Josh cycles, goes fishing, and travels at his wife’s request
Josh is one of many in the accounting world whose health became a personal concern, gaining weight after only 13 months at his first accounting job. After a break-up with his then girlfriend, it was the final motivator to become more active outside of work by first getting into cycling. It was also natural for him to get into fishing and boating, growing up near a lake during his childhood.
In this episode, Josh talks about his experiences in his active lifestyle, how it has benefitted him personally as well as professionally, being a platform to establish relationships and connections. John also tells a funny story on how he handled a heckler during a comedy show.
Josh joined Edgar, Kiker & Cross, PC in 2008 after a brief management career with a local business, which was awarded Business of the Year during his tenure by one of the local Chambers of Commerce. He became a shareholder of the firm on Jan. 1, 2016.
Josh received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
• Why Josh got into accounting
• How Josh got into cycling and fishing
• How Josh was able to get his boat
• How the culture of Edgar Kiker & Cross promotes comradery within the workforce
• Why Josh feels it is default to not share experiences outside of the office
• How Josh’s active lifestyle helps establish relationships both personal and professional
• John’s experience with a heckler at a comedy show
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Welcome to Episode 166 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. Just by sharing that in the office, it makes them stand out like a green apple in a boring, stereotypical red apple world. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and” as in my guest, Josh LeBlanc. He’s an accountant and loves triathlons and cycling and boating.
I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Josh LeBlanc. He’s a shareholder at Edgar, Kiker & Cross in Beaumont, Texas. Now, he’s with me on the Green Apple Podcast. Josh, I’m so excited to have you on the show.
Josh: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
John: I’m so excited after hanging out at the Texas State Society of CPAs. I’m not even sure what the official term is. But the annual member meeting, I guess, in San Antonio was so fun. You guys let me sit at your cool kids’ table. I appreciated that at dinner.
Josh: Oh, we had a lot fun. Glad you joined us.
John: No, absolutely. It was great. I know we’ve hung out a little bit. But I do have 17 rapid-fire questions that I failed to ask you when we were hanging out. I figure if I’m going to fly down there and hang out on your boat and go cycling and do some triathlons — I don’t know if there’s a mini version of triathlons like a 100-yard dash and swim one length of a pool and then something like that — I’d be in for it. But I do have my 17 rapid-fire questions. Let me fire this thing up and right out of the gate. First one, are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Josh: Star Trek.
John: Star Trek. There you go. How about when it comes to a computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC. Yeah. Your mouse, more left click or right click?
Josh: Left click.
John: Okay. All right. Making decisions. How about do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Josh: Brussels sprouts. I will not touch those things. If my wife listens to this, she’s going to hate that answer.
John: No, no, but it’s honest. When it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?
Josh: Sudoku. I’ve got to stay with numbers.
John: Yeah. I know absolutely. That makes me feel more confident in my tax person. How about do you have a favorite color?
John: Green. Nice. How about a least favorite color?
John: White? Okay. All right. How about do you have a favorite sports team?
Josh: Probably right now, it’s the Astros. Even though they’re a little disappointing the last few weeks. But we’re still in there.
John: Yeah, yeah. They’re still hanging in there. How about jeans or khakis?
John: Okay. How about when it comes to tax return, more corporate or personal tax return?
Josh: They go hand in hand. You can’t do the business return without knowing the implications on the personal.
John: That’s true. All right. Fair enough. Both. I like it. How about — this is an important one — when it comes to a toilet paper roll, more over or under?
Josh: Oooh, I think over.
John: “I think over. Let me call my wife and make sure.” All right. How about as an accountant, I have to ask, do you have a favorite number?
Josh: No, probably not.
John: You like all of them, even the negative ones?
Josh: You can do a lot with negative numbers.
John: That’s true. This is the guy that says, “What do you want the answer to be?” Then we make it that, right? That’s how I did it. What’s a typical breakfast?
Josh: I pretty much skip breakfast. I know that’s not a good answer. I would say coffee?
John: Hey, that works, man. I knew it wasn’t going to be brussels sprouts. We’re good there. That would be the grossest breakfast, ever. How about when it comes to reading, more of a Kindle or real books?
Josh: Neither. I do so much reading at the office. I really don’t like to read outside.
John: All right. All right. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Josh: Jamie Foxx, I think. He’s hilarious, lot of fun hanging out with. We bumped into him in Montana couple of weeks ago. He’s a super nice guy.
John: Oh, that’s fantastic. Really cool, man. Yeah. You just bumped into Jamie Foxx. Yeah. Why not, right? Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Josh: Night owl.
John: Night owl, okay. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Josh: It’s a toss-up between the boats and the bikes.
John: Okay. All right. Well, if you could put your bikes on your boats then there we go. It’s multiple. Good for you, man.
Josh: Well, multiple bikes. I really only have one boat.
John: That was fantastic, man. Really great. One thing that I love to ask everyone that comes on the show is just what made you want to get into accounting in the first place?
Josh: I was smart enough to think about the economics and what would have some good job security and pay a decent income. I was good at numbers. I had some family that had a CPA practice in the Florida area. It seemed pretty simple for me to just jump right in. You start taking courses. You don’t know if that’s where you’re going to be.
Josh: But I felt pretty comfortable in the courses. I pretty much felt like, “Okay, this is where I’m going to be. I’m comfortable.”
John: Nice. That’s fantastic, man. Really great. Yeah. You had people to model from as well.
Josh: Very much so.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool. Really cool. Let’s jump into some of this fun stuff with the cycling and triathlons. Is that something that you’ve been doing since you were a kid or more recently?
Josh: No. I think everybody had a bike when they were kid for the most part. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. When I started working at the firm, I actually tried to make a long story short as possible. I weighed 185 pounds when I started the firm in November of 2008. By the Christmas party of 2009, so 13 months later, I put on 95 pounds.
Josh: There are actually photos on the firm networks somewhere, like the before and after. I started to have back problems. I wasn’t doing well. I had recently broken up with my girlfriend at the time. I was like, “If I’m going to get back on the market, this isn’t the person I want to sell.”
Josh: I had some friends that were getting into cycling. They were bugging me to try to do it. I would say seven years ago maybe, I bought my first bike. I was addicted immediately. They say it’s just like riding a bike. You do pick up. You ride back on like nothing ever happened. It starts off slow, but after a while — I’m really a 100% commitment kind of guy. I said, “If I’m going to do this, I’m all in. I want to race and do some these other things.” It’s a very fast-growing sport in America. You can see the numbers of people that are getting into it. It seems like the Europeans are becoming more popular.
John: Yes. Soccer, right?
Josh: Yeah. Sure enough, I jumped in. Eventually, it did turn into a couple of races. Then I met my now wife. I don’t have as much time as I used to. I’m not going to fault her for that. It’s a good thing.
John: No, that’s fantastic. These races, how far are they?
Josh: We’ve done some grand tours. Probably the longest I’ve gone is 102 miles, 103 miles in one sitting.
Josh: Stupid me, those rides I’ve picked to be in July and August in South Texas. It’s absolutely brutal.
John: You lost all 95 pounds in that ride. I mean just sweating it out.
Josh: There’s a tour called Katy Flatlands in Katy, Texas that’s 100 miles. There’s one called Bike Around the Bay in October. It’s actually 200 miles. It’s 100 miles day one, 100 miles day two. It goes all the way around Galveston Bay from Baytown down to Galveston and then backup through Kemah the next day. I’ve never made it day two. Every time I sign up, I’m like, “I’m going to do this.” Then you finish thinking this stupid idea, “Why did I pick this hobby?”
Josh: But probably, the most challenging one I did was when we went to Arkansas. Going to Arkansas, there’s one called Tour to the Top in Mena. It’s the only mountain range in the country that runs East to West. We started out at the base of the mountain in Arkansas and hoofed it back into Oklahoma. We went straight up. I had a buddy who kept trying to prepare me for it. He was like, “We haven’t done mountain climbing. This is whole new experience.” I was like, “I’m ready. I’m ready.” We finished this climb. I want to say it was like a category for a climb. I know that doesn’t mean to anybody listening to this. But I thought I was going to die. But I made it. I was like, “I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give up.”
Josh: My legs were shaking. I felt like jello. When we finally got up, I looked at him. I stopped. I was like, “Yeah. I made it!” He goes, “No, that wasn’t the big climb.”
John: No. Oh, no.
Josh: Then I was like, “Oh, my God.”
John: Yeah. That was the warm up, Josh.
John: Oh, man. That’s crazy.
Josh: Hopes and dreams were shattered that moment.
John: Yeah, yeah. Did you make it to the top then?
Josh: I did. It wasn’t without assistance. I want to say that of the people I saw, there were a few pros there at that event that use it for real pickup race. They haul ass through there and didn’t waste any time. I think we saw them for all of maybe 45 seconds before they disappeared in the distance. But I couldn’t make it to the top without a little assistance. But they had trucks there to pick you up and take you to the top. Coming down was a lot of fun.
John: That’d be awesome. Right. That’s cool, man. That’s cool. Then that just translated into triathlons then as well?
Josh: Yeah. Cycling’s a lot of fun. That’s probably my bread and butter. But I have some friends here in Southeast Texas who are doing triathlons. It was really starting to intrigue me. I used to be a great swimmer when I was a kid. For some other reason, I just got this book that I think I’d like to try a triathlon. I’ve done one. I did a sprint distance, which is a 500-meter swim, about a 12 or 13-mile bike and then a 5K run. That’s typically the shortest one you get.
John: All right.
Josh: I didn’t do that well in it. When you’re doing it, you think the whole time, “This is stupid. Why would anybody sign up for this?” Immediately afterwards, it’s like you’re hooked.
Josh: Like it’s, “I can’t wait for the next one. I’ve got to get back in shape. I’m going to do better.”
John: Yeah. It’s all just challenging yourself. You’re not competing against everyone else necessarily. You’re competing against your own personal bests and your own training and all that.
Josh: A hundred percent.
John: Yeah. That’s fantastic, man. Really cool. Really cool. Then to flip that, I guess total recreation, fishing and boating. Is that something that you’ve been doing since you were a kid growing up?
Josh: Yeah. I grew up on the water spending time with the lake with family. There’s just something serenity about being on the water. Actually, if I joined the Military Coast Guard, I would have been where I think I would have ended up. Since I was a kid, I waited and waited and waited until I could finally afford the down payment and have the boat I want to pick out, right?
Josh: Got married, settled down. The wife said, “I have one condition. I want to travel.” I went, “Well, since we’re throwing out conditions, here’s the boat.”
John: That’s great. “Since you brought it up…” That’s awesome. That’s very cool. You use the boat to travel. Everybody wins.
John: Little bit, actually. Yeah. Because I’ve seen pictures on social media.
Josh: Yes, very much so.
Josh: You may have seen the ones. We actually boated over to Louisiana. We stayed at the Golden Nugget, a casino, for a night. That was a lot of fun.
John: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. Yeah, that’s fantastic, man. Really cool. Really cool. Are these hobbies and passions that you talk about at work at all?
Josh: A hundred percent. It’s funny. I think if you walk around the office, if you were to pose the question of, “Do you know what your coworkers do outside the office?” I think everybody would tell you that everybody knows what Josh does.
John: Yeah. How is that? Is it because you’re willing to share or they asked? How does that come about?
Josh: I think it’s both. I think I’m absolutely willing to share. But we have a really good work family here where it’s very much – I mean you can walk around. Anybody could ask them, “Hey, what you do this weekend?” We have a group right now that are really big on camaraderie outside the office in putting together different events like poker night. Football’s coming up so I’m excited to see what they plan to do during football season.
Josh: But yeah, I think everybody here is pretty open about talking about things.
John: Yeah. No, that’s fantastic. Do you feel like it’s more of the tone at the top or it’s the people that are being hired in that just make it that way?
Josh: I’m not afraid to talk about anything. I would say, probably, when I started out, it was more taboo. Nobody talked about what you did outside the office. But let’s be honest. Accounting doesn’t have a whole lot of sex appeal to it. I’m hoping that maybe we can change that mindset, that mentality.
John: Yeah. It’s always just interesting to me that for most of us, it’s our default mode is to not share. Even when someone genuinely is interesting and asks, “Hey, would you do this weekend?” Rather than say, “Oh, we boated to Louisiana and stayed at the Golden Nugget,” it’s “I didn’t do anything. Nothing.” It’s so frustrating because, “No, say it. You’re not bragging. You’re not boasting. You’re not rubbing it in anyone’s faces. They actually care about you as a person.” I think it’s hard to convey that to some people for some reason. Why do you think that’s our default mode?
Josh: I don’t know. With accountants, it might be that much. It might be that maybe we’re too prideful. Maybe it’ll be construed as bragging. Maybe we don’t want our clients to think that we live these lavish lifestyles and assume our fees are too high. I don’t know.
John: Yeah, or assume that we have something else that’s equally or maybe even more important than our jobs. People will judge us as if we’re not that dedicated to what we’re doing. Even though we’re just as dedicated as the next person.
Josh: Yeah, very possible.
John: Yeah. Because as you found in your office, everybody’s got something.
Josh: Everybody has something.
John: Right. I guess that logically means that everyone’s not as dedicated. That makes no sense. We’re all doing great work and having interests outside of work. I love that. That’s the culture there. I guess early on in your career, like you said, it wasn’t as easy to open up, I guess.
Josh: It was not. No. You go back ten years. I think the majority of firms that I was around, still very strict dress codes, coat, tie, polished shoes. Gosh, the women’s dress code, I feel sorry for those guys.
Josh: I mean, they can rant about it far more than I can. But I think the accounting profession is just naturally progressing. We’re just like all the clients we serve. We don’t just sit in the office and ho-hum. We’re just like you. Most of your clients, you start to have those conversations. They respect that. I can’t tell you how many might have come back and say, “I don’t know anything about you guys. What is it that makes you stand out? What makes you any different than any other CPA firm in town?” Well, it’s about building relationships. You can’t build a relationship hiding behind a desk and hiding behind a computer.
John: Yeah. Amen, man. Absolutely. That’s exactly it. Because that’s the question right there. It’s “What is the difference between you doing a tax return versus another firm doing a tax return?” Really nothing, except for that relationship, which doesn’t happen on the technical skills. It’s that human side of all of us that creates that. Good for you for recognizing that and being able to use that to your advantage, which is really fantastic. Above and beyond relationships, do you feel like there’s a skill set maybe from these hobbies outside of work that you bring to the office?
Josh: Being able to know your way around things. If you’re ever out at a client’s office, if you’re just somebody sits behind a desk and doesn’t know anything or present yourself as not knowing anything at least, how are you going to know what anything is inside these mechanic shops when you go out or these manufacturing warehouses? When you get out and you work with things, when you work with your hands and do things with your hands and take things apart, it’s going to give you a better understanding what it is your clients are doing. Instead of just typing numbers into a tax return software, you have a working knowledge what it is they’re doing. You could say, “Wait a minute. Something’s not right. They’re missing this. They’re missing that.” Or maybe we need to be asking more questions. I think when you can circle back with that that your clients recognize that, “Hey, they are taking an active interest in my business and in me.”
John: Right. That is what differentiates you for sure. Do you feel like the cycling and triathlons give you a skill that make you a better accountant?
Josh: I think we were talking a little bit earlier. For me, I’m very competitive by nature.
Josh: I wanted more than what I had as a kid. I wanted to be something different. It’s really driven me. What that’s done is, naturally, it makes you compare yourself to your peers, whether I was in the firm or in my career prior to this, just very competitive by nature. I realized that wasn’t the best thing to come into a coworker relationship and just be extremely competitive with everybody. It gave me something not only for health attributes, but to get out and actually try to get my competitive spirits, my competitive nature out of my system after five o’clock. When I came in the next morning, I was well rested. I had a smile on my face. I was able to satisfy those urges and those tendencies and come in and focus on developing staff and developing relationships in the firm.
John: I love that, man. That’s so fantastic. I wish that that was mandatory for all partners. No, I’m just kidding. No. But no. But that’s so true. It gets the competitiveness out. It gets that edge a little bit off, so then you’re a little more approachable and human. But I think on the flip side though, it also gives you something to talk about. It also energizes you. That’s your breathing in happy. That’s your charging those batteries, so then you’re able to approach work with some new vigor, if you will. That’s so fantastic and really great. Are there ways that you show people that these are your passions? Is it pictures in your office? Is it just talking about it? How does that come up with coworkers?
Josh: There’s a lot of social media posts. I think everybody in the office is friends on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter. There’s a lot of discussion points. We’ve done a Biggest Loser competition here at the office a couple of times. Let’s be honest. We work in a sedentary environment.
Josh: Sometimes you have to motivate each other to get up and make some lifestyle changes. I think just naturally, a few years ago, we did a couple of Biggest Loser challenges. It’s really opened everybody up to discuss, “This is what I’m doing,” or, “This is what that person is doing.” It just carried over from that.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s part of that committee that’s creating those social gatherings outside of work and things like that too, which is fantastic. Because then it’s not coming as a directive from the top. It’s, “What do you guys actually want to do? Then we go do it,” type of a thing, which is a definitely a different culture than when I started back in my days. That’s for sure, which is great. Do you have any words of encouragement for anybody listening to things that, “Obviously, cycling and fishing has absolutely nothing to do with accounting, so why should I talk about it?” or maybe, “No one cares.”
Josh: Everybody has a vice. Everybody has to have a vice. The simple thought that we’re afraid to talk with each other about these things is crazy in and of itself. I know somebody who came to the States, decide a meeting not too long ago and said, “Look at your neighbor. Tell everybody what it is you do at work for a living.” It was a very boring, quiet room. Then he said, “Now, look at your neighbor. Tell the other people to state what it is you do outside the office.” The place erupted. You may remember that.
Josh: You remember who asked that question?
John: It may or may not have been me. It might have been me. Yeah, for sure. The energy just pops, right?
Josh: It does 100%. I’ll be honest. I’ve gotten phone calls this past week of cycling buddies and fishing buddies who were like, “Hey, I think I’d like to come talk to you guys about handling my stuff.” It’s turning into new client relationships. I’m getting phone calls to people who are like, “I feel like I know you outside the office. You seem like a stand-up guy.” I don’t know if maybe my commitment when I’m going down the road and everybody’s sucking wind behind me, if they’re like, “That guy works really hard.” I don’t know if that translates into that. I really don’t know.
Josh: But it has. I’ve had two or three people call in the past few weeks. A former MMA fighter had another friend that I cycle with, a nurse practitioner. Some of these bicycles are pretty expensive. You think about the nature of who it is out there. You’re dealing with a lot of doctors and attorneys. Some of these toys aren’t inexpensive.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s where the trust is developed. That’s where, like you said, they’re calling you like, “Hey, I get to know you. You’re upstanding guy. I get who you are as a person. I want to bring my business to you and come to you for some guidance.” It doesn’t start with me asking you for guidance right away. It’s, “Let’s get to know each other first. Now, I trust you. Now, I can come to you for that.” That’s exactly how it is. That’s perfect, man. It’s cool that you’re able to see it in the moment, which is neat. Before we bring this in for landing. It’s always fair for me to turn the tables and allow you to ask me some questions since I started out the show firing away at you. It’s only fair that I do that. Let me turn the tables over to you and let you fire away when you’re ready.
Josh: I have to imagine that you faced a heckler. I’d love to hear how an accountant responded to a heckle.
John: Oh, okay. I’ll tell the story. It was a small club. It was on a Wednesday night, which is so weird to do comedy on. Why are people out on a Wednesday night for comedy? But there were maybe 30 people in the audience. It was a really small show. It was part of a weeklong gig. I told a joke that was early on. It was a dry kind of a joke. This guy sitting up front says very loudly, “Nice try.” Everyone heard it because there’s only 30 people in the room. I said, “Sir, it’s a Wednesday. Why are you here? Are you out celebrating something?” or like, “What’s going on?” He goes, “I don’t celebrate anything. I have cancer.” I said, “Well, have you been a jerk all your life or is cancer what puts you over the top?” He smiled and said, “Touché.” Everyone was like, “I can’t believe John Garrett just said that.” I don’t think that that’s an accountant response that you were looking for. But that’s the comedian response right there.
Josh: Yeah. Well, we’ll classify that one as a comedian.
John: Then after he came out with his wife. They were like, “We haven’t laughed in several months. Thank you everybody for making such a great show.” It was pretty legendary, especially amongst the comedians that were there. I can’t believe that. I mean, me, of all people, just said that. It’s one of those where when you say it, you hear it at the same time as everybody else. Like, “Oh, that was my voice. Okay. That was weird.” I’m like, “I didn’t know that those were the words coming out of my mouth.” But that was probably one of my favorite ones because it ended up being a good moment. Anyone listening, don’t heckle. It’s not cool. It’s not part of the show. You’re not part of it. It’s not part of comedy. You’re not supposed to do it, so don’t. That’s a little public service announcement there. There’s that one. Anything else?
Josh: What do you do outside for a vice to get down. I can’t imagine that you live 100% of your time doing the comedy and public speaking.
John: Right. Well, yeah. It started out when I was in public accounting and then financial analyst doing comedy at night. Then, yeah, that became my job and now, the speaking. It’s something that was all around all the time. But college football is definitely my thing. I love all the college football, but especially Notre Dame since I graduated from there. But just college football in general is definitely my thing for sure.
Josh: Nice. Nice.
John: Yeah. That’s it, man. Well, thank you so much, Josh, for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast. This was really fantastic.
Josh: Absolutely. I had fun today. Thank you, John.
John: Wow. That was a lot of fun. If you’d like to see some pictures of Josh on his bike or boat or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re in the page, please click that big, green button. Do the anonymous research survey about Corporate Culture. Thanks again for subscribing to the show on iTunes or whatever app you use 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.