Mark is an Accountant & Magician
Mark Lee returns to the podcast from episode 136 to talk about his continued passion for magic, standing out an individual, and how he pivoted his business during the pandemic!
• Still a treasurer of The Magic Circle
• Standing out as an accountant and magician
• You get referred if people remember you
• The 4 P’s of being remembered
• Where he is seeing more professional share their passions
• How being a magician has helped his communication skills
• Starting an online tax advice business
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Welcome to Episode 324 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. My book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. I just can’t say how much it means, just thank you so, so much for those.
Please don’t forget to hit 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, Mark Lee. He’s an online business owner and mentor to accountants and practice based out of London, England, and now he’s with me here today. Mark, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mark: Great to be back, John.
John: Oh, man, I’m so excited. I remember when you were on 136. That was so long ago. Also before that, was meeting you at QuickBooks Connect, and I was just floored because you said, “Wait, you’re the Green Apple Podcast guy,” which it was called at the time. You pulled out your phone, and you showed me that you would listen to my show for months and on the flight to the US. I was just flattered. That was amazing.
Mark: It was great meeting you then, and it was lovely doing the podcast just over two years ago, I think we did that.
John: Yeah, and it’s just so fun to have you back and also just be a friend. I appreciate it, man. It’s just super awesome. I have rapid-fire questions, things that I never asked you before, and maybe we won’t be friends after this. I don’t know. We’ll find out. No, I’m just teasing. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Mark: Harry Potter. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. Yeah, true.
John: I haven’t either, so we’re all good. We’re all good. How about, do you have a favorite band or musician?
John: Queen. Nice. Very cool. How about, this is a tricky one, brownie or ice cream? Ice cream. Nice. Okay, how about a least favorite vegetable?
Mark: Least favorite vegetable, celeriac. I don’t know what you call it in the States.
John: Yeah, I don’t even know what that is. Okay, I may Google this as we’re talking, and I’ll come back to it. How about for books, since mine is out, do you prefer Kindle or real books?
Mark: Real books, absolutely. The touch and feel and I’m afraid to fold over the corners when I’m partway through.
John: Oh, there you go. Take some notes. So, celeriac is a turnip-rooted celery. Yeah, I don’t even know if we have that here.
Mark: Turnip is worse than celeriac. I just remembered.
John: Oh, so it’s turnips. Yeah, wow. Celeriac, it sounded like what you get when you eat too much. Celeriac, it sounds like a disease, like a side effect from a pharmaceutical or something. That’s amazing. All right, two more, two more. Hamburger or pizza.
Mark: Pizza because I don’t eat meat.
John: Oh, well then there you go. There you go. The last one, maybe being in the UK, I don’t know if it’s different, but toilet paper roll, is it over or —
Mark: Over, of course it’s over.
John: Over, okay. You didn’t even let me finish.
Mark: Same debate here, yeah.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, when you were on Episode 136, we talked magic. That’s been a part of your life for a long, long time. Is it still a part?
Mark: Yeah, I think when we spoke last, I was and still am treasurer of the Magic Circle, which is the world’s most prestigious magic society, so we claim. We have many American members.
What I probably wasn’t doing then, I had been a magician since I was a teenager, and I probably told you that I originally wanted to be a magician when I grew up. There’s a long story which I won’t take you through now, about how my parents helped ensure that I became an accountant, instead of a magician, which is absolutely fine. It was a good move, and it certainly made good sense, from my perspective. My career did very well, but I carried on entertaining at children’s parties and grown-up functions and restaurants and all the rest of it, for many, many years.
What I did find though was that I was nervous — I probably told you this before. I was concerned about sharing my passion for magic, professionally, with clients. My colleagues knew about it, but I tried to keep it quiet from clients because I was concerned it might adversely impact my professional credibility.
I look back, and as a speaker for many years, I’ve been talking about the importance of standing out from the crowd in order to be better remembered, referred and recommended, not a million miles away from your own message with What’s Your “And”?, and realized, looking back, what a fool I was in hiding the magic from my client.
If I spoke to journalists, they recognized that magic was fun and made me stand out from other accountants. Frankly, in recent years, thanks to the wonders of LinkedIn, I’ve reconnected with journalists who I might not have spoken to for 15, 20, 25 years. Invariably, they say, “Do you still do the magic?” I guarantee you, they do not remember every other accountant that they interviewed 20, 25 years ago.
John: For sure, or even what kind of accounting you did.
Mark: Yeah. I was in tax. I think they did remember I was a tax advisor. The way in which magic still impacts, well, it impacted me before COVID-19 was that I was finding ways to include magic in my talks without, again, diminishing the value of the content of the talk and what I was delivering to accountants, but there was always two or three references to magic in there. Quite often, the introduction would say something about me, da-da-da, “and he’s treasurer of the Magic Circle.”
I would come onstage. At some point, I would say, “You heard earlier I’m treasurer of the Magic Circle. Some people say it’s the most interesting thing about me, which is probably true, but it’s one of the rules of the Magic Circle that if you’re onstage at an event, you have to perform a magic trick. Would it be okay for me to do something for you that I hope you’ll find is relevant to what I’m talking about?” Everybody always says yes.
At the end of a lot of my talks, I would summarize the key points in a magic trick involving a deck of cards. I have, on occasions, I think twice, I have adapted that trick not just to reference what I’ve spoken about but what other speakers earlier in the day spoke about.
Mark: It’s a huge challenge. It’s never something I would promise to do, but it’s good fun when you can do it and blows people’s minds.
John: That’s awesome, man. That story you gave earlier of just people remembering you, that’s actually a quote in the book I pulled from our podcast to support that chapter of the standing out and how important it is. Because I remember when we talked, how much that mattered to you of, like you said, how much of a fool you considered yourself to be for not sharing. In the book, it’s helping people to not fall into that same trap that most people do.
Mark: People want to know about the people they’re dealing with and they’re engaging with. It helps from a recruitment perspective. It helps from a business generation perspective. It certainly helps. We all want to be remembered, referred and recommended. I frequently point out that you’re only going to get referred and recommended if people remember you. People remember you as distinct from everybody else who does something like you.
John: I love that. That’s so great. Yeah, unless you’re remembered, then they’re not able to refer you or recommend you.
John: It’s sad because so much of what we do is completely forgettable, even though it’s what we’re paid on often, or how people are promote.
Mark: Well, I’ve been developing, before COVID-19, I was developing various acronyms and memory tricks for accountants. I have the four Ps, because I’m often asked by people who wanted to start up their own practice, whether it’s accountants or bookkeepers or even as tax advisors. Part of my advice was, and still is, and it’s relevant for any profession actually, if you’re thinking of starting up by yourself, it is no good just being a good at what you do. Because that is the fourth of the four Ps, being able to perform the role that contains your professional expertise. That’s the fourth P. That’s the easy one because you’ve been finding that you’ve got the experience and that, of course, you can do that.
If you’re going to run your own practice or if you’re going to build your own career, you have to be able to deal with the first three Ps. The first one is you’ve got to be able to promote your service effectively. The second one is you have to be able to pitch it to the individuals who are attracted through your promotions. The third one is you have to be able to price it so that the people you pitch it to are willing to pay the fees that you want to earn for performing the work. The fact you’re able to perform the work, of itself, does not guarantee anybody’s going to come to you, and if they do come to, that you’re going to win the work or get paid the fee that you want.
John: No, that’s really good and really simple to remember, but it’s one of those chicken or egg things because we have to learn it and be able to deliver, but on the flip side, that just gets you into the room with everyone else who also does the same thing, like passing the CPA exam, becoming a chartered accountant, passing the bar exam as a lawyer, all these college degrees and certifications that people have. Yeah, it’s hard and you have to work hard to get it, but welcome to the table. Everyone else has the same thing.
Mark: It’s some of the things that you talk about and that I talk about or was talking about before COVID-19, is helping people build what I call key business skills that they need beyond the technical ability to perform the job well.
John: Yeah. No, I love that, man. Thank you so much. Yeah, that’s exactly where it’s at. Have you seen people sharing outside-of-work interests more now? Or maybe are you just more aware of it?
Mark: I’m seeing it more on LinkedIn than ever before. Whenever I talk about LinkedIn, and I help accountants get the best from it without all the hype, what we get out of there.
John: Which you definitely do, for sure. You’re awesome at it.
Mark: I frequently point out that if you’ve seen a lot of rubbish on LinkedIn, then that’s a function of the people you’re connected to and also, the posts on which you comment or like. If you say, “I really don’t like posts like this,” and you keep doing that, the algorithm doesn’t read what you’ve written. It just is, oh, he’s interested because he or she commented on posts like that.
I got rid of a troll recently on LinkedIn. I’ll answer your question. I just realized I haven’t. I got rid of a troll recently on LinkedIn because he commented on almost every post I put, complaining that I was advertising my online business and using LinkedIn as a marketing platform. What I was doing was posting useful content and referencing the business within the useful content.
Two years ago, I reached out to him and said, “Look, you’re entitled to your views, but I’m going to delete those that I find objectionable and that may be misleading, and feel free to disconnect.” He went quiet for a while. Earlier this year, he picked up, commented on almost every post — I post almost daily. He commented on most of them, criticizing me. Most of his posts said what a wonderful, brilliant, successful accountant he was. I would add, so successful that he’s got time to comment on almost all my posts, every day.
I sent him a note and said, “You’ve come back again, and it’s entirely your right not to like what I’m posting. Just for the record, because you keep commenting, the algorithm keeps showing them to you. I have 11,000 connections on LinkedIn. You are the only person, the only person who tells me they don’t like what I’m posting. Feel free to not read them.”
John: Or not connect with, you disconnect.
Mark: I didn’t disconnect from him, but he hasn’t commented since. He hasn’t seen them. You asked your question, have I seen more people sharing more of themselves? Yes, I have on LinkedIn, and a lot of them do on Facebook as well. There’s a place for it on LinkedIn, but I’m not a great fan of turning LinkedIn into Facebook. I think when people share their hobbies, passions and interests in a business-type context, I prefer that to when it’s just a social post on LinkedIn.
John: Yeah, absolutely, or even just in conversation in a professional setting or networking. On LinkedIn, maybe it’s in your title line. It could be partner and magician.
Mark: I said that to somebody recently, a speaker coach who has a great story about how he was in a Thunderbirds film.
John: Oh, wow.
Mark: It didn’t mention Thunderbirds anywhere in his LinkedIn profile. It does now because he accepted the point that it’s the most distinctive, memorable thing about him.
John: That’s his “And” right there. He’s got other dimensions to who he is as a person.
Mark: It was 14, 15 years ago. He hasn’t done anything like that since. He’s transitioned, but that is one of his key stores.
John: That’s super cool. When you meet that person, it’s not, oh, really, tell me a story about accounting. It’s, no, no, tell me about this movie. What? How did that happen?
Mark, to be fair, he didn’t use to be an accountant, but definitely, it’s still relevant, isn’t it?
John: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely, because there are other dimensions to who we are. It’s sad that we feel like the revenue-generating one is the only one that matters.
John: Actually, that expertise, your magic skills and performance skills made you a better accountant.
Mark: They gave me the confidence to stand on stage. They gave me the confidence to explain things to people. When I left practice, 14 years ago, but more recently, I’ve looked back and thought. I’m absolutely sure that the fact that I was happy as a performer gave me greater confidence at meetings with clients, whether that was one-on-one or in board meetings. Because you have to be clear onstage and as a performer, performing magical, whatever it is you’re doing, I’ve long felt that I developed the skills to explain complex concepts in ways that colleagues and clients could better understand, not just conversational skills, but I was better able to distill and explain things. Because I was admitted — even though I was chairman of the Tax Faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales, it wasn’t because I was a great tax man. I just had better communication skills than many. Absolutely, those were honed as a magician, more so than as an accountant.
John: No, I love that, man. That’s so awesome to hear. What a great example, yeah, because that group is full of great tax professional, technical people, but there are other skills that people have. That’s so cool to hear. What a great example, man. What you’re doing now is fantastic. A lot of the online programs and stuff that you’re offering people and the mentoring that you’re doing are really cool.
Mark: The consequence of COVID was that I had to look at what I was doing. I was focused on being a professional speaker to accountants, conferences, events and awaydays and the like. When I realized that that wasn’t going to be happening again, live; yes, I get complimented for doing virtual and remote presentations, but I didn’t get a buzz from that in the same way. So, I’ve transitioned and looked again at an online business that I set up 12 years ago.
John: Oh, incredible.
Mark: Which had never made any money but, frankly, I got bored with it and never spent any time on it because I was more interested in everything else. Well, now everything else isn’t available to me, so I’m spending time on the Tax Advice Network, or as we’ve now rebranded it, findataxadvisor.online.
John: There you go.
Mark: It’s for UK tax advice. I’ve had more new members join in the last three months than I have in the last three years. Why? Because I’m making more of an effort to spread the word.
John: And it’s needed now because of all the other stuff that’s happening, but the way you’re able to communicate, the way you’re able to bring that personality to it, that’s the differentiator.
Mark: Modesty aside, I’m sure that’s right, John.
John: No, no, I said it. You didn’t have to. I completely agree. It’s been so fun catching up with you, Mark, and just hearing how magic’s still a part of your life. I love it so much. It’s only fair though, since I started out the show, peppering you with questions, that I turn the table. This is the first episode of the Mark Lee podcast, everybody. If you have any questions for me, you can fire away.
Mark: I have four questions for you.
Mark: Mac or Windows.
John: Oh, Windows. I don’t even know how Macs work.
Mark: There, you’ve just dropped in my estimations. Musicals or straight theater.
John: Musicals, for sure, all day.
Mark: Shoes or socks.
John: Oh, wow, that’s a really good question. Yeah, I’m going to go socks because you can’t wear shoes without socks, that’s gross to me, but you can wear socks without shoes. I’m going to go socks. That’s a good one.
Mark: Close-up magic or stage illusions.
John: Oh, yeah, I’m going to go close-up just because I feel like, for me, it requires more skill. I feel like the stage is cool. It’s neat to see, but I know there’s a lot of BS to it, mirrors and whatever. This close-up, you’re right there. Yeah, so we can be friends?
John: Okay, cool. Well, thanks so much, Mark, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s been fun.
Mark: Great to be here, John. Thanks so much. Lovely to talk to you again.
John: Absolutely, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Mark doing some magic or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re in the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and buy the book. Mark’s quoted in there, so definitely check it out.
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.