Jonathan pedals his way to better business skills
Jonathan Ankney became an avid cyclist after starting his accounting career, using it as a way to clear his mind from work. In his words, “creative people need to think,” so this is where he’s able to process a lot that he can’t while he’s in the office. On top of regularly riding to and from his off in New York City, Jonathan has also taken his bike to ride all over Korea.
In this episode, Jonathan and I talk about how his cycling has given him many skills that help in his business as a solopreneur: endurance, pacing, and planning. Prior to his accounting career, he was a professional musician, so he’s able to be more creative and mentally nimble at work. All of these traits make him a much better accountant. We also discuss how he was reluctant to share with coworkers at first because he didn’t feel like it mattered to his career. No he connects with other cyclists when he’s wearing his bicycle tie or they see pictures in his office.
Jonathan Ankney is the owner of Small Business CFO, Inc. in New York City.
He graduated from Binghamton University – School of Management with an MBA in Finance.
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To stand out, you need to get another certification or another degree or memorize all the tax codes or be the best technician in your field but it simply isn’t true if you want to get ahead in business because it’s still a human to human interaction.
You see, professionalism preaches that people with passions outside of work are less dedicated to their jobs or not very good at their jobs or less dedicated to their firms or companies but as each of my guest prove every single week, this isn’t the case. Because I just love sharing everyone’s stories and hopes that it motivates you to incorporate more of your passions into your work life. If you’d ever like to reach out, just go to greenapplepodcast.com, send me a quick message or you can follow on Twitter @GreenApplePod.
But today it’s all about Jonathan Ankney, the owner of Small Business CFO in New York City and we’ve hung out a few times at some national speaker association meeting so it’s going to be fun to share your story, Jonathan. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jonathan: Oh, sure thing, glad to be here.
John: I’m excited. Another person that I’ve met and hung out with. I’m super excited that you were able to make time to do this and I know that you know, running your own business, I mean that’s what I do, takes a lot of time but when you do have a little bit of free time, what kind of passions drive you and things that you really love to do?
Jonathan: Well, you know, I love the bike. That’s pretty much it. I haven’t reached the retirement stage yet so right now, we’re just taking the biking.
John: Right. And we’re talking cycling not Harley, right?
Jonathan: Exactly, yes. This is a human powered vehicle.
John: Right, which is even more impressive. Yeah, man. That’s awesome and people could see some really cool pictures that you sent in at greenapplepodcast.com, view on the road and doing some long rides even.
Jonathan: A hundred miler.
John: A hundred miles, yeah. I was like, “What the heck?” That’s impressive, man. And so how did you get into cycling? Clearly, we all had dirt bikes when we’re little but eventually, you’d get a car.
Jonathan: Well, I’ve own one car in my lifetime, it was when I lived upstate and was in graduate school and really needed one. Two days before I moved to New York City, I said, “Hmm, this is going to be a real cost.”
John: It is a real cost, yeah.
Jonathan: So let’s just get rid of this. So how did I get into bicycling? I don’t know exactly what turned me on to it. I’ve done it for a very long time. I remember even in my teens that I was interested in biking. I lived in Western Pennsylvania at that time and a very hilly area and I like to bike. I would go out and bike a lot and it’s really continued into adulthood and I think that the purpose of it in some ways, the need that it meets inside of me is still the same.
I guess an opportunity to get away from my normal day to day and to get my mind out of where I’m at and to give myself the head space that I think that we need especially as creative people, you started out as a CPA. It’s very concrete, very tangible type of thinking, very structured thinking. I’m doing the same although sometimes I get a little creative.
I hesitate to say creative accounting because it comes with baggage but we have to be creative about how we look at the numbers. Maybe that’s a better way of putting it and try to understand them. Creative people like to think, they need to think, and that’s I think part of what helps drive my needs to be out on the road and biking.
John: Yeah, I love that just creative people need to think. Yeah, I mean that’s what it is. When you’re put in a box and you can only operate within these four walls and over and over and that’s how I got into comedy, I need some sort of outlet that is not this. What would you say might be one of the coolest, most rewarding moments that you’ve had from cycling?
Jonathan: Well, at this stage, there’s been so many of them that they all kind of seem the same.
John: I guess that 100-mile ride’s got to be pretty neat.
Jonathan: Yeah. I travel with my bicycle. I think that’s probably the biggest thing is that when I travel, I like to take my bike with me. I’ve been to California, I’ve taken my bike with me. I haven’t taken it to Death Valley. I’ve wanted to bike in Death Valley when I’ve gone up there a couple of times but haven’t done that. I’ve taken my bike with me to Korea so that was fun. Korea is much more mountainous than what we have here in New York City. It was funny. By the time I came back I was like, “Wow, it seems like these monstrous hills aren’t so monstrous anymore. What’s going on here?” You got some training.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. Did you go to Korea just for fun?
Jonathan: No. I’ve been over there a number of times and it’s kind of complicated. I have some extended family that’s Korean and just a number of my friends are so they’re like, “Look, dude. You got to go to Korea.” So I’ve been over there and you know every so often that pops up in things that I do.
John: Yeah, that’s so cool that you’re able to weave that into not only your work but also your vacation. That’s clearly a passion that’s not going away anytime soon. That’s for sure. Would you say that — I mean, I love how earlier on you said that with the solopreneur type of business, you have to have some endurance and creativity and be mentally nimble and those were all things that I feel like come from cycling. Would you say that the cycling has translated to some skills that help you in the office?
Jonathan: I think in some ways it has. I’m actually going to go back to the music for a second. Because I think that in some ways, these all sort of tied together. For me, even though I haven’t played my trumpet very much in my adult life, I know that if I were to go back to it now that it would be a lot different and the reason it would be different is because working in business, I understand projects better and establishing goals and okay, so I’m getting ready to play for — let’s say I’m playing for a wedding, I’m going to play for this wedding, this is where I need to be at in order to be ready to play for that wedding and here are the milestones that I need to be at or for being prepared for that musically.
Then on the endurance side, on the bicycle side, it is about just sheer power. Having that endurance build up inside in order to play well. Because the trumpet is a very physical instrument. It requires facial muscles that no normal person would use.
Then at the same time, I look at the business and I say, “Okay, well, what am I bringing from my musical background to the business and what am I bring from the bicycle to the business?” And some musicianship brings in the creativity and how can I think about things especially when I’m communicating with people who normally don’t think the way that I do about you know, how can I explain it to them? How can I present it and translate these concepts into something for them? Then, with the bicycle, it’s mostly about endurance and pacing.
It’s not just enough to be about you know, I have to muscle my way through this but sometimes it’s like look, is there a way that you can — is there a different route you can take that avoids that big hill? Is there a way that you can do this or have you packed up enough water and snacks with you along the way? Have you planned out your trip, right? These are things that being a cyclist brings into the business for me.
John: Yeah, because I mean I think it’s so neat when early on in your career, I’m sure you just thought, “Well, I like cycling so I’m going to do cycling” and I think it’s neat that you’re able to see the rewards to that because a lot of people that I meet and talk to, they just think that their hobbies and passions are just throwaways and something that’s neat to do but you’re exercising this other muscle group, if you will, that not everyone is so when you get to the office you have some unique skills there that I think are awesome and that’s really cool that you could see that. That’s great, man. I can’t believe they didn’t want you. They missed the boat. What creativity and endurance and all that, those are skill sets that everyone would want to employ, you know.
Jonathan: You’d think. But the world is mostly run by red apples.
John: Yes, I know. One step at a time, we’re knocking them out. Don’t worry about it. We’re all good. Did you talk about cycling early on in your career?
Jonathan: No, not really. It’s just kind of my thing in the background.
John: Yeah. Is there a reason why that you didn’t feel inclined to share? Was it more the environment or your nature?
Jonathan: I’d say it was probably more of my nature and I also think just looking back that I’ve become a little bit more avid as I’ve gotten older and because I’m self-employed. That said, I was involved in an accident once when I was using my bike to commute to work. So everybody at the office knew at that point in time that I was riding a bicycle.
John: Right, yeah. Well, I guess it’s true but it was more of as a transportation means than for distance and oversees and all that stuff. Yeah, did any other cyclists happen to chime in then like pop out of the wood work? Like, “Hey, I ride, too.”
Jonathan: No. It was a small office. I guess although the owners, I think one of them would roller blade to work, so that was kind of an interesting thing there.
John: Oh. It sounds like a race is ready to be had, that’s what I would say but that’s funny. Now that you’re self-employed, does it come up with clients at all?
Jonathan: I think it depends. I mentioned it in casual conversation and sometimes, I’ve actually — like I’ll go down to Philadelphia sometimes with my bike to visit a friend. I went to college in Philadelphia for a while so I’ve a friend who’s living down there and sometimes I’ll take my bike down. What do you know? Jonathan showed up one day to work with a bicycle.
John: Right, right. That’s funny.
Jonathan: You know, and for me, it’s just normal. I actually refer to my bicycle as my little lamb because where I go, it goes.
John: That’s funny, that’s really funny. Yeah, I mean some people have laptops, you have a bicycle, I mean what do you need? Yeah, it’s wherever you go, that’s funny, your little lamb. That’s really funny. Was there something else that you shared at work or earlier on in your career or was it more of just I’m focused on just being the best accountant I can be and go home and call it a day sort of thing?
Jonathan: I kind of think that it’s more of the latter but honestly, it’s been 14 years. So I’m not sure if it’s that time has passed or if I actually have this blackout like, “You don’t want to go there, Jonathan.” Show them what you’ve got now type of thing.
John: That was a different time. I was a different person type of thing.
Jonathan: I definitely to see the impact that it has on me internally. Even if it’s not a topic for conversation, it’s like this is what — and this might sound a little strange but our legs are our foundation and my legs are really strong. I’m kind of built like a frog. I have very strong legs, my arms are like, well, I can lift the coffee cup and maybe that crate of paper, but my two legs are very, very strong and as a result, I think that helps my core a little bit and gives me I think confidence that might not otherwise be there.
John: Yeah, yeah, that’s an excellent point. Yeah, that certainly is something that has helped you throughout and especially now that you’re running your own business. I mean that you need it more than ever.
Jonathan: I think the other thing about — and I’d alluded to it earlier. Getting on the bike not only helps me with endurance but it really does help me on the creative side because of the freedom that gives with my mind when I’m riding. I think that I process things differently and some of my best ideas really have come just from riding. In some ways, this is probably the wrong thing to be doing, you know, you’re riding a bicycle, I ride on roads. This is not sidewalk riding, this not bike riding, it’s like with cars.
John: Yeah, and you’re flying. I mean you’re going fast.
Jonathan: I’m going fast but I’m still like, “Why didn’t you think — oh, this is a good idea.” This will be your next blog post or hadn’t you thought of think of it this way, creativity is really important. Just to giving my mind the opportunity to roam.
John: Yeah. And I love how you said it. It’s the creativity and the communication of the numbers which is the most important thing and that’s where everyone’s going now in accounting with the trusted advisers and things like that because computers do a lot of the work that traditional accountants used to do and so you need to be the one that translates that and can relate to people. I love that. I think that’s fantastic and really well-worded on your part.
Now, I guess one thing that I like to kick around some is just if you were to go back in time or what have you, and create the ultimate place to be or what have you to work, is it more on the organization to create a culture where it’s really fun and cool to share that you love cycling or is it more on the individual to step up and share that even if it’s in just a small circle?
Jonathan: I think it’s more the individual. But that could just be my philosophy I tend to be an individualist. I have my own company, a part-time assistant who doesn’t come to me to work so I’m used to a quasi-monastic lifestyle I guess and I tend to rely on myself a lot for things so I think that it’s more the individual. But I don’t think I’ve ever been in an organization where I felt like it was prohibited for me to speak up and say, “Oh, I’m a bicyclist” but I don’t think that I ever said like, “Hey, everyone, guess what? I just rode 100 miles.”
John: Right, right. Yeah, because it is kind of awkward, you don’t want to come across braggy or tooting your own horn or just out of nowhere random fun fact type of thing.
So before we hangout officially, I’d like to run you through these 17 rapid fire questions. So I figured I’d see how this goes and just have some fun. So let me fire this thing up here and here we go. I’ll start you out really easy. Do you have a favorite color?
Jonathan: The color of nature and the color of money and the color of frogs, green.
John: Green, that’s a solid answer. How about a least favorite color?
Jonathan: Probably anything that’s neon-ish.
John: Anything neon, right which is you got to be tough in the cycling world. That’s got to be a little tricky. All right. How about are you more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Jonathan: That’s pretty much a tie. Yeah, I alternate between the two.
John: Oh, wow, okay. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Jonathan: Oh, gosh. There’s so many. Brussels sprouts.
John: Those are both the correct answers. Normally, I say there aren’t any correct answers but that is 100% both of those are correct. How about do you prefer more ocean or mountains?
Jonathan: Mountains for sure.
John: Mountains, yeah, yeah. How about are you more cats or dogs?
Jonathan: I’m originally a dog owner. I’ve learned to love cats but I treat them like dogs.
John: Okay, then yeah, dogs it is. How about when it comes to computers, more PC or Mac?
Jonathan: Oh, PC.
John: PC, and when it comes to a mouse, are you left-click or right-click?
John: Left. Making things happen. A handful more. How about do you have a favorite band or musician?
Jonathan: I like the older Genesis. I have a classical music background, love jazz a lot but in terms of bands, I would say that a lot of ‘70s through early ‘80s stuff is good.
John: Got it, I like it. How about a more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Jonathan: It’s funny that you mentioned that I’m actually looking at a picture on my desk of me with some friends at the Star Trek exhibition from the USS Intrepid last year. So Trek it is.
John: Oh, wow. You’re really all in on that. That’s excellent. Very cool. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
John: All right, we’ll skip that one. How about a favorite comedian?
Jonathan: Oh, that’s a good one. Probably, Seinfeld.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s a solid answer, really good answer. Do you have a favorite number?
Jonathan: How about a $1,000,000. That’s a good number.
John: A million, right. You know what? I’ve never gotten a million before, 80+ episodes and never a million. So that’s awesome, very good. How about a movie that makes you cry?
Jonathan: There’s a Korean movie called My Sassy Girl.
John: My Sassy Girl. All right, yeah. No, I mean I’ve never heard of it so that’s why I’m just going to make a note. All right, how about when it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?
John: Both, you go on the full general ledger, good for you, I need everything. How about being a New Yorker, got to ask, favorite toppings for a pizza?
Jonathan: I’m a carnivore so pretty much any meat that was raised on land, I’ll qualify that. And something spicy so jalapeños would be good and mushrooms.
John: All right. There you go, two more. Are you more early bird or night owl?
Jonathan: I am, by nature, night owl but I’m more productive when I get up early.
John: Okay. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.
Jonathan: I have a little stuffed frog here called Froggy Junior who’s actually, very cute and he has his own domain, I haven’t setup the website yet but Froggy Junior. I will actually include the picture of Froggy Junior.
John: Froggy Junior. That’s it, man. Well, great. Well, thank you so much, Jonathan for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast. This was excellent.
Jonathan: Oh, thank you. It’s great being here.
John: That was really, really fun. I particularly loved how Jonathan said we all need to be a little bit creative in our jobs. And that means that you don’t have to be a Music major or have a Liberal Arts degree or anything like that to do this, it’s literally for everyone. If you’d like to see some pictures of Jonathan cycling all over the world or connect with him on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And the show has its own Twitter handle, @GreenApplePod, so follow us on there. And thank you so much for sharing us 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.