Chris is an Investigative Accountant & Podcaster
Chris Ekimoff returns to the podcast from episode #83 to talk about his new hobbies with running and starting his new podcast, inSecurities. He also talks about what he does around the workplace as a director to encourage an open workplace!
• Moving away from competitive swimming
• Taking up running marathons
• Starting his podcast
• Typical first-time interactions with clients and co-workers
• How Chris sets an example at the office for an open workplace
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Welcome to Episode 292 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in September, yes, this September, and will be available on Amazon, Indigo and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know when it comes out.
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 and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Chris Ekimoff. He’s a director with RSM and the Southeast Region Leader for Financial Investigations and Dispute Services and on the side, he’s the co-host of inSECURITIES podcast with the Practicing Law Institute, and now he’s with me here today. Chris, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Chris: Glad to be here, John. So great to chat with you again.
John: Of course, man. You’re a busy, busy dude. That’s why I appreciate squeezing into the schedule. You know the drill, rapid fire questions. These are ones I probably should have asked you a couple of years ago on Episode 83. My God, bless you, man. That was long ago.
Chris: Yeah, we’re dating ourselves. Everybody knows that we’re the old guys on the podcast right now.
John: Exactly. It’s one of those things. I’ve been doing this for X — that means you’re old.
Chris: That’s right.
John: That’s what that means. I am ancient. All right, here we go. First one, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Chris: Game of Thrones definitely.
John: Okay, okay. How about a favorite cereal even when you were a kid?
Chris: Captain Crunch will be well-known, but we had this baseball slam bootleg cereal that everything was shaped like baseball bats and baseballs. I don’t know if that was something that you got from the corner store or — I’d have to do some research, and if that was a real cereal, but made me fall in love with baseball as a kid too.
John: Yeah. That’s incredible, man. How about brownie or ice cream? Ice cream, okay. How about a favorite Disney character?
Chris: Aladdin has always been my number one, the music, the atmosphere. I’m also a big fan of vests, so I think that’s a good — it’s the reason I lean towards Aladdin.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, cats or dogs.
Chris: 100% dog.
John: There you go. Yeah, me too, me too. Two more. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Chris: I usually go for a Hoppy IPA, but from a cocktail perspective, I usually lean more on an old-fashion, something bourbon-based.
John: Oh, okay.
Chris: I like to mix it up. I used to love to go to bars. Now we’re in this quarantine area where it’s just — whatever is in the fridge maybe is the best answer for you, John, in terms of adult beverage now.
John: The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Chris: Over. That’s a deal-breaker.
John: That is a deal-breaker.
Chris: You got it. No, that’s great.
John: I had somebody on once say, “If it wasn’t over then this conversation is over.”
Chris: I agree with that person, 100%.
John: That’s awesome. So, yeah, Episode 83, we talked swimming back from your college days.
Chris: That’s right.
John: I love that example of when you started at a huge Big Four firm and the Olympics was just happening where everyone was breaking all the records. All of a sudden, everyone knew you were the swimming guy, so they were talking to you about that. I thought that was really cool.
Chris: Yeah. That suit technology part of the interesting window in the swimming history world is there were two or three years where times are dropping like crazy because people were wearing basically wet suits that helped them float. I was the only guy in the office who had at least a little bit of understanding of why that was happening.
When it’s being covered on Good Morning America, in the Nightly News, everyone wants to talk about it at the water cooler the next day, so I was more popular than I should have been but thankfully for a good reason, to stand out with some of my peers as well, so it was excellent.
John: No, no, l think it’s cool. So is swimming still a passion of yours or has it transitioned to something else?
Chris: Yes. Again, quarantine limiting, pools aren’t really open to go do some laps. I’ve actually moved away from competitive swimming as an adult and jumped into the running bug. I’ve done a handful of marathons in the past ten or 12 years.
John: Oh, wow.
Chris: I always try to stay current. I’ve got a couple of friends who do Masters swimming, so I’m checking in on their times to maybe let them know they’re not as fast as they used to be. A bunch of my college friends and I got together last weekend at a lake up in Kennedy and we swam the lake together, much slower than we did back in college but always laughing and looking back at those elements too. So, not spending as much time in the pool anymore but still definitely a passion of mine.
John: It’s still part of your life.
Chris: Yeah, definitely.
John: And what have you. I think that’s fantastic, and marathons, those are not easy.
Chris: That’s what I tell people, especially with the swimming discussion, is I used to spend two hours at practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. Now I get to run for an hour and see all these things and breathe whenever I want to and maybe slow down and walk instead of having to do a flip turn and turn around. It transitioned well, but definitely different medium.
John: That is funny. Yeah, I never even thought about that. Yeah, I guess you’re not really looking at anything.
Chris: I tell people, you play soccer. You play football. You don’t play swimming. It’s not a game. It’s not fun. Just back and forth, over and over again.
John: You’re exactly right. You don’t play.
Chris: You don’t play running. You run. You just swim. All that happens.
John: Yeah. I also don’t run because there’s no play involved. There’s no joy in this. That’s awesome, man. Why do you hate yourself so much? What’s going on? Just teasing, man.
Chris: It balances out the adult beverages on the other side. If I go for a good run, then that old-fashioned is a little bit sweeter at the end of the day.
John: That’s very true. That’s very true. The podcast, which is great by the way, how did you get into that?
Chris: It’s one of those weird stories. My co-host, Kurt Wolfe is an attorney at the law firm, Troutman Sanders, and I had actually met each other by tweeting at a Securities Enforcement Conference using the conference hash tag, four or five years ago.
At the networking event after the conference, I was talking to some of my colleagues. They were like, “Hey, Chris, saw you on Twitter. Ha-ha, you loser.” Kurt was on the other end of the table, and he’s like, “Hey, yeah, we were tweeting each other back and forth.” The partner that Kurt worked for and the partner that I worked for looked at each other, oh, maybe that was a valuable use of their attention and time today. It’s always about collecting business cards.
So, Kurt and I have had, for the past couple of years, this relationship where we’re discussing securities, law and regulatory enforcement issues over Twitter, sharing articles with each other and giving each other a good ribbing and speaking with the Practicing Law Institute which is a global provider of continuing legal education services, who had asked if we’d be interested in doing that as a podcast. Instead of just bantering on Twitter, why not get you two guys in front of a microphone and talk through some of the issues you’re already sharing in the social media world.
I’m amazed and, John, I know you’ll feel the same way, we had that initial conversation in the fall of 2018 and then our first episode didn’t launch until January of this year. The amount of practice and planning and effort that goes into it was a huge lift, and it’s really become not only a hobby, but a complement to some of the professional stuff that Kurt and I do as well. It’s been a heck of a lot of work but a heck of a good time too, when you get to speak with interesting folks on topics that touch all of our lives from a professional perspective.
John: It’s a lot of work to do a podcast well. It’s the same as writing a book. You could just slap some words together and hit print on Amazon, CreateSpace or whatever and there you go, you’ve got a book, put your picture on the cover, but there are typos. It’s not good. It’s not well thought out. Same with a podcast. So, kudos to you. At some point you do have to just jump. Hey, it’s go time. Here we go.
Chris: I listen to a lot of podcast out there too, and hearing some of the well-known and storied folks like yourself. Going back and listening to the first five or six episodes that I ever did and just cringing at how little we all knew of what we were doing and how it went. I’m hopeful someday that I’ll look back and say, yeah, we were at stage one, and now we’re at stage two or three, and it’s going much better.
John: Yeah, because it is hard. It’s the same with any creative outlet. You never see Steven Spielberg’s student film. You only see the masterpieces and the Picassos and the whatevers. It’s hard to just get out there and do it.
Chris: Or hacking the system too. Kurt and I are — there’s a full production team at PLI that is supporting us. We’re sourcing the content. We’re talking about these issues. We’re following the news. We’re getting the gas, but we’re just hitting record, talking for 90 minutes and then signing it over. Our guys are editing and reviewing that from a content perspective, as well as a sound quality and improvement perspective. So I’m thankful to the guys at PLI every day for taking the conversations that we have that are kind of muffled and getting them into a little bit brighter and more interesting medium there.
John: Yeah, yeah. So cool. It’s so cool. Just to hear, it’s swimming, you’re running marathons, it’s doing the podcasts, so many different dimensions to you which is awesome. When you think about it, you’re not just the forensics accounting.
Chris: Yeah, and, John, that’s something that I’ve always loved about the work that you do, is I always laugh when I first went to college and I said, “I want to get into accounting.” My parents we’re like, “What? Chris, we can’t keep you sitting still. How are you going to count beans all day?”
John: That’s right.
Chris: Think, over however many, 200-plus episodes that you’ve done, every single one of those episodes shows that it’s not just making sure the Excel spreadsheet is formatted right. We’ve all got these sides to us that make for a very interesting profession and takes away from the suspenders and the green visor and moves us to a more dynamic spot. It’s a testament to you, John, all the work that you’ve done, as well as any folks who gravitate to this type of work, both from the technical side as well as from the personality side.
John: I really appreciate that, man. That means a lot. I mean they’re out there. It’s not like I created this. All I did was give permission and let’s kick the door in. Because in my research, 92% of us has a hobby or passion outside of work that we do regularly. That’s not even close to 50 — how is the stereotype, this narrative, sits in the corner all the time and does work and goes home to do more work. That’s not who we are. It’s not even close. Yet we’re all acting that way. It was just enough is enough type of a thing.
Chris: Kicking in the doors is a good way to say it. Really changing that paradigm is great.
John: A little bit. Do you feel like people are sharing hobbies and passions more now? Maybe social media is helping with that?
Chris: When I first interact with either a staff person new to the team or we’re doing recruiting or interact with an attorney team that we’re doing work with and getting past that professional phase, first question is like, what do you do when you’re not here? How do I build a mental heuristic about John or about Steve or about Stacey, based on what they do?
It’s, I’m a runner, or I’m a piano player, or I do a pop-up restaurant. I like to cook and help support my sister’s catering business. All of those things is just, they layer into a better conversation you can have with the people you’re talking with. Yeah, listen, we’ll get to the billable hours. We’ll do the legal research. We’ll do the damages model. It sounds bad. I care less about that than hearing more about what you’re making tonight for dinner because that’s —
Chris: — that’s interesting to me. Maybe it’s because we’re taping this around lunchtime, but that’s where my focus is right now.
John: No, you’re exactly right. There are follow-up questions to that side. There are really not many follow-up questions to the what do you do for a day job? Oh, okay, got it, whatever.
Chris: I went to an American Bar Association Conference in Atlanta last year for white collar litigators. Hey, I’m Chris. I’m with RSM. I do forensics accounting and work on legal cases and testify and all that. What type of law do you practice? They say, “White collar.” I’m like, guys, we’ve moved beyond the general. Talk to me about the caseload you have. Talk to me about who you’re interacting with. Is it financial services? Is it — all those kinds of things. After two or three conversations, it was like, yeah, we should stop saying white collar. I was like, yes, let’s get to that next level of detail. Same side of that, on the personal side is let’s move past the regular assumptions and talk to me about what really matters to you.
John: Absolutely. That’s what I love about what you’re doing and that mentality. That’s fantastic. Hopefully, one day, you could just go to a conference and say to people, “What’s your ‘And’”? Then they’ll just say swimming or running or food trucks or whatever. Awesome. Because that’s where we can now have a conversation. The other ones are dead ends after dead ends after dead ends.
Is there something that you do to set an example? Now you’re at a director level, it’s the flip of that story when you started at Big Four. You’re the guy that sees people, and it’s cool that they know you as Chris and not the director. Is there something that you do that maybe people listening can put in their back pocket?
Chris: Yeah. I think now is a great time to stop being the utilization czar or the chargeable time reviewer and start to be a little bit more human, obviously for everything going on in the world. I laugh — I work closely with five or six people on the East Coast with our practice and got a message from one of my colleague, saying, “Hey, just so you know, I want to take a couple of hours on Monday afternoon because it’s the first time the hair salon I go to has been opened in three months, and the next appointment they have is in August.” I said, “Honestly, I’m a little bit upset that you would ask because I completely understand.” Just, if you get your work done on time and you’re not missing anything substantial, walking up the street to get your hair done isn’t an issue for somebody who has been locked in their apartment in New York City for three months.
It’s those kinds of extensions where, when I interact with people on my team or with people on the client service side, external RSM, it’s, how is your weekend? It’s not really just, hey, how was your weekend? This is the first phrase I’m going to say to you before I then talk about work. It’s, “Yeah, I remember you said your dog was at the vet last week. How is your dog doing?” Or you went up to visit your grandmother in New Hampshire. What’s the weather like up there? Just building out a more full picture of who you’re dealing with and doing it from a sincere level. I don’t have an agenda to understand what the weather is in New Hampshire. It’s just I get a better understanding of the person I’m talking to and being able to connect those dots.
It’s about opening up and, like I said, now more than ever, I think it’s important to understand the situations people are dealing with, outside of, if the analysis is QC’d appropriately or if the report is properly formatted. It’s more of, how are you doing? What’s going on outside of your office or outside of the home office, I guess, now for a lot of us. To know what’s really coloring people’s day and how they’re feeling and being conscious of that is a good way to check in with the people you work with, to take a pause, take a breath. We’re all trying to get through this together, specifically, but also just to be a good co-worker, colleague and human is really to look at those other points for those folks as well.
John: Yeah. I love that. It’s asking specific questions that show that you paid attention to the last conversation, and you remembered, and you care about them genuinely.
John: That’s such a great takeaway, Chris. That’s so awesome.
Chris: It’s how you build friendships. It’s not just colleagues. Maybe I never get hired by that firm again or that case goes away. I’ll always remember that Brian is the guy who loves National Bohemian Beer from Baltimore because that’s where his wife’s family is from. The next time I have one, I send him a text with a photo of it. We all laugh about it and have a good memory and a good chuckle with it.
John: Or he just really loves the letter B.
Chris: That’s right. Brian in Baltimore with Natty Boh, that’s right.
John: Right? That’s a lot. Yeah. This has been great, Chris. Before I wrap it up, sometimes people like to rapid fire question me. So I can hand the podcast over to you. You’re now the host if you want to fire away. You’re used to being in the host chair, give it back at the end but, yeah, anything you’ve got for me?
Chris: All right, I’m going to hit you with three of them.
Chris: East Coast or West Coast.
John: Oh, East Coast.
Chris: 100%. You’re a high energy type guy. I don’t see you surfing out.
John: I mean I will go surfing, but just cut to the chase. Tell me you like me or you don’t. Just I don’t need to guess. When I was doing comedy, we’ll get back to you tomorrow. Three months later, you’re still following up. It’s like, get out of here.
Chris: That’s good. All right, number two, a piece of advice you got early in your career that you think has helped develop who you are today.
John: Oh, okay. I started at PwC and they had a phrase. It was — and I made fun of it, to be honest, because it rhymed, but I remember it so I guess it worked. If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. I thought that that was a good phrase because you can’t rely on outside forces to determine what you actually want to go get. Go get it. Go do it. It’s also, no one else can do it for you.
I wrote my book. Sure, I had several editors and people that helped me and coached me along the way, but I wrote every word. You can’t just tell someone, “Go write a book for me,” and then write. You have to go do the work. I think that applies to all professions. You have to do it. You can’t just sit there and complain. Why don’t you just turn that energy around and put it towards what you actually want to have happen as the outcome.
Chris: I’m with you, and definitely good tenet. I hadn’t rhymed it before but I’m going to take that with me. Finally, John, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now and money and all that was not an issue, what would you be doing all day?
John: I would be on a Tesla rocket to the outer space. I don’t know. I always wanted to do that when I was a kid.
Chris: That’s awesome, kind of space game writ large for you. That’s awesome.
John: I don’t know. Maybe it was the space ice cream I got at the Air and Space Museum in DC but I just always love that stuff.
Chris: That’s awesome. I don’t know. I just thought of that.
John: It will be cool. I don’t know if I want to do all the training that’s involved.
Chris: I hear it’s not just like in an Uber. You don’t take Uber to the moon. It’s a little bit more involved with that.
John: I’m probably going to throw up, but I made it. That’s great, Chris. Well thank so much you for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was fun.
Chris: Always a pleasure, sir.
John: Awesome. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Chris in action or get a link to his podcast or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.