Geraldine is a Business Strategist/Coach & World Traveler
Geraldine Carter, owner of She Thinks Big Coaching, talks about her passion for traveling, how it runs in her family, some of her favorite trips, and how her experiences traveling play a role in her management style!
• Getting into traveling
• Her favorite trips
• Traveling with locals
• Meet them where they are
• Discussing traveling at work
• Wise leaders set the tone at the top
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Welcome to Episode 417 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want this voice to read the book 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, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, and now listening to it, and writing such great reviews and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Geraldine Carter. She’s the owner of She Thinks Big Coaching, and now she’s with me here today. Geraldine, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Geraldine: Hi, John. Thank you so much for having me.
John: This is going to be awesome, so much fun. I have my rapid-fire questions, get to know Geraldine right out of the gate. I hope you’re buckled in and ready to go. All right, I’ll start you out with an easy one though. Favorite color. Wow. Okay. I barely know how to spell that. That’s impressive. I like it. All right, how about a least favorite color.
John: Oh, yeah, that’s a very popular least favorite. How about oceans or mountains?
Geraldine: Mountains all the way.
John: Oh, not even close. All right, all right, there you go. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Geraldine: Meryl Streep.
John: Yeah, solid answer. That’s a solid answer. She’s so good in everything.
Geraldine: Yeah. I’m not very original, I mean, on my part, in terms of answers.
John: No, no, but it’s solid. When you’re good, you’re good.
Geraldine: How can you not love her?
John: Pretty much. How about, would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Geraldine: Early bird. You won’t find me awake past 9:30, ever.
John: Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s awesome. There you go. That was an easy one. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Geraldine: Oh, ick, neither. I’m working on a Rubik’s Cube right now, but it’s just sitting on my desk.
John: That works. That’s when you start peeling the stickers off and then putting —
Geraldine: Yeah, I’m a total sticker-peeler.
John: Totally. I’m done. What do you know? That’s awesome. I thought I was the only one that did that. That’s great. Oh, this is a good one, a favorite Disney character.
John: There’s so many now.
Geraldine: Is Anna a Disney character? I can’t remember.
John: I think so. For Frozen?
Geraldine: I’m pretty sure, right?
John: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, very cool. No, that totally counts. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Geraldine: Star Wars if I had to.
John: Okay, all right. No, that works. How about your computer though, PC or a Mac?
Geraldine: Yeah. No, I’m a total Mac addict.
Geraldine: 100%, never going back.
John: A little bit of a cult almost, that bubble?
Geraldine: Well, I don’t rub it in unicorn tears or anything, but it’s just so much easier.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s what PC people like me do. That’s where all the unicorn tears go. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I’m a huge ice cream junkie.
Geraldine: Oh, my gosh, I make ice cream. I actually have my own private label.
John: What?! Oh, that’s so awesome. Yeah, that’s your “and and”. That’s next level. That’s very cool. Do you have a favorite flavor?
Geraldine: Cookies and cream.
John: Oh, okay. I’m a huge fan of chunks in the ice cream. It’s like maximum calories per spoonful to my face.
Geraldine: That’s right, by the pint.
John: Totally. People keep the lid? I’m like, why do you keep the lid?
Geraldine: I know, all the way to the bottom.
John: Right, right. Quitters. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Geraldine: Oh, The Princess Bride, without question.
John: Yeah, solid. Oh, man, that’s hilarious. So funny. So funny. A favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Geraldine: Winter all year, please.
John: Oh, okay. All right. Winter, mountains, I’m catching on.
Geraldine: I could do without the darkness, but if I could have winter all year, I’d ski all year. That would just be the best.
John: Yeah, Anna from Frozen, all of this is coming together now.
Geraldine: There’s a theme.
John: There you go. Since you’re in the accounting space, balance sheet or income statement.
John: Oh, okay. There you go. How about a favorite number?
Geraldine: Yeah, I was thinking about this one, and I couldn’t decide between 57 or 72.
John: Okay. Is there a reason why?
Geraldine: Well, I don’t know. It’s kind of nerdy. One of them is prime, and one of them is multi-factorial. I really like them both, but it’s totally random.
John: Okay, yeah. So it’s 72 and 50…
Geraldine: When I got my Hotmail address years ago, there were apparently already 56 Geraldines, and they gave me 57, and then the number just kind of stuck around. I don’t know, 72 has just been like this theme in my life. Who knows where these things come from?
John: I like it. No, no, I like it. Very cool. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Geraldine: Hmm, hardcover.
John: Oh, hardcover even. Okay, there you go.
Geraldine: Yeah. I want legit books. I want to hold on to a book.
John: Yeah, something I can throw at somebody if I’m angry.
Geraldine: Including my children. Get away!
John: Right? Paperbacks just don’t do the trick. You can’t slam it on the table and intimidate anyone. Two more. A favorite adult beverage. Oh, nice. Okay, all right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Geraldine: My cargo bike. I ride my kids to school. I stick them on the back. They seem fine to me, riding to school.
Geraldine: Yeah. It’s the best.
John: That’s awesome. That’s one of those bikes with the long rack in the back?
Geraldine: Yep, exactly, and it’s got like a little hula hoop around the side so they can hold on and stuff.
John: Okay. Nice.
Geraldine: The best is when I go uphills, and my daughter, she pushes me in the back. I tell her to push me up the hill, and she pushes me.
John: Help you get up. That’s so cool. Yeah, when she grows up, she’s going to tell people like, you know, I’m so strong. I helped my mom push up the hill. That’s very cool. Let’s talk world travels, and you’ve been all over the place. Did you grow up traveling? Or was it something, after got adult money, you were like, let’s do this?
Geraldine: I grew up traveling. It runs in my family. It runs in the female side of the genes on both sides. My dad’s mom was a big traveler back in the early 1900s and everything. My mom’s side, she was born in the South Pacific and French Colonies, and her mom and her aunt were travelers. They saw an ad in the paper in France. They needed hatmakers in the South Pacific. They got on a steamer and went to Vanuatu, used to be the New Hebrides, and had my mom. That’s where my mom was born. She moved back to France and then eventually moved to the US.
John: That’s awesome.
Geraldine: Yeah, so half my family’s over there. We, of course, went back to visit frequently. No grass grows under my mom’s feet, and for a long time, none grew under mine. I just wanted to go everywhere because there’s so many cool things to see.
John: That’s awesome. Are there some favorite places that you’ve been? I’m sure there’s a handful.
Geraldine: Yeah, it’s hard to pin down what’s your favorite kid. It’s for different reasons. Apparently, I like politically complicated places.
Geraldine: Burma just blew my doors off. It was so interesting. Of course, tragic, it’s been really difficult over there, especially recently. Cuba was just wild. I went in 2000 on a French passport, in case anybody from the IRS is listening, or the government. It was legal, in my view. China was just, I couldn’t get over myself. I felt like a little kid who — you don’t realize that as you get older, your sense of discoveries just evaporates over time. When you are little and you first turn over a rock, and there’s a salamander under there. You’re like, oh, my God! You take it running to your mom. You’re like, look, look, look, and she’s like, yeah, whatever, it’s a salamander. Riding my bike around China was like that, all day long, every day. What is that? I would see stuff. I’m like, I don’t even know if that’s — what’s the 20 questions game — I’m like, I don’t even know if that’s something I would eat or if that’s something that I would — is that something I would build a house with? What is that? It was like that all day long. It was just so cool. Not to mention the fact that the map I had, had no key on it because it had been crossed out. I couldn’t tell, when I had it in my hands, if it was upside down. Exactly.
Geraldine: Your listeners couldn’t see, but he just waved his arm in a circle to be like, which way is north on this thing? I can’t tell.
John: I can’t even tell if the letters are upside down.
Geraldine: Yeah, but eventually, I learned to recognize which way was up and down. It was other worldly to be like, I never knew that I wouldn’t be able to find north on a map simply because I couldn’t read the script. It was like that all day long, every day.
John: That’s awesome. It sounds like it’s places that are so different than the US. That’s the thing. It makes you see, oh, wow, not everyone lives like this. I appreciate where I live more now, maybe, a little bit of the things that you take for granted. Or, wow, that’s a cool idea, we should bring that back with us, type of thing.
Geraldine: Yeah, all those things and more.
John: Those are incredible places. I’ve never been to any of those three. I would imagine Cuba’s a bit of a time machine. Yeah?
Geraldine: It is a total time warp. It’s, honestly, like you’ve landed in 1950.
John: Right? The cars, the outfits, the music.
Geraldine: Yeah, oh, my gosh, the music emanates out of houses and out of backyards. It’s just everywhere, everywhere. I went with my mom. Because there are so few people who own cars, many people hitchhike just to get around. Because they’ll say the walls have ears, they don’t want to talk, right? We would pick up hitchhikers, so to speak. I hesitate to call them that because they’re just locals trying to get home. I speak Spanish. I’ve turned around. I’d sit in the passenger seat, and I would talk to them. I’d ask them questions, and I’d tell my mom, as we’re going places. We would just hear the most fascinating stories that you wouldn’t be able to get in any other setting because they won’t share freely, because they just don’t know who’s listening. That was just a wild experience. It was also really interesting. They’re so well-educated, and yet, it’s impoverished. The disconnect between those two things, I haven’t experienced anywhere else. It was a noticeable shift.
John: Wow, that’s really interesting. Yeah, you’re right. When you’re in a country like Cuba, you never know who’s listening, and they trusted you, which is cool. You get to hear the real scoop, how the locals live, which, when you travel, do you typically — I would imagine you’re with the locals, you’re where do regular people go, I’ll see the touristy stuff, too, because you have to, but do you go off grid a little bit?
Geraldine: Yeah, and this was all pre-smartphones, so we were depending on who I was with. Sometimes I was with my mom. We traveled a bunch together. Oftentimes, I travel alone on my bike. The best thing about traveling as a woman alone is you’re not a threat to anyone. You get invited inside all the time to have dinner with families. You get in. Come sleep over, sleep on the couch, or we’ll give you a bed or whatever. I got the royal treatment wherever I went. It was just the best.
John: That’s so funny.
Geraldine: Yeah, I just got to see into lives that I think you wouldn’t get in so many other circumstances.
John: Yeah, you were in a lot of pictures, I bet.
Geraldine: Well, not overly. Most people didn’t have cameras really.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. All right. That’s so crazy. Do you feel like all the traveling and all that, that gives you a skill or a mindset that’s carried over into work, even maybe before the coaching?
Geraldine: Yeah, the thing that always struck me or the thing that struck me most, especially when I was in Asia for, I was there traveling for about six months, there are more than a billion people in India and a billion people in China, and all these different countries have different religions. India is mostly Hindu. China has its own thing going on. I come from a mutt kind of relatively Christian background, and growing up in US, certainly it’s culturally Christian. I hadn’t really ever thought that much about it. When I spent that much time in Asia, I was like, it doesn’t make sense that so many other people could be wrong about what they believe and how they view the world. Because there are just too many different points of view, it doesn’t make sense that so many people could have a point of view that is incorrect. That makes no sense.
Geraldine: Not just religion, just so many parts of life. It just made me a more open and curious person to try and understand how people experience and see things, rather than to try and force what they think through my own lens. If there’s something that I bring to the work that I do now, it’s to just meet people where they are because you have no idea what’s going on. Just meet them where they are. It’s much easier.
John: That’s totally true. Because rather than Americanize them, or, okay, I understand you’ve been doing it this way for generations, but you’re wrong. No, you can’t do that. It’s cool that it’s, well, walk a mile in your shoes and see through your lens. You’re clearly making decisions that you think are best for you. You wouldn’t self-sabotage repeatedly like that. That’s crazy. So there’s a reason you’re doing things.
Geraldine: And what can I learn from this? What can I learn from you? What do you see that I don’t know? There’s a lot that we’re isolated from knowing, despite the internet and everything. There’s a lot that we don’t know. When you live inside the confines of the US and surrounded by giant seas on both sides, there’s a lot that we don’t know has happened.
John: Right. Yeah. No, totally, and especially like the story from their side, what the “news/opinions” that are in their country, versus the news/opinions that are in ours. Yeah. No, that’s so cool. It’s like in your own eyes and ears, and feel it, and sense it. That’s cool that you can take that to your clients now, is meet them where they’re at. I think that applies to really everyone in their career. If you’re leading a team, if you’re leading a whole company, you’ve got people, meet them where they’re at.
Geraldine: Like I said, people have a lot going on in their lives. At the end of the day — another thing that always struck me was that no matter how different we might be, what I saw, time and again, is that people want to spend time with their families and their loved ones, and they want what’s best for their kids. They want their kids to have a better shot at life. People might be being difficult or having a challenging day or challenging time or whatever, but it taught me to always remember that, at the end of the day, we are so much more alike than we are different. If you can just understand what’s going on with people, rather than get frustrated with how they’re being, it just makes interactions so much easier.
John: I love that because we are so much more alike than different. Yet, it’s human nature, I don’t know what, to focus on the differences. It’s like, but what about the 99% sameness, how about that part? No? Okay. So, is the travel something that comes up, or stories from travel, with clients or with work colleagues?
Geraldine: Let’s see. It doesn’t necessarily come up with clients too often because they’re focused on their own journey. Admittedly, it’s been a while. I put my passports down. When I was done traveling, I was done. I came home and put my passport down, and that was it.
John: 15 countries and seven continents, I feel like it’s passports, with an S.
Geraldine: Well, it is passports. I do have two.
John: Oh, yeah, well, the French one as well. So, I guess it’s not as natural for it to come up because you’re not traveling as much now, with the family and stuff.
Geraldine: Yeah, and it’s not really in the context of things. We’re trying to get stuff done. We’re trying to move their businesses forward and get them making transitions in their own work. If we have time to jibber-jabber, sometimes I’ll throw in a story, especially if it’s relevant. I have a few good travel stories that have good messages behind them, so I’ll throw them in if I find an opening.
John: Yeah, because it’s one of those where, yeah, you don’t force it. You’re not shouting it from the rooftops. It’s not anything like that. If it comes up, then why not? Because some people just feel that if it’s not work-related, then it’s not at work. It’s different when you have clients that are paying for time then there’s that, type of thing. They have issues that they need help with and all that, but sometimes, if it comes up, then it’s cool to share because it takes that relationship to a different level.
Geraldine: Yeah, and there’s more to us than just the work that we do. Like you say, when we’re able to share and open up about the other parts of our life and what else we have going on — there’s a reason that there’s a thing called social grease, and having some social grease to lubricate relationships and keep things rolling and not have everything be all work, work, work all the time; just makes things more cohesive. It makes things work better. Relationships, at the end of the day, are what drives business. If you ignore the relationship at the expense of just being all business, money, numbers all day, you won’t get as far as if you can appreciate that you’re actually dealing with a human being who has a life outside of work.
John: That’s so rich right there. Yeah, totally. You’re right. It’s social grease. It’s not technical skills grease.
Geraldine: Yes. Let me grease this conversation with some formulas.
John: Check out this Excel macro I got here. I am so good. It’s so true. It’s so true. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that space to find out the rest of the other sides of the people around you, the dimensions to them? How much is it on just an individual to be like, well, I’ve got this little team, and I’m going to start within this little circle?
Geraldine: Well, I think there’s something to be said for, you can only control so much, but I think wise leaders set the tone at the top. They understand how to get great work out of their employees and build cohesive teams that work well together. I’m just a big believer that everything comes from the top, and if you want your employees to behave a certain way, you’ve got to model it.
John: Yeah, and even the top doesn’t have to be the top top top. It could be, you’re in charge of a department, you’re in charge of a team, you’re in charge of whatever. Your little ecosystem can be the most awesome thing ever.
Geraldine: It’s the local top.
John: Yeah, the local top, there you go. Exactly. Exactly. That’s probably the most important because that’s the person that you interact with.
Geraldine: Yeah, that’s the person you’re looking at.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Geraldine: If you’re just business, business all the time and you’ve got to bring, maybe a personal or family concern to talk about, you feel like there’s no room for that kind of conversation. Those are the things that ding at longevity inside businesses.
John: Amen to that, totally. Because also too, if I feel like I have a somewhat personal relationship or something beyond just title relationship with that person, then I talk to that person more times than — ten times, nine of them are about normal things. The tenth one is telling me I didn’t do something right. Okay. But if the one time you talk to me is the only time you’re telling me, I didn’t — then I’m out. The critical feedback is super critical all of a sudden. The other way, it’s a friend pulling you aside.
Geraldine: The positive stuff needs to vastly outweigh the negative stuff in order for the negative stuff to just be like, okay, cool, got it. I’m on it. I’ll do it better next time.
John: Exactly. It doesn’t sting, and it’s — yeah, you’re right, actually. You’re not as defensive. It’s amazing how much benefits come from…
Geraldine: Under a heat lamp of constant criticism.
John: Yeah. Well, I’ve been there. It’s like, really? I’m not that bad. Come on now. You mess up three times in six months, and that’s the only three times that that person talks to you. It’s like, yeah, you know what? I’m out. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that might feel like, I’ve got this hobby or passion that has nothing to do with work and no one’s going to care?
Geraldine: Well, it depends on how open you want to be about things. I’m just a general believer that it’s easier to be open about things and go with the flow and pay attention to the signals that you’re getting from the other party about whether or not they’re open to hearing anything.
Geraldine: Right. I’m careful not to foist my own interests on other people who look like their attention wants to be somewhere else. So, that is, pay attention to the person you’re with and read their cues and act accordingly, but I’m a believer that people really like connection. We crave connection. We’ve learned that this year when we, all of a sudden, had it stripped away. Some people are not always the most social creatures, or maybe they’re not the most comfortable. Maybe they’re a little bit shy. Maybe they’re feeling a little bit reserved. Sometimes they just need an opening, and they need somebody to kind of nudge the door open. I like to kind of nudge the door open and see if there’s any reception and put myself out there and just be warm. If somebody picks it up, great. If they don’t, cool.
John: Also great. I love that where so many people are so permission-based where we don’t want to get slapped on the wrist. We don’t want to get yelled at. We don’t want to get whatever. Instead, we just don’t do anything. Then somebody actually goes out and does it and comes back alive. They’re like, wait, what? You’re allowed to do that? Yeah. There was one client that I was working with. They had a couple of different offices, and one office wanted to do this happy hour sort of thing, once a week. So they just did it. About two months later, the other offices found out. They’re like, how come we never did? Well, they just did it. They didn’t ask permission. They didn’t whatever. It was just like, we’re going to do this, and then no one says anything. 99 out of 100 times, that’s what happens. Just go do it. As long as it’s legal and not taboo, then knock yourself out. Cool things happen on the other side of that.
Geraldine: Go do things and get out of your routine because there’s so many cool things out there to do.
John: Yeah, and if not, just go to Burma and hang out for a little bit, or Cuba or China. See what I? Brought it all back.
John: There we go. Yeah, this has been awesome, Geraldine. I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and make this the Geraldine Carter podcast. Thanks for having me on. Well, you do have your own podcast actually. What’s the name of that? So everybody can subscribe to that one too.
Geraldine: Yes, so my podcast is Smart Strategy for CPAs. We do only business strategy. We never talk about tax.
John: Oh, there you go. Excellent. That’s awesome. Well, I know nothing about tax, so I’m glad to be on your show. Thank you so much.
Geraldine: Yeah, I don’t either which is why I host a podcast for CPAs. It makes no sense.
John: Right? That’s awesome, but, yeah, whatever questions you want to ask, I’m all yours.
Geraldine: Yeah, so thanks for having me on your show. I would like to know if you prefer nachos or potato chips. I’m just talking like only a chip.
John: Oh, the corn chip.
Geraldine: Yeah, I’m not talking a tray of nachos with cheese and avocado in that.
John: Got it. Corn chips, potato chips. Potato chips, I’ll go potato chips on that one.
Geraldine: Okay. Beater car or socks with holes.
John: Oh, Lord, that’s… I’ll probably go socks with holes because I can mend those. A beater car is going to get me stranded somewhere and then I’m going to have to walk home with my socks and holes. It’s just going to be terrible all around. Or, yeah, after walking, all my socks would then have holes in them, so then I have both. Yeah, I’ll go socks with holes, easier to fix, easier to fix.
Geraldine: Go back to the potato chips, much easier.
John: Yeah, I’m just going to wear potato chips.
Geraldine: Okay, so you’re in Colorado. I’m in Idaho.
Geraldine: So, Wyoming or Utah?
John: Oh, I’ll go Utah. I just feel like there’s more variety, I guess, maybe. I don’t know. That’s my own naive… I’ve only done a little bit of Wyoming. I’ve done more of Utah. Maybe that’s probably why. I just feel like there’s a little more variety to it, but I can be wrong.
Geraldine: Not quite a square.
John: Yeah, exactly.
Geraldine: More square and less square.
John: Wyoming cut out the corner or Utah would’ve also been square. One of you is going to be not be square, and Utah’s it. That’s how it works out. This has been so much fun, Geraldine. Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? It’s awesome.
Geraldine: Thanks, John. Thanks so much for having me on your show.
John: Totally, this has been so much fun. Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Geraldine from her travels or maybe connect with her on social media or get a link to her podcast, 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. Don’t forget to check out the book.
Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.
Derek is an Accountant & Judoka & Skier
Derek Abdekalimi talks about his passions for skiing and Judo, how they coincide with each other and his career, and why he feels it is important to be able to talk about passions with co-workers in the office.
• Getting into skiing
• Favorite places to ski
• Getting into Judo
• How Judo has helped him with discipline in the office
• Don’t be fake
• Why it matters that the individual plays a role in workplace culture
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 385 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it 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 this show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. The book goes more in-depth on the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your organization’s culture, and I can’t say 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.
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, Derek Abdekalimi. He’s the Director of Finance and Accounting of Green Bean CFO, and now he’s with me here today. Derek, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Derek: Hey, John. Thanks for having me.
John: Absolutely, man. This is going to be so much fun. Before we jump in, get to know Derek on a new level here with my rapid-fire questions. Hopefully you’re buckled in, got your seat belt fastened. Keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. Okay, here we go. First one, favorite color.
Derek: I like all of them. I don’t really know what to say, but I like them all. There’s a reason for each one.
John: Okay. All right. So there’s no least favorite color then. No, I’m just kidding, man. That’s silly. All right, fair enough. How about talk or text?
Derek: Lately, it’s been a lot more text. Work, we don’t even talk all the time. It’s been more like texting or WhatsApp or Slack.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Derek: I used to be really into Sudoku, and I’m trying to do crossword puzzles.
John: Okay, okay. Sudoku is how I do my tax returns.
John: Not at all what you should do at all. How about a favorite Disney character?
Derek: Oh. Well, now that they own Star Wars, I’m going to say Darth Vader.
John: Okay, all right. Yeah. You can get in through a loophole there. I like that. Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a favorite athlete?
Derek: Right now, and I know it’s kind of cliché, but I really like LeBron because even now, they were talking about mid-season that he should take a couple of days off, but he’s just the best player. He’s a really good defensive player, offensive, and I just like his work ethic. I’m reading about his diet and things like that. He’s just somebody that I really admire. I also really admire Muhammad Ali. I read the book about him, and he’s a real athlete and civil rights person. A lot of athletes really inspire me.
John: Yeah, yeah. LeBron does a ton for Cleveland and keep putting kids in school and even college. He does a lot for the community that he doesn’t really talk about, which is also cool. He doesn’t need all the attention. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Derek: Lately, it’s been working at night because nobody is messaging you. I can get some things done and not have the distractions of the day.
John: Sure. That makes total sense. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Derek: Going back to liking Darth Vader, I used to be a really big Star Wars fan as a kid.
John: How about your computer, PC or a Mac?
Derek: I’m a Mac guy. I know everybody on this podcast is like, I love PCs. They’re better for accounting software, and I think the version of Excel is a little bit easier. There are more shortcuts, I think, on the PC than on the Mac, but my Mac has Final Cut Pro. I could edit ski videos for myself. Or Apple Care, so if I accidentally spill coffee on my laptop, I can go and get it fixed.
John: I feel like you’re speaking from some experience right now.
John: Maybe so. Maybe so. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Derek: You know what, I actually like making ice cream.
John: Oh, you make it yourself. Okay.
Derek: I’ve done it a couple times where it’s like the camping style where you do the two cans and the rock salt and threw in a bunch of random stuff. I did that at Yellowstone a couple of years ago.
John: Do you have a favorite flavor?
Derek: I really like the Ben and Jerry’s stuff where they just throw random things in.
John: Yeah, and chunks of stuff. I’m a huge fan of that.
Derek: Yeah, they figured out how to do it. There’s an Everything Bagel flavor that this brand makes that I want to try out.
Derek: I do want to get the piece that you can put on a mixer. I just like good ice cream. I think one of the cool things about Ben and Jerry’s is they have brick and mortar. You can try it on a cone, and it’s really good.
John: Oh, man. Yeah, we’re going to have to hang out sometime, for sure.
Derek: Yeah, definitely.
John: Eat all the ice cream. How about seasons, favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall?
Derek: I love them all.
John: Okay, all right.
Derek: It’s the whole year.
John: Because the colors are also in all the season.
John: That’s why, just keeping with the theme. I like it, man. All right. How about, ooh, the accountant background, a balance sheet or income statement?
Derek: Okay, I’m probably the second person on your podcast to say this, but I am a fan of the balance sheet. It’s not just, are we making money, but if you’re — for example, one of my clients, I could see them selling parts of their business or possibly going public in a couple of years, and they need a strong balance sheet if they want to go public. Or if I’m going to go and invest in a small business, I want to see that they’re handling everything. They’re not just profitable.
John: Right. There’s a lot more to the balance sheet. That’s for sure. Here’s one, chocolate or vanilla.
Derek: Probably chocolate, yeah.
John: All right. No, totally. How about when it comes to books, audio version, Kindle or real book?
Derek: All of them. It depends. If I’m traveling, I might get some audio books. I’ve been using the Libby app for the library a lot, and throwing that on my iPad. I also do print. I go to Barnes and Noble a lot because it’s the only actual bookstore near me. That’s how I got your book actually.
John: Yeah, well, thanks, man. Yeah, you got the printed version.
John: Yeah, totally, man, that’s awesome. Well, thank you. Two more, two more. Favorite day of the week. Favorite day of the week.
Derek: I don’t know.
John: Saturday because it’s not work?
Derek: Yeah, sure. It’s the one day of the week that I don’t work.
John: Yeah, there’s no work. It’s not like tomorrow there is work. Yeah. No, that works.
John: Okay. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Derek: I don’t know.
John: Sounds like your Mac Book.
Derek: No, no, that’s definitely not my favorite thing that I own. There are things, I’ve got a lot of hobbies, so there are some things in my garage that — I just got a new pair of ski boots.
Derek: Because of COVID, I can’t really spar with people, so I got a couple of punching bags from my garage.
John: There you go.
Derek: I can do that. I don’t know, just doing things at home or going for a walk or gardening, basic simple things.
John: That’s awesome, man. Very cool. Yeah, and that leads in perfectly to talking about the skiing and how you got started with that and with your new boots that you got for this season. Did you grow up skiing?
Derek: Yeah, it’s definitely a really big family thing. My wife’s also a skier, and her brothers are skiers, and my parents and my brothers. Everybody skis in my family.
Derek: That’s how I started. Then I kind of took it my own way after college and moved to a ski town. I lived in Lake Tahoe for a bit, and I tried to ski or mountain bike whenever I could. There are some years where I put in 100 days on a mountain.
John: That’s awesome.
Derek: Yeah, and the attitude, even if it’s an icy day, I’m going to go, and I’m going to ski really hard. I’m from the East Coast, so I know, ice. When you go to Squaw Valley and it’s a bad winter, I’m the only person on Headwall because it’s just ice. They had a drought about five years ago, maybe six years ago, but just skiing that is fine.
John: That’s awesome. Do you have a favorite place that you’ve skied or a favorite go-to place?
Derek: There are a few places. I did actually think about that. I really like Banff. I have some family that lived in Calgary. I’ve been to Lake Louise at negative 50 degrees.
John: Oh, my Lord.
Derek: Yeah, it’s freezing. This one time, I wasn’t wearing the right base layers, and I didn’t have the right gloves. I was freezing, but I was also in this state of bliss, skiing.
John: Right. Right.
Derek: In the US, I’m going to have to say Squaw Valley because the people at Squaw are crazy. There’s a lot of people who are trying hawk cliffs and stuff like that, and you want to go and do that. There’s a run that’s named after Jonny Moseley that’s a crazy mogul run. There are all these really crazy runs. I love the snow at Utah. I have of a lot of different places.
John: Sure. No, it’s totally cool, man. That’s awesome, just to hear about them.
Derek: Yeah. Deer Valley in Utah, if you’re into groomers, that’s the best place ever. They do have some crazy mogul runs that they don’t groom that nobody skis. A spring day there is pretty good. Whistler is really good. Mammoth is really good. In Colorado, Telluride with Palmyra Peak where you’re almost at 14,000 feet, if you can hike that. I’m just going to say I love skiing.
John: Right? I love it, man. No, but those are all awesome places, and it’s really cool to hear that you’ve had the opportunity to ski at them.
Derek: I’ve skied pretty much the whole US, and I’ve skied three different provinces in Canada.
John: Which, are there more than three? I don’t even —
Derek: No, Canada is a big country.
John: I’m teasing. I know there are. I’m joking. All the Canadians right now are like, arr. That’s super cool, man. When you’re skiing, is it the freedom? Is it the break away from work? What is it about skiing that really lights you up so much?
Derek: Definitely the freedom and just trying to go as fast as I can. Even some of the more technical runs, I don’t really have falls. I fall more on green runs maybe because I’m more focused. If you fall, it’s just really bad, especially if it’s not on a powder day.
John: Yeah, yeah, totally. I also know that you also do Judo, and that’s been a newer thing.
Derek: Yeah. I like judo. It’s also more — well, skiing is more outside also, but Judo is, it’s a Japanese martial art. It’s in the Olympics. Many people on your podcast are talking about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That’s how I started, doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I like to try different martial arts, so I went to a Judo class. They were, because I was starting, they were showing me falls and showing me different things that I wasn’t doing in jiu-jitsu.
This one dojo — there were some people who were national champions and black belts, I’ll say. I started switching over to Judo, and I even did some competitions. I’ve been able to score at Nationals.
John: Oh, congrats, man.
John: That’s really cool. That’s a lot of work.
Derek: Yeah. I like that it’s more international. To bring the two passions together, I know that I was supposed to go to Japan this year. I wanted to go practice at the Kodokan which is the school where it started, and get some certificates and go powder skiing.
John: Yeah, best of both right there.
Derek: Yeah, so the term Judo is gentle way. I think jiu-jitsu transfers to hard slow or hard soft or something. I can look that up. There’s a lot of, even being a smaller opponent, I’ve gone up against way bigger people who were maybe a couple weight classes bigger than me, and I’ve been able to throw them. This one guy in jiu-jitsu was an MMA fighter, and I was able to, because he doesn’t train with a gi, I was able to choke him, rolling, which was cool.
John: Right. That’s amazing, man.
Derek: Yeah, I love it. You go, afterwards, and you get a drink with everybody. You beat the crap out of each other, but it’s fun and…
John: Right, but it’s not like punching each other in the face.
John: Yeah, it’s almost wrestling kind of martial arts, or is it —
Derek: Yeah. Also in jiu-jitsu, but Judo really focuses on your jacket. There are these different weaves. One of the weaves is a competition jacket, and they’re heavier. The fabric is stiffer, so you get a harder grip.
John: Oh, that makes sense. All right, I didn’t even think of that.
Derek: There’s grip, and there’s throwing people and being, I could turn — if you watch the UFC, you don’t see anybody even wearing a shirt because I could turn your shirt or your jacket into a weapon.
John: Oh, yeah. That’s true.
Derek: Early pride, you see some Judo guys wearing a jacket, and it’s a big disadvantage. That’s why in MMA, they don’t wear jackets or anything.
John: Oh, wow. That’s interesting. Yeah, I’m glad we do in the office, though, because weird. No, I’m just kidding. That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool to hear about. I didn’t even realize that. Do you feel like either the Judo or the skiing gives you a skill that you bring to accounting or to your career, maybe a mindset or something?
Derek: Definitely the Judo, and even sales because you go — or your career in comedy. They always talk about comedians bombing a lot and trying to figure out their own style and their own voice and connecting.
Derek: When you start with like Judo or jiu-jitsu, you’re just constantly — the first month in Judo, you’re just working on falling. That’s how you get your yellow belt is that you can take a throw. It’s like falling and getting up and going to competitions and facing unknown competitors. Even if you lose, everybody thinks you’re a better person because you actually went — like the man in the arena thing.
John: Yeah, totally. I love that quote.
Derek: Yeah. I think having anything that you get after. Another book that I really like is the Originals by Adam Grant.
John: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Really good book.
Derek: Yeah. They talk about — so, in accounting, it used to be, when I started, it was frowned upon to talk about your hobbies. Even, I interviewed at a sports camp, a sports organization, I’m not going to name them, but I’m a fan. The Tax Department was like, we don’t want to hire fans because we don’t want you to bother the athletes. Wouldn’t you want to hire someone who’s a big fan of, like, if you were at Notre Dame, someone who likes their football or something?
John: Oh, totally. All my friends that work there are also massive fans.
Derek: Yeah, that is really good culture, the organization.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Derek: Adam Grant talks about there’s this one thing about Nobel Prize scientists and you’re more likely to have a Nobel Prize and be a really good, some type of performing artists, whether it’s doing theater or violin or something like that. I’m not trying to make a living as a skier or in martial arts. If there was a way to make a living, maybe, but my job is good enough. I think having that outlet, baking, whatever your thing is, don’t be afraid that you like it and try to find people who like it, and don’t be fake.
John: Yeah, I love that, man. Don’t be fake. Totally. It’s have a genuine interest in those people. When I asked you about skiing and Judo, I want to know. I legit am interested in that.
John: I love that. Don’t be fake on telling people that you like skiing. If you’ve been once and you didn’t like it, well, don’t tell them that you like it because they’re going to keep asking you.
John: Just be genuine. I love that.
Derek: This took a while for me to figure out because I used to talk about it a lot and then it didn’t really fit in at work, but you’ve got to be yourself.
John: Yeah, and it depends on the workplace culture where you’re at. You can change it a little bit at a time, I think, even amongst a small group of two or three or four people. Maybe it grows from there. I love that idea and that mindset of it all. How much do you think it is on an organization to create an atmosphere where people can share their “and”, versus how much is it on the individual to make that difference themselves? Is the tone at the top really crucial?
Derek: It probably is, but I’m more of an individual person. I think it probably should be the people talking about it, even if you’re at a CPA firm. I know that they want you to work seven days a week or whatever.
John: Right. Or maybe eight if they could.
Derek: Yeah, or eight days.
John: Yeah, so it does matter for the individuals to step up and, yeah, just share a little bit.
Derek: Even at lunch.
John: Yeah, just at lunch.
Derek: What did you do over the weekend? Someone might say, “I went to watch the US Open.” That’s really cool. Use it as a way to talk to people. What do you do? How did you get into tennis? Or how did you get into skiing? I think it is some organizations because there are places — I tried to get a drink with everybody I work with, or coffee. There are some places where, like, the Accounting Department, nobody went out afterwards, but I made friends with this guy who worked in HR, and we hung out a bunch.
John: That’s super cool. That’s such a great example for people listening that maybe they feel like, well, my department doesn’t do this. Well, okay, but I’m sure other people do because they’re human. So, other departments, you can find somebody and just start small.
Derek: Yeah. When you’re back in the office, if you pass somebody in the hallway, say hi to them. If you pass somebody’s office every day, why don’t you knock on the door and introduce yourself and say, “Hey, I’m Derek. I work in the Accounting Department. What are you working on?” If they’re receptive to talking to you, that’s good. Or if they’re like, “Get away, I’m trying to do something,” then you don’t need to talk to that person.
John: Right. That’s a great example. It’s also great, if your name is actually Susie, just still use Derek as your — hi, I’m still Derek. That way, they’re like, who the hell’s this Derek that keeps coming by? It’s like, just people that listen to What’s Your “And”? That’s all. That’s all.
This has been awesome, man, and so encouraging. I just appreciate you, one, reading the book, but two, reaching out to be a guest on the show. It’s super cool to share your story with everybody. It’s only fair that since I started out the episode, firing away at you with rapid-fire questions, that I now turn the table and make this the first episode of The Derek Abdekalimi podcast. Thanks for having me on. Thanks, man. I’m all yours.
Derek: I guess my first question is, you have several “ands” as well, do you still do stand-up?
John: I don’t do comedy clubs anymore, no. That has been put on the shelf. I do take a lot of that experience and the skills that I learned from stand-up and apply them when I’m speaking at conferences and the all-staff meetings and retreats and things like that. No comedy clubs anymore, man. Sorry.
Derek: What’s your favorite ice cream?
John: Favorite ice cream probably is chocolate chip cookie dough, just because you can get it everywhere. It’s kind of hard to mess that one up. I still get the chunks in there. Yeah, anything with brownie bites or… I want the one ice cream where it melts, but then I want to also chew stuff after, type of thing. It also gets as many calories into my face as possible, so it’s probably not healthy. Yeah, chocolate chip cookie dough would be the super quick answer.
Derek: Is there a pizza that you like?
John: Oh, wow. Yeah. Here in Denver, there’s a — it might be a chain. There’s a handful of them, Ian’s Pizza. They make a pomodoro. It’s super good. It’s got feta cheese and spinach. We add pepperoni and then a sweet tomato sauce. That’s really good. When I lived in New York, there were plenty of good pizzas there. That’s for sure, New York City. Yeah, all the meat, all the meats, and then maybe a couple of vegetables on accident. This has been so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”?, Derek. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me today.
Derek: Thanks for having me.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Derek in action, or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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.
Barbara is a CEO & Skier
Barbara Turley, CEO of The Virtual Hub, talks about her passion for skiing and how it plays a role into her career running a company and challenging yourself towards mastering a certain skill!
• Getting into skiing
• How her passion for skiing has impacted her career
• Talking about skiing at work
• Building the culture at The Virtual Hub
• You can’t help everyone
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 347 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the show and what it’s all about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are on 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. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it, writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Barbara Turley. She’s the founder and CEO of The Virtual Hub in Chamonix, France, and now she’s with me here today. Barbara, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Barbara: It’s such a pleasure, John, thanks for having me.
John: This is going to be a blast, my first guest from France. This is exciting.
Barbara: And you got the name right. You got Chamonix right, even with a bit of a French twang.
John: There we go. Anything besides Chardonnay, I don’t know. Now, I know two French words, so we’re good. So, rapid-fire questions, 17, right out of the gate, get to know Barbara on a new level here. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, I think. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: Chocolate. Oh, there you go. Sudoku or crossword puzzles.
John: Or neither. Okay.
Barbara: Neither really.
John: Fair enough. Fair enough. How about a favorite color?
Barbara: I’d say orange.
John: Orange. Okay, all right. How about a least favorite color?
Barbara: Blue. Wouldn’t be least, but blue, probably bottom of the pack for me.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you prefer more hot or cold?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. Cold, I’d say. If I’d pick, I’d say cold.
John: All right, all right. How about, do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Barbara: Oh, I don’t. I’m not big into — no, I don’t, really. I think Kevin Spacey is pretty cool, but I don’t know. He’s controversial these days. Anyway, he’s —
John: As an actor.
Barbara: Yeah, as an actor he’s really good.
John: You can separate the person from the art. So, yeah, absolutely, as an actor, yeah. Great. How about, more of an early bird or a night owl?
Barbara: Early bird.
John: Early Bird. Okay, all right. How about, more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Barbara: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too. Absolutely. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Barbara: A Mac, all the way Mac.
John: Oh, wow. You are way cooler than I am. I am not that cool. Good for you. Good for you. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I love ice cream.
Barbara: Oh, salted caramel, got to be salted caramel.
John: Oh, yeah.
Barbara: Here in France, ice cream is the thing, and salted caramel here is just incredible.
John: That’s awesome. I wonder who thought of that? Hey, how about we put some salt in it?
Barbara: I don’t know, but that’s just…
John: It’s genius. It’s genius.
John: It really is. Would you say more heels or flats?
Barbara: I want to say heels, but I’m very tall, so I end up wearing flats a lot. I’m more heels though. If I were shorter, I’d be heels all the time.
John: Good for you, good for you. There you go. How about, oceans or mountains?
Barbara: Oh, tricky. I’ve lived in both, and I — oh, gosh. We’ll get into this later. I have to say both there. I love both.
John: Fair enough, the mountains that go into the ocean. We’ll count that.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah. I need a bit of both.
John: There you go. What’s a typical breakfast besides salted caramel ice cream?
Barbara: Look, I like the traditional porridge, oats with a bit of fruit compound on it really. That’s my… I do love a bit of toast and raspberry jam. That’s always nice too.
John: There you go. Okay, very cool. How about, do you have a favorite number?
Barbara: Eight, I think.
John: Okay. Yeah, that’s a good answer.
Barbara: I don’t know why, but I looked at that question earlier, and eight popped into my head, so there you go.
John: There it is. That works. My book’s out. I’m excited about it. Kindle or real books.
John: Kindle. Okay.
Barbara: You know why? I can carry the whole library in my handbag. I’m a big reader.
John: There you go, exactly.
Barbara: I love books, but really, you can only bring one book or two. Whereas, you can carry a library with you with a Kindle.
John: Exactly. The accounting background and you’re CEO, so you probably carry, a balance sheet or income statement.
Barbara: Income Statement.
John: That last one I have, a favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Barbara: I hate saying this. I hate my answer, but I have to be truthful. My iPhone. I couldn’t live without it really. It’s like my savior. Two young children, my iPhone is like the escape.
John: It’s like, slash, your third child.
Barbara: Yeah, it is. It is. It is.
John: If you lose it, it’s equally crucial.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s right.
John: Of course. Good answer. Wait a sec, we’re already in there. So, let’s jump into skiing and just outdoor adventures in the mountains, by the ocean. Did you grow up doing this, or was it something that you got into later in life?
Barbara: No, I didn’t. I was brought up in Ireland, and I didn’t have any skiing in my life until I was in my 20s. I wasn’t brought up near the ocean at all. I did a lot of horse-riding when I was a kid, and I still do a bit of that. It is one of my other passions. I have many different passions. In the last 15 years, I haven’t been doing much of it, but I was brought up doing a lot of horse-riding actually. Neither mountain nor ocean, but I always had a fascination with those two.
John: Right, right. So then how did you get into the skiing side?
Barbara: Look, after years of trying to convince my parents that we should go on a skiing holiday — I mean, in Ireland, when I was that age, many years ago, you had to fly to Central Europe, and only extremely wealthy people went skiing. It was this sort of thing, so we never went. Nobody in Ireland really went at the time.
Eventually, I convinced a boyfriend of mine, when I was in my early 20s, that we should go skiing for a week, and we had a ball. We went skiing. It was one of the best couples holidays I think I’ve ever been on. We had a great time, and I was hooked. I was completely hooked after that.
John: That’s so cool. Is it something that you do regularly? Now that you live in France, you’re right there, pretty much.
Barbara: Yes. I spent, as I was saying to you before we recorded, I spent the last 17, 18 years living in Australia actually, in Sydney, beautiful Sydney, Australia, by the ocean, right by the ocean, so I woke up every day to the ocean. My husband is Hungarian, and he’s from Budapest. Every year or every second year, we would travel back to Europe. Every time we came home to see family, we would always come to Chamonix where my best friend happens to live, and we would always go skiing.
It’s been quite a big part of my life for many, many years. Just, I did a ski season in New Zealand, about 15 years ago as well, for a few months, so it’s always been in there. I’ve been skiing in Australia many times as well, and in New Zealand. So, yeah, it’s been a pretty active part of my life for many years. More so now because I live in the mountains now. I live right on the slopes.
John: Yes, it’s down the street. Or not even, it’s in the backyard. It’s just right there.
Barbara: It’s part of the mountain.
John: Yeah, that’s really cool. That’s really cool that you’re able to, yeah, just move closer to it and make it, well, a bigger part for a longer time, as opposed to just a vacation week or a month or something like that.
Barbara: Well, look, coming back to Europe, both my husband and I are both European, and we always said that if we came back to Europe to live, that we’d like to be closer to family, but that we would like to be also moved to the mountains. Because we’re both skiers, so we were like, that’d be pretty awesome. Now, we planned this for about 10 years, to be honest. We’ve now pulled it off, which has been great.
We did have this dream of — and many people who are skiers out there and snowboarders will be listening to this, going, yeah, my dream would be to work and live in the mountains. You can make it happen, but it took us a long time to figure out how to make this happen. So, yeah, the dream is alive right now, and we’re heading into the ski season. We’re right in that, so it’s great.
John: That’s so cool to hear, so cool to hear. Yeah, you can’t just drop, I’ve skied in Australia. I don’t imagine Australia, where does skiing happen in Australia?
Barbara: I was shocked when I got to Australia and people were like, “Yeah, we ski here.” There are actually mountains in Australia. Actually parts of Australia are quite cold, and it does snow. Sometimes you can get huge snow. Now it’s not big mountain skiing like what you get in Colorado and places — or Europe, but it’s pretty fun. It’s great for a weekend. Or if you’ve got kids, for a week, it’s amazing. Yeah, we went many times to Thredbo. Down near Melbourne, there’s quite a lot of great ski fields there. You can ski in Australia.
John: That’s awesome. That’s very cool. Who knew?
Barbara: I know.
John: Kangaroos running across — no, I’m just joking.
Barbara: It’s a bit like that actually. It is like that.
John: Australia, you’re so crazy. That’s hilarious. That’s super cool. Do you feel like these individual sports and adventures and things like that have given you a skill that you bring to work at all, through your career?
Barbara: You know what actually, when I was preparing for this podcast, because I did, and I saw your questions around that; and actually was great because it got me thinking about whether it has impacted my work. It was something I hadn’t thought very deeply about before. Because now I’m leading — I mean, The Virtual Hub, we’ve got 150 staff, and I have found myself leading large teams and mentoring our leadership team and doing all these kind of team-based things. I have to think about this and go, gosh, I’ve spent my whole life — I mean, I play tennis. I ski. I love horse-riding. I like swimming, reading. They’re all very individualistic things. They’re not team sports.
So I was thinking about this. How has this helped me to lead this company or to build this? I actually think about it, if you’re on a team, great teams are made up of high-performers. To be a high-performer, in some respects, you actually have to be able to achieve, individualistically, as well as be part of a team. Those who are able to learn how to master something silently on their own by repetition and getting something right and then you bring those people together on a team, you actually can teach others how to be masters of their own skill set and to develop their own skill sets and to — yeah, just mastery.
I think that’s something, I haven’t just done these sports. I have set out to master them. Taking up skiing in my 20s, and these days, I can — I mean, compared to some skiers, I wouldn’t be that great, but I can get to the top of any mountain. I’m a pretty good skier. Same with tennis, I remember learning footwork and getting coaching and really wanting to master the steps of it. I think that’s been pivotal actually, when I think about having to learn so many new things in business.
The Virtual Hub is a company in the Philippines really when I launched it. This is a whole another story, but I’d never been to the Philippines. I had no background in recruiting or HR or outsourcing, for that matter. I came from the investment banking world. I had to learn a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff I learned by accident. Mastering it quickly was very important.
I do have a sense of going at something until I get it, and I think that those sports definitely helped. Because skiing can be quite frustrating, so is tennis, so is horse-riding. They’re not things that you’re going to step into, and within a week be amazing at. They take time. They take 20 years actually of — surfing is the same. It’s like impossible.
John: Yeah, exactly, and golf and a lot of those individuals sports. There’s so much great nuggets that you just dropped in such a short amount of time. One is, especially that, compared to other skiers, but who cares? You’re in your own lane. I think that that’s something that gets in our way of, you enjoy skiing. That’s it. Are you good at it? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares? I’m sure, in your case, very good.
Barbara: Yeah, I think as well, on that point actually that you just made, which is worth highlighting, when you’re in an individualistic sport, yes, there are competitors, but you’re focused on your own game. You’re competing with yourself. It teaches you, in business, yes, you need to watch the competitors in business, but I’ve always been of the view that if you spend all your time looking at how good everyone else is, well, your business will be rubbish. So I don’t really look at others. I go, you know what, I just watch for the nuances and watch for the mistakes and try to tweak and evolve and practice and all that sort of thing. I honestly think, yeah, those sports have helped me to hone that skill. That’s been very pivotal in my journey.
John: That’s such a great example. At the very least, it humanizes you. Coworkers have something to talk to you about besides just the work. Hey, how was the last ski trip? Hey, I saw the pictures on social media about you, whatever. Those sort of things make you, especially as a CEO —
Barbara: I think we need it too. Like you were talking about, to lead large teams and especially in the environment of this pandemic, we’ve all come through and everything; it’s really important to be able to get away and reach back to source, of your own source, inner thing that you get when you go skiing and stuff like that, to be able to get away. Because just going down to the kitchen and having a coffee is not stepping away. You need to actually get out, get out of your head and into your body, kind of thing. I do a lot of yoga as well. That’s also been, again, a singular type of mastery sport, if you want to put it that way.
John: It totally is, yeah. No, and I love all of that.
Barbara: It’s hard.
John: Yeah. No, it is hard. That’s for sure.
Barbara: It’s very hard.
John: Yeah, and I love how it’s something you’ve never really thought about until preparing to come on here. It’s one of those things that that’s what’s so cool about the What’s Your “And”? message is that we’re doing it subconsciously. Once you point it out, it’s like, wow, it makes such an impact on so many different areas of my life that I didn’t even realize.
Barbara: Yeah, even talking about this now. I’m like, there are days where I think, oh my God, I have so much work to do. I really — I just need to focus on work. I’ve got a great private yoga teacher, and she might — the reason I get her to come to my house is because I can’t cancel on her. I’m like, dammit, I’ve got this yoga thing. The same with skiing, I’ll go up the mountain and be like, I shouldn’t be going today, too much work. Then I’ll get up the mountain. I’ll ski for two hours. I’ll come down, and I’m on fire. My ideas, the vision, my whole energy system has changed. It’s just vitally important that we give into it actually, give into it and do it.
John: I love that, give into it. Yeah, because work is always going to be there, and those passions are easy to put on the back burner, but they’re always going to be knocking. They’re always in your head. So, yeah, give in and let it rip. I love that.
Barbara: Totally, yeah, give in and let it rip. That’s going to be my new mantra for this year, just give in and let it rip. I love it.
John: Exactly. 2021, give in and let it rip. What else could happen?
Barbara: I know.
John: That’s super cool. So is it something that you do talk about at work, or that’s even back in your investment banking days or things like that? Was talking about outside-of-work interests something you did?
Barbara: Yeah, you always do. I mean, it depends. These days, I probably don’t talk — I talk about yoga a bit. I’m in an interesting environment right now because the company is in the Philippines. I’m the only one actually who’s remote, which is really interesting. It’s like, they’ve all got the party going on in the Philippines, and I’m on my own. I live in a totally different country.
If I do scuba diving, which I used to do when I was in my 20s, don’t anymore, but that’s probably a topic I could talk to a lot of our team about. They’re big into diving over there because the dive sites are amazing, and lots of yoga. Yeah, lots of guys doing sports and stuff. In my old corporate career, yeah, I would have talked about it a lot. Lots people were skiing and doing lots of cool stuff.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. That is a good point that you brought up about that’s what they’re doing, but you can relate. It’s asking them about those dives and things like that, and that will just light them up. Wow, the CEO is asking about something that I truly love, above and beyond the work.
Barbara: You just hit on something that I’ve wanted to do for so long, to get to know each and every single person in the company. What is their “And”? Actually, what’s their “And”? Then COVID hit, and we just, oh, that sort of stuff has gone out the window, but I need to come back to that.
John: Yeah, especially now and, like you said, make sure that they’re doing it. Because, like you said, going downstairs to get coffee or tea is not getting away from the work. What lights them up? What’s going to make them come back on fire? Yeah, because there’s nothing worse than riding up on a chairlift and then riding back down on the chairlift. You have to ski it. You can’t ride back down.
Barbara: Yeah, yeah.
John: Yeah, it’s like the guy that — the person that fell and one ski fell off. Now they have to walk while holding their other ski because the other one just zoomed down the mountain.
Barbara: Just sit down, slide. That’s it.
John: There you go. There you go. Yeah, that’s why I snowboard because then they’re stuck. They’re not coming off.
Barbara: Oh, yeah. That’s right. You know what, I was planning to learn snowboarding this year. So, you’re a snowboarder. I’m a skier. I was like, I’m going to learn snowboarding. Then I had one season here, because I arrived a year ago, and I was like, I’m not learning snowboarding because I just don’t have the patience now. I just want to enjoy myself. Because the minute I take up a new thing, I’m going to try and master that. I’m going to spend a week on my ass, basically, with probably broken wrists or something.
John: For sure. I, luckily, skied as a kid, but it was in the Midwest of the US, which is probably similar to Australia where it’s more hills than mountains. Then I had a long period in between where I didn’t at all. I skateboarded some in junior high and stuff. So that’s where the snowboarding was more natural. I was just starting from scratch a couple years ago when I moved to Colorado. That made it easier. Where I could see, if you’re a skier, to go to snowboard, that’s weird. Yeah, it’s totally different.
Barbara: Yeah, I’d like to. My friends are snowboarders, but doesn’t matter, just going to do powder skiing instead.
John: There you go. There you go. No, that’s fantastic. How much do you feel like it’s on the organization, a little bit going back to you finding out people’s “ands”, how much do you think it’s on the organization to create that as the norm? Versus, how much is it on the individual to maybe just start with a small circle of who they work with?
Barbara: You know what, I’ve always had this philosophy kind of buried that I knew, about culture and about building cultures in companies, that it’s got to be like a family. You have to care about the people, not just — there’s profit and all that, but you have to deeply care about your people.
When COVID and this pandemic and everything that we’ve come through in the last year, came along, I sort of realized how much deeper that thought needs to go, in that, I think as companies, we almost have a responsibility to help the whole person develop and not just the career.
We’re big into training, learning and development at The Virtual Hub. We’ve got our own Training Department that we accidentally got known. We started doing really well with training. We were training VAs in digital marketing. That’s what we were doing in the early days. Now we’ve sort of developed this out into a learning and development platform where my vision is to say, well, what about teaching people about managing their own finances or dealing with their own subconscious beliefs or whatever else they may want to discover about themselves
As a company, I just feel, these days, it’s important for people to be to work in a place that honors their wellness, their dreams, what are their dreams, their personal development that has nothing to do with what it is that you do as a company, but actually, it leads to happier people. It leads to a culture that people are aligned with, and they don’t want to leave them. So you get longevity of people as well.
I’m really playing with this idea now, and it’s just come to fruition even more, through COVID. COVID has been a good thing in that way, in that I’ve gone, hmm, that’s interesting. We need to help people. We’re in a people business, actually. So, yeah, I’m going further into that philosophy now.
John: I love that. I love that so much. That’s so great. Really, every business is a people business. Yours is exponentially so, but every company, it’s still human-to-human interaction, whether it’s colleagues or to clients or to customers. Those are humans on the other side. The more that I’ve interviewed and researched and even my own experience, if people have an outside-of-work life that’s chaos, they’re inside-of-work is never going to be good.
Barbara: No, it’s chaos, yeah, total chaos. You can’t help everyone. That’s the other problem is you can’t save everyone. Actually, I heard, if you know Russell Brunson from ClickFunnels.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Barbara: I saw him speak at one of those — I’ve never been to one of the conferences, but I saw this video where he was asked, what about all the people who buy your software and they never make it, kind of thing. He was talking about this speech he had heard, I’m probably totally misrepresenting this, but the concept was, I think it was about rescue helicopters. When they’re going into big seas for this — a boat has gone over and these people have gone over. Only a certain amount of people are going to fit in the helicopter. How do you choose who you’re going to save? The answer was, we can only save those that swim towards us. I thought to myself, bingo.
We’ve actually changed our entire recruitment process to say, right, when we’re recruiting people, if they have the skills, that’s great; but we need to figure out, are they aligned with our core values? Our company purpose is to unlock dreams for both our employees and our clients. That’s the purpose that we set out for. We’re like, first of all, do our core values resonate with them? Second of all, do they have a dream that we have the ability to unlock for them? Or are we just on different pages, and therefore they’re going to unlock our company dream of growing and all that sort of thing, and our clients, et cetera.
It’s this whole thing of, if we can recruit people in the first place, that we are going to swim towards us, in that way, then we can do loads with that person. We’re not actually hiring broken people. We’re trying to hire people that genuinely are swimming towards us and have that sense of personal mastery that we can refine. I hope that makes sense. I was formulating that thought as I was talking.
John: It makes total sense. It’s also, the technical skills are important, but they’re not the end-all-be-all because everyone applying for that job has those technical skills.
Barbara: Or they can be coached. A lot of technical skills can be coached actually.
John: There you go, even that. Yeah.
Barbara: You can’t teach enthusiasm.
John: Right. That’s exactly right.
Barbara: You can’t teach certain things, so you have to hire for it. My philosophy has always been, you give me a great person, that’s a glass-half-full person who is smart enough and loves what it is that we do and is enthusiastic about life in general; I can teach them anything. It’s just, you need that fundamental base.
John: I love that. That’s awesome. I love how you’re nurturing the whole person and how can we better serve them, training for life, beyond just the technical skills of the work that happens here. That’s so fantastic. That’s awesome. Just imagine if investment banking companies did that.
Barbara: If every company did that.
John: Yeah, or if every company, then it would be just a great place to be, everywhere. That would be super awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that has a hobby that they’re like, it has nothing to do with my job and no one’s going to care?
Barbara: Look, I’ve fallen into so many times where I haven’t pursued hobbies, and I’ve worked, worked, worked. We’ve all done it. You think, I’m too busy, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I spent years doing that. Don’t do that. Go and, what was it you said, get out there and let it —
John: Let it rip.
Barbara: Whatever it is.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: Obviously, some people can get addicted and not do any work, but use it to fuel better work. Your energy fields will open up. All your chakras will open up. Everything will be lighter. You’ll come back. You’ll solve problems while you’re on the mountain or while you’re out gardening or whatever it is that is your thing. You have to pursue it. It’s so important for your own success in every part of your life, not just personal life, but business as well.
John: That’s so perfect. I love that. That’s awesome. Well, it’s only fair, before I wrap this up, that I turned the tables because I so rudely peppered you with questions in the beginning. So, this is the first episode of The Barbara Turley podcast. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for having me on as your first guest. I appreciate it, Barbara. You didn’t really have a choice. I just made it my own. Did you have any questions for me?
Barbara: I do.
Barbara: Groomed or powder.
John: Oh, wow. Okay, okay.
Barbara: On-piste or off-piste? I think I know the answer but.
John: I don’t know. Powder’s always fun. You just get to carve your own way. That’s always fun. Yeah, make your own path, which I guess I’ve done accidentally in life. There you go.
John: Oh, books or podcasts. I’m a books guy. Yeah, I really don’t listen to too many podcasts, ironically enough, so, yeah, books, in the paperback or hardcover in my handbooks.
Barbara: Oh, really? Yeah.
John: I do agree with your Kindle. You can carry the whole library with you wherever you are, which is always handy, but I guess if I had my druthers, I guess I would pick holding it in my hand.
Barbara: I have two very young children. I have a four-year-old and one-year-old. If I didn’t have those, I’d probably be with you on that. Since I have those, the podcast, I can only get half-an-hour podcast on double time.
John: Exactly, exactly. Squeeze it all in. Well, this has been so much fun, Barbara, happy to be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much.
Barbara: Thanks for having me.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Barbara in action or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and also buy the book. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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.
Tony is an Accountant & Skier & Lifeguard Coach
Tony Nitti returns from episode #100 to talk about his shift in hobbies from professional mountain bike racing to lifeguard coaching, how the pandemic has affected the industry, and why its so important to have interests outside of work, especially when working remotely!
• Why he stopped mountain bike racing professionally
• Coaching lifeguards
• How having outside interests can help your career
• Battling burnout
• How the extended tax season affected him
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 300 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and 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 have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in September. It’ll be available on Amazon, Indigo, Bookshop and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list, and you’ll be the first to know when it comes out.
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 Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Tony Nitti. He’s a partner with RubinBrown, and now he’s with me here today. Tony, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Tony: John, good to be back. I think it was all the way back at Episode 100 when we last got together.
John: Exactly, man, yeah, and then we’ll have you back for 500. You’re the hundreds. You’re the aughts, I guess.
Tony: Keep the round numbers going for me.
John: Yeah, it’s just easy to remember. It’s easy to remember, but now I do the rapid-fire questions upfront. So, I’ve got seven, probably questions I should’ve asked you the first time but didn’t. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Tony: Game of Thrones. I’ve never seen a moment of Harry Potter yet, so this is almost by default.
John: Okay, okay. This is a tricky one, oceans or mountains.
Tony: Well, we’ll get into this, but I got to put my answer right down the middle. I love them both, equally.
John: Okay, fair enough, fair enough. How about a favorite cereal even when you were a kid?
Tony: I’m a Captain Crunch guy, through and through, as what Americans should be.
John: Right, right. I think the red blood is at the roof of your mouth when you eat Captain Crunch. That’s the… Okay, this is a tricky one too, suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt.
Tony: You know, I’ve gone back and forth in my career through this, but I’ve been gravitating to a suit and tie lately, so I’m going to pick that.
John: Yeah, because when we hung out in Denver at the conference last year, you were looking dapper, man.
Tony: I did.
John: Nice suit. All right, this is a good one, East Coast guy, a good hamburger or a good pizza.
Tony: Good pizza.
John: Yeah. Two more, favorite Disney character.
Tony: You know, that’s interesting. I don’t know if anyone’s given you this response before, and I’ll probably take some heat for this, but I’ve always been a fan of Aladdin. When I say Aladdin, I mean, actual Aladdin and not the genie from Aladdin.
John: Chris Ekimoff just gave me Aladdin, actually, just a couple weeks ago, because he was wearing — he likes the vest, and he was wearing a fleece vest at the time. It was just — yeah, but Aladdin, that’s a solid answer, man. It’s a great story and good music. Yeah. That’s a great character. All right, the last one, this one may be the most important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under.
Tony: Well, with my two kids, I would just be happy with either. As soon as I’ve trained them to start using toilet paper then we’re heading in the right direction. For me, it’s overhand or it’s nothing.
John: Right, right. There you go. There you go. Well, yeah, like you said, Episode 100, God bless you for being on that early. We talked mountain biking. We talked — I mean, that skiing where you hike up and you’re the only one that’s ever been down this trail of skiing. Is that still stuff that you’re actively doing?
Tony: It is. I stopped racing professionally, cross-country mountain biking, in 2018, and probably for reasons that will come full circle in our conversation today. I really burned myself out. I was 43 years old, racing against 23-year-olds, and it took a real toll on me, physically, for obvious reasons.
I had worked so hard towards a goal, and this is something I’m sure your listeners can connect with on a variety of levels, but I’ve worked so hard towards a goal that eventually, someday, you look up and say, I’m not sure this even makes me happy anymore. My body’s taking a beating, but I enjoyed it. I liked being good at something but, at some point, you got to move onto the next thing.
I still ride all the time when I’m in Colorado, which is most of the year, but it’s still not quite a bit. Once or twice a year, I’ll pop into a race just to get the blood flowing again. I still backcountry ski quite a bit, although my forever favorite backcountry ski partner, my yellow Lab, Macy, is now 13, so she can’t be my partner anymore. That definitely drains some of my enthusiasm for the sport.
Yeah, so I am still just as passionate about those things, but going back to your your rapid-fire question, oceans or mountains. Just through a twist of fate in my life at this point, the way things are going for me is I spend the school years in Aspen and then I spend the summers with my wife and kids on the Jersey Shore. I’m sitting there, right now, about a block and a half from the ocean. I am just as passionate about playing in the ocean as I am in the mountains.
I do some selfish things. I surf quite a bit. I swim in the ocean. We’ll get into this, but I have a long connection with the ocean lifeguards in this township, a little town called Surf City. I lifeguarded for a long time. There’s been a Nitti on the Surf City Beach Patrol for, I think, since the mid ‘80s, from my brothers, to me, to my niece, so, yeah, we’ve got a long history down here.
What I do now that, honestly, I think brings me more joy than probably any of the outdoor pursuits I’ve had is, every morning, I get up early, and I go out and coach the next generation of ocean lifeguards. We have what’s called a Lifeguard-In-Training Program here in Surf City, and we’ve got 30 10-to-15-year-old kids that, every morning, go out there. We put them through the ropes and learn how to make rescue, do CPR and read riptides and use a paddle board, and it’s so freaking fun.
John: That’s awesome.
Tony: It certainly keeps you fit, but just the kids, the energy of being around kids and how stoked they get when they figure something out or something clicks for them, it’s just the greatest feeling in the world. It doesn’t hurt that my 11-year-old boy, Ryan, is in the program, right? It’s more time I get to spend with him.
There are a few things, John, that’ll keep you feeling balanced and young and waking up in the morning, throwing some zinc oxide on your nose and being an idiot and going out, playing in the ocean for a couple hours and teaching the kids how to ride waves on their knees on paddle boards and stuff like that. It’s just so incredibly fun.
I don’t know how I got to this point. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I am in a great place where, whether I’m at 8,000 feet in Aspen or at sea level here in New Jersey, I’ve got a lot of things around me that keeps me super balanced and fulfilled and really happy again.
John: And can bring you energy. The ocean itself, and the mountains, nature is so powerful to just be around and just be grateful for being alive and what you have, type of thing. That’s cool.
Tony: It is, man. It sounds a little hokey, but like this morning’s round, I’m out there on my surfboard by myself in the morning and a pod of dolphins will swing by. You’re like, this is pretty damn cool.
John: Right, totally.
Tony: Today, I was out there, and seven pelicans dive-bombed and started swooping up some bunkers that were swimming near by me. It’s just like, yeah, that type of being immersed in nature is what I love. It’s what I love about the ocean, and I’m just super grateful to have both.
John: That’s awesome, man. Yeah, at any point, do you go, “Hasselhoff has nothing on me”? At any point, were you —
Tony: Yeah, for a couple hours down, full Hasselhoff right now. My son is mortified, but part of coaching the program is to keep it light and make the kids happy, so, yeah. Like I said, I’m the one with the zinc on the nose and under the eye. I’m the one teaching the kids in a moment of levity that, look, nobody’s going to remember the rescue, but they’re going to remember is how good your hair looked when you exited the water.
Always make sure you keep it tight. My son spends half the time, mortified by it, but I’ve got a long time, making rescues on the beach. Like I said, I know what’s really important, and what’s important is how the sun glistens off your shaved chest as you run down the beach to save them.
John: Right. Different angle, I got to go back, hold on.
Tony: Hold on a minute, let’s do that again.
John: Are you really drowning or just kind of? Because I got to go — hold on. That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool, really cool. Especially now, with everything that’s happening in your world, the tax world, there’s extended tax deadlines, people working from home or kind of, whatever, trying to hold it together. How important do you think it is these hobbies and passions are to sanity?
Tony: It’s really cool that you asked that because when you and I talked a couple years ago now, we were focused on really, in an industry where I am, public accounting, tax law, and an industry where, sometimes, having balance or being well-rounded is almost viewed as a detriment to career growth. We were talking about how, no, no, no, we shouldn’t be looking at it that way. Having balance, having outside interest, they should help you in your job. They should help you at your firm. They should help you attract clients and maintain clients because people see you’re a real human being.
None of those things have stopped being important. They’re all important, but right now, I think you nailed it. I think, right now, we need to have balance. We need to find things we’re passionate about because if we don’t, we’re going to crack. I just mean mentally forget what it does for your firm, forget what it does for your clients, what it does for you because what I’m seeing right now around the industry is a historic and apocalyptic level of burnout. It’s completely justified, John, when you think about it.
Let’s think about the last few months. We started busy season in the end of January, thinking it’s just going to be like any other busy season. We’re going to crank out returns for three months, but then it’s going to be over, and we’ll get a nice long break. Then March comes around, and tax season gets delayed ‘til July 15th where, hey, maybe an outsider looks at that and says, okay, well, the tax industry got to shut down from March until July. That’s the exact opposite of what happened.
The reason tax season got delayed, obviously, is because of a global pandemic. That global pandemic caused a lot of legislation to be passed here in the US, and a lot of that legislation is driven by the tax law. So, yeah, our tax returns that we had to file weren’t due right around the corner, but all of a sudden, we had to grasp 800-page pieces of legislation —
Tony: — sometimes in a matter of days to make sense of it before clients started knocking down the door to say, “What does this mean to me?” So, I will tell you that I went through a one month stretch from the middle of March to the middle of April where, quite honestly, I worked more hours than I had any point since I was a 22-year-old kid working for Arthur Andersen, right?
Tony: It was insane. Then when that kind of, sort of lessens up about a month ago, you go, wait a minute. Now that July 15th deadline has come home to roost. So, pour back into that and then as soon as July 15th is done, the extended deadline is only 60 days away, so it’s not like we get any reprieve.
We have been, as an industry, in this extended mode of fight or flight. We’re busy, we’re busy, we’ve got to figure this out, we’ve got to get this done, we’ve got to figure — there has been zero downtime for most tax professionals since the end of January, and it’s really hard to maintain that kind of pace.
John: Totally. It’s like layers on top of layers because not only is there that work part, but then there’s just a hectic, helter-skelter — everyone has to work from home now, but you’re not working from home alone because your spouse is working from home. Your kids are home-schooled. It’s just layer upon layer of just added difficulty, I guess, and so hard.
Tony: Let’s think about that. I would argue that the extended tax season, the workload that I just explained, yeah, that’s tough, don’t get me wrong, but, as you said, it’s a perfect storm where we have that sense of obligation and constant pressure, coupled with this new reality of working from home. Okay, working from home, I’ve been working remotely since 2006. I’m no stranger to working remotely, but as soon as the whole industry went remote in March, I was on a podcast, Damien Martin, Simply Tax.
John: He’s been on the show. He’s amazing jazz pianist.
Tony: I know.
John: Amazing jazz pianist.
Tony: I think he’s a Music major undergrad.
Tony: We were talking about what to expect and I — listen, my long and glorious history as a sports bettor will prove that I have no skills at prognostication. This particular one, I got right, John. I nailed it. I said, “Damien, people got to be careful what they wish for.” Everyone likes the idea of working remotely, but here’s what happens.
When you work remotely and everyone at your firm worked remotely, trust me, it doesn’t take long. What happens is there ceases to be any delineation between when your workday starts, when it ends; or even when your workweek starts and when it ends, because what happens is everybody’s going to choose the periods of work that’s best for them.
Maybe for you, it’s 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Okay, great. You work diligently during that time, but your coworkers and your team, their best time is from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. They’re going to work that time. So, you shut down your day, so to speak, but now you start getting pinged with emails, left and right. If you ignore those emails, you wake up the next morning to start your day, and you feel behind before the day even starts. You’re overwhelmed with emails.
Over time, you’ve got to remember, obviously, we didn’t suddenly go to remote working because the industry of public accounting had an epiphany and thought it was the way to go. We did it because there’s a global pandemic, and nobody left their house for three months. Well, when nobody leaves their house, what happens? Again, everybody chooses the workday, the workweek that’s best for them, and they have an expectation that, hey, I’m housebound, so you must be housebound.
This really happened to me. Someone will ping me on a Sunday night at 7:00 and say, “Can we jump on a call?” Now, that would never happen in the normal tax season, right? Normal tax season is terrible, don’t get me wrong, but when you walk out the door at 8:00 at night, 9:00 at night, you can pretty much well trust that you’ll be left alone. Sundays, you can more or less trust that you’ll be left alone.
Reality is everybody kind of accepted pretty quickly in the pandemic that days don’t matter anymore. How is Sunday afternoon any different than Tuesday morning? So, all of a sudden, I’m doing conference calls on Sunday nights and at 7 am and whatever it may be. I made this kind of joke with Damien, and it totally came to fruition where everyone goes remotely. What will happen to the Accounting industry is that basically we’ll be like 7-11. We won’t always be doing business, individually, but you’ll always be open. You’ll always feel like, I can never shut down. I can never know that my workday is over. I can never know that, oh, I’ve got some time to myself.
That, when you take that, when you talk about a heightened fight-or-flight instinct, like I said, when you don’t know when your workweek starts or your workweek ends or your day starts or your day ends, you are constantly in a state of just, anxiety, expectation. What is going to be asked of me next? When do I get to sneak away? It’s too much, man. It’s too much to handle.
I referenced earlier in our conversation here that I eventually worked so hard at trying to be a mountain bike racer that I lost the joy for it and burned out. I just think that as an industry, right now, with what we’re dealing with, the combination, the perfect storm of a seven-month extended tax season, coupled with this new reality of working from home and never knowing when it’s okay to relax and shut it down because your next email is always right around the corner or your next Zoom meeting is right around the corner; I think around the industry, we are going to see, as I said, historic levels of burnout if people can’t take the one real positive of working remotely.
Why did people long to work remotely? So they could embrace what they’re passionate about. They could have flexibility. So, people have to, I mean, have to make it a priority to say, “I understand that there’s no delineation anymore, but I’m going to carve out the time that I need in my day to do whatever it is that makes my soul flourish.” Because if you don’t, if you don’t, like I said, people are going to just wane out of this industry because you can only answer so many PPP loan questions —
Tony: — peruse the SBA website and try to keep up with new guidance from the IRS. It’s too much to ask.
John: You’re totally right. Actually, a study that I have in my book, from Duke University, talks about how people that have more dimensions to their life are less prone to anxiety and depression because it’s not all one thing. So, if you have these other things then — and I think leaders of companies and firms need to allow their people to have time or even explicitly say, “You have to take time to do this,” because, yeah, mentally, you’re going to burnout.
Tony: Well, I’ll make a confession. I am someone who’s very prone to anxiety and that self-imposed pressure that I think a lot of people in the industry feel. When you take someone that’s predisposed to those things and put them in the environment, like we’ve had for the last four or five months, it’s a dangerous cocktail because, again, for me, I feel the weight of expectation at all times. Oh, my God, did something get announced today by the SBA or the IRS that I should be writing about or that I should be communicating to my firm or I should be preparing to teach about? It weighs on you because, again, you feel like you’re in a 24-hour cycle of work, and that’s too much for anybody to reasonably sustain for a period of time.
So, I really needed what I was handed recently which is, again, to switch gears, leave the mountains, come to the ocean and hit the reset button and just put something back into my life that was as far removed from PPP loans as you can get. Quite frankly, teaching 12-year-olds how to body surf is probably about as far as you can get from that stuff. It’s a small part of my day, but it allows me to approach the rest of my day with the type of motivation that I would like to. Whereas, I was heading down a dangerous path in March, April, May, of, again, the weight of expectation and pressure just becoming too much.
John: No, that’s awesome to hear. That’s awesome to hear. Plus, you grew up in that area, so that’s just a cool thing. That’s a really cool thing. Well, this has been really powerful, Tony. I hope that people listening understand, before, yeah, hobbies, passions, whatever, it’s really, really crucial. It’s not a joke. It’s not a joke.
Tony: Now, more than ever. I know we said that, but I just want to stress it one more time. We’re working remotely. It may be the new normal for a while. I know that working remotely can feel, like I said, like it’s a 24-hour cycle and you can never just escape, but it is the one positive of remote working is that given a 24-hour day, there’s no reason you can’t find an hour two to go do what you need to do to unplug and just, again, disconnect from what we do all day and find something the polar opposite that just makes you feel alive and revitalized and go do it. Because if you don’t, it’s not sustainable. You’re not going to last.
I’m living proof of that, John. We’ve joked about this in the past. I haven’t burned out in the industry yet. I’ve come dangerously close a couple times. I’ve taken on athletic pursuits and things like that in my life where I have started out loving them and then got so singularly focused and obsessed with them that I grew to hate them and burned out and quit. I just see people right now all around the industry, and I’m one of them, being forced to be so singularly focused and so, again, so constant in fight-or-flight mode about the job and the performance and what’s expected of them that the same possibility exists that they just grow to hate what they do every day. Nobody wants that.
John: Nobody wants that. Engagement goes down, people start to become completely not even attached to the job and just leave, leave the profession, which is terrible. I think this applies to so many other professions as well, lawyers and engineers. Maybe the tax season is an added bonus, but all of them are — I mean, it’s a lot on a human being to have to handle.
This is great, Tony. It’s only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me, if you would like, since I so rudely started peppering you in the beginning. So, if you have two or three questions you want to ask, it’s now the Tony Nitti Show, here we go.
Tony: Okay, I’m going to give you a couple of yes-or-no questions, and I’m genuinely interested. Ready? Come fall, will there be NFL football?
John: Maybe. This is my prognostication, my Nostradamus moment.
John: Yeah, I think there will be.
Tony: Will there be Division One — well, they don’t call it Division One anymore — FBS, college football?
John: College football, there better be, yes. Because if not, that’s where I start to lose my mind. That’s mine. The bad thing about that is if college football doesn’t happen, there’s not money for all the other sports the rest of the year.
Tony: Those are the two questions — I know you’re a big Notre Dame fan — those questions that my brother and I kick around every single day because we just can’t imagine the reality of fall without football. That’s a very real prospect right now. It’s just hard to envision a scenario where 90,000 people are packed into the University of Michigan State.
John: Well, first of all, that’s a terrible example. No, I’m just teasing just as a Notre Dame fan. I think that there will be reduced attendance at the stadium, like maybe a quarter capacity. I do think that as long as the games are happening, then at least there’s some semblance of normalcy.
Tony: Do you think there’s any scenario where fall football is pushed to spring?
John: I did read that. Yeah, I think there is a scenario where that could be. Yeah, I don’t know. That’ll be weird just because now there are two football seasons, six months apart. Then the draft, with the combine, is right after the season. Kids get injured then they just lost tens of millions of dollars, and maybe they just don’t play then. It’s weird. It’s a weird thing. Or maybe they find a treatment, and we can all just go back.
Tony: That would be lovely, definitely. Trust me, I want more than anything for football to be back. One thing I do find really fascinating is if this season, college season didn’t happen at all, what that would do to the NFL draft next year. These teams would be forced to draft on two years old information. That’s confrontation for another day, Mr. Garrett.
John: That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much, Tony, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It’s so much fun.
Tony: All right. Thanks, John. I’ll see you on Episode 500.
John: Awesome, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Tony in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
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.
Ilya is a CMO & Skier
Ilya Radzinsky is a co-founder of TaxDome, a 360° solution for tax and accounting professionals to manage their business. Project Management, Invoicing, Client Portal, Mobile App, Workflow, Website, Secure Document Storage, etc.
Ilya talks about his passion for skiing and how his balance on risk assessment applies both in the office and on the mountains. He also talks about how workplace cultures have changed overall with a demand for more purposeful roles!
• Getting into skiing
• Ilya’s favorite place to ski
• Risk management with skiing and software development
• Organizing ski trips with colleagues and friends
• The changing expectations of workplace culture
• How TaxDome encourages employees to share hobbies
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 257 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 your technical skills and the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know my book’s being published in just a little bit. 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 and changing the cultures where they work because of it. The book’s really going to help spread that message far and wide. Also, please don’t forget to hit subscribe on the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Ilya Radzinsky. He’s the co-founder of TaxDome. Now, he’s with me here today. Ilya, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ilya: Oh, I’m so excited. Thank you so much.
John: No, I appreciate it. A listener of the show and you reached out to be a guest. So I love it, man. I think it’s awesome. As you know, the drill is 17 rapid-fire questions right out of the gate, get to know Ilya right away.
Ilya: Do it.
John: All right. Good. I like that confidence. All right. Here we go. Favorite color?
John: Oh, nice. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Violet? Okay, very specific. I like that. All right. How about more pens or pencils?
Ilya: Definitely pens, zero pencils.
John: Okay. And puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Ilya: I’m terrible at both, but I’ll take crossword.
John: Okay. All right. How about when you fly on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?
Ilya: Over four hours, window. Under four hours, aisle.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. I like that. All right. How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Ilya: Charlize Theron and Jack Nicklaus.
John: Oh, okay. There you go. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Ilya: Ooh, early bird.
John: Early bird? Okay. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ilya: Star Wars.
John: Yeah. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Ilya: Oh, Mac all the way.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. I have no idea how to do that, so good for you. Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Interesting. Okay. All right. More suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Ilya: Definitely jeans and a t-shirt.
John: Okay. I wasn’t sure with the New York City if you had suited it up, but I guess you did it one too many times.
John: Right. Since you’re in New York, I have to ask favorite toppings on a pizza?
John: Mushroom? Okay. And that’s it?
John: There you go. All right. Prefer more hot or cold?
Ilya: Ooh, cold.
John: Okay. How about a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason why?
Ilya: No. My brother is turning 42 next year.
John: Oh, nice little dig there. I see what you did there. That’s good. Like a little, “You’re getting old, man.” How about a favorite adult beverage?
John: Okay. Nice. We got two more. More oceans or mountains?
John: Mountains. Yeah. I figured that’d be an easy one. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Ilya: I’m going to say my electric boot heaters for skiing.
John: For your ski boots? Okay.
John: Nice. So you plug them into the wall and then they heat up the boots. Plus, I guess it makes them a little bit pliable as well, right?
Ilya: Well, not just that. They stay warm all day long. So your toes stay warm even though you’re in the snow.
John: Oh, okay. So this is full-on. They’re staying warm all the time, not just warming them up.
Ilya: Yeah. This is high-tech.
John: That’s fancy. That’s like skiing in a Ferrari. That’s fantastic. I like it. Awesome, man. And that dovetails perfectly right into your passion of skiing. Did you grow up skiing or was it something that you got into later?
Ilya: I skied a few times as a child. My parents went to Lake Placid for New Years when I was maybe eight or nine years old. I went four or five times and I liked it, but I didn’t really fall in love with it. Then I didn’t really ski until my mid-20s. Then something happened and it’s probably my favorite thing to do. So my winters are very focused around any time I can go skiing.
John: Wow, that’s awesome. Then is there a place that you like to go? Living in New York City, I guess somewhere East Coast, I imagine?
Ilya: No. Actually, quite the opposite. I’m a bit of a ski snob. I’m always traveling for skiing, whether it’s the West Coast or I go ski in Europe. Every year, I try to do a road trip out west. I guess this is a bit of a plug for some of the ski mountains. But basically, they have these passes, which allow you to ski at multiple mountains. So what I do is I’ll do a road trip with some friends where we fly to either Denver or Salt Lake. Then we’ll essentially make a big road trip out of it. Go to Wyoming, go to Sun Valley, Idaho. We’ll do about a two-week trip and combine those.
John: That’s awesome. And it’s with friends as well. So it’s not just going solo.
Ilya: Yeah. Some people are different. I’m a fairly social person. So I definitely like skiing with friends more than by myself.
John: No, for sure. Do you have a favorite place in the world that you skied?
Ilya: Actually, Alta in Utah is my favorite place. Some people might not like this, but they don’t allow snowboarders, which means there’s a lot less people in the mountain.
John: Oh, there you go.
Ilya: I’m a skier. So that’s actually one of the few — I think there’s maybe only two mountains left in America that don’t allow snowboarders. But it leads to a pretty awesome skiing experience. And it’s super challenging terrain. I love all of them.
John: That’s really great. Are you a double black diamond level skier? Or what do you prefer?
Ilya: I think skiing is one of those things that no matter how good you are, there’s someone a million times better. I can ski the whole mountain, but that still makes me, especially in Alta, a relatively new compared to a lot of the local there. I can ski most things, but that still doesn’t make you an amazing skier.
John: There’s some Olympian that just flies by you on one ski going backwards and you’re like, “What the…”
Ilya: And she’s 11 years old.
John: Exactly. I’ve been there. Living in Denver going up in the mountains here, it’s like, “Ah, forget it.” You have to just stay in your own lane, just trying to get better myself. I’m not trying to be better than everyone else, just better than the last time I was out there. Yeah. That’s really how you have to look at it, I think. So would you say that skiing gives you a skill that you bring the work?
Ilya: I think so. Skiing is really interesting. I’m both very risk-averse while skiing and at the same time, a little crazy. I take a bit of risk sometimes. But I try to make it as controlled as possible. You can get down the mountain in a lot of different ways, but I’m always very focused on the technique and trying to improve that versus going faster, for instance. So the same thing when we’re building software is we really want to be methodical, but at the same time, you do have to push the boundaries a little bit because otherwise, you won’t really make much progress.
John: That’s a really interesting parallel because I mean, like you said, there are many different ways to go down the mountain and several of them don’t involve skis at all, head over heels. There’s that or on your butt. But that’s true because I mean if you don’t push yourself or if you’re not a little bit “crazy,” then it’s playing it too safe and then growth doesn’t really happen. And you don’t develop those skills or grow in skiing or at work.
Ilya: Yeah, definitely.
John: Yeah. And especially with what you guys are doing where it’s building a company, that’s definitely needed to push yourself out of the comfort zone.
Ilya: Yeah, exactly. Our clients, they want to see improvement over other systems. And if you play it too safe, you’re just going to build the same exact thing that already exists. But at the same time, you don’t want to introduce something too radical where they’re not used to it and they have to relearn. The fastest way between two places is a straight line. So trying to make something really flexible but at the same time really easy to use is quite a challenge.
John: That’s interesting. And it’s exactly skiing for sure. Is this something that you talk about at work?
Ilya: Yeah. I mean, well, just more not from an approach perspective but more so just others like to ski and it’s just a topic we bring up. But especially amongst my friends, it’s definitely something that we’re all big fans of. I think it’s funny. Skiing is one of the few things that you can continue to do for many, many years, right? Especially if you’re an athlete, as a younger athlete, you generally drop off in your 20s and 30s as you get older, especially team sports or anything like that. Whereas skiing is something you can do with your spouse, with your partner, with your kids. It’s something that you can do for many, many, many years. That’s also why I invest so much in it because I do see this as something that I continue doing hopefully into my older years.
John: At least 42. I mean you know. I’m teasing. No, but that’s true. And it’s something that you’re able to talk about. I mean as the co-founder, that’s cool that you’re humanizing yourself because for some people, it can be intimidating being around someone who’s the co-founder of a company. Was skiing something that you talked about even prior to founding TaxDome?
Ilya: Yeah. We’ve built TaxDome three years ago, but the idea has existed for about ten years. And I’ve been skiing for quite a bit longer than that. My brother is actually my co-founder. We both share love for skiing. He’s actually skiing right now as we speak.
John: Then even when you first got out of college and started your career, do you feel like those relationships with people that you were able to talk skiing with were different than other people in the office?
Ilya: Maybe. Once you’re an adult and you make the choice to go skiing as opposed to your parents bringing you, it really requires you to really want to go because number one, it’s fairly cost prohibitive. So unless you really want to do it, it maybe will just skirt away. Number two, especially if you live in New York, you have to travel a lot. You’re living in Denver. It’s easy for you, relatively easy.
John: An hour drive. Yeah.
Ilya: Exactly. Whereas for us, you really, really got to put forth a lot of effort. And many people also don’t want to use their vacation days for it. So the people that I go on these ski trips with and the people that I plan these big trips with, for all of us, it’s really something that we’re super excited about. It’s really one of the highlights of our year. So I think that changes your perspective on it than when, say, you’re maybe 12 years old and your parents bring you and you’re just going because that’s what everybody’s doing.
John: Yeah. No, it does, for sure. But I mean it sounds like you being so social that, especially creating these trips and bringing people along and things like that, that it just creates a different dynamic.
Ilya: Oh, definitely, definitely. I’ve organized several of these ski trips actually, the trip this year with 24 people going.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Ilya: We have two houses next to each other and not everybody knows each other. I even know probably maybe 16 or 17 of the people. So there’s some new people. Some bring plus one. Some people bring their friends. It really is a great connection. Every year, I try to — back in New York, I’ve done it for six years now. I organized a friendsgiving. I have all of our friends in New York. It’s become a thing that I really look forward to. I bring my parents. My fiancée brings her parents. We’ve got a pretty big event. I’ve generally really liked to bring people together.
But what I realized is that when you do bring people together, you have to make people buy in. I think that’s something that is really important. It’s that people have to feel that there’s a reason that they’re there. There’s a purpose. It’s not just — I’m not just coming to dinner, but there’s something bigger behind it. For instance, in the friendsgiving, what we do is we make everybody bring a dish. And it’s gotten fairly competitive. Because it’s one thing that people just come to dinner, but it’s another when people feel that their dishes are on display. So then they’re not coming to my house for dinner. They’re hosting a dinner. Then everyone that comes becomes a host. So all these people that come, they’ve all become better friends. I’m a big believer in bringing people together.
John: It’s awesome, man. And it’s bringing people together through food and fun and not necessarily in the office. Because I mean I’m sure that some of these people are co workers. But yeah, it’s outside the office. It’s where that real connection happens, which is great.
Ilya: But you’d be surprised that those can turn into — relationships can change and people that were your friends can become your business partners. People that were your business partners can become your romantic partners. I mean your relationship change over time. And it’s good to be friendly. You never know where life leads you.
John: Right. It sounds like a Hugh Grant movie or something based in New York friendsgiving, right? It’s just one of those like Love Actually Part Four or something. No, but that’s cool, man.
Ilya: I’m working on my accent.
John: Right. There you go. I think this is really interesting because I mean as the co-founder of an organization, how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create a culture where it’s okay for people to have other dimensions to their life besides all work? Or how much is it on the individual to buy into that or just create their own little circle amongst their peers?
Ilya: I think work in that way has changed a lot because people today expect a different relationship with their jobs than they used to. I think people today, at least millennials more so, want to feel fulfillment and they don’t just see a job as a means to an end. They want to enjoy going to work. They want to feel purpose behind whatever their job is. And I think that that’s just becoming a more bigger part of a job role other than just your salary or anything like that. So anytime a company can create a culture around that and incentivize people to bring their personalities, to feel at home at work, so to speak, that they don’t have to be somebody completely different, but they can be themselves, I think that really fosters a great work environment.
John: No, I love that. To feel at home at work, what a great concept. I mean the fact that that’s so foreign is alarming. It’s like you want people to be comfortable because they’re more productive and more invested.
Ilya: There’s a balance, right? Because I think there’s also a push back towards the companies that were doing that originally. So you have, say, the Googles and the Facebooks and these big companies that used to provide — or still do probably — free lunch and free daycare and all these things that now some people look at that as actually a negative because they’re essentially using that to keep you at work the whole time. So it’s a balance between your staff and your team feeling that they’re not essentially being trapped into being there but that they generally feel a purpose behind what they’re doing.
John: That’s exactly it. I mean I feel like people have these other interests and it’s okay for us to say that we have other interests. Yeah, sure, we’re good at our job and we want to do a good job over there. But we also are doing it so we can make money and go do cool stuff.
Ilya: I was so impressed. So many people on our team are musicians.
John: Oh, wow.
Ilya: We kind of have like a little karaoke thing. And everybody, it was just so impressive. I mean I can’t sing or —
John: Yeah. Me either, man.
Ilya: I’m the least musical person ever. And they were just all amazing. I was blown away. I’m glad they were able to share that with us and felt comfortable enough to sing and bring their musical talents to work.
John: Right. It probably lights them up in such a big way when they’re able to shine like that. Yeah. Now, you look at them differently in a good way where it’s like, “Wow, you have some serious talent. This is amazing. How can we utilize that maybe in a creative way at the company while you’re at work?” It’s a cool thing. That’s awesome, man. That’s really cool.
Ilya: We have guitars in the conference room.
John: There you go. I mean that’s a perfect example of something that — yeah, sure, the companies that you mentioned have the free lunches or daycare or things like that. But if no one has kids or if no one — it doesn’t matter. But the fact that you have musicians and there are guitars, it’s like, “Here. Go play. We want you to do this,” type of a thing, which is really awesome that you guys have that. That’s cool. Is there anything else that you guys do specifically to encourage people to share their hobbies and passions?
Ilya: Not as much outside of that. But what we try to do is we try to have a very open communication, very flat structure so that no matter how senior you are, you can still voice your opinion. and we try to make everybody feel heard. I think that’s important on every level.
John: No, that’s for sure. For some reason, that’s hard for people to get over. Is it just checking your ego aside a little bit? Or what’s the secret to that?
Ilya: I think just being really conscious of it because inevitably, it’s really easy to dismiss someone if you feel they’re more junior than you or if you feel that they’re wrong. So I think it’s being able to listen because what you thought they might say at first might not be what they really meant. So to let the person say their thoughts because odds are there might be something really interesting behind there. I think just really trying to listen and especially if you’re more senior in a meeting, letting people speak before you. You say your mind because then otherwise, they just might not share after.
John: Right. Yeah. Because you can intimidate people for sure. I mean it’s just what happens. I mean we were once those people early on. I mean I remember what it was like. It’s hard to remember that that’s how people look at us now type of a thing, no matter what level we’re at. So that’s really cool that you guys have that there. That’s awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that think, “Hey, I’ve got a hobby or a passion. No one cares and it probably has nothing to do with my job.”
Ilya: I think, A, people do care because they have their own. And I think by sharing it and by talking to your co-workers about things outside of work, you’ll build stronger bonds. And they might share their own hobby and passion with you. You never know where your hobbies actually might intertwine. So you don’t want to build connections at work, build connections everywhere because if you leave work, that person might stay a friend of yours even after you leave.
John: And that’s the thing that I’ve also discovered through my research. It’s just that your skiing passion was with you before you started TaxDome and whatever job you had before that and whatever. Even if you get promoted within the company and moved to a different company, you’re always a skier. You started TaxDome, still a skier. That’s the one thing that is actually grounding you. Everything else is changing. The skills you’re using, the work that you’re doing change, change, change. But that’s the one thing that has it. Yeah. And it’s really important, I think, in this day and age with mental wellness and things like that that people have something to at least anchor them a little bit, the eye of the hurricane sort of a thing, if you will or it’s called. Yeah. It’s got to be peaceful when you’re at the top of the mountain like that.
Ilya: Yeah. It’s easy to get sucked into work. And we all need our own — whatever that is, but our own distractions to keep us interested outside of it.
John: No, I love it, man. This has been really great. But since I so rudely fired away at you right out of the beginning with my rapid-fire questions, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you come back at me. So whenever you’re ready.
Ilya: Okay. Denver or Brooklyn, which do you prefer?
John: I’m going to go Denver, man. Maybe to visit New York City is the ideal. But after living there almost ten years, that’s not a visit. That was too long for me. Yeah. Denver’s nice.
Ilya: Got it. Biking or skateboarding?
John: Oh, wow. Okay. I’m probably going to go biking just for safety’s sake because, yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done the skateboarding.
Ilya: Okay. Favorite vacation spot?
John: Favorite vacation spot? Well, Costa Rica is pretty awesome and so is Cape Town, South Africa.
Ilya: Oh, nice.
John: So I don’t know if it’s just the letter C or what it is. But yeah, both of those are pretty fantastic. That’s for sure.
Ilya: Okay. And dinner guest, anyone alive or dead?
John: Anyone? Oh, man. This is a lot. I don’t know. This is going to be a little sentimental. But my grandfather, he passed away probably five years ago. He was six weeks shy of 100. He was a pretty awesome dude. He was in D-Day plus 12 and all kinds of cool stuff. Yeah. He was just a really, really cool guy. I just enjoyed being around him. So that would be neat to do that again. I don’t know if that’s too cheesy.
Ilya: No, no. No, I hear you, man. And one final, what one is your favorite dish?
John: Favorite dish? Lasagna is always good. A really good pizza, I guess. Yeah. I don’t know. Lasagna’s always good though because it’s hard to mess it up. Maybe that’s why. It doesn’t even have to look pretty. It’s all good. Yeah. I mean I don’t know if ice cream counts as a dish actually. That probably should have been my answer, to be honest. Ice cream for sure.
Ilya: We’ll do some lasagna and coffee ice cream when we’re in Denver.
John: No, that’d be awesome, man. Next time you come through, for sure, and all 23 of your other road trip warriors. Very cool. Well, thank you so much, Ilya, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was so much fun.
Ilya: This is awesome. Thanks, man.
John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ilya skiing or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the pictures are there and all the links as well. 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.
Greg is a CEO & Mountain Biker
Greg is a past Chairman of the AICPA, is a founding partner of ACM LLP a member firm of BDO Alliance USA and has helped lead ACM in becoming a premier CPA firm in the Rocky Mountain Region having been named a “Fastest Growing Private Company” and a “Best Company to Work For”.
Greg talks about his passion for mountain biking and skiing and how he integrates these passions into his professional life. He also talks about why it can be easier to default to a ‘technical mode’ in the office and how his early learning difficulties helped him develop the ability to establish relationships!
• Getting into mountain biking
• Integrating work and his passions
• Learning vulnerability
• Why ‘technical mode’ is default at work
• Developing relationships at an early age
• How ACM LLP advertises what they do outside of the office
• The Enrichment Cycle
• It’s okay to tell people what you aren’t good at
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Skiing Telluride with my two sons
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 225 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. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, they’re an accountant and something else or a lawyer and something else, those things above and beyond their technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know about my book being published very soon. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check it out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit Subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Greg Anton. He’s the Chairman and CEO at ACM LLP and the past Chairman of the AICPA. Now he’s with me here today.
Greg, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Greg: My pleasure.
John: Oh, this is going to be awesome. I’m so excited.
Greg: I’m looking forward to it as well.
John: Very cool. So you know the drill. We start out with 17 rapid-fire questions right out of the gate.
Greg: I thought it was 16.
John: Just for you, a bonus.
Greg: Let’s do it.
John: Extra Point. All right, here we go. I’ll start out with an easy one, favorite color?
John: Blue, okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: Oh, that’s a solid answer. How about — you fly a lot — window or aisle seat?
John: Aisle. Nice. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Greg: Favorite actor, favorite actress, probably not either.
John: You just like them all?
Greg: I like them all.
John: Okay, all right. All right. Fair enough. Have more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Greg: Jeans and a t-shirt.
John: Oh, nice. Okay, okay. Pens or pencils?
John: Neither. Okay. All right. You use hieroglyphics. What do you, carve it in stone?
Greg: Carve it in stone, yeah. Rock and chisel.
John: There you go. With puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Okay. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Greg: Star Trek.
John: Okay, PC or a Mac?
John: PC, there it is. And your mouse, right click or left click?
Greg: It depends.
John: It depends. That’s the accountant answer.
Greg: I always get the right click and the left click confused, so I just go back and forth.
John: There you go. Fair enough. Okay. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
Greg: It has to be Mickey Mouse.
John: Yeah, classic. Okay, as the accountant, I have to ask you, more balance sheet or income statement?
Greg: I’m probably a balance sheet guy.
John: Okay. Okay. How about do you have a movie that makes you cry?
Greg: Oh, man, I had a lot of movies that have made me cry.
John: Me too, man. Is there one in particular?
Greg: There’s just been so many. I can’t limit it to one.
John: Okay, okay. For me, it’s Rudy. If I just hear the music, I start crying. I don’t even see the movie. All right, prefer more hot or cold?
Greg: More hot.
John: More hot, okay. Three more. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Nice. And why is that?
Greg: I don’t know.
John: Yeah, it’s the most popular answer. It’s mine too. It was my soccer number in high school.
Greg: It’s supposed to be a lucky number. It’s John Elway’s number which I don’t know if I should like it or not.
John: Fair enough. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?
Greg: Definitely, over.
John: Definitely. Okay. All right. Last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Greg: Probably my mountain bike.
Greg: Yeah, I would say as far as own.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, just in case your wife’s listening, yeah, clearly, she’s not in that category.
Greg: Definitely not.
John: So this is so much fun, just being in the office live at ACM, really cool office space, actually. But before we get into that funness, your favorite thing being the mountain bike that leads right into the mountain biking that you do, which is great. So have you been doing that all your life, or is it something that you got into later?
Greg: You know, I first started biking very, very early in life. As a toddler, I loved to bike. It always stayed with me. In the winters, I’ve always enjoyed skiing. In the summers, I’ve always enjoyed biking. But mountain biking has really become my most significant passion, doing it throughout the winter and the summer, including having a snow bike for riding in the mountains over snow. It’s an awesome activity and I really, really enjoy it.
John: Yeah. And the snow biking, what is that? Is that different tires or a different bike altogether?
Greg: Different bike altogether, different tires. It’s a lighter bike, no suspension and five-inch tires that inflate to about three to four pounds. So it’s almost like a dune buggy type tire on a bike, which is kind of interesting. When you fall, it’s a lot less severe when you fall into puff of snow rather than a rock or a tree stone.
John: It’s almost fun.
Greg: It’s almost fun. You fall into a snow angel.
Greg: Although I was riding this weekend, and I fell on Sunday and it didn’t feel much like a snow angel when I hit the rock in the tree.
John: I can imagine, but that’s actually a good parallel to work, I imagine. Every once in a while you land on this like a snow angel, and every once in a while you hit the tree.
Greg: Yeah, I think that that’s true. There’s a lot of metaphors in life’s activities, in all activities that I think you can relate to work. Personally, I’ve always advocated for work-life integration. We hear often about work-life balance. It’s really difficult to create balance if you sleep for eight hours and your work for eight hours, and there’s only 24 hours in a day. Where do you get the balance? And if you can integrate and do the things that you love to do and connect them with work, I think it really optimizes both.
John: Yeah, no, I agree totally. And is there a way that you’ve been able to connect the mountain biking to work?
Greg: Yeah. I think my passions, as I mentioned, skiing and mountain biking, they’re both great ways to connect work activities, including inviting clients, inviting colleagues, inviting coworkers. They’re both great activities where you get to spend a lot of quality time speaking to one another, talking with one another, as well as enjoying the activity of biking. It’s a great experience. The more you get out and the more you meet people, the more opportunities you have to meet additional people and connect with others’ lives. So I think it’s really kind of cool.
John: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. It sounds like golfing just with less swearing.
Greg: Golfing with a lot more physical fitness.
John: Right. There you go. No, that’s awesome, though. That’s so cool how it also just humanizes you, especially in your position as CEO and past Chair of the AICPA. I mean, that can be intimidating to people, and it’s just Greg. He’s just a regular guy. He likes to mountain bike and ski and do normal things like a lot of people here in Colorado.
Greg: Yeah, I think, ultimately, the more you can allow people into your life and it doesn’t have to be into the personal trenches, but the more you can allow people into your life, the greater they have visibility into who you are as a person. It helps align the culture of the organization. It keeps individuals grounded as it relates to who you are. Most people aren’t big, scary people; they’re people. And it’s a lot easier to get to know people if you are willing to invite them into what it is that you enjoy.
John: Yeah. No, that’s awesome because I remember when I first started and I was in Big Four, I just imagined that these partners were almost like Greek gods, like they knew everything. They were infallible. They just were these perfect individuals. I think that sometimes we forget that other people are putting this stigma on us. And so I love how you say it’s inviting people in, and it’s really easy to invite them in with those passions that you have.
Greg: And they have a similar interest, and it makes you and the individuals that have similar interests very relatable to one another. What your stature is, as far as your chronological age or your title in a business, really goes out the window when you’re on the side of a mountain on two wheels hoping that you don’t end up on your backside on the mountain.
John: Right, or even when you do end up on your backside, then it’s definitely out the window.
John: That’s huge. And would you say that either the skiing or the mountain biking or both gives you a skill that you’re able to bring to your career?
Greg: Not specifying either to skiing or biking, but the more you’re willing to open up, as we talked about earlier, I think it creates the opportunity for you to learn vulnerability. At the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to do the best we can for one another. And if you can create trust, vulnerability, relationships, and build on those, there’s a common core usually to trust relationships and often is in things that you find in one another that are similar. I think that working with individuals, whether its clients, companies, colleagues, other businesses, it really, really opens up the flow of opportunity to work with one another when you’re truly open. And I really believe that the more exposure you have to non-work stuff allows you to create a more open dialogue and create more trust, which goes a long way when you’re in the business of accounting and ultimately a trust provider.
John: Yeah, no, absolutely, because I think that so many of us our default mode is to lean on that technical expertise, firms or even just all professions really, that’s your go-to is this is what we do, we do it faster. That’s just a race to the bottom really because another person will come along for $100 less, and then you lost a client without developing that real sticky relationship, if you will.
Greg: The reality is the technical expertise that we all have and deliver is ultimately what’s expected. When you go to a professional service provider and you’re willing to write them a check for the service, it’s an expectation that they’re going to have the knowledge, the ability to get you the solution that is best for you. It’s all those other things that keep the relationship going, like really knowing one another, really being there to help that person when it’s something that really isn’t directly out of a tax code or an accounting book. It really is more relationship based. It becomes institutionalized when you work with somebody outside of just that technical expertise. And then you’re moving out of what’s expected to providing real value for an individual in their life.
John: No, I agree totally. This is awesome. And why do you think it is that our default mode is the exact opposite of that?
Greg: I think the default mode and getting into the textbook mode is the easy mode. It’s what we know. We know how to be technical experts. It’s easy to create a technical expert answer and build relationships around that, but the reality is those relationships are pretty surface relationships.
John: Yeah, absolutely. And were you always this way, or did you come about it with more confidence or age, I guess, I don’t know, experience?
Greg: You know, I have a little bit of an interesting background. I struggled as a kid with learning. I have severe dyslexia.
John: Oh, wow.
Greg: And I always struggled in the classroom. And so that technical expertise to me was something that I had to work really, really hard at. And to me, building the relationships and building the trust and building the nontechnical relationship always came easy to me at an early age because I think of the learning challenges that existed. Ultimately, the learning challenges became an absolute opportunity and just allowed me to learn differently and to operate in a different way. So I think it came early in life.
John: Yeah, yeah, that’s so interesting how for so many of us, I find that our vulnerabilities actually turn out to be strengths.
Greg: That’s absolutely true.
John: And in this case, it’s early on and more extreme where a lot of people view their outside-of-work hobbies or I have other interests as being a vulnerability, but that’s your strength. That’s the only thing you can really differentiate yourself with.
Greg: One of the things that I think is key, particularly in professional services and public accounting in particular, it’s very demanding. We sell time for money. And when you sell time for money, time becomes very, very, very valuable and a scarce resource. We often don’t advertise what it is we love to do outside of the office. In our firm, it’s completely different. If you look at our website, we advertise it. On our website, I’m sitting on a mountain bike in a picture in a sport coat, and it’s promoted. We love it, and it is very much what Colorado was all about. But at the end of the day, if you’re not willing to be open and share what it is that you love and what your passions are, it becomes a very shallow surface world that we live in. I think we do that intentionally, so we can help create visibility into who we are as individuals in the culture of the firm overall.
John: Yeah, yeah. And it’s all the partner headshots or director and up headshots?
Greg: All the directors and partners, they have a headshot. But if you go down into their bio, there’s a picture of them connected to what it is that they love, what their and is.
John: Right, exactly. It’s really cool, actually. Do you find that clients gravitate towards that, or they at least can see a personality behind the person?
Greg: Yeah, I think so. I often hear the people that are looking at your website, it’s either your parents, your kids, or somebody you know really well, or a prospect that’s potentially looking to use your services. I often hear when we’re in prospect calls and meeting with new referral sources that have recently looked at our website, they’ll talk about, wow, that’s really cool. The pictures that you have makes it really relatable.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Because I think sometimes we forget is that clients also like to ride mountain bikes or play guitar or do arts or volunteer at a mission or whatever their thing is. And so they stumble across that. It’s like, oh, now we’re friends.
Greg: That’s me.
John: Right, exactly. Do you feel like it’s mostly on the tone at the top sort of thing, on the organization to create that culture, or is it on an individual to maybe create that small circle in their little group or to be that source of change?
Greg: I think it takes both. I really refer to it as the enrichment cycle. The more opportunities people have to do what it is they do well and what they like to do and if you can support individuals in doing what they do well and what they like to do, they’re going to be more successful. I think we promote that as a firm, but we also talk about that when we’re interviewing and what our environment looks like.
So when I say the enrichment cycle, it kind of self-perpetuates. We are who we are. We describe who we are. We’re understood to be who we are. And as a result of that, individuals that have similar desires, similar interests that love to do something or willing to share that with others, they gravitate culturally to our firm, and then it just becomes an enrichment cycle. We’re enriching each other. It’s top down, bottom up. I think that leaders can lead, but at the end of the day, you’re much better off having individuals that have an opportunity to do what they love, do what they do well. And it’s much easier to lead individuals that are in that space rather than doing things that they don’t like and that they don’t do well. It’s really hard to lead in that circumstance.
John: Yeah, that’s nearly impossible. Yet there are so many companies and firms and, I mean, across all professions that just, hey, you should be happy to be here. It’s like, well, no, not really. You’re not maximizing the talent that you have. That’s what I found from interviewing so many people on this podcast is that I think how we define expertise is so narrow because there are skills that you’re getting from the skiing and the mountain biking that you bring to your job that if no one cared or asked or you didn’t share it, imagine you had a potential client that made skis. Well, you should probably be the guy to work on that because you’d be so jacked up to go to work at that client every day or whatever you had to go there.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to the extent that you can connect people not only in the workplace with what they enjoy but it’s exactly that. It’s also what are the types of people and clients that you would like to work with and aligning that, it’s critical.
John: Yeah, absolutely, or maybe the passion doesn’t align with the business, but maybe the person, the contact at the business, has similar passions or something like that. I think that that’s some next level things that you guys do really well which I think is fantastic. I guess, do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that might think, well, I like mountain biking or skiing but that has nothing to do with my profession, so I’m just going to keep it to myself?
Greg: I think that it’s important to share with individuals — two things. One, you’ve got to share with individuals what it is that you do well, and you also have to be vulnerable and let people know what it is that you don’t do well and what you don’t want to do. Most people are very comfortable sharing with individuals, this is what I love to do, this is what I want to work on. It’s less comfortable for people to say, this is what I’m really not very good at, and please don’t allocate these types of things to me. What’s important is for you to learn who else is out there that is the opposite. You may find from talking to people that, oh, I don’t personally do this well, but the woman sitting next to me does that incredibly well. I need to make sure that she knows what I do well and she knows what I do well, vice versa, and share with one another. If organizations can structure and build around that premise, the individuals in the organization and the organization itself will be much stronger.
So I think that’s probably some of the best advice that I got along the way is it’s okay to let people know what you don’t do well, so you aren’t allocated and stuck doing those things. It’s critical.
John: I remember when I was new, I said I’m not good at anything. They’re like, “Clearly, we already knew that.” No, but that is such a huge thing. I think that people can appreciate that. I guess that it’s just we’re scared to admit, hey, like I mean taxes. I don’t even do my own no. I don’t even know, I’m no idea. It’s good to be able to just admit that. But from a leadership perspective, you should also embrace that rather than be like, “Oh, well, then you’re fired” type of concept.
Greg: A handful of life lessons that I’ve learned. One is, if you’re not willing to try and fail, you’ll never have the opportunity to succeed. So you shouldn’t just give up on things and not do them because you’re afraid, but you should do things to learn. And if you learn that you’re not comfortable with it, you don’t like it, there’s other things that you have a greater aptitude for, then it’s that try and fail. That try and fail helps you experiment with what will work and what won’t. So you can’t just always deflect. No, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I can’t do it. You got to try and fail. You got to understand and learn and grow through those opportunities. Ultimately, success comes from getting back up. Going back to the mountain biking scenario, I’ve fallen, crashed.
John: I can see the scratches all over your arm right now. You’re legit, man.
Greg: Yeah, unfortunately, it happened on Sunday. It hasn’t happened for a few years, but it’s the same reality. It’s very relatable. You’ll never have an opportunity to achieve ultimate success if you do nothing. That’s all there is to it. So you have to do something, you have to try, and that will give you the opportunity. If you got to fail, fail fast. If you got to fall, fall soft. That’s what I will tell you.
John: There you go. There you go. I love it, man. I love it. Well, before we wrap this up, since I started out rapid-fire questioning you, it’s only fair — and I’m not going to lie, this is the most nervous I’ve ever been for this part — Greg Anton rapid-fire questioning me whatever he wants to ask and the grin on his face right now, if everyone could see it.
Greg: Thankfully, I looked at this a couple minutes before we got together, so I’ve got some serious preparation. So let’s go with this.
John: Okay, here we go.
Greg: Stream or brook?
John: Oh, that’s a trick question there. That’s a play on words. I like it. I’ll go brook.
Greg: River or brook?
John: Will go brook again.
Greg: Brook trout or rainbow trout?
John: Will go brook trout. I don’t even know if that’s a thing.
Greg: John, I’m glad you’re laughing, and Brooke is going to be very proud of your answer.
John: Right, right, exactly. Thanks so much, Greg, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was fantastic.
Greg: My pleasure.
John: Yeah, and everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Greg out on the mountain or maybe connect with them on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. 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.