Joey hooks clients and coworkers with great firm culture
Joey Havens grew up in a small town in Northern Mississippi, spending a lot of his time outdoors fishing for crappie fish and white perch with his brother. Now, he takes his son and grandson fishing, sometimes even in salt water for speckled trout. Joey says fishing gives him a chance to recharge so he can give more energy to the HORNE team, and it humanizes him, allowing other to more easily relate.
In this episode, Joey and I talk about how important it is to take the time to get to know others on a personal level, because “we all crave to connect to other people.” He leads by example, showing everyone at HORNE that it’s okay to be human. This helps everyone develop stronger trust in each other, which only makes the firm stronger and more successful. The biggest shift happened a few years ago when the firm leadership decided to be very intentional about making culture a priority every single day.
Joey Havens is the Executive Partner of HORNE LLP, where he’s been for over 30 years.
He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting degree.
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Welcome to Episode 106 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion and just by being themselves, they stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. Many of us are taught this false hope by professionalism to stand out, you need to get another certification or get another degree or memorize all the tax code or have the best technical skills in the office but this simply isn’t true if you want to get ahead in business because it’s still human to human interaction and professionalism preaches that people with passions outside of work are less dedicated to their job or maybe not very good at their job.
When people ask you what do you do? Don’t forget to include the ‘and,’ as in I’m an accountant and a fisherman. That’s what my guest today, Joey Havens would say. They’re both important and make up who you are but it’s the ‘and’ that people are most interested in because trust me, no one is saying, “Oh, really? Tell me more about that accountant part.” And please just take a few seconds and click subscribe so you won’t miss any of the future episodes.
But today, it’s all about Joey Havens. The managing partner of Horne LLP where he’s been for over 30 years. I’m not going to waste any time upfront here Joey, but first, let me just say thank you so much for taking the time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Joey: My pleasure, John.
John: I’m so excited and I appreciated you inviting me down to visit Horne a little bit ago and I had such a great time hanging out with you guys. I gave everyone a little bit of an introduction but maybe in your own words, it’ll be better a little bit of where you’re at now and kind of how you got there.
Joey: Well, I’m at Horne LLP and I actually work out of our original Mississippi office and we’re a regional firm mostly in the south, the east, with 13 offices and I’ve actually worked at Horne for over 30 years so I’ve been here a long time so I kind of forgot where I was before that.
John: Right. That’s very cool, man. And especially in this day and age to be with a firm for that long. I mean that’s really fantastic. Now, as the managing partner, I mean you’re able to make a little bit of an influence on a lot of people.
Joey: Well, to be honest with you, it can be quite scary at times to think about how influential it can be but it has certainly been very rewarding and I’m as excited about coming to work at Horne today as I was the very first day I walked in in 1984.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s really, really cool and one question that I love to ask everyone is just how did you get into accounting?
Joey: You know, probably like a lot of other people that was all that was left.
Joey: You know, and just really quite by accident. I actually started in the engineering school and I was taking up a lot of math courses and I just said hey, I’m going to take an accounting course and took it and the rest is history.
John: Yeah, I started out engineering as well and physics did me in. I learned more about how the world works than I’d ever wanted to know physics wise and yeah, actually I guess I didn’t learn it because that’s why I got a D and decided to go to business. That’s pretty awesome. Well, clearly, it fits. So kudos to you, man. Kudos to you.
I know that being the managing partner of a firm clearly takes up a lot of time but when you have some of that free time on your nights and weekends, what are some of the things that you would love to do outside of the office?
Joey: Well, my absolute passion and favorite thing to do is to fish but specifically, my favorite thing is to crappie fish, some people call them white perch. In Louisiana, they call them sac-a-lait but that’s absolutely my passion.
John: Yeah, and I assume that’s a river fishing?
Joey: Well, it is fresh water fishing. It can be —
John: Okay, fresh water, okay.
Joey: A lot of the major lakes, we just blast with a lot of big lakes here in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee.
John: Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah, fresh water. You could tell that I’m not a fisherman right there when I’m like, rivers? Creeks? Fresh water, John, that’s the word. Okay.
Joey: Yeah, not salt water. Fresh water.
John: Right, right. I’m picking it up. I’m good now. Yeah, but how did you get in to the fishing? Is that something, when you were a little boy, you always did?
Joey: Yeah. We grew up in a small town in North Mississippi and my dad and mom fished a little bit on the weekends at little ponds here and there and we were allowed to run the neighborhood and we had some and my brother and I, we started fishing very early and just have always fished. I mean I love the salt water fish too but you asked me what my number one passion was and that’s the crappie.
John: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I mean just you and your brother and I assume you guys still go out together now?
Joey: Oh, yeah. We’ll plan a trip together. We love to crappie fish together. We usually do every spring and get one or two weekends just together and then we’ll generally plan one or two salt water fishing trips together.
John: Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s really cool. Do you have any particular special memories or the biggest one you caught type of story?
Joey: Oh, my goodness. I think that’s one thing I love about fishing and you get to do it with different people. It’s just some of the memories and stories and there’s so many special ones. I think the one that comes to mind when you ask of that question is I took my son, Brandon and his son, Davis, who at the time was about eight years old.
We took him on his first salt water fishing trip for speckled trout down off of the coast of Louisiana and we went with a great friend of mine, somebody that I lost this year Captain Kerry Audibert was helping Davis and we were fishing live shrimp under a cork and Davis caught a really big trout. I mean like a little over four pounds and then they threw it out there again, they caught one that weighed over five pounds and so he was laughing at me and his daddy because we were catching fish too but he had caught two really big ones he said, “Captain Kerry, I’m just killing them. I’m killing.”
We got to laughing about that and then the funniest thing about that trip is we were coming back in. We all just fell out, you know, we’re fishing in salt water, we’re using live shrimp which only live in salt water and he fished with me a lot in fresh water too and he says on the way home, he says, “Pops, we have got to get some of this baked for the house.”
John: Right. Well, I like the way you’re thinking. I mean you’re always putting it together at least.
Joey: Oh, yeah. He was wanting to fish them live fish at home.
John: Right, right, which wouldn’t last for anything. Oh, yeah. That’s pretty funny. Do you do the trick where when you catch the fish, you hold it out so it looks bigger in the picture?
Joey: John, this is being recorded, right?
John: Never mind.
Joey: That’s way too much information.
John: Right, right. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Joey: I got a lot of photos out there.
John: Right, that’s true. If only this was a webinar, we can have you put your arms out as wide as you can. It was this big. That’s pretty funny. That’s really funny. Would you say that fishing gives you a skillset that you’re able to bring to the office?
Joey: I think it’s maybe not a skillset as much as it is, it’s how I recharge my batteries so that I can give even more to the people that I work with. I mean I really do. And then it certainly serves as a connector.
John: Yeah, I can imagine quite a few fishermen and fisherwomen, I get fisher people. I don’t even know in this day and age, what the proper word is but people that fish down there and so how does that come in conversation or people see pictures of that in your office?
Joey: Yeah, I mean I’m active on social media, Instagram, and Twitter so I’ll post things there and then I’m always sharing some of the pictures that we take on the phone and tell them some of the fishing stories like the one I shared about Davis with you. Now that my team knows that I fish, you know, when I visit different offices, I can get ready to tell a couple of fishing stories because everybody’s going to ask me, have you been fishing lately?
John: Right, right. That’s pretty cool though. I mean where suddenly you’re the managing partner of a pretty big firm that you’re super approachable. I think that’s really beneficial.
Joey: Well, it’s one of the things that I learned is I moved up in leadership is that we all crave to connect to other people and especially people in leadership. It’s nice to have a personal connection. It’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do even though the firm has grown so exponentially over the last five years is spend time in every office and get to know people personally and share some of my life with them and give them an opportunity to connect me on a real personal basis.
John: Yeah, yeah. I guess some people would feel scared to do that because they feel like they’re a little bit vulnerable or maybe it makes them look like not as good of an accountant or things like that. What are your thoughts on that?
Joey: Well, I would say that I’m a big introvert so it’s been really, really scary for me. I probably have gotten better at it since I assumed the position of managing partner. I probably do a better job today than I did before because I realized how important it is. But it is scary especially for those of us that are introverts but it also has grown me, has grown my skills set and it’s grown my ability to influence in people and have empathy for them and also be a better listener, help me be a better listener.
John: Yeah, yeah. I guess that’s pretty interesting how you say that you’ve done it more now that you’re the managing partner. I mean being an introvert clearly is part of it and I think a lot of people that listen are in a similar boat, feel the same way so I think that they can relate to that. Do you have any words of encouragement to people that are on the fence or haven’t quite seen the benefit yet?
Joey: Yeah, you know, I think from what I’ve learned from my own mistakes and experiences that people that you work with and people that you serve as customers and clients, they really do want to know you as a person and it’s okay to be human and it’s actually preferable. It’s just something that if you practice it, it’s like everything else. You’re going to get better at things if you practice, if you practice being intentional about it, it really lifts everybody around you.
John: Yeah, no, that’s really profound. That it does take practice. It’s not a natural skillset. A lot of people say, oh, well, the DNA of an accountant is not very outgoing or what have you and so that is interesting how some of us do require to be intentional about it and to practice and it’s encouraging to hear that someone like you who is so social now on social media and as well as in person that you aren’t always that way so it’s encouraging for others to hear that and I think that’s great.
Joey: Yeah, it’s certainly a weakness that I had early on in my career that I’ve gotten to where it’s actually a strength even though it certainly drains me and my energy and it makes me want to go fishing. But it’s a very positive thing. It’s been positive for me and our team.
John: Yeah, yeah. Do you feel like the relationships with those around you are different now than before?
Joey: I would say it’s changed, John, from the stand point that my span of people I network is so much wider now than when I was working in one area of the firm that it’s like you’re divided into a lot more pieces and a lot more people want to know something about you or know you. It’s kind of elevated and that happens too in leadership. I mean even if you’re just on a team, what we talk about at Horne is everybody leads and at times, your team is going to be looking for you to be that person that says, I’ve got this. And so the more that we know each other, the higher the trust level is and the more likely that we’re going to go that extra mile for each other to make sure that our team succeeds.
John: Yeah. I mean that’s so perfect right there is that trust level. When you get to know somebody a little bit on a personal level. I mean I’m not talking about drama and you know, I broke up with the seventh girl this week type of drama. Just legit who you are and what passions drive you then yeah, that trust level, and you actually want to work with those people. You’re excited to go to work because I know who they are. I think it’s cool too that at Horne, it’s not only okay to talk about other things but it’s encouraged. You realize that this job isn’t everything that drives the people here which I think is really cool. Was that a conscious decision or just something that kind of came about over time?
Joey: I would say that the founders of our firm people has always been a priority and our culture has been a priority and then in the last four, five years, we’ve been even more intentional in realizing that our world is changing and that people need to be empowered to integrate their professional and personal lives and that’s what we’ve built our flexibility around, that’s what we built our work environment and our culture around is to really allow people to be empowered to make the decisions they need to make to manage their life and manage their career.
John: Yeah. I mean it’s so perfect and having visited, I could tell everyone listening that it’s legit. There’s a lot of places that talk about it or they say it or it’s on the brochure and then all of the sudden you get in the doors, you’re like, “Wait a minute. This is –” yeah, but I mean from everyone I talked to down there, I mean it’s really encouraging and energizing to witness. I know you admit that there’s still ways to go. But you’re at least on the right path and plenty far down it. So congratulations on all that.
Joey: Well, I appreciate you sharing that and I think it’s something for all of us to remember that each of us is on a journey whether it’s us individually or a firm and any time you start thinking you’ve arrived then that’s when you’re about to have a big fall.
John: Right, right. That’s when you get swallowed up. When you were newer in your career, because there’s a lot of people listening that are in that one to five-year mark, and I find that those people tend to be a little more apprehensive in sharing because you know, hey, I’m all of a sudden making real money and I should probably know everything. Were you like that early on or what do you tell the new staff there at Horne how to go about things like that?
Joey: The first thing I usually tell them is don’t do it how I did it. Way, way too many mistakes and the thing I do is try to share what I’ve learned from those mistakes and for some of the young professionals, I talk to them about it in different ways but it really is about attitude, really wanting to have a curiosity and being a constant learner and not being scared. It really does take courage to raise your hand or speak up in a meeting and voice a question that you have or an idea that you have and one of the things that we do at Horne, we have a rally cry around be better because we want to challenge the status quo every day.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. Even someone at the first-year level can have good ideas and not everyone always thinks that or they discredit that but that’s cool how it’s welcomed there. Yeah, because that could be a little intimidating. I remember when I was first out of school, you’re doing bank recs and auditing cash and even then, you’re questioning yourself even though it’s the easiest thing on the planet. You’re like, well, I don’t really know. We didn’t exactly do this in class. And so it’s cool that there’s that culture that doesn’t provide that pressure.
Joey: Well, people typically are their own worst critic and when you put them in an environment where they’re encouraged and supported, and they get their wings on them a little bit, they fly further faster in that environment so we realized that having that sense of belonging and that you’re supported is very important to our whole organization being creative and innovative and actually, some of the best ideas come from the younger team.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s really cool. I guess one thing that I always chew on is just how much is it that tone at the top versus there’s leaders at all levels and someone at the bottom can create that circle and create a little bit of a culture within a small team even if it’s not firm wide.
Joey: When I reflect on that, John, what I would share with everybody is that absolutely every person has influence and affects the culture of an organization and they make a choice every day whether that’s positive or negative and I will tell you, from our experience in our culture that a lot of the team members themselves really embraced what we laid out as a vision and they made it happen and that’s really why we have so much positive energy in the firm is because it’s being driven by all levels of the firm.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean especially yeah, if you can get it from top-down, I mean that’s really fantastic. Some of the surveys that market research survey that I’m doing on corporate culture, and it’s kind of fascinating just to see first of all that 91%-92% of people have something they regularly do outside of books but yet hardly any of that is always shared with the co-workers and stuff like that but more importantly is the column of why don’t people share and that column scares me to death. It’s like well, there isn’t a charge code for socializing or we don’t get paid to know each other type of thing. What do you say to people that have that view of how the corporate world works?
Joey: I would say that that’s a tragedy that we have cultures where you can have a top-down or even an attitude that hey, you’re not paid to be here to know each other because you’re not cranking out pencils. You’re really knowledge workers working together and what the research shows, John, is that actually the teams that are most socially connected, have the strongest sense of belonging outperform other things every time even with the team that has the higher IQ, a team that gets connected and working together outperforms.
John: Yeah, definitely. No, I agree. It’s always just interesting to get your take on it especially so I’m not just saying the same thing over and over every week. It’s always cool to get your perspective on that. Yeah, I mean this has been awesome. I mean just really, really fantastic and just so fun to have you on and hear stories and to hear you admit that you’ve made mistakes, that you’re not always perfect, you don’t always know all the answers because I think that’s a thing especially in our profession where a lot of people feel that pressure to be the smartest person in the room all the time.
Joey: Yeah, there’s a lot of legacy around that and that the profession for the last hundred years has been relevant because we were the score keepers and the historians and we wore that technical badge into the room, that was our pass into the room that we’ll tell you whether it’s right or wrong or where it goes and our world is changing very quickly and it’s very important today that we have conversations within our teams and with our clients about things that we’re not going to have a clear answer to.
John: Yeah. Oh, that’s so huge. Because I mean we’re now walking into some gray areas and having some nebulous type of discussions.
Joey: Yeah, it’s a level of what you hear a common word today – collaboration. It’s a level of collaboration that we’ve not really experienced profession wide or in a lot of professions in fact much more collaboration within teams and with the clients and customers.
John: Yeah, yeah. I guess one question that I’d love to ask you is just why do you think there’s that definition of stereotypical accountant?
Joey: I think it exists and I would tell you that I think the number one crutch or reason why it is hard to get rid of is the time sheet and the fact that we run the profession off of the time sheet and that, in my opinion, is the structure and the support to continue to have people not think about what is the right thing to be doing right now.
John: Right, right. That’s definitely true because I mean the more accountants that I meet and the more people that I have on this podcast, the more that stereotype is not true. I mean you’re talking about I can’t wait to go fishing. The stereotype is I can’t wait to do more accounting. It’s just frustrating to know that it still exists and especially when I hear other accountants following the line with that. Do you have any idea on why that might be or why people sort of feel that pressure to conform like that?
Joey: The greatest enemy of future success is past success and so the profession, if you look at it for the last hundred years, especially if you look at it for the last 25 years, the accounting profession, CPA firms have been extremely successful, John, and they’ve been successful by selling time, they’ve been successful by managing the firm on a time sheet and by wearing the badge of honor being the most hours worked. That’s the wrong culture, the wrong journey for today.
John: Right, no, that’s exactly right. I had Tony Nitti on a little bit ago a couple of weeks ago and he was talking about how it’s a contest to see who can sit in the chair the longest. Yeah, I mean it’s crazy.
Joey: Yeah, I actually heard that podcast and I was laughing about it because that is so typical.
John: Right. I mean yeah, if anything, that should be the badge of shame, I don’t know, embarrassment? Like why did it take you so long to do the same amount of work? That’s crazy. Yeah, there’s more stuff to life. So now, that’s so encouraging, man, to hear.
This has been really great but before I fly down there again and put on my fishing gear, I don’t even know, just a hat I guess, is that appropriate?
Joey: Yeah, you can dress real casual. You definitely need a hat and some sun glasses.
John: There we go. It sounds like my kind of thing but before we do that, I have my 17 rapid fire questions that I got to run you through to make sure that you know, that’s a lot of time out on the water in a small group so I got to make sure that this will work. Here we go. I’m going to fire this thing up here. 17 rapid fire questions. All right, here we go. I’ll start you out easy.
First one, do you prefer more out ocean or mountains?
John: Both, all right. How about more cats or dogs?
John: Dogs, all right. When it comes to financial, are you more balance sheet or income statement?
Joey: Income statement.
John: All right, all right. How about do you have a movie that makes you cry?
John: Pass? All right, we’ll do a different one then. How about favorite toppings on a pizza?
Joey: Oh, I love the supreme. Everything.
John: Supreme, nice, everything. How about do you have a favorite number?
Joey: Number 8.
John: Number 8, and why is that?
Joey: That was my number when I played ball.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, it’s a good enough reason. How about when it comes to computers? Are you more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC, and when it comes to your mouse? Right-click or left-click? It’s kind of a silly question.
Joey: Yeah, it is a silly question. Left-click.
John: All right, making decisions. There we go. On movies, are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?
John: Neither? All right. More like Rocky?
Joey: I binge watch a very few things but like 24.
John: Okay. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Favorite TV show, absolutely, 24 for sure. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Joey: Mickey Mouse.
John: Mickey, there you go. How about do you have a favorite band or musician?
John: No, all of them? How about a type of music?
Joey: Probably pop rock or a little modern country.
John: Oh, okay. All right. Yeah, yeah. How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
John: Okay, all right. We only got like six more. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Blue. I was going to say it’s got to be one of the old Mis colors.
Joey: You got a good memory, John.
John: Yeah, yeah. I try. Do you have a least favorite color?
Joey: My least favorite color would be maroon.
John: I think I know why that is. That happens to be Mississippi State for those of you that are not following along. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Joey: Wow. Man, I love everything.
John: Wow, okay. All right. Even Brussels sprouts?
Joey: I really do. I can’t think of one. I mean I even love Brussels sprouts.
John: Wow. All right. Two more, two more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Joey: Early bird.
John: Yeah, yeah. I believe it. The last one, the last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Joey: Oh, I think the coolest thing, the neatest thing I own is my 18-and-a-half-foot War Eagle Crappie boat with a 115 horsepower Yamaha. It is a crappie fisherman’s dream.
John: Yeah, no that’s awesome, man. That sounds so perfect. Yeah, well, it’s hard to argue with that one. That’s for sure. But thank you so much, Joey. This was really, really fantastic. Thanks for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Joey: Thank you, John, and thank you for what you do for our profession. We appreciate it.
John: Seriously, how great was that? I particularly loved how Joey said, absolutely every person has an influence on the culture of an organization and it’s up to each person to decide if that influence is positive or negative on a daily basis.
Now, if you like to see some pictures of Joey fishing or connect with him on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com and while you’re there, please click that big green button and do the super short anonymous survey about corporate culture. Thank you so much for hitting subscribe and then for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.