Erin is an Accountant & Writer
Erin Kidd talks about how she found her passion for writing when she first started at Thompson Greenspon and how she found it to be a great way to communicate and relate to clients! She also talks about her passion for supporting fellow military spouses!
• Getting into writing
• Communicating and building trust with clients through writing
• Writing articles for Thomson Reuters
• Being a military spouse and talking about it in the office
• The Seasonal Military Spouse Remote Preparer Program
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Welcome to Episode 277 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills and the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures of where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Erin Kidd. She’s a Tax Individual Program Manager at Thompson Greenspon in Fairfax, Virginia. Now, she’s with me here today. Erin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Erin: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
John: Well, this is going to be awesome. You know the drill is 17 rapid fire questions out of the gate. Get to know Erin on another level.
Here we go, first one. Oceans or mountains?
Erin: Oh, ocean, I guess.
John: How about a favorite actor or actress?
Erin: Oh, that’s so hard. Sandra Bullock, I’d have to say.
John: Oh, that’s a good answer. Very good answer. How about a favorite color?
Erin: Ocean blue.
John: Oh, okay. All right. All right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Orange, yeah. I hear you on that one.
Erin: It’s not my fave.
John: Yeah, yeah. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Erin: Oh, I’m definitely not a night owl. I’m an early bird by default, but I’m probably in bed by 7:30 on Friday. That’s an exciting Friday night for me.
John: That’s awesome. That’s hilarious. How about more pens or pencils?
Erin: Probably pencils actually. I don’t like to make a mistake. I like being able to correct it quickly and maybe nobody notices, right? That’s one.
John: Erase, and there you go. Okay. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku, yeah. That’s how I do my tax returns. I probably shouldn’t have told an enrolled agent but whatever.
Erin: They’ll be fine.
John: Whatever. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Erin: Probably Star Wars.
John: Okay, all right. On your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Erin: PC all the way.
John: Yeah, me too. And your mouse, right-click or left-click?
Erin: Right-click? That’s where all the cool stuff is. Open up all the options.
John: How about do you have a favorite animal? Any animal?
Erin: Probably a cat.
John: A cat, okay.
Erin: Yeah. I mean they’re just kind of — they don’t really care about what you got going on. They’re pretty independent, but occasionally, you get lucky and they want to bless you with their presence.
John: I feel like that’s a bit of your spirit animal a little bit.
Erin: Yeah, it might be a little bit.
John: That’s awesome. How about a favorite place that you’ve been on vacation?
Erin: Oh, Anna Maria Island in Florida. I go every year with my mom and my sister. We go in May. It’s what I look forward to after tax season so yeah. We got a Mother’s Day weekend. We’ve gone like the last four years. It’s fantastic.
John: Yeah. That’s really great, really great. How about when it comes to tax returns, more corporate or personal?
Erin: Oh, personal definitely. That’s what I specialize in. I look at the other stuff, I’m like, I don’t want to deal with it.
John: Right? Too many loopholes. How about diamonds or pearls?
John: Diamonds, okay. We got three more. How about a favorite number?
John: Eleven. Is there a reason?
Erin: January 11 is my wedding anniversary. Most people say they like even numbers. I like the odd number because there’s one in the middle and it’s even on either side. I don’t know. I just like it.
John: Okay. No, I hear you. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Erin: Wonder Woman.
John: There you go. All right. Very cool. Last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Erin: Actually, the favorite thing I own now is 14 acres on the side of a mountain in West Virginia.
John: Oh, nice.
Erin: That’s why I struggled with your mountain versus ocean kind of thing. It faces west and it’s our retirement property. We’ve got two payments left and then we just need to you know, put a driveway and a house on it.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s very cool, very cool. It faces west so you get the sunset?
John: There you go. Yeah. Hopefully, you’re up late enough for when the sunset happens.
Erin: You know, maybe in the winter.
John: I’m teasing. No, but that’s so great to get to know you.
So yeah, let’s talk. I mean the writing. How did you get into that? Is that something you’ve been doing since you were younger or you got into it later in life?
Erin: Well, probably a little later in life. I mean I always kind of wanted to be a writer. I love to read. That’s kind of my favorite thing to do. I love to read, and I wanted to — but I found I can’t write fiction. So non-fiction is kind of where it’s at. I’ve been doing a few things, and then when I start my job at Thompson Greenspon, I specialize in individual taxes. There’s a lot of down time when you first you know, particularly when you come on board somewhere, right? You’re kind of in the middle waiting for things to happen.
We had a blog but it wasn’t very robust. I started kind of just filling my time doing that and you know, other accountants, they don’t care to write so they like that.
John: You’re exactly right. I mean writing isn’t necessarily the forte, really communicating for some reason, not really the forte. So good for you because I mean yeah, it takes all kinds to make that happen. That’s interesting.
Erin: I don’t know. I just found it’s a way particularly for clients, you’ll find that you’ll ask the same questions over and over again. If you can write something that communicates with the client and answers those questions, those are things they’re going to reach out for and look for and kind of build that trust with them.
I’m also the credit financial counselor. I just collect acronyms for name. I just look for things to do. That was another way that I kind of found things to do writing, that I can help communicate some of that basic you know, personal finance type activities.
John: Right, right. Most of it’s for the firm blog and things along those lines like technical expertise writing, if you will?
Erin: A lot of it is that but I try to write it you know, we write in layman’s terms. You have to remember your audience. That’s the hardest part I think for folks who are in our industry trying to write is remembering who their audience is.
We try to make it very conversational and it’s something that’s acceptable for clients to eat in little bites. I started a little bit and actually been able to write a couple of articles for Thomson Reuters.
John: Oh, nice.
Erin: Yeah, that was kind of a big bucket list item I was super excited about that. I really like the actual practice management type stuff. That’s a little bit different than what we write on the firm’s blog or for yeah, some military spouse type places that I’ve been writing for.
John: Yeah. It keeps you busy. I mean it’s that creative side that balances out the income tax side, if you will. Plus, yeah, there’s a lot of time when there’s not income taxes happening, and so yeah, like you said, it fills that time.
Erin: I love to get people like a checklist or an item or you know, something that they can take away with them. It drives me crazy when I see these things on you know, this is how you do this but they don’t really tell you how to do it, but you explain the concept and not a checklist or like okay, the mechanics of this is what you do, so trying to put that information out there, I think is helpful. I mean I like it so I figure at least one other person out there is going to look for it, right?
John: Totally, totally. Because I mean yeah, if you’re always trying to just create something that other people like, then it’s not going to be good. It’s going to be something that you also like and care about for sure. That’s fantastic. You touched on it briefly, but the military spouse, I mean obviously, that’s something you’ve been doing maybe even longer than the writing?
Erin: I’m a third-generation military spouse so evidently, we like the uniform. I’m not really sure. What’s going on there? We don’t learn. My husband was active duty for 22 years. My dad was 20 years. My grandfather was 20 years in the military. So it’s kind of all I’ve known and that’s kind of sometimes, we hold that close to our military spouses because unemployment for military spouses is a pretty rough topic or underemployment, so we do a lot of those gig type things. We just fill it in; the writing, the whatever, lots and lots of volunteering, that kind of stuff. So yeah, kind of who I am.
John: I believe it, because I mean I never thought about that because my father was career Air Force, which I don’t know if it counts as military but it’s the Air Force.
Erin: He was just smarter than everybody else.
John: That’s also funny for the other people in the military. But yeah, he was career Air Force and yeah, it’s got to be so hard because every two or three years, we were moving and yeah, so to have a job or to interview with a place where they’re going to ask you right away, are you leaving in two or three years, and they might hold that against you which is crazy because even civilians can move in two or three years. I mean it doesn’t matter if you’re military or not. If you have the skills, you should be hired there type of thing.
I think that’s great, the stuff that you’re doing advocating for that, and the team that you’ve built there for you, do you want to tell people about that? I think it’s really fantastic.
Erin: It’s probably my favorite thing about our firm is that they were willing to embrace this opportunity. We were in the Metro DC area. We’ve got a huge military spouse population but we don’t just work with them. Most accountants know you’ve got compression during tax season, right? You’ve got pretty much eight weeks where you’re trying to get as much done as you can.
In order to deal with that, we ended up creating this seasonal military spouse remote prepare program. They are employees. I recruited them from my credit financial counselor group on Facebook, military spouses and you know, are you interested in this? Have you done taxes before? What are you doing? And so we’ve built a team. This is our fifth year.
We’re addressing an issue that every accounting firm has. Everybody has this compression problem. Not that there’s anything wrong with outsourcing overseas or doing that kind of stuff, but we’re outsourcing military spouses who are sharpening their skills or who have done this before, for other firms. It has been a great opportunity to continue that.
John: Yeah. Everybody wins. I mean everybody, like you said, I mean the firm has a need and so you’re going to outsource it to whether it’s local or it’s overseas or whatever, but then because of you sharing this is a passion of mine and this is who I am as a person, then you’re able to weave those two together which I think is really magical and had you not shared that side of you or they didn’t care about that side of you, then who knows where that work would’ve gone?
Erin: We have that conversation a lot, military spouses. Do I tell them I’m a military spouse? Do I not? Do I keep it hidden? You know, it’s a big part of your life to kind of not share with the people you work with, right? This is your everyday life.
Being able to share that with them created this great opportunity and they were willing to do it. It doesn’t hurt that we have a large government contracting practice. So now, this is kind of you know, we’re also supporting this other piece of the military life. It definitely has created opportunity, people look for it every year, I get emails. Are you still hiring? Are you going to do this again? People talk about it. They’re great, the folks that do it, we have people in Oregon, we’ve got people in Alaska, we’ve got people in Georgia, Delaware, I mean we’re in Virginia. We’ve got some in Tennessee this year.
If I can get any of those no tax states or payroll folks like that, I don’t know. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. It’s a great way to address the need that we all have.
John: I love it. I think it’s so fantastic. Is there a thing that you shouldn’t share? I mean maybe if it’s illegal, but something like being a military spouse is such a big piece of who you are. You can’t unwind the two. We can’t just have Erin and Erin. Erin’s a military spouse. It comes with you, and why not share?
Erin: And it was always a struggle before. We’re not a protected class. People are going to say, are you a military spouse? You’re like, I don’t think that’s relevant. It’s difficult. We talk about how to address those things. Like you said, civilians change their job every two years. You’re going to have that staff. They move all the time. But I’m here. I’m flexible. I’m adaptable. I have resources. I can do these things. If you get me, you’re getting somebody who’s committed to doing a great job.
So being able to sell that is really important and sharing that, but sometimes, it doesn’t work. People don’t want to hire military spouses or you end up being underemployed which is the other problem. You’re always starting over entry level. You’ve left every time. I ended up staying at home for 14 years writing piecemeal, working on my masters, collecting letters to go after my name.
John: Other certifications.
Erin: There’s nothing to do, and working seasonally, or a lot of folks go into entrepreneurship. They end up working for themselves because they can take it with them.
John: Right, right. But it’d be the same as if somebody were to ask you in an interview, are you a writer?
John: Yeah, that too. I mean these are all facets of who I am as a person and they’re hiring all of you, not just the accountant part. It applies to every single person that’s in that office, and other professions as well. I mean it’s not just an accounting thing, for sure. I think it’s great that you do share. Not only that, but you’re embracing others across the country that are in similar position that you were in.
Erin: Absolutely. Anybody who wants to build a similar program, wants to work on that, I mean I’ve talked to several different people, different firms, would love to help them try to implement something on their own to be able to do it as well. I think it can be a great thing and everybody’s out there. We’re looking for work. I want to do it.
John: But I also believe that I mean in your specific case, that the relationship that you have with those people is next level, I mean right away because you both get each other, and even if someone has a different passions, interests, or life, then at least they get who you are but in this case, I mean everyone’s lived the same life. It’s like yeah, we know what it’s like.
We get this. We know the acronyms. We know whether the guard’s going to salute us or not, whether we’re going on base, we know all these things. That’s got to be really fun and make work a little bit more engaging for everyone.
Erin: It’s great to be able to speak with them. We speak the same language. Not only do we speak this tax jargon that we’ve got going on, but we’ve got this other sets of acronyms and jargon that we all know as well. I was just thinking like the OPTEMPO, right? The operational tempo of the military has been just insane for the last 20 years.
It is completely different than when let’s say my dad was in the military and that impact that it has on families and being able to address that and understand that we can do this remotely. We have the flexibility. The world is small. Being able to know and saying you know, I understand that you’ve got whatever or your spouse is TDY, on temporary duty somewhere and you can’t work, they just calm down.
John: No, I know what you meant.
Erin: So you need to work at night rather in the morning, or you know, so we don’t have these iron-clad core hours for our remote team. We give them the opportunity to create their hours. We just want to know when we should expect you or how long we should expect you.
John: Exactly, yeah. If that communication is there, then why not? I mean as long as the end-product gets done, maybe it’s a little bit more difficult to manage because then it’s not just hammering everyone flat, everyone do the same thing. It’s you know, we need this done by this time, and then whatever you’re doing, I don’t care, that type of thing.
Erin: Get it done.
John: Yeah. If you’re having some problems, then let me know, type of a thing. I think that those relationships are huge and you have people coming back like you know, telling their friends. Hey, you got to get in on that. Clearly, that’s important because they’re not in on it because it’s tax prep work, they’re in on it because I get to work with other people that also care about me, and I care about them to another level.
Good for you. I think that that’s really powerful and something that I think that as professionals, we sometimes forget, or we let it slide I guess, whether it’s on purpose or accidental, I think it’s fantastic.
It’s crucial. It’s really, really important. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that culture where share those other sides of you or how much is it on the individual to maybe just you know what? In my little circle, I’m going to do this.
Erin: I think it’s maybe a little bit of both. You have to feel safe, or the whole part is that you’re in this relationship and this culture that you feel safe, to share the authentic pieces of you. I’ve heard something the other day which was great. You don’t necessarily need to bring your whole self to work, just bring your authentic self to work, who you really are, but maybe leave a little bit at home, which I thought was great because I was like, oh, yeah, maybe I should not talk about some of those things.
But being able to share things that are important to you, things that touch you, things that move you that are important, you spend way too much time at work to not do that. In particular, when you’re working on 60-70 hours a week, maybe during the busy season, and people worked — not just accountants, other folks work these crazy hours too. Attorneys have cases or you know, whatever. And being able to have depth in your relationships, that creates trust, those small moments create trust. That’s what creates you know, a great support network.
John: That’s exactly it right there, because I mean especially in the accounting profession, everyone wants to now be called a trusted advisor but if you’re not creating this depth, and if you’re not being vulnerable and if you’re not opening up and sharing these other sides of you, then you’re not a trusted advisor, you’re an advisor-advisor.
Erin: Right, or historian, right?
John: There you go. That’s exactly it. Why do you think it is that our default mode is to not share?
Erin: Maybe we’ve been burned or we’ve been told, oh, people don’t need to know that. They’re not your friends. They’re just people — you know, and okay, maybe they’re not your friends-friends, but maybe they are or maybe they can be, you sit all the time with these folks, and I think having an understanding of one another that allows you to have a real life.
Our firm really works on work-life balance and knowing that you have a real life outside of preparing tax returns or audits or whatever it is that you do. I think having those relationships make it happen.
John: No, for sure. I mean it makes business better. I mean even from one department to the other, I mean if somebody has a smaller client that you do both the audit and the tax, well, instead of just sending an email to the tax department and getting angry when they don’t get back to you. Instead, it’s well, I’ll just go Erin. We’re friends. We talk about normal life things, type of a thing. It makes everything better.
Plus, I think, people want to work where people care about them and more than just a work product. Like you’re doing with that group that you have, I mean people care, and you care. That’s an emotion that’s not always in the professional world unfortunately.
I guess does your firm do anything specific to encourage people sharing? Or is it just more of a tone at the top sort of a thing?
Erin: I think it’s really just kind of a tone at the top. When we talk about young staff and mentoring them on how to become professionals or learn their way in the world and what they’re doing, we tell them don’t just look for board opportunities wherever, or don’t just look for volunteer opportunities wherever. If you’re interested in animal welfare and you want to just volunteer whatever the humane society, then do that, and just having those conversations or you work at the PTA, you don’t have to be the treasurer of the PTA.
Erin: Or just having the volunteer activity and being able to do that, that’s going to make you more likely to build a connection to build a relationship and somebody’s like, oh, what do you do? Oh, I’m an accountant. Oh, you know what? My neighbor was just talking about blah, blah, blah. That’s where those referrals come from, where that working connection comes from.
John: Yeah. I mean business comes from it.
Erin: Yeah, absolutely.
John: That’s an excellent example of join boards, volunteer at organizations that you are passionate about, not whatever the firm spins a wheel and tells you, you have to go do this one. It’s like well, I don’t care about that, then don’t do that. And yeah, you don’t have to be the treasurer for the love of god. Tell them you don’t do math after 5:00 p.m.
Erin: Right? If there’s a distillery, and you happen to be interested in that, you know, hey, go look and see what they’re doing. Go find out.
John: Exactly. That’s fantastic. That’s really awesome. Before I wrap this up, do you have words of encouragement for anyone listening that thinks that you know, my passion or interest has nothing to do with my job?
Erin: Just don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to be real. Be authentic. Be yourself. Get it out there. Be a good person. Do the right thing. That’s going to take you a really long way.
John: It’s so simple but yet so foreign.
John: But such great advice. I mean just don’t be afraid and just be you. This has been so much fun, Erin. But before I bring it in for the landing, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid fire question me if you’d like since I rudely started out the episode peppering you with questions so you’re now the host. Here we go.
Erin: Fantastic. I’ve got three questions for you. Favorite food.
John: Favorite food. Wow, yeah. This is hard. I don’t know. I mean a really good lasagna is always good. I’m going to end up eating half of the pan. That’s always — just not salad, or I mean salad’s good but like yeah.
Erin: Something with lots of cheese and carbs.
John: Yeah. Meat and yeah. You’re supposed to have a heart attack while you’re eating it, something like that.
Erin: Perfect. Movie or escape room?
John: You know, I’ve never done the escape room.
Erin: They’re fantastic. You have to do it.
John: Escape room. There we go.
Erin: They’re amazing.
John: I don’t think I’ve been to a movie theatre in a long time. I mean they’re just on the TV. Netflix and Amazon and yeah. So escape room.
Erin: Escape room. Yeah, you really should. Highly recommend. It’s awesome. Fiction or non-fiction?
John: You know, non-fiction, I’m kind of a nerd like that on those kind of books but yeah, I think more non-fiction is more my thing. I guess I mean by definition, it’s more real. So there we go.
John: Surprise. As I was getting ready to say, of course it is, it’s called non-fiction, you moron. But anyway, no. But this has been so much fun, Erin. Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Erin: Thank you.
John: Totally. For anyone who wants to see some pictures of Erin outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media, and see some of her writing, make sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.