Kevin cooks coffee cakes to run it off
Kevin Gienger enjoys two things outside of the office, bicycling and running, and cooking. Kevin had short stints in basketball and track before getting into biking. Kevin has participated in events like a 200 mile bike ride from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. He also has a coffee cake recipe featured in a cookbook!
In this episode, Kevin and I talk about why people can be reluctant to share their passions in the workplace how the offices of Boldt, Carlisle & Smith encourage their employees to share fun facts about each other.
Kevin started at Boldt, Carlisle & Smith in 1997 before leaving to take a position as a Division Controller at Allied Waste of North America. He returned to BC&S in 2006, eventually becoming a managing partner in 2012.
He received a B.A. in Accounting from Linfield College and his CPA from the Oregon Board of Accountancy.
• How Kevin’s office manager found out that he’s in a cookbook
• How BC&S sets time aside for social outings with employees
• What the IT manager did to allow employees to blow off steam
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Hello, this is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 157 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 which makes them not what you would think as the stereotype. So they’re like a green apple standing out 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 in degrees and certifications. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that will make you better at your job, but only if you share them.
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 corporate world. So if you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com, click that big green button, and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous, I really appreciate the help. It will be for research for the book I’m writing that will be out early part of next year.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the shows, so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Kevin Gienger. He’s the managing partner of Boldt, Carlisle & Smith CPAs in Salem, Oregon. Kevin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on The Green Apple Podcast.
Kevin: Sure, it’s great. I’ve never been on a podcast before. This is my first one.
John: Oh, sweet, man. Well, they’re not as awesome as this. I’m not going to lie to you. No, I have no idea what I’m talking about. You’re going to be great. I remember hanging out in Portland at the AAM Conference, Association for Accounting Marketers. I don’t know why the two of us were there, but that was really fun. I’m glad you were there also as a non-marketing person. Yeah, that was really fun.
Kevin: I noticed right off, one of the first things you’ve said was that these marketers are basically the people who put the lipsticks on the pig. I began thinking, I must be one of the pigs.
John: Well, you got to play to your audience, man. You got to play to your audience.
Kevin: That’s right.
John: They certainly cheered pretty hard when I said that though to an extent. But, yeah, before I get on the plane and fly back out there and we go and you cook me some food and then we get on a bike and I guess burn all the calories back off, I have my 17 rapid-fire questions I like to run everybody through just to get to know Kevin a little bit more right out of the gate here. I’m going to fire this thing up here. All right, I’ll start you out with an easy one, pens or pencils? Pencils. All right. When it comes to computers, more of a PC or a MAC?
Kevin: I’m most comfortable with the PC, but I like the Apple, you know, the iPad and iPhone.
John: Okay, so a little bit of both. How about do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
Kevin: Oh, favorite ice cream flavor, I like ice cream a lot. My favorite one growing up was tin roof sundae. I don’t see that a lot, but if I get the chance, I’ll grab it.
John: Yeah, yeah, like four cartons of it, just to keep it in the freezer. How about what’s a typical breakfast?
Kevin: Cheerios and blueberries.
John: Okay, nice, that’s super healthy. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kevin: Star Wars.
John: Yeah, yeah. How about more jeans or khakis?
John: Okay, all right. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Kevin: Definitely, Sudoku.
John: Yeah, numbers all the way. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Eight and why is that?
Kevin: You know, I don’t really know but it’s just every once in a while when I was growing up, I’d get a chance to pick your number and ask for whatever, and it happened on eight, so I just stuck with that one.
John: It’s a solid number, man. When it comes to financials, more of a balance sheet or an income statement?
Kevin: The income statement.
John: All right. Oh, this is an important one. This is maybe a deal breaker, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Kevin: Under. I mean I don’t think about it a whole lot, but if I stop to think, I think usually under.
John: Okay, all right. Do you have a favorite sports team?
Kevin: Well, I guess that depends on what sport, right? Oregon doesn’t have tons of professional sports, so we kind of adopt Seattle teams sometimes. But I like to watch the University of Oregon like basketball and football and then the Portland Trailblazers for professional basketball.
John: Oh, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. How about do you have a favorite color?
John: How about a least favorite color?
John: Orange, yeah, that’s an Oregon State color right there. That’s what that is.
Kevin: Good one, right?
John: I thought where that’s coming from. That’s not the subconscious. Do you have a favorite TV show of all time?
Kevin: Seinfeld would have to be the favorite TV show.
John: Oh, yeah, solid. I could see that. Do you have a favorite comedian?
Kevin: I don’t know. I like watching comedy, but there’s not necessarily one I gravitate to. I’ve watched some of Seinfeld’s standup stuff, and that’s pretty good. He’s had like a new one that came out, and I thought —
John: Yeah, on Netflix.
Kevin: Yeah. I thought that was pretty good.
John: That was at my old home club in New York City, the comic strip.
Kevin: Oh, sweet.
John: Yeah, that was where he started as well and Eddie Murphy started and Paul Reiser. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
John: Two more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
John: The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Kevin: I have two bicycles, one mountain bike and one road bike. But I don’t get to use those quite as much as I used to. But we got a puppy just two weeks ago, so right now the puppy is a fun, challenging but fun thing to have.
John: Right. Because that’s something you “use” every day. Otherwise, you’re using paper towels and cleaning up. That’s fantastic. Really good answer. Really cool. Really cool. Now, ask more of the fun questions I guess. What made you want to get into accounting to begin with?
Kevin: When I was in high school, they actually had an accounting class that I took, and I liked it. It was interesting. Math always was pretty easy, so I was looking for something like that. But my uncle was like a banker, worked for like Chase Manhattan Bank. He said, “If you want to something in business, if you go into accounting, you’ll be kind of wide open. You can kind of do whatever you want.” So I just kind of went down that road. I liked the accounting classes, and I liked the business law and some of the other classes. And then economics was harder, but then, I don’t know, I got a job in public accounting. I liked being able to work more than just one company, and so I’m stuck with that.
John: Yeah. No, absolutely, man. Absolutely, yeah. That’s why I ended up in Accounting as well was it kind of prolonged the grow-up decision. I can pick accounting but not actually pick my career, where if I go marketing, I have to do marketing. If I do finance, I have to do finance. It’s like IT stuff. That’s exactly the reason why I got into accounting. It’s only a matter of time till you’re a comedian, Kevin. That’s what I’m trying to let you know. It’s only a matter of time.
Kevin: Oh, right. You know, my wife reminds me often that I’m not always funny.
John: Right, right. Well, we don’t have to have her in the audience.
Kevin: That’s right.
John: That’s awesome. Well, yeah, when you’re not the managing partner there at Boldt, Carlisle & Smith, what passion or interest outside of work do you love to do?
Kevin: I like being outside. I started biking, I don’t know, probably sometime after college mostly. So that’s a good thing. When I don’t have time to bike, I usually go running. I’ve always kind of like cooking, and so I ended up doing, not all of it, of course, but a fair amount of cooking at home. I like to try new recipes and things when I get the chance.
John: Right. Is the cooking thing that you’ve done since you were younger?
Kevin: Well, yeah, I was in forage as a kid, and so we did all kinds of things there. But, one, I actually had my coffee cake go to the state fair one year, and I’m in this recipe book. A couple of years ago, our office manager, she brings this book that her — I think it was her mother-in-law got at a garage sale. It’s the forage cookbook and she’s like, “Is this you?”
John: That’s fantastic. So now you have to make it. I mean, you have to bring it in.
Kevin: I know. I don’t think I ever have actually brought it in here. That’s a good point.
John: Yeah. So is that like a family recipe, or was it something that you twisted a little bit for yourself?
Kevin: I don’t remember actually where we got it from. I should ask my mom; she might know. But, yeah, I don’t remember where it came from. I remember I was a little unique because it had like cream in it to moisten up the coffee cake. But yeah, I made it a bunch of times over the years, but I haven’t done it in a while.
John: It’s awesome. That’s so great, you’re in a recipe book. That’s so cool, man. You’re a published author of some sort, I don’t know, a contributing author. There you go. Update the bio on the website. That’s really cool. I imagine after eating all those coffee cakes, there’s certainly a lot of biking and running involved to burn that off.
Kevin: Yep, that’s part of the purpose of that is to go to — I like the ice cream too, so you got to balance things out.
John: Yeah, yeah, I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was there, or else I would have never left Portland, because we would just be eating ice cream nonstop, between that and the donuts and good food there. Yeah, absolutely. So the biking and the running, is that something that came along more after college, or when did you start that?
Kevin: I did track kind of growing up. I played basketball and track. But it’s funny because when I was in track, I ran short distances and I didn’t like running long at all. So then I did track for a year in college, and I just decided there’s lot of other fun things to do. I kind of burned out on it, so I went away from that. The biking was better. Well, my wife, she doesn’t do a lot of running now, but she ran in New York City Marathon at one point. She’d crossed country.
Kevin: So we did some running.
John: That’s not messing around. That’s business.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. So we did some running and that I guess kind of come into the idea that I could actually run distance. That was a simpler, easier way to go work out. It’s great either thinking time or stress relief time.
John: Definitely, yeah. So is there like a cooler, more rewarding moment from the running, biking? I imagine maybe a triathlon or something that you’ve done?
Kevin: When our oldest kid was a year old, I ended up doing — there’s an annual bike ride, I don’t know how many people do it, a thousand or more, I’m sure it’s huge — that goes from Seattle to Portland. So that’s 200 miles.
Kevin: There’s a one-day and a two-day option which I did the two-day option.
John: Yeah, well, you’re not as crazy now all of a sudden.
Kevin: Yeah. So I think the longest I’ve ever rode in one day was it was around 120 miles we did the first day.
John: Oh, my goodness! That’s unbelievable, man. That’s a lot of thinking time.
Kevin: Yeah, one of the things I’ve really enjoy about it is when you’re driving, you don’t really have the time or can’t afford to pay attention to where you are. You’re usually on the main thoroughfares. So biking takes you off onto less traveled roads. It’s just the scenery of what’s out there and the speed you’re traveling at, you get to see a lot more of what’s going on. It’s just a good thing to kind of experience where you are.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s fantastic because you’re outside. In a car, you’re in the windows and all that. You feel a little bit like you’re watching a TV show. In this, you’re in it, you’re in the show. All senses on high alert. Is this something that people at work know about as well? They clearly know about the cookbook, so that secret is out.
Kevin: That’s right; that is out. Yeah, they do. There’s not as many bikers — I mean there’s a few but in the office as runners, there’s a lot of runners around. These guys aren’t here anymore. They’ve moved on to other things, but there was these three guys that were working it when I did that. So the Portland ride, that’s about I guess 12 years ago now. When I came back to work the Monday after all that, they told me that they’re trying to devise a way to take the seat off of my chair and put a bike seat on it.
John: That’s a cruel joke.
Kevin: I guess they decided at some point that it was a little too cruel, so they didn’t do it.
John: Right, I just got off one of these, and now you’re putting me back on. That’s a really funny idea though. That’s really funny.
Kevin: Yeah, it was. I’m sure they just ran out of time to execute it because they’re usually pretty very creative with stuff.
John: Right. They probably thought of it the night before. They’re like, “Ah, not enough time.” Is that something that just comes up in conversation, or how do people typically learn about that side of you?
Kevin: I think it comes up more when there’s some bigger I guess thing going on, or we have a handful of relationships that come up out of things like that. There’s a number of clubs around here that do group rides or run. There’s a big running store downtown that organizes all kinds of runs. One of my partners who has done a bunch of marathons, he has a lot of relationships because he runs more in groups. Mine, like I said, is often for recovery, stress or whatever. So I do more of my stuff alone, but there are still just a lot of relationships with people in the community. Our community is relatively small, so it’s easy to have that connection to somebody who is either a runner or a biker, or there’s a triathlon club.
John: In Salem, it’s a little bit more smaller city. Yeah, I’d imagine that it’s a smaller circle I guess, if you will. So once you’re plugged in, then you’re plugged in to a lot of what’s going on.
John: Why is it that you think that it is in our default mode to want to share these things typically? I mean I remember when I first started, I was kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m supposed to.” I guess I was kind of too dumb to know. But why do you think it is that people are maybe a little hesitant or reluctant to share?
Kevin: I think it comes from a couple of different areas. One is you just don’t know if people are going to be interested, right? We don’t have maybe enough time to kind of know enough about each other. Sometimes that we just don’t know what other people are interested in, and so we don’t want to bore them or get into something that’s not interesting to someone else. So I think if you don’t have the opportunity to talk about those things, then it never comes up.
For our firm, one of the things that it just came together, and I don’t remember if it was the photographer’s idea or the lady that was kind of helping us redesign our website, but we went through and asked everyone to bring me in some sort of prop that represented what they do outside of work. So it’s great because that’s where we got those pictures taken, and we redid the website. You’ve got to have the business look, and then people had their dogs or like medals that they’ve won in races, flowers that they grow at home. We have one partner who’s a certified master scuba diver, people that play instruments, so just stuff that some of which you knew because they do events or whatever around those and then sometimes you had no idea.
John: Right and those are the things that you’ll never forget now, right?
Kevin: Yeah, exactly.
John: You’re rattling all those off off the top of your head and that happened probably a while ago, and yet it’s like, what are all their jobs? I don’t totally know, but I know this person loves to plant this kind of flowers. It’s like, “Wow!” I’m sure that you saw people bringing stuff in here like, “Wait, you what?” That’s a really cool thing. It’s almost like Show and Tell Day in kindergarten.
Kevin: Right. I like that.
John: Yeah, that’s really fantastic. Are there other things that your firm does specifically to help encourage this kind of culture of sharing to an extent?
Kevin: Yeah, I mean we’re conscious of trying to help people build relationships. I follow — what is it? — the Gottman that does these surveys on employee engagement. One of their big things is having a friend at work. I think most of the time our friends at work are not friends because of the work we do. It’s usually some other interest outside of that. During tax season, we have lunches in once a week and encourage people to come and sit down and just talk, and different things come up about people’s lives during that time. Before tax season, we do kind of a meeting and then in the afternoon we go bowling. That’s an annual event, and that gets people the opportunity to talk. You can see who is a good bowler which there’s only a few of them, so they stick out.
John: Right, right, right, that’s true. Bowling is one of the things you do once a year, and then you’re like, “Oh, yeah, now I remember why it’s only once a year.”
Kevin: That’s right.
John: Yeah, like the first game, I’m decent. The second game, I’m okay. Then for the third game, my arm is just tired. But that’s a cool thing though because it sounds like it’s getting people away from their desk to have these lunches or out of the office to create these connections.
Kevin: Yeah. We try to do some in the summer usually too off site. We have done a couple of outside service projects which is another opportunity for people to be working together, doing something that’s not our traditional work.
John: Right and you’re making the community better, and everybody wins there.
John: That’s great. How much do you feel like it’s on the firm to create that messaging versus it’s on the individual to maybe create a circle amongst themselves?
Kevin: Well, I think the more that people do that on themselves, obviously the better relationships they build. But I think it’s really important for the firm to have opportunities to make sure that people I guess believe that that is important. Because we’re always in the pressure of deadlines where we have deadlines all the time, that’s how our work works on a regular basis. So it’s important to say, well, there are certain points in time we’re going to set aside. We’ll close the office for a couple of those events and then give people the chance to get to know each other. Not everyone participates. In most of them, everyone participates, but a good majority. It’s really nice to see what spawns out of that because there’s always stuff that you wouldn’t have expected. People to learn about a bunch of people that love dogs and so then they are like, “Well, can we have a picnic at the place where we can bring our dogs?” So they start to get involved and say, “How can we formulate these events around maybe other activities or other interests?” We try as much as we can to accommodate that, or right around a little less than 50 people so it’s hard sometimes, but we’re still at the size where we can usually make that happen.
John: Yeah. I love that. It’s something that’s that simple as “Hey, we’re going to do it at the park that has dogs,” and then just showing that little bit of — I know there’s this many people that love their dogs, so let’s have them come. It’s the same as their children for most of them. But it just shows that you have genuine interest in them. That’s a cool thing. Why not? What’s the difference, right? It’s still a park. I love that. That’s really fantastic.
Why do you think it is — I mean I guess as a managing partner, I have that survey that I do as my research and ask people, why don’t people want to share? Some of the answers are “We don’t get paid to socialize” or “There isn’t a charge code for that” or whatever. As a managing partner, why do you think it is okay or should be, you’re making a conscious effort to make that happen?
Kevin: It’s hard because I think the challenge is trying to I guess get everyone to understand I guess when and how much is appropriate, right?
Kevin: We struggle with it at times where we’re like, “Okay, this is the time where we’re really busy. So we have to kind of –”
John: Yeah, not now. Right.
Kevin: “– minimize some of that, or we’re going to have to take it outside.” So the lunches in the office during tax season, it’s kind of like we’re setting aside a whole hour here. This is a time where we want us to socialize. Let’s do it now and then come back to work. So providing some of those opportunities and then scheduling those other things like the bowling or the summer picnics in those times where it’s not quite as busy and we don’t have as many deadlines going on, so we can close the office for a day or half a day and do something else and hopefully then give people those relationships. I know there’s a number of people that do things outside of work, or we have some people that love video games and things. We’ve let them use our training room on a Saturday to just gather and play. The IT guy is one of those. So he organizes it. As long as they clean up and stuff and don’t make a mess out of it, then they can have that space to get together.
John: That’s cool. Do you feel like those relationships and fostering that is beneficial to the bottom line in the end?
Kevin: Yeah, I think so because everything we do, we work together. Tax returns sometimes we don’t work side by side, but I counted at one time six or seven different people touch every one of those things throughout the company when we’re doing those projects. Then we have a firm and we work in small teams there. So it’s beneficial for people to have relationships so that those projects go smoother. We try to have relationships with so we can hear those things that maybe we don’t want to hear, but they’re important for us to understand about how our people feel about whatever is going on in the business too or in their lives.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s business or it’s not business. If someone’s got something going on in their world that’s difficult, it impacts them both inside and outside. We want to be respectful of that and just give people some time if they need it to sort things out. So most people, obviously, have to come to work. So if we can make it a little simpler for them to deal with personal things so they can focus back on the other parts of their lives, then we try to do that when we can.
John: That’s fantastic, man. I love it. It’s just taking a genuine interest. You hired the whole person, not just the accountant part, so you need to be cognizant of the whole person. That’s fantastic, really fantastic. So cool, man.
Well, this was a lot of fun. I really appreciate you taking time to be on The Green Apple Podcast and to share your story. I can’t wait to give that recipe and get my sling at the coffee cake. But this was really fantastic. I love what you guys are doing there. Keep up the good work. Thanks so much, Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you.
John: That was so great. I loved how Kevin said, “We don’t have friends at work because of the work we do. It’s because of something outside the office.” So you have to open up and share your outside-of-work interest in order to develop some real friendships. In Tom Rath’s book Vital Friends, he did a study and found that people with three or more close friends at work are more satisfied with their lives, 96% more satisfied with their lives, not just their jobs but their lives. So it’s really important.
Now, if you’d like to see some pictures of Kevin’s recent triathlon or connect with him on social media and maybe ask him for that recipe of the coffee cake, 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 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.