Bill runs, bikes and swims to business relationships
Bill Jones began exercising about 15 years ago when he weighed 300 lbs. A coworker mentioned that he was going to the YMCA one day, invited Bill, and that’s when he began walking the track. After just six months, he had already lost 80 lbs and was encouraged to keep the momentum going, so he signed up to run the BolderBoulder 10k. Since then, he’s completed 4 Ironman triathlons and 16 marathons!
In this episode, Bill and I talk about him being so focused on work instead of himself is what led to him being 300 lbs. But he was able to overcome that by doing what many thought was not possible. Now he schedules runs during the week, sometimes even during the day if he’s going to have to stay late during busy season. He also encourages everyone to find what gives them that release from work and talk about it with others in the office. “Share your passion. People will support you in ways you never imagined.”
Bill Jones is the Managing Partner of the Boulder office at ACM, a really great firm doing some cool things in Colorado. He’s also a Board Member of the Boulder Small Business Development Center, the Erie Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Society of CPA’s Continuing Professional Education Committee.
He graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.
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Hi. My name is Bill Jones and when I’m not swimming or biking, I’m listing to the Green Apple Podcast.
John: Hello. This is John Garrett and welcome to Episode 133 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in a boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned degrees and certifications. Sometimes, its experiences from your passions outside of work that make you better at your job but only if you let them. It’s interesting to know that time is the only resource that you can’t make more of making it the most precious.
So what we do with our time outside of work is a much better indicator of who we truly are and what drives us. Really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one minute anonymous survey about firm culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. You can click the big green button there, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much for everyone subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Bill Jones. He’s the managing partner of the Boulder Office at ACM, a really great firm doing some cool things in Colorado and he’s also a board member of the Boulder Small Business Development Center, the Erie Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Society of CPA’s Continuing Professional Education Committee.
Wow, Bill. You’re crazy busy. I’m lucky to have you with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Bill: I’m happy to be here. I’m looking forward to sharing my story.
John: Oh, man. I’m so excited to have you on. I have met you at the ACM Office there in Boulder Colorado. What a cool firm and a lot of fun stuff going on there. We had Randy Watkins on the. He’s been on the Green Apple Podcast, another partner there at ACM at a different office. Eventually, I will get all of the offices covered but it’s all fun. I gave everyone a quick introduction about you and your career but maybe in your own words a little bit of what you’re up to now and kind of how you got there.
Bill: Well, for ACM, I manage our Boulder Office. I had the office before we merged in but I keep the office on track and do tax and audit to keep myself entertained.
John: Right. I guess one thing that I love to ask everybody is just how did you get into accounting?
Bill: Well, that’s a lot of story. I’m not sure that a podcast is long enough for that. I started in technical theater believe it or not. So lights and sound and I was a licensed pyrotechnic.
Bill: And I decided that I was never going to make a living doing that. I was working for a greeting card company here in Boulder. I was talking to the general manager one day and he was hired at the audit firm so he had an accounting background. I was talking about a good business degree and I said I’m going to go into marketing. He says, “Oh, no, no, no. Go into accounting because accounting is the language of business and you’ll understand how every business decision should be made,” and no offense to anybody in sales and marketing but he said, “I can teach anybody how to sell. I can’t teach marketing people how to understand accounting.” I had never even thought about it and I was going to — so I switched to accounting. I was going to go through college and get a corporate job somewhere and work 35 years or whatever and get a gold watch and retire.
But all the cool jobs had CPA, CMA, MBA after their name then I thought well I should try out this public accounting thing. And so my boss introduced me to someone. I was studying for the CPA exam. He says, “You’re going to need a resume and a job in public accounting.” He says, “I’ll recommend you,” and that happened in one day. On a Thursday, I wasn’t looking for a job. And on a Friday, I had a job in public accounting. I thought I’d do that for a year and here it is 25 plus years later and I’m still enjoying what I do.
John: Good for you, man. That’s awesome. What a good a crazy roundabout story to get into accounting. I just got a D in physics. That made my — I was on the fast track like I was —
Bill: Well, that’s one way to get there.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. But in technical theatre in doing the lights and the sound and all that stuff for the behind the scenes.
Bill: That’s right. I worked for the Shakespeare Festival here in Boulder as a college student. Back when I started college, it was late ’80s. Then if you wanted to be in theater, you had to move to California or Chicago or New York and didn’t want to do that.
John: That’s fantastic, man. When you’re not managing the office there in Boulder, what sort of hobby, passion takes up your free time?
Bill: Other than doing stuff with my kids and family, most of my free time revolves around triathlon.
John: Wow, okay.
Bill: Swim, bike or run. If I had to choose what I was going to do on a Saturday, I would go for a bike ride but I think the other things because that’s part of triathlon.
John: Yeah. You can’t do three biking events. That’d be great if you could.
Bill: Yeah, that gives you an unfair advantage.
John: Right. How did you get into doing triathlons? I guess there’s three. You just do the other two because was at the cycling that got you in or how did that work?
Bill: Actually about 15 years ago, I had put my heart and soul into my career and traveled and gave up all the good habits and lots of food on the road and stuff like that. I was about 300 pounds.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Bill: I went to the doctor and he said, “We need to put you on medication for cholesterol.” I’m kind of medication aversed and said, well, give me a few months. I went back to the office. At the time I shared an office with my partner, the office space and I just said, “Listen, this is what he said.” My partner was my age — well, I’m going to the Y this afternoon. You should go with me. And so I went and I had no idea of triathlon but I started walking around the track and long story but after five or six months, I had lost 80 pounds.
Bill: The weight stopped coming off. So we signed up for a local race here in Boulder, the Bolder Boulder 10K which is nationally known. Fifty thousand people run it. But I signed up to train for that and once we ran the race, I said, “Well, it’s a year until the next one. I need to find something else to keep me motivated on the workouts. I was running every day and it was hurting my knees. So I was at the Y. They had an indoor triathlon where you just do every event for time. I signed up for that and I specifically remember saying I never want to do an Ironman I never want to do a marathon. But in Boulder, the triathlon community is pretty active. Once you get in, it’s just what you do. So you do the short race and then next year they say, “You should try an Olympic.” I’m like, “Really? That seems so far.” Then you do the Olympic, they say, “Maybe you should try a half.” That really seems far.
John: Maybe you should run to LA and back. What are you guys? Crazy? That’s fantastic. You just built your way up, peer pressure sort of. That’s fantastic, man. That’s so impressive though. To go for 300 pounds and to see you today, that’s impressive. That’s really cool.
Bill: Well, thanks. I appreciate that. It’s a big accomplishment. People say to me all the time when they see and I talk about Ironman and they say, “Oh, I could never do that.” I said, anybody can do it. You have to decide that’s what you want and it’s that way with anything whether it’s climbing or running or reaching a particular position in a company. You just put your focus to it and you work towards. But I never wanted to do Ironman and I’ve done Ironman four times now and I’ve run 16 standalone marathons. I’m not fast. I’m definitely a middle to back of the pack person. All the races I do, I make sure they’re scenic because I’m going to be out there a really long time.
John: Right. That’s so funny. That’s great because you’re going to be there for a while. So you might as well enjoy it while you’re doing so. Yeah, you’re not in the front of the pack. That’s what’s funny to me is when people call them races, I’m like it’s really a race for about ten people and then everyone else is just running. It’s not race. it’s a run. Let’s put it in perspective really. That’s great, man. Sixteen marathons and four Ironmans. Wow. You have another one coming up this year, right?
Bill: Yeah, I signed up for a local one here in June. More as a way to get me motivated to get back in shape. It’s either going to be a good race or a $700 t-shirt.
John: That’s hilarious. It’s so funny. That’s hilarious. That’s very, very funny. Is there one of the cooler ones or most rewarding Ironmans or marathons that you’ve done that comes to mind?
Bill: Well, there is two that jump out. The first Ironman I did, it was all about just finishing. And there is something if you’ve ever been involved in whether it’s sport or whatever, the pinnacle is Ironman. I wasn’t at the World Championship or anything. The day before the race, you walk through the finish area and you could just feel how special it was. Ironman has a cutoff of 17 hours. That’s the longest you can race. After 17 hours you just don’t finish.
John: Because it’s tomorrow. Is that why? Because it’s the next day.
Bill: Yeah. They start at 7:00 AM and they cut off at midnight to put that in perspective.
Bill: When I did the first one, it was a long day. My time was — I can’t even remember what my time was. But I got through the run and I’m to the last mile and the way the course was laid out, you have been out just one way and then you made a complete turn around and ran back towards the finish. A straight mile run towards the finish after 26 miles of running. When I make a turn in the corner, all I remember is thinking about how fortunate I was because remember, I started with 300 pounds. I had lost all these weight. I’ve had a huge amount of support both from my family, my wife, my friends that helped me get there.
People that race always talk about hearing their name being called. And I don’t remember them calling my name. I just remember how grateful I was to have the opportunity to race. That that was the first one. My best race was currently in Idaho and it was just super pretty. I actually had a medical incident on the course and I was able to come back from that and finish. My family was there. It’s only Ironman my family have seen me race. Having them there at the finish just made that one extra special.
John: Yeah, that’s cool. That’s really cool. That’s impressive, really cool. Something that you alluded to earlier which I think is really the neat part of all of this is really how — people think no one in your business classes or no one while you’re taking the CPA exam or no CPE says, go run Ironmans because it’ll make you better at your job or go do activities or passions or things outside of work because you’ll be able to bring that to work. But I mean you already alluded to a little bit of a mindset sort of a thing of putting your mind to something and being able to achieve it. Do you feel like that’s something that you’re able to bring to the office?
Bill: Definitely that anything is possible, attitude. I have always been our hard worker, put in lots of hours and even now, there are still times where you lose a little bit of perspective and balance. But I find when you’re doing whatever your passion is but when you’re taking time to do things for you, it just makes you a better business person. For me, when I’m training, everything is so regimented. You just have to be more focused in everything that you do. But the biggest thing for me from my hobby is that that’s where I get my release and it helps to things back in perspective and it gets you through the longer days. I have days where you’re working 12, 14-hour days. At 4:00 in the afternoon, you say, you know, I’m going to just go for a run. Our office is right on the path and you just go out and enjoy it. You come back 30 minutes later and you have a whole new perspective and you’re recharged. I think in any career where you have high stress periods and long hours, if you can just figure out a way to center and for me, that’s what this does.
John: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Yeah, especially during busy season or periods of filing statuses for tax, different tax dates and things like that. Where you’re able to take that 4:00 PM run and kind of reset and put — like you said, put things in perspective and get a little bit of a release to come back fresh. I guess as a partner managing of an office there, how do you look at — sometimes I’ll — because I have a research survey at greenapplepodcast.com that people can do anonymously. I ask, what are reasons people don’t share their passions or do their passions? Well, there isn’t a charge code for getting to know each other or there isn’t a charge code for going in taking a 4:00 PM run. How do you explain that to some of the people, other partners or other business people that look at that as we got to work, work, work, work, work more work. I guess what’s your view on that?
Bill: Well, I know at ACM we have a really strong focus on culture and people.
Bill: When you look at what we consider important, those things are first and they drive everything else. There are certainly people that put their head down and just don’t want to be bothered but that’s not everybody. And I encourage my staff here in Boulder when we talk on one on one, they said, we’re going to be busy and you’re going to work a lot and I appreciate your efforts but you need to find time whatever it is to find your own release whether I have someone here who likes to go fly fishing and go after the creek in the middle of day for just 20 minutes, take this little lunch, and go out and just — that helps him and other people.
Bill: And I encourage them — not everyone shares. Every once in a while, something comes up and you go, really? Like you just don’t know that those things are there.
John: Right. Some things you can’t unhear and you’ll never be able to forget it.
Bill: Right. But it also, it helps the team stay closer when you can share your passion with the people around you. Most people know what each other’s passions are.
John: That’s great. That’s really cool. As there is something specific that you guys do at that ACM Office to either show that that’s okay. I’m sure the tone at the top, you’re leading by example. But is there is there something specific that you do that maybe other firms that are listening that are like oh, we could we could maybe do that.
Bill: Well, I don’t know specifically about sharing passions but we bring in meals and I don’t know that this is across the board at ACM and it’s interesting to see what my partners say when they hear it. We bring in meals twice a week. My requirement is that if they’re going to have dinner that we’re all going to sit down together for 15, 20 minutes and we don’t talk about work.
John: Yes. I love that.
Bill: Just a social opportunity for people to talk about what’s going on, what are you going to do the rest of the weekend, whatever that means on your schedule and those sort of things or we have people that show dogs and we ask about the last competition they did. It just helps people connect and it reminds people that it’s not all just work.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s during busy season I imagine. It’s not around. Yeah, so for the partners, all the partners that are listening or anyone that wants to transfer over to the Boulder Office for two free dinners a week. But yeah.
Bill: Just busy season. Yeah, just busy season.
John: Right, exactly. I mean I think that’s such a great idea. Be a part of this and sit at the table and let’s get to know each other. Has that been going on a long time or is it kind of a newer thing?
Bill: We have been doing that in this office as long as I have been with the office.
John: Oh, that’s awesome. No. I was going to ask if there was a change or a difference that you’ve seen from that. But I have to imagine that there is some crossover if people also do the same things. Now, they can hang out and do them. I think that’s a great idea and it’s such an easy thing. It’s such an easy thing.
Bill: It doesn’t have to take a long time. 15 or 20 minutes, when we had someone that was with us last year, he said, well, I want to pull up these videos and show you videos and we decided that we want to just talk, talk about what your passions are.
John: Right, just hear you talk about it. Yeah, describe it to me. That’s really cool. That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool. And so would you say that doing these Ironmans in these marathons and things like that has benefited your career?
Bill: I think that it has put me personally in a better spot to be able to deal with the demands of my career which have certainly traded new opportunities and allowed me to function better in my career.
John: Yeah. I mean certainly from a health standpoint but also from meeting other people that are in the business community that are also at these runs.
Bill: Yeah. In Boulder, you fit right in.
John: Right. It’s like you see everybody. It’s like going to church on Christmas Eve. It’s like, oh, everybody is here.
Bill: That’s right.
John: That’s awesome.
Bill: Well, one of the races I did was the first time they did an Ironman here in Boulder. Being someone that had been in and triathlon community, they said, “Why didn’t you sign up for that one?” I said, because everyone is going to be talking about it. You’re going to be sad that you’re not there. It’s like handle the tickets.
John: Right. That’s funny. Everyone is doing it.
Bill: That’s right.
John: I imagine that — I mean on occasion, do you find that whether it’s clients or coworkers or whatever that you’re going to — well, like you said, I mean you’re your partner when you first went to the Y. There’s some bonding with clients and coworkers that can happen then.
Bill: Oh, absolutely.
John: I’m just curious early on in your career because a lot of people that listen are newer in their career in the first five years let’s say. I remember what it was like. You graduate and all of a sudden, you’re making real money and you’re just trying to be the best accountant you can be. I guess have you always shared hobbies and passions or was it something that came along later on in your career?
Bill: It came along later. I don’t remember early in my career. I guess I didn’t really have that kind of passion early in my career. You got out of college, you got a job and public accounting was demanding. When I started in public accounting, we were doing a lot of publicly traded stuff back in my days where everybody had an IPO going and you were traveling. You got to know your teams but your passion was really like how much can I work this week?
John: Right. Unfortunately, yeah. That was really your only option.
Bill: But that also is what got me to the point where I knew you had to do something.
John: Right, yeah. Clearly that wasn’t the answer even though that’s what we’re all taught. Why do you think that is that that’s the natural default for all of us?
Bill: I think some of it is societal and it’s just, that’s the expectation. I am oldest child of one brother but I’m the oldest and I’m a Type A personality and what do you do after high school? Where do you go to college? What are you going to do when you grow up? I don’t know but you go to college. That’s the next step. Then what do you do after college? Well, you get a job. Then you work a lot and somebody you retire.
John: Right, because that’s what our parents did. That’s what was modeled for us, right?
Bill: Right. That was just a mindset. I think generations now are starting to figure that out. I don’t think that they work less hard.
Bill: I just think they’ve figured out the balance is important because they’ve seen what it’s done to the rest of us.
John: Right. That’s the thing. I’ll read these articles. Apparently, I’m a millennial because I wouldn’t put up with that stuff either. I’m like no. It’s not them. It’s just they’re the ones that speak up. Your generation was like, no, we’ll just take our lumps and do it and then my generation started to be like, well, wait a minute. Time out. Kids nowadays, they’re like, no, we’re not doing it. We’re out. See yah. Good for them. Let me open the door for you. Go. It’s something that I think we all wanted it. It’s not really a generational thing. It’s more of a human thing.
Bill: Well, I have started to see the effects that it’s had. For whatever reason and I I’m not smart enough to figure out his things out, but for whatever reason, life’s just different now. When you look at the 50s and you see the TV — no, whether TV shows are real or are not. But you didn’t have two people working and happen to work full time and whether it’s a culture or the country or whatever it is, what do you do? You just work harder and you get more stuff.
John: Right, yeah. I mean the world is a different place. That’s for sure. Absolutely.
Bill: And it turns out the stuff isn’t really that important.
John: Right, exactly. But by the time you find that out, it’s almost too late. One thing that I — I guess along that vein, one thing that I like to kick around is just the whole definition of the stereotypical accountant. It’s somebody who is really introverted, doesn’t like to talk to anybody, just goes to work, does a lot of work and he goes home and doesn’t really have anything else out of work or anything like that. Do you think that that’s a real thing like that’s a majority of the people? Or is it for some reason some sort of a stigma that everyone falls into line with?
Bill: Well, I hear that all the time and I never look at myself that way even though other people may. I guess it depends on who you hang out with, you thought relatively.
John: I guess it is a little relative. That’s a good point.
Bill: You’re hanging out with enough engineers, accountants look like they’re the life of the party.
John: Good one. I love that. That was awesome.
Bill: I think a lot of it is just kind of how you build your team. At ACM, when you walk around all the offices, there is people that cross all kinds of personalities just like a natural mix of people. See typical accountants. I think today’s society, what accountants do in serving clients and the kind of things that we provide, it’s not the traditional green eyeshade they just add numbers. It’s advisory, it’s helping people with their business and it’s much more than just the compliance piece. At least in ACM it is.
John: Right, totally.
Bill: I think that changes that perception that accountants are introverted and just want to sit in a room. It’s back from the old days where they just sat there and they ran tapes.
John: That’s a good point, yeah. And tapes even, gosh. I mean it’s like — that’s what the computers are coming for, the whole AI movement and why everyone’s scared and whatever. I think it’s hilarious because if you’re doing those jobs, yeah. You’re racing against the computer and you’re going to lose every time. But if you’re a normal human being that can talk to other people, then you’re fine. You’re going to be great. I think it’ll be just fine because computers can’t do that part. I just love the culture there at ACM and the pictures that you guys have for all the partners and everything. I think it’s a really cool place to be. I wish that we could bottle up some of that stuff and pass it around to others. That’d be really fantastic. Before I wrap this up with some rapid fire questions, I figured I’d ask you, do you have any words of encouragement for people that are — hey, I like to run Ironmans or be an Ironman — I don’t even know what’s the proper verb for that? Bike, swim, run Ironmans.
Bill: Yeah. I participate.
John: Participate, that’s the word. Participate in Ironmans but no one else in my office does or no one is going to care that has nothing to do with my job. Do you have any words of encouragement to people? Don’t be afraid to share that.
Bill: Well, I think that — like I talked about earlier is whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s Ironman or running your first 5K or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. If it’s something that you’re passionate about, share your passion, people will support you in ways that you never imagined. It’s not about what anyone else thinks. It’s about what’s important to you and what brings you satisfaction.
John: Oh, that’s huge.
Bill: I get that people think that doing Ironmans are crazy and usually about halfway through and I think they are too. But it’s only that it’s good for me. For me, it’s more about what it does for my lifestyle than the actual race. The race is just what makes me do the healthy things before.
John: The training for it. So you’re not getting a $700 t-shirt like you said.
John: That’s fantastic, man. Really, really solid. Before I drive up to Boulder and hang out and we go for a bike, swim, run together, that’s going to take a while. I have this 17 rapid fire questions to make sure that we’re going to be okay hanging out for a little while. Let me fire this thing up here and here we go. All right. I’ll start you out easy. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Red. How about a least favorite color?
John: Purple. Oh, interesting. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Bill: Definitely Star Wars.
John: How about when it comes to a computer, are you more of a PC or a Mac?
Bill: I am a Mac wannabe.
John: A Mac wannabe, okay. How about do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Bill: Brussels sprouts.
John: Oh, that’s a solid answer. I’m with you on that one. Amen. How about more pens or pencils?
John: When it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crosswords?
Bill: I don’t like either one of those.
John: Either one. All right, that’s cool. How about a favorite TV show of all time?
Bill: Favorite TV show?
Bill: Anything that has to do with intelligence by CIA’s Mission Impossible type stuff.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, absolutely. How about what’s a typical breakfast?
Bill: Right now, its protein shakes because I’m trying to be healthy. My favorite breakfast is peanut butter toast.
John: Oh, there you go. Okay, all right. Would you say you’re more cats or dogs?
Bill: We only have cats, but I’m more of a dog person.
John: Yes, okay. When it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?
Bill: Balance sheet.
John: Balance sheet, all right. Would you say you’re more jeans or khakis?
John: Khakis, all right. As an accountant, I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
John: Nine. Is there a reason?
Bill: Well, because ten is perfect and I don’t think anyone can be perfect. I think you got to have all these big approaching nest.
John: Just one off. There you go. I love it. That’s awesome. All right, we got four more. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Bill: No, not really.
John: Okay. How about a favorite comedian?
Bill: I like Robin Williams.
John: Robin Williams, yeah. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Bill: My favorite vacation is, we went to Vancouver Island with the whole family and the kids and just a good experience.
John: Very cool, very cool. All right. Two more. More of an early bird or a night owl?
Bill: Early bird.
John: Early bird. Last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.
Bill: A 1913 Adler adding machine.
John: Sweet. How did you get that?
Bill: I had a friend that had an old office supply store and he repaired these old calculators as his hobby and passion. One day, I said, “Well, that’s pretty cool,” and he just gave it to me.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s really cool man, really cool. Well, this was really great, Bill. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Bill: Happy to do it.
John: There we go. I loved how Bill said, “Share your passion. People will support you in ways you never imagined.” And that’s because our brains are actually programmed to be interested in interesting people, because the chemicals in our brains like norepinephrine and oxytocin subconsciously create stronger relationships with these interesting people and those that have something outside of work. Now, if you like to see some pictures of Bill participating in his triathlons and connect with them on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about firm culture. Thanks again for subscribing to the show and 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.