you stories. With COVID, a lot of people that, in the past, haven’t needed help, have been able to receive it. The United Way have received a lot of calls from people saying, “I’ve never been in this position. How do I even get help?”
Last year, the United Way, they started a COVID relief fund. They raised over $59,000, and a lot of people were able to collect unemployment. Their job had to be forced to be closed because of COVID, and it took a while for unemployment checks to roll out and different things. So there is money to help people recover their mortgage or their rent for a month or two, until this got going. It’s just amazing how, in a local community, all these things go on, behind the scenes. You understand that they do, but to get some names and faces and see it really in action. I really enjoyed my time with it and being part of it.
John: No, no, for sure. By being in that position, instead of volunteering for one of those charities, you’re impacting all of them that are then making such a huge difference in the community, and you see it immediately. Like you said, you’re volunteering there and then you hear the thank-you stories. You hear the impact. You hear the little from Big Brothers, Big Sisters, telling the story. That’s so moving, man. That’s really cool.
Ken: Yeah, and the programs are all across the board. We have a therapeutic riding center, and there are horses. People with disabilities or cancer survivor or people that are grieving could go and be on the horses. You go and see the horses, and you hear those stories. There’s another one that has after-school programs for kids, and to hear their needs and what they’re doing and what they’re doing positively. It’s really incredible in a small town to have all these things going on. It’s nice to get to meet those people and see that and experience that.
John: Yeah, that’s great, man. You’re going to be Mayor soon. This is awesome. Okay, maybe not, but that’s so great man. It’s cool to hear that it’s just making a difference. You can see it right away, its immediate impact, in a big way. That’s powerful, man. That’s really cool. Flipping it a little bit is the home remodeling. How did you get started with that? Was it just something that you watched some YouTube videos and were like, I can do this? How did that get going?
Ken: Watching some YouTube videos HGTV. Luckily, the firm I’m with, I’ve been with since I was 16. The owner of the firm, now I’m also an owner, but at the time, I was working for someone. He owned a bunch of rental properties, in addition to having their accounting practice. He’s fluctuated between 50 to 80 units, not buildings, but actual units, and a lot of them come to the office to pay their rent. If they need something fixed, they come, and we have people that could fix it.
Shortly after I passed my CPA, we and a couple others bought a building. It had 22 apartments in it, and I was to manage it. That really got my feet wet. I think in 15 months, we fixed and renovated about 15 of them, as people moved out for different reasons. The fortunate thing was it was all fixed up. We had some great people in there. Every time an apartment became vacant, people that lived there, say, hey, I’ve got someone that needs apartment. I’ve got a brother, I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a coworker, so they’re going to fill pretty quickly.
Someone else in the area that owned a bunch of properties liked it, made us an offer, and we decided to sell it and buy another one to fix up since they’ve been fixed up. I had just gotten it to the point where it’s getting easy to manage. They’re all fixed up and looking good, but it was a great opportunity. It was a lot of nights and weekends and a lot of work, but I really got to see it. They were just one-bedroom apartments, nothing crazy, but it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint and carpet and having some nicer floors installed, the difference that makes and the people you get in there. Being there every week and taking care of the property and talking to people, what a difference it can make.
John: Yeah, and when it looks nice, people want to take care of it more.
Ken: Yeah, it’s funny. It was a little rundown when we bought it. I think those are the properties we like to find. There’s a lot of rumors that there’s some questionable activity, and there are issues. One of the first things we did, there’s a lot of tall bushes, the lights outside weren’t working, so we replaced that. We cut down the bushes. We increased the visibility. There are people dumping construction debris every weekend into the dumpster and filling it up, so we put a lock on that. Next thing you know, they’re going somewhere else to do all that kind of stuff because they’re looking for the easiest place to get in and out of. They were able to use this property for a long time and then it changed.
There’s a tow truck company that was down the street, and they will monitor it and watch it. If cars are unregistered or unlicensed, they’ll actually tow them, or if cars are parked improperly. Ironically, in Connecticut too, you can’t renew your registration, if you have back taxes or child support or other things. The tow truck company, they don’t charge you. They pitch it as they’re cleaning up the neighborhood. They’re able to see if these licenses or the license plates are registered or if there are issues. If they tow them, the money has to correct your issue, and then you have to pay them to get your car back. After that started, a lot of people started parking on the streets because they’re less likely to have an issue on the street, but they know if they parked in our parking lot and their cars or the tags are expired, that they would have issues with the tow truck company.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Ken: A lot of little things but then once you get some good people in there, it’s incredible. There were good people in there before. Don’t get me wrong.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Ken: It’s just word of mouth. As soon as, people are asking us, do we have an apartment available? Let me know. We want to have somebody come in here that we know.
John: That’s cool, man. Yeah, and you’re doing some of that work. Pulling up carpet is, that’s some work, man.
Ken: Yeah, we’re pulling up carpet. I realized a lot of them, they definitely need to be replaced, so it was nice. It’s a lot easier for people to maintain, going forward. If there’s no carpet, they can always put down a rug or do what they want. It looks good. It looks a little bit nicer. A fresh coat of paint, it really makes a difference. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, all these special colors. Just white sometimes is just enough to brighten it up, and you really attract some good tenants. It was fun. We’ve done other properties, and we still have some now. It’s been fun.
It takes some work because with workers and different things, you have to keep on top of them and keep them on a schedule. Especially if you’re fixing up an apartment, the flooring has to get done, the painting. If you’re doing new cabinets in the kitchen, then you’re doing granite countertops, which we tend to do because they tend to last forever. There’s a sequence in things, and if one gets behind, everything else does. What I realized is that me doing things was probably the worst thing because it took me longer than if I just paid, but I thought I was trying to prove my worth and prove that I’m able to manage these things. I’ll save them money. If it took three or four weekends for me to get something painted, it would have been worth just paying someone to get it painted and get somebody in there that much sooner.
John: Yeah. Typically, for me, I do it once. I’m like, yeah, you know what? That’s worth paying for, next time. I don’t need to do that again, type of a thing, because just like you said, it just takes three times as long, and it’s not as good. It’s like, whatever. Well, that’s cool, man. You’re rolling sleeves, getting into it. That’s awesome. Do you feel like any of that gives you a skill that you bring to work that makes your accounting career better?
Ken: Yeah, I think it’s helpful in dealing with business owners. At that time, I wasn’t a partner yet in the company, equity partner. When you have property, and you have a mortgage, and you have to deal with tenants that are late, or you have to make decisions on whether or not a property’s worth buying, and a lot of business owners own property. They rent it themselves, or they have other tenants. When you’re navigating that, it does give you a little bit more confidence that you’ve done it and you know these things. You start to know what’s normal in this area, and what they could expect for rent, what the renovations truly will cost and what the taxes are going to be.
I did find it helpful. Just with every business owner, you’re paying rent, or you’re thinking about buying your own building. What are you looking at? What are you going to pay? Is it affordable? Does it make sense? How much are you going to pay yourself in rent? Even tenants, you deal with different issues. You deal with evictions and potential evictions and people that are late. How are you going to deal with that?
I try to be at the properties every weekend. I like to hear what’s going on. I like to hear what they’re saying and what the problems are, what the perceived problems are and how to address it and to talk to people and help them from getting themselves in bad situations if they get a little bit behind. Sometimes they get too far behind and then that’s not good for anyone. You could have those discussions. You can start paying every week or every two weeks. If you miss that and a month goes by, then it’s going to be really hard for these people to catch up.
A lot of them come to our office. It’s a two-way street. They know where we are. We’re not hiding. We’re not avoiding phone calls. I know when I’m there. I’m there every weekend, and they see me. They’re talking to me. I know what’s going on. I say, if there’s something wrong, let me know. I want to fix it. I don’t want there to be issues. I think they realize that, you do have to pay rent, and you do have a nice apartment. On the flip side, when there are issues, we’re going to address it and address it quickly, and I think they have respect for that.
John: Yeah. That’s cool to hear that you’re in person. In this day and age of sending text messages or nothing in person, it’s like, no, no. I’m here, and you know where I’m at. If you need something, I’m actually helpful and trying to make it better. Because some landlords, they don’t care. I lived in New York City for a long time, and I had some of those. It’s brutal. Then on the community service side, I would imagine that just having a better sense of community as a whole has to be some sort of a skill or a mindset that helps you with your work.
Ken: Yeah, and especially in our area, we’re able to — a lot of business owners are involved. They volunteer to help financially. They go to different events. You start to make these connections. When you have clients, and they have needs, and they’re looking for a bank loan, or they’re looking for refinance, they’re looking to buy a property, you know that you have a lot of great connections. There’s a lot of great people in the community that you can make those connections. It’s satisfying. You get referrals, and there are referrals back. It’s nice to be part of that. We have some older accountants and CPAs but not a lot of young ones, so it’s nice to get referrals from other ones that aren’t taking business on or different things and to see their businesses grow.
Because I will say to a lot of them, please, especially the bank, if they need help, send them to me. I’m glad to meet with them and consult with them. I want to see them succeed. I don’t want people to go in, they see a restaurant, and a year later, it’s a different name. A year later, it’s a different name. I don’t want people to fail. I want them to know what they’re going into and go into with open eyes. You work hard, but let’s make sure that this model makes sense before we get into it. We don’t want to find out a year later, and you’ve accumulated debt and everything else, that’s bad for you. It’s bad for the community. I think people could tell if you’re genuine, if your heart is in it for the right reason, and I think that helps make our community stronger.
John: Yeah, for sure, man. I love how you said a cool byproduct of this is referrals and work and connections that make other business happen. You’re not involved with the United Way before that. You’re making the community better, but then along the way, oh, wow, look, it makes me better at my job. It makes the firm better. You’re able to make a bigger difference, which is cool. Rarely do people think of these outside-of-work passions as making work better, but it clearly does. That’s cool, man.
Ken: Yeah, and it’s nice too, because with the rental properties, we have different issues. A lot of clients, we can hire to either repair them, fix things, inspect new properties we’re doing to insure our properties. My grandfather was an insurance agent in town, and my uncle and cousin took it over. I also have a good friend that’s an insurance agent at a different company. At the time, we had three or four buildings insured with one, insured with another. It’s nice to be able to spread it out a little bit. I can’t give everyone 100%, but it’s nice. I don’t have to pick and choose between my cousin who I’m really close to and my other good friend who works at a different agency. It’s nice to be able to have them help us and to be able to use our clients for a ton of different services that all these properties require.
John: Yeah. That’s great man. That’s super cool. Super cool. It sounds like it’s cool that at your firm, talking about these “ands” is normal. People know. They share. Obviously, when you were 16, you saw the owner of the firm have tenants come in to pay rent, so it’s what we do. How much do you think it is on the organization to create that space for people to be able to share these other sides to who they are? Or how much is it on the individual to just get it going in a small circle?
Ken: I think it’s a combination because our staff is great if a tenant comes in. We have two offices, and for the other office, they’re great at addressing and putting in those requests. If it’s a small minor repair, something like that, they’re able to handle it, which is really above and beyond the call of duty. Even with the charity work, a few of us are very involved with different organizations in town. When there are events, we all try to attend, and we try to support each other. We try to embrace those roles. We try to split up the organizations were part of so that we could spread our talents and our skills amongst the different communities. It’s nice.
I think it’s important for the companies to support that, and the people in their endeavor. Luckily, the company I’m part of and I own is supportive of that. I think it betters us overall. I know there are definitely times in tax seasons when there are complaints about, hey, I got to get something fixed. You said the person was going to come or the plow guy’s late or something. We’re calling. We’re trying to get things going.
Some times are better than others, but on the whole, I think it’s not too much of an inconvenience. People are really gracious on how to handle things. Sometimes the tenants don’t even want to talk to me. They want to talk to Kristen because she handles things so well. If it comes to me, I might not call them back till later in the day. It’s nice to hear those things. So it’s nice to see a company that supports it.
John: Yeah, for sure. Plus, it gives you something to talk about, besides just the spreadsheet or the tax return or the work. It’s cool to have a connection that lets you know each other on just a little bit of a deeper level, type of thing.
Ken: Yeah, we get some messages and some things and people laugh about, or some calls, and some issues we’ve had to resolve. Sometimes we are able to laugh about it. I know other people that manage rental properties, and they kind of do it all themselves. It can be stressful. It can be stressful when someone’s not paying rent. It can be stressful when you get some calls that are challenging. You try to just quickly resolve it and move forward.
John: Sure. Yeah, and there’s always something new. It’s probably similar with work where somebody comes in with some tax issue. It’s like, well, I’ve never seen this one before. Here we go. It’s a good muscle to exercise outside of the office, to just be nimble. There’s no handbook for this one, but I’m pretty sure we can figure it out.
John: That’s cool, man. Very cool. Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that maybe has a passion outside of work and maybe even a charitable volunteer type thing that has nothing to do with their job, they think no one’s going to care?
Ken: Yeah. I would say my advice to them is pursue your passions. They’re important to have. We need to balance our work. I think that’s part of the reason why I enjoy doing this so much after tax season. All those hours, then the weather gets better, I could go out to the properties and fix them up and throw some mulch down and do some outside work. I think it’s good for our mental health. It’s good to balance. I know, especially accountants, there are seasons and times that we just work incredible hours. That’s just the nature of the business, but I think that will help give you balance. It’ll help you persevere through those challenging times. I think surrounding yourself with people that have the same interests is incredibly important to all these organizations, to all the rental properties. I’ve met great people that I would have never met unless I had pursued these passions.
I think, especially if it’s productive, especially if it’s helping others or impacting others, what I like about the rental properties is just instant gratification. If something’s wrong, if somebody moves out, and you’re able to fix it and clean it up. You can see fairly quickly within a month, how much better it looks. You get a great tenant in there, and they’re appreciative. If you’re doing something, especially if it’s productive or positive, they do take up time. You have to sacrifice in other areas sometimes for these, but you don’t want to look back and have regrets. You want to be able to know whether you pursued them with your whole heart and passion.
I think everyone needs to find that thing that when you talk to, their eyes light up. That’s the thing that they, when you talk to, you know that that’s just something they enjoy, and it gets you out of bed on the morning. On a weekend or at night, after work, you could swing by those things. Everybody has passions. You have your careers. That pays the bills. That fulfills us in other ways, but you have to find what really is your passion, what does excite you. It’s important to have those. You want something that you’re excited about in the morning to get out of bed and do.
I’m fortunate my wife and I, we bought our own house last year. We’re living in one of these multi-families and saving up. We’re doing a lot of repairs, and I didn’t realize how much more time it takes to do these types of things at your own house because it’s a different level of how you want things fixed up. You don’t just find the easiest solution, so you can get somebody in there, get something fixed, but it’s nice. It’s gratifying. We have these connections with these people, and they’re able to help us and fix things. We know what solutions work and what doesn’t. It’s nice when it comes back. It’s nice to be able to put the care into the house and enjoy with my wife and all that.
I think a lot of times, we find the benefits of having these passions and how they do help you at home and all these different things. You’re in a better state of mind. You’re in a better mental health. There are also skills and different things you take on, and you feel good about doing this, especially if you have someone. My wife, she supports me on this. I try to support her in her passions. It’s nice. We complement each other and do a lot because of that.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s so good. Yeah, and it’s just fun to talk about, for you, and then people care. It’s just fun to share. That’s so cool to hear, man. Well, I feel like before we wrap this up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Ken Healy podcast, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. I’m all yours. What have you got?
Ken: All right, the first one. I got my Master’s degree at Notre Dame. We’re filming this a little before the Holidays, so I want you to predict the future. What bowl game are we going to be in, in a couple of weeks?
John: Oh, wow. Yeah, so this is before. Definitely, a New Year’s Six bowl, but I could see us getting in the playoffs. I could see us sneaking in. There’s a lot of teams that have lost. We’re starting to finally play as a team. The beginning of the season was like awkward adolescence where we’re trying to figure out how things work, and got it together. Yeah, I think we could sneak into the playoffs. Otherwise, it’ll be like a Fiesta Bowl or an Orange Bowl type of thing. Although the Rose Bowl would be pretty sweet because we haven’t been there in forever. Supposed to be there last year but then because of COVID and all that, got bumped to Dallas. Yeah, I think one of those New Year’s Six.
Ken: Perfect. You mentioned before that you liked some things on the East Coast. You’ve been near Connecticut. What are your favorite cities in and around Connecticut?
John: I remember Ridgefield, Connecticut. There’s a theater there where I did some comedy shows. I think it’s the Playhouse. I think they call it the Ridgefield Playhouse. Yeah, so I’ve done some shows there, really cool, very quintessential New England type of city. It’s called the Playhouse for crying out loud. What more do you need? That’s a cool city. My mom actually went to high school in Danbury, Connecticut.
Ken: Oh, okay.
John: That’s going to be on there. Yeah, those will probably be the two in Connecticut that come to mind, as far as when I visited, I was like, wow, this is kind of a cool city, type of thing, or with my mom having a connection there.
Ken: Our other office is Southbury which is right outside Danbury.
John: Oh, okay.
Ken: Very close.
John: I guess having moved around so much, growing up and everything, helps me relate because I don’t know how many people have been to Connecticut, to be honest. It’s kind of cool. Thank you so much, Ken, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? and taking time to do this.
Ken: Thank you for everything you do. I think it’s making quite a change in the profession. I think it’s really important and needed.
John: Well, thanks, man. Go Irish, right?
Ken: Yeah, absolutely.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ken outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.
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.
Shannon is an Accountant & Fitness Professional
Shannon Weinstein, owner of Fitnancial Solutions, talks about finding her passion for fitness and dancing, how she integrated it into her work as an accountant, and how she found ways for her organization to encourage people to be open about their passions!
• Getting into fitness
• How she got into teaching fitness and dance
• Integrating her passion for fitness with her career
• Skills that translate from her fitness to her career
• How her organization encourages to be more active
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Welcome to Episode 445 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 in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in depth into the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books.
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, Shannon Weinstein. She’s the owner of Fitnancial Solutions, a digital accounting practice serving small business owners all over the country, and now she’s with me here today. Shannon, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Shannon: Yeah. Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.
John: This is going to be so much fun. I have, get to know Shannon out of the gate here, 17 rapid-fire questions. This will be fun. Here we go. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Shannon: I’ve seen neither.
John: Okay. Okay. Fair enough.
Shannon: I’m criticized for that daily by my husband.
John: That’s awesome.
Shannon: Impartial. I will piss off someone if I say one of them, so, impartial.
John: That’s true. That’s true. Although the Star Trek fans can’t beat you up. No, I’m just kidding. Only because I’m a Star Wars. How about a favorite day of the week?
Shannon: I’ll say Friday.
John: Friday. Okay. Nice. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC. Yeah, me too. How about on your mouse, right click or left click?
Shannon: I guess, left click?
John: Left click, making the decisions. That’s where it’s at. Yeah. Just pick this. All right. How about a favorite Disney character?
Shannon: I will say Megara from Hercules.
John: Oh, nice. That’s, yeah, the first time I’ve gotten that one. Good answer. Good answer. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw puzzles?
Shannon: I loved those logic puzzles where you had to decide what kid had what pet. Remember?
John: Oh, right.
Shannon: The box and the grid.
John: It’s like the matrix sort of a thing. Yeah.
Shannon: I loved that. I probably attribute most of my critical thinking skills at work to playing those as a kid.
John: That actually makes sense. Right? Yeah, because they would give you five sentences, and then you had to fill in all the things. Awesome. Yeah, you’re taking me back. All right. How about a favorite color?
Shannon: I’ll say teal.
John: Teal. Solid. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
Shannon: I’ll say brown.
John: Yeah, very unpopular color. I’m not even sure why it’s a color anymore. It’s so unpopular. I joke that I think brown’s just around so the color looks good.
Shannon: It’s so unpopular that M&M’s covered it up on all of them.
John: Right? That’s dead-on accurate. You can’t even argue that. Here we go. Favorite actor or actress? The Rock. Okay. Yeah, he’s super fun. Super fun. How about talk or text?
Shannon: It depends on what you’re trying to say. I am definitely easier to get in touch with via text.
John: Okay. All right. All right. How about diamonds or pearls?
Shannon: I’ll say diamonds.
John: Okay. All right. All right. How about, since you have the accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?
Shannon: Can I go statement of cash flows on that?
John: Oh, that’s the hardest one of all. No one even knows how to do it.
Shannon: No. No one knows how to do it. No one knows how to use it, but I think it’s the most useful one of them all.
John: Oh, it’s totally the most useful. Now that there’s computers, you just go to Reports print, and there it is, cash flow statement. Oh, that was my nightmare in college, for sure. Here’s a fun one, first concert.
Shannon: Oh, that was TLC.
Shannon: And the original Destiny’s Child opened for them.
John: That’s nuts. That is crazy. Oh, my goodness. That is super awesome times two.
Shannon: Yeah, I got to see LaTavia and LeToya. Who can say that?
John: Right? That’s so good. That’s so good. I saw No Doubt open for Live. Everyone’s like, who’s this No Doubt band? Now, no one’s heard of Live.
Shannon: I’m calling that my first concert. I’m not counting Raffi when I was three.
John: Well, that doesn’t count. Yeah, that doesn’t count. Right, right. How about a favorite number?
Shannon: A favorite number? Nine.
John: Nine? Okay. Just because. All right. Yeah, that’s a good one. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Shannon: Audio book. I listen to them on walks all time. Otherwise, I have no time to read.
John: All right, two more. Chocolate or vanilla.
Shannon: I’ll say vanilla.
John: Vanilla. All right. Yeah, yeah. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Shannon: My dog.
John: What kind of dog is it?
Shannon: He’s a red doberman.
John: Oh, nice. Very cool. Very cool. That’s awesome. Let’s talk fitness and everything that I don’t do. I’m a terrible person. How did you get just so into fitness? At what point did that happen? How did this all get started?
Shannon: Yeah, I ask myself that all the time actually. When did that happen? Because growing up, we were definitely like a Happy Meal family. Growing up, we were just, ate out all the time, got takeout, didn’t really pay attention to what we were eating. It was just a very lax, lazy type of approach. This was also in the ‘90s, where I’m pretty sure we ate chicken nuggets made of God knows what, TV dinners. We didn’t have the whole foods access that we have now.
Shannon: We ate a lot of, pretty much garbage, growing up, and didn’t do a lot of exercise. It really wasn’t a thing that was part of our lifestyle as a family. What I realized was, after I graduated college — the first time I set foot in a gym was in college, and I didn’t like it. It felt like a chore. It felt like a pain in the butt. What happened was my mom convinced me to go to my first ever Zumba class after I graduated college when I was living at home for about a year. She convinced me to go to this class, and I was like, this is silly. This is like old people, Jazzercise, Richard Simmons type of stuff. Because it kind of was. It was goofy. It was kind of cheesy when it first came out.
A couple of years later, I’m living in Boston at the time. I joined one of these women’s gyms, and I went to the Zumba class. I don’t know when it happened, but I was hooked after two or three classes. Because I took hip hop dance when I was younger and I was all over the structure of the class, learning the moves, it was easy to follow. I just lost myself in it where I was like, that was an hour already? We didn’t have the watches at the time, but I look at my heart rate monitor or whatever, and go, oh, my God, that was 500-something calories.
I did it because I loved it, and I found a great community in those classes, and met great people. We became friends around the classes. That’s the thing with fitness is you have to find your people or your thing that you’re happy to go to and look forward to. It was like people who go to church together or people who volunteer together. We went to dance together. I fell in, absolutely, love with it.
I also became an instructor. It turns out, I became an instructor, six months after I really started taking classes, three, four, five times a week. I was obsessed. The interesting part is I became an instructor in about August, September. My father passed away in December from pancreatic cancer. Why I’m telling you this is because, on his deathbed, literally told me, “Shannon, never get sick. Take care of yourself.”
John: Oh, wow.
Shannon: I hung on those words ever since. I was like, okay.
John: Yeah, seven days a week, I will do this.
Shannon: Yeah, orders received. I started eating better. I lost about 40 pounds. I just got my mind right and said, this is my life. I don’t want to end up like that. I don’t want to be a victim to things that happen to me. I want to take control of my own health. That was when I really pivoted into it.
John: Well, that’ll be a spark. That’s for sure. It’s so awesome that you found something that, the dance background that you so enjoyed, and it was fun and energetic, and then the community. Yeah, why not? I’m going to come anyway, so you pay me to do this. I’ll be the instructor.
Shannon: Yeah. I didn’t even think I was going to teach. That was almost eight years ago. I didn’t think I was going to teach ever, but they were like, just sign up for the thing so that you can come to the events with us. Because I was the only friend that was outside the gate that couldn’t get in.
Shannon: You need to be an instructor to go to certain events and conventions and things. They were like, sign up for it so that you can come to all the stuff with us. I was like, okay, cool. I also love this. This will be fun. I’ll learn how to teach, but I’ll probably never teach. Eight years later, here I am, multiple formats and modalities, multiple trainings, and teaching other people. It’s crazy.
John: Yeah, you probably left all of them. They’re all at home eating pizza and ice cream. You’re like, I have Fitnancial. I actually named my firm that.
Shannon: Exactly, and I did because when I created my own business, I was serving my fellow fitness professionals with accounting and tax services. That became my industry and my expertise. I started marketing and actually using fitness analogies in everything I do. I still do to this day.
John: So good.
Shannon: I use it to explain very simple financial concepts to people because it actually is a very similar discipline.
John: That’s incredible because that’s a differentiator. Someone else can come in and provide small business advice or accounting or whatever, but I know how your business is and words that you like to use. I actually get you as a person. Why not let them know that side of you? That’s awesome. Was there ever a part that you thought, well, this isn’t work-related, never shall the two touch?
Shannon: Oh, no, I loved it. I actually would integrate a lot of it. I invited all my coworkers to my classes knowing they would never come, but I made it very well known that, I have class tonight, or I have class this morning, and I’m coming from the gym or I’m doing — I would say, I need to leave early today to go teach class. When Shannon has to go teach class, it was almost like I have an MBA class. It was no different than I have to go, and I have class tonight. Because that was a priority and that was a boundary I set to say, on these days of the week, I have to go teach. It was also a great way of seeing alignment in values with a company because I say, if me leaving for a half hour early on a certain day of the week, comes between me doing my job or not, then I don’t think you understand.
John: Me as a person.
Shannon: Right. You don’t think I’m going to get it done. I just loved integrating the two. I also did sessions at work for other coworkers. I actually led weekly walks to just get our asses out of the office and go do a walk around the campus. We were working in an office park, and I would do a walk around the campus and get everyone just to get out of their chairs, and do walking meetings together. Instead of like a big staff meeting, let’s just all go for a walk and talk while we’re there. We would get a mile and a half done every week. It’s something better than nothing, but we get a mile and a half done.
I would do stretch sessions at your desk, if you’re stuck all day. What do you do with your shoulders? How do you stretch your wrist, stretch your… They found that valuable. They also knew that Shannon was the, not the fit one, but the one that was fitness-focused. I actually had a coworker who, funny enough, bought a cheesecake at the cafeteria and was sitting across from me. She looked like she was covering her test, and I would cheat on her with the cheesecake. I was like, what are you doing? She’s like, I don’t want you to see what I’m eating. I’m like, I don’t judge any —
John: I’m not your mom.
Shannon: No. I probably have my own piece. It was funny because that became part of my brand was knowing that I love this stuff. I love dancing. I love — because why hide that? That’s part of who I am.
John: Right. No, no, I totally understand. I was the same way. I joke that I was too dumb to know that you’re not supposed to. You asked me what I did over the weekend. Well, I went and did this comedy show. All of a sudden, it’s wildfire, type of thing. Do you feel like there’s a skill that translates from the exercise and the fitness, over to make you a better professional?
Shannon: 110% yes because — if you talk about it from the perspective of in fitness as an instructor, for sure, because I had to teach a bunch of people who didn’t want to do what I was telling them to do.
John: Oh, wow. Yeah. You’re right.
Shannon: You tell 30 people to do burpees when and how many, and they just do it. You also — here’s the thing. When they just do what you say blindly, you don’t get an ego about it, but you get used to like, I command you do it. It’s like a Simon Says thing. What’s funny is — you can also jokingly be like, pick it up, let’s go, Carol, let’s go. It’s so funny because you get out so much of that, what you want to say, and it brings out your personality. It makes you show up differently with high energy. It also, what’s so funny is, when you get used to people doing what you say, you actually develop a confidence because they listen to you. They do what you say. Now you go into work. You’re like, we’ve got to get this done. It’s so funny because you show up with more confidence because you’ve been — you know this in comedy — you’ve been told yes without being told yes.
John: Right. Exactly.
Shannon: A lot. When you’re told yes a lot, you show up differently with confidence. Whether they’re actually saying yes, I will do that; the fact that they’re doing it, what you say, it instills all that confidence in you.
John: Yeah. For me, it was like, well, this can’t be any worse than doing a joke and no one laughing. This can’t be worse, but you’re exercising this muscle outside of work that then when you get into work, it’s like, oh, I got this. I do this all the time. This is great. You have to lead a group. You have to help guide them.
Shannon: Also, it was really a coping mechanism too, of, don’t worry, because I get the dance at the end of the day, at the end of all this stuff that I put up with at work. I stopped taking work so seriously because it wasn’t my only thing anymore. It didn’t bring me joy. I just said, you know what, we’re going to tolerate this. It’s going to pay the mortgage. Then we’re going to go home. We’re going to go dance, and we’re going to be happy. That’s it.
John: The more that you’re able to share that side of you though, then the more joyful work gets. You create connections with people at work where you’re like, wait, you like to do that? I like to do that. What? I didn’t even know, sort of a thing.
Shannon: Yeah. I’ve met a lot of people who have the same hobbies or found out that they have the same — it’s multidimensional. It’s not even just one or two things that mark you in a personality resume of, what do you like to do in your free time? We were just talking before you hit record about these bland corporate bios that are like, in her spare time, Shannon likes to spend time with family and her dog and go for walks. It’s like, great. Who doesn’t like that? What else does she do? What was the last thing that made her laugh really hard? What was the… I love asking questions. Instead of get-to-know-you things, I’ll say something like, hi, I’m Shannon, nice to meet you. What’s your name? Oh, it’s John. What are you grateful for? It’s a pattern interrupt.
John: It’s deep.
Shannon: Yeah, I know. We should be able to come up with something quickly like that. It’s a pattern interrupt. It also leaves a mark and keeps things memorable for you.
John: Yeah. I love that. That’s so good, so good. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that space, to find out what people’s “ands” are, to shine a light on them, to celebrate them and make it normal? Or how much is it on the individual to just start that from the bottom in their little circle?
Shannon: I think it’s a mix of both. I think it’s also the corporation or, let’s say, the company or department, depending on what the structure is. It’s their duty to foster it and not let it die off and not discourage it. If someone is showing up with that type of attitude, and they’re trying to foster an environment like that, this is what happened with me when I started my walks. My department 100% backed it up. They were like, go on Shannon’s walks, this is great. They highlighted it and recognized it as a great initiative that I was doing. They promote — when we were talking about different stories, you do have to be forthcoming. I think the people who do have more of that extroverted “tendency” would probably have to be the first ones to speak up and share something like that and make sure it’s known that there’s a safe space to share, what do you do outside of work?
Shannon: Because I think there’s just this hard line we think is drawn that, well, we don’t talk about our personal lives at work, which, fine, to each their own. I think there’s something to be gained by getting to know your coworkers and people in general at a different level and finding commonality because I feel like it just brings you together a lot faster.
John: It definitely does. There’s research at Duke that shows it’s less anxiety and less depression, if you have these other dimensions to who you are. Northwestern has a study that shows that if you combine real life and work life, better moral decisions. It just makes you a better professional.
John: It’s just cool to hear that you witnessed that, and also that there’s Shannon’s walks. You didn’t wait for permission from corporate on high to say, we’re going to do walks. You just, hey, we’re doing walks. I don’t need approval. This isn’t North Korea. We can just go on walks, and then you go. We’re always waiting for permission. It’s like, just go do it, and then everyone’s going to think it’s awesome. So many times, I’ve heard this. Yeah, it’s just so cool to hear that you did that. Kudos, for sure. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that feels like, well, I’ve got this hobby, but it has nothing to do with work, and no one’s going to care?
Shannon: I would say, if you have a hobby that you’re truly passionate about, and you wish that you could integrate the two, you feel like you’re leading a double life, that’s okay. If it’s making you uncomfortable to the point where you’re like, I just wish that they got to know the real me, then let that shine a little bit. It doesn’t have to be, let’s say you were into comedy, or you did comedy on the weekends like you did, doesn’t mean you have to go do stand-up at work. It doesn’t have to be literal.
John: No, not at all.
Shannon: It doesn’t have to be literal. You could literally ask in the cafeteria, hey, have any of you been to a comedy show? What was your favorite one? That is revealing enough. You can insert conversation on a get-to-know-you basis that’s just like, hey, I have a fun question. Or you can even — I wish I had done this more, where I actually could come up with cards or something, conversation starters that would have good prompting questions. Because just the idea to get to know each other, you don’t even have to make it about your other passion. I think it’s just getting to know what everyone else is interested in and acknowledging that.
John: Yeah, because I think some people, oh, were you just telling jokes? No, no, I had a job. I was doing my job. When I left at five or six or whenever, after that, I’m doing that and pursuing that. It was a fun hobby that I did at first, and then I accidentally got good. That’s the other thing too, is it doesn’t have to be a business. I enjoy this. Okay, great. You’re not doing it for anyone’s approval. You’re doing it for yourself. Yeah. That’s so good, so good. Well, this has been so much fun. I feel like it’s only fair that before I let you go that I turn the tables and let you pepper me with questions, since I started out firing away at you. I’m all yours, Shannon. Here we go. I’m also a lot nervous. What’s my favorite cheesecake? No, I’m just kidding. I’m just teasing. I’m teasing.
Shannon: Here’s what’s funny. I do rapid-fire questions on my own podcast as well.
John: Oh, okay. Nice.
Shannon: I’m actually going to start with the ones I ask my guests. I’ll just turn the tables back. They’re all around money and wealth, which is interesting. As an accountant yourself, I think this will be an interesting set of questions. What is one investment you currently can’t live without?
John: One investment. I would say it’s investing in me, if that’ll count. There’s this thought leaders group out of Australia, but they’re worldwide. It’s a lot of people that are on their own, doing their things. It’s been really cool to be a part of that community, very supportive, and also learning from each other. Yeah, that’s definitely one that… It’s super cheesy answer, I feel like. It’s not a financial investment. Bitcoin. No, I don’t know.
Shannon: Yeah. I love it when my guests give a ticker symbol. I’m going, no, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not what I meant.
John: Okay, good. All right, I was along the right path. Okay, I was just making sure.
Shannon: I do enjoy hearing the interpretation of what I’m asking as well, because that tells me a lot about the person.
John: Because it’s like, all right.
Shannon: Yeah, what do you mean by that? What is one thing you learned about money that turned out not to be true?
John: I guess just those self-limiting beliefs kind of thing when you grow up. My dad was career Air Force, and we were the middlest of middle class, kind of. When you start to do well, financially and stuff, that it’s not a bad thing. It’s okay and that you deserve this. You work hard, and you provide a lot of value. I think that that’s probably the deservedness of things, is definitely something that I still deal with. It’s not like I’m Richard Branson. Although I feel like once you cross a certain point, it doesn’t even matter anymore. I’m way before even the hill, but if I told my parents what I made, I think that they would lose their minds, just compared to what they had.
Shannon: Yeah. Yeah. I feel the same way. I felt the exact same way. What makes you feel like a millionaire?
Shannon: Talking to Shannon Weinstein. That’s a good start. Probably that and flying business class, an international with the lay down. It’s like, what are you crazy? I know you’re a huge stand-up fan, but just like Louis CK has a great bit of flying first class, and the Internet goes out. He’s like, you’re in a recliner in the sky. What is wrong with you? I’m laying down, full on laying down, watching TV. This isn’t even real, type of thing. I guess I’m a simple guy.
Shannon: The last one I have, because we talked about the comedy thing, is who your top three all-time comics are, dead or alive.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. I don’t know. I’m a huge Brian Regan fan. I think Bob Newhart is hilarious, also an accountant, so maybe I’m a little bit biased. Man, there’s a buddy of mine, Tommy Johnagin, that is so, so funny.
Shannon: I know Tommy.
John: Yeah, he is so, so funny. Even Ryan Hamilton is hilarious too, another buddy of mine. There are so many, Bill Burr, Chappelle, Gary Gulman, yeah. I prefer, typically, the clean observational kinda, just like you look at the world through a different lens, sort of thing. I never even thought of that, that’s amazing, type of thing. Not the shock as much but just telling it how it is and just that no fear is awesome.
Shannon: Yeah. I look at comics like restaurants where it’s like, what are you craving?
John: Right. Yeah.
Shannon: What are you in the mood for? Because I love my Mitch Hedberg at certain times and then I love my Bill Burr at certain times, and then my Lewis Black.
John: Oh, yeah, Lewis Black too, and also such a nice guy. Holy moly, such a nice guy.
Shannon: Oh, my God, so nice.
John: He’ll drink you into oblivion, but he’s such a nice guy. He’s so awesome and so funny even so angry. You’re right. It’s like a restaurant because everyone thinks that comedy is one thing. It’s like, no, no. You just don’t walk into a movie theater and just sit down. No. You watch the preview. You know what movie you’re going to see. There you go. It’s really hard to pick. This has been so much fun, Shannon. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Shannon: Thank you.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Shannon or connect with her on social media and pick up her podcast, or check out links to her business and definitely her Instagram, go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to read the book.
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.