Josh, Fred, and Tonisha spit hot fire
Josh Hemmrich, Fred Lamb, and Tonisha Spratte were encouraged to put together a rap video for their colleagues at Cherry Bekaert after one of the partners discovered they had this hidden talent. It started with Josh — and then Fred. After hearing the beat, Tonisha thought she could dig back to her college music days and come up with her own verse to contribute. And shooting the video really brought all the departments of their office together.
Tonisha and Josh are Senior Accountants at Cherry Bekaert LLP. Fred is a Staff Accountant at Cherry Bekaert LLP.
• How they got asked to record the song and music video
• Their initial doubts about making this song
• The firm’s reaction to their song
• The culture at Cherry Bekaert
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Welcome to Episode 178 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional or sometimes several professionals who just like me are known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work, something that seemingly has nothing to do with their job. It makes them standout, like a green apple in a boring red apple world. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and” as in my guests. Josh, Fred and Tonisha are all accountants “and” made this really fantastic rap video about their firm Cherry Bekaert which I can’t wait for everybody to see.
But before I bring them in on the show, 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 because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guests, Josh Hemmrich, Fred Lamb and Tonisha Spratte. They’re all accounts at the Virginia Beach office of Cherry Bekaert. Now, they’re with me on the Green Apple Podcast. Thanks so much, guys, for taking time to be with me today.
Fred: No problem.
Tonisha: Thank you.
John: I’m so excited that you guys are here and being a part of this. Right as soon as I saw the video online, I was like I need to get you guys to be a part of the Green Apple Podcast. This is going to be really awesome. But before we get into that, I’m sure you guys have heard my quick rapid-fire questions. I like to get to know you on a different level here. I guess we’ll start with the first one here with Josh, I guess. Josh, do you prefer ocean or mountains?
Josh: Oceans for sure.
John: Oceans? All right. One more for Josh, Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Josh: Sudoku, no question.
John: Sudoku? There you go. That’s the accountant in you. All right. Now, we’ll go to Fred. Fred, do you have a favorite color?
Fred: Green. Everything green is good for you.
John: Yeah. All right. How about a least favorite color?
Fred: Pink, I don’t wear pink. I don’t like when I wear pink. It don’t go right. I end up switching my outfit.
John: Things don’t go right, I love that. That’s awesome. All right. Tonisha, I’ll ask you when you’re flying on a plane, do you prefer window or aisle seat?
Tonisha: Window every single time.
John: There you go. All right. You put your head up against there. Okay. All right. How about a favorite comedian?
Tonisha: We are going to go see Martin Lawrence at the Lit AF Tour tomorrow.
John: Nice. There you go. All right. That’s a solid answer, solid answer. Back to Josh, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Josh: To be honest, neither but I think I would rather see Star Wars for sure.
John: Okay. All right. How about more pens or pencils?
Josh: Pencils. I get too many pens. I bust all over my shirt.
John: That’s great. I think you’re doing it wrong. I think Fred’s got some pink shirts for you in case you run out. All right. Going to Fred, when it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?
Fred: Mac, we’re in a Mac right now.
John: Okay. All right. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Fred: I just bought the cinnamon — what’s the — I just bought the cinnamon bun.
John: Oh, yeah. That sounds good, man. That sounds really good. I haven’t had that one yet but that sounds fantastic. All right Now Tonisha, would you say more heels or flats?
Tonisha: I’m about two inches shorter than a six-feet tall, so I prefer flat.
John: Yeah, because everyone thinks you’re going to dunk on them.
Tonisha: Exactly. I mean I’m scraping the ceiling.
John: Right. Do you have favorite toppings on a pizza? You can load it up.
Tonisha: Barbecue chicken, that’s my favorite one.
John: Okay. All right. That came out of nowhere. I like it. Back to Josh, when it comes to financials, more Balance Sheet or Income Statement?
Josh: Oh, definitely Balance Sheet.
John: Definitely Balance Sheet, you’re really adamant about that one.
Josh: Yeah. It makes your life a lot easier.
John: Do you have a favorite band or a musician?
Josh: I’m really into Chance the Rapper. I like how he can make his music really relatable and really positive. That’s the way that I try to make my music too. It’s a little more uplifting and not so negative.
John: Fred, this is an important one right here. Toilet paper, roll over or under?
Fred: Man, no matter what, if you pull it too fast or too slow, it will roll. I’m going to say over.
John: Over. Okay. Do you have a favorite band or musician or artist?
Fred: I’ve been listening to this singer. His name is Marc E. Bassy. He sings for G-Eazy. G-Eazy is a rapper. The dude has a nice voice. The way he delivers his music is pretty good.
John: All right. Tonisha, I’ll ask you, do you have a favorite number?
Tonisha: I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before.
John: Well, as an accountant, we have to have a favorite, right? I assume it’s a positive number, right?
Tonisha: Yeah, it’s definitely a positive number. For some reason, seven keeps popping in my head.
John: Seven? Yeah. That’s a very popular answer, for sure. It’s my favorite number. Mostly sports related, but yeah, seven. Do you have a favorite band, musician or artists?
Tonisha: I usually say I can’t choose one but if I had to choose one person, it would be Luther Vandross.
John: Oh, wow. Yeah. Absolutely. Going old school on us, there you go. All right. Then the one I’m going to ask all of you, we’ll start with Tonisha, is do you have a favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Tonisha: Probably my iPad. I use my iPad every single day. I take it to work. One of the managers even teases me about it.
John: Nice. That’s a solid answer. Fred, what do you got? Favorite thing you own, favorite you have?
Fred: Favorite thing, I’d say my dog.
John: Okay. What kind of dog is it?
Fred: She’s a pit bull mix. She’s a mute. I got her last summer doing my internship. That first few months was a pain but we made it through. That dog looks up to me every day. Animal depends on you. She has a mind. She has love and all that stuff. Whenever I’m hungry, she’s hungry. She just taught me a lot.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome, man. Very cool. Then, Josh, favorite thing you own or favorite thing you have?
Josh: This might come off like I thought about this for the podcast specifically. But my favorite thing that I own is probably my Neumann microphone. I just bought a new microphone. It’s a lot of fun to play with. I had about a $50 microphone that I’ve been using for the last few years. I just got a new one that’s a little more pricey than that. Man, it’s just a ton of fun to record on because I think it sounds way crispier, way better. I don’t know. The quality is incomparable. I’ve been telling everybody in the office. Tonisha is over here right in front of me. She’s like, “Yeah. I don’t want to hear about this damn microphone again.”
John: Between the three of you, you got the iPad and your dog and your microphone, I think everybody is thinking here about all three. But I think it’s fantastic. It’s really cool. That’s a part of who you guys are. It’s better than not sharing anything at all because then no one knows anything about you, which is cool. I just loved seeing that rap video. I just want to get into that right away and not even waste any time. How did that come about? Whose idea was it? How did that magic happen?
Josh: The way it all took form, we had a scheduling meeting where we schedule our employees out for different audits and reviews and calculations and different services that we provide, so the whole team gets together. Personally, I didn’t even know that we were doing something as a firm but apparently, we were supposed to put something together that as an office, we showed what we were thankful for. I’ve never wanted the partners to know that I rapped for the first few years that I worked here but I told some of my seniors. Word got around as it does in all offices. Eventually, the partners found out. Honestly, one of the first times they ever contacted me about it was at the scheduling meeting.
John: In front of everybody?
Josh: Right. One of my partners, Renée, awesome lady, she had the idea. She’s like, “Josh, you rap? Why don’t you make a song?” I was taken aback because she’s a partner.
John: “Who told you?” right?
Josh: I always try to keep that stuff secret but she thought it was awesome. She wanted to see if I could make a song. So I went home. I wrote up a hot verse. I came back. I texted everybody in the office, other than the partners really, with the song that I recorded. I was like, “Man, this is fire. Don’t doubt me.” They all texted me back with a whole bunch of fire emojis and GIFs of houses burning down. They were like, “Man, this is sick.” I came in. I talked to Fred because I know Fred had a history of making some songs. He was happy to help on it. Tonisha actually came out to us and said, “Look, I’ve got a verse. I have to put down on this.” We’re like, “Okay. We got you. Come in and record it.” It’s funny because she actually raps the least in her everyday life but we played the song as soon as it was done in our next scheduling meeting. She got the most laughs. So me and Fred were a little salty about that.
John: Tonisha, where did that come from? That verse, was it just overnight? You just put it down?
Tonisha: After I heard what Josh had laid down, I was like, “Oh, okay. Now, I got some inspiration.” I was like, “Send me the beat. Let me go ahead and get on this.” Actually, when I was in college, I took a class. It was Hip-Hop in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that class, we had access – I mean you had access to the studio anyway, but we had access to the studio. It had a garage band up there. We made tracks. I learned a little bit about putting music together. Just over the years, I would make raps just for fun but never really recorded much other than that class. When he laid the verse, I said, “Man, I got this.”
John: Is that something that you had shared with people before or all of a sudden just out of nowhere, everyone’s like, “Wait, what?”
Tonisha: No, it wasn’t something that I share with people at I work. People in my personal life, people I went to college with, they all knew about it. I haven’t made a song since college.
John: That’s really cool. That’s awesome. Fred, what did you think when Tonisha came out of nowhere with these lyrics?
Fred: Honestly, I heard Josh’s verse first. It was dope. I loved it. Then Tonisha sent me one. I was like, “Wow. We got a real song going. Let me make a verse.” Then I made one too. We just needed to get all of it together in one file. That’s what happened. The reason why I love it is because they have experience, so they are able to talk about things that the entire firm goes through, everyday life. I was able to provide my new staff entry like, “I’m fresh in the accounting profession”. It was pretty dope to have all three, just different point of views coming into that one song. I think the reason why the firm loved it is because they can all relate and I love that.
John: At any point did any of you think like, “Wow. Maybe we shouldn’t do this because people are going to judge us or they’re going to think we’re not professional. Who knows what clients are going to hate it?” Did that every cross your mind, something like that? Some doubt?
Tonisha: I had doubt when we were in the ANA meeting and Renée was like, “Josh, you rap? You should make the song.” I was like, “No, Josh. Don’t do it. It’s a trap.”
John: “It’s a trap.”
Josh: Right. I was a little nervous too. I’m not going to lie. I really have to watch I say in this song. No cuss words, that was my rule. I think Tonisha broke that. She said the H word one time.
Tonisha: I didn’t even know that was a cuss word.
John: That’s a cuss word? Oh, man. Then I guess I’m going to hell too.
Tonisha: Don’t say it.
John: I’m sorry. Heck, I’m going to heck. But no, I mean, that for surely crosses your mind at some point because I think just professionalism or whatever it is tries to rear its ugly head to keep you from bringing out some awesome. But then once you did it, then what was the reaction?
Josh: The reception in the firm was way better than I originality anticipated. At our firm, there is definitely a mix of older individuals, younger individuals, middle aged individuals. There’s a really wide span. Most of the people in our office are around our age, but there were some people that were middle aged. The funny part about it is that those people were the ones who actually reached out to us the most and said they loved it. Those were the people that I was the most intimidated by and most afraid to share that I rap just because rap can have a negative stigma. It’s obviously just a generalization because I think, like I said, my music, I try to stick to more positive influences and stuff like that. But people can stereotype you right off the back. That’s what I was afraid of. But I think it was a great reception. We’re still getting compliments, having ten-minute conversations with people in the kitchen that are like, “Man, I didn’t know you could do that.” “Yeah, now you have.”
John: Yeah. “It’s about time.”
Tonisha: I think it was probably Renée, she was like, “Yeah. Now, you have to do a Christmas one.”
John: It’s like, “Slow down there, slow down.”
Josh: We’re like, “Maybe Easter, we don’t want to overstay our welcome.”
John: Right. That’s some job security because they can’t let you go. They got to do a rap, right?
Josh: That’s what I was thinking too. I was like, “Man, they’re going to want us to train in to look like one of the most exciting offices.”
Tonisha: Yes. They might even say that too. They could use us for marketing or something.
John: Yeah, for sure. It gets it out there, lets the client see that, “Hey, we’re like real normal people that work here.”
Josh: Right. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s going to be too big of a safety net for not getting the stuff done.
John: That’s a good point. Absolutely. Obviously, it gets your work done but it’s cool that you guys were able to make time. It sounds like you put this together in a relatively short amount of time.
Josh: We breezed through it. Fred could go into it.
Fred: The video was brought up during our ANA meeting. Then Josh, Tonisha and then I made our verse. Then we just decided, “Let’s do a video.” At first, it was going to be just a video of us three at the State Park, Mount Rushmore. My girlfriend, I called her last minute. I was like, “Hey, can you come record for us?” She was mad because she was working all day. Her break, she would sleep. I was like, “I’ll buy you dinner or something.” She came up. Shout outs to Katy.
John: I’ve been to Mount Rushmore. I’ve been there.
Fred: You have?
John: Yes, absolutely. I was like, “I can’t believe that you guys took a landfill and turn it into a park.”
Fred: It’s beautiful without the geese.
John: Right. Oh, man, there’s Canada geese everywhere. Man, it’s crazy. I can’t believe you guys had a free space to shoot without them interfering. But you put it together.
Josh: We had some outtakes. One of them actually flew directly into Fred but we don’t want to embarrass him in front of the whole firm like that.
John: That’s funny. That’s pretty funny.
Josh: That’s a complete lie. None of that happened.
John: No, no. I’m going to edit out where you said it was a lie and then we’re going to make it real. No, no. But I guess my question then is just which — I mean I think it’s awesome. Everybody listening, go to greenapplepodcast.com. There’s a link right there on the page for you to be able to see the video yourself. What is it about Cherry Bekaert that makes it okay to take some time and shoot this? Because basically you’re not doing billable work obviously when you’re doing a rap video. What is it about the culture there at your office that makes that okay?
Fred: One thing I learned when I first started with this firm is that we are one firm but you have your audit, your tax, your advisory. It seemed like — I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t communicate with each other like just on an off-work type basis. Sometimes, I feel like people get that stigma that accountants just go do numbers and go home. We’re thankful for a lot. We do a lot. I spoke out with the firm and I just said, “Hey, just write on a piece of paper something that you’re thankful for. Just take a moment and sit back on a year. The year is almost done.” Honestly, I thought I was going to have four or five people say, “Yeah,” and a lot more played the part.
John: I love that part of the video, too, where it just gets everybody in the office involved. They don’t have to be rapping or dancing or doing anything. It’s just you holding up your piece of paper that says what you love to do – or I mean rather what you’re thankful for.
Fred: If you know everyone in that video, you have the partners, the managers, the staff, the admin, the assistants, everybody. That’s what I love about it. It brought the firm together. It shows you what more we are.
Josh: I can add, too, that there were seniors that Fred was actually helping out with on jobs because Fred’s a staff. So if a senior gives him work, then usually, he’s following the orders of the seniors. So he specifically had seniors who were like, “Man, this video is going to be awesome. I want you to dedicate your time for this for today and tomorrow. Film as many people as you can. Get all the editing done. Don’t worry about doing the work. We’ll pick up the slack.” That’s one of the awesome things about our firm and our office in particular. It’s that they give you that freedom to do what you want that’s non-bill and then maybe pick up on your billable later. But there’s also rewards that we have. Our goals are set that you can do non-billable work and you are rewarded for it.
Tonisha: Yeah. That’s basically what I was going to touch on. That’s one of the metrics. How much can we contribute to the firm? That’s measured. That’s taken into consideration. It is considered important. That was one thing that just let us know that it’s okay to do this. The firm manager partners sent out this manage, “Hey, guys. What are you thankful for? Let me know.” So just getting that request from her let us know that they’re serious about letting us show just different aspects of ourselves and how we can contribute to the firm.
John: I love that. That’s how it started, just the firm wide managing partners because you guys have several offices all over the Southeast there and East Coast. For her to just say, “What are you thankful for?” and then for you guys to be like, “We’ll make a rap video.” Never in their wildest dreams did they ever think that that was going to be the response.
Tonisha: Yeah. They didn’t expect it.
John: I think that’s really cool. I love how your firm has that mentality of, “Just because it’s not billable doesn’t mean it isn’t good for the firm.” So many firms out there, professional services wide, I mean not just accounting but law and consulting and firms like that that if it’s not billable, then what are you doing? It’s like, “No, we’re doing cool things here that actually are better for the firm long term.” Do you have any words of encouragement for people that are listening that maybe they’re into rap or music or something like that? Or maybe even like Tonisha where it’s been dormant for a while where, “Don’t be afraid to let that out.”
Fred: Just do what you want. You got one life. Go do it. Some people get a career and they’re not happy. Honestly, I love my job because I’m able to do accounting work. I’m learning new stuff every day. I’m still able to do my hobbies. Of course, you have your busy season and stuff like that but it’s not hard, honestly, if you manage your time. I know that everyone who’s studying for their CPA, I wish the best for them. It’s tough but we’ll get it done.
Josh: And don’t forget those passions and interest outside of work.
Fred: Yeah. Don’t let your work life get your best life. Sometimes you make your work your best life. I don’t know if that makes sense.
John: Yeah. No, that totally makes sense, man. Totally. That’s deep.
Tonisha: I heard somewhere or someone told me that has stuck with me ever since. It’s that when you get older and you look back at your life and you look back at the things you’ve done, your biggest regrets are not going to be the things that you did. It’s going to be the things that you didn’t do. So you need to go out there and do the things that you want to do. Do the things that make you happy because this life is short. It goes by quickly. When you look back at the year, what did I do this year? But I think that every time you make that assessment, you should be like, “I did this. I did that. I did this.” Do what you want to do.
Josh: I think I could add some specific advice, too, since I can see both sides where for a while, I didn’t tell a lot of people at the company that I made music. I would say just always be an open book and let people know what you’re interested in because for me, it actually has helped me a lot just with relationships with my co-workers and also my clients. You obviously have to be careful on which clients you share certain information with. But I know one of my clients thought it was awesome that I rap. It makes it a lot easier to work with people when you relate to them especially in something like accounting where we’re sitting at a laptop all day. One of my seniors, Logan, when I first started expressing that I was making music, it made it so much easier to sit in a room with somebody who can connect with you or know that you are not a robot and that you do other things outside of work. Then you can share those songs with them. If they like your song, you’re totally clicking at that point. So I would say just always be an open book and let people know what kind of things you like to do outside of work because it will make work more enjoyable.
John: Yeah, for sure. I agree totally. Especially even if you don’t have the same hobbies or interests, it’s still fascinating that you have something. I never met another comedian accountant until after I was speaking full time, like Jonathan Kraftchick there at Cherry Bekaert and Greg Kyte in Utah. But still, people remember me and that makes me relatable. For you guys, it’s a very similar thing. But then all of a sudden, you start to let that out. Then now, Tonisha’s coming out of the woodworks with lyrics just like, “Wait, what? Where did this come from?” That’s really cool because now you guys have, I would imagine, a different relationship than you did, let’s say, six months ago when you didn’t know necessarily what you guys were doing outside of work.
Josh: Yeah, for sure. It goes beyond just with the firm that we’re at now. Those are memories that not only we’re going to remember someday even if we’re at a different company. We’re always going to be connected in that way. Also, we’re always going to be remembered by the firm for being the people that made the rap video. Whenever we go to trainings, I already have Jonathan telling me like, “Man, you’re so awesome. When are you going to rap again? We love you. Whenever we see you on Instagram, we get so excited when you come out with new music.” That’s one of my favorite parts about going to training, just having that legacy.
John: That’s really cool. Whatever keeps Kraftchick from not rapping, I’m all for. He’s a great guy. Just to let it in there to see if he listens to the whole episode. That’s really what that was.
Josh: We need to get Jon Kraftchick in our next music video. I heard he can dougie. I heard he’s good with the floss. I heard he can dab. I heard he can do all that cool stuff that the kids are doing these days.
John: Right. He’s also really good when that Canada goose flies into his face. You can make that happen. Even if it’s a fake one, just throw it on him.
Josh: Right. It’s his improv skills that kind of take over at that point.
John: He’s all improv all the time. He doesn’t know anything. It’s just pulling stuff out of his butt kind of stuff. I guess before we bring it in for a landing, I don’t know if you guys have any rapid-fire questions for me. It’s only fair that I turn the tables a little bit and let you guys ask me some questions if you want. I’ll open it up for it.
Fred: Okay. What is your go-to hobby other than work?
John: It’s weird because when I was a CPA, it was doing standup. Now, speaking and all that. Definitely, you getting funny movies is definitely, but they keep, seem to be less funny every year. But college football is definitely my thing. College football is my go-to for sure.
Fred: If you had to choose, would you choose Virginia Tech or Notre Dame?
John: Notre Dame all day long, buddy. That’s where I went to school. Come on, man. I know that Fred and Josh went to Tech so I got to tread lightly on this but you guys will be back.
Josh: That’s right. You got to watch out.
Fred: You all got this good in football this year.
John: Yeah, we did. But we’re pretty hot. That’s what happens. But I heard good stories from everybody who went down there. Actually, I have some relatives that went to Virginia Tech so I pull for them on occasion as well. That’s it, guys. Thank you guys so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast today.
Josh: Thank you so much.
Fred: No problem.
John: That was really awesome. If you guys like to see their rap video or maybe some pictures of Josh, Fred and Tonisha or maybe connect with them on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button there. Do the anonymous research survey about firm culture. It’ll help out with the book that I’m releasing soon. Thanks again for subscribing 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.