Kesha is an Accountant & Style Influencer
Kesha JonTae’ talks about her passion for fashion, getting comfortable with her own style, and how confidence is a large part of her hobby and career!
• Getting into fashion
• How confidence plays a role
• Her relationship with the senior manager
• Opening up in the office
• How the individual and the organization are vital to a company’s culture
• The culture at HD Supply, Inc.
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 309 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in September. It’s available for pre-order right now on Amazon, Indigo, Bookshop and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it, and this book will really help to spread that message.
Please don’t forget to subscribe on 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, Kesha JonTae. She’s a tax accountant in Atlanta, Georgia, and now she’s with me here today. Kesha, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kesha: No problem, no problem. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
John: Absolutely. This is going to be awesome. All right, my rapid fire questions right out of the gate.
Kesha: It’s know Kesha on a new level here. Here we go. The Millennial Taxpert, I love that nickname. That’s so awesome.
Kesha: Thank you.
John: Yeah, absolutely. So, here we go. This is an easy one or maybe not, for a fashionista. Favorite color.
John: Purple, okay, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Kesha: Least favorite color will probably be yellow.
John: Yellow. Okay, okay, fair enough. This is a tricky one, cheeseburger or pizza.
Kesha: Oh, that is a tricky one.
Kesha: Because I love them both. But pizza, definitely, I think edges cheeseburger out.
John: Yeah, yeah, like a really good pizza.
Kesha: Yeah, and I eat pineapple on my pizzas, so.
John: Okay. I’m with you on that. I’m with you on that. That’s okay. That’s okay. How about pens or pencils?
John: Pencils. Nice, okay. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Kesha: My favorite actor right now is Michael B. Jordan because he is at the top of my BAE list. I call him Michael Bae Jordan.
John: That’s awesome. We have to try to and get him to respond. I can do my little Chuck Woolery matchmaker here. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Kesha: Definitely a night owl.
John: Night owl. Okay, all right. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kesha: Star Trek. I really am not a huge fan of either of them, but I can actually watch Star Trek without being bored, so, Star Trek.
John: Okay, fair enough, fair enough. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Kesha: My work computer is a PC, and at home, I’m all Apple everything.
John: Oh, wow, so you’re like ambidextrous on that. Nice. I like that. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I’m a huge ice cream junkie, so I got to ask.
Kesha: Butter pecan, or if you’re from the South, butter pecan.
John: Butter pecan. Okay, there you go, there you go. All right. No, that’s old school. I like that. How about, corporate or personal income tax return?
Kesha: I do both.
John: Oh, wow.
Kesha: I do both.
Kesha: In my full-time job, I’m a corporate tax accountant, so I do corporate income tax. Outside of my full-time job, I deal with personal income tax.
John: Oh, wow, wow. You just —
John: — all the time. That’s impressive. Okay, how about cats or dogs?
John: Dogs. Yeah, me too, me too. How about when you travel, planes, trains or automobiles?
Kesha: Planes. I’ve got to get there fast.
John: Get there, yup. Four more. How about a favorite number?
Kesha: 2, 22 because that’s my birthday.
John: Oh, okay, all right. I like that, very cool. Yeah. I was like, I never heard that one. We need more people born on February 22nd. I cracked the code. I’m fast like that. How about heels or flats?
Kesha: I love heels, but I wear flats all the time.
John: Sure, safety’s sake.
John: I hear you. That’s why I don’t wear heels either.
Kesha: You never know when there’s going to be a fire drill. You don’t want to be caught with heels.
John: That’s a good point right there. That’s an excellent point. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Kesha: Favorite movie, I don’t know if I have one right now, but when I was younger, it was Bring It On because I was a cheerleader.
John: Yeah, there you go. That was a great movie too, really good movie. All right, the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Kesha: My favorite thing. I love everything that I have which is why I’m probably a pack rat, but my favorite thing will probably have to be my clothes because I can’t get rid of them even though I try.
John: Yeah, right, right. I’m not sure you’re trying so hard there. If we’re being honest, just like an intervention, but right now your friends all got me together. No, no. That’s awesome though. That leads right into your passion with fashion which is great. Is that something that you’ve always been into, since you were a kid?
Kesha: I’ve always really liked clothes, but I never really got into style, per se, until I got older and started working and had the money to buy my own clothes and actually figure out how to put things together so that I wasn’t wearing the same thing or breaking out of my uniform. I will say maybe within the last five or six years is when I really got into being stylish and actually putting clothes together to where they make sense and you actually look like you tried.
John: Right, yeah. Your Instagram is fantastic.
Kesha: Thank you.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Did you learn on your own? Do you read magazines? I clearly don’t do style, so where do you go about this?
Kesha: I follow a lot of style influencers, so, bloggers, Instagramers, YouTubers. Personally, my style is, I don’t want to say it’s different, but my style is just like whatever I want to wear. I look at other people to see how they’re putting things together just to get an idea, but I don’t necessarily want to be a carbon copy of other people. I get ideas from other people, but I put things together in my own way to where I like them. Sometimes some people might look at it and be like, hmm, I don’t know what’s going on there, but it looks good to me, so.
John: Is it laundry day? Why are you wearing —
John: — a cap and gown? What are you doing? Are you graduating? No, no, I’m teasing. How much is it on just confidence and, you know what, this is what I want to wear, and I look good, and this is what it is. Because I feel like if you try to copycat too much then that can play with your head, I would imagine.
Kesha: Yeah. A lot of it is definitely confidence because — especially when you’re at the point where you’re just like, I’m just going to wear what I want to wear and not necessarily that I want to look like that person or I want to look like that person, I’m just going to wear what looks good to me, is definitely about confidence. Because, like I said, I can put something on and somebody, probably my mom, will be like, that doesn’t look good. I’m like, well, that’s okay because I like it, so I’m going to continue to wear it. There’s always going to be somebody that’s like, that looks really good, I love that; and there’s always going to be somebody that’s like, I would have done something better there.
When you’re focused on trying to just create your own style instead of copying somebody else’s, confidence really does play a part. I really also think that even if you’re trying to copy somebody else or trying to emulate somebody else, which I really wouldn’t suggest, but confidence also plays a part because sometimes you might put on the same exact clothes that somebody else has on and you might not feel like you look as good as them because they have a different body type, they might be taller, they have confidence, and you might not have confidence. So, confidence really does pull all of that together at the end of the day because when you feel good and you think you look good, then nobody else matters.
John: Yeah, because Cam Newton pulls out some cool outfits.
John: Like a Halloween costume. I don’t even know.
Kesha: Right, there are some influencers out there that the only way they can pull that off is with a lot of confidence.
John: Right, right. That’s such a great point. I think that that translates to work as well, where it’s, you’re trying to be somebody else. That happens so much in the professional world that we’re in, that we’re trying to be somebody else. It’s like, you can still be successful in your own way.
John: Yeah, which I think is cool that you’re living that through your hobby, passion on the side, type of thing, and that translates over to the office, I would imagine.
Kesha: Absolutely, because you have to be confident in anything that you do, whether it’s your job that you’re doing 40 or plus hours a week, especially when you’re in the tax industry.
Kesha: Or whether anything outside of work, relationships, parenting, style. Anything that you want to do, you have to be confident in it, or it’s just not going to work. You may not necessarily be as successful as you want to be just because you will always feel like it could be better.
John: Yeah. Oh, wow, that’s huge. Yeah, because that’s a never-ending chase right there.
Kesha: Right, exactly.
John: That’s crazy. Do you have a favorite outfit that you’ve worn that’s maybe on the edge of where your mom would be like, wait, what, type of thing.
Kesha: I love all my clothes. I love all my outfits, but —
John: As if they’re listening.
Kesha: I love you all. So, in addition to my clothes, I also wear a lot of wigs just to switch it up a little bit because I have natural hair. Sometimes I don’t want to deal with actually having to style it that day or that week, so I’ll just throw a wig on top of it. One of my favorite outfits, I think has to be when I came to work basically all black with purple Converse and a purple wig on.
Kesha: I work in Corporate America, so it’s probably something that people weren’t expecting. My boss loves when I come to work dressed, I don’t want to say crazy because I’m not dressed, but different, right?
John: Yeah, different.
Kesha: So, he always has to remark on my outfit. That was his favorite outfit ever. He said I looked like an assassin.
John: That’s actually probably the best compliment ever.
John: Man, I want somebody to call me an assassin now, like, after I speak at a conference on the review, “He was an assassin.” I’ll be like, oh, my God, I made it. I probably just need a purple wig. That’s what I should do.
Kesha: There you go, just get a purple wig.
John: But, I mean, that doesn’t interfere with your job.
John: It doesn’t interfere with other people doing their job.
Kesha: Unless they’re being nosy.
John: Well, yeah, but that’s on them then.
Kesha: Right, exactly.
John: It’s not like your purple hair plays loud music.
John: I’m in my office, in my cube, minding my business, whatever. That’s so cool. I love how it matched the shoes. That’s solid right there. That’s on point right there. That’s nice. That’s very cool. Are there other people at work that — I mean, clearly know that you’re into style, like your boss, but are there people that share that or you talk about style with?
Kesha: I talk about my style with basically everybody on my team. My team is made up of — there’s seven of us now, and the three top — the senior manager, director, VP, they’re all men, but everybody else are women, and so we talk about style all the time. We talk about fashion. We talk about all the things all the time. We’re really close. Also people that are not on my team that I see in passing all the time, they’ll see me in the hall sometimes and be like, I really love what you’re doing today. It just reminds me, people are actually paying attention. Because sometimes you don’t think that people are actually paying attention to you and so when they come up to you, and they’re like, I really love the way you put that together, I love how you always put things together; it just reminds you that people are actually looking. They are actually paying attention. Oh, I couldn’t wait to see what you came in today. I’m sure, when we finally go back into the office after months of working from home, there’s probably going to be people like, oh, I just couldn’t wait to see what you’re going to look like, what kind of wig you’re going to have on, or what color you’re going to come in with.
John: That’s awesome. Because it goes from you’re just a tax accountant or like a number, to, no, that’s Kesha, and you’re a real person that has other dimensions to you. It’s cool that people notice that. Like you said, I mean, you could hear it in your voice, it motivates you. It lights you up. It’s like, wow, people notice I’m a person.
Kesha: Exactly, and sometimes I do get dressed just to see what people will say. Sometimes I’m like, okay, well, let me see how many compliments I can get today.
John: There you go. No, that’s fantastic. That’s so cool because we should all be able to feel that and be able to have someone say, “Hey, I know you as a person, and I appreciate what you’re doing and who you are, above and beyond just what the work is that you’re doing here.”
Kesha: I will be willing to bet that some people probably don’t even know that I am a tax accountant at my job, but they probably will be able to be like, oh, yeah, that girl that wears the purple wig and all the nice clothes. They could probably pick me out if somebody is describing me, instead of saying, Kesha on the tax team. They’re probably, I don’t know that person. They can say, Kesha that comes in and she’s always dressed nice. She wears a different wig. Oh, yeah, I know her. I actually prefer for people to know me more than just being that person that does taxes.
John: Yeah, I love that so much, and it’s so true. It’s in the intro for the podcast of, it’s above and beyond your technical skills. It’s the things that differentiate you. They don’t even know, but then they know who you are. Even if they came into the tax firm, they’re like, just a whole bunch of tax accountants.
John: It’s like, no, no, we are not. We are all tax accountants who also have randomly different things.
John: That’s cool. I hope, for their sake, that the three dudes in charge of your department will get some fashion tips from you because they probably need it. I’m just saying.
Kesha: Well, one of them, the senior director, he definitely doesn’t need any fashion tips. We actually talk about his fashion too.
John: Oh, cool. Well, good for him, good for him. That’s so fantastic. So, it sounds like it benefits your career. People actually know who you are, and people in other departments. I would imagine, even if you had to go to another department for some information or report or something, and you get there; it’s like, oh, I know you. Now, your friends, instead of just coworkers that are adversarial, almost. Now you’re working for the same team.
Kesha: Exactly. Like I said, they might not know who I am. We could probably email each other or Skype each other all day for weeks at a time, and they probably still wouldn’t really know who I am until I’m in front of them. They’re like, oh, oh, that’s you. Yeah, that’s me.
John: Because the email, yeah, it’s just my signature. It doesn’t have my picture or whatever or what color wig I’m wearing. Yeah, you would have to have 20 different pictures.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so cool. Have you always been like this in your corporate life, if you will? Or is it something that’s a little more later bloom?
Kesha: No. I actually got into Corporate America about seven years ago now, and I kind of was wearing a uniform. I was always wearing black because when I was in school for Accounting, Accounting is very conservative. You should always wear dark colors and things like that, so that’s what I was gravitating towards. One day, I was just like, but that’s not how I am in real life. I’m not the type of person that just always wears dark colors and black clothes and wears the same thing all the time. So then I just started sprinkling in the color and the style and then doing more and more and more until, now, this is what I’m known for. For example, like I said, eventually going to go back to work, and they talk about that we may have to start wearing masks. My boss was like, yeah, Kesha, they make decorative masks now. They go with your outfit, so you can buy all these masks and coordinate them with your outfits. I’m like, I already have some.
John: Right. You’re late, buddy.
John: That’s hilarious. Yeah, you’re right, because like in college, if you were in an all-business class, anyone with color was, well, you’re a Marketing major. You’re clearly not into Accounting and Finance. Now, even when I speak, I like to have, inside my suit linings, just be kind of fun. So, on the outside, it’s like, oh, yeah; but you see the inside, you’re like, whoa, wait a minute.
Kesha: Right, what, what…
John: Something going on there, like, fun socks or stuff like that, where I’m not quite able to pull it off, but if you can then that’s awesome. It doesn’t, at all, inhibit your ability to do your job, so who cares? Or especially other people’s jobs. That’s really cool, yeah, and so that’s great to see. I would imagine that, that just feels better, to be able to dress in, well, these are the clothes that I like to wear, whether they’re bright or not, type of a thing, versus when you’re trying to play a part, like you’re in a movie, that terrible, terrible movie. It’s just like, we are all the same. This is terrible.
Kesha: Right, and I am more of an introvert, so I like to say that I’m an introvert with an extroverted style because my style is always very colorful. Sometimes I do get to a point where I just want to wear black. I don’t want to wear any more color because I’m colored out. For the most part, it’s color, it’s pattern mixing, it’s all kinds of things; but from a personality standpoint, I’m definitely more in my shell. I felt like when I did start branching out to wear what I want to wear, I came out more around my coworkers because I was very to myself. I come into work. I sit down at my desk. I do my job. I talk a little bit here and there. I didn’t really get too involved with everybody else until I started coming out of that shell and starting with all-black outfit with maybe colored shoes and then maybe now a different-colored top from the shoes that I’m wearing and not necessarily so matchy-matchy. People responded positively to it, and now I feel like I can be myself.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, so it’s just a little bit at a time. I love hearing that. It’s so cool to hear because you feel alive now. It’s literally bringing color to a black and white world, a gray, bleh. I love how you said that, where you’re like tiptoeing into the pool. You don’t just jump in with the most extreme outfit possible. It’s share amongst a little group or just try it out, and before you know it, your boss is calling you out during a big — he didn’t call anybody else out about getting mad.
John: Clearly, they know who you are, which is really cool. That’s so cool. It sounds like it’s a great place to be. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that environment, from the tone at the top, versus, how much is it as an individual just to create your little circle amongst yourselves of sharing those passions or interests outside of work?
Kesha: I think it’s definitely on both the individual and the company as a whole. I think it’s probably more so on the company as a whole to provide that area or that space where people feel comfortable doing that. Of course, then, it’s up on the individual to be able to take that opportunity and do something with it. My team, we’re all tax accountants. People think about the tax team, and they probably think that we’re just super boring. Because accountants are already boring but then tax accountants are probably really boring.
John: Even regular accountants don’t hang out with you. They’re like, no.
Kesha: Yeah, regular accountants don’t even hang out with tax accountants, but our team’s completely opposite of that. Our team is 180 degrees, from the VP who is the biggest jokester out of the whole team. He literally probably sets aside a time where he comes out of his office just to bother people and joke with people, down to the new person that we just hired. We’re completely different. We’re a lot closer, I think, because we have that connection with each other where we can be open, and we can talk to each other about what’s going on, outside of work.
I tell them about everything. They even know about my “side business.” They know all the things. They know about during tax season when I work a second job, providing tax advice for a tech software company. They know about that, too. They even ask me questions. Every Monday, we come in, “Did you have any crazy stories over the weekend?” They’re very good about fostering that kind of environment. So, I think that if that opportunity wasn’t there or if it wasn’t as open, then nobody would feel comfortable being able to go to each other and say, “Hey, I’ve got this going on, or I have this going on,” things like that.
John: Oh, that’s so cool to hear, yeah. Because we’re so permission-based, we want to ask permission rather than just do it. Then no one says anything, and you’re like, oh, well, that was weird. I don’t know why I didn’t do this months ago. But that’s such a cool environment. If your tax department is like that, then I believe that a lot of them are. It’s just that stereotype that we have for engineers and lawyers and accountants and tax accountants and bankers and what name — a white collar type of profession, corporate type of job. We all think that they’re going to be this way, but it could be anyway and still be successful.
John: If anything, I would think that being more you makes you more successful in the end.
John: Because if you dress the same as everyone else, then no one would really know who you were. They would probably forget your name. No one from another department would know, that’s for sure. Or they would know you worked in the corporate tax department because you dress like them.
Kesha: Oh, yeah, her.
John: Exactly. Well, that’s so cool to hear. This is so awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has an interest outside of work that they feel like has nothing to do with their job?
Kesha: If you have an interest outside of work that has nothing to do with your job, and you want to bring it into your job, to be able to talk about it. Because, personally, I think that we’re social creatures. Even those of us like me who are super introverted, at some point, we are still social creatures. You have to spend all day with these people, and to not be able to share yourself outside of work with them, I just feel like is very sad. So, if you have an interest outside of work and you want to bring it into the job, whether it be with your whole team or just somebody that you just talk to, then just do it. Just say, “Hey, I have this going on.” You’ll be surprised to find out that other people also have things going on too that it might even be the same thing. I might find somebody at work that is also into clothes as much as I am. I haven’t yet.
John: That’s the next level. Come on now. You’re a professional.
Kesha: I might be able to find somebody else who has some interest in clothing, in fashion or style, not just necessarily clothing, but fashion and style, not necessarily to the extent that I do but an interest in it all the same. You never know until you actually do reach out. If you are in one of those companies that you really just feel like they don’t provide that opportunity for you to share, I’m sorry. I’ve never been in a position like that. I know people do, but even if you just talk to one person and let them know, befriend them and let them know what you’re into, outside of work. Because whenever you meet people, the question they always ask you is, “What do you do?” I think you even mentioned this earlier. The question actually was, what do you do? I’m like, there’s so much more about me than me being an accountant. When I tell people I’m an accountant, they have all these different things of what I do. I’m like, no, I do taxes. They’re like, oh, hmm.
John: Right, end of conversation.
Kesha: That’s it. Or if they can see you ask them questions, they’re not an accountant, or they’re not a tax accountant maybe at the level that I’m at, this sounds super elitist, but I don’t mean to be —
John: I have an Accounting degree, and I am definitely not at the level of tax questions that you are, for sure.
Kesha: Right, and then they either want to ask you a lot of questions about taxes, and it’s like, I’m off the clock, so I don’t really want to answer these questions. Or you can get into a conversation with them, and they really just don’t understand what you’re talking about because they don’t have that level of understanding of the subject. So the way that you can be able to connect to somebody is your interest outside of what you do because — my brother is an engineer, and my mother is in IT. When we get on the phone and we start talking about our jobs, it’s like, alright, okay; but when we talk about other things, it’s a better conversation. That was a long way to say, being able to connect with people with your interests other than just what you do because, like you said, you are more than what you do, so being able to connect to each other with your interest outside of just your job, I think, you have a better connection with people. You can connect to more people.
John: The answer to that question could be, I’m a tax accountant and way into style. Now it’s on you to pick which one you want to talk about.
John: I’m guessing it’s the second one, but at least I gave you some options.
John: It doesn’t matter if it’s for A or if it’s for a side hustle. No, it’s just for fun because that’s what I like to do, and it’s a much better conversation. So, the answer is there’s an “And” in there, which is fitting.
This has been awesome, Kesha. This has been so much fun and getting to know you. It’s only fair that I allow you to turn the tables on me since I rapid-fire questioned you right out of the gate like that. Now it’s the Kesha JonTae Show, everybody. You’re the host, and you could question me.
Kesha: All right, favorite city in the world.
John: Oh, favorite city in the world. Yeah, I would probably say Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a cool mix of a lot of things happening at one time, and there’s wine country, 40 minutes away.
Kesha: That’s important.
John: There’s a lot going on there. There’s layers to it, for good and for bad at the same time, but it’s a cool city.
Kesha: Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
John: Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s the doppelganger kind of people that like, well, that guy looks like you, sort of a thing but, yeah, I don’t know. Will Smith is just super cool, so there is that. Or there are the Brad Pitts or the Hugh Jackmans. So at least, I don’t know, people would be like, wow, he must be way cool. Then they meet you in real life, and they’re like, wait, what? That’s weird. I feel like we should sue. I don’t know, one of those guys. I’m a huge Jim Carrey fan from his acting days. That would be fun.
Kesha: Okay. I think this is the most important question out of all the questions that were asked today.
Kesha: Marvel or DC.
John: Oh, wow. I’m going to really let you down because I don’t know the difference, whichever one has the old school ones. They’re both —
Kesha: Superman is DC.
Kesha: All of the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, that’s Marvel.
John: Oh, okay, so then I guess I’ll go Marvel then.
John: Yeah, like Iron Man and the — okay, all right. I was almost kicked off the very first Kesha JonTae Show. Now I know how to answer that question from now on. It was almost like me asking you Star Wars or Star Trek where you’re like, hmm. You’re like, Marvel? Well, that would have worked.
Well, very cool. Well, this has been so much fun, Kesha. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kesha: Thank you for having me. I really definitely enjoyed this.
John: Awesome, yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kesha and her style or connect with her 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, my book is available for pre-order now at whatsyourand.com. The link’s there too.
Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast 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.
Mayur is a CFO & Over dresser
Mayur is a CFO and business advisor to startups to small/mid-size companies. With 15 years’ experience (most of it at PwC), he’s been an auditor, management consultant, and corporate trainer. He now supports clients with tax planning, investor relations, due diligence, and financial projections. He enjoys working in a high-performance environment while keeping the team motivated through humor and encouragement.
Mayur talks about his passion for dressing sharp, being an individual, and how he applies humor and being casual towards motivating his team members and providing an environment of ease for his clients!
• Dressing slightly different to stand out
• How custom suits can motivate you to stay in shape
• Mayur’s first custom suit experience
• Providing a comfortable environment for clients through conversation
• Talking about his passion for fashion in the office
• How PwC encouraged him to be an individual in the office
• Encouraging his team members to give suggestions in the office
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 221 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like you’re an accountant and something, you’re a lawyer and something. It’s those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, and it’s the things that actually differentiates you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book is being published in just a few weeks. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it, and this book will help really spread that message and share with it everyone.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Mayur Vyas. Before becoming the CFO at Finconoso in Washington, D.C. area, he spent 10 years at PwC, so we got the hook up there. Now he’s with me here today.
Mayur, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mayur: Hey, John, thanks so much for having me, sir.
John: I’m just excited to have you on. We’ve been talking on social media for like two years since you first started listening to the podcast. Now the magic is happening. So I’m just excited for that.
Mayur: Certainly, yeah. No, it’s been so great hearing you these times and seeing the progress you’ve made. At long last, you finally said, “Hey, is that guy still alive?”
John: Exactly. You’re a real person. So let’s just jump right out of the gate and not even get to know each other, but just 17 rapid-fire questions. We’re just taking it to the extreme right here. So here we go. I’ll ask you, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mayur: Star Wars.
John: Okay, all right. When it comes to your computer, more PC or a Mac?
John: Your mouse, left click or right click?
Mayur: I’m all about that left click.
John: Okay, making decisions. There you go. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Mayur: Jafar from Alladin.
John: Oh, yeah, that’s a popular one. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Mayur: France, yeah, Southern France.
John: Southern France. Yeah, yeah. As an accountant, I have to ask you, more balance sheet or income statement?
Mayur: Well, it’s all about the income statement because what goes on the balance sheet without your retained earnings anyway.
John: There you go. How about do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Mayur: I mentioned the French thing, so Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the regional wine that would be my adult beverage.
John: Yeah, absolutely. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Mayur: I think it’s my dad’s lucky number, and I just use it.
John: Yeah, no, that works for me, man. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Mayur: Over. What kind of savage goes under?
John: Right. I don’t know either, but they’re out there. Here we go. More brownie or ice cream?
Mayur: Oh, man, one on top of the other.
John: Probably, the only right answer on that one as well. Puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Yeah. Okay, how about a favorite color?
John: There you go. How about a least favorite color?
Mayur: Ooh, beige.
John: That’s a good answer. How about cats or dogs?
Mayur: I’ll say dogs.
John: Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Mayur: Let’s see. Jeff Goldblum.
John: Really good answer. When you’re on an airplane, more window seat or aisle seat?
Mayur: Aisle seat.
John: Last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Mayur: Everything I have, I’ll say my family.
John: Good answer. Very good answer. So yeah, so let’s jump into this with the fashion. Is this something that you were like as a kid, or was it something that came around later in life?
Mayur: I think it was like when I was a kid because I’d always try to be dressed slightly different than everyone else. As an adult, it’s easy to be like, okay, you can dress nice and everything. But as a kid, obviously, you don’t have the resources. It would come up as awkward and kind of zany that it would as an adult.
John: Because I mean, yeah, you can’t just go buy what you want, and your parents aren’t just going to go fill your closet with every wardrobe item you want. That’s interesting. Was it something that you just wanted to stand out, or you just didn’t want to be a part of everyone else?
Mayur: I think it was more the latter, not like in any sort of rebellious way. It was more just I like to do my own thing, and it was just for me. When I got older, then I realized I need to probably look like other people.
John: Totally. Lady Gaga up here and show up in your meat suit or whatever.
Mayur: It was on the clearance so, you know.
John: That’s funny. They didn’t have it in my size. That’s really fascinating because you wanted to do your own thing, wanted to stand out just a little bit. And then as you became an adult, you just figured out your own way to do it. And so now, is it more of just colors, or is it like a pocket square type of thing, or what is it now?
Mayur: I’ll say I had my peacock face, probably in my mid to late 20s and then as I’m aging myself here, then as I entered my 30s and mid-30s and now I’ll just leave it at that, now it’s more of a traditional. I’ll just kind of stick to my blacks, my grays, dark navys, usually just a crisp white, sometimes with stripes. The only thing I will add probably on my socks or the pocket square.
John: Or even like when I get the major measure suits or what have you, then the linings on the inside, those are always where you can —
Mayur: Oh, yeah.
John: When somebody catches that, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought that person would be like,” where it’s just like a fun little party going on.
Mayur: You’re always looking for an excuse to like, “Oh, let me just take my jacket off here. Oh, pop a color.”
John: What? Look at that. That’s funny. But the socks for sure is super fun. Is there like a cool or more rewarding experience that you’ve had from this? I do the made-to-measure suits because it’s just cheaper than custom. Do you go in and have suits made, or you went off-the-rack guy? I’m sure you’re not.
Mayur: I do have plenty of custom suits and whatnot and much to my wife’s chagrin, but it ends up taking up more space in the closet than her stuff.
John: I’m with you on that, man. Good for you. Good for you. That first moment, the very first one, I’ll never forget because you get measured and then they make the suit. And then when you put it on, you’re like, “wow, like this is for me.” It fits perfectly. I don’t have to get it tailored now. I don’t have to feel like I’m wearing my dad’s pants or whatever because we’re both kind of slender guys, so it’s hard to find those.
Mayur: That’s so true. I took that point, though. It also motivates you to stay in shape. Firstly, you work out so you can fit into them, and then that’s the point, you got to stay in that shape. A suit that wouldn’t have made custom made in college or early days would be one thing.
John: Maybe a little extra half inch here and there, just in case. I hear you on that. Do you have any favorite suits or favorite experiences from buying them?
Mayur: Yeah, the first time I got a full custom made was, I want to say, five years now. And I’ve taken forever to do it. I was joking about my wife, but she was the one who encouraged me to do it. And that was like a fun experience because there’s the old-school Italian tailor and then they had the leather mahogany wood room, everything. They’re all chatting. I thought it’d be all formal, but everyone’s joking around in there. Just that whole experience and then, okay, great. And then they select all the fabrics and all that stuff. It’s like the first time that I got to feel like, “Oh, my God! This is my day.”
John: Yeah. Right. It’s like you’re the bride, finally.
Mayur: My turn.
John: It’s my turn. But that’s really cool. I think it’s interesting to how fun and casual and jokey they were about it. You would think, oh, it’s going to be firm and proper and all of this because you’re spending a good amount of money on a formal outfit. And then you get in there and they’re real people. I would imagine that that translates to you in the office a little bit as well. People probably expect you to, “Oh, he’s a CFO. He’s an accountant. He’s whatever.” And then once they get to know you, there’s another side there.
Mayur: Actually, that’s a great analogy too. I didn’t even think about that. It’s true because I will obviously be dressed up, and I try to have my business partner also do his best. And then the staff is usually looking pretty sharp too. When we have a new client, they do come in and they see all of us looking dressed to the nines, and it could be intimidating. They’re like, “Oh, great, what am I paying for?” I always try to make this experience for them as fun as possible between all the people you’ve spoken to. It’s not like the stereotype is accountants wear green visor, boring. We try to make it fun for them and create, if it’s a tax plan client, we’ll try to make it fun, or whatever it is. Yeah, the idea is to put them at ease and just have a good time because what’s the point if you’re not having a good time?
John: I think that that’s exactly the same parallel there. They’re spending a good amount of money on something that’s important to them, and you’re creating that experience for them that they’re going to remember and they’re going to gravitate towards. I would have to imagine that people appreciate that.
Mayur: I think so. I mean, I don’t think so. A lot of them have said so afterwards too and that’s reassuring.
John: It’s not like you’re losing clients, like people are leaving. Yeah, you’re not for me. You’re smiling. I’m out of here. What’s with these socks? Come on, man. What the hell?
Mayur: I’m so offended.
John: Right. I would have to imagine it’s the other way around. When people come in, they’re like, “What kind of socks you got today? Let me see them.”
Mayur: I think it’s the only reason they come in sometimes.
John: Right. That’s funny. So do you feel at all like fashion or this wanting to do your own thing kind of idea gives you a skill set that you bring to the office at all or your accounting profession?
Mayur: Yeah, I suppose. So everyone has their own unique thing about them, and that just goes for nothing specific. We all have, of course, our accounting knowledge, and we have the things we help our clients with, whether they’re necessarily tax issues or would it be something more CFO-outsourced accounting type related. That’s one thing. That’s, of course, why they’re there, but the fact that we are just our own people, and we encourage that, we talk about it. A lot of our clients are entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized businesses themselves, so they had already been there like left like, hey, do this, act like this, and that’s how it should be. The fact that we’re the kind of the same kind of people. Myself usually I give my many examples to class. We end up just chatting about our lives, and that’s kind of the natural admiration that we have for each other.
John: You are just chatting about your lives. Do you at any point think this has nothing to do with work, or they’re going to think this is unprofessional, or we’re wasting our time chatting about life?
Mayur: Yeah, I’d say that’s the minority of people who just get to the point. I’m only here for this. And honestly, I don’t think we actually have those kinds of clients. I think we’ve pitched to people like that, and they stopped responding to anything. It just didn’t work out. If it is one of our current clients who are just like, “Look, I only want to talk about the deliverables or the work products,” it’s like an emergency like they extended a tax filing, but now they had to go line of credit or something, like we need this like yesterday. That’s a unique situation. But most of the time, we’re happy to just kind of — I don’t want to call it idle chitchat. I think that’s the more valuable part of the conversation that we’re all knowing about each other. So now we’re all like, okay, now that we got that stuff in our back of our heads, we can actually understand what’s there and what’s the thing they’re working on and how can we support them get there?
John: Yeah, because it’s not like you’re taking an hour to chat about the weather. You’re actually just getting to know each other, and it’s just for a short amount of time, and then you’re better able to serve them. So when there is that code red, level 10 alert, then you’re ready to go and you understand why it’s such a big deal. No, that’s fantastic. Really great. And so, is this something that you outwardly talk about at work, or is it just something that just people know just from looking at you with the fashion and the silly socks and the stuff like that?
Mayur: Oh, I actually work in the area where there’s lots of other business owners. I think all my co-located fellow business owners all know. It depends on whether it’s a referral from a current client or even a friend type of referral. I think they’ll have an idea. But I’ll say most of the people who I initially work with, I don’t think they really know what to expect. I think they’re just thinking like we’re going to be talking to a financial professional, a tax guy, a CPA.
Usually, when clients come to us, it’s either depending if it’s through a referral from a current client, whether it’s external, meaning through a friend or something like that, I think they always talk about subject matter, something more in the realm of accounting their tax. So I don’t think they’re expecting anything. Most people don’t expect, only those who like directly know us. Actually, the people who directly know me are actually surprised that I’m actually sticking to the point. They’re like, “Oh, I thought this was going to be fun.” I’m like, “Oh, this is fun compared to like…” But, no, we’re not throwing back beers here. We have work to do.
John: Right. Yeah, definitely, but it’s casual and it’s real. You’re a human. The person on the other side is also human. So let’s just be normal people and just like the Italian tailors that are making your suit type of concept and making that an experience. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization, a company or a firm, to create that culture where people can share their hobbies and their passions and encourages people to get to know each other on that level, or how much is it on the individual to maybe just create that little circle on their own?
Mayur: Well, I think it’s typical big four answer, but it’s two-part, right? It’s like the firm has to make you feel that you can be an individual, and then it’s on you as an individual to be willing to kind of think outside the box or do something original or do something that you think would work. Of course, there’s levels to it. If you’re one of the staff, you’re not going to just go off and recommend a very risky approach to a client. You’ll check first. But we want to encourage people to be able to think freely. There’s no dumb ideas, right? There’s dumb actions, but not dumb ideas.
John: Yeah, because if you think it through, then it doesn’t become an action. And that’s such a great idea of just encouraging people to be original. And then I have to imagine when you were in PwC days, is that something that you were like, I’m going to be original, or just like when you were a kid, do your own thing sort of a thing from the beginning, or was it something that took a little bit of time to open up on?
Mayur: As a kid, my parents were fairly hands-off. That’s from early aged encouraged just kind of be weird when I was very weird.
John: Yeah, I love it, though.
Mayur: Yeah. It’s a big firm. So with many different departments, I was lucky to work with a lot of folks who did encourage originality. But at the same time, they themselves, like partners are beholden to national advisory, whatever the rule is from each group, like an audit, in a subgroup, different vertical, different horizontal. Same thing in the advisory side, they’re the ones who were dictating the thought leadership. They have their own staff who are dedicated to creating the message, and it’s up to us to kind of show that message.
So I would do my part to present information in my own way. They were like, “Okay, cool.” And they like the way, you know, I did trainings on behalf of the firm and with clients and just presentations. I think the longer you’re at a firm like that, I was there like 10 years, so the more I think they trust you, okay, you’re not going to do something crazy. So I always had fun. I still wanted to do it my way, and that’s why, ultimately, I did my own thing.
John: But that’s all great that they allowed you to do that and even encouraged it. It’s within reason. If they build the sandbox and then say, “Okay, here are the boundaries and then go play,” then it’s a lot better than you have to do this exactly this way all the time. It’s like, oh, man, like you hired some pretty top notch professionals that might know a thing or two. So let them do that.
Mayur: The caveat to that is I think these days, people, they don’t stay at firms as long. If you’re never really truly part of a firm’s culture, something, I think it’s hard. My early days at the firm, I was still a little nervous because I was new here. I assumed everyone was smarter than me and just like, I don’t know if I speak my mind. I think it took basically aging, the big four, to have that confidence and then realizing the partners are actually just like us. They’re actually hardworking people who just want to have fun too.
John: They have a life outside of here. They have other things that drive them as well. Sure, we’re all good at accounting or law or whatever our job is. If we won Powerball, we wouldn’t do accounting for free. You’re spending money to buy suits. Would you spend money to go do accounting? Like, no, of course not. I’m not going to pay to go do tax returns. That’s stupid. That’s the real passion of the people around you. Is there anything that you guys do there specifically to encourage this or things that you’ve seen in your career whether it’s clients or firms that you’ve been around?
Mayur: Our firm specifically, we don’t have anything formal that we’ve implemented. I think it’s just monkey see, monkey do sort of thing. My business partner, he’s going to listen to this eventually too. He has his style, and he’s very to the point. He also makes a light joke here and there. I think with me, it’s my presence online as well which I’m trying to get more into. But this is 21st century. If you’re not there, you’re not really doing anything. I also just enjoy it too. It was he’s like, “Okay.” If he actually likes, I do it because we all have our own styles. There’s only two of us who are managing partners right now. So when the managers and staff see us doing activities, it’s up to them how do you want to do it. We more ask them to get the work done and have empowered them. A couple of guys who were actually far smarter than any of us at the top, we’ve empowered them to just physically lead client meetings even if we’re not there and just go with it, however they want to present it, anything, just as long as it’s clean, professional-looking, and you’re not cursing in the meeting.
John: Yeah. And you’re professional about it. Yeah, absolutely. That’s great because you hired them to be them and let them work their magic. Worst-case scenario, it’s not really that terrible. The whole company’s not going to blow up. That confidence then I think is reciprocated and them believing in you guys as well, which is really cool. And I guess when you work for a smaller organization, is it easier to get to know people and know what their hobbies and passions are?
Mayur: Yeah, I think we know pretty well about everyone who works for us. We’re like a small shop. We have our partner organizations we work with. We even know about their staff than we know each other. Different firms have different styles. One thing we are, and this is more work related, but we are trying to tighten up our business processes. And our quality control and our timeliness and things like that, that’s something we can always work on. But the culture isn’t open and feel free to speak your mind because then people are afraid of the processes, I think. A lot of people are like trying to get involved and provide ideas like when we have our weekly meeting, there are so many project manager of softwares. Why don’t we do away with all these bells and whistles? Someone wouldn’t recommend something like that if they didn’t feel like they would get in trouble for saying something.
John: That’s a great testament to the culture that you have because they feel comfortable. They know you and they feel respected. If there’s critical feedback that’s going to come, it’s not hurtful, it comes from a good place because it’s someone who actually knows me and genuinely cares about me as a person. And then before you know it, people are going to ask you where you got socks, and then they’re going to start having sock competitions and it’s going to be all over. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think that whatever their hobby or passion is has nothing to do with their job?
Mayur: It doesn’t have to be together, right? As long as you’re enjoying being who you are and you feel like you’re not having to hide who you are, I think keep doing that. And if, this is speaking as someone who has made drastic changes in my life to do what I want to do, be prepared that it is not easy. You’re never going to get exactly what you want, so just do the best you can. Honestly, what exactly you want isn’t what you want. So every month, every day, every year changes and what you want is different. So just relax and just have fun. That’s my simplest way.
John: That’s it, exactly. It’s just relax because a lot of times people are just trying to be what they think they’re supposed to be, and you’re supposed to be you. It’s that simple. You’re the person with the title at that company or firm, so be that. A lot of times, especially at the bigger firms, I found myself modeling behavior of people ahead of me. But then when you actually get to know them, you find out that they’re modeling behavior of someone before them. I don’t know. We go back 100 years and there’s some nerd that everyone’s modeling behavior after.
Mayur: Mr. Waterhouse.
John: Yeah, exactly. Why aren’t we just being us? So that’s great, man, and you’ve nailed it. So I love that. It’s only fair I rapid-fire questioned you right out of the gate for me to offer the opportunity to fire some questions at me if you’d like.
Mayur: Oh, yes. So you, John, if you went missing, where’s the last place your friends and family would think to look for you?
John: If I were missing, where’s the last place I would be? At USC football stadium on the USC campus at the Coliseum. That is the last place I would be.
Mayur: Good to know where you will be hiding.
John: No, I will never be there.
Mayur: Would you rather be able to speak any language or be able to speak to animals?
John: You know what? I’d rather be able to speak to animals because I feel like I would be one of the only people that could do that, me and like Eddie Murphy and Dr. Doolittle.
Mayur: Yeah, that’s true. If you had to be handcuffed to anyone for a month, who would that be?
John: You, buddy. That’s for sure, man. You. That would be so great. We would drive everyone insane. It would be fantastic.
Mayur: We also have to coordinate which mouse clicker we’re going to have to coordinate on.
John: Exactly and we’d have to have matching socks, of course, because, otherwise, it would be weird.
Mayur: Okay, so yeah.
John: We’ll definitely coordinate that the next time or the first time we hang out. That’ll be great. So thanks so much, Mayur, for being with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really, really awesome.
Mayur: Thanks for having me, John. This was awesome. Honestly, I like that you keep us open and loosen now considering it’s still middle of the day for me. I got plenty to do, but now I’m much energized to get on with the rest of my day.
John: Very cool, man. Very cool. For everyone listening, I hope you’re energized as well. And if you’d like to see some pictures of Mayur outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, check out his Twitter, for sure. Be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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 no matter our job or technical expertise, there’s a human side to all of us.