Bill is a Consultant & Traveler
Bill Penczak, CEO of MICA Ventures, returns to the podcast to talk about his most recent trips, starting his own consulting firm right before the pandemic began, the status of the accounting professional world, and much more!
• Recent trips
• How the pandemic affected his value of relationships
• Starting his firm in March 2020
• A shift of focus towards making connections
• You do a disservice to everyone if you do not bring your authentic self
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Photos of Bill’s Travels
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Welcome to Episode 346 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. Happy New Year. We made it to 2021, everybody. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited, my book is out. If you didn’t get one for the holidays, you can get one now on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. If you’re interested in buying 25 or more, maybe for your clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com for you to get discounted pricing from my publisher. It’s the least I can do to hook you up with that. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Bill Penczak. He’s the founder and Chief Insights Officer at MICA Ventures in Houston, Texas, and now he’s with me here today. Bill, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Bill: Great seeing you again, John.
John: Yeah, this is going to be awesome.
Bill: You’re looking younger than ever.
John: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Everyone listening, just take his word for it because he’s a genuine liar. That’s what’s happening right here. No, but you’re too kind, too kind. I have the rapid-fire questions, things I should have probably asked you first time and before we’ve hung out before but never asked, so here we go, just seven. If you had to pick, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Bill: Harry Potter, never got into Game of Thrones.
John: I’ve never seen one episode at all.
Bill: You just look at the clips with the nudity in it, online.
John: I didn’t even know there was that. Okay, I need to get outside more. How about, this is a tricky one, brownie or ice cream?
Bill: Oh, God. Ice cream.
John: Okay. All right.
Bill: Although, in the past couple of months, I realized that my weight has gained a little bit, so I’ve cut out all the ice cream a little bit and actually made a difference.
John: Yeah, right. Sad but true. It’s like, ah, yeah. No, I hear you. What is a typical breakfast?
Bill: Pretty much the same thing every day, bowl cereal with some fruit in it, a little bit of yogurt and a glass of orange juice and half an English muffin.
John: Wow, healthy, man. I like that. All right. When you travel, planes, trains or automobiles.
Bill: Well, we like to travel when you can, overseas or to faraway places so, generally, by plane. Although we’ve done a couple of really cool train trips in the past, like in New Zealand. We went across their version of the Alps.
John: Cool. Now that is — yeah, it’s true because in the US, trains, unless you’re in the northeast, trains aren’t really used. When you go to Europe and then you can ride a train, it’s really novel. Plus, they’re cool, and they’re fast, and they’re really clean and sharp. It’s just neat. How about when it comes to books, Kindle real book or audio book?
Bill: Real book, that way, and I know you can do this in Kindle, but that way, I can make notes. I dog-ear pages, go back and look at things later on. Yeah, I’m kind of a provincial person about that.
John: Yeah. No, I agree on that. I agree on that. This one’s tricky too, rain or snow.
Bill: In the next couple of years, we’re going to move up to the Pacific Northwest, so I better say rain.
John: Okay. Right.
Bill: It’s going to be part of the formula, I think.
John: Okay. Yeah, definitely. I hate rain so much. I really do. I don’t know why. I just… All right, last one, last one, maybe the most important one ever. Toilet paper roll, over or under.
Bill: Well, this is a big controversy in our household. So, depending on who’s loading the roll, it goes one way or the other. I’m an over. My wife is an under.
John: Oh, really? Okay. All right. Still house divided.
Bill: Yeah. We’re not super pedantic about it, but just you can tell who did it by looking which way it’s rolling.
John: Attention to detail. Come on now. So, last time you were on episode 170. You were talking about traveling. I remember seeing pictures of you wearing, when it was the Green Apple podcast, the shirt in Portugal, which was awesome. It was so fun hearing those stories. Since then, have you been able to do some travel in the last couple of years, pre-March 2020?
Bill: Yeah, a little bit. We went to Prague for Thanksgiving last year. It just seems like eons ago. A couple little trips I did. I did a fishing trip to New Mexico for a couple of days over the Fourth of July weekend. We went up to Colorado in March for a quick little trip.
Bill: We went to Seattle in the summertime. It was cool because we used to live there, and we’ve got about five or six couple friends that we got to socially distance and see all at once, up there.
John: Oh, that’s neat, like in a cul-de-sac sort of a thing or whatever.
Bill: The couple that hosted us has a big backyard, and we sat apart. It was really good because some of these people, it’s spend 17 years since we’ve lived there, and while we stayed in touch with a lot of the people, not as much as you do when you live there. So, we’ll pick up those conversations where we left them off, and it’s really cool to have that kind of bond.
John: That’s cool.
Bill: I’m not too philosophical about everything but, I think, over the past year, recognizing the value of that, either the personal relationships that you have or the business contacts that you have, has become more important to me, I guess.
Starting a consulting firm, the first week of March before everything hit the fan, I always say to clients, “I started this in March, so you can automatically and rightfully question my business sense. Even though that’s what you’re paying me to do, you can question my business sense.” I decided — I’ll tell the short version — decided that I want to do this in January, set up my articles of incorporation, built a website, left the firm in March, and two weeks later, everything shut down.
In the interim and during that process, realizing that, one, I’ve got a lot of professional friends and friend friends that were very kind and helpful. Two of my clients, for example, came about because people that I used to work with, reached out to me and said, hey, did you know So-and-So is looking for such-and-such, a couple of times, and I wind up getting two clients out of that. There was a book a couple years ago, a guy named Keith Ferrazzi wrote Never Eat Alone.
John: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Bill: He wrote a follow onto that called, Who’s Got Your Back. It’s a little bit esoteric, but it’s basically about paying it forward. Not doing it for mercenary reasons, necessarily, but just because, one, it’s just the right thing to do in the universe, but also, from a professional standpoint, getting to be known as the person that can connect or knows a lot of people enough and doesn’t always have their interest in mind, has gotten more altruistic.
I kind of pooh-poohed it when I first read it, when it first came out. Now, I think I’ve been able to benefit from that. I’ve got a networking group, and I’ve probably given more leads than I’ve gotten out of it. That’s okay because I think we’re in the long haul. So with —
John: I don’t know anything about COVID. Knock yourself out.
Bill: It seems like people are just slowing down just a bit and trying to connect with what’s important to them, whether it’s from a professional standpoint, whether it’s a personal standpoint, families and all that. That may be one of the good byproducts out of all this stuff.
John: Yeah, and I would think that those connections that you had, those people that do have your back, are people that, they’re not just because they know what you do professionally, they actually know who you are, and you know who they are. There’s a genuine interest in them as a person and in their “And”. You know these other dimensions to them, not just, oh, I know, So-and-So. They’re really good at XYZ technical thing. Because there’s a lot of people that are good at those technical things.
It is cool to see how this past nine months have shown that, the What’s Your “And”? message, it just ripped the Band-Aid off of this because we’ve been in each other’s homes now. We’ve seen, you know, hey, what’s your dog’s name? What’s your cat’s name? Hey, kids are running around, Amazon deliveries are coming, whatever. It’s just chaos. You can’t put on this facade of, I’ve got everything together. I’m super professional person. No, I don’t even know what the hell’s going on right now.
Bill: Have you noticed that the dress code has been more liberal in the lockdown?
Bill: People might wear a buttoned up shirt. A guy might wear a buttoned up shirt in the beginning. Now, it’s like, everyone is in t-shirts. Read something that said 40% of women now that are on Zoom calls, either don’t put on makeup or just leave their camera off, for whatever reason. It’s so funny. Think about all of what we thought was normal and get dressed up and wear a jacket and tie or you had to wear pants. I’m wearing pants, I promise.
John: Not pajama pants anyway.
Bill: Or you can’t work from home. All that’s been blown out. It’d be interesting to see, like in the CPA world, I bet you charge hours are as good as, if not better than they were because people aren’t commuting. They’re not driving to client places. The amount of hours that we’re putting in is probably the same or if not more, but it doesn’t feel that way.
John: Or even more importantly, just the output is there. Whether the hours aren’t, the output’s there. Yeah, it certainly has just shattered what we thought was important and what was “professional”. That’s what the What’s Your “And”? is all about. What you thought was professional, it doesn’t matter, to a degree. You could still get the work done. As long as you’re not inhibiting someone else’s ability to do their job, then talk about your outside-of-work interests and things that you do and who you are as a person. This is normal.
Now, we’ve all seen that human side to each of us. I hope that when things start to go back to the office, we don’t act like, I didn’t see your dog, or I didn’t see you on a Wednesday at an 8 am meeting, just not showered or in a t-shirt. We’re humans, and we’re regular people. Embrace that. Hey, that picture that was on your wall, where’s that from? That’s cool, type of thing.
Bill: I’ve got an old record player, an old phonograph that is usually behind me if I’m sitting in my study. People always ask about it. It goes back to the travel thing that we bought it in Athens. I’ll tell you a quick sidebar story. I used to travel to South America for work and always went to the San Telmo Fair in Buenos Aires. It’s crazy. When you can buy a steak dinner for 12 bucks.
My wife and I and the kids were on a cruise. We stopped in Athens and went to Plaka and went to some of the old antique stores and found this record player. It was like 120 euros. I was like, great, we’re going to buy it. My wife looks at me, like, you’re crazy. You’re going to take this back on a cruise ship. I said, I’ve got two teenage boys. They’re going to help me with it. So, we gave the guy 20 euros to wrap it up and as a deposit. We come back 20 minutes later. He gives us two boxes. My wife said, he’s probably put bricks in it, and we’re going to find out when we get back in Houston. We’ll see.
So, we’re leaving. All of a sudden, there’s a commotion behind us, and this shopkeeper, holding the handle that twists and makes it actually work, because we’d forgot to pack it. So, well, it’s probably not a thing of bricks. We can breeze through customs and all that. I tell my wife, I said, I’ve got more stories out of this thing. Especially, like you said, it’s at the background and might see it, and it’s made a lot of cool connection stories of personal connections. Really, the question is going to be, will people put their veil back on again, once we get into the corporate world, and will that truism go away?
John: I hope not because it’s almost one of those where you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, and that’s what I’m pushing for. Everybody listening, wherever they work, don’t let it go back. Ask about those things. When people ask you about that record player, that’s awesome. You light up. Because I remember, we’ve talked on webcams before, and I’ve asked you about it. I could see you light up. You get animated, and you’re excited about, that’s there because I want to talk about it. It brings me joy, seeing it.
Bill: Mostly just so I can say to my wife, I told you so.
John: Pretty much. Pretty much. You just wait one April 1st, she’s going to replace it with a stack of bricks, and then you’re going to come. You’d be like, what?! April Fool’s. That’s awesome. Yeah, I agree, I hope it doesn’t. I feel like, because everyone’s been a part of it, you can’t Wizard of Oz this. You can’t just pull the veil over everyone’s eyes on this. Even if you’re the leader of a small team, just keep it going because — I mean, we’re human. We want to be in person again. It’s just human nature, when it’s safe or what have you, but to not act like we’ve seen all that, it’s going to be a real disservice if that does happen. As long as I’m around, there will be people that don’t want to do that, hopefully.
Bill: Some older person that I was talking to, recently said, “Well, the millennials have won.” What do you mean by that? Well, there’s no dress code anymore, and we’re all working from home.
John: No, it’s not millennials at all. It’s humans. Humans have won. That’s crazy. Yeah, that person is —
Bill: That person is kind of old.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re just angry that they didn’t have the guts to say something when they were younger. That’s the thing is, this isn’t even a generational thing. The What’s Your “And”? message and just caring about people, that has nothing to do with generations at all. If anything, it bridges the gap between the generations. Because if you have somebody that’s 60 years old, about to retire, and you have someone that’s 22 that just got out of college, they don’t have a whole lot in common, but all of a sudden, you find out that they both like to ballroom dance, or they both like to paint, or they’re both huge history buffs, or they’re both whatever. All of a sudden, now they have a massive connection, and that bridges that gap between the two. It’s something that you shouldn’t pooh-pooh, I guess, because it definitely brings you together.
Bill: I just read a book that was published probably 10 or 15 years ago by Daniel Pink. It’s about, I can’t remember the right title of it, but it’s about the power of right-brainedness. I think a lot of the listeners here are probably, in the CPA world, probably tend to be on the left brain side. Some of the things you said resonated, as I’m thinking about the points that he said in the book about things like empathy and creativity and so forth, that that makes us humans. Even in a business sense, that makes us better business people.
John: Yeah. No, it totally does. It totally does. I think it was called, The Whole New Mind. It totally does. These other dimensions to who we are, they make us better. All the interviews that I’ve done on this podcast, it’s, does that hobby translate at all to work? It does every single time. At the bare minimum, that humanizes you, and lets people know what you’re excited about.
Oftentimes, there’s a skill that translates over a mindset that comes over. It’s definitely important that not only people have them, but that you keep them and then that organizations find out what those are and care about them. If you’re a leader of a group or a whole company, either way, know what light your people up.
Bill: It’s funny, I just finished a project for a client, a CPA firm client. We redid their mission, vision and values; and one of the principles is creativity.
Bill: When we’re doing the focus groups, somebody said, “Creative accounting, you can’t say that.” The managing partner is a very down-to-earth but also, in like a Deepak Chopra way, kind of a spiritual guy. He’s actually teaching a class starting next month, about the soul of leadership.
The whole idea of creativity within the CPA world, on the surface, if you don’t think about it very much, is like, oh, my God, we can’t say that. If you think about it, we are charged with solving problems for clients. While on the tax side and on the audit side, there’s a prescription that you have to follow, typically, looking for different ways of thinking about things brings in that creativity. I think, oh, that idea helps fuel that.
If you try to isolate yourself as, I’m only going to be this person from nine to five, I can be that other person when I’m not; you’re cheating yourself. You’re really doing everybody a disservice by doing that.
John: Yeah, I love that. I love that so much. Even if you’re in law or engineering or banking, or any of these professional jobs, it’s the same, where people frown upon creativity. No, no, that’s where the magic is. It’s actually your differentiator. It’s creativity in how you get there. What’s the journey that you take? Or is there a better way?
You could use innovation, if you want to use that word. It’s the same thing. You’re doing things differently than what they were done before. That’s creative. I love that so much, man. That’s awesome. What a great takeaway for everybody listening right there as well. You’re just doing a huge disservice if you’re not bringing these other dimensions to who you are to work. That’s awesome.
Well, before I wrap this up, Bill, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you rapid-fire question me, since I so rudely started the year out, firing away at you. Happy New Year, and by the way, here are seven questions. So, it’s the first episode of The Phil Penczak podcast, everybody. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours.
Bill: Okay, so these are not as rapid as maybe as you want them, but you said a couple of things during the conversation I want to explore. Clearly, you’re a very social person, and you get energy from hanging around other people, talking in front of groups and all of that. How have you been able to focus your energy lately, in a positive way?
John: I’m a lot more introverted than you would think. When I speak, it is exhausting because I’m giving a little piece of me to every single person that’s in the audience. That is exhausting. Doing it remotely, is emotionally and mentally — it’s just the worst. It is the worst because I can’t connect.
When I’m in the room, I’ve been onstage over 2,000 times, so I know what’s going on within a millisecond of it happening. It’s like, boom, boom, I know. When it’s remote like this, I can’t. I don’t have my finger on the pulse all the time of what’s happening. I can see in the chat what’s happening, but not always, so I can’t connect. Then when it’s over, it’s just like, bloop, black screen. Okay. I don’t know, but if anybody has any questions, or was that good? All of a sudden, it’s just, okay, it’s over.
Bill: Movie’s over.
John: Yeah, and it’s brutal. It’s brutal brutal. So, I’m a lot more introverted than you would think. When I’m on stage, speaking to a conference, I look at that audience as one-to-one. I don’t look at it as 500 people or whatever it is. I look at it as one-to-one. So, it’s been okay for me. It’s just doing the remote speaking is brutal.
I do enjoy the humans being in the same room together. Yeah, it’s been hard. It really has. I don’t think I answered your question, but I guess I’m making the best out of what I can. Doing the podcast is always, always, always fun, just hearing people’s stories and talking to them about that. It’s always good too.
Bill: Okay, second slow question is, and maybe this is a byproduct of being more introspective during all of this, how have you thought differently about people who were influential in your career, over the past year? Have you been more appreciative or picked up things that you hadn’t maybe thought of before?
John: That’s interesting. Yeah, I guess it was cool, like with the book launch, going back through and thinking, like, we were doing this on accident, the sharing What’s Your “And”? Any group that I was in or especially leading, we were doing that. It wasn’t called “What’s Your “And”? It wasn’t — but we were doing it.
It was fun to reach back out to people that I had worked with, in my corporate days, and just say, “Hey, I wrote a book. I think it’s going to resonate a lot with what we did back in the day, on accident. Now it has a name.” So, it’s been cool to hear their stories and what they remember about me. I mean, it was years ago.
It has been neat to, just with the book launch, see how much people do remember. People are rooting for each other. They really are. We all want each other to do well and be happy and succeed. It is cool to see that, for sure.
Bill: What about, did you have a mentor earlier in your career that you think back on?
John: I did. There was a national partner, Dick Anderson, with PwC, out of the Chicago office, and I was fortunate enough to be in a program where I got to shadow him for three or four days.
Bill: Did he know that?
John: No, he didn’t know that at all. I’m in your bushes. What’s going on? Yeah, it was fantastic. That’s how I ended up being selected to be on the largest financial services client that PwC had, for a long time. That was actually the last project I was — I mean, it was for two years. It was an ongoing thing.
He’s retired now, so it’s harder to get in touch with him. I’ve tried to reach out, but it hasn’t worked. Otherwise, I was influenced by a variety of people. I didn’t have one mentor that I — which is probably why I’m doing this now. No one was really willing to take responsibility.
Bill: No one was willing to take responsibility for you, yeah.
John: Exactly. They’re like, yeah, go talk to So-and-So about that. All right. But it has been cool just to connect with, not only managers, but also people that were my peers, people that reported to me. It’s been cool to just circle back on that, thanks to LinkedIn and whatever. That’s the only good use for social media, I think, is something like that.
Bill: I got to do that with an old boss of mine. He was my boss about eight or 10 years ago. He’s since retired as well. We used to spend all our time together. His office is mine and hours and hours and hours together. He’s retired, and he’s got other things that he’s doing.
He was so appreciative of the fact that I reached out to him. Then, too, he was so touched that I even did, to say, it was really fun working — he was a pain in the ass sometimes, I learned so much. I wouldn’t be here where I am today had it not been for you. That kind of connection thing is really, is special to me.
John: Yeah. No, it totally is. It totally is. It’s just letting people know that, hey, you know what? I remember you. I care about you. It definitely matters. I feel like 2020, as a whole, really brought that out in people, for the most part. It’s been cool to see. That’s for sure, man. That’s for sure. It’s been cool. It’s been great to catch up with you.
Bill: Yeah, it was great talking to you as well.
John: Thanks so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”? and part of the book launch and all that. Thanks, Bill.
Bill: Sure, my pleasure. Happy New Year.
John: Happy New Year, exactly, and everybody listening. If you’d like to see some pictures of Bill from his travels or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to pick up the book.
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.
Ryan is CPA & CrossFit Athlete & Traveler
Ryan Lazanis, CPA, CA founded Xen Accounting in 2013, a 100% cloud-based accounting firm. Following its acquisition in 2018, Ryan started Future Firm which provides resources to firms looking to modernize and setup an online, automated firm of their own. He also sends out a free weekly email that curates the top 5 pieces of content firms should know about to help modernize their firm & to keep it on the cutting edge.
Ryan talks about how getting into CrossFit and travelling has helped him power through his more stressful periods of running an accounting firm! He also talks about why it is so important to have something that disconnects you from work and how he set an example in encouraging his employees to do so!
• Getting into CrossFit
• The competitive nature of CrossFit
• How CrossFit has helped him in the office
• Having something to disconnect yourself from work
• Places he likes to travel to
• Leading by example in his own firm
• Why the tone of workplace culture comes from the top
• Future Firm
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 261 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday, I’m interviewing a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re in the office.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published in just a few months. It will be available on Amazon and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show, changing the cultures where they work because of it, and the book will really help reinforce that for everyone around you.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future of the episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Ryan Lazanis. He’s the founder of Future Firm, Inc. in Montreal, Canada and the publisher of Future Firm Weekly Top 5 Newsletter and now he’s with me here today.
Ryan, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ryan: John, really appreciate it. Thanks a lot for having me.
John: This is going to be awesome. So looking forward to this, but I have my 17 rapid fire questions right out of the gate, so hope you’re ready for this.
Ryan: Let’s do it. Let’s do it.
John: Here we go. Favorite toppings on a pizza?
Ryan: We have the all-dressed pizza Montreal so it’s pepperoni, green peppers, and mushrooms.
John: Oh, nice. Yeah, that’s very good. What do you guys call it?
Ryan: We call it all-dressed. I don’t know if that’s what it is elsewhere as well, but it’s an all-dressed pizza here.
John: There you go. That works. How about more balance sheet or income statement?
Ryan: Oh, definitely income statement.
John: There you go. Do you prefer more hot or cold?
John: Oh, interesting. All right. How about a favorite number?
Ryan: How about lucky number 7?
John: Okay. Is there a reason?
Ryan: Generally, seems to be a lucky number. I’m just going to be with 7.
John: It’s the most popular answer in here by far, and it’s also my favorite number. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ryan: Star Wars for sure.
John: Yeah. Your computer, PC or a Mac?
Ryan: I actually have both but I’ve been leaning more towards Mac recently.
John: Interesting. All right. How about favorite ice cream flavor?
Ryan: Let’s go with rocky road.
John: Oh, fancy. All right, all right. How about suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Ryan: No debate. It’s a jeans and t-shirt for me.
John: Okay. Fair enough. How about Kindle or real books?
Ryan: I have a Kindle, and you know what? I went back to real books, so I’m going with real books.
John: Okay. How about a favorite color?
Ryan: Let’s go with black, actually.
John: Interesting, all right. How about a least favorite color?
Ryan: Least favorite. Let’s say yellow.
John: All right. Pens or pencils?
Ryan: Definitely pens.
John: Nice, no mistakes. I like that.
Ryan: Pencil for me, I’m a lefty so pencil doesn’t work so well, smudges all over the place.
John: That’s very true. What did you write? I don’t know either. I’m like, it’s all on my hand. That’s awesome. How about Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Ryan: I’m going to go with neither.
John: Neither, fair enough, man. Fair enough. How about when you fly in an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?
Ryan: Absolutely, 100% every single time, it has to be a window seat. There’s no getting around it. It has to be a window seat.
John: All right. I like that. More early bird or night owl?
Ryan: Early bird.
John: Okay. Two more, two more. Favorite actor or actress?
Ryan: Favorite actor or actress. I’ll go Leonardo DiCaprio
John: Oh, yeah. All right. Fair enough. The last one. Favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Ryan: I’m not super into material possessions, but I have to say I bought a Tesla Model 3 the other day and is by far, I’m geeking out over it. I don’t even consider it a car. I consider it more like a computer or a gadget or piece of technology so I’m going with Tesla Model 3.
John: Nice, man. I love it. I love it. That’s very cool. Let’s talk CrossFit. I mean that’s pretty awesome. How did you get into that? Is that something you were doing from younger or more recently?
Ryan: I think when I started my own CPA firm back in 2013, I quickly realized that I was so focused on work, it was a virtual firm so I literally sit on my desk all day every day had no physical activity that I was doing, was super, super busy and there was a CrossFit gym really close to where I worked and really close to where I lived.
The thing I liked about CrossFit is they have classes every single hour, you go there, someone tells you what to do and you leave. There’s no thinking. It’s just very easy. I like that aspect of it and tried it out and just got into the groove.
John: That’s very cool. Yeah, and also convenient.
Ryan: Very convenient.
John: Yeah. When you’re in the mood, you go and then knock it out and then you come back.
John: That’s awesome. CrossFit, is that where you’re like chucking tires and jumping off big boxes? I’m not clearly into it so is that a variety of exercise type thing?
Ryan: It’s a super intense workout for anywhere from little as ten minutes all the way to an hour but generally speaking, it’s a super intense workout for about 30 minutes. There’s a variety of different movements that you have to learn so it is actually quite technical and there’s like Olympic weightlifting movements, there are chucking tires around, there’s carrying kettle bells around. It’s really strength oriented but there’s a lot of technique involved as well.
It is heavily criticized I’d say, and I think in some instances rightly so because there is a competitive nature to it which I’m also really attracted to. I’m a very competitive person. Some workouts will be do as many of these reps as possible in ten minutes or do as many of this in 30 minutes. There’s like a race against the clock which is not always a good combination with heavy weights, so you can get in trouble there.
It’s very addictive because of the intensiveness of the workout and after a certain period of time, you get addicted to that kind of high. There’s a certain high that you get at the end of the workout. I think that’s a big reason why a lot of people are real fanatics when it comes to CrossFit.
John: It’s interesting. Competing against yourself or against time. It’s not like competing against the other people in the room type of thing or it can be that way?
Ryan: Well, there is a bit of that community spirit as well. You see the same people, the same classes and you kind of get into a bit of a groove with one another and then you’ll start to see some people competing against one another and there are like the CrossFit games which is the best in the world squaring off against one another. It can be quite competitive.
I think that could also be dangerous in some instances because like I said, if you’re trying to do as much heavy deadlifts as possible, and race against the clock, obviously if you’re not doing the right technique or you start to get tired at the end of it, you could start to see some injuries pile up.
John: Yeah. That’s fantastic that you’re into it and that you’re aware of that, so you can keep yourself in check so that doesn’t happen. The exercises, that’s your favorite or one that you just really enjoy when you get there and they’re doing that one that day?
Ryan: I think power cleans or squat cleans, more along the Olympic weightlifting type thing. I enjoy the technique of it. I’m not a big guy. I’m 155 pounds, 5’9” but with the right technique, you could actually lift some pretty heavy weights which I think is cool, so all about really just learning the technique. I like to see those kind of movements incorporated in some of the workouts.
John: Very cool. Would you say that CrossFit gives you a skill that you bring to the office?
Ryan: I think it helps clear my mind especially when I was running my firm. I’m no longer running my firm. It was acquired end of 2018. I’ve shifted out of firm life but some days and some periods were super, super stressful and I’m a very intense person. I get stressed quite easily. I would really look forward to going CrossFit and just like wiping myself out and having a clear slate for that night and even into the next day.
I think part of that really helped me throughout my career. I actually don’t even know how I would’ve made it through some of the days without it. It was something that just really helped distress. Now, it’s just a part of my lifestyle. I don’t know if I’ve brought anything to the office, but I certainly was able to kind of leave some things at the door whenever I went to the gym and kind of just work through that. I was able to distress, like I said.
John: Yeah, and that’s interesting because I mean no business school tells you you’ll be a better professional if you do CrossFit or something like that, which clearly, if you weren’t doing that or couldn’t do it for a long period of time, you’re not good in the office.
Ryan: Exactly. I think it helps like whether it’s CrossFit or something else, I think you need something that kind of shuts your brain off at some point. When you’re in business, you’re constantly, or at least I was, constantly thinking about business all the time. When I started my firm, it was the first business I ever started. I didn’t even know how to cope with that in the beginning. I was just constantly switched on all the time, 24/7, it was the only thing I was thinking about, and I didn’t even know how to deal with it at the beginning.
I think maybe if I would’ve discovered it even a little bit earlier, that would’ve been helpful, but I think it’s important whether you have CrossFit or something else in your life, something that kind of turn yourself off from the professional world is super helpful.
John: Yeah, totally because I mean so many of us think you know, I did when I first started my business, same thing. There’s no office to go to. You’re always in your work. If you don’t work, you don’t get money. You’re always hustling, you’re always working, and you can definitely burn yourself out and you always think well, more hours. Even if you work for a company, more hours or better work or it’s more better, more better, more better, more better and you’ll turn yourself upside down.
There’s never enough and there’s never good enough. There’s always somebody doing more hours than you and there’s always someone doing better work than you. At some point, if you’re doing tax returns or bookkeeping or whatever, I mean you’re doing good work. Just calm down. There’s no one dying at the end. Maybe you, if you overwork yourself. But yeah, totally. I imagine that release and what have you, translates also to the travel that you do.
Ryan: Yes, exactly. I think that’s another thing I look forward to in life is taking a little bit of time to travel. I personally like to travel to more remote destinations, places that are a little bit off the beaten path, and that really helps me unplug as well. It’s another way for me to unplug. I switch my notifications off on my phone switched the emails off on my phone.
I wouldn’t check my emails on a daily basis and even I’d love going to places that didn’t have internet connectivity. They didn’t even have electricity, like put me on a little shack on the side of the beautiful beach. I’m really happy. I don’t need the luxuries or anything like that. I like to just disconnect and see other places in the world and how people live and see different cultures and I’d say that’s another big passion of mine.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you have some favorite places that you’ve been?
Ryan: I went to the Middle East for the first time. It’s in Oman which is destination that most people don’t know a lot about. I didn’t know a lot about it either. I had seen an Anthony Bourdain episode, looks super interesting. I said okay, we’re going to go. I went with my wife. I had a great time there. My wife is Indonesian and her whole family lives back there. Every so often, we head back to Indonesia and there’s I think 17,000 or 18,000 islands in Indonesia so there’s always a different spot to go and lots of remote destinations there, so different places like that.
John: My dad was stationed in the United Arab Emirates for a bit, just to the north of that. That’s awesome. Do you talk about either one of these at work whether it – when you had your firm or had colleagues or clients?
Ryan: Yeah. I think definitely, my team knew I would enjoy going away to these types of destinations and they knew I would be harder to reach. I’d encourage that as well. By the end of my firm, there was about 15 people on the team and obviously, if they saw me going away and unplugging, I would expect the same from them. I would not email people when they’re vacation, I would refrain from that kind of thing. I think everybody needs some downtime. Everybody needs to kind of reset their batteries and I think that’s a good way to do it.
John: Yeah, leading by example there and expecting them to do the same because I think that it’s hard for people to ask forgiveness. They’re mostly asking for permission especially in the professional services world and so if you model that in front of them, then they’re clearly going to be more receptive to it and do it themselves.
Ryan: I think it’s really hard to unplug these days especially with Slack. Slack helps solve a lot of problems, but it’s also created a lot of new ones. Yeah, you could easily go 24 hours in a day just getting dinged all the time for work-related stuff, especially with people working in different time zones now and a lot of remote work happening. You could just be dinged all day long. You need some way to just break that up and just kind of, like I said, reset the batteries.
John: That’s really fantastic. Were you always open about sharing hobbies and passions early on in your career even or was it something that more later on as you got more experienced and a little more confident?
Ryan: I think it’s something that I’ve always shared even when I look at my first biography that I wrote for myself when I started my firms in accounting. At the bottom of the biography, I’d say when I’m not doing this and that at work, I’m off travelling to remote destinations with my wife and DJing. DJing was also a big hobby of mine years ago.
I think you have to humanize things a little bit. You can’t just show the corporate side. I think especially in the days of social media and all that. You have to humanize yourself a bit and that helps build connections with others. If you’re just talking about the corporate side of things, it could be a little bit robotic. That’s why it kind of brings the hobbies into it as well.
John: That’s exactly it because I mean every other firm that offers the same service as you do can be equally robotic. They say the same stuff, then all of a sudden, it comes down to price. When you’re the buyer, when you’re a client, and the other thing too that is really frustrating is so many professionals when they call themselves trusted advisers and it’s hard to build trust when you’re not being genuine and actually showing that side of you.
Ryan: I agree, and I think it helps build those connections early on. I’d have people come up to me. They said, oh, yeah. I saw online. You said you were a DJ. Tell me a little bit about that. Then you’re not just talking about, again, the corporate side of things, you’re building that connection with a potential client.
John: Yeah. That’s interesting. No one came up and said so, I see you do accounting. Can you tell me about that?
Ryan: Yeah. Nobody’s ever said that to me.
John: No one’s ever said that in the history of the world. Ever. Anyone. Even in Oman. Nowhere. But that’s the thing that we want to lead with and the only thing we want to share is that technical skills side. It blows my mind that the only thing that differentiates you is the thing that we wait until the very end to maybe not even share at all.
Ryan: Yup absolutely.
John: How much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that culture like you did at Zen Accounting and leading from the top or how much is it on an individual to create their little circle amongst themselves even when it’s a small company or a big company?
Ryan: Well, I think the tone comes from the top. If you have that more open philosophy and your open modes of communication, that has to come from the top. If you’re just starting out at a firm or organization, you’re going to kind of follow what the tone is and the culture and generally speaking, you’re just going to follow along with that. It’s up to the people at the top to kind of open up those lines of communication and make people feel comfortable about talking about things other than just work.
John: Yeah, because I mean if that’s normal there or you see everyone doing it or it’s almost mandatory, well, that’s what we do then it becomes that’s what everyone’s doing so it’s easy for you to share that and keep those passions alive as well because if you’re not sharing it, then it’s easy to let them slide and go dormant and then extinct.
Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that’s like hey, my hobby or passion has nothing to do with my job and people probably don’t care?
Ryan: I think sometimes, people are a little bit embarrassed to talk about that stuff, even me, I’m like, am I going to tell people that I was a DJ and that I enjoy DJing? Does that even go with accounting? It almost seems like the opposite thing I should be doing. Again, it’s like your personality has to shine through these days and we’re working more and more in the online world and if your personality isn’t shining through, you’re never going to be noticed.
One of the ways to have your personality shine through is to talk about some personal things happening in your life. I make a point of that when I’m writing some of my content to kind of show my audience let’s say a little bit of a glimpse of what’s happening in my life. Obviously, I want to hear about what’s happening in your life as well but someone has to start that off.
I think like that’s a big thing for me these days in the professional world, in the online world, you have to humanize things and you have to kind of show that you’re a real person and you’re not just a robot.
John: Absolutely. I mean that’s what comes through – like you said with the content with the Future Firm Weekly Top 5 Newsletter that you have as well, which is really great to tell people a little bit about that. I know it’s helping firm leaders to stay in the future, future thinking anyway.
Ryan: After my firm, Zen Accounting, was acquired, I started a new project called Future Firm which is basically helping firm owners, leaders, partners in the accounting world to modernize and stay on the cutting edge. My previous firm was an online firm. It was a completely remote team, automated processes as much as possible using cloud based technology, and created a scale of a model in my opinion. Now, I’m helping others kind of see into the future and stay on the cutting edge and modernize.
What I like doing is kind of writing content. I have a blog. If you go to futurefirm.co, I have a blog there but what’s been really popular is my free weekly email called Future Firm Weekly Top 5. People can go to www.futurefirm.co/top5 and there, you’d have access to a free weekly email that I send to your inbox.
I’m researching all types of accounting content over the course of the week and I pick the top 5 most interesting pieces of content that help firm owners see into the future, help them modernize, and help them stay on the cutting edge. I curate that in a brief email and just shoot that out every Tuesday morning. If anyone’s interested, www.futurefirm.co/top5, to sign up to that free weekly.
John: Yeah. Absolutely, man. It’s just a great way to share some tips and best practices and things that others are doing because I find that professionals wait for someone else to stick their toe out and then once one person does it and it’s fine, then everyone else falls into line. I think it’s cool that when you had Zen Accounting, you were leading from the top and showing people that it’s not 24/7 billable hours, it’s having a life and having passions outside of that.
Ryan: That’s a big thing that I talk about. A lot of firms are interested in digital marketing these days but if you don’t show your personality, you’re never going to cut through the noise and you’re never going to have good success. Part of it could be showing your hobbies, part of it could be showing where you travel to. Part of it could be talking about your family. A lot of the things that you don’t normally do, this is what helps build the connections, at least in the online world. Obviously, in the physical world as well but it really helps cut through the noise in the online world so I talk about that quite a bit in my content.
John: I mean I agree. I mean when it comes to attracting and retaining talent as well. I mean if you genuinely care about the whole person, not just the accounting part or the law part or the engineering part or whatever their job is, there’s so much more to it.
That’s awesome, Ryan. Well, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This has been really great.
Ryan: This has been awesome, John. I really do appreciate you inviting me on.
John: Absolutely. Everyone listening if you want to see some pictures of Ryan and his travels or connect with him on social media and don’t forget to sign up for his Future Firm Weekly Top 5 Newsletter, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there.
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