Chris breakdances his way to better business relationships
Chris Meshginpoosh has maintained an actively physical routine outside of work after coming to the realization that his lifestyle was not necessarily the healthiest. A part of this physical lifestyle at one time was his passion for breakdancing. Although he does not do it as much as he did before, Chris will occasionally break into The Robot in the conference room to close out a meeting.
In this episode, Chris and I talk about how it is possible to apply skills from a passion or hobby into your regular work life. Chris’ passion in breakdancing taught him the importance of putting time into developing a skill, overcoming ‘stage fright’, from jumping on to the dance floor in front of a crowd to dressing up as Santa at the office Christmas party, and applying choreography into important business meetings. We also discuss on how the relationships you build through your passions can lead to opportunities in your career and help develop leaders of the future.
Chris Meshginpoosh is Kreischer Miller’s Managing Director. In this role, Chris is responsible for the firm’s strategic plan and direction, identifying opportunities for growth, ensuring the quality of services provided to clients, and fostering a collaborative environment where team members can learn and grow.
He graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania with his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.
– The benefits of staying active in an office environment
– How breakdancing taught Chris the importance of choreography in developing client and colleague relationships
– Relationships are not formed solely on your professional skills
– “You do not have to create a different you to be successful in business”
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Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to episode 155 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 an interest outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in a stereotypical red apple world. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out using our technical expertise and talking about that. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in our college degrees and certifications and all the letters after our name.
Sometimes, it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that actually make you better at your job, but only if you let them and share them with others. And really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one minute anonymous survey about corporate culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. So if you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com, click the big green button there and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help for the book I’m writing later this year. Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Chris Meshginpoosh.
He’s the managing director of Kreishcher Miller outside of Philadelphia. It’ll be so fun to get the perspective from the top. But first, Chris, thank you so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Chris: My pleasure. Thank you.
John: Oh, absolutely man. I’m so excited to have you on. I have my 17 rapid fire questions that I’d like to run everybody through to make sure before I get on a plane and fly to Philly and breakdance with you and hang out. I have my rapid fire questions just to make sure we can hang out and be on the same page. So we’re going to start it out with a super easy one. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Chris: Star Wars.
John: When it comes to a computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Chris: I’m PC. Born and raised. I love Mac, but PC is my thing.
John: Right, absolutely. When it comes to your mouse, are you more of a right click or a left click?
Chris: Right click.
John: Right click. There you go. More cats or dogs?
John: Dogs, all right. Do you have a favorite cereal?
Chris: Boo Berry.
John: Boo Berry, nice. There you go. All right.
Chris: I loved it when I was a kid.
John: Yeah, absolutely, man. When it comes to financials, are you more balance sheet or income statement?
Chris: Definitely income statement.
John: There you go. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
Chris: It’s got to be over. We have debated in my house all the time. It should be over.
John: Wow. I couldn’t even believe there’s a debate. That’s amazing. How about as an accountant? I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
Chris: Seven, lucky number seven.
John: Absolutely. That’s a pretty popular one. How about when it comes to travel, more planes trains or automobiles?
Chris: I’d say planes.
John: Yeah, absolutely. How about a suit and tie or a jeans and a t-shirt?
Chris: Jeans and a t-shirt.
John: All right. How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Chris: You know what, I’m going to say neither.
John: Fair enough. How about do you have a favorite color?
John: There you go. How about a least favorite color?
John: Pink, okay. Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Chris: That’s a tough one. I’m torn between Shawshank and the Perfect Storm.
John: Oh, wow. Yeah. Both are really good movies.
Chris: Every time I watch my Perfect Storm, I expect it to end happily. That never goes.
John: Like you fell asleep all the time, like every other time. You’re like, maybe there’s a good ending and I just keep missing it. That’s funny. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Chris: I think Christian Bale. Every movie, he’s been good.
John: All right. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Chris: Early bird.
John: The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Chris: I’d have to say, my wife and kids.
John: Oh, good answer. Just in case they listen. That’s a good answer. Very good. That just leads me to, the next question we’ll jump right in here is just, what made you want to get into accounting in the first place?
Chris: It’s funny. I actually had no interest in accounting when I first got out of high school. I was majoring in economics and the chairperson of the accounting department just happened to be my advisor. After I took my first two classes, he said, “Your grades are solid. You should think about taking intermediate.” I did, and here it is 30 some years later. I’d say I like the problem solving aspect of the curriculum and they really stuck with me from then on.
John: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, the accounting chair was like I’ve got one. Let’s get him, like you’re dead in the water right there.
Chris: Yeah. He told me I’d never get to top in economics. It’s good that I should pursue some of the career —
John: Exactly. I actually had an econ professor who tried to talk me the other way. You’re really good at econ. I’m like, “Yes, so is everybody. Where the lines cross is what the price is.” I don’t know. There’s a red line and a blue line. It is the 101 level. It wasn’t anything hard.
Chris: Yeah, that’s as far as I got.
John: Right, exactly. That’s awesome, man. Well, when you’re not the managing partner at Kreischer Miller there, what hobby or passion do you love doing outside of work?
Chris: The most consistent thing I do is exercise. I have probably been working out since my second year out of college. I spent the first two busy seasons eating out of a vending machine at KPMG and decided after that I needed somewhat of a healthier lifestyle. A good deal of time working out, it’s been a routine of mine for years. Before I got to college, I was always physically active and played Tennis early on in junior high and then made the logical leap the next thing which was breakdancing.
John: Right. Which is so fantastic.
Chris: I’ve always been physically active. It helped me keep my sanity especially during the busy time of the year.
John: Right. Oh, yeah. For sure. I can imagine that — yeah, I mean I remember busy seasons where I mean you don’t even see the sun sometimes because you’re in before the sun comes up and you’re not leaving until it’s down.
Chris: That’s exactly right. I think I put on 15 pounds in my first busy season. It was just because we’d eat pizza or eat out of a vending machine and figured that was probably going to run its course if I didn’t do something right.
John: Right. That’s the thing that I — because whenever I speak to firms and conferences, I have a green apple message and I say that apples are very much like accountants because they’re durable, they have a long shelf life and they grow around over time.
Chris: That’s entirely accurate. It’s funny. We didn’t have gyms at the office back in 1991 when I started public accounting. Now, we have a gym in our office, and our people could use out of that. Hopefully, they’re going to live longer healthier lives in my generation.
John: That’s fantastic. But to go back to the breakdancing, I’m not going to let you go over that because that’s too fantastic. How did you get into that? When did that all start?
Chris: I can’t say that there was a catalyst other than the fact that I was young and a rebel. I was probably 14 or 15 years old. We’re bored one afternoon and a couple of friends of mine, I’ve decided to see if we could figure out how to spin on our backs on a kitchen floor. After about three or four years of doing that, we were we’re pretty good at it. It was just one of those things and it was funny. Until that point, tennis was really my big physical activity. And then once I start break dancing, it was — I didn’t do it for purposes of working out, but it was an incredible workout. Occasionally, I try every once in a while now. I’m 50 years old, so I have to be careful.
John: Right, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. I was up at the Hospital one time about seven years ago.
John: Oh, gosh.
Chris: Anyway, yeah. It was just something that we responded to do. Obviously, at the time, it was something — it was cool to do. We enjoyed doing it.
John: Yeah. And so, did people in the office know about this? Is this something that you’ve talked about before or even when you wrote KPMG or what have you?
Chris: Yes. It’s funny. I generally don’t do it anymore.
John: Right. Well, yeah. That would be —
Chris: You know, occasionally in front of a couple of close friends here at the office, I’ll joke around about it. But I’d say a lot of people here know about it. One of my partners now is a guy who was my instructor, my first day out of college of KPMG.
John: Oh, wow.
Chris: Yeah, he recruited me to the firm. I knew him and his wife very well before I ever landed here. They were both witnesses early on. In my 20s at the KPMG events, and we had an offsite training occasionally. I’d drop down on the floor in the middle of one of our parties and do something. There were enough witnesses. It was kind of hard to keep it quiet. So I’d say a good number of people know about it here. I’m not so sure about our younger people, but if they listen to this, they will.
John: Right. I love how you call them witnesses as if it’s like a murder happened or something, but it’s certainly something that is unique. It differentiates you from everyone else and not necessarily a bad way.
Chris: it’s funny. For several years, I’ve probably tried to shy away from it especially back in the early ’90s. I think the profession is a lot different today than it was back then. Back then, you sort were an accountant. You got your work done and moved on. Now, the profession seems to be much more welcoming to people with a variety of backgrounds. But it’s been interesting to see that change. Certainly more people approached me about it over the last 10 or 15 years which sort of forced me to open up about it, and I certainly couldn’t take myself too seriously because of it. There’s no way to be serious once they know what you — you do that.
John: Right, yeah. No. That’s true too. What are you talking about? To most of them, that’s so old. I know exactly what you’re talking about and I’m like yeah, of course you did. We all did. We all had the parachute pants and we tried to hammer dance and whatever. Good for you for sticking with it and actually making it not embarrassing.
Chris: Well, then it came back about ten years ago and I was thinking, this my second chance, right?
John: It came back just for you, man. We’re like, we got to get Chris on this.
John: No, that’s cool. Do you feel like — sometimes, it’s interesting how sometimes people’s passions and interests outside of work actually give you a skillset that you’re able to use in the office. Do you feel like that’s the case in some way? I mean or the exercise in general maybe even.
Chris: Definitely, yes. It’s kind of easy to dismiss it as sort of a hokey thing that I used to do, but the reality was it took a lot of practice. From school and go out into one of our garages and we would sit down with a cardboard on the garage floor and practice for four or five hours at a stretch. By the time you’re done, you’re physically exhausted and everything else that came along with it. If it taught me anything, it was just the commitment of time that it takes and that applies to so many areas of your life particularly in your profession. That’s one lesson that I’ve brought with me from that. The other is probably a willingness to take risks. I still remember what it was like when I was 15, 16, 17, when you’re at a club and they’d form a circle and me and my buddies are sitting around in the circle and it was your time to jump in.
I still remember the fear because you get in there — so many things could grow you off. You’d get down on the floor and the floor is sticky like little things like that or somebody spilled a drink or a football player standing on the side and he decides to step on you while you’re spinning because he doesn’t like that you’re getting the attention. But it taught you how to adapt to the situation and how to be comfortable taking risks and be comfortable being uncomfortable. That definitely applies to that. I have a lot of speaking events and things like that I participate in. I still get nervous in those situations. I think everybody does. I learned how to deal with it early on so that it’s not paralyzing I guess.
John: Yeah. It’s more of an anxious than a fear type of thing. It’s like I got this. I have been in this situation before and let’s make this happen. That’s awesome, man.
Chris: One other thing — it’s funny. I have grown to appreciate this a lot more recently. It’s just choreography. We talk about it at the farm as we’re preparing for proposal meeting for the prospect. Sometimes you walk into the meeting and everything goes well and different team members play well off of each other and the meeting has a nice flow to it. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but I think it can happen more often than not if it’s practiced. There was an element of choreography to everything that we did. I mean think about it that way, when I was 15 years old.
Everything was well choreographed and I firmly believe that that is a huge missed opportunity here in the way that we deal with our people and the way that we deal with our clients in a one to one meeting with a client or looking over the life of a client relationship or the life of an employee relationship. There’s got to be some choreography. What you introduced us to be at a particular point in time, how you build up over the course of a relationship, how you create opportunity for some kicks along the way. I just think that’s something that I learned.
John: I love that, man. That’s such a great analogy. I love how you’re able to look at it from both client relationship but also the people that are in the firm relationship. So many people are focused on the client experience and we forget about our staff and the people that are actually doing the work in their experience, in their onboarding and all of that. There’s definitely a dance happening there.
Chris: Yeah, we actually just had an offsite meeting with our directors about two or three weeks ago. There was a reading assignment for — it was a book called the power moments which talks specifically about how you can create impactful moments with people and business, both employees and customers. I really translate it well to that. I think our team enjoyed the discussion and I’m sure that we’ll have some exciting new things to be tackled coming out of that. But again, there’s a choreography to everything that we do. The question is whether you sort of dictate it or whether it’s just going to happen. If it just happens, it may be good, it may not be.
John: Right, exactly. I think historically, most of us just rely on our technical expertise. Hey, we’re really good at doing taxes. So just hire us as the client. It’s like yeah, but every other pitch that just came in here to the client was the exact same thing. That differentiates you.
Chris: Even a meeting was on an employee. If you have somebody that you’re trying to mentor or help grow, you don’t sit down the in a moment they walk in the door and start pounding them with issues. Usually, think about the issue you wanted to address with them and how you can help them understand by asking them the right questions. There’s choreography involved in that, leading them down a path to help them find an answer that works for them. If you don’t plan for that, the conversation sometimes don’t go well.
John: Right. And then at the end, we all do the worm. And it’s again — we’re good.
John: Everyone was like, I guess the meeting is over. How do you know? Chris is doing the worm on the table, that’s why. It’s over now. It’s over now. That’s funny, man. That’s really funny. And so, I guess one thing that I sometimes think about is why do you think it is that people are so reluctant to share what those interests are outside of work? Even if someone genuinely asked them, a lot of times they see, you know people were like oh, I didn’t do anything or I don’t do anything or whatever.
Chris: Yeah. Again, I’d probably put myself in this camp and that I was very reluctant early in my career and probably still to this day to a certain degree to share a lot of what I do personally with the people that I work with. I think it was specifically a result of just the fear of that somehow diminishes their perception of your level of professionalism. You should just be this business machines that just gets worked on. Only after you know a few years of time in a profession where you realize that relationships aren’t formed solely around your professional skills. You need to build trust. To build trust, you’ve got to be willing to let some of those barriers down. So I’ve gotten comfortable with it and I’m certainly — I put myself firmly on the introvert side of the introversion extroversion spectrum.
John: Yeah. It doesn’t have to be everything. It’s certainly not drama. No matter what job you’ve had in your career and that tennis and the breakdancing and the exercise has been with you, even within the firm, within wherever you’re at. That’s a permanent. Everything else is a variable.
Chris: Yeah. There is a baseline somewhere in there. All the things that I do, there’s probably a common thread there. What I do want to daily basis may change. So I’m may be in a leadership role now at the firm. I let the consulting practice for a while. I was an auditor for years. There are lots of opportunities that there are some baseline in there that sort of drives me to do certain things that I enjoy.
John: Yeah, absolutely. How much do you think it is on the firm or the organization to create that culture where it’s okay to share verses, it’s on the individual to either be a part of it and jump in or to create a little circle themselves?
Chris: I think it’s absolutely an obligation of the firm to create. If it’s important to you and it is to our firm to create a copy where we get to know other team members well. That’s always been part of who Kreishcher Miller is. We have events and things like that where we invite spouses and significant others and their kids to attend, so we all get to know each other. Firms had a tradition since our founder Jack Kreishcher where he would get dressed up as Santa Claus every holiday season and employees are bringing their kids for presents, we still do that. I got to dress up as Santa Claus for the first time this past year. It was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.
Chris: We’ve worked really hard on that. I think it’s our obligation to do that, because if you don’t, again, something will happen. Maybe that culture ends up developing just naturally, but you’re leaving it to chance. If we want employees who feel some sense of belonging here at the firm that have strong relationships, their peers who see this is a place that they can build a career. We don’t want to leave that to chance.
John: Why do you think it is so important for those things to happen? Why not just leave it to chance?
Chris: I think teams work better when there are relationships on the team. I think our clients are served a lot better when our team members work well together. I think that when our team members work well together or turnover is lower which it greatly enhances the client relationships because we don’t have turnover on their accounts. I think that, another benefit is just over the course of time. We rely on our ability to generate the next generation of leaders, keep this firm independent. It’s hard to develop leaders when you’re constantly turning over because you don’t have relationships with people on the team. The longer we can keep people at the firm, the more successful we’ll be in the long run with our goal of maintaining our independence which means many people invest in each other and develop relationships, feel this is this a place where they can do so challenging work and grow at the same time, build a family and pursue whatever personal goals that they have in their lives. We can sit that all in.
John: Right, yeah, there’s room for all of it. When you came out and I was just eight years behind you, it’s a pretty similar. Work life balance was kind of a new thing where basically firms were like don’t kill yourselves. That was pretty much it.
Chris: Anything sure to that is okay.
John: Right, exactly but still get your billable hours, but don’t kill yourself. My own thing is, don’t kill yourself, but also I think the firm needs to know what these passions and interests are because it makes everything better and just like you just said, people actually genuinely care about each other all of a sudden. Wouldn’t that be so weird? Why is that such a foreign concept that I kind of care about the people I’m working with?
Chris: I think it may be — again, maybe it is a generational thing and that things have evolved over the course of last 15 years. I know from my early days that before, it was not something to talk about and you’re expected to show up, get your work done. I remember somebody told me, if the partner knows who you are, you did something wrong.
John: Right. That’s insane.
Chris: It’s not that way anymore which is a very good thing.
John: Good for you. I love the culture that you guys have there and what you guys are doing. That way then, you’re just Chris. You’re not managing partner and it’s just go to Chris. He’s a normal guy. That’s a real person and the other people that are there at the firm as well. I think that’s fantastic.
Chris: I still wish that that would happen a little bit more easily. It’s funny, certain things do get in the way. I think it’s harder for a 22-year old to see you as a person just because of the difference in age. We talk about it all the time. We don’t think of ourselves as old, but we are.
John: Right. Tell me about it.
Chris: It takes work in a lot of the things that we do here.
John: I love it. Just to kind of bring it in for landing, do you have any words of encouragement for anybody that’s on the fence? Maybe there’s another breakdancer out there listening that’s like, well, there isn’t a charge code for breakdancing, so I’m not going to talk about it at work.
Chris: I would just say, be yourself. It’s funny, we spend a lot of time with our call to our next generational leaders again talking about the importance of things like business development. We need to grow the firm overtime. A lot of people struggle early on with that. How do I do that? They see sales as something that is magic. We encourage them all the time. Just think about where you like to spend your time outside of work. If you just enjoy coaching the kid’s soccer team or going to the soccer games. Keep doing that. Just talk to some of the parents in the crowd. I can join a cycling group and get to know some of the other people there. You’d be surprised where business emerges from.
I think if you can embrace that and what those things are that you’d like to do outside of work and not exploit them for business development purposes because I don’t think it should be taken that way. But just look for the opportunities there. You don’t have to create a different you to be successful in business.
John: Right. It’s something that you already love to do anyway. Wow. This is work related. That’s crazy.
Chris: Yeah. You’ll stick with it like I like golfing. So I tend to try to schedule some time with referral sources out on the golf course. I enjoy it, and they enjoy it, good time and it kills two birds at one stone. It’s wonderful.
John: Exactly. That was fantastic and really great to learn more about you and hear the cool things that are going on there at Kreishcher Miller. I love it. Really, really fantastic. I hope one day that we can break out some cardboard on a garage floor.
Chris: Yeah. I try to stay with more of the standup part of it now.
John: Right, more of the Roboto type of thing.
Chris: — to really get back up.
John: Exactly. That was what I was worried about too. I was like, we’ll be down there for a while. But thank you so much Chris for taking time to be a part of the Green Apple Podcast. This is really, really fantastic.
Chris: Absolutely. Thank you again.
John: That was so great. I loved how Chris said, “You don’t have to create a different you to be successful in business.” As a matter of fact, as we’ve heard from some other guests on the show as well, having a different you is not only exhausting but not nearly as affective. If you’d like to see some pictures of Chris’ outside of work activities and maybe even inside of work dressing up like Santa or connect with them on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on the page, click on the big green button there, do the anonymous research survey about corporate 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.