Brian is an Accountant & Hiker & Home Chef
Brian Streig talks about his passions for home cooking, hiking, and how he finds these topics to be great ice breakers in the office, and why he feels the tone at the top can make a big difference in workplace culture!
• Getting into cooking
• Getting into hiking
• How his hobbies make great ice breakers
• How much being relatable matters
• Talking about his hobbies at work
• How effective the tone at the top can be
• How going remote has affected relationships at work
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Welcome to Episode 467 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. The book goes more in depth into 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 now listening to it and writing such nice reviews on Amazon and then more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Brian Streig. He’s a tax director at Calhoun, Thomson and Matza in Austin, Texas, and now he’s with me here today. Brian, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Brian: Hey, John. Glad to be here. It’s a nice day, so I’m glad I’m here.
John: No, I’m excited, and March 2nd is a special day for you. Right?
Brian: It is. It’s Texas Independence Day. What better day to have me on your show.
John: Right? That’s higher than July 4th, for people in Texas. That’s as good as it gets. That’s awesome, man. I have rapid-fire questions. We’ve hung out many times, and yet I’ve never asked you any of these questions. Maybe I should have actually, now that I think about it. We’re going to have some fun here. I’ll start you out with maybe an easy one. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Brian: Star Wars just because as a kid, that was just the favorite show.
John: Yeah, definitely. I agree. Me too. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Brian: Oh, man, a PC all the way. No Macs at all.
John: Right. I don’t even know how they work, to be honest. I really don’t. I’m not even sure. How about your first concert?
Brian: It was Elton John. My mom took me. She was going through a divorce. My dad wasn’t going to go, so she took me, and that was my first concert.
John: That’s a legend, man. That’s great. That’s super cool. That’s awesome. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw puzzles?
Brian: Probably jigsaw puzzles, but I’m not good at any of them.
John: At least you’re honest, man. At least you’re honest. That’s hilarious. How about a favorite color?
Brian: Well, burnt orange, of course.
John: Right. Which leads me to your least favorite color.
Brian: Well, you know that maroon is so blah.
John: Right. I knew it was going to be a red of some sort. Either way, it’s red.
Brian: Crimson isn’t too bad.
John: Yeah. Right. Right. How about, since you’re a Texas guy, tea or sweet tea?
Brian: Well, sweet tea, of course.
John: Okay, but you have to make it right. You’re not just adding packets after.
Brian: Oh, no, no. You have to sit it out in the sun, and it has to just cook and bake into itself. That’s the best cut.
John: There you go. Yeah. Getting the regular tea and then adding packets after, it’s like, what are you doing?
Brian: No, no, no, no.
John: That’s not the same. That’s totally crazy. How about a favorite Disney character?
Brian: Oh, that’s a good one. Probably Mickey Mouse, of course.
John: The classics.
Brian: The classic.
John: Yeah, absolutely. There’s like a million now that they own all the movies of all the kinds, but I love the classics. Yeah, I’m all with you on that. How about a favorite cereal as a kid or adult, whatever.
Brian: I know that nobody else likes it, but Grape-Nuts.
John: Grape-Nuts. Okay. It’s always available. No one else is buying it.
Brian: Yeah. That one came from my dad. He would work late at night. I was set to see him when he came home from work, and he always had a bowl of Grape-Nuts. He gave me some of it.
John: That’s cool. Awesome. All right. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Brian: Income statement. That’s the only thing that matters because that’s how you pay taxes.
John: Right. You can’t pay rent at a balance, liabilities and whatever. It’s like, no, no, cash, the end of the day. Are you more of an early bird or night owl?
Brian: I’m a night owl.
John: Night owl.
Brian: I don’t do mornings.
John: Right. It’s a good thing it’s afternoon right now. We’re good.
Brian: Exactly. Yes.
John: We’re doing good, Brian. Actually, it feels like morning for you probably because it’s early afternoon. Just finished breakfast and.
John: That’s awesome. How about a favorite number?
Brian: I don’t know. Maybe four. For some reason that just always comes out.
John: Yeah, that’s a solid number. That’s a good pick. Yeah, yeah. This is a question that I ask now because it was something you brought up, so I feel like it’s only fair to turn it on you. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Brian: I would have always thought Harry Potter, but once I saw Game of Thrones, that was it. It’s Game of Thrones.
John: That was it. Okay. All right. Yeah, because we were hanging out, up in Breckenridge, when you guys were up here, and you were like, what about this? I was like, love it. I feel like if I didn’t ask you, it wouldn’t be right. How about when it comes to books, audio version, real book, or e-book?
Brian: I think the real book. I just like the paper and turning the pages and flipping through and looking back. That’s just me.
John: Yeah. No, I agree. I’m the same way, kind of old school like that. How about, three more, chocolate or vanilla?
Brian: Chocolate, of course. There is a wrong answer.
John: Right. That was awesome. You were almost offended. That was great. You were like, what? How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Brian: Yeah, Matthew McConaughey. I always liked him, growing up, watching his shows. He kind of delves in the political sphere and is big into UT and the soccer in Austin. He’s like a big deal there.
John: All right. No, that’s a great answer. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Brian: Oh, well, I guess my computer because I can take it, the laptop, because I can take it with me to Breck and work there. I can work from anywhere and still get my job done, but still be able to get out and go hiking or go do something in the afternoon.
John: Right? Okay. No, I love it. That’s a great answer, and talk to me, so, even better. There you go. Forget about the work part. Come on, Brian, get your priorities straight. No, but that’s great because, yeah, you can be flexible, and you can travel and still get the work done and all that.
Brian: Yeah. A decade ago, you were stuck to a desk with a desktop, and you couldn’t do anything like that.
John: Yeah, it’s hard to drive to Colorado with a whole desktop in your trunk, just pile it in. I guess you could, but that’s weird.
Brian: Yeah, that’s weird.
John: Right. Right. Yeah, so let’s chat. That dovetails perfectly into several of your “ands” of just, I mean, foodie, for sure is, I mean, on social media, you’re always sharing what you’re cooking or making, what you’re smoking, whatever, all of that stuff. Was that always something that you were into, growing up as a kid?
Brian: No. I grew up as a kid, it was open the can, pour in the pan, heat it up, and that was dinner. Just, my mom didn’t enjoy cooking. It was just something you had to do.
Brian: Yeah, I didn’t grow up thinking about food at all. As I got older and had time and met Kurt, we just started cooking a lot and exploring different types of foods, some Asian, some Italian, Mexican, like Central Mexico rather than just like Tex-Mex stuff. Go to a restaurant, like something, go home and keep working on it until we figure out how to make it, type of thing.
John: Okay. Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you have something that you’ve made that was a bigger challenge, where it was like, oh, wow, this is crazy that we’re even trying, type of thing?
Brian: I think the hardest is lasagna from scratch, making the noodles, making all the ingredients, putting it all together, getting it all ready. To me, that’s hard in terms of time-intensive. Each step is pretty easy, but it’s a big ordeal.
John: Yeah, that’s going to fill up your whole time sheet for the week.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
John: It is. It is an ordeal, and it makes you appreciate it more when you eat it because it’s like, man, this has been at least eight or 16 hours you’ve been working on it. This is a long process.
Brian: Yeah, the smoker’s the same way. It takes all day. Sometimes we’ll smoke two or three turkeys the day before Thanksgiving so that we have one for us to keep at the house, one to take with us to the family. It’s like an all-day affair.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome, man. Because you’re so invested in it, do you look forward to eating it more then?
Brian: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s why we almost never go out to eat anymore, just because we enjoy the process of cooking and making it and tasting it. We’ll always put our spin on it. There’s always like, some pepper in there, some red pepper flakes, jalapeno, serrano.
John: A little extra kick.
Brian: Yeah, we’ll make it our own somehow.
John: Yeah. No, that’s great, man. I love it. It’s experimenting. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and then we order a pizza, whatever. Or you just chunk it down, and we do better next time.
John: I’m sure you guys have it dialed in pretty well now.
Brian: I think so. There are a few times we’ve tried some Asian dishes that didn’t turn out quite like we thought. Maybe we put in a little too much garlic or put in too much of something else. It’s like, oh, I don’t think that was it.
John: Right. Well, you just don’t do it again, and we’re all good. Also hiking and just being outdoors, that’s a huge part of being in Colorado, especially, when you guys are up here.
Brian: Yeah. Colorado, it’s so pretty. There are so many trails. In Austin, it’s great. There’s hiking there. We go down to Towne Lake all the time. When you get up to Colorado, it’s a completely different scenery. The air is thinner. It’s more challenging, in a sense, in that regard. It’s just a lot of fun just to get out there, take the dog, let him off leash and go. If there’s a stream, he’ll go straight in and go swimming and playing around. It’s just a great way to get out and do something. It’s not as strenuous as biking. If you ever see Tony Nitti, there’s no way I could do the stuff that he goes down. I’ll just take a leisurely stroll and meet him up the next day.
John: Yeah, right. I’ll catch you on the way back.
Brian: Yeah, you can lap me a couple of times.
John: Right. I’m good with it. I’m totally cool with it. Yeah. Colorado is so awesome in that regard, where in the winter, there’s the snowboarding, and that I know you do, and then in the summer, there’s the hiking and the trails and all that. There’s always outdoorsy stuff to do. It’s funny because when I travel, people ask, well, are you really outdoorsy? I was like, well, Colorado outdoorsy or, because that’s a whole another level. My hands don’t have calluses all over them. I’m outdoorsy to an extent, but not Colorado outdoorsy. That’s the next level, live off the grid for who knows how, I’m like, no, I’m good.
John: Cool to look at, walk around in a little bit, and then head back home. That’s always good.
Brian: Exactly. Yeah.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome, man. Do you feel like any of this bleeds over into work at all, as far as a mindset or a skill set?
Brian: I think it does, especially open stores, especially in Austin, because so many people come up to Colorado to go skiing in the wintertime. That’s a nice icebreaker. Oh, yeah, we go up to Breckenridge, and they’ll say, oh, yeah, we go to Steamboat. We’ll start comparing stories and talking about car drives back and forth. It’s just a way to really break that ice and get to know somebody and what they like to do.
John: Yeah, and so many people from Texas come to Colorado. It’s wild. It’s so many.
Brian: Yeah. Especially off-season, most of the parking lots seem to have more Texas licenses than Colorado licenses.
John: That’s amazing. I totally believe it, from just being here for the last four years or so, four and a half. That’s awesome. That relatability, how much does that matter? Because it’s like, well, I’m getting the work done or whatever. How much does being relatable matter?
Brian: Oh, man, I think it matters a whole lot because then you’ve got that rapport, an additional level of trust that’s already just inherent because you have this commonality with somebody. It does go a long way of smoothing over something if it were to come up later on.
John: Yeah. No, I agree, but a lot of people are like, well, we get paid to do the work. We don’t get paid to get to know each other, or we don’t get paid to socialize. It’s like, well, you kind of do, actually, because that’s how business happens.
John: There are humans on each side of the table on this.
Brian: Yeah. You can always bring up food. Especially in Texas, you talk about the smoker. Oh, I’ve got this kind. Oh, you’ve got a trigger. Oh, yeah. What kind of wood pellets do you use? Oh, we don’t use, oh, no, no. We use cedar. There’s always something that you can get into.
John: Yeah. No, absolutely. Yeah, you’re right. In Texas, food’s always good. Then going to Colorado is awesome. They’ve been at least once, if they’re from Texas, for sure, once last week. I love that and how important that is and how crucial that is. I would imagine too, does any of the food prep translate to, especially the tax work, where there’s kind of a science to it, a little bit?
Brian: I think it does. If you think about making something from scratch, it’s the same as putting together a tax return. You have to get all the ingredients together. There are processes and steps you have to go through, or it’s not going to turn out correctly. Yeah, there’s a lot of similar thinking and processes as you do that.
John: Yeah. I just thought it as we were talking, and I was like, oh, wow. Yeah. Then you just add a little pepper to both and then everybody wins.
Brian: Exactly. Exactly. Or some Parmesan.
John: Right. Why is this in the mail? That’s weird. Pepper flakes. What? That would be awesome. Is this something that, I mean, clearly you do talk about at work, have you talked about, all your career, food or hiking or other outside-of-work interests?
Brian: I don’t think so. I don’t think, until I got to this place in 2007.
John: Oh, okay.
Brian: Before then, it was more, everybody was just robotic, going through the motions. When I came to Calhoun, Thomson and Matza, a lot of that changed. It was more open, and everybody did start talking about stuff outside of work and interests and sharing those kinds of things. It makes a better environment.
John: Is it the tone at the top sort of thing?
Brian: Oh, yeah, definitely. Rich Matza who ran the Tax Department, he was really big into that. It really made a big difference and filtered down into just how we all get along. Every staff meeting usually starts off with something about that. What did you do this weekend? What did you cook? What are you making this weekend? type thing.
John: Okay. That’s awesome. I love how you’re lighting up. I can see you’re smiling, and you’re happy about that. I’m like, well, can you tell me the latest tax update? Probably not as big of a smile. Well, you know what they changed last week? They changed it again this week.
Brian: Probably while we’re talking, they’ve changed something else.
John: They changed it back to one from six months ago. You’re like, we could have just left it. What is going on? Yeah, but I love that concept of how the partner that ran the Tax Department just, that was how it was. When you joined, you were like, oh, okay, that’s what we do here. It’s literally that easy. That’s what we do here, and then everyone does it.
Brian: Yeah. It makes a big difference. I think you can tell, just in the turnover that we’ve had, or lack of it, compared to industry standards and norms, that it does make a difference in terms of feeling welcomed and feeling like you fit in, type thing.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. Yeah, because I imagine, I was going to ask what the difference was from places you had worked before and then here, when you started. It’s almost a black and white, night and day situation.
Brian: It is. To me, in my head, it’s like prehistoric times versus modern times. You and I both came into accounting in the pre-modern era.
John: Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Brian: You just went in. You ground as hard as you could, as late as you could, and went home and crashed. You started the next day and did the same thing. Somewhere in the 2000s, people got smart and said, that’s just not the way you can live.
John: It’s not sustainable. Yeah.
John: For sure.
Brian: It’s like a gradual thing. My firm felt like an early adopter of some of that stuff, but I think over the last decade, you’re really starting to see it. It’s really starting to differentiate, and firms that are adopting it really do seem to thrive better than those old styles firms.
John: Yeah. The technology is certainly a big piece of it, but it’s also just the mentality of, we have humans that work here. We hired the whole human. We hired all of Brian, not just the tax accounting part of Brian, and so let’s shine a light on and celebrate these other sides of him that are cool. As long as it’s not illegal or taboo, then let it rip.
Brian: Exactly. Well, and that was one of the things that Rich always made a point of, is, if people had kids, that they left and went to games or recitals or something, because he said when he was working his way up through one of the Big Four, that just wasn’t something he could do. He just felt like he missed out, so he made a point of almost running people out of the office, if he knew that they had something for their kids that they were going to miss if they didn’t leave.
John: Yeah. It’s so great because it’s the opposite of what you hear from other people, which is, well, that’s how I had to do it, so you have to do it, too. It’s, no, that’s how I had to do it, and it sucked, so you’re not going to have to do what I had to do. That’s somebody that you want to stay with, and you want to work for. That’s a leader, not a manager. It’s not somebody you have to follow. You want to follow them. That’s cool to hear, man. That’s awesome. No wonder you’re still there. That’s great.
Brian: Yeah. He retired, so I try to keep up the same standards in terms of doing the same thing for the staff and reminding them, hey, you need to leave. You were talking about this event that you wanted to go to, so, go.
John: Right. Yeah, and then tomorrow, when you come in, tell me about it. How was it? Then they light up. They’re excited, and there’s that emotion in the workplace. I know you guys do a lot of remote work as well. Does that help keep those connections?
Brian: It does, and it doesn’t. We’ve started to lose some of those connections because we’ve been remote since COVID started.
John: Right. Wow. Yeah.
Brian: We actually closed down our office, end of May 2021.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, fully remote. Okay.
Brian: There are some differences. There are people that work for me that I’ve never met in person or just through, like, a lunch, but it’s never like worked in the office next door and could just walk over there and get those little chit chats when you go get coffee or go to the printer or something. We have to make efforts to try to recreate some of those informal conversations with Slack and Zoom and team lunches, when it’s possible.
John: Yeah. Definitely. Because in person, we’re humans, at the end of the day, we want to be around each other. We definitely want to do that to some degree, and you get to know somebody so much better just being around them for eight hours, instead of popping onto a Zoom call for 20 minutes, and then off, or Teams meeting or whatever it is. It’s like, we didn’t even chit chat or some water cooler talk, just that normal stuff that humans need, type of thing. It’s cool to hear that you’re at least trying to bring some of that in, when you can.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. It’s a learning process. There’s a balance, but, yeah, we’re trying our best to find a way to make it work.
John: Absolutely. Absolutely. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has a hobby or a passion, but they feel like no one’s going to care because it has nothing to do with my job?
Brian: Yeah. I just think don’t even worry about if they care or not, just start talking about it. Because if they don’t care, does it really matter? It doesn’t. They’re not going to fire you because you’re talking about how you like to go to concerts. The chances are, they’re going to talk about, oh, yeah, I’d like to do that too. Or I went to a concert for this band. Did you see it? It’s a very low risk type of a thing to start talking about.
John: Exactly. I love it, man. Yeah, because 99.9% of it is in our head. Then you share it, and then all of a sudden, it’s cool. Everybody likes it, and they’re now talking about it. You’re now the smoker guy. What are you cooking? What are you making? That’s awesome. You actually know who I am.
Brian: Yeah, and if you follow the tax Twitter group, there’s some people that do knitting. That’s actually really cool. They’ve shown some stuff and like, wow, that’s really neat. I would have never thought you would do that. It’s so cool.
John: It’s like adult show and tell, sort of, except for we have adult money, and we can do really awesome things now, instead of bringing in a Matchbox car in first grade. It’s like, this is awesome, type of thing. It humanizes you too. Especially when you’re a director level, it’s hard to remember, when you were coming out of school, what it was like to talk to a director.
Brian: Oh, yeah. I remember the Big Four, you just cringed when a partner director got in the elevator with you. You were the only two, and you’re just trying not to act like a dork.
John: He didn’t probably even notice that you were even in the elevator, which is what’s so sad about it. Yeah, they’re like, whatever. That’s awesome, man. Well, that’s such great words of encouragement. This has been super awesome to have you be a part of this. I feel like it’s only fair, since I rudely asked you all those questions at the beginning, that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Brian podcast. I’m all yours, man, whatever you want.
Brian: All right. American football or European football.
John: Oh, man, that’s a tricky one actually because I do like both. I guess I’ll say college American football. It’s very different than the professional. That being said, soccer you can turn on anytime, and it’s usually, although American MLS is not always fun to watch. It’s kind of frustrating to watch, honestly. They’re all good, but they’re just not the same.
Brian: It’s not the same.
John: Yeah, I’ll go college football, college American football.
Brian: Mountains or the beach.
John: People ask me that all the time. I feel like I’m spoiled from living in Colorado. I see the mountains all the time, so I somewhat take them for granted, I guess. That’s why I think beach because if I’m on a beach, I’m on vacation. I got on an airplane, and I had to fly there. I think I’m going to go with beach on that. It’s also usually warmer, usually, if I’m at the beach, that beach.
Brian: That’s the exact opposite of mine. The reason why I would say mountains because I’m getting away from the heat, and I’m getting to somewhere that I’m not around all the time.
John: I guess, I, a little bit, take it for granted, for sure. You’ve got one more?
Brian: One more. Hamburger or hot dog.
John: Hamburger. Easy one. I’ll get super confused if they make hamburger meat into a hot dog. I don’t know what I’ll do then. Hamburger for sure, easy, easy, easy. Well, Brian, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s so awesome to have you be a part of this.
Brian: Hey, thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Brian in action or maybe connect with him on social media or follow him on Twitter, 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, and don’t forget to read 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.