Zach is a CPA & Runner
Zach Gordon, VP of Accounting at Propeller Industries, talks about his passion for running and traveling. He discusses how his experience in running marathons has helped him with discipline and goal setting in the workplace, his initial culture shock when he first started at Propeller, and much more!
• Getting into running
• His favorite marathon
• Discipline and setting goals
• How Propeller Industries encourages an open workplace culture
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 531 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 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.
And if you like what the show’s about, be sure to check out the award-winning book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside of work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. And I can’t see how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. And please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast studio 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, Zach Gordon. He’s a VP of accounting at Propeller Industries in New York City and was a CPA practice advisor 40 under 40. And now, he’s with me here today. Zach, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Zach: Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
John: Yeah, this is gonna be so much fun. I have some rapid-fire questions though. Get to know Zach out of the gate here. I’ll ask you the first one. I love this one. A favorite animal. Any animal at all.
Zach: Dog. Gotta be a dog.
John: Dog. Okay. All right. Going old school. I like it.
Zach: It solves the dog or cat question. That’s easy.
John: I’m not even asking you that one. There we go. Perfect. All right. 16 rapid-fire questions now. No, I’m just kidding. How about puzzles? Sudoku, crossword, or jigsaw?
Zach: Well, given that we’re accountants, work with numbers, gotta be Sudoku.
John: Sudoku. There you go. I always joked that that’s how I do my tax returns.
Zach: You and me both.
John: You’re right. Yeah.
Zach: Kidding. Kidding. Anyone listening?
John: Right. It’s so annoying when you’re not a tax person and everyone thinks you should be. And it’s like no. Like we do more things than just tax, everybody.
Zach: Does every accountant do taxes?
John: Right? I mean, they do them. Are they right? Maybe, maybe not. Here’s a simple one for you. Favorite color?
John: Blue. Mine too. There you go. How about a least favorite color?
Zach: That’s a great question. Some electric pinks out there I just can’t get behind.
John: Perfect. Yeah, neon anything really. But neon pink, yeah, that’s pretty high up there. Are you more of a talk or a text?
Zach: Text. I mean, getting on the phone more than we have to already. You know, the Zoom fatigue is real. Let’s put it that way.
John: Very real. And I appreciate you making time to do this podcast. Definitely. Because texting it back and forth would be weird.
Zach: That might take a little more time.
John: A little bit. A little bit. How about a favorite comedian of all time?
Zach: That’s a really interesting question. Probably have to go Chris Rock.
John: Oh, yeah. Solid. Yeah, he’s great and super nice, which is cool too.
Zach: First comedian I ever saw live. So you know, something to that.
John: Well, that’s a pretty good start. How about a suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Zach: Depends. Usually, the jeans and T-shirt. But you know, if you have to suit up sometimes, we all have to do what we all have to do.
John: Yeah, absolutely. No, suit and tie is great, especially now that they have like the made to measure type companies.
Zach: I just got one. And man, it was perfect.
Zach: They’re wizards out there.
John: No, it’s so good. And like it makes you wanna wear it more ’cause it’s like I picked the lining, I picked all this like, and it fits right. You know, it’s not off the rack where you gotta, yeah, feel like you’re in a box. So, good for you, man. Yeah, that’s awesome. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Zach: Star Wars by a long shot.
John: Okay. Yeah, mine too. Same. How about your computer? More of a PC or a Mac?
Zach: You know, I had the blessing to be on a Mac for a long time, and I had to relearn how to use a PC once I got back into public accounting. So, Mac by a mile.
John: Okay. Okay. That’s funny how you called it a blessing. That’s awesome.
Zach: Listen, I know accounting software and some of the stuff that we need isn’t quite the same on a Mac, but it’s just so much easier and more intuitive to use.
John: There you go. I’m not cool enough to even walk into a Mac store. I’m just gonna take your word for it and keep going on.
Zach: Come on. Come on.
John: Right? Oh, maybe I’ll get around it now. Yeah, there we go. How about more oceans or mountains?
Zach: You know, it’s really interesting given that was just up in Colorado. Got to experience the mountains a little bit, but usually the ocean to be honest.
John: Yeah, it’s usually warmer. I don’t know why when you think ocean, you think beach. You don’t think Maine in February, you know.
Zach: No. Nobody wants to. Good Lord.
John: Nor do you want to. Right. Some things you can’t unhear like that.
Now, ice cream. I’m a huge ice cream junkie. Do you get it in a cup or a cone?
Zach: Oh, cone.
John: Cone. There you go. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Zach: Ooh, man. Been a real bourbon kick lately. So there’s a couple of local distilleries up here that have just been knocking out of the ballpark.
John: Nice. There you go. We got six more or five more. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Zach: Balance sheet. It tells the whole story.
John: Oh, okay. All right. All right. There you go. Your first concert.
Zach: So this is a little embarrassing. It was actually Kiss. I went with my mom.
John: That’s awesome. That’s incredible.
Zach: I must have been one of the three youngest people in the crowd. But yeah, she went to the concert at whatever the arena was called back in the day in Albany, New York. And yeah, we ended up going together, you know, 7 or 8, whatever I was. Yeah. That was quite the experience.
John: That is quite the experience. That’s awesome, man. That’s pretty cool. How about a favorite number?
Zach: 22. That was my baseball number. Stocker football for a million years.
John: Okay. Yeah. Solid. How about books? Audio version, e-Book, or real book?
Zach: Oh, the real book. There’s nothing like having a tangible book in your hand as you try to— Well, given I have a little one here, finding that time to actually read is difficult. So you know, the answer usually ends up being audio ’cause there’s no other time. But yeah, if I have my choice, it’s a physical book.
John: Real book. Yeah, I’m the same. I’m the same. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
John: Time. Nice. Good answer.
Zach: Try not the way you wrote the—
John: No, that works, man. I like it. Yeah. It’s wide open. So, time. Yeah. No, that’s good. And especially with a little one. So now, you’re just showing off. That’s good, man. Yeah. So let’s talk running and adventures, and how did you get into this? Is it something that you did since you were younger? I mean, it sounds like playing sports of course, but was that always a thing?
Zach: Yeah. So I actually started running track in high school. It was a way to keep in shape during the winter. I’m from upstate New York, so outdoor options are, let’s say, limited. So being able to run track indoors was a nice way to stay entertained, stay out of trouble. And funny enough, I actually started as a sprinter. For the life of me, I could not run more than 800 meters without pacing.
Zach: I had that wall. I don’t know why, but just I could not do it.
John: That’s amazing.
Zach: Yeah. So you know, played sports a long time where all you have to do is sprint, so never too big a concern of running any more than that. And after college, just sort of started expanding it out and then someone got the crazy idea in my head to run a marathon. And it took a long time to get up to that. So started doing some 5Ks and just expanding out from there. And I’ve done 7 marathons so far, doing another one this year.
John: Good for you, man. Congrats. That’s incredible. Yeah, I’ve done one half marathon, and it should not be called a half of anything. It is far.
Zach: 10.1 miles of fun. What are you talking about?
John: Yeah. And it’s the 0.1 that really gets you.
Zach: You’re joking about that, but that’s true though.
John: No, I’m not joking about that. I’m dead serious. Like I did it in under 2 hours, which I was pretty excited about.
John: And so, my whole mantra during like training ’cause I ran in with a couple other people, and I was not as dedicated to the training as they were, and they were frustrated by that. And my whole mantra was just peak on race day. Like I don’t wanna peak too soon. Like I gotta just keep going, bring it on race day, like that’s it. And I did like luckily, but I was like “All right, I’m not doing this again. Like this is crazy.”
Zach: Let me ask. Was the runner’s high real for you?
Zach: Oh, man, you missed the best part.
John: I did. There’s a lot of people that get it and that’s great. And it was in Indianapolis, so it was kind of cool. You ran around the race track at the Indy 500 and so that was fun. There’s a lot of people along the sides that kept it entertaining. It kept moving, I guess, for me ’cause that’s the problem is when I run, my brain starts going squirrely ’cause you don’t really have to focus a whole lot. And so, when there’s other distractions, it was helpful.
Zach: Well, if you wanna hear the most nerdy thing of all time, I’ll listen to CPE podcast sometimes when I’m running.
John: Oh, there you go.
Zach: So, multitasking. I’m getting CPE and I’m running.
Zach: And that’s probably one of the top 3 nerdiest statements I’ve ever made.
John: Right? It’s like what’s more painful? CPE or running? Then it balances each other out. It’s like two negatives make a positive. That’s awesome, man. But it’s efficient. That’s efficiency. But 7 marathons, do you have one that was your favorite?
Zach: The first one.
John: Which one was that one?
Zach: New York City. So being able to run through, just getting the excitement, the energy. I mean, there’s a million people all along if you count everybody up and just everyone’s super into it.
And the runner’s high was real. So you’re right, the 26.2, that 0.2 at the end right through Central Park was a nightmare. Oh, man.
Zach: But being able to actually cross the line finish, yeah, it was so much fun.
John: And in New York. I mean, that’s cool too, you know, being from upstate and all that. That’s exciting. Yeah. And you run through all the boroughs and yeah. I mean, it’s just cool.
Zach: Exactly. I got to run by my house, which is fun, you know.
John: Oh, even better. Yeah. That’s awesome, man. And it sounds like you’ve done running, I mean, outside of structured runs like a marathon or whatever, but all over the world really.
Zach: Yeah. So I have this interesting habit depending on what you think is interesting. But anywhere I go, I’ll get up super early in the morning and just go explore. So I’ll just go run through wherever I am. And so, a couple weeks ago, I was out in Denver and, yeah, got to explore pretty much every inch of the city, which was pretty cool. They like to broadcast they have one of the best downtowns of any city in the country. And it’s like “Oh, let me check this out.”
John: Yeah, I’ll be the judge of that.
Zach: What authority I have, but—
Zach: A few of them have gotten a little more crazy though. So, going into Safari and Africa, asking some very specific questions on where I can run. Little details like that, but it’s cool. There’s no better way to learn a place or find little fun spots than that. I mean, going back to my first marathon, you get to go through some really interesting areas of Brooklyn, of Queens, the Bronx. You know, that sort of got me thinking. And like you said, you have nothing but time. So the head starts going all over the place. I’m like “Wow, that looks like a cool bar. You know, that place looks like it has some pretty good food, so let me come back and check it out.” And then you start heading to enough spots and I wanna see what’s out there. And Yelp just isn’t the same.
John: Yeah. Oh, no, no, That’s awesome, man. And I mean, you’re staying fit, you’re exercising. When you fly somewhere, any jet lag or anything like that, you can work that out and it just gets your blood going. And that’s cool, man. That’s really neat. That’s really neat. And especially like in other continents, which is cool too type of thing.
Zach: Yeah. I mean, running an altitude in Peru was interesting.
John: Oh, wow.
Zach: Yes. I think we’re about 11,000 feet up, 12,000, somewhere in that ballpark. So yeah, being a little careful on that run too, but—
John: Right. Right.
Zach: Yeah. Being able to experience the different flavor so to speak has been a really interesting experience.
John: That’s fantastic, man. And do you feel like any of that translates to a skillset you use at work?
Zach: There’s certainly a discipline aspect to it as you said with jet lag or some of those late night meals, and adult beverages, and such. Yeah, sometimes you have to peel yourself out of the bed to get up and out there. So that’s certainly a big part of it. And yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned from running, is just keeping that discipline and having a goal and moving towards it as corny as that sounds.
John: No, no, that’s incredible because, I mean, otherwise you’re just a ship without a rudder just aimlessly wandering around just doing whatever happens to be coming up next. And it’s like “No, no, like I have this goal and I’m gonna work towards it.” And then there’s a sense of accomplishment there. There’s so many great things that come from that. And I would imagine too when you’re in the middle of a busy project or an intense time, it’s that last point too of the marathon type of thing. You’re like “Hey, I did a marathon. We’re good.”
Zach: Of course. Then you start telling those stories and most people just roll their eyes. You know, the marathon, right. Yeah.
John: Oh, yeah. This guy again. Right. Well, you don’t have to tell the story. It’s more just to yourself maybe.
Zach: I should probably learn that lesson at some point.
John: Right. No. Or maybe people should just get out there and run one or a half or something.
Zach: No. Honestly, it really is a great experience. You don’t have to sprint it. You don’t have to go for the world record. But the best advice I ever got for running is just after the first step, it’s all momentum.
John: There you go.
Zach: Physical aspect to it doesn’t matter. I was taking the Staten Island ferry out to keep going back to my first one and next to me was a 74-year-old woman who had been running the marathon consecutively for two plus decades, whatever it was. And so, she was telling some stories ’cause you have an hour to kill basically. And at the end, if she can do this, I can do this. If she can set some pretty tough time milestones, what am I complaining about? What am I worried about? You know? It’s all momentum at a certain point, and there’s gotta be a lesson in there somewhere.
John: Oh, totally. I love that phrase. I mean, after the first step, it’s all momentum. That’s the first step’s the hardest kind of concept and whatever it is. Yeah. ‘Cause it really is and then you’re just one foot in front of the other. Just keep going type of thing.
Zach: Exactly. I mean, you might need a little water, maybe a power bar.
John: Right. Some electrolytes.
Zach: Yeah, maybe.
John: Right? Yeah. But you know, it is momentum and I mean that works figuratively for work in so many things and that’s great.
And so, has there ever been a part of you that’s like maybe I shouldn’t share an outside of work me ’cause clearly running marathons has nothing to do with any accounting job at all? Like has it ever crossed your mind that like “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t share”?
Zach: Yes. You know, there’s plenty of people out there who don’t necessarily value those type of extracurricular activities that sometimes in those work settings that really the focus is really on work. They don’t want to hear about some of those things. And yeah, it can come off a little braggadocia sometimes, which I can definitely understand. So, trying to posit in a careful way. And the same thing with traveling all over the place too. I mean, telling stories, going on safari, some people are either super interested or you get the eye roll and moving it on, that sort of thing.
John: But I mean, that’s on them, you know.
Zach: Of course. I’m definitely not the shy type, so I will definitely share without a doubt. But just being measured in how do you share those stories is something I try to be at least a little cognizant of.
John: Yeah, absolutely. No, for sure. Yeah. ‘Cause you definitely don’t wanna come across braggadocious like you said. It’s more of just “Hey, this lights me up. I wanna talk about it. You know, what lights you up? Sure. I’ll listen to you talk about volunteering at the dog shelter. Go nuts.” You know? Or whatever your thing is. Or you watched every House of Cards episode for the fifth time or whatever it is. But you can just tell the passion when people are talking about it. They’re excited. They’re animated. Their eyes get bigger. They’re alive sort of a thing.
John: That’s always good to ask others as well to work around that.
Zach: So I will say the Mile High City wasn’t that much of a challenge. I was expecting—
John: Well, have you done Peru? Peru is twice as much apparently.
Zach: Oh, that was years ago. I was a younger let’s say “athlete” at that point.
John: I was under 30.
Zach: Yes, I was.
John: Yeah. I mean, I don’t have a problem. I’ve never had a problem when I adjusted to Denver or when I leave and come back. Like I personally don’t, but I also don’t run. So now, we’re even.
John: Yeah, you’re right. Right? But yeah, I mean, I think if you go up in the mountains though, that’s when it starts to get a lot more on that. That’s for sure. And I guess at Propeller, I mean, a lot of you are remote. Is there anything that the firm does, the organization does to encourage people whether it’s share their hands or get to know each other on a human level?
Zach: I’ve gotta be honest. My first week in the firm, I was in a state of complete culture shock. You know, coming from public accounting, going through multiple firms, it was a completely different experience. So the way you posit What’s Your “And”? is exactly what that first week was like. And that was truly shocking.
John: That’s awesome.
Zach: There was a genuine sharing of not just the work side, but a personal type of aspect as well, which is something I think the greater accounting industry can and should begin to take in.
John: Yeah. Or the greater corporate world could take in.
Zach: Exactly. And that’s something that startup land has definitely gotten right for the most part, you know, big tech. Say what you will. But from a culture standpoint, it’s a very different presentation and that’s sort of the expectation of this new workforce out there and it really should be for all of us. And I’m getting off my soapbox, I swear.
John: No, no, no. I’ll encourage you on this one all day long because it was just people asking just pretty much like who is Zach and what do you like to do, what lights you up sort of thing.
Zach: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m also in a bit of a specialized situation working in crypto, which is always a good conversation starter. But beyond that, what makes you tick and vice versa? We’re sort of stuck working together for a while, so let’s see if there’s some sort of interpersonal connection we can make.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, I love that so much. Yeah. Because, I mean, it matters. I mean, the technical skills, you either have them or we can teach you them or computers do them. But the human side of things and who are you, and the more that you can understand about someone’s story, the better everything’s going to be, you know. And so, it’s great to hear that they were doing it from the beginning, which is cool.
Zach: And it’s not always easy for accountants. I mean, so many introverts in the industry and just not necessarily the most outgoing of individuals. And that’s not good, bad, or otherwise. People are who they are, which is fine, but trying to find that middle ground is always a big deal. And especially in a client-facing, service-based industry, we should probably be doing that anyway. Shouldn’t all just be debits and credits.
John: Yeah. Because, I mean, that’s truly a differentiator especially with a client relationship side of things. ‘Cause, I mean, another accounting service can come in and do the accounting. It’s not like what I’m doing is I’m the only one and no one else can do this.
John: Right. You’re right. Exactly. Debits are still on the left. Okay, cool. They match. It’s like another organization can come in and do that.
Well, yeah, I mean, I guess that’s true. But you know, if you get to know the human side and bring some of that in, then that’s like when I speak a lot, it’s just bring the human from behind the job title. Like What’s Your “And”? is who else are you besides the job title?
Zach: It’s really funny. I think it was my second year out of college. I was working on some random real estate company, whatever it was. And I’m a bit of a sports fan if you can’t tell, but the CFO for the real estate company was a huge Knicks fan. So we were just talking basketball all the time and how terrible they were. You know, that type of stuff.
John: For sure. It’s Knicks. Right.
Zach: Exactly. That we have to go through. But because of that, we developed this awesome relationship, and he ended up calling me first before calling the partner, the manager on the job, or whatever the case. And people couldn’t figure out why. And it’s like “Listen, there’s nothing special about me. I’m, what, 22-23 years old, whatever I was. I don’t know anything about accounting, let’s be honest, but—”
John: But the human side of things, you know. Yeah. And it’s I trust you more because I know you more type of thing. And you know, the industry wants to call themselves trusted advisers and you’re an adviser adviser probably. What are you doing to develop trust? And being good at your job does not develop trust. Like everyone else is also good at their job.
Zach: It’s a baseline. It’s not a plus.
John: Exactly. And you gotta get to the pluses in order to develop trust. And I mean, there’s brain science behind it as well and all that. And so, that’s cool man. And you did it on accident kind of, but you learned and you observed it, you know. But you observed it and you’re like “Hey, there’s something here” and that’s cool that you’re carrying it forward. So that’s cool.
Zach: It’s been working so far anyway.
Zach: And to bring this full circle, it’s just that sort of interpersonal relationship building. And I told anyone who would listen, this is different than really anything else I’ve ever seen. And again, that’s not the disparage or say anything otherwise about any other experiences that I’ve personally had, but there’s just some really good lessons in there to learn and things that I took to heart for sure.
John: The more that organizations can bring the human to work and from the beginning, then the better it will be for everyone. And you’re a living example of this. The fact that it was a shock is sad, but you embraced it. I think more people are getting there, so it’s encouraging to hear. But you have any words for anyone listening that maybe has an “and” that they feel like has nothing to do with their job, but they still have a passion for something outside of work?
Zach: Yeah. Don’t ever give it up and find a way to communicate with your team, your friends in the office, wherever the case within the firm where you’re not necessarily alienating anyone, but just that it becomes a natural part of the day to day.
John: There you go. That’s the magic right there. It’s something that happens on the regular. So, cool, man. Well, this has been so much fun. And before I decide to lace up and go run with you sometime, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to ask me any sort of questions you would like. We’ll make this the first episode of The Zach Gordon Podcast. I don’t know what kind of music you like, but anyway.
Zach: For the show, but—
John: Right. Right. There you go. But yeah, but I’m all yours man. Whatever you got.
Zach: Perfect. So I know you’ve traveled around a little bit yourself. What’s your favorite city?
John: Yeah, that’s a good question. Probably Cape Town, South Africa is probably my favorite city.
Zach: Oh, man, that’s up there for me too.
John: It’s a unique mix. Due to the apartheid, there’s a lot of western influence, so there’s the infrastructure. And there’s a grid, but there’s still that raw African vibe and culture there. Plus, there’s nature, and wine country, and all that.
Zach: That’s only an hour away and—
John: Exactly. It’s a cool city for sure. You really gotta want to go there ’cause it’s far, but it’s a cool city.
Zach: Yeah. You have to make a trip out of it and then—
John: Yeah, exactly.
Zach: What’s your least favorite?
John: Least favorite city? Ooh, that’s a good question. Oh, man. Wow. That is a really good question. Shreveport, Louisiana is easily gonna be my least favorite city, easily for so many reasons. My senior year at Notre Dame, we played in the Independence Bowl and it’s in Shreveport, and it should not be a bowl. It was in their state fair rodeo stadium. So they didn’t have enough bathrooms or food vendors. So it’s like Porta Johns. And we played against LSU, so it’s like home state. And so, it was absolutely crazy. And then I went back probably 10 years later to the Funny Bone in Shreveport and that’s a long week ’cause that was like Wednesday night through Sunday night. So it was almost like 6 days you’re there.
It was a long week, and I’m not sure I’m gonna go back like ever. Like if there’s a company that wants to bring me into Shreveport, I’ll pay for everyone to come to another city and let’s just go to like somewhere else.
John: Right, exactly. That’s how much— Yeah, Shreveport, Louisiana. That’s definitely gonna be my least favorite. I could say that with conviction.
Zach: I can see that.
John: I’m sure the people are nice, but yeah. Yeah, it’s a whole another episode when I’m back on The Zach Gordon Podcast.
Zach: There, it’s perfect.
John: Yeah, exactly. You got one more?
Zach: What’s your favorite sandwich?
John: Ooh, favorite sandwich. That’s tough man ’cause like a Reuben’s good, like a Cubano’s good. Something with bacon always good.
Zach: I’m giving the hard hitting tough questions out here.
John: Yeah. But they’re hard, man. You make me think. Like my brain’s hurting. Preferably anything with bacon. There’s cheese on there. That’s always a plus. But yeah, probably one of those two would be good. Yeah. I wonder if there’s a Ruben with bacon on it.
Zach: I’m sure you can make that happen.
John: Yeah, that would be pretty magical. It’d probably be a restaurant in Shreveport and now I really got to decide like—
Zach: The only place in the world that serves that sandwich.
John: Right? It’s like “Well, John, which one’s the best here or the worst?”
Zach: And how far does Uber Eats go?
John: Right? There you go. That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Zach, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s really, really cool to have you on the show.
Zach: No, I really appreciate you being here. Thank you so much for having me.
John: Yeah, absolutely. And everybody listening, if you wanna see some pictures of Zach from his adventures running or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click the big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book. So thanks again for subscribing on Apple Podcasts 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.
Alexandria is an Accountant & Runner
Alexandria Romero talks about how she went from couch to 5k with her passion for running, how she develops strong connections with her team, and much more!
• Getting into running
• Her favorite marathon
• Talking about running at work
• Why the tone at the top is most important within a company’s culture
• Developing a strong connection within her team
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 523 of What’s Your “And?” 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. Like who else are you beyond the job title?
And just a quick plug here for globaldogart.com. Michael Puck was a guest on the show last year, and his “and” was dog photography. And he wanted me to let you know that research has shown that pictures of dogs foster social connections amongst people, promote trusting relationships and business settings. They also increase our well-being, reduce stress, all things that make work better. And so, he’s teamed up with other dog photographers all over the world to create globaldogart.com. Check it out. Bring some dog art to work. The really cool thing is is that all the Global Dog Art Gallery contributes 100% of their proceeds to save 1 million dogs by 2030. So check that out, globaldogart.com. And also check out the book. It’s on whatsyourand.com and on Audible as well. So 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 week is no different with my guest, Alex Romero. She’s a virtual CFO living in Pueblo, Colorado, and a 2022 AICPA outstanding young CPA Award winner. And now, she’s with me here today. Alex, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Alexandria: Yes, thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
John: No, this is gonna be a blast. We’ve met virtually several times with the Colorado Society things and what have you, but I have some rapid fire questions I never asked you before. So before I decide to accidentally go running with you, I figured it’d be something fun. So here we go. Let’s start you out with Star Wars or Star Trek?
Alexandria: Star Wars. And only because of Baby Yoda. He was the key that I finally was like “Okay, they got me. They got me.”
John: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Baby anything really, that will get you. There you go. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Alexandria: PC for my computer, but everything else in my life is Apple. Apple Watch.
John: Oh, okay.
Alexandria: Yeah. We’re an Apple family except for our actual work computer.
John: The computer. Okay. Interesting. All right. All right. How about more oceans or mountains?
Alexandria: So I feel like this is a funny one ’cause I live right next to the mountains.
Alexandria: But totally the ocean. I love the ocean. I love the beach and yeah. And I have those Rocky Mountains, you know, whatever.
John: Right. Yeah. But it’s because the mountains are always there. I mean, in Denver, I can see them all the time where the beach I can’t, so it’s special.
Alexandria: Yeah. Absolutely.
John: It means I’m on vacation. I had to get on a plane to go somewhere. It’s probably warm, you know. We’re good. So yeah, absolutely on that one. How about— I’m a huge ice cream fan. Ice cream in a cup or in a cone?
Alexandria: Absolutely cup. I’m not a cone fan. It’s gotta be a cup.
John: It’s messy. It gets all over. Yeah. Totally. Totally.
Alexandria: Yeah. Yeah. I’m weird. I don’t like the crunchy with it too.
John: Oh, okay. Interesting.
Alexandria: I know.
John: All right.
John: All right. Yeah. We’ll still hang out. It’s all good. It’s all good. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Alexandria: Gosh, that’s a hard one ’cause I feel like they’re married. I mean, you can’t have one without the other.
John: Okay. With a full trial balance. You just want it all.
John: All right.
Alexandria: Yeah. So I don’t think I’m gonna choose. I think I like everything. I wanna know the entire picture.
John: Okay. Look at you. All right, there we go. That’s a good CFO right there. That’s what that is. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Alexandria: Gosh, you know, I really like different teas.
John: Oh, okay.
Alexandria: Yeah. So there’s a lot of tea shops. And so, I feel like that’s more of an elegant like adult, you know, when you think about it. Like I go to teas, so that’s my thing. I really like different teas.
John: That’s cool. No, that absolutely. that definitely is. How about heels are flats?
Alexandria: So I do heels all the time except when running. It’s definitely flats, and I have quite the shoe collection for running shoes.
John: There you go. Do you have a brand of choice?
Alexandria: I do. Brooks And they come out with specialty shoes more than they should because I always think I need to have the Thanksgiving shoes, and the Christmas shoes, and the summer shoes. Yeah.
John: They get you.
Alexandria: All the shoes.
John: There you go.
John: There you go. That’s awesome. Very good. How about a favorite number?
Alexandria: I’m gonna go with 3 ’cause it’s a magic number. Schoolhouse Rock!
Alexandria: Going back to old school.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so good. So good. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-Book, or real book?
Alexandria: So I really like having an actual book, but I actually read ’em and get through ’em when they’re audio, so it’s really hard ’cause there’s nothing better than having a library book. I came from a library, so I do appreciate that. But I actually will finish them in a reasonable time if I’m listening to it.
John: Yeah. And plus, you can do double speed, or one and a half speed, or whatever.
John: So yeah, it can move along pretty quickly. How about a favorite animal? It could be any animal at all.
Alexandria: I’m gonna go with my own dog, Matterhorn, ’cause he is just so awesome.
John: Oh. Okay. And he’s got a cool name.
Alexandria: He is.
John: I mean, Matterhorn. That’s like incredible.
Alexandria: Yeah. So he’s a Great Pyrenees. So he’s big, and white, and loves the mountains. So Matterhorn was just the most appropriate name.
John: That’s awesome.
Alexandria: So awesome.
John: I love it. That’s very cool. Very cool. How about when it comes to puzzles? Sudoku, crossword, or a jigsaw puzzle?
Alexandria: You know, I don’t do many puzzles. But you know, when I was little, I used to really like the normal puzzles.
John: Yeah. Jigsaw puzzles.
Alexandria: Yeah, Jigsaw.
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Alexandria: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
John: Yeah. There you go.
Alexandria: Yeah. So I’ll go with that.
John: Okay. All right. All right.
Alexandria: I have memories of those.
John: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How about a favorite color?
Alexandria: Pink. Absolutely.
John: Pink. Okay.
John: That was a slam dunk.
John: There you go. There you go.
John: How about a least favorite color?
John: Oh yeah, that’s definitely a very unpopular answer for sure. How about are you more talk or text?
Alexandria: Definitely text. I feel like I took all the talk out in middle school and high school. I was one of those call waiting, you know, all night. And so, I talked myself out.
John: That’s so funny. That’s so funny. How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Alexandria: So I would say Tim Curry and that’s because—
John: Oh, yeah!
Alexandria: …he’s in a lot of my favorite movies. So, Rocky Horror Picture Show, old school Annie from the ’80s, and—
Alexandria: Scary Movie 2. I mean, all these like random movies that I really like.
John: Scary Movie 2. There you go.
Alexandria: I know. I know. It’s an odd one to really like, but he’s the one that’s in all of those, so it’s like he must be the magic.
John: That’s the common denominator there. I love it. We got three more or two more rather. Do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Alexandria: Probably Brussel sprouts.
John: Yeah! Solid.
Alexandria: Super cute. And my dad would try confuse me like—
John: Baby cabbage.
Alexandria: Yeah. But it’s like it doesn’t help unless it’s like fried with like bacon and those are okay.
John: Exactly. You know, all the unhealthy stuff that goes on, it’s too much work.
John: It’s like the grits of vegetables. It’s like just takes too much work to make it good. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Alexandria: Gosh, I think the favorite thing I have, this is gonna sound cliché, but it’s probably my husband and my son. They’re just so awesome. I love hanging out with them. And so, I’m very lucky that both my husband and I work remote. And people have asked us how is that. And we’re like it’s awesome ’cause we’re hanging out with our best friend like all day, every day.
John: That’s very cool. Very cool. That’s incredible. And then when you’re not hanging out with the family, you’re running.
Alexandria: Yeah. Away from the family. No.
John: Well, they’re not joining you. That’s for sure. So yeah, so let’s talk about running and just how’d you get into running?
Alexandria: So where it started is I had always looked at running as being something that was too difficult for me that I was never gonna be able to do. I could only run maybe a couple houses and my husband had said that you are only in good shape if you’re running. That that’s like gonna prove that you’re in the best shape. Because if you can run, it means you’re in good shape. And so, I was thinking about that. I was like “Yeah, I think you’re right.” So I did the couch to 5k. I signed up for 5K and that’s where it started. And you know, I didn’t just kind of dabble in it. I was like “Well, now that I’m doing this, let’s go full on.” And so, I did in that first summer. I had 6 weeks that I had a 5K every single weekend.
John: Wow! That’s impressive.
John: And I mean, from couch like not running at all. Like not really into doing six 5Ks in 6 weeks. That’s impressive. That really is. And if you add ’em all up, I feel like that’s a marathon. So you should check that off as like—
Alexandria: I should. Yeah. I was brand new to racing and here I was already doing marathons.
John: Yeah. Right? I mean, it’s a monthly thing, but it’s all good. But no, I would take it. But no, that’s really impressive that you were just like “Hey, I’m just gonna do this.” And was it kind of pandemic related or—
Alexandria: No, this was probably 2015 or so. Yeah.
John: Oh, wow. Okay.
Alexandria: So it’s been a while. I mean, well, the couch to 5K, it’s a really easy program to follow. You just have to do it. I mean, that’s the biggest thing. Just finding the time and actually doing that, but they train you to be able to do a 5K and then it’s like if you get to that point, then it’s like don’t stop.
John: Then it’s momentum and keep it going and yeah.
John: No. Plus, once you find a cool brand that makes awesome shoes, then you have to wear ’em. So now, I have to go run.
Alexandria: It’s true. I had to try out every single pair that I buy on a weekly basis.
John: That’s incredible. That’s so great. And so, do you have some of the runs that have been your more favorite ones?
Alexandria: Yes. And so, I actually have tattoos of the meaningful runs that I have done. And so, the first tattoo I have is of the Disney half marathon. I did the Tinkerbell in Disneyland, and it was incredible. And it was the first time I had ran a half marathon without stopping. It wasn’t superfast, but it was fast enough that I was able to qualify for then the Pike’s Peak Ascent. And so, that was my second race. And then—
Alexandria: most recently, I did the Las Vegas half marathon and that’s been after I had a back surgery. So it was kind of like a comeback race.
John: Oh, my goodness. Yeah. No. That’s impressive. Wow. I mean, in Pike’s Peak, goodness.
John: That’s quite a run. I would get a tattoo for that one I would imagine. Probably getting a tattoo hurt less than doing the run.
Alexandria: Absolutely. Yes. ‘Cause it is. It’s ranked the hardest half marathon in the US.
John: Yeah. And that was your second one. And you were doing 5Ks. You were on a couch.
Alexandria: Right? I know. Go big or go home.
John: I love it. That’s really, really impressive. Kudos to you for real. Like that’s really fantastic. And also something too that you brought up of the time and the whatever, it’s like it doesn’t matter what your time was, you know. You’re not doing it for setting a world record or getting a gold medal in the Olympics. You’re doing it for you. If you’ve changed the phrase to I enjoy running, then it takes a lot of the pressure off of instead of calling your— I’m a runner and it’s like, well you know, I enjoy running it. It sounds a little less pressure on yourself, I think, type of thing.
Alexandria: It does.
John: Yeah. ‘Cause it doesn’t matter what the time was like. Like my time was finished. How’s that sound like?
Alexandria: Absolutely. And that was definitely me at the Pikes Peak Ascent. It took me quite a while, and there were times I didn’t know if I was gonna finish. But just crossing that line and being on the finisher’s list, it’s like that’s fine. it doesn’t matter.
John: Yeah. That’s impressive. Give me a banana and a medal. And now, let’s get the hell out of here.
Alexandria: Yeah. Get me off this mountain and we’ll be good.
John: We won’t be back for a while. We’re good now. Like we’re good.
John: Yeah. Have your son look around. All right. We’re done. Like we’re not coming back.
Alexandria: And that’s it. The family was up there waiting for me for far too long. And so, they were ready to get off that mountain too.
John: But kudos for you. That’s really, really cool. And I think it’s fantastic. And so, do you feel like— I mean, of course, at no point in your schooling does anyone say “Hey, go be a long-distance runner ’cause it will make you better at your job.” But do you feel like there’s a skill that you bring from running to work?
Alexandria: Yes, absolutely. So when I actually completed the Pikes Peak Ascent, I was in the middle of my CPA exams.
Alexandria: Yeah. And so, it was just one of those things that— ’cause Pikes Peak, I can see it out my window. It’s something that I’ve grown up looking at forever and known about this race. And it always seemed like something that was so impossible. So it’s like if I can actually do something that I think is impossible to complete, it was just another motivation to say the CPA test at point feel like it’s gonna be impossible to complete. So it is just that motivation and that knowing that, yeah, I can do hard stuff. I can get direct.
John: Yeah. And your family is waiting at the end for way too long for both of them.
Alexandria: That is probably the truest thing I have ever heard. They’re at the end waiting and it’s taken far too long. They’re tapping their feet. And they’re like “No.” But it’s true. It is so true.
John: How many parts are there? Good Lord.
John: It’s like you need more of these? That’s funny. No, no, no. I’m totally teasing. But is this something that you do talk about at work with coworkers?
Alexandria: It is. And where I had my tattoos, they’re on my foot, and I didn’t really think about it when I got my first one. You can’t see them when I run. They’re not visible.
John: Oh, right. Yeah.
Alexandria: I have on socks and shoes. And so, you really only see it when I have on high heels and I’m in work attire.
John: At work. Yeah.
Alexandria: So people always ask me about them. And so, it’s a great way to just talk about your ’cause it’s very visible.
Alexandria: So it’s actually been something that I’m like “Well, I didn’t intend for this to be something that wasn’t seen when I’m running and only when I’m in a work setting, but it’s really worked out.”
John: That’s fantastic though. And it’s cool to hear that it’s not judgment or “Oh, you’re fired ’cause you have an outside of work interest.” It’s the opposite it sounds like where people are asking you about it, which is fantastic, which is what you want in a work setting, is people that care about me enough to ask. You know? Like what is that? If they didn’t care about you, they would just brush it off and just not even talk about it. And it’s neat to hear that it’s a conversation starter of sorts like that. And I guess how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create an environment where people can share their “ands” or even go even in further and shine a light on them and stress how it’s important that you have one? Or how much is it on the individual to just create that little small circle on their peers?
Alexandria: Yes. So I think it is incredibly valuable if your company stands behind it and is promoting it. The tone at the top is huge. And if it’s supported from the very top, it’s just gonna encourage everybody else to see that it’s acceptable, that it’s valued, it’s something that we wanna focus on. But if you’re in an organization that it isn’t there and it’s not one of the main objectives or something that they want to create this environment, you can. You can do it within your own team and be the one that speaks out and says, you know, let’s talk about this. Let’s do that. Let’s try something new.
And where I was most recently, I mean, there was a general sense of, yes, we want everybody to know each other and know what makes them tick more. But within our finance department, we really dove into that. And we via assessment and looking at what our character strengths were. We knew what each other’s passions were. We were excited when somebody went to a Nuggets game ’cause they loved the Never Nuggets. And so, it has just made our team so much stronger because we knew about each other and we cared about what others were thinking, what their passions were, what their values were, what made them super excited.
John: No, I love to hear that so much. And you know, how much did that compare to maybe other places you’ve worked where, well, I kind of knew about people, but not really? But it sounds like this other place where you really get into it and you roll up your sleeves and care about people. It’s gotta make work better.
Alexandria: It does. And what I really saw is that people that maybe not connect generally were then forming relationships because they had more of an understanding of who that person was.
John: Yeah. Yeah.
Alexandria: And I even found that in myself that somebody that I might not sit down and have a conversation or go to lunch with, once I found out that “Oh, they had a child that went to this school and they did this or they really liked going ice skating”, you know, just different things, it just made even working together, and asking those questions, and building that team so much easier for everybody.
John: Yeah. You know, something that you just brought up that made me think of like— Yeah, I mean you definitely don’t have to have the same “and”, but it’s just— When you’re around people that are more interesting, you want to be around them more. And there’s interesting people around us. We just don’t know because we don’t pop the hood and ask, you know. And what’s under here? Like what makes you tick? What is your “and”? Like what are those passions that are outside of work, you know, sort of thing? And and people also then have to quit lying to themselves and saying “Well, I’m really passionate about whatever my job is.” It’s like, all right, then volunteer and don’t get paid. Because if you’re so passionate about it, then why are you getting paid?
Alexandria: Yeah. Yeah. In finance, we all like accounting. Okay, that’s great. You know, whatever. But you don’t just think and eat, breathe, and live accounting all the time.
John: Yeah. And creating that space for where people can just be honest with themselves and be honest with each other. And interesting people are interesting.
John: And you wanna be around them more. And whether it’s your thing or not, I actually wanna be around you more.
Alexandria: Yeah. And I wanna learn. I wanna hear why is it important to you. What do you do? Like that sounds crazy.
John: What is that? Right?
Alexandria: Yeah. Yeah. I have no frame of reference around this. Please educate us.
Alexandria: We don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. This sounds crazy. And you actually think that’s even more exciting when it’s not the same “and” because you learn something and it’s sometimes just so mind blowing what people are passionate about and what they do that you would never even think of that even existing.
John: Yeah. And maybe that’s a new “and” for you or next time you go do it, I’d love to come along. Yeah. Sure.
John: Like why not?
Alexandria: I just wanna check this out. This is really cool.
John: I get to do it every week on this podcast. And it’s like “Oh, wow, this is incredible. Like this is so much fun.” And just when you see people come so alive talking about it, it’s almost like the perfect sales pitch. It’s like “Yeah, I wanna do that.” You’re so excited about it.
Alexandria: Yes. Oh, what did I sign up for?
John: Right. All of a sudden, I’m halfway up. I’m halfway up Pikes Peak having an asthma attack or something and a heart attack all at the same time. And it’s like “Oh, boy. Like this is fun.” But that’s such a great point.
Like whether it’s your and or someone else’s “and”, like it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have the same one. Just care about each other and that’s really incredible. And what a great takeaway for everybody listening of just share. As long as it’s not taboo or super political or whatever, gonna really ostracize people, your outside of work hobby is not that, you know. So start with that and who you are. And behind the job title, there’s a human there. That’s really awesome.
Alexandria: Yeah. Even events you do, things you do with your family. I mean just sharing who you are, who you really are.
John: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And start with yourself. Just get to know yourself, you know.
John: And then share with others I guess, you know.
Alexandria: Yes. And that’s sometimes hard. It’s like, well, I don’t know. But then as people start talking, it’s like “Oh, okay, yeah, I can relate to that. I do this.” Or “Yeah, I know—”
John: Yeah. I do have stuff outside of work that—
Alexandria: Growing up, we went camping every summer or whatever it is.
Alexandria: Doesn’t have to be big. Just little pieces.
John: Yeah. I love it. And just like your month full of marathon, all those little pieces add up. Right?
Alexandria: Yeah, it does.
John: Look at me bringing it all back.
Alexandria: Right? Full circle
John: There we go. That’s awesome. Well, Alex, this has been so much fun, but I feel like it’s only fair since I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning that we turn the tables, make this the first episode of The Alex Romero Podcast. Thanks for having me on and I’m all yours. So whatever you got, fire away.
Alexandria: So both of us being in Colorado, fall is such a huge thing around here I feel like and all these different events. So I wanna know what’s your favorite fall event that’s coming up?
John: Well, I am a huge college football—
Alexandria: I was gonna say except for college football almost.
John: Right? I mean, that’s my favorite season. It’s like not gross hot. The leaves are changing. Hot chocolate becomes more normal. There’s some pumpkin stuff starts popping up. College football is happening. Yeah, absolutely. All of that is just so great. Yeah, I love fall so much ’cause it’s not cold yet, but it’s just that little bit of crisp in the air where it’s like all right, you know, like it’s nice.
Alexandria: And it’s super gorgeous here in the fall time in Colorado.
John: Oh, yeah, in Colorado. It’s amazing. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, it’s so great. And the no humidity is like just brilliant. Like whoever thought of this humidity idea was— I don’t know what they were thinking.
Alexandria: I don’t know. I don’t know. I was in Florida in June and—
John: Yeah. Good luck with that.
Alexandria: Yeah. We made it back.
John: It was horrible though. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. But yeah, definitely college football would be the quick answer.
Alexandria: Yeah. And then also, salty or sweet?
John: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. I think I’ll go sweet. You’re talking about my personality, right? Just kidding.
Alexandria: I didn’t put any reference around that question, so there you go.
John: If it was my personality, it would definitely have been salty, but I do prefer sweet for sure. I’m a sucker for that. And obviously, the ice cream is definitely gonna be in there for that, so awesome. Well, thank you so much, Alex, for being a part of this. It was so cool hearing about this, and I look forward to following your running on social media and everything, and cheering you on. So thanks, Alex.
Alexandria: Thank you.
John: Yeah, absolutely. And everybody, if you wanna see some pictures of Alex from her runs or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. everything is there. And while you’re on that page, please click the big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to read the book. And thanks again for subscribing on Apple Podcasts 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.
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
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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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.
Chris is an Investigative Accountant & Podcaster
Chris Ekimoff returns to the podcast from episode #83 to talk about his new hobbies with running and starting his new podcast, inSecurities. He also talks about what he does around the workplace as a director to encourage an open workplace!
• Moving away from competitive swimming
• Taking up running marathons
• Starting his podcast
• Typical first-time interactions with clients and co-workers
• How Chris sets an example at the office for an open workplace
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Chris Podcasting
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 292 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett. 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 being published in September, yes, this September, and will be available on Amazon, Indigo and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know when it comes out.
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, Chris Ekimoff. He’s a director with RSM and the Southeast Region Leader for Financial Investigations and Dispute Services and on the side, he’s the co-host of inSECURITIES podcast with the Practicing Law Institute, and now he’s with me here today. Chris, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Chris: Glad to be here, John. So great to chat with you again.
John: Of course, man. You’re a busy, busy dude. That’s why I appreciate squeezing into the schedule. You know the drill, rapid fire questions. These are ones I probably should have asked you a couple of years ago on Episode 83. My God, bless you, man. That was long ago.
Chris: Yeah, we’re dating ourselves. Everybody knows that we’re the old guys on the podcast right now.
John: Exactly. It’s one of those things. I’ve been doing this for X — that means you’re old.
Chris: That’s right.
John: That’s what that means. I am ancient. All right, here we go. First one, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Chris: Game of Thrones definitely.
John: Okay, okay. How about a favorite cereal even when you were a kid?
Chris: Captain Crunch will be well-known, but we had this baseball slam bootleg cereal that everything was shaped like baseball bats and baseballs. I don’t know if that was something that you got from the corner store or — I’d have to do some research, and if that was a real cereal, but made me fall in love with baseball as a kid too.
John: Yeah. That’s incredible, man. How about brownie or ice cream? Ice cream, okay. How about a favorite Disney character?
Chris: Aladdin has always been my number one, the music, the atmosphere. I’m also a big fan of vests, so I think that’s a good — it’s the reason I lean towards Aladdin.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, cats or dogs.
Chris: 100% dog.
John: There you go. Yeah, me too, me too. Two more. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Chris: I usually go for a Hoppy IPA, but from a cocktail perspective, I usually lean more on an old-fashion, something bourbon-based.
John: Oh, okay.
Chris: I like to mix it up. I used to love to go to bars. Now we’re in this quarantine area where it’s just — whatever is in the fridge maybe is the best answer for you, John, in terms of adult beverage now.
John: The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Chris: Over. That’s a deal-breaker.
John: That is a deal-breaker.
Chris: You got it. No, that’s great.
John: I had somebody on once say, “If it wasn’t over then this conversation is over.”
Chris: I agree with that person, 100%.
John: That’s awesome. So, yeah, Episode 83, we talked swimming back from your college days.
Chris: That’s right.
John: I love that example of when you started at a huge Big Four firm and the Olympics was just happening where everyone was breaking all the records. All of a sudden, everyone knew you were the swimming guy, so they were talking to you about that. I thought that was really cool.
Chris: Yeah. That suit technology part of the interesting window in the swimming history world is there were two or three years where times are dropping like crazy because people were wearing basically wet suits that helped them float. I was the only guy in the office who had at least a little bit of understanding of why that was happening.
When it’s being covered on Good Morning America, in the Nightly News, everyone wants to talk about it at the water cooler the next day, so I was more popular than I should have been but thankfully for a good reason, to stand out with some of my peers as well, so it was excellent.
John: No, no, l think it’s cool. So is swimming still a passion of yours or has it transitioned to something else?
Chris: Yes. Again, quarantine limiting, pools aren’t really open to go do some laps. I’ve actually moved away from competitive swimming as an adult and jumped into the running bug. I’ve done a handful of marathons in the past ten or 12 years.
John: Oh, wow.
Chris: I always try to stay current. I’ve got a couple of friends who do Masters swimming, so I’m checking in on their times to maybe let them know they’re not as fast as they used to be. A bunch of my college friends and I got together last weekend at a lake up in Kennedy and we swam the lake together, much slower than we did back in college but always laughing and looking back at those elements too. So, not spending as much time in the pool anymore but still definitely a passion of mine.
John: It’s still part of your life.
Chris: Yeah, definitely.
John: And what have you. I think that’s fantastic, and marathons, those are not easy.
Chris: That’s what I tell people, especially with the swimming discussion, is I used to spend two hours at practice, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. Now I get to run for an hour and see all these things and breathe whenever I want to and maybe slow down and walk instead of having to do a flip turn and turn around. It transitioned well, but definitely different medium.
John: That is funny. Yeah, I never even thought about that. Yeah, I guess you’re not really looking at anything.
Chris: I tell people, you play soccer. You play football. You don’t play swimming. It’s not a game. It’s not fun. Just back and forth, over and over again.
John: You’re exactly right. You don’t play.
Chris: You don’t play running. You run. You just swim. All that happens.
John: Yeah. I also don’t run because there’s no play involved. There’s no joy in this. That’s awesome, man. Why do you hate yourself so much? What’s going on? Just teasing, man.
Chris: It balances out the adult beverages on the other side. If I go for a good run, then that old-fashioned is a little bit sweeter at the end of the day.
John: That’s very true. That’s very true. The podcast, which is great by the way, how did you get into that?
Chris: It’s one of those weird stories. My co-host, Kurt Wolfe is an attorney at the law firm, Troutman Sanders, and I had actually met each other by tweeting at a Securities Enforcement Conference using the conference hash tag, four or five years ago.
At the networking event after the conference, I was talking to some of my colleagues. They were like, “Hey, Chris, saw you on Twitter. Ha-ha, you loser.” Kurt was on the other end of the table, and he’s like, “Hey, yeah, we were tweeting each other back and forth.” The partner that Kurt worked for and the partner that I worked for looked at each other, oh, maybe that was a valuable use of their attention and time today. It’s always about collecting business cards.
So, Kurt and I have had, for the past couple of years, this relationship where we’re discussing securities, law and regulatory enforcement issues over Twitter, sharing articles with each other and giving each other a good ribbing and speaking with the Practicing Law Institute which is a global provider of continuing legal education services, who had asked if we’d be interested in doing that as a podcast. Instead of just bantering on Twitter, why not get you two guys in front of a microphone and talk through some of the issues you’re already sharing in the social media world.
I’m amazed and, John, I know you’ll feel the same way, we had that initial conversation in the fall of 2018 and then our first episode didn’t launch until January of this year. The amount of practice and planning and effort that goes into it was a huge lift, and it’s really become not only a hobby, but a complement to some of the professional stuff that Kurt and I do as well. It’s been a heck of a lot of work but a heck of a good time too, when you get to speak with interesting folks on topics that touch all of our lives from a professional perspective.
John: It’s a lot of work to do a podcast well. It’s the same as writing a book. You could just slap some words together and hit print on Amazon, CreateSpace or whatever and there you go, you’ve got a book, put your picture on the cover, but there are typos. It’s not good. It’s not well thought out. Same with a podcast. So, kudos to you. At some point you do have to just jump. Hey, it’s go time. Here we go.
Chris: I listen to a lot of podcast out there too, and hearing some of the well-known and storied folks like yourself. Going back and listening to the first five or six episodes that I ever did and just cringing at how little we all knew of what we were doing and how it went. I’m hopeful someday that I’ll look back and say, yeah, we were at stage one, and now we’re at stage two or three, and it’s going much better.
John: Yeah, because it is hard. It’s the same with any creative outlet. You never see Steven Spielberg’s student film. You only see the masterpieces and the Picassos and the whatevers. It’s hard to just get out there and do it.
Chris: Or hacking the system too. Kurt and I are — there’s a full production team at PLI that is supporting us. We’re sourcing the content. We’re talking about these issues. We’re following the news. We’re getting the gas, but we’re just hitting record, talking for 90 minutes and then signing it over. Our guys are editing and reviewing that from a content perspective, as well as a sound quality and improvement perspective. So I’m thankful to the guys at PLI every day for taking the conversations that we have that are kind of muffled and getting them into a little bit brighter and more interesting medium there.
John: Yeah, yeah. So cool. It’s so cool. Just to hear, it’s swimming, you’re running marathons, it’s doing the podcasts, so many different dimensions to you which is awesome. When you think about it, you’re not just the forensics accounting.
Chris: Yeah, and, John, that’s something that I’ve always loved about the work that you do, is I always laugh when I first went to college and I said, “I want to get into accounting.” My parents we’re like, “What? Chris, we can’t keep you sitting still. How are you going to count beans all day?”
John: That’s right.
Chris: Think, over however many, 200-plus episodes that you’ve done, every single one of those episodes shows that it’s not just making sure the Excel spreadsheet is formatted right. We’ve all got these sides to us that make for a very interesting profession and takes away from the suspenders and the green visor and moves us to a more dynamic spot. It’s a testament to you, John, all the work that you’ve done, as well as any folks who gravitate to this type of work, both from the technical side as well as from the personality side.
John: I really appreciate that, man. That means a lot. I mean they’re out there. It’s not like I created this. All I did was give permission and let’s kick the door in. Because in my research, 92% of us has a hobby or passion outside of work that we do regularly. That’s not even close to 50 — how is the stereotype, this narrative, sits in the corner all the time and does work and goes home to do more work. That’s not who we are. It’s not even close. Yet we’re all acting that way. It was just enough is enough type of a thing.
Chris: Kicking in the doors is a good way to say it. Really changing that paradigm is great.
John: A little bit. Do you feel like people are sharing hobbies and passions more now? Maybe social media is helping with that?
Chris: When I first interact with either a staff person new to the team or we’re doing recruiting or interact with an attorney team that we’re doing work with and getting past that professional phase, first question is like, what do you do when you’re not here? How do I build a mental heuristic about John or about Steve or about Stacey, based on what they do?
It’s, I’m a runner, or I’m a piano player, or I do a pop-up restaurant. I like to cook and help support my sister’s catering business. All of those things is just, they layer into a better conversation you can have with the people you’re talking with. Yeah, listen, we’ll get to the billable hours. We’ll do the legal research. We’ll do the damages model. It sounds bad. I care less about that than hearing more about what you’re making tonight for dinner because that’s —
Chris: — that’s interesting to me. Maybe it’s because we’re taping this around lunchtime, but that’s where my focus is right now.
John: No, you’re exactly right. There are follow-up questions to that side. There are really not many follow-up questions to the what do you do for a day job? Oh, okay, got it, whatever.
Chris: I went to an American Bar Association Conference in Atlanta last year for white collar litigators. Hey, I’m Chris. I’m with RSM. I do forensics accounting and work on legal cases and testify and all that. What type of law do you practice? They say, “White collar.” I’m like, guys, we’ve moved beyond the general. Talk to me about the caseload you have. Talk to me about who you’re interacting with. Is it financial services? Is it — all those kinds of things. After two or three conversations, it was like, yeah, we should stop saying white collar. I was like, yes, let’s get to that next level of detail. Same side of that, on the personal side is let’s move past the regular assumptions and talk to me about what really matters to you.
John: Absolutely. That’s what I love about what you’re doing and that mentality. That’s fantastic. Hopefully, one day, you could just go to a conference and say to people, “What’s your ‘And’”? Then they’ll just say swimming or running or food trucks or whatever. Awesome. Because that’s where we can now have a conversation. The other ones are dead ends after dead ends after dead ends.
Is there something that you do to set an example? Now you’re at a director level, it’s the flip of that story when you started at Big Four. You’re the guy that sees people, and it’s cool that they know you as Chris and not the director. Is there something that you do that maybe people listening can put in their back pocket?
Chris: Yeah. I think now is a great time to stop being the utilization czar or the chargeable time reviewer and start to be a little bit more human, obviously for everything going on in the world. I laugh — I work closely with five or six people on the East Coast with our practice and got a message from one of my colleague, saying, “Hey, just so you know, I want to take a couple of hours on Monday afternoon because it’s the first time the hair salon I go to has been opened in three months, and the next appointment they have is in August.” I said, “Honestly, I’m a little bit upset that you would ask because I completely understand.” Just, if you get your work done on time and you’re not missing anything substantial, walking up the street to get your hair done isn’t an issue for somebody who has been locked in their apartment in New York City for three months.
It’s those kinds of extensions where, when I interact with people on my team or with people on the client service side, external RSM, it’s, how is your weekend? It’s not really just, hey, how was your weekend? This is the first phrase I’m going to say to you before I then talk about work. It’s, “Yeah, I remember you said your dog was at the vet last week. How is your dog doing?” Or you went up to visit your grandmother in New Hampshire. What’s the weather like up there? Just building out a more full picture of who you’re dealing with and doing it from a sincere level. I don’t have an agenda to understand what the weather is in New Hampshire. It’s just I get a better understanding of the person I’m talking to and being able to connect those dots.
It’s about opening up and, like I said, now more than ever, I think it’s important to understand the situations people are dealing with, outside of, if the analysis is QC’d appropriately or if the report is properly formatted. It’s more of, how are you doing? What’s going on outside of your office or outside of the home office, I guess, now for a lot of us. To know what’s really coloring people’s day and how they’re feeling and being conscious of that is a good way to check in with the people you work with, to take a pause, take a breath. We’re all trying to get through this together, specifically, but also just to be a good co-worker, colleague and human is really to look at those other points for those folks as well.
John: Yeah. I love that. It’s asking specific questions that show that you paid attention to the last conversation, and you remembered, and you care about them genuinely.
John: That’s such a great takeaway, Chris. That’s so awesome.
Chris: It’s how you build friendships. It’s not just colleagues. Maybe I never get hired by that firm again or that case goes away. I’ll always remember that Brian is the guy who loves National Bohemian Beer from Baltimore because that’s where his wife’s family is from. The next time I have one, I send him a text with a photo of it. We all laugh about it and have a good memory and a good chuckle with it.
John: Or he just really loves the letter B.
Chris: That’s right. Brian in Baltimore with Natty Boh, that’s right.
John: Right? That’s a lot. Yeah. This has been great, Chris. Before I wrap it up, sometimes people like to rapid fire question me. So I can hand the podcast over to you. You’re now the host if you want to fire away. You’re used to being in the host chair, give it back at the end but, yeah, anything you’ve got for me?
Chris: All right, I’m going to hit you with three of them.
Chris: East Coast or West Coast.
John: Oh, East Coast.
Chris: 100%. You’re a high energy type guy. I don’t see you surfing out.
John: I mean I will go surfing, but just cut to the chase. Tell me you like me or you don’t. Just I don’t need to guess. When I was doing comedy, we’ll get back to you tomorrow. Three months later, you’re still following up. It’s like, get out of here.
Chris: That’s good. All right, number two, a piece of advice you got early in your career that you think has helped develop who you are today.
John: Oh, okay. I started at PwC and they had a phrase. It was — and I made fun of it, to be honest, because it rhymed, but I remember it so I guess it worked. If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. I thought that that was a good phrase because you can’t rely on outside forces to determine what you actually want to go get. Go get it. Go do it. It’s also, no one else can do it for you.
I wrote my book. Sure, I had several editors and people that helped me and coached me along the way, but I wrote every word. You can’t just tell someone, “Go write a book for me,” and then write. You have to go do the work. I think that applies to all professions. You have to do it. You can’t just sit there and complain. Why don’t you just turn that energy around and put it towards what you actually want to have happen as the outcome.
Chris: I’m with you, and definitely good tenet. I hadn’t rhymed it before but I’m going to take that with me. Finally, John, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now and money and all that was not an issue, what would you be doing all day?
John: I would be on a Tesla rocket to the outer space. I don’t know. I always wanted to do that when I was a kid.
Chris: That’s awesome, kind of space game writ large for you. That’s awesome.
John: I don’t know. Maybe it was the space ice cream I got at the Air and Space Museum in DC but I just always love that stuff.
Chris: That’s awesome. I don’t know. I just thought of that.
John: It will be cool. I don’t know if I want to do all the training that’s involved.
Chris: I hear it’s not just like in an Uber. You don’t take Uber to the moon. It’s a little bit more involved with that.
John: I’m probably going to throw up, but I made it. That’s great, Chris. Well thank so much you for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was fun.
Chris: Always a pleasure, sir.
John: Awesome. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Chris in action or get a link to his podcast or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.
Kevin is an Accountant & Ragnar Relay Runner
Kevin Yeanoplos returns to the podcast from episode 17 to share with us his recent experiences in his hobby of road trips visiting historical musical landmarks and his latest relay run! Kevin and John have a deep conversation on having a passion or hobby in life!
• Seeing James Taylor for the 25th time
• Kevin’s recent road trip
• Completing his 18th Ragnar Relay
• Frisson and what it means
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Welcome to Episode 262 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following-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’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published very, very soon. It will be available in Amazon and a few other websites so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list, you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
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. This Follow-up Friday is no different with my guest, Kevin Yeanoplos. He’s the Director of Valuation Services at Brueggeman and Johnson Yeanoplos in Tucson, Arizona. I visited him in his office before and now, he’s here with me today.
Kevin, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kevin: John, it’s a pleasure to be with you to spend a few minutes. I’ve always enjoyed our chats.
John: I appreciate it. Ditto, man. Ditto. It’s always fun to catch up. This time, we hit record and let people hear it. That’s pretty fun. Yeah. One thing we never do on the regular calls is rapid fire questions. I’ve got seven for you right out of the gate here, get to know Kevin on another level.
If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Kevin: Well, it would have to be Harry Potter because I think I maybe one of the ten people in the world that have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones.
John: And I’m in the club with you because that’s on HBO or something where you have to spend more money on it. So yeah, I don’t even know anything about it. I just know there’s a blood bath every other episode apparently.
How about more pens or pencils?
John: Okay, all right. I like that. How about oceans or mountains?
Kevin: That is a very tough question. Just expand on it very quickly, I always was around oceans as a young boy and felt that was peaceful to me. But since I’ve been in the mountain west for so long, actually I will tell you, a subset of the mountains basically red rocks is peace to me.
John: There you go.
Kevin: I’d have to say mountains now.
John: That’s fair enough. How about a favorite food?
Kevin: Red beans and rice.
John: Oh, there you go. How about do you prefer more hot or cold?
Kevin: Oh. Have to be hot in Arizona.
John: Yeah. Very, very hot. Two more. How about a favorite sports team? Any sport.
John: Oh, there you go.
Kevin: Since 1962.
John: Right, when they started. That’s impressive. How about toilet paper roll? Over or under?
Kevin: It’s got to be over.
John: On occasion, I get an under. Sometimes, there’s a reason. For the most part, over is definitely the most popular answer. That’s for sure.
It’s been a little while since Episode 17 when we chatted, I mean just such cool pictures you were doing from going to concerts and the photography and meeting all these musicians and then also the Ragnar Relays that you were doing. Is this still stuff that you’re into?
Kevin: Oh, yeah. If I had to — you know I’ve been thinking about hobby, my hobby is really living life, trying to be the pebble. I feel like we can change the world if we can change yourselves. That’s what my hobby is right there.
John: I love it, man. That’s great. I mean the way I look at the podcast, it’s just every episode is wiggling away at what people think of the stereotypical professional. Example after example is counter that and show you that this is the new norm. We can actually make a difference by being that example to others as you are. I mean for sure.
But yeah, have you been to some fun concerts recently?
Kevin: You know, they’re all fun. Earlier this year, saw James Taylor for I think the 25th time.
John: Oh, gosh. Yeah, wow.
Kevin: James Taylor was very important to me when I was younger, still is. His music I think is inspiring and everybody has an artist like that that impacts their lives and for me, James Taylor is it. I did some time in Mississippi last week and I think I drove 600 miles on one day.
I started out at Tupelo, Mississippi and went to Elvis’ birth place and then I drove to Clarksdale, Mississippi about two hours away which is where supposedly Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil so he could play guitar so well, and then I drove another hour to Robert Johnson’s grave at the middle of nowhere in Greenwood, Mississippi. Then from there, I went to Indianola, Mississippi which is where B.B. King was born and is buried and it was an epic day and that was better than any of the concerts I’ve been to.
John: Yeah. That’s amazing, man. I mean all of the music shrines of sorts, I mean all within a short drive.
Kevin: All in Mississippi. That’s incredible if you think about that.
John: It really is. Yeah, I didn’t realize that all of them — I mean I knew Tupelo of course with Elvis but yeah, didn’t realize all those other musicians as well. Very cool. Last year, I was able to see The Killers in Milwaukee in Summerfest, and man, what an experience. It’s crazy. The video and the confetti canons. I think I want to incorporate a confetti canon at the end of my keynotes now just after watching that, just like yeah, so it’s been fun going to concerts as well and I do not so much of the running on your part of it, but is that still something that you’re active with?
Kevin: It is. In fact, I just completed my 18th Ragnar.
Kevin: Let’s see. Where was it? Oh, the Bourbon Chase in Kentucky. We ran from Louisville, Kentucky to Lexington. The scenery was fantastic and I was with some good friends that I’ve known for quite a while. It’s always an experience to push yourself physically and emotionally and mentally and you come out the other side. I’ve learned so many good life lessons from doing those running races. I recommend it highly.
John: The Ragnar, for the people that are new to it, how far is that again?
Kevin: Somewhere around 200 miles and you have 12 runners. You each run anywhere from 12 to 20 miles and you run 24 hours. It usually takes us somewhere around 30 but you’re running all the time. You talk about life lessons, I‘ll just tell you quickly. In May, we had a Ragnar that went from Cobourg, Ontario to Niagara Falls. Ontario. Early in the race, one of the runners was alongside Lake Ontario, most of the course was along there. She happened to look off to the left and she rolled her ankle and she rolled so badly that she broke it.
Her husband was running and had to spend time with her in the hospital. Basically, you have two vans of six people. The other van had four people left. We had six and understandably, the other fan was kind of down and wanted to just give up, let’s just quit the race. We all thought about it. We said, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll give you one of our runners. We’ll all run an extra leg so instead of running three legs, we ran four and we’ll finish the race.
I now have a post-it on my computer screen that says sometimes, you got to run with ten. You do what you need to do to finish and it’s just such a great experience to do that. That’s why I said that’s my hobby, living life to the fullest because there are lessons for us every day.
John: That’s incredible, and what a story. I mean you’re running already 20 miles each and now, it’s like you’re attacking on an extra six or eight or whatever because of being a runner or two runners down, so probably even more than that, and yeah, sometimes that happens in work and in life where you just got to get it done.
Kevin: Yup. Very true.
John: It’s not because the other person isn’t good or whatever, it’s just that circumstances happen and that’s really incredible. Have you seen others in the professional world sharing hobbies and passions or are you more aware of it now or is it something where we still have some work to do?
Kevin: John, everybody has something, whatever it. To some people, they enjoy, they really do enjoy working 80 hours a week. Some people enjoy that. I don’t. I never have. I think I share with you that maybe a lot of that perspective comes from some health issues I had a number of years ago when that taught me a big lesson and gave me a lot of perspective.
The things I enjoy about working primarily are interacting with the clients, feeling like I can help. I love now to mentor and teach, that’s really what I like to do. The profession that I spend a lot of time in namely business evaluation has changed a lot and the technical side, I believe we probably get more into the weeds than ever before and there are some people that like that. I try to look at it above the fray. It’s just a different perspective.
John: No. For sure. I mean that’s something were I found in my research that I’m doing that yeah, there is maybe 8% of people where work is their thing and they’re really passionate about it but there’s about 92% of us that have something else that we’re all so passionate about.
Both are I guess okay but for so long that work all the time mentality has bullied us into thinking that if we have something else then maybe we’re not as dedicated to our job or we feel guilty or whatever and so it’s been cool sharing that message with people that no, no. It’s the opposite. It’s okay if work is your thing but it’s also 100% okay if work isn’t your thing and you’re just good at it and it gives you the money to go do the cool stuff you actually love to do.
Kevin: Well, have you ever heard of something called frisson?
John: No. I haven’t.
Kevin: It’s spelled F-R-I-S-S-O-N. It’s actually a French word and it’s French for chills. It’s not rare but not everybody experiences it and it’s something that maybe we hear a song or we read something. Whatever it is, we feel the chills because that particular thing has hit us and really, I mean it arouses something, that maybe is a bad word, but we feel it so strongly. I feel it all the time when I’m listening to music.
I personally feel it when I’m with or talking to certain people, not everybody but I feel it. I think it’s important for us, whoever we are, to try and be so aware of things that we feel that because it’s out there. It’s what are the things that inspire us, what are the things that enable us to feel? We are, as CPAs and though financial professionals, we’ve kind of gotten buried in our head. We think so much with our head, and again, there’s nothing wrong with that.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really, really, really tried to think more with my heart. For me, that’s where I’m comfortable.
John: That’s fantastic because I mean there’s zero emotion typically at work or maybe anger. It’s like the only emotion and there needs to be joy and happiness and caring, love to a certain agree for clients and for coworkers. Get out of our head and more into those emotions and it’s not unprofessional at all. It’s actually more professional. It’s not as black and white as what we want it to be maybe.
Kevin: Well, if we got more time, I would tell you about some of the things that we’ve studied in management class about how impactful relationships can be on success in the workplace. Maybe that’s a good topic for another podcast.
John: All right, all right. But it clearly is. I mean relationships are where it’s at. It’s basically the gist of it. You can’t get relationships by being all up in your head and memorizing all the technical stuff. There’s a lot more to it. That’s great. We’re all capable of it too. That’s the other thing is that it’s encouraging that everyone can do it. It’s really not hard.
Kevin: People are more comfortable with it than others but we absolutely all have the ability to do it.
John: For sure. Well, this has been really powerful. And yeah, we’ll leave that cliff hanger for next time when you’re on the follow-up Friday and then you’ll finish the graduate work and yeah, Dr. Yeanoplos. Who knows, man? It’ll be next level type stuff. That’ll be fun. But before we wrap this up, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me back so if you have any questions you like to ask, we can let it rip.
Kevin: I’m going to turn the tables, John and ask you, if you had a day to do anything, what would you do?
John: wow. Goodness. That’s a deep question. I would probably have some ice cream for breakfast, if we can do anything, I mean let’s be honest. Start the day with that, and goodness, that’s really tough. I mean I don’t know. I mean my happy place is definitely going to a college football game especially at Notre Dame it’s definitely my happy place, bringing my wife and share that experience with friends and family and all that.
That’s definitely middle of October where it’s not cold but it’s not hot anymore. It’s just that perfect 60s type of weather and the sun’s out and yeah, that’s a good day for me. It really is. Then of course they win. There’s that part too I guess if we’re going to do all this.
Kevin: To give you a follow-up, and I’m going to expand it out and say okay, who would you be with? If it could be anybody, would it be for instance, what you described are you sitting there with Knute Rockne. If you could be with anybody for that day to experience it with you, who would it be?
John: Because part of that is those great coaches that you described, part of that is that would be really neat, but on the flipside, I don’t want to ruin the image that I have of you know, because maybe Knute Rockne, he was a great coach because maybe he wasn’t the nicest person. I don’t know. I don’t want to ruin it.
But yeah, I think that would be really cool but I don’t know, I guess I’m just really content with my wife and friends because then I think I could enjoy it more and just be more myself, I guess so I know that’s kind of lame because it would neat to have it be some amazing type of people but then I think I would be a little more myself and be able to enjoy it more than watching the game with some people that know way too much about football.
Kevin: That actually is very insightful because I have met a number of people that would be heroes to me and you have to temper your expectations. Otherwise, you are going to be disappointed. They’re human being. They’re just like everyone else.
John: Yeah. They’re just regular people. Right, exactly. That’s a really great question to ask. Really, everyone to ask themselves. And then why aren’t we doing that? At some point in our life, go do that thing.
Kevin: Very much true.
John: Well, that’s awesome. Well, thanks, Kevin. This has been so much fun catching up with you. I really appreciate you being on What’s Your “And”?
Kevin: Sure. My pleasure.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kevin out in the world and at his concerts and going to these music shrines and even running 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 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.
Mark is a CPA & a Runner
Mark owns MGR Accounting Recruiters, a San Antonio focused recruiting company, and Where Accountants Go, a career-content site for accounting professionals.
Mark talks about how he found his passion for running and how his experience in working for the family business made it easy for him to share this passion in the office!
• Getting into running
• How his passion for running helps him relate to others
• His experience in the family business
• Talking about running in the office
• Learning about co-workers’ hobbies through sharing his own
• Why the influence on culture should come from the top
• Why your hobby could have a lot to do with your job
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Welcome to Episode 247 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I’m interviewing professionals who, just like me, are known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond their technical skills that actually differentiate them when they’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in just a few months. It’ll 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 change the cultures where they work because of it. The book will really help spread that message. And please don’t forget to hit subscribe 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, Mark Goldman. He’s the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters in San Antonio, Texas and the host of Where Accountants Go podcast. Now, he’s with me here today. Mark, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Mark: Hey, John. I am so excited, man. I feel like I’m getting in the in-crowd now or something. This is cool.
John: We’re all nerds over here too. Don’t worry about it. It’s all good. Yeah. But it’s so much fun hanging out in San Antonio about a year and a half ago, I guess, with the Texas State Society and meeting you there. So I’m just excited to have you finally be a part of this. This is going to be fun.
Mark: Thank you. Yes. Thank you, man. Congrats on — you were on the list of, I don’t know, the top two most influential people in accounting or something.
John: Right. Yeah. Exactly. In top 100, I mean I don’t know where in that. Maybe I was number two. I don’t know. But no, it was a real honor to be on that list. And just to get recognized for all the work that I’m doing on this side of it is really cool. Sharing people’s stories has just been awesome. But before we get to yours, rapid-fire questions right out of the gate. So here we go. Suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Mark: Anyone knows me a suit and tie for sure.
John: Okay. How about do you have a favorite sports team?
Mark: Ooh. My team in the office is going to crack up at this. I am so ignorant about sports. So Spurs for San Antonio, but I think we play basketball.
John: Right. Okay. Just because everyone else is talking about it. It sounds good. How about Balance Sheet or Income Statement?
Mark: I’m a business owner, so Income Statement.
John: Oh, there you go. Yeah. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Mark: I get cold easy, so hot.
John: Yeah. Well, there in Texas, it’s a slam dunk, I guess. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Mark: The last Star Wars movie is coming out, so Star Wars for sure.
John: Yeah. It’s really hot right now for sure. And your computer, PC or a Mac?
Mark: PC. Man, I have an Apple phone and I still can’t get used to it. PC for sure.
John: Yeah. No, I hear you on that. I hear you for sure. Then favorite ice cream flavor?
Mark: All right. Don’t make fun of me but not just vanilla but the super-rich vanillas, like vanilla 1905 H-E-B vanilla, something like with intense flavour.
John: I hear you. I’m an ice cream junkie, so I appreciate that answer so much. I know exactly what you mean, exactly what you mean. How about a favorite number?
Mark: I really don’t have one. A positive number, I guess.
John: A positive number? I like that answer. That’s good. How about pens or pencils?
Mark: Pens. It’s easier to write it.
John: There you go. How about a favorite color?
Mark: I knew you’re going to ask that. I don’t know my favorite color now but green just because I was a kid. When I was a kid, I want to pick something that other people don’t pick. And kids don’t pick green.
John: That’s very true. That is a rare answer. How about a least favorite color?
Mark: Oh, hot pink. Yeah.
John: It’s just too much. It’s just too much.
Mark: It’s too much.
John: No, no. I hear you. I hear you. How about on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?
Mark: Aisle seat because I’m a little over six feet, six one. Yeah. I need room. Yeah.
John: No, no. I hear you. I hear you. Especially against the window. I mean the fuselage curves.
John: So you can’t even totally sit upright. It’s crazy. So no, I hear you. I hear you on that one. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Mark: Ooh, I don’t know, man. I really don’t have one. I don’t watch that much TV anymore.
John: Yeah. I just figured I’d ask. All right. How about would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Mark: Early bird now just because I like to get stuff done.
John: Right. How about a favorite Disney character?
Mark: Mickey Mouse just because we foster kids. And all the kids like Mickey Mouse, man.
John: There you go. No, no. That’s a classic. You can’t go wrong with Mickey.
Mark: Yeah. I learned to like Mickey. Yeah.
John: That’s for sure. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Mark: Not very specific but whatever pair of running shoes I’m using at the time. So that’s one of my prized possession in life, whatever was the most new pair of running shoes that I have.
John: Right. I mean running shoes are not cheap. I mean they’re really fancy these days, so I completely understand that answer. And it dovetails perfectly into your passion of running. Is this something that you’ve been doing since you were young or did you get into it later in life?
Mark: No. Yeah. Actually, I was very un-athletic as you could tell from my sports answer earlier. I got into it because my wife did, I guess, about seven years ago, six years ago. She was running for charity runs and stuff like that. She get up early on Saturday morning to go practice, John. And I’m in bed. Finally, one morning, I’m like, “Mark, you need to man up and support your wife and go with her.” That’s how I got into it. So quite by accident, but I love it now.
John: That’s a really great story. And I love how that’s practice as opposed to training. You’re like, “Whatever it is. I’m just out there running.” And I’m supporting you. So is that how you started with some charity runs?
Mark: Yeah. Actually, it’s funny. My wife is Japanese. She’s under five feet tall and I’m about six one. When I first went out with her, I thought, “Oh, piece of cake.” I mean I’m taller. And it was miles. After the first mile, I could barely see her on the horizon, just trying to keep up. So I learned my lesson a little bit. But, yeah, we just started training for kids’ charities actually.
John: That’s awesome. I guess do you have a fun story or more rewarding story from one of your races?
Mark: Well, I just did my first marathon last year.
John: Wow. That’s huge. Congratulations, man.
Mark: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. It’s been fun. Yeah. I’m training for my second one. I don’t know if it’s fun or not, but just finishing, there’s definitely a runner’s high that you get after finishing stuff like that. You should be tired but inside you, there’s this sense of accomplishment. It’s hard to match that.
John: That’s impressive. I’ve only done one half marathon. It should not be called half of anything. It’s really unfair that it’s called that. It’s so far. I can’t even imagine doing double that. But that’s impressive, man. I mean not a lot of people can say they’ve done that. So good for you.
Mark: Do a half marathon, just take a nap and then go do the other half.
John: Right. Or just say, “I did,” and then eat a bunch of ice cream. How about that? Yeah. So would you say that running it all gives you a skill that you bring to the office?
Mark: Well, I mean it helps you relate to people, I think. Yeah. I’ve always been, I guess, open about my life outside of work as you describe it. I think it helps you relate to people better because they know you’re real. And particularly if you’re in management, it helps you relate to them better. They open up more to about what they enjoy. And I think it’s always helpful from that standpoint.
John: Yeah, for sure. And I think that that’s really important, what you mentioned about as a manager, relating to the people. And why do you think that that’s so crucial?
Mark: People and particularly in today’s market — and of course, I’m in the employment space. But people have options. They can choose where they want to work and understand a lot these days. I think if you expect to keep your team members long term, you have to show that you care about them. Yeah. If all you care about is whatever the project is, that’s not going to work long term.
John: Right. Exactly. Because there’s so much more to them than just the technical skill side, yeah, which is really cool that you see that because they don’t teach us that in business school, I don’t think so. Where do you think you learned that from?
Mark: God, that’s a great question. I think I’ve known a long time that you need to care about your team. I worked for my father. Maybe that’s where I got it. I grew up in a family business through middle school, high school. I mean it was normal to talk about everything else because he was my dad, my boss.
Mark: “Finish and then go clean your room.”
John: Yeah. Exactly.
Mark: “And do your homework.”
John: That’s funny.
John: No. Right. No, that’s awesome though. But that’s so cool that you really didn’t know any different. Then when you did experience something different, it was like, “This isn’t as good or as rewarding.” So it’s nice to hear that you’re translating that over to your team now, which is neat. That’s pretty cool. That’s really cool actually. So the running is something you do talk about at work I’m sure?
Mark: Yeah. Actually, probably more than people would like. There’s an old joke. It’s like, “How do you know if your buddy went running on the weekend if you didn’t go with him? Don’t worry. He’ll tell you.” I’m very much that guy a little bit. But it is cool. I mean through opening up about that, I mean I’ve learned my different team members have different interest. I mean I’ve got a few people that just love gardening here in the office. Actually, it’s funny. I mean everybody in my office has a favorite sports team except me. I’ve got a singer. He used to be in a cover band, a guy that works with me. Yeah. Another one that’s really into dogs, just dog lover. And I probably wouldn’t know that if I didn’t share about my own life.
John: Oh yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. Because it seems like a little bit of reciprocity happens there where you share a little bit of yours and then it shows that it’s okay for them to share about themselves usually.
Mark: That or they’re just trying to shut me up on talking about running. I don’t know.
John: Right. Something about sports so Mark will be quiet because he doesn’t know what words we’re using. That’s hilarious. That’s funny, man. No, but I think that’s a cool thing and especially that you’re able to talk about everyone in that way that you know about them really shows that you care as opposed to just going through the motions because not everybody can say that about everyone that they work with. I mean sometimes when I do some consulting, I’ll ask some of the leaders of teams or firms and companies. It’s just, “If you gave your person $3,000, do you know what they would do with it? And if you don’t, then find out because that tells you who they are.”
Mark: Yeah. It’s funny you’ve mentioned that. You were asking me how I benefited. And I didn’t really realize this until you’re asking me these questions. But back before I was addicted to running when I didn’t have a hobby, I can’t tell you that I really knew what my team’s hobbies were either. Yeah. I mean it probably made me a better manager. I don’t know. You’d have to ask my team.
John: Right. That’s really interesting though. It’s if when you didn’t have anything, either you assume that no one else had anything or you didn’t care or it just wasn’t a priority. But then once you did, then other people started opening up as well. And maybe you started seeing that side of others as well, maybe looking —
Mark: Yeah. I think it makes you more real. Then it makes them more comfortable sharing with you. Yeah. Dude, you’ve given me insight into my life, John.
John: Right. I mean my brain hurts right now. I don’t know about yours. But that’s some really powerful stuff. I guess how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that culture that I feel like you have there versus how much is it on an individual to maybe just do it amongst themselves in a little small circle?
Mark: I mean I think it has to come from the top. I think that managers and owners, they have to be comfortable having those conversations because the team is going to mirror what you do a little bit. All you talk about is work, then all they’re going to talk about is work, at least for the short time maybe that they’re with you. So I think it has to come from the top.
John: Right. Yeah. No, that’s very true because I mean I know when I started Big Four coming out of school. And it was you, like you said, mirror or you’re modeling behavior in front of you with people that you think are successful, only to find out that they’re modeling behavior of people that were in front of them and then in front of them. And it’s like, “Is anyone just being totally themselves?” So it’s cool that you see that and what you’ve created there because that’s definitely not always normal. I guess are there organizations that you work with and interact with? Have you seen places that do anything in particular to encourage this?
Mark: Yeah. That’s a great question. We see some employers that do it better than others, I mean some that are just more open about their hobbies and interest. We’re working with a new employer on positions to fill and stuff like that. Yeah. I guess if they are open about their interest with us, it’s a good sign that they have that open environment. If they’re trying to play it close to the vest and not opening up, you’re right. That’s probably a bad sign.
John: Right. Yeah. I mean when it comes to these hobbies and passions that people have outside of work, I mean that’s huge for recruiting. I mean if you can tap into that, of the people that are coming in for the office visit or for the interview and then match them up with someone that has a similar hobby or passion that already works there, now, it shows them that they have a friend at this company above and beyond a colleague. So that’s a huge way that companies can weave this in.
Mark: Exactly. People hire people that they’re comfortable with. They have to be comfortable that they can do the job, but they also have to be comfortable that they’re going to find it acceptable working with the person every day, if not like it. And I think sometimes, we can try to be too safe in interviews. All we do is talk about the professional side. I mean I guess there are maybe some personal things you shouldn’t go into an interview, but hobbies and stuff like that, I mean that’s definitely something that should come out and be discussed in an interview. So you make sure it’s even — maybe not exact matches in those areas, but at least you feel like you know the person better.
John: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. I mean when you saw me do the keynote in, it’s just — my resume, the very bottom two lines was Professional Stand-up Comedian and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. Yeah. That’s what we would talk about every interview I would go on. It’s just really interesting insight. And all the other stuff on there that I thought was making me smarter and better and stand out didn’t really make me stand out at all.
Mark: Yeah. It’s so true. I remember when you said that. It’s so true. I mean because those are interesting things to talk about. I mean whether you reconcile the bank statement or not, I guess I need to know that.
John: Yeah. And it’s something that even if you didn’t, I could probably teach you in about 20 minutes. Then we’re good and there you go. But that’s really cool, what you got going there. That’s really awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that their hobby has nothing to do with their job?
Mark: I think your hobby has a lot to do with your job in that it gives you a release. If all you ever think about is work, that makes for pretty boring life. I mean no matter how much you like your job. I know for me, when I get out to run, there’s just a lot of mind-clearing that goes on. I mean I can leave the house just for a quick three mile run. I’m stressed. I got a lot on my mind. I’m worried about stuff. By the time I’m back home, it’s like the world is good. The stress is gone. Whatever problems I was thinking through, the solution is obvious. And I think if you don’t have some kind of outlet — I mean it can be painting. It can be gardening, something else to get your mind on. Where does that stress all go? I think it can build up. So I think it’s extremely important to have some other interest for sure.
John: Yeah. It’s really fascinating, right, how more work isn’t the answer. It’s actually do something else that’s completely unrelated, that’s outside of the office, that get your brain off of things, get your mind off the things. It actually makes you more productive in the end. And especially something physical, running is a great way to mind and body type of exercise. That’s fantastic, man. Really great advice, really great advice.
Before I wrap this up though, Mark, it’s only fair that I allow you to question me. I know you host your own podcast. I’m turning the mike over to you now and letting you be the boss.
Mark: This is dangerous. I’ll go easy on you. Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi?
John: Oh, gross and gross. I mean honestly, I’m not a big soda guy. But Sprite? Actually, you know what? The real answer is fruit punch. I’m a seven year old.
Mark: Like a little Hawaiian guy on there, the —
John: Totally. Oh, my God, I’m such a sucker for that. And it’s awesome when I order it out loud in a fast food restaurant and everyone just looks. I’m like, “Nope, it’s just for me.”
Mark: “Where’s your kid?”
John: “Nope. Just me.”
Mark: Last question, where would you like to speak but you haven’t yet been invited?
John: That’s a really, really hard one because I mean after the Texas State Society, everything is a significant step down. That’s definitely a hard answer. I mean I guess AICPA Engage Conference might be neat. I’ve never been but there’s a lot of people there. So I’d be able to get my message to a lot of people at once. Actually, just the Texas State Society every month, we should just do that. We should just have everyone get together. I feel like you guys do anyway. But thanks, Mark, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This is really fun.
Mark: No problem. That’s a lot of fun. Thank you.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Mark running or connect with him on social media, be sure to listen to Where Accountants Go Podcast. Be sure go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button, 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.
Dave is an Accountant & Comedian
Dave Gilbertson returns to the podcast from episode 8 to talk about his latest ventures as a stand-up comedian and speaker, including his latest Tedx presentation and opening for Louie Anderson! John and Dave discuss what compelled John to get into comedy.
• ‘Leading with Laughter’ Ted Talk
• Opening for Louie Anderson…again
• Less stage time, more kids
• The science behind comedy
• Barriers between hobby and career
• Tracking vacation time at Kronos
• Importance of experiencing failure
• What got John into comedy
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Welcome to Episode 212 on What’s Your “And”? Follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. 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 my book is being published in a couple of months and will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check it out at whatsyourand.com. All the details are there. Or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know, and you’ll get a few tracks for my comedy album for free just for doing so. Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episode because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every Wednesday and now follow-up Friday. It’s no different with Dave Gilbertson. He’s the VP Strategy and Operations for Kronos out of Boston. Now, he’s with me here today.
Dave, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dave: John, I will show up anywhere you ask me to.
John: Oh, you’re too kind, man. You’re too kind. We’ve known each other way too long. Back to the PwC days when you were fresh out of school, and I was a year out of school. I’m the wily veteran here.
Dave: Exactly. Yeah, you are the one I looked up to.
John: Which is scary for everyone, including me, mostly me actually. Fun to have you back. But right out of the gate, we do the rapid-ire questions now. It’s been almost four years, 2015 when you were on with Episode 8. Some different questions to throw at you here. So the first one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Dave: Harry Potter.
Dave: I had never understood Game of Thrones.
John: Okay. I’ve actually never watched either of the movies or shows, whatever they’re called. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Dave: Hot. I grew up in North Dakota.
John: Okay, you’ll take anything.
Dave: End of story.
John: End of story. Good. How about favorite ice cream toppings?
Dave: Peanut butter cups. Anything with peanut butter, honestly. Anything with peanut butter and ice cream, I am in.
John: Nice. I like it. How about cats or dogs?
Dave: Cats. I know it’s not going to be a popular opinion. I’ll apologize up front. Yeah, I’ve never been a dog person.
John: How about when you fly, I know you fly a lot, window or aisle seat?
Dave: Aisle, always. Need a quick getaway. Not totally comfortable. I usually do exit rows. I’m not totally comfortable with the responsibility with the window seat.
John: Just recently, I was on a flight and the flight attendant on the way in where they scan your ticket and they’re like, “Oh, you’re exit row. Are you okay with that?” And the guy in front of me goes, “Sure, I guess.” And I was like, “I’m not sure I’m okay with that answer.”
Dave: I was on a flight where they gave the same question. Everyone was seated and the guy said no and they moved him.
John: Oh, wow. That’s crazy.
Dave: I’ll never forget like, wait, you actually said no to that?
John: No one says no. It’s your first time on an airplane? Yeah, that’s funny. Two more. Least favorite vegetable?
Dave: Least favorite, that is a long list.
John: Man, rattle them off.
Dave: I’m a vegetable rights activist. The senseless squatter of innocent vegetables. I think rutabagas are probably at the top of the list. Again, it goes back to roots where vegetables are forbidden.
John: Right. They don’t even grow.
Dave: Exactly. Yeah, I know my wife is appalled because she is a vegetarian.
John: Well, then it’s more for her. You’re actually looking out for her.
Dave: That’s what I tell her is that I’m always just kind of saving stuff for her, and she doesn’t buy it at all. And now my oldest is eight. I got three kids. And now they’re starting to complain that if dad doesn’t eat it, I’m not going to eat it.
John: That’s a tough one.
John: Right, right. That’s hilarious. And the last one, last one. This one is an important one. Toilet paper, roll over or under?
Dave: By law, it has to be over.
John: Right, by law. There you go. Exactly. Exactly. That’s awesome. So yeah, so last time you’re on, I know we’ve talked about your dallying and stand up, if you will, and opening for Louie Anderson and cool stuff like that. What’s new with that? Or it sounds like it’s gone to another level here.
Dave: It has, yeah. I feel really grateful for Kronos. I feel like I’ve been able to explore kind of both sides of myself. I have three kids — two but one was a baby when I first came to Kronos. We now have three kids. I feel like I’ve been able to have a real and a life outside of work and it’s pretty strongly encouraged. I think part of that has been both my family but also continuing to explore comedy.
Last summer, I was invited to give a TEDx Talk at an event back in North Dakota, actually. The TED Talk was called Leading with Laughter: Seven Leadership Lessons from Stand-Up Comedians. It was an idea I’ve been thinking about for quite a while to tie together stand-up comedy and the leadership that you see comedians display on stage to be able to move an audience coming from all different backgrounds, all different kinds of stresses in their own life, and for an hour or 75 minutes move them anywhere the comedian wants to take them. It’s a really me amazing display of leadership because they’re doing it with nothing more than words and a microphone. So I was kind of able to explore that with this TED Talk. It’s out there on YouTube and a lot of great feedback from it. So that’s been a lot of fun.
I also have been able to open for Louie a few more times. I opened for him at a really historic theater in downtown Boston, the Wilbur Theater, and then I opened for him again last summer at another kind of old-time theater in Western Massachusetts, but that’s been really fun as well. As the kids have accumulated, my time on stage has gone down. It’s definitely harder to get time to do it. I so enjoyed giving the TED Talk because I could kind of still explore that side of it without having to go to a bar for an open mic night after the kids go to sleep.
John: The TEDx Talk is fantastic. We’ll have a link at whatsyourand.com for everybody that just wants to go there. What a great parallel that not a lot of people are talking about there because most people wouldn’t think of all the stuff that goes behind the scenes of a good joke or a good stand-up set. There’s some science to it all. With the room, the lighting, the temperature of the room, all this stuff, it’s amazing how fragile comedy really is.
Dave: Yeah. So that was one of the lessons from the talk was control the audience, not the venue. As a leader, you have full control over the experience that your customers have or the experience that your employees have, but there are a million things outside of your control. So the parallel is, as a stand-up comedian, you have no control over the venue, you have no control over the size of the crowd, but you’ve got 100% control over how entertained they are once they get there.
As a manager and a leader inside an organization, there’s a lot of truth to that because it’s easy to get distracted by things that are truly outside of your control. We can all create a great experience for our customers. We can all create an inspired experience for our employees.
John: Yeah, totally, which is exactly what the message is with this is just finding out what genuinely people are passionate about. If it’s not work, then that’s totally okay. Just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean you love it, and that’s okay. I guess the more people that I talk to, it’s been interesting how they hesitate to call themselves a runner or a comedian or whatever their thing is. Did you ever hesitate on that of like, well, I’m a comedian and an accountant or operations or whatever? Did you hesitate on that label?
Dave: I did. I’ve thought a bit about it. It’s mostly because I’m not that good.
John: I didn’t mean right like I’m agreeing with you. I’m just saying that makes sense.
Dave: I know exactly what you’re saying because so many are people doing what you look at as a hobby that have put their life’s work into this, and there’s so much respect you have. You and I are exactly the same. We’ve spent countless hours talking about how much respect we have for some of the big name comedians out there and the folks that really break through, the folks that take the risk early in their career to not have a safety net beneath them. That’s not me.
I’ve had a great career business wise. I’ve got a great family. I’m not taking a risk to go do stand-up comedy full time. In that world, it is a pretty critical distinction like, is your paycheck coming from telling jokes, or are you doing that for fun? I don’t know that that distinction necessarily needs to be out there because although I consider myself kind of a work in progress in terms of being a comedian, there’s also a credibility that anybody who’s tried it gives you just for stepping on that stage, the fact that you’re willing to put yourself out there in that way. You and I both know, the first couple times you do it, it’s not going to go well.
John: The first couple of years you do it, and everyone is a work in progress. I mean, everyone, even Louis. You’re always getting better and honing.
Dave: Yeah, I know. He’s 40 years into it, and he’s still got a lot of new material. I’ve questioned myself, why hesitate to call yourself that? There really isn’t a good reason. I think the barriers we put in place between hobby and career are pretty artificial at the end of the day.
John: Yeah, it’s just which one you say first. It’s like comedian comes second because that’s not how you’re making a living. That’s not whatever. But that’s the What’s Your “And”? concept. You’re and a comedian. Well, that’s much more interesting conversation than VP of operation. Riveting. Tell me more.
Dave: I could talk cancellations all day long.
John: Right, right. That’s a totally different episode of the podcast, Dave. Just Kronos do something specific, that makes you feel like you’re able to explore both sides of yourself, or is it more of a tone at the top sort of a thing?
Dave: It’s mostly a tone at the top. So our business is HR software, payroll, workforce management software. So our business really goes to the heart of enabling our customers to have a great culture in a really engaged workforce. There’s this sense here, and I kind of talked about this on the earlier episode that you better be genuine about living that as an organization and culture if you’re going to sell that as kind of our lifeblood.
So I found that to be very true. Kronos is about a billion and a half dollar company, 6,000 people worldwide, so it’s a big company. I think we’ve done a really nice job of having culture travel. So a couple things we do specifically to encourage it. One is, for a company that sells software that tracks company’s vacation, we actually have no vacation policy. There’s a bit of irony there. It’s worked really well for us because the message sent to all the employees — and this is one I fundamentally agree with and I would do it at any other company I went to as well — the message sent is we’re hiring you to do a job. We have certain results that we expect you to achieve. The amount of time it takes you to achieve that really is up to you. If you need to take four weeks, a year, or two weeks a year, that’s up to you and your manager. You got to work that out. We want you to take as much time as you think you need to recharge. But if you need to take a little bit more time than that, don’t worry about how much vacation you’ve accrued or not accrued. You know the job that you needs to be done. That’s how you keep your job.
John: Is there a minimum amount that everyone needs to take?
Dave: There’s not, but it’s actually tracked. I don’t necessarily agree with HR on this. Where they feel it’s really important to track it, not to see if people are taking too much but actually exactly to make sure that people are taking enough because there is the worry that if it’s not tracked, it’s not formal, then they’re just not going to take enough vacation. I’ve always viewed that as part of the job of manager and leader is make sure your people are coming to work recharged. They’ve taken the amount of time that they need to recharge. We do track it, but it’s not the reason that people expect. It’s all to make sure that people are taking enough vacation.
John: Right. That’s fantastic. One thing that would be really neat is when the people go and take their time off or it’s a week or two weeks, what did you do with that time? Maybe a short presentation that you give to your department or your group to let people know like, oh, wow, that’s what you would spend your free time doing. That’s cool.
Dave: Yeah, that’s a great idea. We do a little bit of that informally on our internal chatter page. Our PR team actually reaches out and says, “Send me the most fun example of what you did with your My Time.” We call it My Time. They’ll put it all together, and then they’ll send out a summary of like, these are some of the amazing things that our 6,000 Kronites have done with the time away from work. So it’s a little bit more formal, and it’s not as personalized as my specific team but it is a good idea. I’d love to evolve there.
John: No, but that’s cool because then it’s letting people see there’s another side to everyone. There’s a human side to everyone. That’s really fantastic. Those are two excellent examples that people listening can easily take away to their company. Do you have any words of encouragement to others listening that think that their hobby or passion has absolutely nothing to do with their job?
Dave: Something I’ve gotten to feel a lot more strongly about, my biggest piece of advice is to fail. Go out there and fall on your face because really it’s a strange thing. I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of why this is, but I think it’s universal with all of us that as we get to a certain age and I think a certain level of success in your career, you start to get narrower and narrower and narrower in what you spend your time on. When I was going up and doing open mic nights, honestly it was not going well. It was hard, and it was painful. The audience response was not what the audience response was when I was alone in my living room.
John: Silence is better than like a room-full-of-people silence. That’s loud.
Dave: The recordings of all those open mics were crystal clear. There really is a lot of value in failing because as a kid, if you go out and you try baseball for the first time, it’s going to be bad. And then you try it for the second time, and it’s a little bit less bad and a little bit less bad and eventually become pretty good. That’s how you learn. But once you get to a certain age and you’ve achieved a certain level of success, you stop putting yourself out there in that way. That’s where I think it’s critical for you not to get completely hemmed in and honestly personally defined by what you do in your career. You got to put yourself out there and fail, much more often we typically do. And it’s hard. Again, with three kids, my youngest is one. My wife and I are in the thick of it like. We are just every day with the full physical sport of just parenting. It’s really hard to put yourself out there and find that time, but I think it’s critical. For me, comedy has been that thing — that I have gotten comfortable up on stage and I’ve gotten better at reading an audience. I don’t mind being in front of a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean that it goes well every time.
John: Especially with having a family, three kids and all that and on top of work. It doesn’t have to be every day or every week. Once a quarter, once every six months, just whatever it is, be intentional about setting time aside to do whatever your and is. It’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to maybe rapid-fire question me if you have have two or three that you’d like to fire away on. I’m super nervous because you know way too much about me.
Dave: Well, I’ll give you a sample right out the gate. The biggest thing you fail at recently?
John: Well, it would probably be writing this book. I feel like I’m failing at it just because I’ve been talking about writing it and actually writing it for a year and a half, talking about it for even longer than that, and it feels like it shouldn’t take that long but it really, really does. It’s been grueling. It’s really hard. Everyone listening, if you ever pick up a book and you’re like, whatever, that person worked really, really hard writing it, whoever wrote it, and maybe not the person whose name is on the cover. Writing a book is definitely hard. That’s for sure.
Dave: And then what do you say to a five-year-old girl, hypothetically named Lily, asked what they can be anything they want to be when they grow up?
John: For sure, you definitely can. You can be whatever you want. But I think more importantly, it’s not like the title of what you want to be, it’s what difference do you want to make in the world or what impact do you want to have? Because you can have that impact in many, many different ways. It doesn’t have to be through your work. It can be through your passion or your other things. So I think that’s probably the bigger question.
Dave: I think that’s good advice. That’s exactly where I went when she asked me that question and her response was, “Does that mean I can be a daddy when I grow up?”
John: Oh, well, yeah. Yes, it is, 2019. I mean, you know.
Dave: Last question for you. The Improv, Los Angeles, late 1999, you’re not particularly funny at that time.
John: Very true.
Dave: So what was it about that night when there was, I think, four of us that went to the comedy club, all going to the comedy club for the first time that night, what was it about that night that sparked your and for the first time?
John: I think it was just seeing live comedy up close. The Improv in Hollywood is a small club. There were probably 12 comedians, and then the Whose Line group, that Whose Line is in anyway taped and then would come down and do a live uncensored set, just seeing the really good, really funny, but then also seeing some of the people that not so much. I was like, well, I could be as not funny as that person and like, this is Hollywood.
Dave: One of the top of the top.
John: Yeah. So you’re like, well, what do I have to lose? I lived in St. Louis at the time, and let’s give it a go. Who cares? So of course, I didn’t realize that you could move to any city and say you’re a comedian. Anyone can do that right now. Move to LA and say you’re a comedian. You can. It was just something about that why not? I needed a little bit of a creative outlet. I needed something that was maybe a little bit of a challenge. I don’t know why, to be honest. I think it chose me, honestly. It’s kind of how it happened. I’m forever grateful.
Dave: Do you remember the comedian you talked to at the bar?
John: Yeah, Vince Morris. We since hung out and worked together even because we talked and I said, “How do you get into comedy?” He’s like, “Well, you just go up and do it at an open mic and bring a recorder to record yourself, listen to it, and tweak it, and go up and do it again.” It was so funny because he’s like, “So what’s your job now?” And I was like, “Oh, I’m a CPA with Pricewaterhouse Cooper.” He’s like, “Well, you got to do something,” like I’m really slumming at delivering pizzas or something. Really nice guy. Very, very funny. It’s been a wild journey. That’s for sure.
Dave: I’ll never forget that we’re walking out and you saw him sitting alone at the bar. I remember we all just kind of kept walking out, mostly looking to see what kind of car Drew Carey drove. Actually, we’re doing something with your time. And then the whole way back in the car, the four of us in that old beater car, you’re just talking about your conversation with Vince Morris. It always stuck with me. I think it was an impactful night for both of us.
John: Yeah, that’s for sure. Well, thanks, Dave. This has been really, really fun. It’s so great catching up with you again. Thanks for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Dave: Absolutely. Happy to do it. Thanks, John.
John: Everyone listening, if you’d like to see some pictures of Dave outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, including to his TEDx, Leading with Laughter. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
So thanks again for subscribing in 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.
Rumbi is a Forensic CPA & Edutainment Advocate
Rumbi Bweinofa-Petrozzello, previously featured on episode 14, returns to update us on what she’s doing outside of work including being a part of the African Film Festival, and promoting diversity and inclusion in the CPA profession, despite having to put her running on hold due to injury.
• Breaking her leg
• Celebrating 25 years of the African Film Festival
• Establishing new relationships with students every semester
• Working with Toastmasters
• Passion hours
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Welcome to Episode 210 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday I’m following up with guests 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 my message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is going to be published in just a little bit and will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list. You’ll be the first to know. You’ll even get a few tracks from my comedy album for free just for doing so. And please don’t forget to hit Subscribe to the show, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because every Wednesday, I’m interviewing new guests and then now with the follow-up Friday. It’s going to be no different with the stories this week from Rumbi Bwerinofa-Petrozzello. She’s a principal at Rock forensics in New York City and the Editor of Figuring Financial Forensics. Now, she’s with me here today.
Rumbi, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Rumbi: Hi, John. Thank you for having me back. I’m very excited to be here.
John: I know. In Episode 14, we hung out in New York City and had lunch, I remember, and it was so much fun. Now you’re back. We mixed it up this time. We have the rapid-fire questions up front. So everyone’s about to get to know Rumbi on a new level here. So here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Rumbi: Ooh, Game of Thrones.
John: Okay. All right.
Rumbi: Except the ending.
John: Except the ending, right, right, yeah. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Rumbi: Definitely hot.
John: Definitely, all right. Do you have a favorite sports team?
Rumbi: Well, right now it’s the Brooklyn Nets.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s a hot team.
Rumbi: It is. I’ve been a fan since before they became hotter. So that’s even better.
John: Very cool. How about diamonds or pearls?
Rumbi: Pearls because those are kinder to people.
John: Okay, all right. How about aisle or window seat on an airplane or the train?
Rumbi: Window. I say this, I say window, but I don’t want anyone sitting next to me.
John: Okay, so window seat, but you have the whole row to yourself.
John: There you go. Okay, two more. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Rumbi: I guess a melon is a fruit, but that’s like very low on my ranking. And it’s green sometimes.
John: Right. I’ll take it. And the last one, this is kind of important one. Toilet paper, roll over or under?
Rumbi: Okay, so I used to be a fervent under person. My husband is an over person, and I used to actually change the role. I decided to let that go. In my heart, I’m an under person, but in reality, I’ll take what’s there.
John: Yeah, it’s better than no toilet paper. That’s for sure. So it’s awesome. That’s so funny.
So I remember on Episode 14, we talked about several things. I mean, you’re running, photography was great, and then African Film Festival as well that you were really active with there in New York, and then a little bit of the karaoke from your big Berlin debut. That picture was so cool. But yeah, what’s up with any of that? How are things going?
Rumbi: You mentioned the running. I have to get that out of the way first because a couple of years ago, I fell taking out the trash and I broke my leg. That has made it impossible to run for a bit. So I’ve been going through the physical therapy after surgery and wearing a brace, navigating the subways with a leg that doesn’t work properly. But I think I’m getting to the point where I can start building my distance. So I do have hopes and dreams of running at least close to what I used to. So that’s the running.
The African Film Festival is still coming along. It was very exciting because last year was the 25th anniversary of the New York African Film Festival. What was very exciting for us and a revelation at the festival was Mayor de Blasio came with his wife, Chirlane McCray. It turns out that apparently on their first date, he took her to the first African Film Festival that ever happened.
Rumbi: It was pretty cool.
John: That’s amazing.
Rumbi: I mean, all in all, the film festival just always continues to be better, and the stories are still exciting and interesting. I think maybe with all the different areas where film can be seen, the creativity and how many different types of films are coming out and the different ways that people are telling their stories which is what all of this is about and that’s what gets me excited.
John: Very cool. And the karaoke is always fun. You haven’t signed a new record deal or anything yet, have you?
Rumbi: I might actually give the money back.
John: That’s very cool. That’s so encouraging to hear that things are still going. I mean, I know the injury with the running, that’s big. But the fact that you’re still going back to it just says how much of a passion it really is for you.
Rumbi: If people ask me if I love running, I think about it and most of the time, while I’m doing it, it feels terrible. But when I’m not doing it, I feel even worse.
John: Interesting. Since we had you on the show several years ago, was it 2016, I believe? Have you seen more people sharing hammies or taking notice to when it does come up?
Rumbi: One of the things that I have gotten into since the last time we spoke is being a part of diversity and inclusion in the CPA profession because hardly there are several groups that are underrepresented in the profession for various reasons, and so we sort of work on trying to improve the diversity in people coming into the profession, but beyond that and maybe even more importantly is the retention and advancement of people. So people feel like they’re included, so they feel like they belong. So we get all the innovation and exciting things that happen when you have a wide variety of ideas and input.
One of the things that came out of that was some members asked for Toastmasters, which is public speaking, because they feel that, which I agree with, is communication is key to probably the future of the profession and success in the profession, in general, because machines are doing a lot of the things over these road tests as trusted advisors and trusted professionals. You need to be able to communicate with everyone and we have Toastmasters.
One of the things that happens in Toastmasters is, especially at the beginning, people have an icebreaker speech where they talk about themselves. And during these speeches, we’ve just found out the most exciting things, like we have a member who is an avid rock climber, climbs the sides of sheer rocks.
Rumbi: I think one of his more recent stories, like he’s so calm when he’s talking about climbing the rocks, but on a recent trip, I think he went out to the Grand Canyon, and they were sitting around a campfire and a bear just walked past them.
John: Wow. Suddenly busy season taxes is nothing compared to that stuff.
Rumbi: He was a ballet dancer before he went into finance. He was a ballet dancer and traveled the world.
John: That’s so cool. You’re just sitting around all these people that need to be on the show. This is so fantastic. And then you. This is like the coolest room ever, and they’re all accountants.
Rumbi: If it wasn’t for you sort of shining the lights on these things, people would think that we were all like really boring, stodgy people.
John: Yeah, it’s so true. The people that believe that the most sometimes are ourselves and the people around us where it’s like, ah, well, I’m not supposed to be like that. One thing that I have come across, though, is some people are hesitant to give themselves maybe a label, a runner or as a singer or as a rock climber or a dancer or whatever, because it is just a hobby, I guess, is how people phrase it.
Rumbi: I think for me, usually when I have an argument with people is when they call what I’m doing jogging because jogging is relaxing and fun, I’m running, I’m breaking a sweat, like my body hurts at the end of it. Sometimes I get into an ice bath, like this is running. Okay, I may not be making money but —
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. You’re actually the other way, where if somebody downplays your thing, you’re like, “No, no, do not try and water this down. I am out here doing this for real.” That’s great. I love that. I absolutely love that because why not? What’s the difference? So do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe think that their hobby or their passion has nothing to do with their job?
Rumbi: I just want to tell them that they’re wrong because all of these things that we do outside of, I guess, official work are part of the things that make us better at what we do when we are at work. This thing that I just remembered is just this past Tuesday, a woman was at Toastmasters, and she was speaking and she mentioned that she just started learning how to play tennis because it was a childhood dream of hers. It’s really exciting because I think the more we’re willing to look at new things and explore new things, enjoy our lives and sort of learn new things that aren’t part of our official CPE, I think that makes us better at thinking, better at communicating, better at interacting, better at connecting with people which ultimately makes us better at what we do.
John: Yeah, I love that so much. You’re so right. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there are CPE hours that you have to do for the year, if there were like passion hours that everyone had to have so many hours of doing a hobby or a passion because, as you said, it makes you better at your job?
Rumbi: You make it continuing passion education.
John: Totally. Pick something up, let’s do this. That’d be the only ultimate dream of mine. That’s what it’s all about. That’s really cool and really encouraging to hear that you’re seeing this all around. So before we wrap this up, though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me since I came at you right out of the gate.
Rumbi: Yes, absolutely. You’ll probably get a sense of the things that are important to me through my questions. My first question is coffee, hot or cold?
John: You know, I missed the coffee train. So tea, I guess, is a breakfast type of beverage, but yeah, I never got into coffee. I’m just up. I’m ready to go. Orange juice, maybe a tea once in a while. But yeah, I somehow missed all of coffee.
Rumbi: Okay, my next question is beach, yay or nay?
John: Oh, beach for sure, yeah. Three thumbs up if I had three thumbs.
Rumbi: So is that something that you miss now that you’re no longer — I mean, because when you’re in New York City, you’d never think that you’re near a beach anyway.
John: Right, some of the beaches you don’t really want to go to. But further out Long Island and stuff, yeah, definitely some nice beaches. But, luckily, there’s airplanes. So I’ve been able to go to Cancun and Costa Rica and Hawaii. There’s still beaches to be had. That’s for sure.
Rumbi: Okay. Well, fantastic. And then my last thing, because I’m depressed because I wake up in the morning and it’s a little darker, are you a summer or winter person?
John: That’s a great question. I guess winter just because summer can get really hot and gross. You can’t take off more clothes. Eventually, there’s nothing. Where in winter, at least you can like bundle up. So I guess more winter plus now living in Colorado with the mountains, go snowboarding and stuff like that, so I’ll say winter.
Rumbi: Okay. I’m always just like, I think years ago, I was watching Eddie Izzard, and he was talking about snowboarding. He said there are two positions in snowboarding, upright and dead.
John: Yeah, pretty much. It’s pretty scary sometimes. Every time you go around to turn, you’re like, “Am I going make it? Okay, I did. Hoo!” And then as you’re weaving back and forth down the mountain, there’s a brief moment of no control. It’s scary and cool at the same time. I guess, as I do it more, you have more control. But where I’m at now in my snowboarding stage, I am no Shaun White, that’s for sure. But I’m at least not on my butt all the time, so there’s that.
Rumba: There you go.
John: I’m somewhere in between. So coffee, beaches, and summer, I’m guessing, that’s what you’re all about. This was so fun, Rumbi. Thanks so much for being with me on What’s Your “And”?
Rumbi: Thank you, John. It’s always great. I’m looking forward to another at least 200 episodes.
John: If you want to see some pictures of Rumbi outside of work or maybe 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 green button, 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.
Aaron is an accountant and a runner
Aaron Jaqua is a CPA and Senior Tax Manager for Eide Bailly.
Aaron joins us as being the first guest of “What’s Your And..?” and talks about his passion for running and how it has given him the mental strength to power through some of the worse tax seasons! He also talks about how Eide Bailly regularly encourages its team to mentally get away from work for a bit and tells us a touching story of how the firm was accommodating when dealing with a personal family matter.
• From hating to loving running
• Running in the Oklahoma heat
• How running has helped give him the mental strength to get through tax season
• Connecting with other runners at work
• Daily lunches at the firm
• How Eide Bailly helped Aaron through a tough and personal matter
• “Show up and go first”
• John’s most surprising discovery through his research for “What’s Your And?”
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Welcome to Episode 201 or the first episode with a guest 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 a passion or an interest outside of work. It can be anything at all. It doesn’t have to be world class. So no pressure on everyone listening. Everyone’s got a hobby or a passion or an interest that lights them up outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, the things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you from everyone else in your office.
But first, I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit Subscribe, so you don’t miss any future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Aaron Jaqua. He’s a Senior Tax Manager at the Norman, Oklahoma office of Eide Bailly. Now, he’s with me here today on What’s Your “And”?
Aaron, I’m so excited to have you on the show.
Aaron: Thanks, John. Super good to be here, man.
John: Yeah, I’m excited and so happy to have you be a part of this. As you know, you’ve been listening and we start out with the rapid fire questions. So I hope you have a seatbelt ready.
Aaron: Yep. Ready, man. Fire away.
John: All right, easy one. Favorite color.
Aaron: Easy. Green.
John: Green. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: All right. Cats or dogs?
John: Nice. All right. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Aaron: All right, we’ll go with a throwback of Aladdin.
John: Aladdin. Okay, all right.
Aaron: Why? Just because we watched it a hundred times.
John: Right, with the kids?
Aaron: As a kid.
John: As a kid. Oh, nice. Okay. When it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Neither. Preferred tax returns, that’s equally puzzling to me.
Aaron: Agreed, just by the pool.
John: Right. There you go. Favorite actor or actress?
Aaron: We’ll go with Will Ferrell.
John: Oh, yeah, solid answer. How about when you’re flying, window or aisle seat?
John: You control everything. You determine whether or not people can get up?
Aaron: That’s right. They’re locked in.
John: Now that you have kids, that makes sense, actually.
Aaron: Exactly. I am the gatekeeper.
John: How about a favorite band or musician?
Aaron: Ooh, yeah, I’d say it’s summertime right now, so I kind of throwback to Jack Johnson.
John: Oh, there you go. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
Aaron: I am more of a hot fan.
John: And how about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Aaron: Both. PC for work, Mac for home.
John: Impressive. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Aaron: Mint chocolate chip.
John: Oh, there you go. Classic. How about when it comes to trilogies, Star Wars or Star Trek?
Aaron: Lord of the Rings.
John: Lord of the Rings. Okay. All right, mixing it up. Here we go, tax returns, a full 1040 or the EZ?
Aaron: Oh, man, the full 1040. I don’t even know how to read an EZ.
John: Oh, really? Those are the only ones I know how to fill out. How about a least favorite vegetable?
Aaron: Dang! I would have said Brussels sprouts, although, recently, my wife started cooking them in a way that they are the bomb.
John: And what is that way?
Aaron: Baking them. You put a little bit of soy sauce and salt and pepper. There’s a little bit of other stuff. They’re like off the chain. But least favorite vegetable? This is a no-brainer. I don’t even know what I’m talking about. Cucumber. I can’t stand it.
John: How about pickles? Are you one of those?
Aaron: I love pickles because they have flavor. Cucumbers or the honeydew and the peanuts of the world. They’re the fillers. They throw them in on salads when they need to fill in a little space. It’s the last thing on the plate that’s eaten.
John: The filler. There you go. Eat some radish, like, uh. How about a favorite number?
John: Okay. Do you have a reason?
John: No, all right. No, it’s a popular answer. That’s why I was just curious. We got two more. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
Aaron: Oh, man, this is a hot debate in the office. I go with whatever I put it on first.
John: Okay, so whatever it is, it is.
Aaron: No preference.
John: Yeah. And if someone else changes it, whatever. It doesn’t matter. All right, last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Aaron: I’m going to say a library card.
John: Really? Okay.
Aaron: It sounds super nerdy but all growing up in life, I never really went to the library. And then within the last several years, I had my own library card, and I started realizing like holy smokes, I can save so much money on books. I mean, you can get anything — fiction, nonfiction — doesn’t matter. So that’s been a game changer. Plus, you don’t feel all the guilt when you buy something, and then you feel like you got to read it. So if I don’t like it within the first 35, 40 pages, it’s toast.
John: Yeah, and then it’s not stuck on your shelf. You put it back on theirs. That’s fantastic, man. That’s really fantastic. So I know in the intro, you mentioned running. Is this something that you’ve been doing all your life like Forrest Gump style, or did you get into it later on?
Aaron: I actually hated it as a kid because it was always the punishment in every sport. So all the sports you played for fun, when you were messing up, then you had to go run. So when I heard about running, I thought, why would you do something that is only the worst thing? And so this was probably though 20 years ago, I just had this horrible day. I just thought, all right, I don’t know why, but I’m going to go run. And man, it was amazing. So it’s probably only for like 15 minutes or something, but I got done, my head was clear. Flash forward just a bit and my wife now, we were “just friends” at the time, so really, man, I was kind of hanging out, hoping that it would go to more. She was a runner, so we both started training for this half marathon together. We were leading this mission team, so we kind of called it training. That is what really got me hooked into it.
John: Wow. I did a half marathon once, and I don’t think they should be called a half of anything. That’s ridiculous. That’s like eating half a cow, like that’s a lot.
Aaron: Totally right.
John: It’s like two hours of running.
Aaron: It is.
John: I usually do a joke, like I have found out, because at that race, by the time I finished, the winner was already back in Kenya. Good for you, man. That’s awesome that your now wife suckered you into it.
Aaron: I know. It’s always those kind of things that you don’t really expect, and then they turn into something that becomes a total part of you which is pretty well.
John: That’s impressive, man. So like the half marathon, is that your peak, or I’m sure you’ve done crazier things than that since then?
Aaron: I remember training for that, and the first time I ran five miles, I thought, this is crazy. And then eight and then 10. And then we ran a half marathon, I thought, okay, I’ve already run this far. Why not try for a full? So I did the Chicago full which is a pretty flat race. They have tons of people, so it’s got a lot of hype and energy. So I did that, and then I just kept on going. I thought, well, maybe I should try an ultra which is anything over a full marathon. So I did a 50K which is literally just a few more miles than a marathon. So it’s not 30 something. So I did that and it’s like trail based. So that’s probably the longest I’ve run.
John: It took you about two weeks or what?
Aaron: No doubt. Here’s the trick. With ultramarathons on trails, there’s like this unspoken agreement. At some point, you just start walking the hills. So the vibe is way more laid back. And it’s something that as you get older, you actually get better at. There’s this 50-year-old dude out there that was just smoking us. It’s just kind of a different way of doing it, but I really enjoyed getting out on the trails and stuff too. That was probably the longest I’ve done. But, man, the one that was the most random was on my 30th birthday, I ran 30 miles. I kind of get weird about stuff like that, feeling like I have to do something — I don’t know if it was like a pre-midlife crisis or something.
John: Just by yourself, or was it part of an organized thing?
Aaron: By myself. Well, I had a good buddy of mine. He started me off the first seven miles, and then I would just do these loops. I had an ice chest on my front porch, and then I would come back and just pound food and drink Gatorade and water and stuff, and then I’d head out for another ten or twelve miles.
John: They’re all sitting there eating cake, and you’re like —
Aaron: Man, that’s exactly. It’s just hilarious. That’s kind of the vibe sometimes is you just start stuffing anything in and will do. But my birthday is in June, so I had to start at like 4:30 because it gets so smoking hot in Oklahoma. So by mile, like 25 or something. Man, I was dying. It was so hot. I had a buddy from work jump in with me, and so he was supposed to join me. He ended up waiting for a long time because I was very late in getting there to my original overachieving estimate. I think at one point, he literally was walking next to me while I was running and I said, “Dude, you at least got to pretend like you’re running.”
John: A least slow jogging. Come on, man.
Aaron: You kind of go across the crosswalk, and you kind of pretend to jog so that the cars think you’re not being a total bum.
John: Right. Your upper body is running, but your lower body is clearly walking.
Aaron: Yeah, exactly. You kind of get that little shuffle. That’s kind of what I was doing.
John: That’s hilarious.
Aaron: But finished it. So needless to say, that trend did not continue forever. We’ll see. When I hit 40, maybe that’s going to happen again.
John: Yeah, or go backwards, just four miles.
Aaron: That’s right. Yeah, Benjamin Button. I could just go back. That’s not a bad idea. I like that.
John: You’re welcome. I just saved all of your friends as well. No, that’s cool, man. That’s really cool. This is certainly a passion and something that drives you. Is your wife still out there running with you, or did she create a monster?
Aaron: I know, right? No, we both love to do that stuff. We like to do a lot of the same stuff together, running being one of them, ultimate frisbee, hiking, whatever. So we always wind up doing something like that. So yeah, she still runs. She did a half marathon last year. We switched the tables around. She was the one running, and I was the one taking all three humans around in the stroller trying to cheer mom on. She’s normally like the champion. So there’s the person who runs the marathon and you get kind of all the glory credit. But then there’s the person who navigates the streets of Chicago before the days of Uber and before the days of Google Maps. When you had MapQuest and you had to get in taxis and you show up at a certain —
John: Right, who knows what?
Aaron: Exactly. Yes. I remember at one point, I turned the corner and she just jumps out of the crowd, throws her coat off and runs with me the rest of the —
John: Wow, that’s cool.
Aaron: Yes. She’s kind of like a pro at the navigating the race.
John: And also, to pick someone out from the crowd, everyone looks equally miserable. How do you find the one that’s yours?
Aaron: Exactly. I’ve historically just been the curly-headed, miserable-looking guy.
John: Okay, yeah, that’s cool, man. Do you feel like all this running gives you a skill set or anything that you’re able to bring to the office that makes you a little bit different than the other tax accountants there?
Aaron: So whenever I’m out running, it’s always a place where it’s simple. So all you really technically need are shoes. So there’s just so much stuff. Then at work, there’s so much, whether its technology and just all the technical tax changes and everything you just can be so intense. So getting out running is just a place to clear the head, meditate, pray, and really even it’s a way for me to kind of discover a city. So whenever I’m on work travel and I get there right off the plane, first thing I do is, if schedule allows, is just go for a run. It’s kind of the perfect way to see a city, to experience that.
But I’d say at work, yeah, I mean, there’s a classic mantra when you’re running is just one more step in front of the other and so if you can just keep doing that. So I would for sure say just that mental endurance. You’re in end of March tax season, the grind is upon you, everything is horrible, but you have to push through. There is no giving up. There’s no quitting. There’s no like, let’s just do it next year. No, this has to get done. So I would say that that’s personally helped me with probably the actual work load level.
John: Yeah, I wouldn’t doubt that for a second because it’s something that you’ve been exercising this mental toughness in all of your running. So then, it’s just like training for a marathon. You can’t go from zero, like I can’t just go out and run a marathon right now unless we all want to laugh really hard at me in the emergency room. You have to train for it. You have to get up to speed. You with three kids, you can’t just drop in to three kids. It’s like, holy crap! You got to work your way up. The mental toughness that you’ve developed over time from all of these runs and even these ultramarathons is something that you don’t even have to turn on another gear. It’s already there. It’s just like, oh, boom! That’s impressive. That’s really cool because at no point in your business education, I’m sure, that they tell you to go run like a crazy man, and that’ll make you better at your job.
Aaron: I know. It is interesting. I would say too, I just find an absolute joy and freedom while I’m doing it. I don’t know how to describe it. The science behind is the endorphins and you get that runner’s high and all those things, but I would say too, it just helps expand that mindset of life is more than just this office. It’s more than just the things we know each day, but by getting out, you can really help go up higher, get a bigger vision of what you’re really doing and why you’re really doing it. So that’s maybe getting a little bit too deep, but that’s where this thing ends up tracking too.
John: That’s exactly what it is. It’s not too deep at all. You nailed it. We can get so consumed with our jobs because that’s where the charge codes are. That’s how people are supposedly rewarded. That’s how all these things. It slowly consumes us, and we don’t even know it. You have something that allows you to escape from that to get a different perspective which is really great. You’re still good at your job clearly. You’re a senior manager. You don’t do that on accident. It just gives you a different perspective that probably makes you better at what you’re doing because you’re able to be a little more refreshed and see it from a different angle. So that’s cool.
Aaron: Yeah, man.
John: Is this something you talk about at work? Do people know you’re this avid runner?
Aaron: I would say so, especially right when I started my career here. That was probably around eight years ago. Our firm is always involved in a program called Corporate Challenge. It’s basically like a bunch of businesses get together and they all compete, and everyone kind of relives their glory days. It’s basically a bunch of grown men and women out there pulling hamstrings where you are literally running on a track and doing like a 40-yard dash. In your head, you’re so much faster than when you really are out there. Everyone in the stands are just so underwhelmed, but in your head, you’re like, I am feeling —
Aaron: But signed up for that, and I think that’s when it kind of became apparent to some because they have like a mile race and a 10K and different stuff like that. And then the day that I ran 30 miles, I had showed up at like 11:00 a.m. because it took forever. I think that kind of helped that.
It’s interesting, I would say, probably people that have started here within the last like a year or so, they would probably know that I’m a runner or that I’m at least active because I started doing CrossFit as well. So I think it scaled back so much just from a time perspective with having three little kids. Now, it’s literally my running, a big piece of it is chasing them while they literally run around the office. So they come up here. We have a perfect square loop of hallways. In a kid’s mind, when they see stairs, they’re like, “I have to go up them.” It doesn’t matter where you go, how many. “I’m going up.” When they see a hallway, they’re like, “I have to run down that.” So when they connect, it’s like a hamster. It starts and then they don’t know really when to stop until someone offers like chocolate or snacks or something like that, and then they veer off into another round. So there are definitely Fridays during tax season where they’re up here in the afternoons running around being crazy, and it’s pretty fun.
John: That’s really cool, man. That’s awesome. It’s one of these things. Obviously, life happens and family stuff and things like that, but you’re still able to tap into the running on occasion. What I found is that sometimes people let it just go dormant, and then they’re like, “I’ll pick it up,” and then it goes extinct. And then before you know it, 20 years from now, you’re like, “What did I used to love to do? I forget.” Like you said, running is so simple. All you need is shoes and go. So you’re still doing it on occasion or when you travel, getting to know a city, so that’s cool. It’s one of those things, you don’t have to do it every day twice a day to make it a passion. It’s still a thing that lights you up. So just do it on occasion, and that’s great. Do you ever sucker any coworkers or clients into running with you, or do you just bump into them out there on the race? I said, sucker jokingly because —
Aaron: I did sucker my buddy that I worked with here into it for that 30 on my birthday. But there are several within our office that run full marathons. We’re always kind of hashing out different running plans and stuff that they’re doing. There’s also another handful that do CrossFit. So it’s kind of like anytime the open is coming around, or if there’s any other events going on, then we’re always talking shop about that too. So it’s been pretty fun to see where it blends over. You just get to see more of the human side of all of us which is really the piece that people are mainly interested in anyway.
John: How does that come up in conversation? Because I know sometimes I talk to people and they’re like, “Well, I don’t know how to,” you know, is it a designated time or a thing that you do consciously or it just comes up accidentally?
Aaron: So in our office, we lunch almost every day together.
John: Ah, there you go.
Aaron: It’ll kind of vary, but there’s a crew of people who do. And then during tax season, they’re bringing in food all the time where the whole office is eating. Everyone has to have a mental break. We can come in there and start talking about work again. Eventually, you kind of run out of pleasantries and you start finding out things about everyone. You just can’t do anymore. Honestly, I work with people who also just can’t handle that either, but I definitely can, like talk about weather only all the time. So it eventually hits that point where you’re like, okay, so you collect clue games or love outer space, or you mine Bitcoin and travel. You coach high school football. You body build. You CrossFit. So there’s a full gambit you kind of start to discover about people. So it’s pretty fun.
John: Whether it’s out of the office or you’re away from the work area, that’s where connections can happen easier, for some reason. It can happen anywhere, but for whatever reason, people let their guard down a little more, or they’re a little more willing to open up. When I worked at PwC back in the day, I had a rule and even a rule, no matter where I worked really. We go to lunch. We’re going out of the office, number one. Number two, anyone who talks about work, I’m going to interrupt you within two seconds because we’re not talking about work. If you come to lunch with me, we’re talking about normal stuff. Don’t even get going because I got to do these eight plus hours a day, I’m not doing it an extra hour where I get to pick what we talk about. No, it’s not happening. So that’s cool that you guys do it kind of accidentally, but that’s such an easy thing for people to do if you’re sitting here listening now, like I don’t know how to start. It’s like, well, take a couple of people out to lunch.
How much do you feel like it’s on a firm or an organization to create this culture, if you will, build the sandbox versus how much is it on some individuals like maybe what you guys did where it’s like, hey, we’re just going to lunch? How much do you think it’s on the individual versus the organization?
Aaron: I think it’s both. That’s probably like a super safe accountant answer. So we’re all watching the partners, or I should just say, the people that are the next few levels up from you, and you’re watching their behavior. So how do they interact? How do they talk? How do they speak? What do they do? Do they go on vacation? Do they take time off? A lot of their actions and their words are going to end up driving the behavior that they want to see, if it’s language and mindset. So it’s like the way that they speak and the way they think will kind of trickle down. But then I think about for us individually, we’re not going to go to some training and listen to some deal and read a book and all of a sudden, it’s there. It eventually has to be Tuesday and what is it like. You just have to take that honest assessment of, if you want it, you have to go make it. I think it’s really hard to just expect a company to foster all that when really just all it is is just a bunch of humans in a room. That’s something that’s really hard to foster outside of people actually wanting to do it.
John: Excellent observations. Even when I started, I was modeling behavior of people in front of me until at some point, I realized they’re modeling behavior of people in front of them. We go back like 120 years, and there’s some nerd that we’re all modeling behavior after. I’m like, is anyone being themselves? Does anyone believe all this crap, like all of it, all of it? At some point, do you just stop and be like, whoa, this is not me. Eighty percent of it is me, but I got to bring this other 20%, or I’m coming to work with one arm tied behind my back.
Aaron: No, man, that’s exactly right. It’s funny because you go to these career fairs, and everyone comes around and asks all these questions. I always tell them, all right, hey, look, the thing you need to ask all these firms, why do you specifically like working there? And then give me a reason, like a story of what happened. Everyone is going to say the people. But then if you can just say, well, why? Why do you say that? Because, like for me, what’s interesting is it actually wasn’t some of the fun things that did it. It was like some of the hardest things I’ve gone through.
So four years ago, my dad passed away from cancer. He had about an eight-month stretch where from diagnosis to passing away. So it was well known, and I kind of chose to just communicate it to everybody. Those are moments where people are feeling maybe like they don’t want to be vulnerable, but I knew that I needed support. So during tax season, when it’s insanely busy, I would take two hours every Wednesday and go have lunch with my dad. So it was just an expectation that I’m not going to hit the charge goals that everyone expected, and not only was it allowed but it was encouraged. I even got direct feedback which was, if we find out that you’re here working when you should be there, then we’re going to have problems. They flipped it on the head, right? So it wasn’t where are you? What are you doing? So boss’s wife is dropping food off at my parents’ house, and people are picking up work for me and taking over in that regard.
So sometimes it’s actually the hard things that end up really bringing up people together, and you kind of start to experience some of that, like vulnerability and connection. So I still rather learn the lesson via a fun way. It was just an interesting moment to see, that’s when really the rubber meets the road of the people you’re with.
John: Man, that’s huge and so powerful. Just the firm and the people taking a genuine interest in you and your family, it’s not just the tax side of Aaron, it’s the life side of Aaron, which is arguably so much bigger than the tax side of you percentage wise.
Aaron: I know, it really is. It’s kind of wild, though, how you can let — what do they always say? The tiny rudder steers the ship. So sometimes you can let the tax work itself, drive your whole demeanor when really it’s kind of a blip on the radar as far as — because that’s an expectation. People expect you to be good at compliance work, but it’s really who you are is the piece that they’re trusting, not necessarily that you nailed that schedule in.
John: Exactly. You can’t even say it with a straight face. You’re right, man. You’re right. When we get out of school, there are still people that are in the office now that believe this, that being perfect is the only way. It’s like, no, that’s the only way to set yourself up for failure because then if you do make a mistake, you’ve already presented yourself as perfection, and you’ll never admit to it, and then it becomes this giant problem that is a huge issue as opposed to just you know what, it’s also a tax return. We do an amendment. We’re all good. Cool. This isn’t life and death situation. You can do an amendment. Try the best you can, but every single one of us, every single one of us has made a mistake of some variety, and we’re still here. So it’s okay. It’s okay. Don’t make a habit out of it, but don’t kill yourself over it either. It’s so crazy.
This has been awesome, like really awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe thinks that their hobby or passion has nothing to do with their profession, if you will?
Aaron: I would say, show up and go first. So every day you come to work, we kind of have this option to just do the bare minimum, whether that’s work, but also even just bringing our whole self there, but showing up with our whole self and then not being afraid to go first. I would say, not to get too intense, but some of these stem back to with my dad. It’s helped me see how this whole thing ends. He never was talking about like — and you read this in books too, but he was never regretting like, “Oh, I wish I would have worked a few more hours,” or “I wish I would have done this or that.” The stuff he was talking about was real conversations he had with the people he worked with and the friends in his life and his family. So you never look back and be like, “Man, I really wish I wouldn’t have tried to have a real conversation with that person and found out more about their life. I wish I would have just kept it at how to retain earnings on that client.”
John: It’s always the retained earnings, man, that gets you. You’re right. You’re right. There are people that I’ve worked with in my career that I don’t remember and it makes me sad because I know for damn straight they remember me. So they remember me for sure. No, no, I’m just kidding. I’m in their nightmares. I’m like Jason or Freddy Krueger or whatever. No, but that’s so right, man. And then I love that, show up and go first. Don’t be scared. We all have to jump off the high dive eventually, so just go.
Yeah, that’s cool, man. So before I wrap this up, but it’s only fair that I turn the tables and allow you to rapid fire question me since I started out just drilling you. So if you have any, we’re ready to go.
Aaron: We’ll start off an easy one. Well, I guess it may depend. Who would be your top choice of stand-up comedians to meet and hang with?
John: Oh, top choice for stand-up comedians to meet and hang with. I’ve met and hung out with a lot of really cool ones. The ones that I have hung with, I would probably say Jay Leno. He’s really laid back and really cool and really down-to-earth, and he has amazing cars. He’s just a cool regular guy and most of them are, but he’s less neurotic than some of the other ones that I’ve hung out with, if you will. Yeah, so he’s just a cool regular dude. So Jay Leno.
Aaron: That’s awesome. Man, you would kind of expect that from him. He seems like that kind of guy on and off.
John: He’s got blue jeans and a denim shirt like. That’s what he wears.
Aaron: You kind of always hope that they’re like that offstage.
Aaron: All right, so what about most inspiring or most humiliating moment when you are doing?
John: Oh, comedy? Wow, I guess this all happened. It happened all at the same night. The same guy. It was a guy, a heckler. It was like a smaller show. It was like a Wednesday night. So it’s like the first night of the week, and it was in Indianapolis. It was like a 6:30 show, so there were like 20 people there. So I got up and I was the first. I was hosting the show. So I got up first, and I welcomed everyone and all this. And then I just was like, oh, you know, and then I started with a pretty dry joke. This guy up front says, “Nice try.” I was like, “Oh, man, that’s brutal.” So I said to him, I go, “Oh, well, sir, it’s a Wednesday night. We’re out. Are you here celebrating anything?” He says, “I don’t celebrate anything because I have cancer.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” And then I said, “Well, it’s cancer what made you a jerk, or have you been a jerk all your life?”
It was one of those words came out and I was like, “Oh, that was my voice, uh-oh.” But then he started laughing and after the show, he and his wife came out and they were like, “We have not laughed since he was diagnosed. You all had us laughing for the entire hour and a half. Thank you for that.”
I’ve had stories of people that have come up after and like, “I haven’t laughed since x has happened in my life.” It’s like, wow, that’s why I do it. This is the escape. So all of that in one 60-second moment. Amazing when I came back at him and I was like, “Oh, my God! What is wrong with me?” But it was hilarious. So whatever.
Aaron: All right, man, so last one, what’s a surprising takeaway or discovery you’ve had in doing your research on What’s your “And”?
John: Oh, okay, that’s a really great question. Probably the most surprising discovery has been that we’re the normal ones. This is why it started because I was like, well, am I the only one that had a hobby or a passion that someone remembered 12 years later? Am I the oddball? Am I the unique one here? Come to find out we’re the norm, like 92% of people in my research have a hobby or a passion they regularly do. We’re the normal ones. We’re the stereotype. The stereotype that we’ve been believing and we’ve been fed by who knows who is all a complete lie.
So that’s been the most surprising thing to me and freeing as well. It’s pretty liberating to know that, oh, I’m not the weird. The person that does work all the time, you’re the one with the problem. Quit making me feel like I’m weird. If that’s somebody’s thing, if accounting is your passion, then God bless you, but just know that you’re in the smallest of the small percent of people. There’s everybody else, and it’s totally okay both sides of this. It’s totally okay, but we need to make both sides feel okay, not just the side that’s like 3% of the population or eight, I guess, if you want to get technical with the math. That’s probably been the biggest surprise and the most rewarding.
So on that note, Mr. Normal Aaron Jaqua, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? I really appreciate you taking time to be with me on the podcast.
That makes two of us. Everyone listening, I’m sure you had a blast as well. If you’d like to see some pictures of Aaron running or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re on the page, please click the big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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