Kevin relays his way to better client relationships
Kevin is a Shareholder and the Director of Valuation Services for Brueggeman and Johnson Yeanoplos, P.C. in Tucson, AZ. He was inducted into the AICPA Business Valuation Hall of Fame in 2010, recognizing fewer than 30 individuals whose lifetime achievements and contributions have significantly advanced the valuation discipline and have enhanced the valuation profession for CPAs. We met after I presented at an AICPA conference last year so it’s nice to talk with him again here.
Kevin graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Utah, is a Certified Public Accountant Accredited in Business Valuation and Certified in Financial Forensics and was in the charter class of those earning the ABV credential and the CFF credential.
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John: Welcome to Episode 17 of the Green Apple Podcast. My guest this week is Kevin Yeanoplos who I met after I spoke at the AICPA Forensic & Valuation Conference last year and we talked about how important it is to repeatedly ask yourself what do I want to be when I grow up, and also how lazy I feel talking to a stroke survivor who now runs crazy long Ragnar Relays. So instead of introducing him myself, I think it’d be best for you to just introduce yourself, Kevin.
Kevin: Well, I sometimes refer to myself as a recovering CPA.
John: I know one of those.
Kevin: Yeah. I think you’ve done the same thing. I have been a CPA for a little over 30 years. For the last 20 plus, all I’ve done is business valuation, litigation support, similar things. I’m a partner in Brueggeman and Johnson Yeanoplos and we have offices in Tucson as well as Seattle, and our firm is a niche firm, so we don’t do any traditional accounting, thank goodness. Auditing, taxes, none of that, so we’re a pure valuation litigation firm.
John: Wow! So you guys are the cool kids.
Kevin: Well, we try to be. We try to be.
John: Yeah. I like it. I like it. So one question I’d like to ask you is sure, you’re in accounting, but how did you get into forensic accounting? Did you stumble into it?
Kevin: You know, I stumbled into it because I got an opportunity — I was actually, believe it or not, buying another gentleman’s traditional CPA practice and he was going into business valuation. Well, I had an opportunity because of some things that played out to get involved with one of his business valuations. And of course at that point, I thought to myself geez, maybe I shouldn’t have bought that CPA practice because I like this better, so I really did stumble into it, but going back to the relatively unfulfilled life of a traditional CPA, it was like a duck on the water. It was just wonderful to get involved in it at the time.
John: Right, because you could use all the skills that you’ve developed and all that accounting knowledge, but just use it in a different, more creative way.
Kevin: Exactly. That’s exactly it.
John: That sounds awesome. That sounds awesome. I know that obviously having your own firm — like you mentioned, busy season goes from January to December for you, but when you do have some free time, what sort of hobbies and passions are you involved with?
Kevin: You know, I’m glad that you added passion because I really — when I think of a hobby, it’s something that somebody just does in passing and spends a little time with it. I have a number of passions and I’ll start with — I’ve always been active, physically active, and one of the things that I love to do is run. And I think the main reason for that — I’ve always been a runner, high school, junior high, college. I’ve been running since I’m four and I really think the main reason is it doesn’t take any talent. I’m only 5’8″, so I’m not going to play much basketball. I’ve always run. One of the things I do now is run in Ragnar Relays. A Ragnar Relay is a 200-mile plus or minus relay race and you get 11 other runners and the 12 of you collectively run 200 miles.
Kevin: And you do this over — the fastest teams do it in about 22 hours.
John: Oh my goodness!
Kevin: I think we’ve generally finished in 29 to 32 depending on the other runners, but it really tests your metal. You have to push the limits physically and mentally, though a lot of fun. I’ve done almost ten of them and —
John: Wow! That’s awesome!
Kevin: I’ve got friends all over the country now. What I’ve done is tried to find teams that need an extra runner. I’ll go to Nashville. We did one that went from Chattanooga to Nashville, or I’ll hook up with the team in Cape Cod, Napa Valley. I’ve run them all over the place and they’re just fantastic. Just before the last AICPA Business Valuation Conference that was in Las Vegas, there just happened to be a Ragnar a couple of days before, so we ran a Ragnar Relay and dedicated it to a good friend of mine that is challenged right now with ALS, so we dedicated it to him and tried to raise the money for him at the same time.
John: That’s very cool. So how does this work? Do you run ten miles straight or do you alternate and are cars coming along with you? Where’s everybody else?
Kevin: Well, you get two vans, six runners in each van, and you run, runners 1 through 12 handing off. So Runner 1 would run anywhere from 3 to 13 miles, hand off to Runner 2 who runs the same distance, and so somebody’s always running. You run three legs. You’ll typically run one of your legs. Usually the second leg, it could be midnight, it could be two in the morning, and you wind up maybe — I think the most sleep I’ve ever gotten is two hours.
John: Yeah. I was thinking because you’re all cramped up in a minivan and —
Kevin: Well, what happens usually when you’re going to be sleeping, they lay out a gym or high school gymnasium, so you’ve got 500 people trying to sleep on the floor in this gymnasium. I will tell you, I’ve been in there before and people are coughing and talking and —
John: I’m sure it doesn’t smell good either.
Kevin: Well, yeah, those things, and I got the point where I just stood up and go, all right, I’m just going to do an all-nighter because it’s going to be easier than this.
John: Right. That’s funny.
Kevin: So that’s the physical side. Another passion that I have is music. I have been a hack singer/songwriter since I was in my late teens and of course, I’m like anybody else. Why do you learn to play the guitar? Because the chicks dig it, right?
John: Exactly, so you know the chorus and then that’s about it.
Kevin: That’s why everybody learns — the men anyway learn to play the guitar. I’ve been playing for a long time and I love music. A couple of years ago, I took this skill set that I have and I’ve decided that I wanted to be a music journalist. And so, for a little over five years now, I’ve been writing — I’ve been a reporter, a journalist, whatever you want to say — writing for Axis Entertainment. And so, over those five years, I’ve had a tremendous opportunity. I’ve interviewed Brian Wilson, Roger Daltrey, Ginger Baker of Cream. So I sat down and I’ve had an opportunity to interview some really creative folks.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome!
Kevin: It’s been a wonderful thing. And so, I’ve got a real passion for that.
John: Yeah. I think you sent me a picture of you with Heart.
Kevin: Yeah, Ann and Nancy Wilson. I also had an opportunity to interview them individually, and so it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been fun. It’s been enlightening. I’ve always hoped that spending a few minutes with those people would rub off on me a little bit if I used the extra creativity.
John: And has it?
Kevin: It has actually.
John: Good! Good!
Kevin: It’s been great. It’s been a great experience. I’ve been fortunate that — I remember having an interview with Ramsey Lewis who was a fabulous talent and his publicist was telling me before I interviewed him that he was thinking about not doing anymore interviews. It all stemmed around an interview he had had with someone, a young interviewer, and at some point, she had asked him what instrument he played. I thought my gosh, even if you don’t recognize him as one of the most renowned jazz pianist in the world, you’d at least do your research.
John: Yeah, Google. I mean, come on!
Kevin: We talked just briefly earlier about the skills that you learn in everything you do and fortunately, I’ve had to do a lot of research for my day job. And so, I try to come up with some pretty compelling questions. I know at some point we’re going to talk about the overlap and there really is. It’s so wonderful for me to have these passions because the skills that I develop during the day help me with my other pursuits and vice versa.
John: Yeah. I think that now is as good a time as any to go into that because that’s an excellent observation that you had that what I’m doing on both sides of my day job and my passions are feeding each other and I think that’s awesome.
Kevin: And I would just say this before I get too far away from this. I haven’t said anything about my family. I have a wonderful wife and four fantastic kids, grandkids, and not only is it the same skill set with work and with play, but with family. One of the things that I talk to people about when we’re having discussions about work and life and everything else is the most important question you’ve got to ask yourself is what do you want to be when you grow up and that’s not a question that you can ask once and only answer once. It’s continually. You have to keep asking yourself. And I think once you answer that question, really everything else feeds into it. Every decision that we make hinges on the answer to that question. And I find it’s much easier for me in life if what I’m doing 24 hours a day is consistent with the answer to that question.
John: Yeah, that’s really profound. That’s really good.
Kevin: And I will say this. I think that we tend to think of work as a bad word. I don’t think of it as a bad word because I think everything we do is work. It’s work to be a business valuation professional. It’s work to be a music journalist. It’s definitely work to be running a Ragnar Relay.
John: Oh yeah.
Kevin: It’s work to be a husband, it’s work to be a father, et cetera, et cetera, and we get paid in different ways.
John: Yeah, that’s really great, absolutely. It’s Work with a capital W if you’re in tax. I think we can all agree on that.
Kevin: Yeah, I think that’s true. I think that’s true.
John: That’s excellent. It is all work or all play. We’re being paid in a different way. This has been excellent, really good insight.
Kevin: There’s a quote by someone, a French gentleman whose name is escaping me, a senior moment, but the gist of it is that a really successful person — you probably know this quote — has the ability to really fool people and not knowing whether he’s working or playing because he’s enjoying both of them so much. We talked earlier about the right brain and the left brain. I had a stroke when I was 46.
John: Oh my!
Kevin: It just so happened that it was a right brain stroke, which meant that the left side was impacted. I believe for a variety of reasons when you’re lying on a hospital bed and you’re paralyzed on your left side, you learn a lot of things. You gain perspectives. And for me, whether consciously or subconsciously, it helped me to appreciate frankly the right side of my brain more, the creative side. And so, I think that that was behind some of this. It certainly fuels my desire to run because when you lose something, you don’t take it for granted anymore.
John: Right. That’s so awesome that you’re back to 100% and are able to participate in all these activities. That’s really awesome and a testament to your willpower as well to fight through that.
Kevin: I’m just very blessed. It’s been a wonderful thing to — again, it’s just all pieces in the same pie.
John: Right, yeah. So I guess as far as the Ragnar Relays and maybe some of your music and what have you, is this something that you openly talk about at work?
Kevin: All the time.
John: All the time?
Kevin: Yeah. I may drive people nuts with it.
John: Have you gotten anybody signed up on one of these relays?
Kevin: Well, none of my co-workers, but interestingly enough, I’ve had a turning. There’s an attorney that I work with and he’s run a couple of them with me.
John: Oh wow! That’s fantastic! That’s awesome! And he stayed a client afterwards?
Kevin: It gives you insights into a person to be able to spend 30 straight hours with him. Some of those insights may not be so good.
John: Right. That’s why I was wondering if he stuck around after.
Kevin: Yeah. And frankly, what it does is you look for the commonalities you have with people and I find people that love to run. I find people that love music. And frankly, that helps relationships in the office, that helps relationships with clients to find the commonality, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be the same passions that I have, but I think just talking about your passions brings a closeness. That gets back to what we said earlier about trying to really listen to what they’re saying and taking interest in it.
John: Yeah. So does it just happen organically, “So this weekend, I was running 200 miles,” or whatever type of thing?
Kevin: I’m reasonably gregarious.
John: They probably just see you limping in and, “Oh, you just ran another Ragnar Relay.”
Kevin: Yeah. I like people. I like to talk to people. I like to tell stories. When you said we’d be talking for half an hour, I thought well, it takes me half an hour to clear my throat.
John: Well, I guess when you’re the king, you can make your own charge goat for this, so we’re all good. Maybe early on in your career before you got into the relays — or I guess you’ve always been a runner. Early on in your career, were you always so gregarious in sharing or was it something that came about later on in life?
Kevin: Well, you know, I think I’m more so now. I’ve always been kind of, but — see, that’s another thing. I know people that are petrified to speak in public. I can honestly tell you what I think was one of the most important happenings in my life in terms of liking to talk to people and not being afraid to speak in public, et cetera. Without any question, it was a class that I took in college which frankly was the most important class that I took in college notwithstanding all of the accounting classes that I took, and that was an acting class when I was —
John: Oh okay. That was actually what I called accounting. That was me acting, especially cost accounting, acting like I knew what I was talking about.
Kevin: I took an acting class when I was a junior and it taught me that I could get up in front of people doing some improv, make a complete idiot of myself, and it didn’t matter. I survived.
John: Yeah, and you survived, exactly. Yeah. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Nothing.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly.
John: Nothing at all.
Kevin: So that taught me a lot, very valuable information.
John: Yeah, so you carried that on. So you pretty much hit the ground running with this sort of mentality right out of school.
Kevin: Or at least walking.
John: Or at least walking, right, yeah. That’s true. That’s right. So I guess what would be maybe some words of encouragement to people that are maybe scared to open up or share some of their passions with co-workers or clients?
Kevin: You know, I think that it’s important for people to be self-aware. It’s cliché I suppose, but you have introverts and extroverts, and I’ve come to know that there are also what’s called ambiverts, which is people that aren’t afraid to talk but they don’t feel like they have to.
And so, I think the most important thing frankly is to be self-aware because there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert certainly, but there are some things that you might not be quite as effective at and other things that you’ll be more effective at. Somebody shouldn’t become discouraged if they are uncomfortable speaking to people because they can get more comfortable. I really believe whether you take an acting class or not — and I’d recommend that for anybody even after you’ve gotten out of school. Go to a community college. I also think that taking a Toastmasters, getting involved with a Toastmasters group, I just think that it’s helpful to get out of yourself and be more comfortable in awkward situations so to speak. That helps you regardless of whether you’re introverted or extroverted.
Kevin: Just be comfortable in those situations.
John: Yeah, because all those skills lead to developing those relationships, like you said, which only enhances your career and makes you a lot more effective at doing your job, which is great. I guess when it comes to whose responsibility it is to create this sharing, is it more on the organization to create that environment where it’s safe or is it more on the individual to speak up and share or somewhere in the middle?
Kevin: Well, from my perspective without any question, it really gets back to the individual. That’s not to say that the organization, the corporate culture has nothing to do with it because it does, but for the most part, the individual can’t control that but they can control how they interact with people. I think it’s primarily on the individual.
John: Yeah. I agree. Certainly the organization can help that, but even if the organization has the best culture in the world, it’s still up to you to open up and share. And maybe when it comes to your firm, are there certain things that you guys do to encourage that?
Kevin: There is. Actually, we try — and again, this is cliché, but we try to do a lot of teambuilding activities. I’ll take everybody to lunch a couple of times a month.
John: Oh yeah, that’s great.
Kevin: And like anybody else, we have Christmas parties, holiday parties, things like that, but I may in the middle of the day — there’s a gelato shop by our office and I may go, “Let’s take everybody over and get a gelato.” Living in Tucson, we have soccer. Major league soccer has their spring training here and we’ll take everybody and go see a game in the middle of the day, just unannounced, so we try to be spontaneous and do things like that that make us a little more invested in each other.
John: Right. I think that that’s fantastic. I think the message that I’m getting is that it breaks down those barriers if you will of the cubicle walls and the office doors and whatever. It’s shattering those. When we’re out at lunch, when we’re out getting gelato, when we’re at a sporting event, none of those walls exist and that we’re able to connect on another level. And even if you don’t like sports, you’re interacting with people or there’s something there that you guys can talk about or things like that as well.
John: Yeah. This has been awesome. I really, really appreciate you taking the time. I don’t know if there’s anything else that you felt like you wanted to add.
Kevin: Well, I think the main message is if there’s one person that listen to this that takes a critical look at what they want to be and who they are and rethink things because they’re not happy then I think we’ve done our job.
John: Yeah, absolutely, and just to encourage people that there’s more of us out there than you think. When I hear someone say, “Well, I’m not the stereotypical accountant,” I’m like well, you know what, I think we are. I just think that the definition of stereotypical accountant is upside down. I really do because if we’re not stereotypical, then why are there so many of us out there that have passions and hobbies outside of work that are enhancing our careers? Why is that? So I think that it’s time that we all open up a little bit and we’ll realize that hey, there’s a lot of us out there. There are people in the cubicle right next to you right now maybe that do the exact same thing that a listener does, but if someone doesn’t say something then they don’t realize it.
I was at a medium-size firm a couple of months ago and I asked, “Who likes to paint or draw or do art?” and four women raised their hands and three of them had no clue that they also did that. I’m like, “Well, how long have you been working together? What have you guys been talking about? What is going on?” So it’s just one of those things where you don’t shout it from the rooftops and bring in a bullhorn and “Hey, I’m a painter!” but sometimes when you’re at lunch or maybe you bring one of your small things in and put it in your cubicle. There are little ways to let people know this is what I actually love to do. I think people really gravitate towards that. I’m sure that with you in your Ragnar races, I’m sure people that — I mean, I have no interest in running one of those whatsoever, but I would totally ask you about it after you ran one, so it creates that dialogue and breaks down that stiffness where we’re able to have a fun relationship.
Kevin: Yup, absolutely.
John: This has been awesome, man! Thank you so much, Kevin. We’ve all gotten to know you really well, but as you know, we don’t get to know you until we do my 17 rapid fire questions, which maybe the next time you’re hiring, you should rattle off these. This is really the barometer of whether or not we can hang out and be friends. I think that’s what this comes down to.
Kevin: That’s great.
John: So we’ve got 17 rapid fire. Here we go. First one, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kevin: Star Wars.
John: Favorite sports team?
Kevin: Utah Youth.
John: Oh, there you go! Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
John: Both! Impressive! At the same time?
John: All right. Boxers or briefs?
John: All right. Balance sheet or income statement?
John: Neither, good answer. Something else?
Kevin: Cash flow, statement of cash flow.
John: Cash flow, there we go. Pens or pencils?
John: Movie that makes you cry?
Kevin: Coupe de Ville.
John: Coupe de Ville? I haven’t heard of that one.
Kevin: You haven’t? It’s vastly underrated, Patrick Dempsey, Daniel Stern, fabulous.
John: All right, I’ll check it out, that’s for sure, and grab some tissues. Favorite number?
John: And is there a reason?
Kevin: My lucky number.
John: Lucky number, that’s it. Favorite adult beverage, or wait, that doesn’t work for you.
Kevin: Well, I’m an adult and Coke Zero.
John: Coke Zero, that’s awesome. Perfect! PC or Mac?
John: Least favorite vegetable?
Kevin: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. There’s so many to choose from.
John: Right? Well, rattle them off. It’s fine.
Kevin: Sorry this isn’t quite so rapid fire. It used to be Brussels sprouts until I learned how to cook them. I’m going to say eggplant.
John: Eggplant, oh, that’s a good answer. That’s a solid answer. I don’t even know why they sell those. Favorite color?
John: Least favorite color?
Kevin: Oh gosh. Shoot. I don’t know that I have one.
John: All right. That’s fair enough. Right click or left click?
Kevin: Oh gosh, left click.
John: Right. Do you have a favorite comedian?
Kevin: Brian Regan.
John: Oh, solid! He’s awesome, awesome, Brian Regan, excellent answer, my favorite as well. Favorite toppings on a pizza?
Kevin: Oh! Anchovies.
John: Wow! You’re the one that’s keeping them around, I think. And the favorite thing you own?
Kevin: Oh gosh, my album collection.
John: Oh boy! Do you have a couple that are your favorites in there?
Kevin: Well, probably Cat Stevens, yeah.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome, and you still have the record player at home and everything?
Kevin: I do.
John: Yeah, very cool. Well, this was awesome. Thank you so much, Kevin, for taking time to be on the Green Apple Podcast. I really appreciate it.
Kevin: My pleasure.
John: That’s an excellent point. If you’re not happy, open up and become more engaged with your co-workers and clients, and check out some really cool pictures of Kevin, one with John Mayer, another with Jeff Bridges and Sting, and running these crazy long relays at greenapplepodcast.com. There are also links to iTunes and Stitcher and if you’re already listening on one of those then please just take a quick minute and leave a review so other people can hear about the message we are trying to spread here, which is go out and be a green apple.