Cindy’s love of Disney creates magical client connections
Cindy Schroeder is such a fan of all things Disney, that she considers herself to be a true “Disnerd”. So much so that she’s an Annual Walt Disney Passholder, allowing to take in as much Disney as her schedule will allow. She’s been able to go behind the scenes at the Disney parks and other perks that would make any Disney fan lose their mind. By sharing this passion with clients, Cindy has found that nearly everyone has had a Disney experience in their life. She’s even found some that are Disney fanatics as well. She says, “If you don’t talk about it, you’ll never find those other people.”
In this episode, we talk about how much the Walt Disney experience made her marketing skills so much better. She’s learned more than had she earned CPE at a marketing breakout session at a conference! Cindy learned that attention to detail matters to how your clients feel, so she sends really fun cards and other treats to her clients on random days.
Cindy Schroeder is the owner of Bright Bookkeeping and the creator of Bookkeeping Buds, a community for Bookkeepers to share ideas and support each other as they grow their businesses.
She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.
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Now, it’s time for this week’s guest, Cindy Schroeder. She’s the owner of Bright Bookkeeping and the founder of Bookkeeping Buds. It’s a community for bookkeepers to share ideas and support each other as they grow their business. So Cindy, I’m so excited you’re on the show, but before we get into the really fun stuff, I’m always curious to ask just how did you end up in accounting.
Cindy: I think I got into accounting just because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I always liked math. I always liked the detail I think of things. I love balancing my mom’s checkbook when I was little, and so I just really started with accounting and figured it was a good background to have regardless of what I got into. So I got my degree from Northern Illinois and then I just worked for a few years just in really poor jobs and decided I can probably do this on my own. Fortunately, my husband has a full-time corporate job, so I had my health insurance through him. So I’m like, well, let’s just try it for a little while. Ten years later, super successful and I just love helping all these small business owners take care of their bookkeeping and teach them how to read financials and use that information to make better decisions about their business.
John: Yeah, that’s fantastic, and it all started from balancing your mom’s checkbook. That’s crazy.
Cindy: Yeah. It’s kind of like my crossword puzzle. I don’t do crossword puzzles. I balance people’s accounts for them.
John: Right. You just walk up to random people at an airport while you’re waiting for a flight. “Can I take a look at your checkbook and balance it for you please?”
Cindy: I don’t want to do Sudoku on the plane, so just give me your checkbook.
John: I’ve got some time. That’d be really funny from the back of an airplane magazine. Instead of the Sudoku puzzle, it’s somebody’s checkbook register. You’d be like, “Oh my God, I’m flying this airline every day. That’s so great.”
Cindy: A dream come true!
John: Right, exactly. That’s very cool, very cool. So when you have some free time, what are some of the passions that you enjoy doing?
Cindy: I have a list of passions. I have five passions in life.
John: Oh my goodness, wow! This is more of an intervention, I think, than a podcast.
Cindy: Yeah. I won’t go through all five, but I love Broadway — well, okay, I’ll go through all five. I love Broadway, figure skating, the band Train that we’ve talked about, cupcakes, and then my all-time favorite is Disney. I’m a total Disney fanatic.
John: Yeah, right, and at least you’re able to admit it.
Cindy: Oh yes.
John: That’s for sure.
Cindy: Step one, right?
John: Yeah. So if we had a Disney character on a cupcake while we were listening to Train in a Broadway musical, the world is coming to an end.
Cindy: You could totally do it.
John: Right. I’ll see what I can do.
Cindy: I’m waiting for the Train musical. I think it’ll be fabulous.
John: Oh yeah. Well, they’ve done others here in Broadway. If they did Green Day for crying out loud, they can do Train, come on, at the very least. Well, that’s so cool, and you live part-time in Chicago and then part-time in Florida.
Cindy: Well, I don’t officially live in Florida. I’m from Chicago. Me and my husband, we don’t have any kids. It’s kind of weird, but we just love being at Disney and being in the sun and just everything about Disney, all those shows and the music and everything like that. About five years ago, we got stuck at Disney. We have annual passes. That’s how much we go. And so, we got stuck there because we were there for a week and then there was a humungous snowstorm in Chicago, and so we had an extra day.
We were at Hollywood Studios and just sitting there for lunch and I thought I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here, and so I told my husband. I’m like, “You know, I really need to figure out how I can use this and change my business and come here for four weeks as a Snow Bird.” My husband is always “no-no”. It’s usually his first response to everything like, “No, that’ll never work.” And so I said, “Okay, but I’ve been going to the different conferences and learning all this new technology and things like that.” I said, “Well, it might not be tomorrow, but in the next five years, I think that I could change my business around and be able to do it,” and so that’s exactly what happened.
So it took about five years to move everybody to QuickBooks Online. I use — hosted desktop right now works as well. And so, last year was the first year. I was in Florida. I was there for the whole month of February for four weeks and I don’t think the majority of my clients even knew the difference except that when they called at three o’clock, there was a parade going on at Magic Kingdom, but other than that — so this year, I was there for six weeks. It’s been going really well, so now I’m 100% remote and really can work from anywhere.
John: Right, right, and that’s so fantastic and then you’re able to do more of your passion, Disney, and get it all in, so you’re happier. I’m sure the tone comes across when you’re dealing with your clients.
Cindy: Oh, definitely.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Somebody’s on their Disney high. Look out.
Cindy: Right. I mean, Disney, there’s so much to learn just from going to Disney, just all the marketing tips you can get from going there. One of the biggest things I think is just all the details that they put into everything. I tend to use that in the things that I do for my clients in just little ways. I send out cards to my clients, so when they start working with me, I’ll send them a card and then after a little while, I’ll send them brownies. We always send out Fourth of July and Halloween cards, so those fabulous, old Hallmark holidays.
John: Right, yeah, because they’re not getting anything else on those days.
Cindy: Right, and then at Halloween, we always go to the — Magic Kingdom has the most amazing Halloween party ever that’s like the most fun you can have as an adult, so we dress up every year. On the Halloween card — because we usually go before Halloween, and so on the Halloween card, we always have a picture of us dressed up and my clients are now starting because it’s been about three or four years that we’ve gone to a Halloween party and they’re always sending emails ahead of time, “What’s the costume this year?” because they’re so excited to see what we’re going to dress up as, so it gives you more of a personality than your typical bookkeeper may have.
John: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Clearly your clients are super interested in you more than what you can provide them in their business. It’s you as a person and that’s so fantastic that you have that kind of relationship there.
Cindy: Right, yeah, and then if the client had an issue with it then I know it’s not a good fit for me anyway.
John: Yeah, right, exactly because you’re clearly not going to drop Disney.
Cindy: Exactly. I don’t care how much you pay me.
John: Right, exactly. This is a silly, silly question, but do you remember when you got into Disney? Have you always been into it from when you were very, very little?
Cindy: I think I’ve always liked it at some point when my parents took us there when I was probably 12 and then we went in high school. I was on drill team and we actually performed at the Magic Kingdom, so I think it’s always been a little part of me, but just really I would say in the last — probably in the last ten years that it’s gotten to be a lot more and then even more so in the last five years. I’ve had some bad — like everybody has personal things going on, I lost both of my parents and got thyroid cancer, all of this in about three years, so it was just a combination of crud.
And to get through that, my husband was like, “All right, we’re getting annual passes to Disney,” then it became your happy place and it’s like oh, it’s fun here. You can forget about all that other stuff. And then I don’t know when it actually hit where it’s just like now that’s all I want to do. It’s just sunny there and people are happy and nice. So yeah, I think that’s when it really began and just realized that life is too short and we need to, as nerdy as your passion is, that you need to embrace it and just not really care what people are going to think of you.
John: Yeah, because I’m sure that you’ve come across some other clients or even other bookkeepers that are also huge Disney fanatics as well.
Cindy: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s fun to talk about it with other people when you have that group of people and you just have the secret words and things you say like another vocabulary of Disney, which I quickly learned because when I was there for six weeks., I had — I think I had six days when I didn’t have someone visiting, so I had all these different people come to visit and brought some people there for the first time. My one friend, I’m all excited. I’m like, “Oh, you’ve got to see the parade. It’s amazing,” and she’s going through — I just assumed everybody knows everything about Disney. She doesn’t have kids either and she’s like, “Yeah, this is really pretty, but I have no idea who any of these people are.”
John: All the characters and everything?
Cindy: Yeah, all the characters, a lot of new ones like from Tangled and the movie, Brave, and things like that. She’s just like, “Nope. I know Peter Pan.”
John: Yeah, let’s go back to the classics.
Cindy: Right, exactly, but she still liked the grandeur of it and the costumes and all that kind of stuff, but it’s just funny that when you find someone that knows all that stuff, you just find your people, I guess.
John: Yeah. I love how you said it earlier. Life is too short and even if you think your passion is nerdy, there are other nerds out there because no matter what it is —
Cindy: Yeah, they’re called Disnerds.
John: Oh, so there’s a word for it? Disnerds, wow! Okay. See, now I learned something. You flicked the script on me. This is really good. There are a lot of people out there that consider sports to be not nerdy, but then fantasy football is as nerdy as you can get, so no matter what it is that you do, I love how you overcame that because I think internally we stigmatize what we think is cool as well and no one else thinks this is cool, too. And then once you let it out then it’s like oh my goodness, there are so many other people out there that also do this and then magic happens literally in your case.
Cindy: It really does.
John: Tinker Bell is everywhere. I’m floating now. I don’t even know what’s happening. So was there one big moment that you remember from your Disney trips or Disney experience?
Cindy: It’s all cool, but the coolest part, they have a lot of tours and things that they do like at Magic Kingdom and then we went to Disneyland a few years ago. So one of the tours at Disneyland, it was called Walk in Walt’s Footsteps, and so they actually bring you around and they show you the apartment he lived in. You can’t go up to it because it’s not made for tours or anything, but we did get to see like they have a fancy million-dollar room where contest winners stay, so we got to walk through that and see all that kind of stuff. And then at Disney World, we went on one that was called Keys to the Kingdom, and so same type of thing where they give you little headsets and they walk you around and give you the history of Disney and different things. Everyone’s looking at you like you’re secret service while you’re walking around. You get to cut in front of all the different rides that you always have to wait a long time to get on and they give you the background of the different rides.
At the Magic Kingdom in Florida, it’s actually the level of where all the rides are and everything. That’s actually the second floor of Disney, so there’s a whole underground of Disney. It’s called the Utilidors. And so, they actually let you go underneath and walk around and see what’s going on in the Utilidors, so that’s the kind of stuff, the nerdy stuff that I like.
John: My mind is blown right now. I had no idea about that. Wow! That is super cool and you got to go in there and check it out. That’s so neat.
Cindy: Yeah. They walk you around and tell you the different stuff going on down there, so yeah, I got to see a little bit behind the scenes and it was really cool, where all the floats are, all sorts of different things, they show you.
John: For some reason, I just imagine all the characters sitting down there and taking smoke breaks and eating big slices of pizza, cold pizza.
Cindy: We’re not allowed to say what goes on down there. One of the cooler things in the past month or whatever — one of my favorite movies is a newer movie. It’s called Tangled and they have a part in there where they released lanterns up into the air. And so, they have a part in the park, which is actually one of the bathrooms, so it’s not super romantic, but they have a whole area that’s all the Tangled and they have a Tangled castle — or it’s not really a castle, but it’s just a replica of the castle and then they have all the lanterns hanging.
And so this past month, they started a photo op so that you could take a picture with the lanterns. That was one of the most exciting things in the last few weeks. I think I’ve sent that picture to you, but it’s really cool.
John: And so if people want to see that, they can go to greenapplepodcast.com. We’ve got so many good pictures of you and Baloo and the lantern and jumping in front of the —
Cindy: The castle, yeah.
John: The castle. Okay, all right. I was going to say the castle, but I —
Cindy: That picture was taken on the first shot. My husband’s like, “This is never going to work.” I’m like, “Just take the picture.”
John: And it was just one and done. Wow! That’s so good. I’m not sure if you have such mad hops that you can get up that high or if he’s got really good timing. I’ll say both. So how does this come up when you’re talking with potentially new clients? Where in the process does it come up with the Disney passion?
Cindy: Like I said, I think a lot of it is just the details that I put into my presentations and things like that, so maybe it’s not so much just blatantly Disney, but then usually I’ll spend time talking to the client and find out different things that they like, and a lot of times they do like Disney as well, so then I always bring it up that we have this common bond. I don’t usually start with that. I don’t show up at the first meeting with my mouse ears on, not that I wouldn’t, but —
John: In your brain you’re wearing them. It’s just they’re not outside.
Cindy: Exactly. I do have a mouse ears necklace I wear all the time.
John: Yeah, because it just shows a little bit and then if somebody notices and they’re also a Disnerd — look at me picking up the lingo — then all of a sudden you have that instant rapport. Who doesn’t like Disney? But even then, I love how you’ve taken this passion and harnessed it to accelerate your business in looking at — because Disney is all about the experience.
Cindy: Yeah, and Walt was just a marketing genius, so there’s just so much you can learn from him in just the way he presented things and even the way that he did things like he was hired by NBC to put on a weekly show and he’s like, “Oh, of course.” Basically, it was showing Disney movies, but in essence, it was just a commercial every week of the Disney parks, so he’s getting paid basically to promote his own park. It’s just like, wow, that’s incredible, so kind of that same thinking as being a bookkeeper. I don’t know.
John: Yeah. That’s so great that you’re able to look at it that way because a lot of people, “Yeah, I love Disney. It’s fun and it’s a release,” and it’s whatever, but you’re able to do both where you’re able to enjoy it and let go and be in the moment, but also step back and be like, hey, there are some things that I can learn here for my business, and I think a lot of people can do that with a lot of their different passions that they have.
Cindy: Oh, definitely.
John: Yeah, which is really fantastic. That’s really great. So I guess going back to before you started Bright Bookkeeping — I guess Disney wasn’t maybe as big of a thing then for you personally, so do you feel like there’s a difference maybe or was there something different then that you shared with co-workers?
Cindy: I think that when I was working in Corporate America that I probably was more reserved than sharing that information. We still always went to Disney, so that was always — you talk to your co-workers about what vacation you’re going on and that type of thing. I think I’ve always talked about Disney. It’s never incorporated as much I think into my life —
John: Right. I completely misunderstood. It was always a seven, John. It’s just recently it’s a ten, so it’s like — okay, now I get it. My bad.
Cindy: It’s not like I just found it or something.
John: Yeah, clearly, so I’m always curious as to what makes people be more willing to open up and share versus no one’s really going to care about me and what I do, even in both examples because one is co-workers and one is with clients, but do you have thoughts on that?
Cindy: Yeah. I think it just comes back to — like I said, life’s too short to be concerned about what people are going to think about you and what your passions are unless it’s something really weird. I don’t know.
John: Or illegal.
Cindy: Exactly. You just have to find whatever you’re passionate about.
There’s always going to be people that also share that same passion regardless of what it is. If you don’t talk about it then you’ll never find those people. I used to love Broadway. I’ve loved Broadway forever. I remember being in high school and like, “Oh, I can’t tell anybody about Broadway.” Nowadays, you see all the high school kids and they’re all in musicals and everything like that, but it seemed like when I was in high school, that wasn’t the cool thing to do, so no one wanted to talk about it. And so, I always thought I was different because of that, same thing when I was working, the same type of thing. It’s like maybe the things that I like aren’t typically what people like, but unless you talk about it, you’ll never going to know.
John: That’s an excellent, excellent point. There have been some times where I’ve spoken to firms and I’ll ask just general things. “So is anybody here an artist? Do you like to paint or draw?” I remember one firm in particular, four ladies raised their hand and they all work within a football’s throw of each other and they had no clue that any of them did that. I was like, “What have you been talking about all these years?” There’s only so much weather and gas prices that you can discuss.
Cindy: Well, that’s like those women at the Sleeter Conference that they knit while the conference is going on. Sleeter used to always leave the first two or three rows open, so that was their common bond. They were all bookkeepers or accountants, but they also all knitted, so they would all sit together and talk about yarn, I guess.
John: See? There you go.
Cindy: And then credits and debits. This is kind of a neat way to connect people.
John: Right. Who knows what it is, but it’s one of those things that’s inside you that you can’t contain. Clearly, Disney, you had that passion in other jobs that you had, and even if you got promoted within those companies, you still had the Disney passion. It’s always there. It’s always inside you. The work is the thing that changes, but yet I think our brain for some reason wants to lock in on work and make that the priority because that’s clearly what’s paying the bills.
Cindy: But that’s not fun.
John: Right, exactly, but this passion side — yeah, it makes work not as fun and you’re not learning as much. Imagine if you didn’t really explore Disney to its full potential like you have now, your marketing skills would be half of what they are.
Cindy: Oh, definitely.
John: This is like CPE basically. You’re learning more marketing by going to Disney than you ever would at a conference breakout session.
Cindy: Oh right, exactly.
John: So Cindy, this was so, so fun. I’m so excited, but before I get on an airplane to fly down to Orlando and don the Mickey ears with you and hang out, I do have my 17 rapid-fire questions to make sure that we’re simpatico — is that the word? I’m not sure.
Cindy: This might not go well.
John: Actually, it’s more if I can actually become a Disnerd. You should quiz me is probably how we should do this. “Can you name a Disney character created after the year 2000? No John, you can’t.” Okay, all right. Here we go, 17 rapid-fire, super fun. Let me fire this thing up here and here we go. All right, first one, super easy, pens or pencils?
John: Pens, nice. How about when it comes to computers, are you more PC or a Mac?
John: PC, all right. And when it comes to a mouse, right click or left click?
Cindy: Oh, I would say right click. I had to check.
John: Yeah. That seems to be the one that opens up all the crazy possibilities, so there you go. Now, living in Chicago, I have to ask you, when it comes to pizza, deep dish or regular?
Cindy: Oh, deep dish, no question.
John: Yeah, exactly. When it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?
Cindy: Income statement.
John: Heels or flats?
Cindy: Oh, flats.
John: How about — we touched on this earlier, but Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Cindy: I would say Sudoku, I guess.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite color?
John: Red, and the least favorite color?
Cindy: Probably green.
John: Green? Oh, that’s interesting, so Christmas you’re like half happy. When it comes to movie trilogies, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Cindy: Oh, neither.
John: Neither. How about a favorite band?
John: Train, exactly, and we have a picture of you with Train. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Thirteen, and why is that?
Cindy: I was married on 13th.
John: How about more cats or dogs?
John: Cats, okay. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
Cindy: Flynn Rider.
John: Oh really? Okay.
Cindy: Combination of Flynn Rider, Kristoff, and Peter Pan.
John: Okay. You’re creating your own characters now. I love it. We’ve got three more. More diamonds or pearls?
John: Diamonds, all right. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Cindy: Night owl.
John: Night owl, and the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Cindy: I would say probably my engagement ring.
John: That’s really awesome, very, very cool. Well, thank you so much, Cindy, for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast. This was so fun.
Cindy: Oh, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.
John: That was so, so good! I loved how Cindy said life’s too short. As nerdy as you think your passion might be, you need to embrace it and not really care what people are going to think of you. And then you’ll realize that the fear was mostly in your own head because people are going to actually gravitate towards you and celebrate that. So be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. You could see some pictures of Cindy in her element in front of Cinderella’s castle, another one posing with Baloo, and even one where she got to meet her favorite band, Train. And while you’re at greenapplepodcast.com, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey.
Thank you so much for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.