Nikole is an Accountant & Aussie Rules Footballer
Nikole Mackenzie, President of Momentum Accounting, talks about discovering her passion for Aussie Rules Football, how she applies her values in sports to her accounting firm, building a company based on flexibility, and more!
• Getting into Aussie Rules Football
• Winning the National Championship
• Picking up Golf during the pandemic
• How her values learned from playing sports is applied to her career
• How business can be a personal aspect of life
• Building her company based on flexibility
• How the organization plays a major role in company culture
• People are really interested in people
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Welcome to Episode 351 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”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop and a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, just changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really cool to see.
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 week is no different with my guest, Nikole Mackenzie. She’s the founder and president of Momentum Accounting out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and now she’s with me here today. Nikole, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Nikole: Hi, John. Thanks so much for having me, and congrats on your new book. I can barely get myself to write a blog post, so I go insane when people can write an entire book.
John: Well, thank you so much. It’s 200 pages, so let’s not get to carried away. It’s pretty overwhelming to be an author. It’s like, who’s an author? That’s weird. I guess me now. I’m going to wreck that party. I have 17-rapid fire questions to drop on you, get to know Nikole on a new level right out of the gate here. Hope you’re ready.
Nikole: Okay, let’s go.
John: Okay, here we go. Chocolate or vanilla.
Nikole: I like chocolate, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
John: Okay. All right. There we go. All right, maybe a mixture. Why not? Live your dreams out. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Nikole: I like crossword because I can cheat and Google things.
John: That’s so good. That’s awesome. Yeah, you can’t cheat on Sudoku unless you just flip to the back, I guess, and see the answer key. That’s a good call. How about a favorite color?
Nikole: I have to go Momentum Accounting blue.
John: Nice. Yeah, that is a good blue. I like that. How about a least favorite color?
Nikole: I don’t really have a least favorite color. I think highlighter — you know when you try to highlight something in Excel, and it’s that yellow? I hate that yellow.
John: Right. No, that’s a good call. Yeah, excellent choice, excellent. How about prefer more hot or cold?
John: Hot. Yeah, okay. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
John: Neither. Okay, fair enough. How about a trilogy of any sort?
Nikole: You know when I just started watching Game of Thrones, I’ve been avoiding it for the last, however long it’s been around, 10 years, and I have to have my boyfriend next to me explaining everything because it’s very complex. I hope to get an update on that.
John: Okay, I have not seen it, so you let me know how it is. You and me, we’re the two lone people that hadn’t. Now it’s just me, apparently, so there’s that. How about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Nikole: I always had a PC, and I just changed to a Mac in January of this year. I’m still getting used to the Mac, but I think I’ve converted to the Mac world now.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, impressive. All right. How about a favorite ice cream flavor, besides just plain — is it just plain vanilla or do you like it loaded up there?
Nikole: I’m a very simple woman. I like pretty much all ice cream. I have a preference for vanilla-based ice creams, so, anything with chocolate, peanut butter, mint chip. Ice cream is one of my favorite food groups.
John: Oh, for sure, and I love that you called it a food group. I’m with you on that, 100%. That’s awesome. How about, here we go, heels or flats?
Nikole: Flats. I have to be able to run at any time.
John: Okay, all right, all right. Knowing you, I figured you could run in heels as well. I just was like, well, why not? There you go. Here we go. This is a fun one. As the accountant, balance sheet or income statement?
Nikole: Income statement, totally.
Nikole: Yeah, that’s the exciting part. Every month, when I pull up my income, when I see it goes up; I’m like, heck, yes.
John: There you go. Yeah, balance sheet, it’s all hidden and weird. Yeah, exactly. How about, oceans or mountains?
Nikole: In California, I prefer the mountains. I would say there are other countries where I would definitely prefer the ocean.
John: Okay, yeah. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Nikole: I don’t have a favorite actor or actress, but I’ve been rewatching all of the New Girl episodes. I’m obsessed with that show. I really love that show.
John: It’s Zooey Deschanel, right?
Nikole: Yeah, and then the other guy, Nick, in that show, I don’t know what his real name is.
John: No, that’s a good pick, good pick. Yeah, those are good peeps. What’s a typical breakfast?
Nikole: I have two over-easy eggs for breakfast every day.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. You don’t have to think about it. Nice. That’s perfect. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Nikole: Night owl. I’m very slow in the morning. I do not like to work out in the morning.
John: All right, so those over-easy eggs are at like 11:30.
John: I’m kidding.
Nikole: Espresso, exactly.
John: I’m teasing. I’m teasing. How about, since my book’s out and you’re kind enough to comment on it, Kindle or real book or, I guess, audible book?
Nikole: You know what, ever since I got an iPhone, I’ve been terrible at reading real books. I listen to everything, either through podcasts or audible.
John: Yeah, yeah, that seems to be super popular. Mine will be out in a couple of months, actually, because people kept asking.
Nikole: Yeah, I’m waiting for that.
John: Yeah, and then you could double speed it, and then it’s super-fast. Favorite number.
Nikole: 16. That’s always been my soccer number.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah, that’s a great number. Well, especially in the Bay Area, you’ve got Joe Montana. That’s great. Perfect. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Nikole: My two Maine Coon kittens.
John: Okay. How long have you had those?
Nikole: We got them in March. One of them is already, like, 17 pounds. They’re massive cats.
John: Oh, wow, that is a big cat. Wow, that’s awesome. Very cool. All right. Well, let’s chat Aussie Rules Football. This is so cool. How did you get started playing that?
Nikole: I used to play in a kickball league in San Francisco. It was one of the kickball league/drink with your friends’ leagues. We used to get picked up at 5:00. We have Thursday nights. Everyone would go to the bar, a bar called Bar None. There’d be a party bus that would pick us up and drive us all the way out to Golden Gate Park. We would play kickball, and then we would get on the bus. It would drive us back into the marina district and drop us off of the bar again. We would just hang out, play foot club, all that.
It was a Thursday night. I was back at the bar, and one of the girls that played on the footy team, saw me. I think I was doing high kicks or something. She comes up to me, and she goes, “Hey, you look athletic and fun. Do you like contact sports?” I said, “Sure. What have you got?”
John: Right, like, right now? Let’s do it.
Nikole: Yeah, but this is great. She invited me to come to practice. I went to practice. We practiced out on the Marina Green which is right with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunset as were practicing is amazing. I actually have a tattoo on my rib of the Golden Gate Bridge after we won our first nationals. Our teammates got it together. Anyway —
Nikole: — I went to the practice, and I was like, oh, this is a cool sport. I played my first game. Immediately, the first play of the game, I picked up the ball, and I didn’t know what to do with it because I just started playing. The biggest girl on the other team steamrolled me, just absolutely knocked me over. I was like, okay, this is Australian rules football.
John: That’s incredible. Welcome to the club.
Nikole: Exactly, that was like a big welcome. Then I’m like, okay, I see what this is all about. So then I jump in, I tackle people. As a woman, I never had the opportunity to play football or any sport where I tackled anyone, so I just was like, this is awesome. Why have I never been able to do this before?
John: It’s pretty incredible. It really is.
Nikole: So, yes, that’s how I got started and just absolutely fell in love with the game. It flows a lot like soccer. For anyone that doesn’t know what Australian rules football is, the best way that I like to describe it is it’s a combination — if rugby and soccer had a baby and made a sport.
John: Okay, there you go.
Nikole: Yeah, so it flows a lot like soccer in that you can go any direction. Whereas, rugby, you can only go backwards. I grew up playing soccer, played in college, so my spatial awareness is very good with footy because it’s similar in that way to soccer. The way you pass the ball to your team is you either handball it or kick it. You can’t throw it. If you throw it, it’s turned over to the other team. You have to handball it, which is basically holding it with one hand and hitting it with the other.
John: Like a volleyball serve almost or like the underhanded volleyball serve.
Nikole: Exactly, exactly. That’s why it’s like, when you tackle someone, it’s different than, say, a football tackle where you’re going for the legs. Footy, you’re actually trying to wrap them up so that they can’t use that other hand to hit the ball.
John: Oh, right. Because as you’re going down, you could hit it to somebody else.
Nikole: Exactly, exactly. You want to get your arms around them completely, and you pull them down to the ground.
John: That’s definitely different. That’s for sure. I love how it’s like soccer where it flows, and there’s not a lot of stoppage, I guess, if you will. Yeah, it just kind of flows more.
Nikole: Yeah, exactly. It’s like nonstop action.
John: You can’t drop that you won nationals, just out of nowhere. What was that all about?
Nikole: So, GGFL is our club in San Francisco. There’s men’s team and women’s team. We play locally with each other. The women’s team is split into three because we’re smaller, and then the men’s team has seven teams. When we play other cities, we come together as one club. The women’s team, all the smaller Metro teams come together as one. When we play, there’s — if anybody’s interested in Australian rules football, there are clubs across the US, in all the major cities. Our women’s team, we’re actually the four-time national champs.
Nikole: It was so amazing. On the first time we won was, we took over — Denver had been the reigning champs for five years, and now we’ve taken over the women’s team. Yeah, that was absolutely amazing. As I mentioned, myself and a couple of my teammates ended up getting a tattoo after, to celebrate the first one. In the recent national championship, I actually was awarded Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which was huge for me.
John: Congratulations. That is you huge, of the whole tournament.
Nikole: Of the whole tournament, yeah.
John: You’re the LeBron of footy. That’s so cool.
Nikole: It was a real special tournament for me. Then since COVID has happened, we haven’t been able to play, so I’ve been getting really into golf to replace that. I get really obsessed with things and when I get in — for example, with footy, as soon as I knew that I liked it, before nationals, I obsessively worked out and obsessively practiced because I’m like, not only do I want to win the national championship, but I also want to get MVP. I had that in my mind before going into the tournament. Now I’m feeling like I’m doing the same thing with golf. I’m like, okay, I’m going to play five days a week now. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to be really good at it.
John: Right? Well, that’s the thing. Even with golf, for me, I don’t play enough to be able to get angry at myself anymore. Because that’s how I used to be, was all like that. Then I was like, I don’t do this enough to get angry at myself, so it’s more of just trying to get better within my own lane. Good for you. You’re all in on it. That’s awesome.
Nikole: I’m still not good by any means. I just like the the process of getting better at something and seeing that, yeah.
John: No, I agree. The phrase, “I enjoy golfing,” is so much better than I’m a golfer. People don’t really ask you your score. I enjoy golfing. All right, cool. Where do you like to play? Or how’s it going? It’s less aggressive, I guess, and less weight on you.
Nikole: Yeah, I played in a tournament the other day. I won the tournament, but only because I think I had the worst handicap. They asked me what my score was. I gave him a score. They said, what’s your handicap? I said, I don’t know. I just started playing, and said, okay, give me double bogey over or something like that. They’re like, oh, you win. It’s like if Italy gives the US Soccer Team three extra goals because —
John: Right, just because. Yeah, that’s silly because it’s like, I don’t know, my handicap’s 50, so it’s like minus 50. What do you know, you shot under par. It’s like, no, I didn’t. I lost four balls. That’s hilarious, but good for you. There’s that competitive side to you even in college, playing soccer, and I’m sure growing up, playing sports, obviously. There’s that side of you that wants to feel that. I’m glad that you’re able to find that now, even when footy is on hold for a bit.
Do you feel like sports, in general, or even team sports or I guess, now, golf or just this whole exercise of getting better at something, do you feel like that gives you a skill that translates to your accounting career?
Nikole: Yeah, definitely. Momentum Accounting is the name of my company, and the reason I chose momentum is because I wanted it to be sports-related. When I was first trying to come up with a name, I remember I was at dinner with some of my friends. I was, I really want it to be sports-related, all the values I’ve learned over the years, playing sports, and I was talking about how I’ve gotten a few more clients. One of my friends was like, “Well, it sounds like you have a lot of momentum going.” I was like, boom, that’s it.
If you read my website, the whole theme around it is the values that I’ve learned as an athlete and bringing that same mentality to the way that we work with our clients. A lot of it internally. Our team, my staff, we work as a team. All of our clients have at least two team members on that account because I really think that there’s a lot of value in solving problems with multiple people involved.
Also, when we’re collaborating with our clients, we don’t just take on any client. We do a lot of due diligence upfront to make sure that when we bring on clients, they’re a good cultural fit with our team. Because we’re building a culture and it’s really important that everyone works well together.
Also, there’s this other side of me that’s very much like, there’s a better way to do things. With my team, anyone that works in Momentum knows that there’s going to be a lot of change frequently because I never get satisfied with like, this is the status quo, and this is how things will always be. If there’s a better way to do it, I want people to recognize that and identify that.
We bring that same mindset to our clients when we start working with them. We’re like, here’s the way you’re doing your accounting, or here’s some of the technology that you’re using. Well, here’s actually a better way to make your business more efficient, get you out of the day to day work, so you’re not dragged down by some of these accounting issues, quality issues, so that you can be free to run your business and be better than your competition.
John: I love that, how it’s bringing that team mentality. I love how, on your website, the references to sports and your background and that mentality. Was there ever a point that you thought, hey, maybe I shouldn’t share this because it’s not like we’re doing sports things. We’re doing accounting. Was there ever a part that crossed your mind? Or was it the opposite, where it’s, no, I need to be sharing this because that’s our differentiator?
Nikole: I wouldn’t say that I had doubts about that, but definitely not wanting to scare someone off if someone comes to us, and they’re like, hey, I’m not competitive. I’m just trying to run my business. Then I thought about, and I’m like, I don’t think that’s the type of client that would work well with us. This goes back to being my authentic self and portraying ourselves exactly as the company is so that if anyone were to work with us, we’d want it to be a good experience.
To me, business is personal. It gets personal, especially now that we’re all on Zoom. We were already 100% remote before COVID. So, you’re seeing into our houses, we’re seeing into yours. You’re talking about your personal life. Because that spills over into your business if you’re a solo owner of a business, and that’s what you use to fund your livelihood, then that’s personal.
John: Very much. No, I think it’s great. I think it’s very cool. I just was curious on the mindset behind that and walking through that. I agree totally, it’s just a lot of people are reluctant to share that side or hide it or whatever. I think it’s great that you’re not only sharing it, but you’re leaning into it, which is cool. It’s cool to see, for sure.
I guess even before you started Momentum, like early on in your career, were you open to sharing that sports side of you, or was it something that didn’t really come out until you started Momentum more?
Nikole: I think that I was — I mean, people knew about it when I was at my old firm. I organized a software team for our firm. I didn’t share it in detail. It was just something people knew that I did. It was always important to me to have that part of me, and I would never compromise. I worked in public accounting. There’s obviously a lot of hours in that. I would never compromise my health and fitness for work. I think that it was important for me to be a good employee, but I made it very clear that fitness and this part of me is very important. It’s a deal-breaker if I can’t do that.
Actually, when I left my old firm, there are several reasons why I left, but part of it was because I wanted to — so, for Aussie rules, every three years, there’s an international tournament. I made the national team, so I wanted to go play in Australia. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that, while working at that firm. At the point where I wanted to quit anyway, so I was like, I’m just going to quit, so I can go and do this. Long story, but I didn’t end up getting to go because I had an injury, but what was part of it was I wanted to have the flexibility to be able to do stuff like that.
John: Yeah, and it’s something that’s super important to you as a person, to Nikole, not just Nikole, the accountant or the CPA, what have you, whatever title. It’s something where organizations, if they embrace that, which it sounds like you have with Momentum, then you have a better understanding of that. Your people just care so much more, if you let them breathe a little and get to shine a light on some of those outside-of-work things and get to go do them.
You’re on the national team. That’s something that — I mean, that’s a marketing dream for a firm. Hey, we have someone on our staff who is on the national team for the Australian rules football. That’s just a cool thing that it’s a shame that organizations don’t even find out or want to find out about that kind of stuff.
Nikole: Yeah, exactly. When I started Momentum, I just tried to build a workplace that is what exactly what I wanted. It’s mostly just around flexibility. Because, like you asked the question at the beginning of the podcast, are you a morning or a night person, I’m a night person. I work late at night, and that’s my best thinking.
At the end of the day, if everyone on my team gets their job done and is still creating exceptional client experiences for our client, then I’m happy. It doesn’t matter when you do it. If you’re traveling the world and working and getting your job done, that’s great. Good for you.
John: Right, yeah. As long as, at the end of the day, the output is there, I don’t care when or how or whatever. Just as long as the output’s done by the date that I needed it, then we’re great, sort of thing. It’s the micromanaging. You hire people that are adults and intelligent, and then you go and treat them like they’re a five-year-old. That’s just not going to get it done at all.
How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture where sharing is a thing? Or how much is it on the individual to maybe just start the little circle amongst themselves? Or is it a combination of the two of those?
Nikole: I think it’s a combination of both. I think some people just tend to be a little more closed off, if you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone and you try to ask them, and it doesn’t get deeper. Definitely, the organization — and it’s something as simple as having a weekly –if you have a weekly meeting, call it, starting the first 15 minutes with a question, or asking people how their week — what they did this weekend. Just those little interactions will give you a lot of detail about somebody’s personal life and allow you to understand what drives them and what their interests are.
Those little things that you can build in, I think, to add more structure of it, if you’re not one that naturally — there’s a lot of personality types of people that they’re not the type of people that ask, how was your day, right? How would you do this weekend? It’s just not natural, or maybe they don’t like it. If the organization can facilitate that type of way to add some structure to getting that information from people.
John: Yeah, exactly. It almost gives people permission. Oh, well, it’s a thing. This is a thing that we do, and we’re not going to get in trouble for it. Or they’re not trying to bait and switch. Let’s see who shares and then we fire all those people. That’s never happened. That’s never happened, but for some reason, in our brains, we tell ourselves that.
Yeah, this has been really great and really cool to chat about all this. Do you have any words of encouragement for people listening that might feel like they have a hobby or an interest outside of work that no one’s going to care about because it has nothing to do with work?
Nikole: Yeah, there’s one thing that I’ve learned, and I would say, even the last couple of years, is that people are really interested in people. There are things about myself that I think are incredibly boring because I know I do them. I’ll go up to someone, and they’re like, wow, that’s so cool. I’ll do the same thing with other people where they try to hide something, and I think it’s the coolest thing about them.
People are always trying to walk this fine line between, am I being arrogant by talking about myself? I don’t think people should be shy about sharing who they are because at the end of the day, if you can make a personal connection with someone, that’s going to last longer than any kind of surface level business relationship.
John: Yeah, I love that last part, especially. It isn’t bragging if it’s true. You asked. This is what I did. It’s not bragging. It really isn’t. You can start small, with a little bit, and then it’s like, oh, wow, and then they’re interested. Then you can drop that I was MVP of the tournament. Oh, that’s cool. You don’t have to lead with that necessarily, but it’s still cool and fascinating. Like you said, it’s the coolest part of people and yet people are reluctant to share that. It’s like, trust me, I’m going to forget you altogether if you don’t share this one thing. For the love of God, just do it, type of thing, and it’s so critical to do that.
Such great advice, Nikole. That’s awesome. Before I wrap this up though, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to rapid-fire question me, since I peppered you at the very beginning. We’ll make this the first episode of The Nikole Mackenzie show. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. I booked myself. That’s how it happens. Do you have any questions? I’m all yours.
Nikole: Oh, this is fun being on the other side of the table. I have a deeper question for you, not such rapid-fire questions. You’ve done over 300 episodes of your podcast which, huge congratulations. I rarely see podcasts that have done that many episodes. What has been your ROI on doing all these podcasts? That could be monetary. That could be experience that you’ve had, people you’ve met. I just want to hear about why you do this podcast.
John: That’s a really great question. Yeah. The podcast started as a lot of research, honestly. In What’s Your “And”?, in the book, there are 41 different people that have a quote in the book. I wrote the book and then the publisher was like, wow, these podcasts are awesome. Do you have any of them transcribed? I said, “Yes, all of them.” They said, “Wow, that would be so cool.” So we went back through and dropped in some quotes that support what I was already saying in the book anyway. So that was a big piece of it.
I also think it’s really important to share each other’s stories. Professionalism tries to tell us that there’s one way to be successful as a professional, and there’s not. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people on the podcast that are all totally different. They’re all successful in their own way. They all have different outside-of-work interests, different personalities, but they’re all successful. So I think it’s really important to show people that, here are people talking about their outside-of-work interests, and giving people that safe space to be able to do that. Because in the workplace, we don’t always have that. At networking events, we don’t always have that. In professional settings, we don’t always have that.
I think just creating that safe space to share those outside-of-work interests so then other people get to see, oh, wow, okay. Because sometimes when I speak at conferences, people will come up and be like, well, I heard what you said, but we’re still accountants. It’s like, no, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. I’ll just bring up the Instagram feed. I’m like, see all these people? They all have outside-of-work interests. You see how they’re all smiling? Yeah, let’s go to their work headshots, probably not smiling, necessarily. So it just is that.
The financial side of it is, there’s no sponsor. There’s no anything. It’s purely me. It’s a 100% expense from my side, but I feel like it’s an investment on the brand and doing the research. Also, just getting people to see, this is normal. Just go to the podcast, listen and keep listening because there’s all kinds of different people.
I don’t know if that necessarily totally answers your question, but, yeah, it’s significantly less financial, or it’s long-term, I guess. It plays out not in direct, money from the episodes because it’s negative, but in people hearing about it and, oh, we should have him come speak at our conference. Or now that the book is out, share the book with people and just get the message out there more.
Nikole: Awesome. What are your long-term goals?
John: I just want to shatter the stereotype. I want people to say, when they say the stereotypical accountant, they’re talking about Nicole Mackenzie, they’re talking about me, they’re talking about other people that are out there, the stereotypical professional. They’re talking about people that have outside-of-work interests, and the people that don’t have those, I don’t even know. It’s like, you’re the oddball. You’re the one that — you’ve got to step up. You’ve got to get something. I want just that to become normal.
How cool would it be if a little kid, instead of saying, “When I grew up, I want to be an astronaut,” no, “When I grew up, I want to be an accountant or an engineer or a lawyer,” just some kind of professional white collar nerd-type job that we all have or had, type of thing. That would be super cool. Just me personally, it’s consulting with organizations to build those cultures around those outside-of-work interests, have that be the core of your culture.
John: This has been super cool, Nikole. I appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And?” Thanks so much.
Nikole: Thank you so much for having me. This was super fun, and it was great to get to know you better. I cannot wait until we can actually see people in person because I love going to conferences and and seeing all my accounting friends.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Nikole in action or connect with her 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, and check out the book.
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.