Chris is an Accountant & Golfer
Chris Hervochon, owner of Better Way CPA, talks about his passion for golfing, his college golfing career, and how his experience in golf has helped him in his career as a CPA and entrepreneur! He also talks about the importance of establishing connections with co-workers in a virtual environment!
• Getting into golfing
• College golf career
• How his golfing skills apply to being an entrepreneur
• Getting his first accounting job
• Why he feels it is on the organization to encourage an open work culture
• Building a connection in a virtual environment
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Welcome to Episode 439 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 in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. It goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and listening to it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures 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, and this week is no different with my guest, Chris Hervochon. He’s a virtual CFO for marketing and creative agencies and was listed as a 40 Under 40 by CPA Practice Advisor, 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: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.
John: Yeah, this is going to be awesome, so much fun. I play golf too, so this is going to be super sweet. You’re way better than me, but so is everybody else.
Chris: I don’t know about that.
John: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see. I have some rapid-fire questions for you though. Get to know Chris on a new level here. Maybe start you out with Star Wars or Star Trek.
Chris: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
John: PC. Yeah, me too. Yeah, I don’t even know how Macs work. I’m not even going to lie.
Chris: Neither do I.
John: If you put me in front of them, I would feel Amish.
Chris: I know. I feel ashamed to say it though.
John: Right? They have this cool club or something, this perception thing.
Chris: Yep, and I’m not in it.
John: Right. Well, me, either. How about jeans or khakis?
John: Jeans. Yeah, yeah. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Chris: Probably gotta go cake batter, I think.
John: Oh, okay. Nice. That’s a good one. Because it’s ice cream, but your brain thinks it tastes like cake. It’s like all the desserts. That’s a good one. How about more talk or text?
John: Text. Okay, all right. How about, ooh, this is a good one, balance sheet or income statement?
Chris: Balance sheet. That’s where the bodies get buried.
John: That’s awesome. Ooh, this is a fun one. How about a first concert?
Chris: Cold, the rock band.
John: Nice. Okay. Very cool. How about a favorite number?
John: Four. Is there a reason?
Chris: Yeah. When I started, I think, it was tee-ball, we were picking out jerseys out of the box. This was back in the ‘80s. We were picking the jerseys out of the box. My dad goes, “When I was — I think he said he played little league or whatever. He said, “I was number four.” I said, “Well, I want to be number four,” and then I was always number four.
John: There you go. That’s awesome. Very cool. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Chris: Real book but I mostly consume the audio version.
John: Yeah, I didn’t realize how many people do the audio version until when my book came out last year. People are like, when’s the audio version? I’m like, oh, I didn’t realize that there was a demand for this. It’s out now. It’s out now. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Friday. All right. Nice. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?
Chris: Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw. I think crossword.
John: Crossword. Okay. All right. There you go.
Chris: Tough call.
John: Yeah, it’s a tough call. Yeah. You could probably do them all at the same time. How about a favorite color?
John: Blue. Yeah, me too. How about a least favorite color?
John: Brown. Yeah, that’s a good one. It just sounds sad.
Chris: Yeah, there’s nothing really fun about brown, my opinion.
John: Right. It’s only there so then the color looks good, better.
John: Ooh, this is a good one. Since you’re a golfer, irons or woods.
John: Irons. There you go.
Chris: You should have asked me 15 years ago. That would have been different.
John: Right. There you go. A favorite actor or actress.
Chris: Favorite actor, probably Brad Pitt.
John: Brad Pitt.
Chris: Fight Club’s my favorite movie.
John: Oh, yeah. There you go. First rule, there you go.
Chris: That’s right.
John: That’s exactly it. That’s a great movie. Two more. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: Vanilla. There you go. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Chris: Favorite thing that I have is probably my book collection.
John: Oh, really? Okay. You have lots and lots of books.
Chris: I’ve got a lot of books. I’m one of those guys that’s got a stock in the nightstand that’s three feet tall that I just pick at, from time to time, that sort of thing.
Chris: That’s probably my favorite thing. Close second would be my truck.
John: Oh, okay, there you go. What kind of books? Are they mostly self-help business kind of books or fiction, or what kind?
Chris: Either self-help business type books or golf books.
John: Oh, okay. There you go. That’s awesome. Either way, it’s helping something.
Chris: It’s trying to. I don’t know how successful it’s been.
John: Right? That’s true. I’m sure the next book will help even more. That’ll be the one that puts you over the top. That’ll be… Right?
John: That’s incredible. That leads right into golf. How did you get started with that? Is it something that you were playing since you were little?
Chris: I started when I was, I want to say I was 11, yeah, 11. I was born in ‘84. Tiger Woods turned pro in ‘96 when I turned 12. That’s the frame of reference there.
John: Right. Okay.
Chris: I was 11, and we had a new driving range open that was down the street from my house where I grew up in New Jersey. My grandmother and my mom took me there. It was my grandmother’s idea. Took me there one day, hit a bucket of balls, loved it. My grandfather played golf ball when I was growing up, and my dad played a little bit. He dabbled, I would say, and just went from there. I spent a lot of time at the range, got some lessons and played a little bit with my dad. The guy who was the head pro at the driving range, he just really liked to help kids out. If you showed up at the range, and you wanted to hit balls, he would give you as many golf balls as you were willing to hit, one of those —
John: That’s awesome.
Chris: Yeah, it was awesome because it was six or seven bucks a bucket at that point. I was 11 or 12. I didn’t have any money. He was just really good to a lot of kids, a lot of my friends. You just got to hang out there, one of those keep you out of trouble type deals. Theoretically, it worked, I guess. Right?
John: Right. We’re talking.
Chris: Yeah, we’re talking, so I guess it worked.
John: Yeah, that’s similar when I started. Because my dad was in the military, all the bases have awesome golf courses. It’s, I guess, just what they do. That’s where our tax dollars are going, in case anyone wonders. Luckily, I had that resource, but, yeah, my grandpa played a lot more. Whenever we’d visit there, he was a member of a small country club sort of thing, and it was fun to — yeah, because these are people you look up to, and it’s something they enjoy, so then it’s cool to do something that they enjoy too.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Chris: It wasn’t cool when I started. I was like this closet golf nerd a little bit. Then Tiger Woods turns pro. Tiger Woods is cool. Golf is cool now. Now my friends are playing.
John: Oh, okay.
Chris: Yeah, it was a perfect storm. It kind of snowballed from there.
John: Yeah, well, Tiger, certainly, he made it awesome. It was fun to watch. He was young and energetic and had some attitude and some swagger, for sure. It’s amazing to watch one person just dominate. It’s crazy because everyone else that he’s beating is really, really good.
Chris: For sure.
John: Yeah. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, when you watch a Michael Jordan or Tiger or something like that, where it’s like, wow, that is crazy amazing. Then it went on. You played in college even, so obviously, you stayed with it.
Chris: I did. Played in high school, all four years, started on varsity, my last three years, and then I decided I wanted to play Division One golf and didn’t really get recruited to play Division One golf, so I went to a school that had walk-ons, open tryouts for golf. That’s Elon in North Carolina. Didn’t make it my freshman year, made it my sophomore year, and I played briefly. I played my sophomore year, and I red-shirted my junior year. When I got out of college, I turned pro, had no business turning pro. It was a brief moment in time as well. Now here I am.
John: Yeah, that’s super cool though, just to give it a shot. Why not? That’s incredible, man. Congrats. That’s really cool, the dedication and the work. The swing’s one thing, but the mindset has got to be something that’s the biggest differentiator for a lot of those players, I would imagine.
Chris: Yeah, that’s the biggest thing, right? Everybody can hit it really good. Everybody can putt it pretty good. It’s just whether or not you’ve got it between the ears to be able to shoot really low scores when you really have to.
John: Yeah, which is amazing. Plus, when you play in college, you get some pretty sweet free gear. There’s that.
Chris: It’s amazing how that works. Yeah, I remember getting my duffel bag just full, clothes and all that stuff. I always had really good deals on equipment. Now I’m paying retail, and it’s awful. Free golf balls. Now you’re buying them. Four bucks a ball, you hit it in the water. Well, there goes four bucks. It’s a totally different mindset.
John: Yeah, the accountant in you comes out there. It’s like, no, I don’t want to be — I should have done a Literature major or something that isn’t good at Math.
Chris: I guess I better lay this one up.
John: Right. I’d like to get lunch after this. That’s hilarious. That’s awesome, man. Do you have any really cool, rewarding stories that when you think back of your golf play, or even now, obviously you play now, some of your favorite courses or a fun memory?
Chris: I’ve got a lot of fun memories, so that’s really hard. Best memory is probably making the team in college because I didn’t make it my freshman year. I was in no man’s land, from a golf perspective. Just being able to prove myself, hey, I can go out, and I can play Division One college golf, whether it was briefly, super brief or not, that was an accomplishment unto itself. When I graduated college, I couldn’t break 80, which was totally crazy. My dad did not tell me I was crazy. He told me, you’ll know when you go broke, and you’ve got that Accounting degree. Here we are. I went from not being able to break 80, to being a +2 handicap in the span of a summer. I made a very, very small amount of money, but it was not zero. That’s an accomplishment unto itself. It’s not the PGA Tour or anything like that, but it was a small win.
John: That’s the thing is a lot of us, we compare to others, a lot of times. It’s like, just in your own lane. That’s amazing, man. You made money playing golf. That’s crazy. Everyone listening would cut off an arm to do that, and then they wouldn’t play any more golf. It’s just so cool to do that, and even, it just brings you joy. Even today, it does, so it’s all good. That’s awesome. I would imagine that you’ve gotten to play some pretty cool courses, over the years. Do you have a go-to favorite?
Chris: My favorite is The Ocean Course at Kiawah. In fact, I’m playing there in three weeks. Yeah, that’s a great spot, an absolutely great spot. I live in Hilton Head, which is not that far from Kiawah, and I was able to go to the PGA Championship this year. Took my son, and we were staying there on the 18th Green when Phil won. He was sitting on my shoulders. He got to see the whole thing.
John: That’s awesome.
Chris: Yeah. That’s just one of those cool experiences that you get from being involved in that world. It was really cool stuff.
John: Yeah. Plus, now, you’re sharing it with your son, the same way that your grandfather and father shared it with you. That’s pretty special, man. That’s pretty special. That’s awesome. Do you feel like, from playing golf or all the adversity that you’ve overcome to continue playing in college and pro and whatever, do you feel like that gives you a skill set the translates to your career?
Chris: I do, shockingly enough. Part of it is just that entrepreneurial endeavor of being used to just putting yourself out there and trying to figure out a way to make money, which, I started my own firm and started from nothing. That’s that same mindset. There’s certainly a skill set that goes along with that. When I was playing golf competitively, I was one of these guys that really had to hit 600 golf balls a day. I was the one out there with all the training aids and trying to perfect my golf swing and figure things out and do it in the most efficient way possible. I’ve been doing that for 25 years, but that has definitely translated over into the accounting world where I started building ways to automate things and putting controls in place, to put quality control guardrails around the work that we put out. It’s always trying to be more efficient. Those two things have definitely correlated over, and just that mindset that came from golf and applying that to my firm, that’s been a direct correlation.
John: Yeah, and that mental toughness. When times get hard, and it’s a busy season or a big project, there’s overtime or whatever; you’re able to buckle down and dig a little deeper because you’ve been through that before on the golf course. It’s just a different muscle set, but you’re like, well, I’ve done this before in a different way. It’s amazing because I’m sure that at no point at Elon did anyone tell you, go practice golf a lot because it’ll make you a better virtual CFO and accountant. It’s just cool to see how much our “ands” translate to our work even accidentally.
Chris: For sure.
John: Is this something that you talk about through your career, your golf, how excited you are when you’re taking a golf trip or things like that?
Chris: Through my career, I have, for sure, especially my last job. My boss played. He’s still a friend. We go out, and we play golf every once in a while. The first accounting job I got, I got because I was a good golfer, not because I had any sort of accounting skill set.
John: There you go.
Chris: Yeah, I went to the interview, and they’re like you, “You have no experience. You didn’t do any internships in college.” The partner of the firm walks in. He goes, “So you’re a golfer.” I said, “Yep.” He goes, “Okay. Did they talk salary with you yet?”
John: Nice. Right?
Chris: Yeah. He really likes golf. From his perspective, he’s like, well, this is somebody who can go and take — because we had a client base who, a lot of golfers, right?
Chris: It didn’t seem like it to me at the time. I didn’t understand it at the time, but looking back, oh, this is somebody who can go take clients out to go play golf, go bring extra work in, and it’ll basically pay for himself. It’s the way that it worked out. That’s how I got, basically, my start in accounting was just because I was a good golfer.
John: I’ve heard that from so many people on that’s how I got my first job or my first internship was because of my “and”, whether it was somebody I met doing it, or during the interview, it came up, it was on my resume, whatever. That’s why when I hear from people, they’re like, oh, I don’t want to share it; I’m like, well, you’re missing out. I’m telling you. I have so many stories of people that — because they can teach you the technical side of things, but your personality and who you are and the other dimensions to Chris, you can’t teach that stuff.
John: Yeah, and we forget that so much. It’s cool to hear that you’re also one of those. That’s great. Yeah, that’s awesome. I imagine that coworkers or people like your old boss, you have a relationship with them that’s maybe a little bit different than everybody else that worked in the office because you shared that passion.
Chris: 100%. Absolutely. When you get to go spend four hours, four or five hours, with somebody in a golf course, and it’s not in a professional setting, and it’s just a little bit more relaxed, and you can be a little bit more candid with what you’re talking about and how you’re talking and things like that; it’s a totally different relationship than when it’s just you walk into the boss’s office and you’re presenting something, or you’re going there with a problem or whatever. It’s just a totally different relationship.
John: Yeah, that’s a great point. Because it’s such a big deal to get out of the office because then you just become a different person. When you’re doing your “and” and they love it too, then, yeah, you just get into the real who you are mode. That’s when magic happens. That’s a good point, man.
Chris: That’s how you relate. If you work in a workspace where nobody has the same “and”, and it’s all different, and you can’t relate to those people; it’s just one more thing that you have to overcome. It just makes it more difficult because I’ve been in that position too.
John: Yeah, or places where they don’t even allow you to share it, or they don’t care, or they really stifle it. Because I found, no one else I knew did comedy, that’s for sure, but yet, people still asked about it and wanted to hear about it. Even if it’s not exactly the same thing as you, at least, it’s cool and interesting. If there’s nothing, there’s just nothing, then that’s when it’s just, woo. I’ve walked into some clients when I’m doing some consulting work to help them with the culture. I’ll walk in and be like, wow, this is crazy. No one looks you in the eye, and it’s gray. There’s not even color. There’s no air. Oh, my gosh, we’ve got some work to do here.
Chris: Crazy that places like that still exist.
John: Right? People come here voluntarily and work.
Chris: On purpose, yeah, every day.
John: It’s crazy. It really is. You’re there more waking hours than you are with your family. Why would you not want to make it a pleasant experience? It’s really, really crazy. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that space, to we want to know about your “and” and we want to know and share it; versus, how much is it on the individual to maybe just start in their little circle or what have you?
Chris: I think it’s got to be on the organization because if you’re not creating that environment, where it’s okay to share and where it’s okay to be yourself, then you’re creating something else that’s toxic. If you have a small group of people, and it’s just this little group, and then they’re seen as outsiders, we can’t talk to them because we’re not the same or whatever, and it gets very cliquish; that’s a problem too. I think it’s on the organization. That’s just my opinion. I think it’s on the organization to create an environment where that’s okay. You can bring your whole self to work.
John: Yeah. I agree totally. It makes it a whole lot easier, a whole lot easier. It’s not impossible, the other way, but it can get weird.
Chris: Yeah, for sure.
John: Back on my career, I guess I’ve been living this on accident since I started. Because when people say to you, what did you do this weekend, I didn’t know you were supposed to say nothing.
John: It’s like, yeah, I did nothing. It’s like, well, I drove to the city and did a comedy show. Or I went here and played this awesome golf course. There are follow-up questions to that. It’s cool, and it’s fun, and I’ll talk about this all day, type of thing. If they create that sandbox for you to play in, then, like you said, put up the guardrails and then go nuts, everybody. We live in such a permission-based profession, I guess, and world that we’re waiting for them to tell us we’re allowed to, instead of just go do it, man. What are you waiting for?
Chris: Absolutely. What do you do if you don’t understand where your coworkers are coming from, and you’ve got a work problem that you’ve got to solve together? You don’t understand their perspective. How do you work together collaboratively and do a good job? I don’t get it.
John: Right? No, you’re exactly right. Because when you hear people’s stories, how they got here, even some of their why, that, it’s amazing. You’re like, leave early, get the hell out of here, go help your family or your kid or whatever it is that’s going on in your life. Yet, we put up these facades, I guess, of acting like we’re — which, in the last year and a half, has been blown up because we’re all at our own homes now. For the most part now, obviously, it’s shifting. Yeah. A lot of your work has to be virtual, I would imagine, with some of your clients.
Chris: 100%, virtual.
John: Is relying on that “and” how you create that connection?
Chris: Yeah. I’ve been doing Zoom calls since I went full time with my firm. It’s been a little bit over three years at this point. Just ask people, how are you doing? What’s new? What’s up?
John: Yeah. Right?
Chris: Yeah, just start there. It’s really simple. Then, like you said, the follow-up questions come from that.
John: Yeah, it really is, it’s so simple, and yet we don’t think of doing that. Genuinely asking it. Obviously, that’s what you meant. Don’t check a box. Well, I’m supposed to ask you how you’re doing. Okay. Anyway.
Chris: No, no, no, no, no, no. Ask the question and then actively listen, and shut up and pay attention.
John: Right. Right. It’s really that simple. It really is.
Chris: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be any harder than that. Over time, you create these relationships. It’s not going to happen in one-hour Zoom call, and just automatically, you’re besties now. You’ve got to show up consistently. You’ve got to ask the question consistently. You’ve got to ask really good, solid questions that show that you’re listening and show yourself that you’re listening, and then it just develops over time. When you get a chance to go visit with somebody, make it a point to go visit with them. When you get a chance to do something with your team somewhere else — my team is totally distributed. We went to engage a couple of months ago.
John: Oh, yeah.
Chris: Make sure that you’re having those times when you can be present and together because that is different, too. That’s important too, but you can develop relationships over a video conference.
John: Yeah, you just have to set time aside for the relationship part of it.
Chris: Yep, just be intentional.
John: Yeah, that’s exactly it, man. That’s awesome. That’s so good and such great advice for everybody listening, a perfect way to wrap it up actually. It’s only fair though, before I do close the show, that I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, so I feel like it’s only fair that we turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Chris Hervochon podcast. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours. Whatever you’ve got for me, fire away.
Chris: All right, I’ve got three for you, easy ones.
Chris: Hot or cold.
John: I’m going to say cold only because hot just gets gross. You can put more layers on, but you can’t remove more. Once you’re down to nothing, and it’s still gross, man.
Chris: You’re probably in jail, in most places.
John: Right. Right. I guess maybe it’s humidity. That’s what I figured out. It’s humidity is the curse for me, so I’ll say cold.
Chris: Fair enough. Favorite sport that isn’t college football.
John: Oh, wow. That’s a hard one. I’ll probably say soccer.
John: Yeah, I grew up playing soccer a lot, and I still enjoy watching.
Chris: Oh, no.
John: — HBO or whatever you’ve got to pay for, or Apple something. Yeah, which we touched on earlier, I’m not cool enough to do anything Apple. I’m going to have to wait till it’s on some bootleg something or whatever, Netflix.
Chris: Not that you would ever bootleg.
John: Right, right. Well, I’ve heard it’s hilarious.
Chris: Now the last one, favorite non-major holiday.
John: Favorite non-major holiday, I’m going to go Tax Day because it’s also my birthday, April 15th, so be a little selfish there on that one.
Chris: Fair enough.
John: Yeah, when you’re born on April 15th, I think being a CPA is your destiny on accident. Although, similar to your pro-golf, I had no business being a CPA. No, just kidding. No, no. It was all good, all good. Thank you so much, Chris. It’s been so much fun to have you be a part of What’s Your “And”?
Chris: Likewise. Thanks for having me on. This was a really fun time.
John: Absolutely, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Chris out on the links or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to 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.