Jason rocks his way to better client connections
Jason Hastie is the lead singer for Jason Hastie and The Alibi, a Top50 Canadian country band that was ACMA nominated for Group of the Year in 2015. He had always liked singing but didn’t really get into it until after he moved to Calgary and started his own consulting firm. Now he’s regularly on the radio and is invited to the CMA Awards!
In this episode, Jason and I talk about how similar writing and performing his music is to being a small business consultant. Finding that common ground that connects us is what makes both so powerful. In his words, “We’re all born to connect.” He realizes we’re all human and can’t be totally perfect. “The harder you try to be perfect, the easier it is to feel like you failed.”
Jason Hastie is the Founder & CEO of TenjaGo in Calgary, Canada.
He received his Master’s of Professional Accounting, Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan.
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Welcome to Episode 113 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion, making them stand out like a green apple in a red apple world.
When I tell you to imagine an apple in your head, I’m sure for most of you, it’s red, right? Because in school, remember that A is for apple picture? It’s always a red apple. Because that’s the stereotype, but the interesting thing is that all apples actually start out green and then over time, they turn red, turning into that stereotype but just like the green part of that red apple, there’s deep down inside of us, a passion for something other than our job and that’s what I love to shine a light on each week.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing and leaving ratings and comments on iTunes and all the other Android apps. It’s so encouraging to hear how much you enjoy, because someone actually described to me as the least business-y podcast out there. So that’s so fantastic. I’m doing some research actually. It’s really, really short. It takes about one minute. It’s an anonymous survey about firm culture and how the Green Apple message might apply in your world so if you got just 60 seconds please head to greenapplepodcast.com, you can click on the big green button there and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and I really appreciate the help.
Okay. Now, it’s time to introduce you to this week’s guest, Jason Hastie. He’s the founder and CEO of TenjaGo. It’s a bookkeeping service in Calgary that’s rocking it, and I can’t wait to get started on your passion, Jason. But first, I just want to say thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jason: It’s great to be here. I’ve been waiting for what? Ten years? 15 years? For you to ask me.
John: Right, right, and I was like, you know what? I don’t think he’s ready yet. I’m not sure if he’s ready. But no, I’m just so excited to have you on the show and to share your story. It’s so fantastic. Really, really cool. But I gave everyone a little bit of your background in the introduction but maybe in your own words, kind of professionally, where you’re at now and a little bit of how you got there?
Jason: Right. Well, I’m a chartered accountant. I’m a CPA. As you know, in the U.S., we are now CPAs in Canada and also a musician. Our band is under my name, Jason Hastie and The Alibi, and we’ve got three top 50 hits in Canada. And yeah, just having a good time.
John: That’s so cool, man. What was it like when that first top 50 hit went out and you’re on the radio, you’re driving on the road, “Hey, that’s us.”
Jason: Yeah, you know, the whole radio thing, hearing yourself on the radio, it truly is there’s nothing like it. I mean it doesn’t matter if it was the first time or the 50th time that we’ve heard ourselves. Maybe when you become an absolute superstar, you don’t care as much but for us, anytime we’re driving, especially as a band and we hear ourselves on the radio, we’re like, “Turn it up!” This is awesome.
John: People are emailing you I’m sure or tweets or whatever just, “Hey, man. We just heard you guys,” and yeah, that’s got to feel really cool.
Jason: It is and yeah, the cool thing with social media now is that somebody will hear us on the radio, one of our fans or whatever, and they’ll take a snapshot and post it on Twitter or Instagram or whatever and all the radios have the names displayed so yeah, that’s always cool too.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s really, really cool. Really, really cool. One thing that I’ve got to ask you is just how did you get into accounting?
Jason: Well, I grew up on a farm and the farming life, there’s so many things that are beyond your control. It’s a tough life, right? My parents wanted me to get an education and I actually started in engineering. I took a semester of engineering at the university. I was like, this isn’t for me. So I took a year off and I’d always like business. Everything about me is entrepreneurial, like I’m an entrepreneur at heart so I think accounting just kind of fit with that. Yeah, so that’s how I got started. Then I went to university, got my Accounting degree, got my masters in accounting and then became a CPA.
John: That’s great, man. Yeah, I mean certainly as a musician, I mean yeah, everything and owning your own business and all that, I mean clearly entrepreneurial through and through. I don’t think people quite understand how difficult it is I mean when you are a musician or an artist, I mean that is your small business also.
Jason: Oh, yeah. Truly. People always look at it as being the music side, right? But really, I’d say probably 80% of it is admin stuff like you’re trying to book shows, you’re trying to you know, you’re writing contracts with this record label, you’re doing this and that and I mean accounting is obviously a massive part of it so I feel very fortunate to have the accounting side to me. Sometimes, our guitar player says that the one bad thing about it is that I’m not 100% focused on music because I can get drawn into the other stuff, the other side of it as well. But the entrepreneur side of that is that I’m growing my business so I really enjoy that.
John: Yeah, yeah. You tell them you can’t buy new drums if we’re out of number because I’m being super creative over here on the corner.
Jason: That’s right. I have tracked your spending. You’re going out a bit too much, you don’t really need that cymbal.
John: Right. He’s like, seven cowbells. I need them, trust me.
Jason: Yeah, totally.
John: And this little wind chime thingy. So when did you start with the music career? I mean were you always singing and playing music when you were a child?
Jason: I always had been. I mean earliest memories of me with a little tape recorder, recording myself singing, my first instrument was piano so I was always doing singing and piano, recording it on a cassette tape and that was when I was four or five years old and then kind of the switch happened after I’d completed university, I mean I’d done music always throughout but never professionally.
The city that I went to university in is called Saskatoon and I moved out to a city called Calgary which is just over a million people and it’s kind of the country Mecca of Canada. It’s kind of the Nashville of Canada I guess. So I had started working for an accounting firm in Calgary, worked for four months, didn’t like the firm, didn’t like what I was doing so I decided to go out on my own and form my own consulting practice and what that enabled me to do is because I had no clients at the start, I started going to all these music jams and just kind of getting connected with the music committee and I was like, hey, I would love to actually do this more professionally.
So because I have my own consulting practice and good thing with accounting is you can make a good living at it. It’s a very good job to have, a very good career to have so I was able to kind of handle both. I was able to make my money and then focus on growing my music at the same time.
John: Yeah. That’s so perfect. Because I mean that’s similar to the way I approach the comedy was keep the day job and get really good before you make that jump because once you make the job, you can’t go back. It’s really, really hard.
Jason: Very true. And you know what? A lot of my musician friends are servers at this restaurant or they work jobs like that and that is tough. To me, I had it easy because doing accounting, you can work a bit and make decent money and set my own hours, do all that kind of stuff so I feel like I had it easy in comparison to a lot of my friends.
John: Right, right, yeah. Well, because you had health benefits and all the other stuff, steady paycheck that was decent.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean there’s no right way to do it which is what’s really neat. Really, really neat. I mean I guess I mean there’s got to be a million really, really amazing stories but what’s one of the cooler or maybe a couple of cooler more rewarding stories besides hearing yourself on the radio while you guys are driving?
Jason: As far as yeah, music wise, honestly when you truly feel you’ve touched somebody else, like made a difference to somebody else’s life whether it be through a song that they like or a lyric of a song that they like, hearing that always I think it’s so cool. I learned so much from that in how you can have an impact in a good positive way in somebody else’s life and anybody who listens to music or enjoys music in any sense, has a song that either takes them back or they’ve learned from or kind of helps them deal with life in a certain way and to me, that is always the coolest thing.
John: Yeah, yeah, no. That’s fantastic. That’s so fantastic. I mean you were just telling me how you guys have been invited to the CCMA Awards shows and I mean stuff like that, I mean that’s just so fantastic. I mean really, really cool. You’re not crashing the party, “We were invited.”
Jason: Yeah, yeah. That is true like the CCMA Awards, that kind of stuff, it’s awesome. The public sees just the award show but really what’s behind that is it’s usually three-four days that everyone in the industry gets together and so you get to know everybody so much in the industry as it is so it’s almost like a homecoming that you have every year. Everybody gets together, you get to see all the radio people you know, all the other musicians, all the other bands, artists out there and that’s probably why my voice sounds the way it does because we partied pretty hard during the CCMAs so yeah.
John: Right. You’re like, “Hey, can I see your cash flow statement? Let’s check this out.”
Jason: Believe it or not, you know what? Sometimes, you have a bit too much to drink and somebody’s like, “Oh, hey, can I ask you a couple of questions?” And you think it’s music, yeah.
John: Right. I would always get that from comedians as well, and I’m not a tax guy at all. I never once even did tax. I got like a C+ in college. I’m not a tax person. So I would always be like, well, what do you think? I don’t know. It sounds like it was cash to me. Just don’t put it on your bank account and we’re all even, you know, how’s that?
Jason: Exactly. It is so true because it’s like saying to the drummer, “Oh, can you pick up that guitar and play me a C chord?” The drummer might say, “Well, I have no clue.” Accounting, I mean you could be a tax advisor, you can be an auditor, you can be all these other things. So you’re not necessarily specializing in everything but the thing that peaks most people’s interest is the tax stuff. Oh, how could I found out that tax strategy or a tax loophole? How can I save tax, right?
John: Yeah. Well, because that’s the thing that touches everyone. Not everyone has a balance sheet. Everybody’s paying taxes. That’s such a great analogy though. I guess one thing that I’m really curious about here is do you feel that there’s any skills that you’ve developed from being in the band and the music side that translates over to your business or the accounting career?
Jason: Yeah. Oh, definitely. I probably have to say the biggest one is just connecting with people. Because music is such a connecting thing, right? We were kind of talking about before but with entrepreneurial stuff, I love talking to small business owners and I just have it in me to want to help small businesses. I find that the thing that sets them at ease especially when you first meet each other is that if you can find something in common, so if you have something in common, something you can connect with, it makes a huge difference because then, it’s easy to talk.
It’s kind of like, it becomes more casual conversation and I definitely pulled that from the music industry as well as just being a lot more outgoing like not afraid to speak up, not afraid to chat to somebody, not afraid to make the first move with whatever you’re talking about. I just find you’re just more at ease so in my mind, I always want to put the other person at ease as well and then I think, you can develop a much deeper relationship.
John: Right, no, that’s so perfect. That’s exactly where it’s at and it’s crazy because yeah, I mean when you’re in front of hundreds or thousands of people performing, suddenly, doing one-on-one with a small business person, I mean it’s a different thing but you’re still making that connection, and I think a lot of people don’t understand too, I mean in the comedy world, when you have an audience, that audience kind of becomes one entity. When you’re up there on stage, and you’re singing, it’s one crowd because they all cheer around the same time.
Jason: Well, and yeah, and you feel the energy, right? That’s where people say you know, they ask me often, are you more nervous performing for a small crowd or a large crowd and I’m more nervous performing for 30 people than I am for 15,000.
John: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Jason: You know, in that 15,000 crowd, I mean you just feel the energy for the most part, right?
John: Right, even if you only get 15% or 50% of them, that’s like 7,500 people. That’s a lot. If you get 50% of 30, you’re like, “Oh,” you know.
Jason: Yeah. Well, and even in a crowd, you spot this person here or that person there, and you can still make a connection with them and that’s an even cooler thing. I’m not sure about comedy but I’m sure you probably have the same stage feel where the people don’t necessarily understand that you’ve got light shining at you so it’s much harder for you to see them than it is for them to see you. Sometimes, it can be hard to spot people so it does just become a big massive crowd but you can still definitely feel the energy.
John: Yeah, no, that’s dead on, man. That’s dead on. When you’re trying to put people at ease or trying to find that something in common, I guess how do you go about that? Just part of the conversation? Just asking, because I know that there’s a lot of people that struggle with that.
Jason: Yeah, definitely. I think it comes out in the conversation. It can be anything from, “Oh, I’ve travelled here” or, “Oh, yeah. My sister lives in that town too” or whatever it is, I try to let them talk a little bit more at the start and in a way that they feel ease enough to talk, you just want to be approachable, right?
I think getting back to the music thing, some of the most famous singers or musicians out there, sometimes are the most humble people you’ll come across. Garth Brooks just performed in our city and I think he did seven shows and the consistent thing that I heard from every person who had been to each different show was that he was that same person. He was that genuine person that didn’t have any errors about him, and I think that just that being comfortable and saying hey, we’re all humans. I think we’re just born to connect, right? So whatever way we can find to connect, it just makes it that much easier.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s so true. I love how all of the things that you’re talking about for finding that common ground are not accounting or business related, none of them are.
Jason: True exactly. Yeah, that’s right.
John: Because that’s where the connection happens. The connection very, very rarely — I’m not going to say never, but very, very rarely happens over the numbers or the business or your job. It’s always that hobby, that passion, that background, the thing that makes you you, where no matter what job you have, that’s still you which is really, really cool.
Jason: Yeah. I can’t think of a time that I’ve ever said to somebody, “You have negative equity on your balance sheet too? That’s crazy.”
John: That’d be so funny. You guys like, “High five, yeah! Let’s go get matching tattoos. Let’s do this.” It’s so funny. So in that conversation, does it come up of your music career in that side of you? Is that something you talk about or not so much?
Jason: Yeah, you know what? Often it does and I’ve had many instances where clients of mine who knew each other but didn’t know that they both knew me figured out that they knew me because the one client’s like, “Oh, yeah. My accountant’s a country singer” and they’re like, “Oh, who’s that? Jason Hastie?” You know, there aren’t a lot.
John: That’s hilarious.
Jason: Yeah, exactly. So definitely, I never hold back in that respect and I think again, that almost sets people at ease. You have to watch obviously because you want to convey that professionalism too but I think in just your general talk, people are pretty good at getting a sense if you know what you’re doing or if you don’t. So if you can have that professionalism but still maintain that like, “Oh, wow. That’s kind of cool,” you’ve got this like not black and white side to you I guess, again, just helps.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean plus it’s something that then people are gravitating towards. It’s not, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got an accountant who has black hair” and it’s like, “Oh, Jason Hastie?” No. I mean that’s not the thing that makes you unique, that’s not inherent in you, and that hobby or that passion that’s deep inside you. So that’s really cool, man. I think that’s great. And it is hard.
I think there are some people that struggle with especially in our cases where you don’t want it to come across braggy and I think that people then start to diminish it a little bit because they don’t want to come across like that but it’s actually the opposite because people think it’s amazing. I mean they think it’s really, really neat.
Jason: Oh, for sure. That’s the beauty of music. I mean comedy’s the same. My sister’s a flight attendant so it’s kind of a lot of these types of careers or industries, there’s interest and excitement in it. So generally, people are very interested and they’re like, “Oh, that’s really cool.” And often, I get asked, “How are you a musician and an accountant?” The way that I explain it is that a lot of it is about numbers. I mean accounting is obviously about numbers but music, there’s the national numbering system, it’s about chords, it’s about measures, it’s about beats. So they aren’t as polar opposite as you think they are is what I always say.
John: Yeah. I always just say when you’re really, really bad at audit then you just go comedy. That’s pretty much how that works. When people start saying, “You’re my most favorite auditor ever,” oh, that’s probably not a good sign.
John: Yeah, yeah. When you worked prior to starting your own thing and worked for a firm, was there anything that they did that you felt allowed you to open up and share hobbies and passions or thing like that or other firms or places that you’ve come across that for people that are necessarily solopreneurs but people that are part of bigger firms?
Jason: Oh, yeah, definitely. Accountants are stereotyped a lot. I always say it’s like people say accountants are boring and accountants say engineers are boring so everybody has to have that group that they say is probably more boring than they are or has less personality but you know, like I have many friends who are — I have friends that are very typical accountants as well but I was very fortunate to article with that firm that was filled with personality. One of the partners was an incredible piano player.
So we’d have our Christmas parties or our tax parties and by the end of the evening, everybody had drunk a lot more than they should have and then there’s Blair on the piano and everybody’s singing Christmas tunes or whatever. I think there really isn’t any holding back especially when people feel comfortable with each other in whatever sense it is then your personalities really come out.
John: Yeah, no that’s great. Do you think it’s more of a tone at the top because that sounds awesome when a partner’s leading the charts like that versus —
Jason: Oh, definitely. Well, yeah. I would say definitely. The only flipside to that is that if there’s a complete segregation from the top to everyone else, well, then everyone else can probably get together and have a great time and then sometimes, that bonds people as well, right? I mean that’s not commonality. Do you hate your boss? Yeah, you know. Then there’s that commonality too but I would say by far, having a come down from the top, yeah, it’s great. And you talk about culture in a firm or culture in an organization. It can really, really make a huge difference.
John: Right, right. No, that’s so cool. Very cool. Yeah, you should get back with that guy and bring him in for a couple of songs or something.
Jason: Yeah, totally.
John: Next CPA Canada conference look out everybody, here it comes.
Jason: Yeah. It’s Jason and Blair.
John: Right? That’s really cool, really cool. I guess one thing too that I think about is some people are reluctant to share and like you said, you have some friends that are typical accountants and I mean I’m sure that they have some sort of a hobby whether it’s stamp collecting or something that you would stereotype but what might be some barriers that people feel like well, I don’t want to share this and maybe some words of encouragement to overcome that?
Jason: What I would say has the biggest reason for a barrier is somebody not feeling secure in what they’re sharing. I mean aside from financial information of course, right? Because there’s oftentimes, you can’t your financial information but just in personality or getting to know somebody, I always find that it comes down to insecurities and even looking back at myself as a kid, it’s that whole if I could tell myself this as a kid, the biggest thing that I would tell myself and that’s another thing that really, has helped me with my music career is just confidence, right? Because you are who you are.
We’re all human. We all have faults. None of us is perfect so the harder you try to be perfect, the easier it is to fail and to feel like you failed because you realize you’re not perfect. So if you come at it from an imperfect this is just me. For me, it also could be an age thing as well. My wife and I have two daughters and if there’s one thing that I can instill in them, it’s just to say you know what? Just be who you are kind of like if people don’t like you, it’s not your issue, it’s their issue really.
I think the world is kind of getting that way in some ways but then there’s the sensitivity issue that really, it’s everything as Canadians, we’re beat up a lot by being very sensitive. My wife’s Australian. They are super thick skinned and Canadians are very sensitive but I mean the flipside to that is that we’re super deep like we don’t really hold back in a lot of ways until there’s that insecurity and it’s tested.
I think the long story short is that it comes down to how secure you are with yourself and how willing you are to share and like as you know, being on stage and probably even more so than me, I mean a comedian like you get heckled. We don’t tend to get heckled as musicians, there’s not often that people are like, “Boo” even if they don’t really like you if you’re screwing up and you’re off pitch or whatever, your sound’s terrible, people aren’t going to be like, “Boo” but as a comedian, of course you have that happen, right?
John: It’s brutal, it’s brutal. Yeah, and you know what frustrates me is people that come see your concert, they listen to your CD on the way to the show, they listen to you sing the exact same songs at the show and then they listen to the CD on the way home and they love all of it. A comedian, you hear that joke one time, he goes to tell it a second time six years later, “I had heard that one.” It’s like come on. It’s just as hard to write a really, really good joke, just as hard. On behalf of all comedians, I just needed to say that to a musician and have it recorded.
Jason: That’s a good point, yeah, for sure as far as in a judgment sense.
John: Well, I mean it’s fine because everybody wants to be you guys including comedians but no, I love how you said that where it really boils down to our own insecurities because I think that once you do start sharing and you do open up a little bit then, wow, people think this is really cool type of thing, no matter what it is, no matter what it is that you’re doing. And then someone else in your office also does it which is just magic.
Jason: Yeah. That’s a really good point.
John: Well, this has been really fantastic, Jason. But I do have my rule that before I get in a plane and fly up to Western Canada there in Calgary, and hang out and I’ll bring my trombone and we’ll make it like a Ska country, is that all right? We can do that? Like the ‘90s?
Jason: Perfect. I’m in.
John: But I do have my 17 rapid fire questions that I like to run you through. So let’s fire this thing up here. This is going to be fun. You’re going to nail this. I can feel it. I can feel it. Here we go. I’ll start you out super easy, super easy. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Black, okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Purple, that’s a solid answer, solid answer. How about a least favorite vegetable?
John: Really good answer. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Jason: I used to love Minnie Driver, Matt Damon’s awesome, yeah.
John: Oh, yeah. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Jason: Early bird. That’s the non-musician in me.
John: Yeah, I was going to say. Wow. How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Jason: Maybe crossword.
John: Right, because you’re on the airplane. How about when it comes to financials? Are you more balance sheet or income statement?
Jason: Income statement.
John: Right, right. I’ll give it to you. How about do you have a movie that makes you cry?
Jason: Oh, boy. Good Will Hunting. The TV show that’s on right now that makes me cry the most, This Is Us. Love that show so much.
John: Right, yeah. No, absolutely. How about are you more cats or dogs?
Jason: I’d say dogs.
John: Are you more ocean or mountains?
Jason: Mountains. Mountains make me cry.
John: Yeah. How about when it comes to computers, are you more of a PC or a Mac?
Jason: PC definitely.
John: Right, right. And then when it comes to your mouse, right-click or left-click?
John: Oh, yeah, yeah. Making decisions. Two more. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Jason: Star Trek by far.
John: All the Star Treks?
John: Sometimes people want to qualify it.
Jason: Nerd alert, nerd alert. Yup.
John: And the last one, the last one. It’s the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Jason: Oh, wow. Holy crap. That’s a good question. My piano. I’ve owned it for a long time.
John: Yeah. What kind of piano is it?
Jason: It’s an upright, Young Chang, black.
John: Okay. That’s awesome. Well, this was really, really fantastic, Jason. Thank you for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jason: Yeah. It’s been great talking to you and I’m sure I’ll see you around.
John: Wow. That was so great. I loved how Jason said the harder you try to be perfect, the easier it is to feel like you failed. That’s some crazy deep stuff and he’s exactly right because professionalism preaches this false hope of perfection that you can never actually attain.
So just be you, be human, and you’ll be much more successful. Now, if you’d like to see some pictures of Jason in concerts and connect with him on social media or go to his band’s website, please go to greenapplepodcast.com and while you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about firm culture.
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