Mike is a CPA & Foodie & Griller
Mike Brand of BMSS, LLC talks about his passion for cooking and eating good food, how he connects with people through his passion for good food, and how BMSS encourages its employees to connect with each other outside of their professions!
• Getting into cooking
• Striking up a conversation
• How cooking can be like handling different types of clients
• Build trust from within
• What BMSS does to encourage conversations outside of work
• Find your thing
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Welcome to Episode 399 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. And to put it 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 on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. And if you want me to read it to you, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with 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 then writing such great reviews about it on Amazon and wherever you get books, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
And please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Mike Brand. He’s a member at BMSS in their Huntsville, Alabama office. And now he’s with me here today.
Mike, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mike: Hey, John, thanks for having me on. I’m pretty excited about this. I’ve been listening to your podcast and stuff like that and talk to some folks who are on it. So my turn now, right?
John: Yeah, absolutely, man. Those were all just practice. This is the real thing now. I’m in the big leagues. So thank you, man.
Mike: I want to get in the big leagues. I don’t know, man. I’ll follow along, though. I’m good. I’m ready.
John: I just know that by the time we’re done talking, I’m going to be starving. That’s for sure.
Mike: All the time. Yeah, I have 17 rapid-fire questions, though, I’m going to run you through, get to know Mike on a new level right out the gate here. So I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one. Favorite color?
Mike: Ah, light blue. Blue goes with about anything. So, man, I’m a blue kind of guy.
John: Yeah, me too. Me too. How about a least favorite color?
Mike: Ooh, least? I’m probably going with like a fuchsia or a purple. Too much Barney in there for me.
John: Okay. All right. All right.
Mike: I’m not like a purple kind of guy, man. I’m all about blue.
John: I hear you. Okay. This is a tough one. It’s a foodie. Pizza or hamburger?
Mike: Pizza. You can go real versatile on pizza, man. You’ve got so many different way — you can with a hamburger too. I mean, that’s like you like this son better or this son better. I got two boys, man. You’re like asking me to pick. But pizza, man, I’m going pizza on that.
John: Yeah. Okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Mike: Oh, man, I love Denzel Washington. I like Matt Damon. You know, both of those guys are pretty versatile. Billy Bob Thornton, I don’t know that I’d see him as my favorite actor, but he’s done one of my favorite acting jobs in Sling Blade. I don’t know if you like that movie or not. But, oh, my goodness. And so, you know, Lucas Black, he’s from around this North Alabama area. He was there, but I love Denzel Washington. He can play about anything. But, you know, Jason Bourne is always one of my favorite characters.
John: Right. Yeah, yeah. There’s the actor and then there’s the characters that they play, and it’s hard to differentiate the two sometimes.
John: Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Mike: Oh, man, I’m an early bird. They make fun of me here at the office because I get up at 4:20 about every morning. I go run, do my workout, then I come to the office. I’m going to tell you, nine o’clock I’m heading back to the bay. I’m telling my son, you better get whatever you want out of me right now because I am toast. So I’m an early morning person — it wasn’t always that way, but when I got out of school, first place I’ll work, we play racquetball, 5:30 in the morning. It’s four mornings awake, I’m like, enjoy yourself. But I started and so for the past 30 plus years, I’m an early morning guy.
John: Nice. Okay, that’s impressive. How about a favorite Disney character?
Mike: Man, I’m probably going with Mickey. He’s just classic. I’m not a big Disney person, but my son is about to get married to a girl who is a Disney nut.
John: Okay, okay. All right. I have a puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
Mike: Neither. I’m not a puzzle guy. My wife, man, she’ll do Sudoku. Not me.
John: Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a trilogy? Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mike: Yeah, see, I’m not with either one of those either. One of my favorite authors, you know, I like James Patterson books. He’s got his Cross. So I like a lot of those, but I never really got into — I saw the original Star Wars when I was growing up.
John: Sure. Sure.
Mike: That’s about as far as I went with it.
John: Maybe the Bourne movies, maybe all those, like maybe the Jason Bourne movies.
Mike: Hey, listen, yeah, I like those, for sure.
John: Right, right. Okay. All right. How about your computer? PC or a Mac?
Mike: I’m a PC guy.
John: Oh, PC?
Mike: Yeah, I’m a PC guy the whole time. I’m an iPhone person. I got an iPad, but computer of choice is the PC.
John: Totally. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I’m a huge ice cream junkie.
Mike: Ooh, yes, like I do sweets on the weekends, but I would probably say Spouse Like a House from a place called Handel’s Ice Cream.
Mike: There’s only one Handel’s ice cream shop in Alabama, but it’s in between my office and my house.
John: Oh, that’s convenient.
Mike: They got a flavor called Spouse Like a House and, man, it’s like multiple vanilla ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chocolate-covered pretzels.
John: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Mike: I’m a big peanut butter guy. I love me some peanut butter sauce. Spouse Like a House, man, it just hits it all for me.
John: Yeah. And it’s on the way. It’s like they knew where you lived and worked. That’s why they put it there.
Mike: It could be. I know. Yeah.
John: That’s awesome. How about a favorite season? Spring, summer, fall, or winter?
Mike: Probably fall. I’m a big college football dude. I love spring, but my allergies get all messed up and stuff. And living here in the deep south, I don’t mind the heat, but the humidity just gets a lot during the summer. And so fall, love it, man. It’s just — it’s ball time then.
John: Same. I agree. How about — oh, here’s a fun one — balance sheet or income statement?
Mike: I’m a balance sheet guy. I like looking at good ratios as you can look at, the strength of the company, you know, that type stuff.
John: It’s hard to hide stuff.
Mike: And I remember what I first started learning — my first boss, he says, “You know, we’re going to audit the balance sheet like crazy and the rest will fall in place.” So I learned balance sheet first and that type of stuff.
John: Yeah, all right. How about a favorite cereal even as a kid?
Mike: Ooh, Cap’n Crunch peanut butter.
John: Oh, there you go.
Mike: I used to eat that type of stuff until the roof of my mouth hurt.
John: Right. Or was gone.
Mike: Exactly. The next day, I’m like, “What happened up there?” I just had peanut butter. I used to eat those Jethro bowls of peanut butter cereal. It’s so good.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Mike: That was my football number, playing football. It seemed like a Manning number. I guess 12 would probably be a close second. I spent a lot of time growing up in the Dallas area, and so Roger Staubach was always my favorite. I love Roger Staubach. To this day, he’s still one of those people that I really look up to. He carried himself with class. He was an outstanding ballplayer. He’s done very well outside of that profession. I’ve always liked him. So eight would be first, but 12 would be next.
John: We got two more. When it comes to books, real book, digital like Kindle, or audio version?
Mike: I’m a real book. All I can feel like pick it out and put it up on my dog ear of the page and that type of stuff. So yeah, I’m holding my hand kind of.
John: There you go. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Mike: Man, I would probably say, it’s probably one of my cooking utensils. So it’s probably either going to be my grandmother’s old cast iron skillet, or it be my Primo ceramic cooker that I use outside.
John: Is it super old or super new?
Mike: Yeah, it really is. But think about both of them. You can cook just about anything on either one of them in a different way.
John: I love it. That’s a great answer, which leads us right into your hand of being a foodie and cooking and eating, I guess, both of it. Did you grow up doing that, or is it something you got into later?
Mike: I’ve been eating all my life. I was born, I was like 10-pound-three-ounce baby. So I came out with some food. I think my mom still mad at me. I was like feet first, 10 pounds, three ounces and three weeks late. But I was born to a family that likes to cook. My mom was a great cook. My dad always cooked on the grill and stuff like that too. And my grandmother who, I told you I’ve got her old cast iron. I just grew up in a house full of great cooks, and so I love to eat. So growing up around it, you just kind of learn. They would give me the opportunity and say, “Hey, you want to try this and that” type stuff.
John: Oh, that’s cool.
Mike: I graduated high school in Vicksburg, Mississippi. So my brother at the time — well, he’s still brother — at the time, he is still there, but he cut grass for the people in our neighborhood. Well, there happened to be somebody there who was a recipe editor for Southern Living Magazine at the time. So we would go over there. My brother, he’s like me, he’s a foodie. He likes to cook, likes to eat and stuff like that. So we would do that type of stuff. I’ve always been around food. I love food. That’s why I run too because I’d be big as a house if I didn’t run like that. I’ve just always grown up around it. So part of my job now is I’m teaching classes and stuff. I got to travel a lot, so that’s something you can do anyway. It’s kind of essential to living is eating too, and so why not eat good?
John: Yeah, I mean, that’s why when people are like, oh, how’d you learn to cook? I can cook okay, but like, well, I like to eat, and it’s kind of necessary for me to be able to know how to cook in order to eat, or I’ll go broke.
Mike: That’s the truth.
John: No, that’s awesome, man. Is there like a favorite thing that you like to make or like a Mike Brand specialty? What’s on the menu there?
Mike: I used to do competition cooking. I had a buddy of mine who he and I used to be the Smoking Chiefs. So we would go around and do a barbecue contest and stuff like that. It’s a backyard team. We actually got to compete in the Jack Daniel’s World Championships a couple years.
John: That’s awesome.
Mike: So that was always great. So I’m guessing, probably anything on the grill would probably be a specialty. So I like doing about anything. I spent a lot of time growing up in Texas, so I love a good beef brisket or the big beef ribs, if you’ve ever seen a big —
John: Oh, yeah.
Mike: — like rhinoceros type beef ribs or something like those. But there’s not much you can’t cook on a grill. I’d bake the cake on a grill. I do pizzas on a grill, do other desserts, all sorts of stuff. So probably something on the grill, but I now cook inside too.
John: I love it, man. That’s awesome. Do you feel at all that knowing how to cook or even just good food translates at all to the office? Is there a skill there maybe?
Mike: Well, for one thing, you know, it kind of unites people, right? Everybody eats. Everybody does. They may not have the same taste and that type of stuff. So if you’re striking up a conversation with staff and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” maybe we can grab some lunch, we can chat about things. But you think about cooking, baking is totally different than grilling. Baking is very technical where you’re weighing measurements and it’s really important to get the details just right on that, because, I mean, you put an ounce of this, a little bit too much of this, in baking, it’s not going to rise. It’s not going to do whatever —
John: Teaspoon instead of tablespoon or whatever.
Mike: Yeah, you do that with something you’re cooking on the grill, they just char a little more. It’s going to grill. You bring that back to the workplace, and it works that way too, right? Whether I’m in an audit, and I’m looking at what’s the threshold of materiality here? What’s the risk of this not coming out like it should? If you got a mistake versus the risk here, it is important. I mean, you can see the different aspects of the care you’ve got to take with one may not be the same level of care you might take in another area.
Again, we have all sorts of things with our staff here. I was talking to you earlier about going out with our home — today, we went out to eat, and it’s funny because I look and see what people eat, what they get to eat and stuff like that. So we can chat about that then and that may lead into another topic at work too.
John: Yeah. And how crucial are those conversations that aren’t necessarily work related or that you wouldn’t think anyway, most people wouldn’t think?
Mike: To me, they’re super important because you’re building relationships. It’s natural to build relationships with your clients, right? We want to make sure that we’re doing that. But when we’ve got our staff working with those same clients, you got to build that relationship there too. It’s relationship of trust, of knowing, hey, that I can trust you to ask you about this issue with a client where maybe they don’t feel like they can talk to the client, but you can’t hear. You’re getting to them on one level to be able to get to one another level. Being able to find that happy medium of like, man, you’re well done person, man, and I’m like medium rare, so we can’t discuss that. When it comes to this type of stuff, you know what I mean?
John: Yeah, yeah. Totally. But I loved how you said that. You get to them on that level, and then you can get to that next level. Trust is such a huge thing that we sometimes think just happens, but you really have to work at it.
Mike: You’ve heard the moniker, we’re the most trusted adviser, right?
John: Oh, my Lord, don’t get me started.
Mike: Yeah, but you got to build that trust from within. And so that’s getting to — for me, it is finding that commonality first. You like to eat, right? Yeah, well, let’s go grab something nice. We can talk about this other stuff. And I’ll tell you for staff, they never turn down a free meal. But that’s one of the things I learned from the first guy that I worked with. About weekly, he come in and he says, “Hey, you guys with lunch money?” I’ve been “Oh, no, I forgot it at home.” Let’s go grab something to eat.
Even in my own practice, I learned from that point times early staff and it means something to me to this day because the staff will be “Oh, you don’t have to pay. You don’t have to do this.” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to do it.” But one of these days, you’ll understand, and you’ll find the same thing.
John: Yeah. And when you’re around food and you’re outside of the office, I mean, it just breaks down not only yourself but the people around you to just be more human, and that’s magic.
Mike: There’s days when I see these people more than I see my family. So you better be able to have something that you can get that hook and you get them to trust and us being able to trust in them too.
John: That’s fantastic, man. Sometimes when I talk to people, they’re like, “Well, I don’t know how to bring it up,” or “I don’t know how to talk about whatever my hobby is or my passion is or whatever.” I mean, do you have any words of advice there? I mean, for you, it’s easy. It’s like, are you hungry?
Mike: Probably three times a day, you’re going to do something like eat. You get up, you eat and so forth like that. Well, the thing about it is, it’s funny because I’ve had the good fortune to be able to sit on some committees and boards and standard setting committees and stuff like that. We’ll have group dinners or something like that. So it’s just such a great place to kind of let loose.
If we’re sitting there working on accounting standards all day long, then you can get off and you talk about, let’s don’t talk about what’s going on with the SARS. It’s amazing the things that you can bring out and talk about. The setting is you’re distracted by the food. But then you kind of, I don’t want to say you lose your inhibitions because then you’re probably having too much drink with your food.
John: You let your guard down.
Mike: You do let your guard down. They’re eating the same way I am, maybe a little something different, but we’ve got that commonality.
John: Yeah, I mean, it’s so true, because just letting your guard down and just being yourself and just in not talking about work. And then you come back to work refreshed. There’s times I’m sure where you’re like, “Hey, can you bring that person tomorrow to the office? because that’s a fun one to be around.”
Mike: Yeah. Sometimes you can tell personalities about what they order and how they eat and what they eat and stuff. So we were up in Chicago at a committee meeting. So we had a group dinner that night. And so we would usually walk from the hotel. We would go eat. We’d come back. We saw some homeless people walking in. So they went to Gino’s East, you know, Chicago style pizza.
John: Oh, yeah.
Mike: So the whole table, we ordered. And one of the ladies — I’m not going to call her name. I love her to death, but she ordered a veggie deep dish pie. And she was like the only one at the table who ate it. So at the end, we had leftover. So my friend Mikey says, “Hey, how about we box these up, and we give to the homeless people on the way?” going back and stuff. She was one of the observers, and she would always have comments and stuff. Hey, we’re good here. So she got her veggie pizza. So we walked out, and she had a lot to give away. So she goes, “Hey, would you like this?” And one of them said, “What kind is it?” She says, “Vegetable.” Like, “No, thanks.” So to this day, we just like die laughing because nobody is —
John: That’s hilarious.
Mike: That fit her personality. And you knew, if I were to tell somebody, they will be “Oh, I know exactly who that is,” because that just fit her. That’s always cool.
John: That’s fantastic. And yeah, it’s just cool to just see those other dimensions to people that maybe they don’t always show in the office. Do you feel at all that the relationship with the people that you’re able to talk food with is different than other clients or other staff or other people that you’ve worked with?
Mike: You know, I think it can be because some people, they just want — and I don’t mean this to sound snobbish or whatever like that, that we just like, I’ll just kind of eat here and go along. I’m like, take some time. Enjoy it. I’ve got somebody that I usually, when I go to conferences and so forth like that, he and I almost always get together. We’re up at the conference in DC a couple years ago. We always try to go find places, and we know some of the people who like those type things.
So we had a different ethnic food each night and that type stuff. We get into some of the deepest conversations outside of that that you really, you know, we’re talking earlier about doing things like learning people and gaining trust and so forth like that. And so you really learn from those type people. And you know, there are some who, you know, they don’t enjoy food like me, and that’s fine. Absolutely, it’s fine. I mean, that’s what your show is all about. What’s your and. This is not their and.
John: They got something else. That’s why.
Mike: They do. They’ve got other things. But the ones who do, I really find we have a lot of deep conversations that you might not have unless you’re sitting down over a two-hour meal, something like that. A quick pick up 15-minute meals, not going to get it. I’m not saying always for the big two or three-hour meal. I like to do other things too.
John: Oh, yeah. I mean, work has to get done too, for sure.
Mike: Well, occasionally, yeah. No, but that’s true.
John: But you’re exactly right. I mean, whether it’s something that you share with them, or you know what someone else likes to do that maybe isn’t food, all right, cool. It’s just asking them about it, and then you see them light up about it and tell those stories. It’s awesome. Or if somebody else is super into grilling, you got a new piece of meat that you’re like, I’m not quite sure how to, you know, maybe they have some advice.
Mike: And it’s been so funny because as I’ve learned just from having some of these conversations, they’re like, “Oh, you cook? I like to cook too.” It’s like you say, what type of grill do you have? Oh, I got a Primo. I got a couple of Weber’s Smokey Mountain. I got this. They’re like, “Well, you got a problem.” I get it. I understand that. But they’re like, “Hey, I use this.” I’m like, “Oh, I always wanted to do. Tell me how it does.” And it just opens up different avenues.
John: That’s super cool. I love what BMSS does, how you just alluded to earlier on the homeroom thing of, I feel like that provides a lot of opportunity for those kind of conversations to happen.
Mike: It does because, you know, so we were talking earlier. I was telling John that we’ve got these homerooms. We’re partners and senior managers have certain staff up under them. So on a weekly basis, we try to have chickens with them. We say, hey, you know, we’re not just going to talk about work stuff. You got anything going on that you would like to share and stuff like that. How’s your emotional health? because here we are, busy season has just ended, or we try to call it success season, and it has been a very good season. But I have to admit, that’s lipstick on a pig. I’ve been doing it for 30 plus years. It is that. But how are you making through there? You’ve got all these hours. You’ve got all these other things going on. You just moved into this office, or you just lost love, or you got somebody who’s sick. It’s checking in on the mental health.
That’s a great thing, I think, that we do here. It allows us not to just talk about work, but you’re talking about the things going on in your life that can affect your work. But we want them to know that, hey, we’re not just your boss, or we’re not just your superior. We care about you because you work for us and you represent us and you represent our clients. And we want to make sure that you’re in as good a spot as you can be. And just being able to get them on that level is big because I don’t have to tell anybody this, you know, this whole ’20, even into ’21, it’s been tough.
John: Totally. No, it’s been brutal. And I love how it’s you reaching out to them because even though they might know Mike has an open door policy, you can reach out anytime. But people are hesitant to do that. So the fact that you’re creating that space intentionally to, hey, we’re going to chat, just you and me, two people hanging out. What’s up?
Mike: And they know, they say, hey, on Fridays, from this time to this time, that’s us. Maybe it has to change because we got some schedules and stuff like that, but you know, you know during that work we’re going to have it, and we expect it to happen.
John: I love it. The fact that it’s not just update me on your work status, and then bloop, we’re done. Actually, it’s very little of that and it’s more of why are you still doing well done steaks? What’s up with you?
Mike: We call those charcoal briquettes. That’s right. My goodness.
John: Did you fall asleep? Why did you forget to take it off? Like what happened?
Mike: It turns my stomach — my mother-in-law, she’s got anything other than sitting in the back. And I’m like, “You’re killing me.”
John: That’s hilarious. That’s funny. Yeah. But I love that, and I think that’s so cool and something that the firm does. Everyone listening, no matter what company you work with, can do that tomorrow. I mean, it’s an easy thing to implement. You just have to make time for it and do it. So do you have any words of encouragement, before I wrap this up, to people that think that no one’s going to care about what my hobby is, or it has nothing to do with my career, so why talk about it?
Mike: You got to find your thing. I call them my kids. There’s one of the kids in my homeroom that doesn’t dress like everybody else, doesn’t do this. And it’s like, yeah, I kind of wanted, you know, my perfect person would be somebody who’s got blue hair and this and has it. I’m like, “Man, you just keep being you. Don’t let the profession define you.” Because we were talking earlier that the expectation is they’re your accountants. You don’t have a personality. You got your pocket protector, and you’ve got this type stuff, and it’s all that. But you can succeed in this profession being just the person you are. We didn’t hire you because we expect you to fit a certain mold. We hired you because you’re bright. You’re able to do these type things.
I tell people all the time, just be you. Don’t be what people expect. I tell them, it took me a while to kind of figure that out. The expectation was is I need to be this because I think this is what’s expected of me. And there are certain expectations like that, but you got to be you. And so if people like food, I’m going to be fast friend. If they don’t like food, I’m probably be a fast friend too. I’ll try to educate them on how good food is when it’s done the right way.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Mike: And that type of stuff, but it’s so important to be who you are. And if it’s because my and is this, make that the best things you got.
John: I love that, man. And I would argue, you’ll probably be more successful if you’re you than if you’re being a shell of yourself, trying to be what you think a successful engineer, accountant, lawyer, whatever it is. If you’re not bringing yourself to that, I mean, you’re one arm tied behind your back going into work every day.
Mike: What’s going to differentiate you from somebody else, and what’s going to differentiate you from a machine 10 years from now? Because they can’t bring that to the table. So man, listen, because he’s always been encouraging me, I tell them all times, just be you. I don’t really like to, oh, you do you, but be yourself.
John: Yeah, I mean, unless you’re a jerk, then be somebody else.
Mike: Yeah, we got too many of those too.
John: Totally. But yeah, I mean, and provided like, when I go into in my book of just provided that you and people around you can get your work done, then everything else gloves are off.
Mike: Exactly. Listen, this is your job and your profession and so forth like that. Don’t make work out of it. Don’t make it a four-letter word. You know, I tell people all the time, I enjoy what I do. And I think most of the people around me get that because I’m not always just a blank canvas. I’ll show some personality.
John: Talk in SARS all day long.
Mike: Oh, man. Hey, now we could go there.
John: Right. It sounds like a disease.
Mike: Well, it was at one point in time, right?
John: That will be the next vaccine. This has been so awesome, Mike. I appreciate you being a part of it. But it’s only fair, I feel, since I started out so rudely firing questions away at you, that I turned the tables. We’ll make this a Mike Brand podcast, episode one. And thanks for having me on.
Mike: I got a couple for you too because, you know, I think I told you before that I kind of got my legs up under me in the cooking scene by doing barbecue competitions and stuff like that. So here it is. Barbecue, which flavor? Beef or pork.
John: You know, I’m going to go beef on that. Well, unless it’s pulled, if it’s pulled, then a pulled pork. Maybe it’s because of the alliteration. I don’t know why.
Mike: I never heard you all like this because of the alliteration.
John: I would say beef.
Mike: To me, beef brisket done right is just tough to beat. But I’m in Alabama now, so pork is king, that and chicken with white sauce, which is fantastic, by the way. And so here’s my last one. We talked earlier and I know you’re a big football fan, a college football fan especially, and maybe this isn’t necessarily college football, but it’s football, right? Bobby Boucher or Uncle Rico?
John: You know what? I’m going to go Bobby Boucher on that, I think. Adam Sandler in The Waterboy, you know, man.
Mike: You saw him in human action. That’s why. I actually saw — but yeah, or Bobby Boucher.
Mike: Both of them just fantastic.
John: Uncle Rico was past his prime and he just taught me. No, he could. That’s an excellent question. That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Mike, for being a part of this. This has been so cool to hear your and, and I think I’m hungry now, so I got to go eat. That’s for sure.
Mike: Well, thank you, John. I certainly appreciate it.
John: Everybody, listen, if you want to see some pictures of Mike in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
So 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.
Tom is an Accountant & Griller
Tom Wheeland returns to the podcast from episode 138 to talk about his new passion in cooking and grilling! He also talks about how important it is for a leader to be open and vulnerable to make an impact within your organization!
• Got away from hiking after Grand Canyon trip
• Getting into cooking
• Why having something relatable to talk about is important
• The impact of being vulnerable
• The culture he tries to establish at BKD, LLP
• Let them know you were there
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Welcome to Episode 316 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. That’s right. You can get it on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, Indigo, Bookshop, a few other websites. We’ve got some really cool bonuses for launch week, like a buy-one-and-I’ll-personally-give-one-to-your-friend offer, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. The reviews, so far, on Amazon are blowing me away. It’s just so cool to see how much of an impact this book is having on so many of you from around the world, which is amazing to me.
Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Tom Wheeland. He’s the National Insurance Services Practice Leader at BKD, out of their St. Louis office, and now he’s with me here today. Tom, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Tom: Well, thanks so much, John. I appreciate it. This is really exciting for me to be on with a famous author, and looking forward to the movie version of your book and see who’s going to play John Garrett.
John: Right? Maybe Ben Affleck, I don’t know. He’s The Accountant Guy, apparently. Maybe Brad Pitt. I feel like — no, just let’s be honest. Let’s be honest. Yeah, it’s not realistic at all. No, it’s so cool to actually have you on, on launch week, because we met when I first started in accounting back in the day, so it’s cool that you can actually vouch for me as a legit, I went into an accounting office and got paid by them anyway.
Tom: Yeah, you actually were a double-entry accountant.
Tom: I can vouch for that.
John: It’s a little more on the internal audit side. I was never good at that double-entry stuff. I was like, here, you guys, figure that out. That’s awesome. I do have my rapid-fire questions I start the episodes with here. Get to know Tom on a new level. So, here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Okay, how about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
John: Koala. Nice. There you go. I haven’t gotten that one yet. That’s awesome. This one’s tricky, brownie or ice cream.
John: Brownie. Okay, okay. What’s a typical breakfast?
Tom: Oh, usually a bowl of Special K Berries, with the strawberries. Yeah.
John: Okay. I thought you were going to say brownie again. So, my book is out. You’ve already read it, but do you prefer Kindle or real books?
Tom: I like turning the page. I like having a real book in my hand. There’s the risk of paper cuts, you’ve got to watch that, but I still prefer the hard copy.
John: Very cool. Two more. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Tom: A Manhattan.
John: Oh, fancy.
John: Look at you. There you go. Last one, maybe the most important one ever. Toilet paper roll, is it over or under?
Tom: Over, definitely over. I’ve gone back and looked at the original patent, which was over. I’ve got to stick with the — respecting intellectual property.
John: There you go. That’s the best way I’ve heard it, right there. That’s fantastic. So, yeah, Episode 138, so long ago now. We talked, you had just hiked the Grand Canyon, which is impressive. Is hiking still a part of your repertoire, or has it moved on to other passions as well?
Tom: We still do hike, not as often. We did a lot of training for the Grand Canyon, and once we achieved it, I kind of packed my backpack away for a little while. My wife still does a little more of it than I do. I think there are some people at the gym that think that I died on the trip because I showed up with my wife with my backpack, and we had 20-pound kitty litter bags in our backpacks to add additional weight.
Tom: We’d do the treadmill for an hour. We’d leave. People started asking us about it. We said we were going to the Grand Canyon trip. Then about a month later, she showed back up the gym, and I never went back. I think people are thinking, maybe. I don’t know.
John: Right? I think your wife may be wanted for murder. It’s like somebody called it in. Is he missing? I think I know what happened.
Tom: She’s driving a nice car now. I don’t know what she did with those insurance proceeds.
John: Right, exactly, and a huge litter box full of all that kitty litter. That’s 40 pounds.
Tom: No cat.
John: Yeah, no cat. That’s very cool. I know you’ve been busy with other things as well that were also other passions that you’ve had a long time ago too.
Tom: Yeah. I played a lot of tennis in my life, and I still play competitively sometimes with my wife. That’s a little bit dangerous. It’s kind of like hanging wallpaper. You don’t necessarily want to play too much tennis with your spouse.
Tom: Still play a little recreational basketball but really, the passion I’ve gotten into more recently is cooking and grilling.
Tom: Anything involving food. I really started with the pandemic and being somewhat on lockdown and having a daughter who is pescatarian and trying to create new dishes that would be nutritious for her and tasty for us, so, smoking fish and barbecuing fish. It’s kind of turned into something that’s a challenge to try to find something that she can eat that we will enjoy and that’s not repetitive, day after day after day. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m not sure if I’m really good at it yet but, yeah, nobody’s gone to the hospital yet.
John: Well, then, you know what, that’s a win. That’s a huge win right there. So, pescatarian, is that anything from the sea?
Tom: Yup, vegetarian, plus any kind of seafood.
John: Okay, there you go.
Tom: My father, my sainted father who passed away, God rest his soul, when he first found out my daughter was pescatarian, he said, “Well, what’s the matter with being Catholic, Diana?” I said, “Well, pescatarian, not Presbyterian. It’s okay. She’s still going to mass on Sundays?”
John: That’s awesome, man. Did you grow up cooking at all, or was this just something that you took on as a challenge in March?
Tom: I never really cooked much. I’ve grilled a fair amount but usually just burgers and brats and stuff like that. Now, I’ve got a Kamado Joe, and I can go out there and put some fish out there for 45 minutes or an hour and give it a smoky flavor and experiment with different kind of wood chips. I use the gas grill if I need something quicker. It’s also something that you can talk to people at the office about.
I always think that whenever you can seem more approachable to the people around you, by talking about something that’s common, we all eat, a lot of us like to grill, and whenever you can drop any kind of facade or any barrier that’s separating you from a discussion with somebody who’s new to the organization, that they might look up at you as being something different than they are, when you can find something that — first of all, you open the Kamado and you say, “I’m vulnerable. I’m experimenting with cooking. I’m not really good at it. I’m getting better,” that makes you seem more real to them and encourages them to explore some of their own interests and share those interests, share the “And”, as you would say.
John: No, that’s awesome. I love that. Especially as a National Insurance Services Practice Leader, that’s certainly something that new people that come in as a 22, 23-year-old is like, holy crap. It’s almost like you don’t even have a name. Because I remember when I first started, you were a partner, and it was like, well, just go ask Tom. He’s just a guy, just right there. It wasn’t this intimidating figure. You’ve been doing it as long as I’ve known, which is awesome. It’s cool to see that you notice that anyway and that it makes a difference, which is what it’s all about, really.
Tom: I always would be intimidated by people that seemed to be so good at what they did at the office and then they would always share stories about all these great things they’re doing outside the office. They seem to be excelling at. It almost makes them seem like they’re totally unapproachable because they’re excelling in the office, they’re excelling out of the office. I think when you can share stories that make people realize you’re just like anybody else, like, hey, I’ve got a piece of fish, I don’t know what to do with it.
Tom: I’ve got a hungry family, and my wife is expecting me to cook right tonight. I have no idea what I’m doing. That just makes you just seem more human, and I think it really helps in terms of those relationships with some of the younger people in the office.
John: Yeah, and that’s an interesting point you just brought up that I hadn’t really thought of, is it’s not just sharing that hobby or passion or interest. It’s sharing something that maybe you’re not even good at, and that’s a whole another level of — especially in this day of social media where we only show our awesome sides. It’s like the opposite of Facebook where it’s, hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, and look at this fish that I just totally burnt. Hopefully they make pescatarian pizza so we can fill in the gap tonight. That’s such a huge point that you brought up, which is awesome, of that being vulnerable, sort of a thing. Do you feel like that’s something that you’ve always been like that, or has it come later with confidence?
Tom: I think it’s come later with confidence and feeling that you have an important role to encourage people to explore their interests to become more interesting people, whether you want to be well-read or just well-rounded in terms of hobbies and interests. It makes you more interesting to clients, when you’re out meeting with clients. People gravitate toward people that are interesting and have something to say and something to share. I also want people in our organization to, I’m not saying, encouraging them to make mistakes, but encouraging them to take risks, and obviously within a framework of risk management, but to try new things, whether it’s in the office, a new way of looking at something, and not to feel as if we have this veil of perfection around us that we can’t make a mistake and we can’t admit that we made a mistake. I think that’s really how people grow in that type of environment.
John: Yeah, totally. Because there are layers of review so it’s not going from somebody that’s going to push the envelope a little bit on extending themselves, to straight out to the client or the media. It’s like, no, no, we have some layers in there to catch things, but everyone’s given their best swing. They’re going to try as hard as they can. They’re not being reckless. Let’s treat our people like adults, instead of like toddlers. That’s awesome, man. That’s really awesome to hear. I love that quote you emailed me after finishing the book, of what your dad would tell you, which is awesome. I’ll let you bring that in.
Tom: Whenever he was at a basketball game or any activity that I was involved in, and even when I got into my professional career, his expression was always, let them know you were there. In other words, make an impact. Use your own style, stay within yourself, but don’t be afraid to be you. When you walk off the field or you walk off the stage or after a presentation, for people to say, “That’s Tom Wheeland. He made an impact.” Maybe he doesn’t get the work, or maybe he doesn’t win the game, but carried yourself with integrity and decency and sportsmanship. That’s really impacted me in everything I do. I try to establish at least a culture that other people can let us know that they were there and let the world know that they were there, not just hogging the spotlight for yourself but sharing that spotlight with other people.
John: No, that’s huge. That’s so huge. It’s something that not a lot of people in leadership positions do. It’s, well, I worked hard to get here, and I want all of the credit from all of your work. What is it that makes you want to be the way that you are?
Tom: I think it’s just I want to make my parents proud and my wife proud. My parents have passed, but I’m pretty sure they’re watching just about everything I do.
Tom: My mom would always joke that, “I’ll haunt you when I’m away.” In some way, she is.
John: Right. We’re talking about her on the podcast, so nailed it.
Tom: can do, yeah.
John: Right, right.
Tom: You’re brought up a certain way. When I realized all the touchstones I had in my life, and the positive impact people have had on me, and it’s really taken me, unfortunately, maybe 58 years to process it all; but I realized, I’m in a place in the world for a reason. I’ve got to take full advantage of that and try to set things up for other people to excel and to flourish, both in the office and outside the office.
John: I love that so much, man. That’s awesome and so encouraging to hear. It’s not impossible. It can very much be done, and it should be done, is where we’re at. This has been so much fun, Tom. I feel like before I wrap it up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables. This is the first episode of The Tom Wheeland Show, so I’ll allow you to rapid-fire question me. Thanks for having me on as a guest. I booked myself, thank you. Anything you’ve got for me.
Tom: Well, Episode One of the Tom Wheeland webcast, and my guest today is John Garrett, world-renowned author of What’s Your “And”? John, I just have a couple of rapid-fire questions for you. I’m not going to do the boxers or briefs because that’s just way too easy.
John: All right.
Tom: When I look at what you do and the value that you bring to organizations, sharing some of your stories and your experiences, as well as your incredible sense of humor and devilish good looks.
John: Stop now. Just stop now.
Tom: How did you pivot during this pandemic when so much of probably what you were doing was in-person live, and now you’ve had to change things up?
John: It was brutal. Yeah, it was really brutal, to be honest, and having the book coming out, just trying to stay positive, also just trying to be the best version of myself. It seemed like a lot of people turned into the extreme, terrible version. People were greedy. They were hoarding things. People were bossy and dictators. Just, don’t do this, do this, do this. I know some people, where they work, they were getting emails, three, four times a day. Make sure you hit your chargeable hours. It’s like, are you drunk? Do you even know what’s going on in the world and the stuff we’re trying to get through?
It’s doing a lot of things, virtually. It’s really hard. It’s different. It’s exhausting, but I think that it’s making that impact just in a different way because people need that now, and especially some of the funny. We need that little bit of break. Because when we’re working at home, we don’t really have a break. It’s always there. It’s always on. Some people don’t have a spare bedroom/office. It’s on the kitchen table while they’re eating, and then they can’t get away from it. Especially now, it’s come to light of how much this message matters now, where people really need those outside of work interests, just to get through the day. In Episode 300, talked with Tony Nitti about that and just mental wellness. Forget the client relationships, forget the coworker relationships, do it for yourself.
John: We’ve all been each other’s homes. Let’s not act like we haven’t. I’ve seen you at 8 am when your kids are screaming about their homework and your dog’s barking and you haven’t showered. We’re real people. Let’s carry that forward. It’s also encouraged me to go bigger with like a consulting piece to this. How do we implement this? It’s simple but not easy, so let’s implement this, kind of to go with the book. Yeah, that was a super long answer. I feel like I’m ruining your first episode right away.
Tom: Yeah. This is my show, not your show.
John: Right, exactly. You got to just interrupt me.
Tom: When you lay down at night, and you close your eyes, and you think about what you’re most thankful for; what would that be?
John: Yeah, wow. Well, that Tom Wheeland agreed to come back on the podcast, that’ll be tonight. But before today, honestly, the sacrifices that my parents have made for me to be able to be where I am. We both went to Notre Dame. I still don’t, to this day, understand how my parents financed that, and I’m a finance guy. So, the sacrifices that they made for me to be where I am and to have those opportunities and to do those kind of things, yeah, I’m super grateful for that, for sure.
Tom: That’s awesome, and Notre Dame record this year will be…
John: Oh, yeah. I could see it going 12 and 0. I could see 11 and 1. I think Clemson is really just the hard game. I mean, it’s college football, though, so who knows what will happen, especially with COVID and Ian Book goes down or whatever. I think that the rosters deep, and we’re really talented. I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes. I think they’re good, and they’re all headed in the right direction together, which is cool. We’ll see. I don’t know. What’s your take?
Tom: I’m bullish on this team. I think it’s got a — when you have such an experienced quarterback and you’ve got some nice, young running backs and Kyren Williams and…
John: St. Louis guy.
Tom: Yeah, so I’m bullish. I think it’s going to be a good season. It’s going to be fun to see how this whole thing plays out with a different schedule and then weaving in a non-conference team, and what the overall impact on college football is of recruiting and scholarships and teams that don’t play this year. How does that roll over? You get an extra year of eligibility and then all of a sudden you have 100 kids on scholarship as opposed to 85, whatever. We’ve never done this before.
John: We’d all be Alabama. It’d be weird.
John: That was just who’s listening. I’m just excited that college football’s happening. That’s one of my big passions. Notre Dame’s great, but any college football, that’s where it’s at.
John: That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Tom, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It was so fun to catch up again.
Tom: Great to see you, my friend. Godspeed. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help further this movie version of your book.
John: Well, thanks, man. Thank you. Maybe we’ll get you to play the part. There we go.
Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Tom in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget to buy the book. Launch week, buy one, I’ll give one, so, hook your friend up.
Thanks 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.
Chris is an Operations Manager & Chef
Chris Macksey, Operations Manager for Prix Fixe Accounting, talks about the differences in culture between the corporate world and the restaurant world. He also talks some of the many skills that can overlap from cooking to accounting!
• Getting into cooking
• Culture differences in the restaurant business vs. accounting
• Some of the overlapping skills between being a cook and an accountant
• The waste of motion principle
• How Prix Fixe supports other businesses
• Overcoming the barriers of being open
• Don’t be a suit
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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