Chris is an Accountant & Worship Leader
Chris Brown returns to the podcast from episode 105 to talk about his growth within his leadership academy, playing guitar for his worship band, and how workplace culture is influenced by his experience in the leadership academy!
• Becoming a worship pastor
• Continues to play guitar in a worship band
• The culture at his office
• How the leadership academy influences his career as an accountant
• How he is encouraging employees to have a better understanding of each other
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Welcome to Episode 312 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and 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’s being published, September 15th. That’s in 11 days. You can pre-order the book now on Amazon, Indigo, a few other websites. We’ve got some really, really cool pre-order bonuses like a buy-one-and-I’ll-personally-give-one-to-your-friend offer. So, check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, and sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know when it comes out, when the launch party is, all the fun stuff.
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 Brown. He’s an audit manager with Landmark CPAs in Fort Smith, Arkansas and was part of the 2019 AICPA’s Leadership Academy, 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: Hey, John, man, it’s good to be back with you. I really appreciate you not just scratching my name off the list for a redo.
John: No, of course not, man. It’s been three years, and we’ve chatted a bunch in between, college football mostly.
John: Yeah, it’s fun to hit record and let everybody see some of the behind-the-scenes magic.
Chris: Yeah, lots happened in three years. You wrote a book, you got married, all kinds of great things.
John: Right? And you’re still kicking butt and taking aims, which is pretty awesome. See, I’m excited to have you back. I do have my rapid-fire questions, some things I didn’t ask you last time and before we go to a football game together, I probably should have asked. Here we go, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Chris: Harry Potter. My wife’s a librarian, and that’s her favorite book series, so, all day, every day.
John: Well, she’s got 11 more days so she’s got a new favorite book and then — no, I’m just kidding.
Chris: Good point, good point.
John: Okay, totally not at all. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
Chris: Razorback, I guess, man.
John: Oh, okay. I see what you’re doing. I see. All right, all right. If you had to choose — oh, this is a tricky one — brownie or ice cream.
Chris: Brownie with ice cream.
John: Nice. That was a trick one. It’s actually the correct answer.
Chris: Yeah, that’s the right one.
John: There you go. There you go. How about when you were a kid, favorite activity from gym class?
Chris: I went to a couple of little Christian schools before public school. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a gym class, so I just played — I played sports all the time. All I know is my least favorite thing was running sprints and basketball, those line drills, because I never wanted to lose so I always gave it full effort, which was probably, looking back, I don’t know if that was the best decision.
John: Right. Yeah, but you won.
Chris: That’s true.
John: And then you were also quick to the trash can as well. How about with my book coming out, are you more Kindle or real book?
Chris: Definitely audio book, yeah.
John: Oh, audio, okay. All right. Which mine will be because apparently people like my super Dave Osborne-ish voice.
Chris: Yeah, why put it on and go straight to sleep? It’ll be good.
John: Right. There you go. It’ll be bad and a meditation at the same time. All right. How about, do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Chris: I would say broccoli, but my wife figured out a way to do it in the air fryer the other day. It wasn’t the worst. It wasn’t terrible, so, maybe Brussels sprouts. I don’t know.
John: Yeah, I know. That’s a solid answer, Brussels sprouts, for sure, even in the air fryer. The air fryer is like the magic. I don’t know what’s in there to make it good. They put bacon grease or ketchup on it or something, I don’t know, but it makes it — yeah. No, I agree. I agree. Last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Chris: I think under. I don’t know. I don’t pay that close attention to it.
John: As long as it’s there, right?
Chris: First things first, yeah.
John: There you go. There we go. All right, all right. Yeah, Episode 105, three years ago, I still had no idea what I was doing. Now, look how far we’ve come. We talked being a worship pastor and how that became part of — within your work as well, with guitar-playing and singing. Is that still something that you’re a part of?
Chris: Yeah, definitely. Sure, we talked about my dad, my parents being in ministry and growing up in ministry, and they were both pretty musical. I started leading worship in high school and took that onto college and led worship at Arkansas Tech. That’s really where it took off, and that’s where learning how to be a servant leader and some leadership things came in that have served me so well as a CPA, maybe not in accounting, but leading a staff and leading the team around me. Now I’ve been at the church I’m on staff at, part time, kind of as that passion outside of work, for over 10 years now.
John: That’s incredible.
Chris: Yeah, so still leading worship every weekend and then also, I still play with some of the guys I played with in college and lead worship for different youth events around town. We have something here in Fort Smith called the Collective where all the churches come together and have worship nights. We do Fields of Faith for FCA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where we’ll have 1000 students from the high schools around, on the field, with full band and lights and sound and everything. That’s always just awesome time.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool, man, really cool. It’s also cool how it’s impacted your work, from the recruiting events that we talked about before with the cafe, coffee house, I forget what you guys called it.
Chris: Yeah, we do like a coffee house mixer where we’ll have students come in. We’ll take our training room and move everything out and bring in couches, like almost a Friends cafe. We’ll have a stage, and we’ll play acoustic music. I’ve had other people come in and play as well and make it seem like we’re really cool accountants.
John: Well, you are, man. That’s the thing.
Chris: Until the kids come back for their office interview, and we go by the training room. They’re like, wait, it’s not always couches and coffee? Oh, gosh, shoot.
John: Right, right. Where did those couches go? Wait, what?
Chris: They don’t even recognize the room.
John: But it’s like, we do it once in a while. Plus, you’re not faking the guitar-playing, not Milli Vanilli up there. You’re actually playing, and you’re really good. That’s got to be feel good too, be able to share your talent, other than being really good at debits and credits and the accounting side of things as well.
Chris: Yeah, I try not to brag about it, I guess, but it does feel good. A lot of times when the students come in, after we’ve done meet the firms or something, and they’ve seen me. All of a sudden, they’re like, oh, I didn’t know you did that. Yeah, it’s neat.
John: It’s not bragging at all if it’s something that you do, and you enjoy doing it. You’re not seeking attention. You’re like, well, I like to play music. I’m also decent at it.
Chris: Yeah. Well, and usually, everybody at the coffee house, everybody’s talking and the kids are focused on talking to our staff and asking question. So, really, it’s just me by myself up there, which is completely not like Sundays where everything’s focused. I enjoy it because I get to sit up there and just play whatever I want. Nobody’s really listening to me. It’s kind of therapeutic just to sit there and play whatever I want.
John: That’s true. Yeah. It’s like, did Chris just play Freebird for an hour?
Chris: Well, that’s just the normal length of the song.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly. He only did half of it, actually. That’s really cool, man, really cool. Do you feel like people are talking about their hobbies and passions more now?
Chris: Yeah. Man, our firm culture is such that it’s so refreshing to be able to have people that have those passions outside of work and have that flexibility and the ease to talk about it. A couple of years ago, after we did the podcast, we created a space upstairs called the loft in our office. Everyone had had their own offices, and we were running out of space at the time. We had an old attic. I’m talking about, just picture old attic filled with files, and that’s it, nothing nice about it. They wanted to fix it up and move people up there. I helped design that and made it a cool new space, very modern.
We’ve got four, five people up there now. They’re mostly auditors, and we’re kind of in and out. The culture that that has built and have a space where other staff can come up there and just hang out, sit on the couch, and we can talk and build relationships, has been really cool, learning what your staff likes to do and what they do on the weekends. Building that culture and that relationship is huge.
John: So much of it is just put your head down, get your work done and then go home. How much of a difference, do you feel, that makes, to have a little bit of breathing room to get to know each other?
Chris: It’s against the grain because it’s not in our nature to do that because, oh, I’ve got to keep up with every six minutes or every 15 minutes of my day. I’ve got to be chargeable. I’ve got to be chargeable. I’ve got to be chargeable. I can’t even take a bathroom break because there’s no charge code for that.
Chris: To try to change that mentality to, hey, it’s okay to take five minutes and go by some staff’s offices and ask what they did this weekend, whether it was, they went hiking or went played softball or whatever. Yeah, it brings real life into it, and I think that’s why we’ve done a good job of keeping some staff around.
John: Yeah, it’s for sure, where you just show genuine interest in them as a whole. It’s like, yeah, I care about your audit work that you’re doing for me but…
Chris: It’s got to be bigger than that.
John: Yeah, exactly. It’s such a small fraction of who they are.
Chris: Yeah. Love people. Encourage people.
John: Yeah. How much of that stuff did you retain from the Leadership Academy? Going through that, I know, and talking to you, changed the way you think about things as well.
Chris: Yeah. I would say the last year, year-and-a-half, just my leadership journey has multiplied exponentially. It started about this time last year, I think about my dad, and he always listened to John Maxwell, on leadership. This was back early ‘90s where everybody still had tapes. He had the box of tapes where you’d open the box, and you’d pull out a tape. So, we were listening to John Maxwell tapes in the car all the time. John Maxwell company came out with a podcast on Spotify, so now I listen every day to John Maxwell on Spotify. It’s cool to see how it’s changed from dad listening to tapes to now me listening to it on Spotify.
Chris: He had a couple of episodes on there about blind spots and talking about how people see the world the way they are and not the way it actually is in reality. That got me thinking. Then I got selected for Leadership Academy, AICPA, which was just an incredible experience. We started, before we got there, by doing this leadership circle profile. In essence, what it was doing was showing you your blind spots. It tells you how you show up in front of people. So, you do an evaluation on yourself, and you have a bunch of other people evaluate you, people below you, people at your level, people above you, people, just friends, spouse. Then it shows you the way you answered the questions versus the way they answered the questions and where are the gaps, where are these blind spots.
Chris: Man, that was eye-opening, to say the least, shows where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then just Leadership Academy as a whole was incredible, the relationships you make, the friendships that are going to be there for a lifetime, and the things you learn about yourself. Joseph Rugger, one of our friends, he gets on to me because I say Leadership Academy is almost like therapy. He’s like, it’s not therapy. I was like, it felt like therapy.
John: It’s either therapy, or you need it when you’re done. Either way, it’s all good, but it’s different.
Chris: Yeah, one of those two. That was great. We came back, and we did some stuff as a firm. We had a guy come in and teach on the Five Dysfunctions of a Team book. He had us do a website called 16personalities.com, and as a personality test, breaks it down into 16 different ones. We did that as a firm and then I also had my worship team do it, every person on the worship team. One night, I had them do that 16 Personalities test. I also had them do a test called the VIA. What the VIA does is it takes a bunch of different values, faith, hope, spirituality, humor, bravery, zest, fairness, all these things; and it ranks them of what are most important to you.
We did the VIA, and we did 16 Personalities. I had the worship team come in one night at my house, just, again, culture-building, relationship-building. We looked at each person, and we read their bio from 16 Personalities, we went through their via, and just eye-opening of, oh, that makes sense why So-and-So acts the way they do or why I lead the way I do. Learning from all that, just learning how to deal with people, based on their personalities and based on what they value, and how do I — back to blind spots — not trying to motivate people just by the way I’m motivated because not everyone’s motivated by the same things that motivate me, motivating them by what motivates them, their personality and their character.
Obviously, most people know about the Enneagram. The folks up in the loft, we’ve jumped into that, over the last few months. Just taking all those and marrying them has been neat, over the past year. Right now actually, as a firm, we’re doing the Seven Habits. Our managing partner, we’re doing Zoom calls with him about every two weeks, going through one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So, all those things, just lots and lots of content on leadership and different things over the past year and a half and, yeah, it’s pretty neat.
John: If you get the most personalities in your head, do you win? Is that how it goes? Is it?
Chris: Yeah, so you’re the winner, John.
John: I probably get 16. I got 16. They’re like, wait, how can you be… I’m like, I’m just really good. Yeah, but that’s cool though because that’s some next level stuff to the what’s your “And”? The what’s your “And” is very simple. What do you really care about? All this shows you that what you care about isn’t what someone else cares about. In the old days of motivating work people with more money, well, that’s not always the case. Maybe it’s some free time to go do stuff that you actually love to do.
Chris: I think that’s something that’s good for maybe people that are looking for what their “And” might be. Maybe they haven’t figured it out yet. The VIA and some of those things, I think it helps people realize, this is why I am the way I am because of something that happened in my past or something from these VIA values that’s really high on mine. Mine is really just a Hobby Lobby sign because my top three values were faith, hope and love. I was like, oh, so I’m just a Hobby Lobby sign. It’s fine.
John: You’re with a wicker wreath —
John: — around it. There you go.
Chris: Yeah, just put me on some barnwood, and we’re ready to go.
John: There you go, with a big brass star. That’s awesome, man. What’s really cool is most of the time, it’s, our hobbies are impacting our career, but it sounds to me, which it has for you, which we talked about last time, but now it’s actually boomeranged back to where your leadership stuff you’re doing with your worship team. It’s coming back around.
Chris: Coming full circle.
John: Yeah, you can’t separate one from the other, really, and one actually helps out the other, which is pretty fantastic. That’s so cool to hear. How much do you feel it’s people just finally getting permission to have an “And” or to go find that “And”, versus, do you think people are really struggling with that?
Chris: With the change in the workforce, obviously, with these Millennials like me coming in, I feel like it’s getting there, for sure. I think the new staff that I’ve hired over the past few years, I definitely feel that ability to, hey, I need a day off to go do this or whatever. They have that ability, which is great, and I think some of us older folks are getting there. We’re learning from them, too.
John: Yeah, yeah, because you want a day off to go do something cool too. It’s like, just get the work done and then we’re all good. That’s fantastic, Chris. It’s been so cool hearing all this and how much you’ve grown in both sides and how they’re helping each other grow even higher.
So, it’s only fair that, since I started out the episode questioning you, this is the first episode of The Chris Brown Show. Move over, John Maxwell. We’ve got our new show, and I’m excited to be your first guest. Thanks for having me on, Chris. Yeah, so, any questions you got for me, fire it away.
Chris: Yeah, it’s good to have you, John. I’m glad you were able to come on The Chris Brown Show, really appreciate it.
John: I poked myself.
Chris: Yeah. I do have some hard-hitting questions that I spend a lot of time on.
John: Okay, right.
Chris: Here we go. This one comes from my normal Saturday morning, what I ask the girls, waffles or pancakes.
John: Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. I’ll go waffles.
Chris: Beach or mountains.
John: Living in Denver, I see the mountains out my backyard, so I’m going to go beach only because it’s more of a novelty.
Chris: That’s fair.
Chris: When I say strongest Avenger, you say…
John: Uh, I don’t know who the Avengers are.
Chris: Oh, not a Marvel guy. Okay, that’s fine.
John: Well, no, I’m just not a comic book guy.
Chris: Oh, yeah, I’m not either. I like the movies.
John: Is that Iron Man?
Chris: Iron Man, yeah, Thor, the Hulk, all those folks.
John: Oh, wow. Oh, so the strongest Avenger. Yeah, I think you have to go Hulk. His clothes shred off of him. That’s how strong he is. Although Iron Man’s got the hydraulics, I guess he can do some stuff, but I think I wouldn’t want to fight the Hulk.
Chris: Yeah, I think that’s right. Actually, if you watch the movies, and that’s where this question came from. My wife and I were watching one of the movies last night, and he’s trying to log into the vehicle, Thor is, or into the plane. He says strongest Avenger, and it won’t let him in. Then the Hulk comes in as Bruce Banner, he’s like, welcome, strongest Avenger.
John: Oh, so it was a trick question. I nailed it. All right.
Chris: You got it. You got it right.
John: All right. All right.
Chris: A couple more. What color is your toothbrush?
Chris: Mine too.
John: It’s electric, but the ring around it is blue.
Chris: Okay, Lou Holtz or Charlie Weis.
John: Oh, Lou Holtz. That’s not even a close one. Lou wrote the foreword to my book. I also have to say that.
Chris: That was just supposed to be a funny question.
John: That’s hilarious.
Chris: There’s really not a choice. There’s not really a question.
John: Not even close, for personal reasons and all the other reasons.
Chris: Unless it’s a cheeseburger-eating contest.
John: Right. There you go.
Chris: I was pandering to your Notre Dame fandom there.
John: No, no, I appreciate it, man. I appreciate it. Well, thank you so much, Chris, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This was so much fun catching up.
Chris: Man, I appreciate it. It’s great.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Chris in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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