Hannah and Abby fiddle their way to better coworker relationships
Hannah Horton had owned a fiddle since she was young but could never find somewhere to take lessons. Then she moved to Nashville, started working at LBMC and was staffed on a client with Abby Parsons. One day it came up that Abby also had always wanted to try to learn to play, so they decided to sign up for lessons. Not only did this give them a reason to look forward to Saturdays during busy season, but it helped them in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
In this episode, Hannah, Abby, and I talk about how their fiddle lessons have opened up a lot of conversations in the office, allowing them to develop relationships with people in different service lines and even in different offices. They say, “It’s a fun, positive thing to talk about… a morale booster.” This made many people realize they needed to find hobbies as well.
Hannah Horton and Abby Parsons are both Senior Auditors with LBMC in Nashville, TN.
Hannah graduated from Murray State University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Abby graduated with her Bachelor of Science, Accounting and Business Management, from the University of the Cumberlands, where she was a member of the varsity volleyball team. She later received her Master’s Degree in Accounting from The University of South Dakota.
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Hello, this is John Garrett and welcome to the Episode 141 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or interest outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in a boring red apple world. I’ve always been fascinated at how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise or degrees and our certifications. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in those ways. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that actually make you better at your job. This week, you’ll hear how those passions are what brings people together in the office and during busy season in an audit room.
Then really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute anonymous survey about firm culture and how maybe the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds please head to greenapplepodcast.com, click on the big green button there. Answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. It’ll really help me out with the book I’m writing. I really appreciate the help.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s double shot with Hannah Horton and Abby Parsons. They’re both senior auditors with LBMC in Nashville. I read about them in an Accounting Today article. Thanks so much Hannah and Abby for not only replying to my message but for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Hannah: Yeah. Thanks for having us.
Abby: Yeah, thank you.
John: Oh, no. I’m so excited. I read your article in Accounting Today and I was like, “I got to reach out to these two.” But before we get into the fun stuff, maybe — I gave everyone a little bit of an introduction — but maybe in your own words, where you’re at now and a little bit of how you got there.
Hannah: Sure. We’re both in auditing at LBMC. I’m a new senior, Abby’s second year senior. I’ve been here about two-ish years.
John: Okay. Straight out of school, I assume.
Hannah: Yeah. I did an internship at LBMC. Then I took a year off to get more hours and take the CPA exam. Then I came back fulltime.
John: Nice, nice. Abby, you’re similar story?
Abby: No. I actually had a little bit of a different path. I am straight out of college, went into industry for three years. I did got the CPA exam and just was an internal audit there. Then I just transferred over to public accounting for the past two years. I’ve had a little bit different of a route.
Right. No, that’s cool. Now the Green Apple Podcast. This was meant to be. Look at you guys. It’s a one question I’d love to ask everybody and maybe Abby this will be good to start with. It’s just what made you want to get into accounting to begin with?
Abby: Well, that’s funny to you. My whole family, everyone in my family is a CPA. I was pretty determined to not go into accounting. I went to college wanting to do something. Either be a dentist or be a physical therapist. I just hate science so much. My dad, he said, “Just try Accounting One. It’s in your blood.”
John: Right. It’s in your blood.
Abby: I tried and it was just easy. It just made sense. I mean it’s not like the most fun thing in the world but I liked it. It just made sense to me. That’s how I’m here today.
John: There it is. Yeah. As a baby where you’re playing with a little abacus, was that like instead of a rattle or toys.
Abby: Pretty much. I do remember playing on my dad’s Ten Key, really little.
John: That’s how they get you right there. The Ten Key with the adding machine tape just running out of there.
Abby: Yeah, I was just hitting numbers, words as long as I could. I guess that’s how they got me in the end.
John: That’s awesome. Well, very cool, very cool. Hannah, what’s your story? How did you get into accounting?
Hannah: I actually also did not start out in accounting. My parents, neither of them went to college. I actually wasn’t even sure if I was going to go either. My high school teachers were like, “Oh, you’re going to college.” So I did. I started off as free optometry and that lasted for one semester. I was like, “Yeah, I’m not doing chemistry for this long.” It was just a random pick almost. I just tried out accounting and it stuck with it.
John: Like alphabetical. It starts with A, I’ll do this one. See what happens.
Hannah: Yeah, pretty much.
John: It’s awesome. Very cool. Yeah, I know. I mean it’s always fascinating how people get into it. I just got a D in Physics. I was all engineering all the way. Then that first semester hit and I was like, “Oh, maybe, maybe not.” Maybe not. And here we are, here we are. But when you’re not having fun at LBMC in the audit world, what — this is the article, I think it’s so fantastic on Accounting Today — but I know you guys have other hobbies and passions and what hobby. But the one that we’ll talk on I guess the most is the new lessons that you guys are taking that started during busy season. Yeah?
John: Yeah, yeah. The fiddling, which I guess in Nashville, is a thing. Is that pretty common?
Hannah: I wouldn’t say common.
Abby: I don’t think it’s that common.
John: Right. It just seems like a Grand Ole Opry thing. I kind of know why
Abby: You find the lessons pretty easily here but we don’t really know anyone else that does it, accounting or not.
John: That’s cool.
Abby: Yeah. It is fun to talk about.
John: Yeah, yeah. What made you guys want to get into it? That back-story is got to be fantastic.
Hannah: I felt like mine was just I’m not musically talented at all so I don’t know why I thought I could play the fiddle all of a sudden. But I was like, “That seems really cool. If I was able to do that that I would be really cool.”
John: I agree, that would be really cool.
Hannah: Yeah. It’s like such a long shot dream that you’re like, “I’ll just play the fiddle.” I have no musical talent. We sing at home. It’s called Tradio. It’s basically like Craigslist but our radio show. My dad called me and was like, “Hey, I heard they are selling a fiddle on Tradio. Do you want me to go pick it up for you?” He picked it up and I had it for probably about a year without even playing. Then Abby and I found out that we both wanted to learn to play. We start the lessons.
John: That’s fantastic. Abby how’s that conversation go?
Abby: I was telling Hannah. I honestly think we we’re there a Saturday or something. I was telling her how I grew up in Eastern Kentucky and I wanted to play the fiddle so bad but my mom couldn’t find me anyone that gave actual lessons in our super tiny town. I’m telling her how I always wanted to do that. Then she literally just told me how she got this fiddle. It was just the most random thing and I was like, “Well, we’re adults. We can pay for our lessons. We live in Nashville. We need to do it.” We scheduled our lessons for after we would leave on Saturdays so it didn’t make Saturdays as terrible, working.
John: Right. Because then you had something to look forward to. It’s busy season. You’re doing extra hours. You’re there on a Saturday. Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool. Do you feel that this has made a difference with people knowing you in the office or maybe your relationship with others?
Hannah: Yeah, I think so. Because LBMC’s pretty big. We have a lot of different departments. Pretty much, we only know the people in the audit department. Just then even asking if they could run the article and stuff like that and then sending it out in the newsletter and everything. People will be like, “Oh, wait. Are you the one that plays the fiddle?” People that you don’t even usually talk to.
Abby: Yeah. Even some people like in audit partners and different offices. They came to visit and they were like, “Oh, you guys are the fiddlers?” We’ve been here for two years. They should know us.
John: Right. Doing really good accounting work on audit, right? I mean, extra hours, working really hard. Then all of a sudden you pick a couple of fiddle lessons and now you’re a celebrity.
Abby: Yeah. They have flat screen in the office and they kept running our picture on it. It was really funny.
John: That’s great.
Abby: Yeah. I’d be going to the printer and walked by TV. Someone’s like, “Oh, is that you on there?” I’m like, “Oh, yes.”
John: That’s our album cover when it comes out. That’s fantastic. Did it just spread amongst the audit team? It’s like, “Yeah we got to leave to go do some fiddle lessons”? How does that conversation go?
Abby: That’s actually exactly what happened.
Hannah: Yeah, pretty much. It was good because it was I felt more productive on a Saturday because I was like, “I have to leave early to go to fiddle lessons.” It wasn’t like I could just walk around and talk. I was trying to actually get as much work done so I could leave to go to fiddle.
John: Yeah. That makes total sense. Absolutely, yeah. Because I mean you’re dedicated to the time when you’re there that it’s like you’re going to be focused on it. That’s just hilarious though how you’re just going to go do some fiddle lessons and then all of a sudden it’s wildfire throughout not only your office but all the offices. Do you feel like it’s benefited your career at all? I mean because clearly no business school tells you to go take some fiddle lessons because it will make you a better auditor. But as far as maybe relationship building goes it sounds like that certainly has opened up some doors.
Abby: Yeah, I would say definitely. It’s made work — not only work, life and work, but since we’re talking about work — work more enjoyable probably because it gives us something to talk about that is just not your clients and other issues that’s really hell. Like you were saying, it spread like wildfire. It was like a positive thing instead of just like being miserable and busy season. It was like a fun positive thing we would talk to people about. It just seemed not only maybe for us but other people, like a morale booster, like something they laugh about and talk about.
John: Which is huge and it does bleed into life as well, makes life more enjoyable like you said. I mean that’s really fascinating. Actually there’s a book, Tom Rath. It’s called “Vital Friends.” He did a study. He found that 96% of people that have three close friends at work are more satisfied with their lives. It definitely bleeds over like that. I would assume that taking fiddle lessons with someone makes you friends. You guys are one third of the way there. You get in there. But that’s so true though. Like it’s a fun positive morale booster thing. Why do you think it’s so important to have something to talk about besides clients and more work with co-workers?
Hannah: It’s just a better relationship builder I think because if you’re only talking about work all the time, it’s kind of you’re not really getting to know anyone. I don’t think that talking just about work all the time.
John: Totally. I mean I agree. Do you find that people are sharing more of what they want to do or like to do?
Hannah: I think yes.
Abby: Yeah, I mean I think people needs solace, go do something we wanted to do and it was really random and something that no one else was doing. I just think that people were like, “I need to get a hobby.” Everyone kept saying that to us, “I literally am just only here all the time.” We were like, “That’s why we did it.”
John: Right. Good for you guys. You guys are trailblazers. Yeah. I mean it’s so alarming to me that it just hits people in the face. It’s like, “Oh, I need to have a life. I need to do something else.” Good for you guys. You are really seeing that and making a difference. It is scary because what happens is you do one busy season without a hobby. Then it becomes two busy seasons without a hobby. Then before you know, you don’t have any hobbies because you forgot about them. Then you’re going to retire and you’ve got nothing to go do.
Abby: Yeah exactly.
John: That’s really scary.
Hannah: I think it’s easy to be like, “Oh, I don’t have time to do anything during the season.” Because you’re so tired when you get off. You just go home, lay around, cook dinner. Then go to sleep and do it all again. But once you carve out time on your schedule, you have plenty of time to do other stuff than just work.
John: Right, absolutely. Before you guys got into the fiddling, did you have anything that you would talk about? Other hobbies and passions?
Abby: We have dogs. We we’re talking about that a lot. But pretty much, we were some of the people that feel like we were just working and going home. It was just a lot of work in our lives that we just needed to get something else in there.
John: Because it’s scary how slippery of a slope that is, right?
Hannah: Yeah. I don’t think you really realize it either that you don’t have a concrete hobby. It’s like you might go to the gym. You might go home and walk the dog and scroll Instagram and that’s it. It’s like, “Wait, what did I do with my whole day?”
John: Yeah. I mean I do that almost every day. But you know that’s different. Does LBMC do some things to encourage this or get people to share what some of their hobbies and passions are?
Abby: Yeah, I don’t think they were ever against it. But this is the first time that I feel they’re trying to push, they want people to go do other things. I think that’s why they were so excited when they found out about our fiddling. Because this is what we want to see. The lady that’s over all of this, she kept telling us, “If you have other people in that apartment with other great hobbies, please let me know. I’m trying to feature things like this.” I think that they are seeing the importance of that.
John: Yeah, for sure. How much — just in your own ideas — how much do you feel it’s on an organization to create that culture and make it that way? Or how much is it on the individual like you two to just be like, “Hey, we’re going to go do some fiddle lessons”?
Hannah: I think it’s probably more on the individual. But it was easy for us to just be like, “Oh, look, we’re going to go do this.” Then we did it.
John: Because it seems like a lot of people ask for permission rather than just go do it. I guess for anybody listening, do you have any words of encouragement for people that are like, “You know what? You know, I play the fiddle but no one cares because it has nothing to do with accounting” or something like that.
Abby: I would just encourage someone to find something they like to do and then don’t be embarrassed about it at work because most people are really interested and they want to have a hobby too. It just shows who you are outside of work.
Hannah: I would encourage other people to share their stories too.
John: Cool. That’s fantastic. Really fantastic. Well, I always have my 17 rapid-fire questions before I get on a plane and fly to Nashville and come play some fiddle with you guys. Just to make sure, because it’s probably going to be a while because I’m not good either. Make sure that we can be in a small room together practicing.
My 17 rapid-fire questions’ to run you guys through. Since we have two I guess maybe we’ll double up. I’ll do two for one of you and I’ll bounce over to the other one. We’ll see how that goes. First of all, we’ll start with Hannah. Sudoku or a crossword puzzle?
Hannah: Crossword puzzle.
John: Crossword. Nice. Okay. Abby, do you have a favorite color?
Abby: Yes. My favorite color is coral.
John: Coral. Wow, you’re not specific at all are you? You’re like a wedding planner. Abby, I was going to ask your least favorite color.
Abby: Yeah, it’s orange. I hate it.
John: Coral is your favorite and Orange is you’re least favorite. All right. Hannah, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Hannah: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. All right. You prefer it more hot or more cold?
Hannah: More cold.
John: More cold. All right. Abby, when it comes to toilet paper, more over or under?
Abby: I have to go over because my husband’s really passionate about it.
John: Okay. He’s going to listen. There we go. Bonus points. All right. Then do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Abby: Yes. I hate Brussels sprouts.
John: Nice, me too. Right. I also love how passionate you are about like you hate orange, you hate Brussels sprouts like you’re not even on the fence. All right. Hannah, would you say, are you more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC. When it comes to a mouse are you more of a right click or a left click?
Hannah: Right click.
John: Right click. Nice. That’s the fun one. That’s the fun one. All right. Abby, more balance sheet or income statement?
Abby: More balance sheet.
John: She got it. More diamonds or pearls?
Abby: Oh, definitely diamonds.
John: Diamonds. Right. All right, Hannah, do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Hannah: I really like Rachel McAdams.
John: Oh yeah. Really great. Really great. As an accountant I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
John: Seventeen. Why is that?
Hannah: It was my favorite number. That was my number in high school when I played softball. It’s just a good number.
John: There you go. Perfect. Then Abby, do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Abby: Honestly, I don’t think I do.
John: All right. Hannah, why don’t we pitched to you? Hannah, do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Hannah: Movie of all time. I don’ know. That’s a tough one.
John: All right. That’s a tough one. All right. Back to Abby. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Abby: Oh, I’m a night owl.
John: Night owl. There you go. This one will be for both of you. But for Abby first, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Abby: Honestly, my favorite and like most interesting thing I have is my fiddle.
John: Yes. Good answer. That’s so great. Hannah, favorite thing you own or favorite thing you have?
Hannah: Definitely, also fiddle.
John: That’s so cool. This is so fantastic. I love how you guys just took it upon yourself to just go and do something kind of neat and different and how it’s just really blown up and really benefited everybody or in the office that’s around you as well. It’s been a really cool positive morale boost. Kudos to you guys. Really cool. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Abby: Yeah, thank you.
John: That was really fantastic. I loved how they said it’s a fun positive thing to talk about. It’s a morale booster and that others are now getting to see their personalities more as they’re standing out from every other auditor at the firm. I believe it’s professionalism that keeps us from wanting to shape these interests and keeps us from standing out and making lasting connections with others.
Anyone that thinks “We don’t get paid to socialize” is reinforcing this terrible, terrible message because clearly socializing has helped both Hannah and Abby stand out. If you like to see some pictures of them playing their fiddles and maybe connect with them on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. When you’re on the page, please click that big green button to do the anonymous research survey about firm culture.
Thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends. They’ll get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.