Dennis is an accountant and adventurer
Dennis provides audit, tax, business valuation and advisory services for clients primarily in hospitality, construction, wholesale and government as well as closely-held companies. Dennis concentrates his services to clients on strategy and development of organizations that utilize their collective talents to enhance operations. As a Kolbe Certified Consultant, Dennis helps organizations (including the firm) understand individual’s natural talents and better utilize those talents for company success and better work environments.
Dennis earned his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of South Alabama.
In this episode, Dennis talks to John about how he feels you can get the best productivity out of your team by encouraging them to build relationships with each other through sharing aspects of life outside of work. He also tells us some of the many places he has traveled to in his adventures!
• How Dennis got into traveling
• Some of the places he has traveled to
• How talking about his travels have encouraged others to share aspects of their personal lives in the workplace
• Applying his skills as an adventurer towards planning in the workplace
• Why he feels he wasn’t as open about his travels in the workplace early in his career
• How he feels the leaders of a firm can influence a more open environment in the workplace
• How his firm promotes relationship building within the team
• The benefits of utilizing skills your team has outside of the office
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Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 177 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 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 college degrees and certifications and on those letters after your name. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that’ll 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 Corporate Culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. Click the big green button there. Answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help. It’ll be part of the book I’m launching pretty soon.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of my cool guests like this week’s Dennis Sherrin. He’s the Managing Shareholder at Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore in Fairhope, Alabama. Dennis, thanks so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Dennis: Thanks a lot, John. Looking forward to it very much.
John: Absolutely, man. This is going to be so much fun but before we get into that, the adventures and all that, I have my 17 rapid-fire questions to see if I can fly and hangout and we adventure together because that’s a lot of time together. I’ve got a couple of things just to ask. I’ll start you out with an easy one. As an accountant, I got to know, more balance sheet or income statement?
Dennis: Income statement.
John: There you go. How about do you have a favorite sports team?
Dennis: Alabama Crimson Tide.
John: Oh, boy. We can’t hang out anymore. Second question. We already ruined it, Dennis.
Dennis: Come on, John. Give me another chance here.
John: Well, no, in Fairhope, I have to say like they would run you out of town if you said anything else. How about would you say more ocean or mountains?
John: Mountains, nice. Interesting. Okay. How about a favorite color?
Dennis: Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore Green.
John: Oh, good for you, man. Good for you. How about least favorite color?
John: Orange. Yeah, that’s a good answer actually. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Dennis: Star Wars.
John: Okay. All right. When it comes to your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Dennis: I’m a Mac guy, through and through.
John: Wow. Look at you, man. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Dennis: Cookies and cream.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s a good answer. Really good answer. How about do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Dennis: Favorite adult beverage? I would have to say an ice-cold glass of buffalo trace on the rocks.
John: Oh, there you go. Nice. Yeah. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Dennis: Oh, crossword puzzle, please.
John: Interesting. Okay. All right. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Dennis: Harrison Ford, you got to love him.
John: Great answer. Really great answer. How about more jeans or khakis?
John: Oh wow. Okay. How about chocolate or vanilla?
Dennis: I’ll go vanilla.
John: Okay. There you go. That’s a vanilla ice cream in the cookies and cream. That’s what it said. All right. We got four more. Four more. Do you have a favorite number?
Dennis: Number nine.
John: Is there a reason why?
Dennis: My sons and I love soccer. Our most favorite soccer star of all time was a guy named Ronaldo from Brazil who wore number 9. Then of course, both of my sons then chose to wear that number in their trial soccer days and college soccer days.
John: That’s awesome, man. Very cool. How about pens or pencils?
Dennis: Oh, I’ll go pens.
John: Yeah. No mistakes. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Dennis: I got to go Donald Duck.
John: Oh, nice. Very good answer. Very good. The last one, last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.
Dennis: I don’t collect things. When I think about what I have really, I mention my sons. The memories I have of watching these kids grow up and do all the stuff they’ve done and that they’re still doing now, my wife and I are still on this cool trip of watching them. That’s the most fun for me. That’s it. That’s my story.
John: That’s awesome, man. That’s very good. Very good. Well, you redeemed yourself. I didn’t ask the sports question at the end. I’m glad I got it out of way early so we could just move on. This traveling and adventures all over, how did you get started with this? Was it something you grew up doing or more of after you got older out of college?
Dennis: Yeah. My family loved to travel when I was a kid and I think it started there and we did crazy travels all over the place. Since my wife and got married, we enjoyed some traveling. Kids came along and we still did that. The love of going to different cities probably started with my wife and I and then my oldest son fell in love with New Orleans, Louisiana which I’m lucky enough to live two and a half hours away from. Out of that, we just found that interesting, going to different cities and eating at really cool places to eat.
Then as we went on, the other side of the adventure was getting into backpacking and hiking. It started with my youngest son who is an Eagle Scout now. He started out in Cub Scouts and went through Webelos, went into the Boys Scouts. Somewhere along the way, we had the chance to go to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico which is one of the Boys Scouts high adventure bases. That started about two and a half years of training to prepare to go because, as poor dads, if we’re going with those boys, we need to get in shape.
Dennis: We worked real hard and so in two and a half years, we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, not a big part but a part of the Appalachian Trail. We hiked interesting places in Alabama and in Tennessee and we started doing other things. We went spelunking. We went whitewater rafting. We did all these adventures in preparation for going to Philmont and then we did Philmont 12 nights in the backcountry about 88 miles walking through, not flat ground. We spent most of our time above 9,000 feet. It went high as about 12,000 feet. It just stuck. Now, we love it. My son loves it. My wife loves to go hiking. You understand, hiking doesn’t mean sleeping in the backwoods.
Dennis: I found it just to be so amazing to be out in these incredibly beautiful places. We’ve hiked in Winnipeg National Park. We’ve hiked in the Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ve done the Smoky’s. We’ve done Philmont Scout Ranch twice now. I’ve gone back again and just incredible. Along with that, with work I had the good fortune to travel to a lot of neat places and go to different meetings. We always go in a day or two early just to kind of check the place out. Seeing a lot of big cities and a lot of just interesting places has been quite fun. It had been and I love it every day. I probably talk about it a lot every day too.
John: No. It’s awesome, man. I mean, it’s really cool. Is it something that just naturally comes up in the office for you to talk about? I mean, early on when it first started?
Dennis: Probably when it first started. Yeah. It probably came up because thinking about preparing to go hike in the mountains of New Mexico was kind of daunting. You’re particularly carrying, say, 40 pounds of gear on your back. I probably spoke out aloud a lot about it to relieve and that was the intention to be honest with you.
John: Right. Right.
Dennis: Yeah. Then out of that, I found that the conversation lead to other people talking about their outside activities and what they did and how they did. For me, talking about it also helped me kind of share some of the experiences I was having while I was doing these things and appreciate how those were probably influencing my leadership style, if you will.
John: Interesting. Yeah. Because that’s what I was going to ask is, do you feel like any of these translated into a skillset that you could use at work?
Dennis: Yeah. It certainly do. When I think about particularly, when you’re taking a group of young and you’re going hiking somewhere with them, it’s a task. There’s these, the four principles of “team come to play” and what that means is you start out by forming your team. Then this team starts storming because they are all trying whatever they do. Then they start norming. Then finally, they start performing. It’s incredible to see in all these different trips how that repeats itself but in the end, you see performance and I realize it’s the same principle around our practice when we’re instituting new initiatives or even getting ready for a busier time of the year. There’s always that build up, maybe not as much storming but the other things to get where you’re ready to perform well.
For me, it helps me kind of step back and better understand and view the events that may be coming up day-to-day in work. I hope what I’ve been able to do out of that is help others appreciate that as well in terms of how I go about things and share my thoughts of how I go about things. That helped them appreciate that and develop their own style, not copy my style, but appreciate where my style is coming from.
John: That’s really great, man. It’s also cool how by the scout trips and family trips and things like that, I mean, you’re exercising a muscle that not everyone else is. Then when you come into the office, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve been doing this all the time. I do this regularly.” It’s cool that you’re able to see those parallels between running a team in the office versus running a team on a scout hike. It’s cool that you didn’t just disregard it as, “Oh, well, whatever. It’s a neat thing to do.” But no, it’s actually making you better at being a leader which is cool. That’s really fantastic. I’m sure that it also made you super relatable as well. I mean, were there other people in the office that were doing similar type things or since then you found liked to do similar, the travel and the eating and the hiking adventures?
Dennis: The traveling and the eating, certainly. I haven’t convinced anybody to go out and go backpacking.
Dennis: They look at me funny sometimes when I talk about it like that but no. But on the other side of it, we do have a lot of individuals that appreciate different outdoors activities and so what’s happened is, I know more about that. I know the individuals who like to maybe go on fishing or just biking or being outdoors at a college football game.
John: Yeah. One thing that I’m curious about is because it sounds like some of these was later in life after you started having kids. When you first started into the profession out of college, were you open about talking about the travels and adventures or was it just a different time?
Dennis: Probably not as much as now. I would say for me, it probably was a different time because where I could have been, you know, step back for a second, “Yeah, that close circle of staff accountants back in the bullpen, maybe we talked about some of those things but beyond that, not really.
John: Yeah. Why do you think it is that like it’s so weird to me because humans want to connect and yet when we walk into an office we don’t want to connect totally, you know, that type of thing where it’s like, it’s just our default mode isn’t always — if someone says, “What did you do last week?” You’re like, “Oh, I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail.” Instead people would be like, “Ah, nothing.” It’s like, “Well, no, you hiked the Appalachian Trail. What the heck?”
Dennis: “No, I just sat around. I didn’t do much. No, maybe walked a little bit.” Yeah. First of all, I think you walk into the office and you believe in your mind and I’ll use the word mindset that we have to be different there. There’s a certain expectation, a certain rule of our decorum for what and how we should act and function. I do believe that influenced me early in my career as a 20 something year old back in the ’80s trying to see how I can find a way to grow up in a profession.
John: No, for sure. Yeah. I mean, it’s certainly paid dividends for you. Everyone that’s been on the podcast had said, first, we’re reluctant to share and then once we do, we realize like that’s where the cool stuff is. It lights people up to talk about it but it lights people up to hear your talk about it. It’s just encouraging to see a managing partner living that and showing people that, “Hey, it’s totally cool to be really good at accounting and have a life outside of it.”
Dennis: Oh, absolutely. I think at this day and time in some ways, I think the social media aspect allows us to have more of a window to individuals in our firm now and appreciate it. It does for me anyway. I love to know what other people are doing and what their interests are. At some point, just be able to make a mention of that, “Hey, I saw you off with your friends down at Gulf Shores enjoying the beach this weekend. It looked like it was a great weekend,” or something like just have a conversation.
John: Yeah. Absolutely because then it’s like, “Oh, he cares about me,” type of thing as opposed to just get your work done. I guess, how much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture where talking about passions and interests outside of work is encouraged versus how much is on the individual like you said in the bullpen area with the staff to make that happen?
Dennis: I think for the firm to have it as a whole, there’s no doubt that the leaders, if you will, and when I look at leaders, it’s not just the managing partner or the other partners but the people who are influential in the firm. Having that willingness to kind of share and open a window to who they are is important to create that atmosphere or that culture that does exist in pockets if you ask me. Even today in the staff bullpen. But I believe that the way to get it farther is for everyone to be willing. I mean, gosh, it’s not that hard to do. It’s kind of fun to have a conversation and tell a story.
John: Yeah. I think some people feel like that I’ve talked with is some places are — well, you know, if it doesn’t have a charge code, then I shouldn’t be doing it because it’s not billable. Honestly, I mean, there are some places where that’s a thing. It’s like, “Well, golly.” I mean, there also is a charge code for going to the bathroom or taking a smoke break, but man, you know, like just whatever you got to do. That’s crazy.
Dennis: Going back and thinking about what you said about the charge code just cracks me up because you’re right but how much more productive are people, how much more focused can they be if they feel a greater comfort for the relationships that exist within their firm rather than if it’s all about business.
John: No. Absolutely. I mean, I agree wholeheartedly. Yeah. On one hand, yeah, you’re there to do work but if you can do work smarter and better and more efficiently then sometimes taking one step back to take five steps forward is totally cool.
It should be the way that business should be run for sure. Is there anything that you guys do there specifically at Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore that encourages this outside of showing by example?
Dennis: We are, like many firms that I’m acquainted with these days look at ways to integrate our staff into the big picture, focus, and decision making of the firm. We feel like we are trying to run a flatter firm if you will from a hierarchy standpoint. Our staff, regardless of their role in the firm, critical components of a number of committees, committees on processes were really big in the lean six sigma. A few years back, I had this wild idea to challenge us to find a way to reduce overtime during the busy season. People thought I was crazy. But, a couple of years later, we put together a group from our firm, a committee and it included people from every office, from every role in the firm and three years later we’ve reduced overtime during tax season 40% because of their influence.
John: That’s awesome.
Dennis: I think we’ve focused on how we can continuously improve and be even better than we were today.
John: Right. I love how you go to the people that are doing it, you know, rather than people sitting from afar saying, “Well, this is how you should do it.” It’s like, “Well, did you ask them?” Which you are and you’re making them part of the committee and not only that but you’re listening to them and affecting change from their ideas which has to be just really invigorating for all the committees to be like, “Wow. Look. We’re making it happen.”
Dennis: Right. For me too, I can reflect back and realize it was part of a learning experience because I can assure you that this firm was not like that at one point. We thought top-down was the way to do things and over time, we started listening. We started learning. I think the experiences, going back to the experiences I’ve had outside of work and particularly working with youth programs and things like that helped me understand how vital, your brilliant people that you’ve hired because of their brilliance to be a part of the influence to take your firm in the direction that you want it to go. You’re silly. I think people are silly if they don’t utilize the talents that they have around them.
John: Right, and above and beyond the accounting talent.
John: Which you know, people are using anyway but there’s so many other skills and ideas and innovation coming from the people around you if you just let them. That’s so encouraging to hear. Really cool.
Dennis: We get so focused on the technologies that we have or the processes and trying to plan for things that we forget the most important asset we have is our people. If we don’t really truly understand our people and their individual unique abilities, all the planning, all the processes and all the technology in the world will only take you so far. That’s truly our focus, it’s people first.
John: That’s fantastic. Yeah. I mean, a lot of other firms are using the same technology and the same processes. Your true differentiator is the people and it’s not their skillsets, it’s their passions and interests because every other firm has people with the same skillsets and using the same computer programs.
John: That’s cool that you’re able to tap into that.
Dennis: Except they’re using Windows.
John: Right. Its takes them an extra three minutes because they’re virus check is going on all the time, right?
Dennis: Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
John: That’s really fantastic. Before I wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that thinks, “Hey, I love to go hiking but that has absolutely nothing to do with accounting or law or consulting or whatever their profession is, so why should I share it?”
Dennis: I think whether you’re a hiker or a backpacker or whatever you do outside, if you’re a baller, you’re a fisherman, you like to go walking down the streets of your town or something, you’re getting something out of that that it makes you happy and it makes you feel more positive about yourself and you have a more positive outlook, why not share that with others and encourage that? Then, listen and hear what their stories are because you’re both growing benefit out of that.
John: Absolutely. I love that. That’s so perfect because why not share it? I mean, it’s what lights you up. Why not share that with everybody and who knows, if someone else does the same thing, look out.
John: Yeah. I mean, it’s magic. It’s just going to be explosive. That was really fantastic, Dennis. Before I wrap this up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to ask me a couple of rapid-fire questions and put me on the hot seat. When you’re ready, just fire away.
Dennis: All right, John. I’ve got three I’ll throw at you here. Favorite holiday?
John: Favorite holiday? Wow. I’m going to say Tax Day because it’s also my birthday.
Dennis: Oh, nice.
John: April 15th, yeah. That’s all American right there. That’s as good as it gets.
Well, I mean, otherwise, I guess, yeah, I don’t know. Probably, Christmas. I mean, it’s cool giving people presents and seeing them, you know, get excited for that so that’s always fun.
Dennis: Okay. Which happens first, Nick Saban retires or Notre Dame wins a championship?
John: Well, if Nick Saban retires this year, they’re both going to happen at the same time. Unfortunately, this is going to air after that game so we’ll see. But, I’m going say, Notre Dame wins the National Championship.
Dennis: All right. Last one, daylight savings time or standard time?
John: Oh, man, whatever it is in Arizona where they never change the clocks, so that one.
Dennis: There you go. Yeah. Let’s go on that one. I agree with you.
John: Cool, Dennis. Well, this was so much fun. Thank you so much for being a part of the Green Apple Podcast.
Dennis: Thanks, man. I appreciate it very much.
John: That was so great. If you like to see some picture from Dennis’ many adventures or maybe connect with him on social media, make sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button there and 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.