Bob uses fantasy football to score big points with clients
Bob Lung talks about how being a fantasy football expert has lead to some fantastic business relationships. But he stresses it doesn’t necessarily have to be fantasy football, his secret is tries to show a genuine interest in others.
Bob is now a Controller at a company near Akron, OH but he started his career at Ernst & Young, so he’s got great perspective of both public accounting and industry. In this episode, we talk about how in 1985, he was keeping fantasy football scores using Lotus 1-2-3! And you’ll never believe the story about his time hanging out with Al Davis, the former owner of the Oakland Raiders.
Bob graduated from the University of Akron but definitely doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a CPA — which makes him the perfect green apple.
Other pictures of Bob
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John: Welcome to Episode 5 of the Green Apple Podcast. Thank you so much for listening and sharing with your friends. I found out that iTunes actually has us listed in the New and Noteworthy for Business Podcasts, how crazy is that? An accounting podcast is new and noteworthy — that’s nuts. I’m also excited because a few of you have actually emailed me about being a guest on the show which is awesome, I’m going to get all of you onboard, because that’s the whole idea. Share your story of standing out at work so others will be inspired to do the same. And this week’s guest stands out a lot. I know most of your co-workers claim to be good at fantasy football, but Bob Lung is a genuine fantasy football expert and we’ll get into why but first let me give him a short introduction.
Bob is a Controller for a company in Akron, Ohio, but he started his career with Ernst & Young, so he’s got a unique perspective of both public and industry. Bob, thank you so much for being on the show.
Bob: Thanks, it’s a pleasure to be here. Honored to be chosen by you to be a part of this.
John: Oh, shoot, there’s no chosen, man. If ever there was a green apple in the accounting world besides me, it’s you, Bob.
Bob: Well, because of that world I always say one of the biggest compliments people can pay me is when they say “You don’t act like a typical accountant” and I’m like “Thank you very much.”
John: Yeah. There are more people out there like us that are in that world that just don’t let it out. And so it’s like you need people to just step up and be like “Hey, we’re all normal.” There are some like incredibly cool accountants out there — rock bands and all kinds of good stuff. So it’s like yeah, but they don’t talk about it because it doesn’t fit that stereotype then you’re letting the nerds win. And we’re nerds too, but Nerds.
Bob: Well, I think the biggest problem especially in public accounting firms is that the partners would never show that realness in themselves so nobody else wanted to be different. They all would have come out and said “Hey, my name is blah, blah, blah. I know I’m a partner but I love gardening” or “I play bass in a rock band on weekends that nobody knows about.” I think that would make people feel at least more comfortable about it. “Oh, really? Hey, I play drums.” I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that they did it, it’s all going to come from the top-down whether it’s public accounting or president and vice-president of a company just being real, that’s what people like.
And I think that will be a lot better but most of the time they don’t want to do that because they don’t want to lose any “respect” from the people because “Well, I’m supposed to be the vice-president and I have to be this way and I have to act that way and I can’t be real because then people will take advantage of me.” No, they won’t, they actually might like you.
John: Yeah, because people are acting the part they think that they’re supposed to be as opposed to being a genuine person. Which leads me right to my first real question, how did you even get into accounting?
Bob: Surprisingly enough, when I was in 8th Grade, they had you fill out this thing, you take it home, you’re supposed to sit down with your parents and you’re supposed to fill out what do you want to do with your life kind of thing. And so I wrote down all the things that I wanted to do which was either be like a teacher or I was really into music so I said I wanted to be a radio disc jockey. So I sat down and my father who was definitely a very stern man, very cut-to-the-chase, there’s no “Well, that’s nice, son.” It was like “Yeah, no. Those people don’t make any money. I got this buddy who plays golf, he’s an accountant, he makes tons of money. You’re good at Math, be an accountant.” That’s literally how it came out.
John: Oh, my, wow. So from 8th Grade on that was your pipe dream?
Bob: Yeah. So I got into high school, they had like a bookkeeping or accounting type class intro, and I got like 102% in. I’m like “This is great, this is so easy, I can’t believe it. People get paid to do this.”
And then I got to college, realized it wasn’t that easy. But I got through, I got my CPA and everything worked out. But yeah, my dad pretty much said “This is what I think you should do. It’s Math and you make a lot of money” so I’m like “Okay. I like both of those things, money and Math” and that’s pretty much how it came about.
John: Yeah, that’s funny. In high school, there’s no cash flow statement and then all of a sudden you get to college, you’re like “Ahh…”
Bob: Or cost accounting or earnings per share or any of that stuff or taxes. That was the thing, I’m like, “Wait a minute, I got to learn this stuff? I just wanted to do the accounting part.”
John: Right, taxes. I just go to the guy that does taxes and give it to him.
Bob: Right, like to the geek down the hall. Come on.
John: That is funny. So obviously, accounting is a big part of our life and takes up 40-plus hours a week, but when you leave the office what is it that you spend your time doing?
Bob: Well, I had a wife and three daughters — and I still do, I shouldn’t say I had. So being a dad was very important to me so that was obviously the number one job I thought I had. But the one thing I really got into was fantasy football and it became a hobby that just really became into something bigger.
John: That’s fantastic. So how did you get into, it just started as like an office pool type of thing?
Bob: No. I actually started in 1985, so before the internet. I know there are people out there that don’t believe that actually existed, but it did. So 1985, one of my best friends from school calls me and says “Hey, I found this little book at the bookstore” –when you actually had bookstores, you didn’t download them. And he’s like “I got this little book and it’s by a gentleman named Cliff Carpentier and it’s called playing fantasy football.” He goes, “It’s pretty short, it’s a little paperback, you should read it. I really think this is something we should do for fun”, and I’m like “Okay.” So I read it, it was this little basic book of this is what you do. You pick players, you have a draft, and then you keep tracking the score and then whoever wins each week is… like, “Hey, this sounds like a lot of fun.” I live in Cleveland so we have the Browns, we might as well do something else because we’re not watching a winning football team.
So we started playing fantasy football. And at that time, I was working at Ernst & Young and so I was the one person who actually had access to a computer in 1985. So we had a little Lotus 123 spreadsheet that I created and put the picks on it and the standings. And so I did it by hand from the newspaper statistics, it was touchdown-only scoring, thank goodness, created this little sheet, put it in 12 envelopes to the 12 owners, mailed them by snail mail and then on Sunday morning my answering machine was just loaded to the gills with everybody’s lineups. And my wife will be furious, like “You have 14 new messages” and I’m like “Yeah, I know, that’s the rosters.”
And that’s exactly how we did it until the internet came into play and started doing the scoring and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, that’s how we started.
John: Wow, so you were the commissioner in the beginning?
Bob: And I’m still the commissioner. We still have that league, 30-something years later, I’m still the commissioner and we still do touchdown-only, we still do the exact scoring from the day we started just for old school purposes. We did turn it into more of an auction draft, we have salaries and keepers and all that kind of stuff to make a little more fun, but nobody ever wanted to change the scoring method because we wanted to stay true to our roots, we said. And we still have eight of the original twelve guys in the league.
John: That is fantastic, and you still have your Lotus notes going or have you upgraded?
Bob: Yeah. I kind of use this thing now called Microsoft Office Excel but you know…
John: Yeah, never heard of it. No, that’s so fantastic, that is super cool. So is there any, by doing this hobby, any skillset that you developed that helped that work?
Bob: Well the one thing that and to kind of expand on what happened… So I did that so like 1985. 2002, my team didn’t make it to the playoffs even though I had the league MVP running back, Shaun Alexander, and what I realized Shaun scored all of his touchdowns in like four games. And I’m like “Wait a minute, how did I have the MVP, he scored all these touchdowns, I led the league in scoring and my team didn’t make the playoffs.” It was seven and seven during the fourteen weeks.
And what I realized was he wasn’t very consistent. And so I created this concept, with my Excel background I created my own calculation of how to calculate something called the quality game factor which helps identify how consistent they are by getting over certain thresholder each week. If they earn so many points they earn a quality game, more quality games, more consistent you are, more consistent you are the better off you are to have those players on your team versus the inconsistent guys that kind of go all over the place. And that’s what I created.
And since 2002, I’ve been writing about that, I’ve been I guess national fantasy football expert. I’ve written for many sites, I now write for Fantasy Sports Warehouse, and I have my own, you can go in, put your own scoring method in and it tells you who the most consistent players are in your league, in your scoring method, in your division, whatever. And that’s what I’ve been writing for years, I’ve been invited to National Fantasy Expert Drafts, I was just in New Jersey a couple Saturdays ago for a big national draft, and so that became my bigger-than-life hobby.
John: I love it. And you just wrote a book, as well?
Bob: Yeah, I have a book, 2015 Fantasy Football Consistency Guide. So it’s kind of like a fantasy football magazine you would buy on the shelf but everything is written around the consistency format, all the player profiles are based on consistency, not just their normal stats. So it gives a little bit of a different read than the typical…
And I would say, I’m kind of like the fries to the main meal here. So you have your team, you know how to pick players, add this consistency to it and actually improve your team if you’re struggling in the past. So that’s where it all came about. And like I said, I kind of took that to work and not to brag, but it gave me a conversation. So when I was working at accounting firms and I would go to lunch with the bankers and the lawyers and people that I needed to meet with on a normal basis just to get new business, everybody remembered me, like you said before, not the fact that I was a CPA, not the fact that I worked for this accounting firm or that accounting firm, but I’m the national fantasy football expert.
My lunch schedule July and August every year was jam-packed because everybody would call me and say, “Hey, I have my draft coming up. Can we meet for lunch on Thursday? I need your sheets, I need your books, I need your updates.” And it was hilarious, it was fun. And then from that I think I ended up getting $100,000 in new clients within like a year-and-a-half because everybody would remember me when they were like “Hey, I got this client and I remembered you. By the way, the draft’s next week so we got to go to lunch. But I got this new client that we want you to take a look at, I think they could use your help or the firm’s help.” And that’s kind of where it all came about.
And so it wasn’t just the typical talk at work, it was more just again, that was an identifier that they had with me, that they remembered me a lot quicker than they would any other CPA because of that background, not because I was a good CPA.
John: Right. That is fantastic, that’s so great how you just created such stronger bonds with clients and especially over those two months. It’s almost like everyone asking me for tax advice in February and March except for you actually know what you’re talking about and I’m making stuff up.
Bob: Oh, I might be making stuff over when it comes to taxes and accounting, too.
John: Right, right. So you consciously brought this up to the clients, that was a conscious decision that you thought would be a good way to differentiate —
Bob: Like I said, or the referral sources too, and it may just be something as subtle as talking and just saying, “Hey, do you play fantasy football?” And if they said, no, I wouldn’t even say anymore because my thought would be I wouldn’t want to make this into an awkward moment like “Oh, they don’t get it.” But if they said yes, I’d be like “Oh, how’s your team doing?” I wouldn’t just throw it at them and bury them with it, it’s just more like a casual conversation because it’s something to talk about other than accounting.
In fact, they kind of laugh at the new NFL commercials or NFL Fantasy where the two guys are talking, like Randall Cobb and somebody, and then they’re like “Well, without fantasy football there’s nothing to talk about”, I kind of felt that way after a while, like “How’s your cat?”
John: Right, there’s only so many weather questions and–
Bob: Yeah, exactly.
John: That’s so true, man, that’s so true. And doing the Football Hall of Fame stuff, how did you get into that?
Bob: That was just, my one buddy in ’88 got on it because he worked at the company that the transportation volunteer director was in it and she said to him, “Hey, we need some people to drive.” So he drove for a year or so and then in 1990 was the year that they expanded it from five people and got it to seven. And so they had all these need more drivers in that so I got on it and ever since we’ve just getting at it and all of our friends. And now 26 years later, I’m driving and trying this.
This year I had Charles Haley and had a blast with him, it was a lot of fun. I got to meet Tim Brown, so that was cool. I was a Raiders fan kind of on the side as well. So being he was Raiders and an Irish guy, Tim Brown was super cool, got to meet him. And it’s just neat to hang out with those guys. I mean, 90% of them are really nice people, they just are overwhelmed by the fans and that’s why they act the way they do. But every once in a while, one of them will be a dick, just be arrogant as all get out — Dan Marino, John Elway, I’ll go on.
John: Sure, yeah. And it’s a shame when you hear stories like that because it just ruins it.
Bob: Yeah, because you think “Man, they’re the coolest people ever” and then like “No, they’re not.” But then every once in a while, you get people that actually are cool, like one of my favorite people I’ve used to drive I’ve driven a couple of times was Al Davis before he passed. And as a Raiders fan, that was obviously just a huge honor like, “Oh, my God, I could drive…” And he was a different breed. Like when I came the first time to pick him up at the airport, there were four cops standing there. And I walked up to him, I go, “Why are you guys here?” And they’re like “Oh, are you driving Al Davis?” “I’m his driver for the weekend” and they’re like “Oh, we’re his police escort for the weekend.” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Well, Mr. Davis doesn’t go anywhere without a police escort, anywhere with a police escort.” So I never stopped for a stoplight the entire weekend.
John: Oh, wow, that’s so awesome. And then the next Monday you had to go back to work.
Bob: And so when he landed, these people came out and were like “Hi, we’re Mr. Davis’ assistants, so he’ll be coming out and here’s what we want to tell you is that you are not to speak to him until he speaks to you.” I’m like “Okay.” So he gets in the car and we drive a while then he finally kind of says, “How close is the Lyons to here?” and I go “That’s 20 minutes out Route 62.” He says, “Oh! I think there’s a friend of mine that I graduated from Heidelberg with and he lives in the Lyons. Can you figure out if he still lives there?” I go, “Yeah, I can look it up. Give me the name and I’ll look in the phone book or internet and I’ll call the number and see if it’s the same guy.” So he goes, “Oh, okay. Well, that would be great.” And that’s all he said.
So I went and I looked him up and I found the guy and I called the phone number. And I’m like “Is this Bill Smith who went to Heidelberg with Al Davis?”, “Yes, it is.” I’m like “Well, Mr. Davis is in town and he would like to talk to you. Would you be okay with him calling you?” “Absolutely, I’d love to hear from him.” Went upstairs, knocked on the door, I’m like “Mr. Davis, here’s Mr. Smith’s phone number. I just spoke with him, he is the man you went to Heidelberg with and he’d love to meet with you.” At that point I became Al Davis’s best friend all weekend. He hugged me, thanked me, “I can’t believe you did that for me, that’s awesome” and I’m like “Oh, yeah, sure, it took like 30 seconds.” But if I would have said, “Can I have part ownership in Raiders?” I might have gotten it at that point which I wish I would because Mark Davis is an idiot, he can’t run the team.
John: Right, can you fire Lane Kiffin, back in the day.
Bob: Al Davis was super nice, he tried to hand me money all week and I told him I wouldn’t take it. And he said, “Well, you can’t just do this for me and me not pay you back, it’s now how I work.” I said, “Mr. Davis, I’m a Raiders fan, you send me anything with the logo on it, I’m good.” He sent me a box, literally it was like two feet by two feet, filled with shirts, jackets, hats, anything you can think of with a Raiders insignia on it, he sent it, man. I have it still to this day a lot of the stuff. Like I said, he was super nice, he was just different, and once you got to him you just kind of realize how he was, because he was a cool guy but–
John: That’s right. They were like “We’ll put the accountant with him and that will work perfectly.”
John: So all of this, especially the fantasy football, has benefitted your career long-term. So is this something that you actually put on your résumé when you’re interviewing for the jobs?
Bob: I do not because not everybody is into fantasy football. There are certainly people that appreciate it, there are certainly people that enjoy the fact that and people would say “Wow! I can’t go out there and have a conversation with bankers, I don’t feel comfortable” or “Man, you run a lot of business. We really struggle finding people that can do that. What is your secret?” And I go, “Well, to be honest with you, we don’t talk that much about work, it’s more about the relationship building” and part of that relationship building for me was talking about fantasy football if they played.
But we’d also talk about kids going to college or whatever else we had in common. So it’s really about relationship as it should be regardless of your profession. And if you had a little bit of an added bonus that you can throw in there that somebody’s interested in, well then, good. Maybe the person I’m talking to does at home mechanic stuff and I go, “Geez, I need my brakes done” and that may be a positive for me. So I always feel like everybody has something that they can share and bring to the table. It may not be something that interests you but appear interested and they’re interested in your stuff and you never know. Because just like everybody says, you don’t want to ever burn bridges because you just never know when the person may be a big help to you.
John: Right, absolutely. And so I’m curious, before you got into the fantasy football, was there ever a time where you were reluctant to talk about it at work?
Bob: Well, interesting enough, since I started in ’85, that’s when I graduated from college, so that’s kind of when I entered the working world. Now, from ’85 to probably ’95 I didn’t talk about it much because it wasn’t that big. We were doing fantasy football before fantasy football was cool.
John: Yeah, it was when it was still Dungeons and Dragons.
Bob: Exactly. And that’s kind of how people looked at it, like oh, you play football, you’re a nerd. Now 40 million people play fantasy football.
John: Yeah. So I guess you were obviously a little reluctant to share that. Was there something else that you shared or you were just pretty much new in the work force, trying to be the best accountant you could be and that involved not really talking a lot about outside of work stuff.
Bob: Well, it’s one of those things where you just kind of read each person and each client. Certainly had those clients that were very stuffy, that maybe came from the public accounting world and their personality have changed, so basically they had none. And so you kind of had to watch, you almost have to scale it up or down to the level of the people you’re talking to. And I feel like I still do that because I think if you don’t, you either overwhelm them or you bore them to death or something. Again, if I ask a question about fantasy football and they don’t play, I don’t even bring it up, I don’t say anything about it, I just move on and go “Hey, how about the weather” or “How about the Browns” or “How about the Indians” or whatever local team is playing. And that’s about the extent of it. I can tell pretty quickly whether they’re a conversational type person or not. If they’re direct you just kind of have to say, “Oh, well let me get back to work and I’ll let you get back to work because that’s what you appear to love to do and I’ll go do my over here and do mine.”
John: Exactly. That’s awesome. So I guess there are a lot of accountants that are out there listening that have hobbies that maybe are reluctant to share it at work at all, so do you have any words of encouragement for these people to maybe reap the rewards that your career has had from opening up about the fantasy football.
Bob: I think with anything you just kind of have to slowly put it in to the conversation and kind of see what the other person… If your hobby is gardening, if your hobby is woodwork or something like that, bring it up, or ask them first. “Hey, you got any hobbies? What do you like to do outside of work?” Oh, I’m into woodworking”, “Oh, great! Well, so am I.” If you don’t ask… and people will share, you just have to ask them.
Now a lot of people like to share and I think if you just show a sincere interest in them, one that helps them feel more comfortable with you because you at least feels like you care and then you learn something about them. And again, maybe you won’t mean anything at that point, maybe you can say “My wife’s an engineer” or something like that, well maybe their kid’s going into engineering school and you might say, “Oh, they hire interns.” That actually happened with me. I got my daughter as an intern because I found out that they work for a company and they had engineering and “Oh, you’re looking for interns or something?” “Yeah”, “Oh, my daughter’s one.”
It’s just one of those things, it’s kind of a back and forth but I think you just pitch anyone. If you try to be fake, more often people figure out you’re fake. And I think by being genuine even if it isn’t exactly what they do for a living or a hobby or whatever the case may be, just being genuine, I think that’s what people appreciate. Just stop trying to be this fake super CPA that you may or may not be, and if you are, then great for you. You’ll be a partner someday and never see your children.
John: Because there are a couple million super CPAs out there so good for you, buddy, you’re not the only one. Yeah. And that’s fantastic because you’re talking about creating those relationships on a human level as opposed to more of a transactional work-based level. And like you said, if you just show genuine interest in people and yeah, it might not be something that you do but at least you get to know that person better and what makes them tick and what they enjoy and maybe it is something that dovetails perfectly with you and what your family’s doing or what have you. And so that’s such a great example, that’s so perfect.
So I feel like we’ve gotten to know Bob pretty well but I like to feel like we don’t really get to know you until we do my rapid-fire 17 questions. So I’m going to shoot 17 questions at you really fast and just top of mind what hits you.
So number one, PC or Mac?
Bob: Oh, PC.
John: Balance sheet or income statement.
Bob: Income statement. I want to know how much money I’m making.
John: There you go. Favorite adult beverage?
Bob: Captain Morgan and diet Coke.
John: There you go. Favorite cereal?
Bob: Ooh, I don’t eat cereal anymore. I’ll go back to being a kid, I’ll say Froot Loops.
John: There you go. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Bob: Star Wars.
John: Jeans or khakis?
John: Favorite number?
John: Oh, what’s that from?
Bob: Twenty-five is always my number I wore on whatever sports I played. I had two favorite players growing up, one was Fred Biletnikoff for the Raiders, played wide receiver. He was number 25. And then my favorite baseball player was Jim Thome, he played for the Indians, and he was 25. So 25 is always anytime I play like men’s softball or baseball league or whatever, I always ask for 25 so that’s always been mu number.
John: All right. I was hoping it was going to be Rocket Ismail but you got good ones, too.
Bob: It could be.
John: No, no, no. Favorite sports team?
Bob: I have to say the Browns just because they’re my hometown team.
John: You got to hang in there.
Bob: I will, someday.
John: Boxers or briefs?
Bob: That’s a good question, I don’t wear either. I wear like those kinds of undershorts, Under Armour type shorts.
John: Sure, the boxer briefs, or whatever.
Bob: Yeah, I don’t know what they call it now. I think they call them sports brief or something like that.
John: Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Bob: Crossword puzzle.
John: Movie that makes you cry?
Bob: Probably Field of Dreams, the scene with the dad and the son. I lost my dad at 21 so that’s one that always kind of hits me.
John: It’s a solid answer. Favorite color?
John: Least favorite color?
John: Favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Favorite comedian?
Bob: John Garrett.
John: Oh, good answer! Pens or pencils?
John: And favorite thing you own?
Bob: Well, that’s a tough one.
John: Maybe that championship belt and your picture?
Bob: Yeah, but I didn’t win it yet. And the only reason I’m saying this is I just did Indians Fantasy Camp where you go and you become an Indian and you play for a week at their place in Arizona and my team won the championship. We actually got to play in Goodyear park, under the lights, play-by-play was done by Rick Manning, it was videotaped. And we won the championship, and I had this championship trophy in my basement. Even though I didn’t buy it, that’s pretty special to me.
John: No, no, I think that’s super cool, man, and I think that Fantasy Camp isn’t cheap so you definitely bought it.
Bob: No, you’re right, I definitely bought it. I had to earn it but I paid for it to get to that point.
John: That is so great, man. And I will let you get back to setting your roster for this Sunday and thank you so much, Bob, for joining me.
Bob: Thank you, John, appreciate it.
John: That was so great. I really hope you enjoyed hearing what Bob had to share. And visit greenapplepodcast.com to see links to Bob’s fantasy football book and blog posts and see some cool pictures, even him hanging out with John Madden at the NFL Hall of Fame. And from there you can also let me know if you or maybe an accountant you know might be a good guest for a future episode, because the best way to make this podcast great is to share it with your friends so thank you so much for doing that. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Stitcher, please rate and leave a review so people know what they’re getting in to. Now go out and be a green apple.