Dan is an Accountant & Runner
Dan Herron, Partner at BFFS Inc., is a simple man who enjoys numbers, eating, running, and movies….not necessarily in that order.
Dan talks about his passion for running and how it taught him discipline and commitment that he applies to his career as an accountant! Dan also shares his agonizing experience of running a 50 mile marathon and why it is not recommended for everyone!
• Getting into running
• Running a 50 mile marathon
• Training for a marathon
• Running to keep a pace, not to be faster
• Doing it for yourself
• Find your lane
• Why he is not keen on openly sharing his running experiences in the office
• Trying to use social media for self-promotion
• Dans experience in transferring to a firm with a more friendly environment
• The skills he has learned from running that he applies to his accounting career
• Running in the dark
• Gain the necessary experience but be happy with what you are doing
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Welcome to Episode 223 of What’s Your “And”? This is john Garrett, and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like you’re an accountant and a painter or a lawyer and play the piano or an engineer and climb mountains. I mean, it’s the things that are above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book has been published in just a few weeks and will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com. All the details are there. I can’t say how much it means that everyone is listening and changing the cultures where they work because of this message and sharing it with everyone. It’s really, really cool to see how it’s manifested all over the world really.
Please 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 guest, Dan Herron. He’s a partner at Better Business Financial Services in San Luis Obispo, California. Now he’s with me here today.
Dan, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dan: Thanks, John. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
John: I’m super excited to have you on, but you know the drill is we always start out get to know Dan on another level with my 17 rapid-fire questions. So I hope you brought a seat belt and you buckled up, buddy, because this is going to be tricky. So I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, favorite color?
John: Blue. Nice. How about a least favorite color?
John: Black, okay. Cats or dogs?
Dan: Dogs for sure.
John: Dogs for sure. All right, how about pens or pencils?
Dan: Pens, even though my handwriting is terrible. It doesn’t even matter. So I’m giving either or.
John: Either or, right. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Dan: Crossword I want to say, just because I think that the questions and the actual figuring it out is a little bit more interesting.
John: That’s true. There’s a whole other level there. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Dan: Keanu Reeves.
John: Nice. Okay. All right. He’s actually a really, really amazingly great guy like in real life. Now how about more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt.
Dan: Jeans and a t-shirt. Does it even have to be jeans? Can it just be like shorts?
John: You can go shorts. You’re all California. You do that, man. Here’s a twist, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Dan: Oh, God. Okay, so everyone is going to kill me on this one. Game of Thrones. I’m probably the only person in the world that finds Harry Potter kind of boring.
John: Okay. At least you’re honest. Everyone, tweet at — no, I’m just kidding. I’m just joking.
John: No, no, absolutely. How about when it comes to your computer, more PC or Mac?
Dan: Mac because for me, since I’m not tech savvy, I like to be able to point and go. I feel like PC just every day has some sort of update that I don’t even get.
John: How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Dan: Oh, man, so this is a tough one. Okay, it’s not technically ice cream. It’s Talenti gelato.
John: Oh, yeah. Okay.
Dan: Blueberry pie because not only does it have blueberry, but it also has the pie crust in it.
John: Oh, wow. And it’s healthy because it’s fruit.
Dan: Exactly. Yeah, something like that.
John: Good answer, man. Good answer. How about a favorite Disney character?
Dan: I don’t even know if I have one. Let’s see. Okay, how about this? I’ll go the opposite direction. I will go villain. The villain in Aladdin.
John: Ah, okay. That counts. That’s a Disney character.
Dan: Wait, I’ll take that back. I will go with Darth Vader.
John: Okay, I see how you’re leaning. I see how this is. All right. All right. How about a favorite band or musician?
Dan: Okay, ’80s, Phil Collins. I’ll even go a step further. “In the Air Tonight” is probably my favorite jam.
John: There you go. There you go. That builds and it just — I mean, it’s just like ah at the end.
Dan: Really, it’s played in every major sporting event.
John: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. How about — since you’re an accountant, I have to ask — balance sheet or income statement?
Dan: Oh, God! Can I just go cash flow statement?
John: Fancy pants. I don’t even know how to do a cash flow statement.
Dan: It’s probably one of those statements where people basically don’t know what’s going on anyways. And since everybody only talks about the balance sheet and income statement, I’ll go cash flow just for the sake of it.
John: Nice. I love it, man. I love it. How do you prefer more hot or cold?
Dan: Cold. If I could literally live in the fog or in the winter year round, I would do it. I’m probably in the wrong place of California. I should probably be in Alaska
John: I was going to say, “What?” They won’t let me leave. I’m not amazing. They got me here. Oh, this is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Dan: I haven’t even thought about that. That’s a good one.
John: Okay, all right. All right. Two more, favorite number?
John: 12. Is there a reason?
Dan: That’s my number way back when when I actually could be able to play.
John: There you go. Okay, all right. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Dan: Favorite thing I have, I would say probably my companion which is Chunk. She’s my four-year-old silver Lab who is literally one of the best things that ever happened to me.
John: That’s fantastic, man. Very cool. Yeah. And silver Lab, it’s not often that you hear that. I mean, there’s always chocolate and yellows.
Dan: Imagine the color of a Weimaraner, and that’s what she is.
John: Ah, there you go. Okay, very cool. That’s awesome, man. So let’s talk running, man. Is this something that you were doing from when you were a kid, or did you get into it later on in life?
Dan: Oh, God, no, man. I mean, when I was growing up, it was volleyball, basketball, and everything that everybody hated was running, right? I always thought of it as a punishment because naturally it is because no one really likes doing it. I mean, everybody you talk to goes, “Oh, you’re a runner? I couldn’t even imagine doing that. Like running a mile, it sounds terrible.” I didn’t like it at first, but long story short, when I got my first job out of school, I was working in market hours. It was one of the things where I could get off work at a reasonable hour, and it’ll be sunny outside and I can actually go do it on my own because everybody was still working till five, six, seven o’clock at night. It did the natural progression. I started out at 5K, worked up to a 10K, half full, and then I even ran a 50-miler once, which was awful. I never recommend anybody do it.
John: Wow, 50 miles.
Dan: God, you’re 12 hours of grueling punishment. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done. But I’m glad I can do it for, I guess, humble bragging rights.
John: Right. So then when you’re on the podcast and I’m like, “What’s the farthest you ever ran?” You’re like, “Oh, 50 miles.” I’m like, “What?” That’s close to like San Francisco and back? I don’t know. That’s far, I mean 12 hours.
John: Wow. That’s impressive, man. Where did you do that?
Dan: First of all, it’s not impressive. It’s just plain stupid. But kudos to the people that continually do it and even do the hundred milers. That takes a ton of effort and determination. But I did it actually in the mountains — or not the mountains, I guess, the hills. We don’t have mountains here, in San Luis Obispo. So yeah, literally out and back, round and round around in loops. Yeah, it was terrible.
John: That’s amazing, though. What are you thinking like as you’re training to get up for it? I mean, how long do you train for that?
Dan: Oh, I mean, luckily, I had a buddy who did it with me, my buddy Dylan. There were days where we would go run 25 miles on Saturday and the next morning around 25 miles on Sunday just to be able to get used to that pounding that your body takes. It’s a kind of different mentality, though, because you’re not running for time necessarily. You’re running just to keep a pace that you can maintain for 50 miles. There’s a lot of walking uphills and that kind of stuff. So that’s why it takes a little bit longer.
John: Yeah, no, I mean, I would walk the whole thing. And even then, I would just take a nap. I would be like, “How long did it take you to run that?” You’re like, “Twelve miles.” Yeah, 12 days. Every couple miles, I just took a nap and then I’ll get around to it. But that’s such a great mentality of you not running for time. You’re just trying to maintain a steady pace which is really interesting. I mean, for the other runs, is it running for time as well, or maybe when you were earlier on, pretty competitive on that?
Dan: Yeah. So I mean, back in my 20s, when I actually run at a reasonable rate for somebody that’s my size, it was gearing for time because everybody, okay, first of all, if you ever get into marathon running and you’re starting to take it really seriously, everyone’s trying to go to mecca which is the Boston Marathon, right? So for somebody in my age group back then, you had to run basically a sub three-hour-and-five-minute marathon which equates to, I think, a little bit under seven minutes.
Dan: Yeah, it sucks. It hurts. If you’re not built for it, it’s a lot of dedication and time that you put into that. But I would say that as I’ve gotten older and I haven’t been able to really run as fast as I used to anymore, I would say that it’s kind of transitioned to more of running for you and just completing the race itself. I think that it’s definitely hard as somebody who’s always been competitive, it’s been frustrating when I’m running and homie comes running past me. I might do that full as like literally 300 pounds, like why is he running faster than me? There’s that competitive instinct that kind of kicks in. But you just got to realize, man, as you get older, things start taking longer, you start slowing down, and you just have to kind of take it in perspective.
John: Yeah, I could totally hear you on that. I could easily say I enjoy running, but it’s hard to say I’m a runner, for some people, or whatever their hobby is. I love that mindset. I wish we had it earlier on in life of you’re doing it for you, and you’re just doing it to complete it. That’s what it’s really all about. Because let’s be honest, you’re not going to become a professional runner and get sponsored. That’s when it, okay, now you should care about your times because this is how you’re making money and this is your livelihood, but you’re actually paying money to go run.
John: While you’re doing that, who cares? It doesn’t matter.
Dan: You’ve touched on some pretty good points because I think that as you grow up, I don’t know, especially maybe my generation is a little bit different. I’m on the back end of the millennials, so I’m like almost, what is that? Gen X kind of dynamic?
Dan: It’s funny because I grew up and it was so competitive, right? Every weekend was club basketball tournaments, trying to get better to beat the next person next to you. Even just think about college where everybody has to have like a 5.0 GPA now.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Dan: I think there’s an unnecessary amount of competition that’s grilled into us in society. I think that if everybody kind of just took a step back and go, you know, reality, I just got to worry about me and not really care about what everybody else is doing in terms of being able to compete against them, I think we’d be better off and actually people are probably a lot happier and a lot less stressed out.
John: Yeah, for sure. Everyone has got their own lane. Just do your best within your lane. Some people have certain abilities that are better than others or that whole parable story of the fish on the first day of school, they taught swimming and the fish is like, “Oh, I’m amazing, I’m the best at everything.” And then the next day it was tree climbing and it’s like, “Oh, I’m failing and I’m miserable.” Find your lane and just live that. Don’t judge others for what their lane is and vice versa.
John: They’re not judging you. Everyone’s celebrating you. They want you to do the run. Because I have to imagine, is this something that you share with coworkers throughout your career?
Dan: Not necessarily. I’m kind of one of those people that doesn’t. Initially, I didn’t ever really shared because for me, I’ve never been one of those people of like, “Oh, dude, I did this totally awesome thing. I ran a marathon this weekend.” But always there’s that friend who goes, “Oh, Dan ran a marathon this weekend,” and everybody ask you about it, right? And it’s always kind of embarrassing. You turn bright red because you’re like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I did that.” No big deal, whatever. I think there’s a level of — I’ve never been a very, I don’t know, social media outgoing person with that kind of stuff. I guess the humble bragging, if you want to call it, that’s never really been me. I think it’s funny because a lot of people are like, “Dude, you should share that. That’s rad.” I’m like, “Well, I just care about it. I don’t worry about other people caring about it.” I share with my parents because you share everything with your parents and my girlfriend, but that’s pretty much it, right?
John: Right. Yeah. No, I completely understand you on that because I’m pretty similar. It’s just with my job, I sort of have to share more things.
Dan: Absolutely, I get it.
John: But it is, not something that comes naturally in person, let alone on social media. And you’re not running these races to put on social media. You’re running the races for yourself.
Dan: My Twitter handle is actually started by one of my good friends because he’s like, “Dude, you got to promote yourself. Get out there,” whatever. I was like, “Okay, I guess we’ll see what this is all about.” I started doing it and it’s fun. You get a lot of attention. You get a lot of likes and retweets because I was predominantly doing it on Twitter. But there’s always in the back of my mind, it wasn’t necessarily who I was as a person. I think what actually also helped too was I wasn’t necessarily fast enough to be able to become those ambassadors or whatever you want to call them or the product managers or whatever.
So it’s funny enough because eventually I kind of stopped doing it, and then I kind of started doing more of finance and Twitter which is a totally different realm in itself. But I think it was good for me because I think that the lack of attention that I started getting was actually beneficial for me because it kind of made me realize like, hey, this isn’t really who you are and probably you should take a step back and maybe reevaluate it.
John: Yeah, because all social media does it just magnify whatever you really are. So it’s obvious that that’s not a person or that’s not who someone really is. Nowadays especially, people can sniff that out from a mile away if that isn’t real.
Dan: Oh, sure.
John: Did it ever cross your mind that someone’s going to judge you or think that you’re not very good at your job because of these outside-of-work interests?
Dan: Not necessarily. I think, if anything, running and accounting kind of go hand in hand. Each of them take a certain amount of discipline and dedication that you have to do. I guess it depends because originally when I started in accounting, I started at the typical stuffy accounting firm. You go to the bigger firm to get the kind of experience and everything like that. I guess everybody kind of saw that as you show up, you clock in, you do your work, you clock out, and no one was really wanting to share any of their experiences that they had. I think once I actually transferred over to Better Business Financial Services where it was more of a family, friendly atmosphere, that’s when I really started to kind of share what I was doing in terms of my running and so forth.
So I think there’s definitely an impact of the environment in which you are trying to share that has an influence on whether you can really show the person that you are or you just kind of have to keep to yourself that’s kind of the environment that you decide to go into.
John: Right, yeah. How much do you think it is on the tone at the top, if you will, of this is how the culture is, or how much is it on the individual to be like, well, you know what, I’ve got three really good friends and we genuinely care about each other type of thing and know what each other’s passions are? Is it a top down more, or do you think it’s an individual can make a difference?
Dan: I think that the top-down approach definitely sets the tone in which you can be your own individual self because at the partner level, if everybody is straight up boring or doesn’t have a personality or that kind of dynamic where it’s like, okay, I’m just going to be a cog in the wheel here, I don’t think you let anybody’s real individuality really shine and show versus if you go to a place where you have, like where I’m at right now, where there’s two other people that have great personalities, do a lot of different cool things and like kind of push you go find something that you want to do, I think that actually helps you and feel more comfortable in sharing your experiences that you have as an individual.
John: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done some speaking or even consulting with some organizations where you walk in and you’re like, “Holy crap!” It’s like black and white. Is there even oxygen in here? No one looks up or even looks you in the eye and you’re like, “Wow, you guys work here on purpose?” It’s nutty. I mean, it can certainly help open some things up. I think that relationships just go deeper. When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, that’s what people are looking for because there are options out there that are giving them that. It’s an easy switch. It’s not that hard.
One thing that I’m curious about is just — because some people think these passions that are outside-of-work interests are distractions or whatever. Do you feel like it gave you a skill set? Especially when you said that running and accounting go hand in hand, do you feel like running gave you a skill that you were able to bring to the office to make you better at your job?
Dan: Oh, totally, man. I think that because running, you know how you become a better runner is you run. You have to have the dedication and the mindset that you’re going to be out there for two, three, four hours, and it’s a grind, right? Because the only way you can get better is more reps and you put more practice into it. I think that happens with accounting, especially on the tax side, right? As a first year staff accountant, you are literally probably green, right? If didn’t have an internship and —
John: I mean, come on, let’s be honest, the internship is basically ice cream sundaes and all the cool stuff. “Hey, let’s go out to the client,” and it’s like the most amazing client ever.
Dan: Yeah, right and you’re like, “Let’s go to Disney.” You’re like, “Awesome.” But then when it’s not your internship anymore and you’re actually a full-time person, you’re like stuck in a cubicle.
John: Right, right, that does happen. That does happen for sure.
Dan: Full disclosure, I’ve never worked at a Big Four, so I don’t know if that’s necessarily how it is. But for my friends who have, that’s what I’ve heard it’s like. I would say that the grind and getting used to that is something that really is going to help you in the long run just because, I mean, let’s get real, accounting, especially if you go into tax, that’s how basically we do, we don’t do any audit. Six months out of the year, you are stuck to your desk. You have to be able to sit here for 10, 12 hours a day and just grind it out. I think that’s definitely something running has taught me as an individual. I just prepare.
John: I completely understand that. And that’s why it’s always fascinating to me of every interview I do here is just there’s a way that your passions make you better at your job. It’s always cool to hear it because at no point in your business school education did anyone ever tell you to go run 50 miler.
Dan: Oh, no, man. Not at all.
John: Yeah, the people that tell you to do that hate you. That’s who tells you to do that. You know what? I don’t like Dan very much. Go away for 12 hours.
Dan: Yeah, that’s right.
John: Honestly, it’s impressive that you did that. It’s great that you did it together with someone. Do you ever see colleagues or clients out running or do some runs with them on occasion in your career?
Dan: So here’s the problem that I have, man. So I’m one of those guys that gets up at like 4:00 a.m. I’m one of those that if you’re driving out on the road at five o’clock in the morning, I’m the dude with the headlamp running.
John: Oh, my gosh! Yeah, you’re intense. That’s intense.
Dan: Yeah, I don’t know. I think I’m a little nuts when it comes to that dynamic. But I’m one of those that just likes get it over with and plus too like outside it’s a different vibe when you’re running in the dark. It’s actually like almost your senses get heightened when you’re running in the dark as opposed to when you’re running outside, it’s kind of like tu tu doo tu doo . But I don’t know, you kind of have to be on your game and your mindset, and your focus has to be better in the dark because let’s get real, you can either be running or you can be sleeping. So 99% of people are going to pick sleeping. There’s definitely a different mindset when it goes to getting up and being dedicated.
I’ve always been one of those — or actually, no, I haven’t. When I started my market hour gig, when I transitioned to a different job, I kind of just stuck with getting up at 5:00 a.m., and I just decided to go exercise at that point.
John: Ah, rather than having to go to work, yeah, I’ll just do the exercising now and then get out of the way. Man, I love it. I think that’s great. That’s really great.
So before we wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that, oh, well, no one cares about my thing, or whatever my passion is has nothing to do with my job, so I’ll just keep it to myself?
Dan: A couple of things. I think that, A, as you get older, or if you get started at a younger age, really find a place that fits you the best in your personality only because I think that granted there’s always, if you go to the bigger firms where they maybe not have as much personality as a smaller one, for example, you’re going to get a lot of experience. But once you get that, you need to be happy in what you’re doing. I think that if you go to a firm where if you have people at the top who are very interested in what you’re doing and very personable and are in the jeans and the flip flops and that’s what you’re comfortable in, go there. Be happy in what you’re doing.
Also, be yourself. I can’t tell you how big of a relief it was when I finally transitioned from the suit and tie to the t-shirt and jeans and flip flops, how much happier you are at your job. Quite honestly, a lot of times the clients that you’re meeting with, especially the ones that I meet with, are wearing board shorts and flip flops. You feel more comfortable. You’re not sitting there in a suit and tie, thinking that you’re my dad’s accountant. You’ve been doing this for 50 years and you have a pocket protector. I think there’s a level of comfort that people get when you are yourself because I’ve been in meetings where I haven’t been, and you can hear crickets chirp. But once you start realizing who you are and you become more comfortable in your own skin, I think you can have better actual overall interactions with clients and just people in general.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. Rather than trying to play a part in a movie, Keanu Reeves method style, if you will, as comeback to the beginning, look at me, everybody.
Dan: Oh, my God. Full disclaimer, the reason why his movies are so much better is because he’s such a bad actor that it’s almost hilarious watching it, right?
Dan: He’s the same dude in every single movie and it’s so bad, but you can’t stop watching it.
John: Yeah, it makes you feel like you could be an actor.
Dan: Yeah, exactly.
John: But it’s so true. Everyone, they come out of school and they try and be what they think they’re supposed to be rather than themselves. I don’t even think that the size of the organization matters, to be honest, because there are plenty of smaller companies that don’t have a great culture or really care genuinely about their people. So it’s just find the place that fits you, you’re happy and you feel like you belong and they care about you and vice versa, you care about them. Then that reciprocity is real. So that’s really great advice, really great advice.
So it’s only fair that I do turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me like I did in the beginning. And if you ask me favorite actor, I’ll say Keanu Reeves just to make you happy.
Dan: These questions are a little bit more involved and I apologize, but what would you be doing if you weren’t doing this research?
John: Oh, wow. Gosh! Man, I don’t even know. Yeah, I’d probably be at some chuckle hut in the middle of Iowa or some comedy club, just getting ready to do a show. I just got really fortunate that I was at a conference. A guy who had remembered me from 12 years prior at my first PwC office, a guy who I had never worked with ever. I’m pretty positive I never met him. He saw the list of speakers and said, “Oh, I know John Garrett. That’s the guy who did comedy at night.” That’s kind of been the seed that has started all of this. Yeah, I’d probably still be going down the comedy route and trying to make that happen.
Dan: Sure, yeah. I think honestly, for what it’s worth, you’ve been doing a great job at kind of breaking the shell of the stereotypical accountant. I think all of us are going to appreciate what you’re doing.
John: Well, thanks, man. Wow, no pressure on me. It really means a lot, honestly. Thank you.
Dan: You’re welcome. Last one, what would it take to make you go back to PwC?
John: Oh, actually, they just brought me back like a couple of months ago to do their promotion day.
Dan: Oh, wow.
John: Yeah, we did this whole PwC’s Got Talent. It was awesome. There were six different people who showcased their talents. One was a classically trained violinist. One does yoga like crazy yoga. Actually Natalia, she was just on a couple of weeks ago. So we had this whole showcase and I got to tell people, this is normal. This is the stereotype. The people that are going to come up here, this is the stereotype. But as far as to go back every day to PwC, yeah, I’m pretty sure — Jake Johannsen had a funny joke about this. We were talking once and he’s like, “Yeah, not only can I not get back on the bus, I don’t even know where the bus stops anymore. I’m so far removed. I would have to go back to college. I’m like 400 hours behind on CPE. I would just have to start over just like John just start over.”
Dan: Yeah, man.
John: But I mean, I do love impacting organizations from this side. So it’s kind of cool to be able to touch so many more people this way. But yeah, it’s fun to go back in that capacity and just bring some of that to the event because I always approach every corporate event as what do I want to see if I was in the audience because I literally used to be in the audience. So it’s that boring cookie cutter reading every word off of every slide, it’s just not going to work. Nobody wants to see that. Yeah, so that’s a funny little twist to your question that you probably weren’t anticipating.
Dan: Actually, that’s what I was looking for. But, yeah, I’ll take it for what it is.
John: Exactly. No, but this was so great, Dan. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dan: I appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, that was so great. Everyone listening, if you’d like to see some pictures of Dan running or outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing 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, that no matter our job or technical expertise, there’s a human side to all of us.