Orumé is an Accountant & Traveler & Runner
Orumé Agbeyegbe Hays, Founder & CEO of Hays CPA, LLC., talks about her passion for running and traveling and how it has helped improve her skills in endurance and networking within her career! She also talks about some of her favorite places she has visited!
• Getting into running
• How running has helped her career
• Favorite places she has travelled to
• How she encourages her employees to share their personal side at work
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Omolara is an Accountant & Multilinguist
Omolara McCloud, “The S/uperhero Accountant”, talks about her passion for travelling abroad, learning different languages, embracing her authentic self, early in her career, and much more!
• Getting into living abroad
• Different languages she has learned
• Places she has lived since college
• Embracing her “S/uperhero” brand and authentic self in the office
• How organizations can be motivated to focus more on workplace culture
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to episode 501 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 at work.
A past guest that I had on, Michael Puck has created globaldogart.com. He’s a dog photographer. He’s teamed up with other dog photographers all over the world. Research has shown that dog pictures increase our well-being, reduce stress, promote relationships and trust in the work setting. Check out globaldogart.com to see if your work environment could benefit from dog wall art, whether it’s at home or the office. 100% of the proceeds are going to save one million dogs by 2030. Again, check out globaldogart.com.
Obviously, normally this time, I’m plugging my book, What’s your “And”? You can go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there for the award-winning book. 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, Omolara McCloud. She’s a virtual senior accountant with CFO Hub, and now she’s with me here today. Omolara, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s your “And”?
Omolara: No problem, John. I’m super excited to be here today and finally see your face and hear your voice, live.
John: You’ve been following the show and commenting and super fan for so long. I’m honored to have you on. This is so awesome. This is going to be a blast, especially coming from Mexico, international, all that, which we’ll get to in just a little bit. I have 17 rapid-fire questions that get to know Omolara on a new level here.
John: Right? Buckle up. Here we go. Maybe an easy one, favorite color.
Omolara: Blue. It’s so funny I have blue on today, but blue, especially baby blue has been my favorite color since I was a kid.
John: Very good. How about a least favorite color?
Omolara: I don’t really have one. I like all the colors, John.
John: Just in case they’re listening, you don’t want their feelings to get hurt.
Omolara: No, I like them all. I’m a fashionista. I don’t know if you could tell. I’m a fashionista, so I like all the colors.
John: Absolutely. You need to have them all at your disposal there. Fair enough. How about more talk or text?
Omolara: That’s hard because I’m a millennial and none of us — I grew up on the phone all the time. Now, I hate talking on the phone. I’m always texting. It just depends on the relationship. If it’s a romantic relationship, I want to talk on the phone. All the other relationships, just text me. Don’t disturb me.
John: Just message. There we go. I’ll get to it when I get to it. How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Omolara: That’s easy, Brad Pitt.
John: Oh, okay. There we go. No more questions. We’re done. It’s all good. How about, this is a fun one, a favorite cereal from even when you were a kid?
Omolara: I ride hard with Honey Nut Cheerios.
John: Okay. Okay. There you go.
Omolara: Even now. It’s called Cheerios Miel in Mexico because I live in Mexico. Honey is miel, so I buy the Miel Cheerios.
John: I always did like Honey Nut Cheerios, absolutely, because they seemed like they were healthy, but they were still sweet. Everybody’s winning here. Plus the bee, the mascot, the character and everything. Good answer. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?
Omolara: It’s been so long since I’ve done a puzzle. I’m going to say, when I used to do them, it was crossword.
John: They’re more prevalent. I feel they’re just out there more.
Omolara: Yeah. I think now it’s more popular than it was before, but it’s still, it’s not as easy to buy as the crossword puzzles.
John: Exactly. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Omolara: I’ve been waiting for this question because you ask everybody. Whenever they say Star Trek, I’m like, why? It’s so funny because I was listening to one of your episodes the other day, and I’m like, well okay, so if you had to ask me when I was five or seven, I probably would have said Star Trek because that’s when they had the series on, and I was watching that all the time. Since I was 11, they started coming out with the Star Wars movies, and they come out with them so often.
John: The new ones.
Omolara: Yeah, the Anakin, Queen Amidala, now they’ve got the new, new ones. I don’t even know their names because I’m old.
John: And the shows, they have a series now.
Omolara: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars it is. There you go. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Omolara: PC. I had a Mac when I was in design school. My first major was Architecture, so they made us buy a Mac. I do miss it, but I feel it’s like Sudoku versus crossword. PC is more widely available, and everything is more tailored to PC.
John: Especially work-related stuff, yeah, for sure. Absolutely. How about favorite toppings on a pizza?
Omolara: I like extra cheese. I’m so simple.
John: Just cheese with extra cheese.
Omolara: Extra cheese. I’m getting a little older now, so I got to watch what I eat a little more.
John: Sure. That’s a solid answer. I love it because there’s all different kinds of cheeses. Some of them have four cheese pizzas out there and stuff. No, that’s a solid answer. How about your first concert?
Omolara: My first concert I believe was NERD. That’s Pharrell, Pharrell Williams’ band. It was in college actually.
John: That’s going way back. That’s awesome. That’s super cool. That’s pretty awesome. How about more oceans or mountains?
Omolara: That’s easy. It’s so funny. I was just telling you, I just moved to a place with mountains, and I never thought that I would — because I’m an ocean girl all the way, but the mountains out here are so beautiful. I can’t choose right now. Oh, my God, the green, green mountains, and you’re just looking at them, but then the ocean and the sand. I’m tied right now. I’m tied.
John: Well, in the mountains but you can see the ocean. I’ll give you both. I’ll give you both.
Omolara: That will be nice.
John: How about, I love ice cream, so, your ice cream, in a cup or a cone?
Omolara: I do both. I’m so weird. I have very weird dietary habits. I’m so specific everywhere I go. I know people want to spit on my food. I like having the cone, but I don’t like it to drip because it’s hard. You’re trying to eat it real fast before it starts to drip. I have it in the cone, but I have it in the cup and then put the cone on top.
John: That’s what I do. That’s exactly what I do. I want the sugar cone. I want to be able to eat it, but I also don’t want to have it drip all down the cone and everything like that. That’s exactly what I do. That’s a trick question. That the only right answer is the cone in the cup.
Omolara: I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength here.
John: It’s like a little dunce hat there on top of the ice cream. That’s awesome. How about, since you have the accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?
Omolara: I think I like the income statement more just because I love doing bank recs. It’s talking about doing those bank recs. I just love doing them and matching the bank transaction. That’s my favorite thing to do.
John: There you go. I’ll give it to you. I’ll give it to you. How about a favorite number?
Omolara: I don’t really have one. I’m going to say nine because that’s the first one that came to the top of my head.
John: All right. It’s a positive number at least, so that’s good. No one’s ever said a negative number, now that I think about it.
Omolara: I should have done that just to be different.
John: Right. Don’t worry about it. It’s all good. It’s all good. Would you say, are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Omolara: I’m definitely an early bird.
John: Really. Okay.
Omolara: Even on a weekend, I can’t sleep past 7:00 on a weekend.
Omolara: Yes. My parents were the same. I don’t know if it’s genetic or just lifetime habits. I go to bed early too. I’m old lady. I’m going to bed by 9:00. I can’t do it.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so great. This is a fun one, socks or shoes.
Omolara: I’m laughing because right now, if I was working from an office, I would have shoes on, but I work from home, so I have only socks.
John: Right. Totally. Absolutely. Socks are the new shoes, I feel like, since the pandemic.
Omolara: They are. Yeah.
John: They’re worn more often. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.
Omolara: I will say my purse. I had a purse, a really pretty exotic purse that I was wearing. I had it two years. It basically fell apart. I got so many compliments on it. I don’t know, I’m going to have to get it made over again or something. It was a ball. It looked like a pumpkin or something like that. It had a diamond clasp. I just love that purse.
John: That’s super cool. Super cool. Let’s talk about learning new languages, living in other countries. How did that get started? Did you grow up traveling a lot or…
Omolara: Actually, now that you mentioned it, when I had that NERD concert in college, that was when my mindset started to change because I was in a major that I really didn’t like. I was in Architecture. I was just really burnt out. I was in one of the top design schools of the country. It’s like, you could sleep when you’re dead. You don’t get any rest. No time to party. You’re just in studio the whole time. I was not happy. I went to that concert, and my favorite celebrity, I had a crush on Pharrell since I was 11. He literally sung at me the entire — and I’m not lying. You could ask one of my friends. He sung at me the entire concert. I was like, what the heck? That’s when I started believing in dreams. No lie. This is beyond what I ever would have dreamed of ever. I didn’t even think I would ever see him in person because I’m from Cincinnati. He actually came to Cincinnati to perform, which no big name artist goes to Cincinnati.
After that, I switched majors. That’s when I decided to major in Accounting. Honestly, now, I see that my design background has really played a part in my accounting career because I’m able to do graphic design, as far as my brand, the S/uperhero brand. I don’t think I would have done that if I wasn’t a Design major. I think most accountants are like, why is she dressed like a superhero? Even my resume is branded a certain way. It’s not plain. I definitely have a lot of different interests and abilities that I can do. I switched to Accounting because that was my second choice, and I knew it was going to be easy. It was easy compared to Architecture, so much easier.
Then I decided to study abroad because there was a study-abroad presentation on one of my classrooms. I had always wanted to go to Egypt. I grew up having a passion for Egypt. There was a girl that came. She had a presentation of her riding camels. I was, ooh, I’ve got to do that. Long story short, I ended up studying abroad in Dubai, my last semester. It really just changed my life forever. When I came back home, I never did get over it. It’s always been in my heart since then to live abroad and live in a luxurious city abroad. That’s when my multilingual abilities started to take effect. Because before I left for Dubai, I was taking private Arabic lessons just to get ready for my trip.
John: Totally. I went to Dubai last year. It’s amazing how much English they speak there. Because I learned a handful of Arabic phrases just to be polite, and everyone’s like, why are you, literally, back in English, why are you using Arabic? Just speak English. I was like, my bad.
Omolara: That’s not a good place to learn Arabic, not a good place.
John: Not at all.
John: It is very nice. It’s such a clean city, really cool city, for sure. That’s a great opportunity for you to be over there. What other languages? Arabic, and I’m assuming some Spanish.
Omolara: Yes. Spanish, I’m almost fluent. Arabic, I’m just basic, basic. I can say hello, good morning.
John: Well, that’s enough for me.
Omolara: I learned it ten years ago. I learned the letters. There are different letters. I learned all the sounds. It’s stale at this point, but I am almost fluent in Spanish. I can get around. I can travel anywhere in Latin America now because I speak Spanish well enough to do that.
John: That’s awesome. So cool. You lived in Dubai for a bit and then Mexico. Have you lived in other countries as well?
Omolara: These are my only two. When I went to Dubai, I actually planned on going to Egypt. However, there was a war that occurred there at that time, and so it got placed on a do-not-travel list. Since I received a scholarship from the State Department, I wasn’t able to go, and I had to go to Dubai. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I am thinking of getting a second home or a vacation home in Egypt. That is my long-term goal, and to also get citizenship there.
John: Nice. Very cool. Because there’s time. It’s cool that you have these on your radar and on your target to go to and that you have that adventurous side. Did you think that just came from that college opportunity of being able to study abroad? You were like, yeah, let’s give it a shot.
Omolara: Yes, for sure, definitely broadened my horizons. I realized that the world was, I guess you could say, a lot smaller than it actually is. It’s a lot easier. People are very friendly when I go abroad, especially when I learned the language. I lived in Mexico before this, a couple of years ago. Even when I didn’t speak any Spanish, they already loved me. Now that I speak Spanish, they love me even more. It’s like a motivator for me to learn it because, one, as you can see, I like to talk.
John: It’s all good. It’s all good. Of course, then you will be able to converse with people and connect with them.
Omolara: Yes. I love having conversations like with my Uber driver. Right now, I have conversation with the Uber driver. I’m friends with the security guards outside, the security guard at the mall. We’re chilling while I’m waiting for my Uber. If I didn’t speak Spanish, I wouldn’t be able to do that, so it’s a motivator to learn more. I’m taking Arabic lessons now, but I also want to learn French and Mandarin.
John: Oh, wow. All right. That’s impressive. I’m still getting English down.
Omolara: Me too. Me too. Sometimes I’m like, dang, my Spanish might actually be better than my English.
John: Right? And I wrote a book. That’s where we’re at in life, everybody. Do you feel like this skill, whether it’s living in another country or learning new languages, does that translate to work at all?
Omolara: For sure. When I interview, all I have to do is say, I speak Spanish and Arabic. I got a scholarship through President Clinton to go to Dubai. I got to meet him while I was over there. I got the job pretty much.
John: Right. Yeah, because it’s like, wow, that’s different and unique than everyone else who’s showing up with, well, I have an Accounting degree and whatever. It’s like, well, so does everyone else who’s applying. That’s cool. Was there ever a part of you that was like, should I differentiate, maybe pre the superhero kind of thing? Because now you’re leaning into it, but I feel like a lot of people tell things in our head that maybe end up not being totally true.
Omolara: Yes. I’m actually super leaning into it. Before, I had two different resumes. I had my superhero resume, and I had my boring normal resume. I don’t even use my boring. If they don’t accept the superhero one, then they’re not for me. Same thing when I started my own company, I don’t know if you noticed, I’m wearing a Cruella wig right now. This has been my style for the past, since July, since the movie came out.
John: Which is a great movie, by the way. Super awesome movie.
Omolara: I really liked it. It was good. In interviews or any kind of networking situations, I definitely bring my full self. I’m the type of person, I don’t want to hide who I am because if I do, I feel like I’m dead. I’m really big on authenticity which is why I love your podcast and your work so much.
John: I appreciate it. Thank you. It’s just awesome to have you be a part of it. Because I look at this as our message, collective. It’s not just my story. It’s all of our stories, and they deserve to be told, for sure. I think it’s great that it’s just bringing more Omolara to things because that’s what the world needs, that’s what your career needs, that’s what the organization needs, all of that. I think that’s fantastic. How did this start, sharing at work, or was it like, you just show up and there it is, type of thing?
Omolara: Well, I’ve always been like this. I’ve just been an authentic person. I told myself, when I was a kid, when I’m an adult, I’m not going to grow up and be fake like the other adults. I’ve been pretty true to my word, so far.
John: Even as a kid, you saw this.
Omolara: As a kid, I was like, uh-uh, that’s not me. I’ve got to still be fun. Most accountants are so boring. When I listen to them, I just want to jump off a cliff. I always saw professionals as this uptight. I knew I didn’t want to be like that, so I just, yeah.
John: How much of that do you think is that they feel they have to play that part? It’s not just accountants either. Like you said, it’s professionals. How much do you feel like they feel they have to play that part? Because I honestly don’t think that they’re really like that, a majority of them. Because if you get them at a happy hour or you get them at something outside of work, all of a sudden, it’s like, hey, you’re super fun. Can you bring that person to work on Monday? Because that would be really cool.
Omolara: Well, that’s different because you got them loosened up. You got them drinking at that point. That’s why they’re different.
John: Okay. Okay. Right. But it’s like, well, that seems to be more of who they really are, type of thing.
Omolara: I don’t know. I hang around a lot of people that are polymaths and polyglot. Polyglot means that you’re fluent or you speak four languages or more. From being around those people versus being around most professionals, I do think that most professionals are not like that. They’re not, I don’t know what the word, personable? Is that the word I want to use?
John: Yeah. Lean more on the technical skills and the degree that I have, as opposed to the human side.
Omolara: Yeah. We have more hard skills. We’re focus on our hard skills. That’s what we’re taught to develop in school. Even when it comes to child-rearing, I’m thinking, do I only want them to focus on my intellect, or do I want them to focus on compassion and empathy? I honestly don’t know. I’m thinking of homeschooling. I’m kind of a hippie like Bill is. I think I’ll homeschool my kids.
John: Bill Hershey, who was on a couple of months ago, yeah, absolutely.
Omolara: I don’t want them to just go and be cold and machine-like and calculated and focused on achieving and pushing yourself as hard as you can because I must achieve now. I don’t want them to be like that. I want them to be more balanced and be more compassionate, empathetic and authentic. I think society hasn’t taught us how to think that way. That’s most people’s problem.
John: It certainly, when I was being raised, wasn’t part of the education system. I feel like it’s a little bit more now, but maybe by then, it would be. It’s certainly a skill set that makes you much better at your even corporate job. That’s for sure. There are even studies now that I’m reading about where it’s just direct ROI to the bottom line, if you have more of those skills. Especially the more that computers are doing things, the more AI are doing things, the more of these human skills you definitely need, for sure. How much do you feel like it is on an organization to create that space for people to be able to share their “ands” versus it’s on the individual to just show up as a superhero, here it is?
Omolara: Well, like you said, I feel like once the organizations actually see the ROI of it, then they’ll be more motivated to do so. Until then, they’re going to be like, what’s the “and”? It’s just accounting. Accounting is the only thing that matters. I think that’s in the future. I know right now, DE&I is very big. Right now, they’re focused more on having different groups for different minorities and different ERGs and stuff like that. I think maybe having a place where they do what’s your “and” is the next step in cultural evolution.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve even found from clients that having groups around the “and” allows these DEIA conversations and generational differences to really be a lot smaller. Those differences now suddenly are bridged because we’re able to connect over these outside-of-work interests and these other passions that we have. It’s just a cool way to just connect with others that you work with, with clients, with coworkers, all of it. I’m sure you have some words of encouragement to people. Maybe there’s the 22-year-old Omolara that’s graduating from school that feels they have to be a certain way to be successful. Do you have words of encouragement to people that have an “and” that they think has nothing to do with their job or no one’s going to care?
Omolara: See, my “and” is kind of different because it does indirectly make me more money. Even though I’m not working for an international company where I need to be bilingual, it still helps me land interviews. It helps me connect with international people and/or people who have Spanish as their first language. Of course, I’m looking at it as a different lens as most of the people that I feel like you have on your channel. Their “and” is more like their hobby. My “and” is my hobby. I’m not necessarily doing it for money, but it also helps me network a lot more than a lot of other hobbies would. I would say, focus on doing what you love and make sure you always make time for that. Right now, I’m taking one to five hours of language classes in Spanish and Arabic, right now, per week. Sometimes I’m like, this is so much time. I can be using this time to make more money, but it makes me so happy that it doesn’t even matter.
John: There you go. That’s really it, is that joy and that happiness that you have. That’s to your soul. That’s deep. That’s not just money surface level, whatever. It’s something that brings you joy, so why not? So many of these “ands”, I mean, literally all of them, accidentally help you at your job. Yours is a little more straightforward, but some of them at least humanizes you. Someone else also speaks Arabic or is crazy about Egypt or whatever it is, has been to Dubai. Awesome. Let’s talk about it. You, all of a sudden, have a best friend for almost no reason.
Omolara: I’ve met two of your people. One guy, I think he…
Omolara: Yes. He’s then one that loves Egypt.
John: James Perry.
Omolara: Yeah. I met him. There was another one that speaks Spanish, and she likes to travel. I met her too.
Omolara: Yes. Even though I’m not following as much as I used to because I’m not on LinkedIn all the time like I was, I do see some stuff. I’m like, I got to listen to this one. They’re just like me. Then I’ll connect with them and start messaging them and stuff.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s how you create that connection. That’s so cool to here. Well, I feel it’s only fair that, since I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, that we turn the tables and make this the Omolara McCloud podcast. You’re the host. I’m your guest. Thanks for having me on. You can ask me whatever you’d like. I’m all yours.
Omolara: Okay. I’m going to ask this one that you forgot to or you didn’t ask me. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: I think I’m going to go chocolate.
Omolara: What? You have to think about it?
John: Well, milkshakes or ice cream, yes, still chocolate.
Omolara: Okay. Because I was waiting for you to ask that question because I’m a chocolate hit. I love chocolate. I can have chocolate — now that I’m getting older, my stomach can’t take it, but when I was younger, chocolate on chocolate. I don’t know if you — I think I’m a different generation, but growing up on the show called All That.
John: Oh, yeah.
Omolara: On Nickelodeon, there was this set called Mandy and Randy. They just love chocolate. I was like, oh, my God, that is so me. I just love watching that set. I’m still like that now, but, like I said, I’m getting older. My stomach will be.
John: If you could have that and then Pharrell singing to you while you ate that, then there it is. There it is.
Omolara: Oh, my God. You know me so well. I have to take some Lactaid first though, because at this point, at this point, I’m more like the guy that had that lactose allergy. Now when I eat a whole bunch of ice cream, I’m like, uh-oh, no.
John: Yeah. We’ve got problems with that. We’ve got problems. That’s hilarious. That’s so funny. Well, sorry I didn’t ask you that one, but I’m glad that you circled back and did because that’s even better.
Omolara: Yeah. I was super excited to tell that joke. Like I said before, I like to talk, and I love telling jokes.
John: It’s all good. It’s all good. All good. Omolara, thank you so much for just being such a supporter of the show and of the message and now being a part of it. It’s just really cool to have you be here. Thanks so much, Omolara.
Omolara: Thank you. I really appreciate it, John.
John: Absolutely. Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Omolara from traveling or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to read the book.
Thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast 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.
Kerry is a CEO & World Traveler & Dog Lover
Kerry Crockett, CEO of IASA, talks about her passions for traveling the world, helping animals, and how these passions and her career both require compassion and building relationships!
• Getting involved with the Humane Society
• Traveling with her family as a child
• Favorite places she has visited
• How her passions translate to her role as a CEO
• The culture at IASA
• Leading by example
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to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
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Welcome to Episode 389 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 the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you with this voice, 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 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, Kerry Crockett. She’s the CEO of the Insurance Accounting and Systems Association, that’s the IASA, and now she’s with me here today. Kerry, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Kerry: Thank you, John, appreciate you having me. I’m looking forward to a great conversation with you.
John: This is going to be so much fun. I have my rapid-fire questions out of the gate here, get to know Kerry on a next level here. I’ll start you out with a pretty easy one, favorite color.
John: Red. Okay. All right.
Kerry: Oh, yes, red, the brighter the better.
John: Oh, okay, okay. How about a least favorite color?
Kerry: Probably grays.
John: Oh, interesting. All right. Yeah. How about a favorite Disney character?
Kerry: Wow. Probably… Gosh, there’s so many of them that I like, but probably, I like Bambi and none of the princesses necessarily, but the animal ones, for sure.
John: Oh, I see where this is going. All right. All right. Definitely. How about pizza or hamburger?
John: Yeah, good answer. That was a trick one. That is the right answer.
Kerry: You can’t go wrong either way.
John: No, you really can’t. You really can’t. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Kerry: Meryl Streep definitely comes to mind.
John: Oh, yeah.
Kerry: Powerful. Yeah, absolutely brilliant.
John: Yeah, solid answer. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kerry: Probably neither.
John: Neither. Fair enough.
John: Fair enough. Yeah, totally. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac.
John: Yeah, me too.
Kerry: Yeah, I’m a basic girl.
John: Right. Let’s just get this done. How about first concert you went to?
Kerry: With my big brother.
Kerry: Yeah, my big brother and two of his friends. I was the little sister tag-along, and it was fabulous.
John: That’s amazing. Wow, that is awesome. Very cool. How about a favorite ice cream flavor? I’m a huge ice cream junkie.
Kerry: Oh, probably pineapple or coconut or both together.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. Nice. How about, do you have a favorite day of the week?
Kelly: Well, obviously, Friday. That means you’re getting into the weekend.
John: Right? Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. That works. How about a favorite animal, any animal at all?
Kelly: Oh, probably a dog.
John: Still a dog? Okay. All right.
Kelly: Yeah, still probably a dog.
John: That works.
John: Yeah, yeah. Totally, and it’s not going to eat you.
Kerry: Well, that depends too.
John: Well, I guess that’s true. I guess that’s a good point. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Kerry: Real books. I like to turn the page. I like to feel it in my fingers. Yeah.
John: Yeah, yeah. I’m the same way on that. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Kerry: You know what, I used to be a night owl. The older I get, I find myself becoming more of an early bird.
John: Right? It’s weird like that, right?
Kerry: I just can’t sleep like I used to.
John: No. It’s weird. Then you wake up early, and you’re like, I don’t even want to wake up early.
Kerry: I know. It’s true.
John: This is Saturday. Why am I waking up early? Ay-ay-ay. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. All right, two more, two more, or three more rather. Favorite number.
John: Is there a reason?
Kerry: It goes way, way back. I’ve just always liked the number, and it actually ended up being my husband’s favorite number as well. Now we use it when we want to say I love you. We just say 22. If we’re texting each other, it’s quick.
John: Nice. I like that. That’s fantastic. Oh, this is a good one. We’ve got two more. Since you’re in Georgia, tea or sweet tea.
Kerry: Tea, unsweet tea. I can’t do sweet tea anymore.
John: Well, sweet tea down there is hoo!
Kerry: Yes, it is.
John: It’s sugar.
Kerry: It’s sugar.
John: It’s sugar that’s brown.
Kerry: That’s true.
John: I feel teeth falling out as I drink it.
Kerry: Too sweet.
John: Oh, yeah. It’s amazing. Last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Kerry: Well, I don’t know that I actually own them, but I would have to say my puppies, my dogs. Yeah.
John: Oh, yeah.
Kerry: They own me, for sure, but they’re my favorites, outside of my hobby, of course.
John: The favorite thing you have.
John: That’s cool. What kind of puppies are they?
Kerry: I’ve got some rescues. One is a Deer Head Chihuahua, and one is a Husky-Shepherd mix.
John: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.
Kerry: A big girl and little girl.
John: Yeah, I was going to say that’s quite the mix.
John: That leads right into the Humane Society work and just being a dog lover in general. Did you grow up with dogs? Or was it something that you just picked up later?
Kerry: Oh, no, I have always been an animal lover. I can recall, one of my earliest memories is actually going up to a big dog. I can’t recall what kind it was. It actually jumped on me, pushed me down, and I couldn’t wait to get back up and pet it again. That was when I was, I think, three years old. That’s my earliest memory.
John: For sure. My parents had a dog when I was born, and we always had dogs for the most part, except for maybe a little pause in between sort of thing. Yeah, dogs are, they’re just great. They’re always excited to see you and happy around and always up for a walk or whatever is happening. They’re so smart too. It’s crazy how they pick up on our patterns. I’m like, am I that lame? I’m that predictable? You know what we’re doing?
Kerry: Yeah. They know when you’re feeling bad. They come up, and they want to snuggle with you. They want to make sure that you’re okay. It’s fabulous. I love them. It’s not just dogs. I love anything, every kind of creature. I have no issue with snakes and spiders and all of the above. Anything that breathes, I love.
John: Wow, that’s really cool. I know you’ve done some work with the Humane Society. How did you get started with that?
Kerry: It was probably, gosh, close to 20 years ago, my involvement with the Humane Society. There was a grooming place near where I lived. I just went in because I saw there was a sign outside about the Humane Society. I went in and realized they were actually utilizing space there to house the animals, and got to talking with them. The next thing I knew I was out back, and I was bathing dogs in one of the kennels outside. I was so excited. I kept saying, “Is there another I could do? Give me another one. I’m happy to do it.”
Kerry: That was my introduction to volunteer work with Humane Society, and it has just been with me since that time and led me all the way up to the Board of Directors with the local Humane Society that we had. More than that, it really just kept me in touch with a fabulous group of folks and just saw so much value in the work that we did, acquiring the old city jail for our first Humane Society here in Augusta and the work we had to do to get it ready for the animals and all of that. It’s just a great, great experience.
John: Yeah, it just makes you feel good in the end. Our dog is Rocket. He’s a terrier mix rescue. When we went to go — we saw him online, and we were like, hey. Then there’s all these dogs and puppies and whatever. It’s just fun. It just makes you smile. We’ll hang out in this little area with them and make sure that whatever, and then it’s, well, do you want to take him home? Let’s go. I’m like, what? It was almost like a dad, I mean, I don’t have kids, but when you’re leaving the hospital, except for I didn’t know that we were pregnant. All of a sudden, it’s like, we don’t have a leash. We don’t have a collar. We don’t have anything.
Kerry: Oh, my gosh, and they sold him to you?
John: They were like, well, the Petco is next door so just go over there. I was just like, well, cha-ching.
Kerry: There we go.
John: Yeah, it was awesome. Then we Craig’s Listed, on the way home, a crate for him to sleep in at first. Yeah, it was awesome. Yeah, it just makes you feel good, and to be around more people like that, that are just making the world a better place.
Kerry: Absolutely. Yeah, and you can see it in the animal’s eyes, too. The cats, the dogs, you can tell how grateful they are. Really. People think I’m crazy when I say that, but other animal lovers, they know what I’m talking about.
John: Yeah, it is crazy how intuitive animals are and why humans didn’t get that trait, or some humans anyway. I’m not sure. I’m not sure. That’s awesome. That’s very cool. Do you have a more unique animal that you’ve helped rescue or been around?
Kerry: Oh, yeah, we’ve had all kinds of animals. I’m an army brat. When we lived in barracks when we were stationed in Karlsruhe, Germany, this was when I was younger, we couldn’t have cats, dogs, larger animals like that. We had mice and guinea pigs. That was our thing. We had a couple of mice, Ralph and Bandit, and they were dancing mice. They would spin around and chase their tails, which is why they were called dancing mice. I recall my mother just fussing about these things. I can’t believe we have rats in the house and that kind of stuff.
Kerry: Waiting for her one morning, because she was coming in to wake me up for school, I was already awake, and hear her talking to them. Oh, look at you, aren’t you cute? Look at you. Yeah, animals go way back with us. We’ll have any — I mean, I’ll take anything that I’m allowed to have. My sister has a snake, so it’s a little bit in the family as well.
John: That’s interesting. That’s really interesting. I guess being an army brat translates over to your travel, another passion you have. I was an Air Force brat. When you move every two or three years, you’re just used to it. I’m sure you got to travel quite a bit, growing up, as well.
Kerry: Yeah, we did. We traveled a good bit. We were selected, stationed in Germany for about five years. From that experience, we probably hit 85% of European countries. We had a Volkswagen camper, and we would camp all over, everywhere we went, four of us kids and my mom and dad in this camper.
John: Oh, my.
Kerry: Yeah. We would just go. My dad would take a month off in the summer, and we would hit two or three countries and every cathedral and every castle. It gets old after a while when you’re kid. It’s not until you come back to the States and you get older that you realize, wow, that was a good experience. I’m really grateful for that.
John: Right. It’s like, now I have adult money, let’s go back or let’s go do something else.
Kerry: Right. Yeah. Well, it really did get into my blood. You can send me to the store across the street, and I get excited. I love to travel. It doesn’t really matter where it’s at. It’s the way it is. You can imagine how hard this past year has been. The travel for me has really just been all about understanding and learning different cultures, even if it’s within the US because you can go from one state to another and it’s a completely different culture.
Kerry: I think that that’s really been valuable to me. It’s been fun. As an adult, I try to do at least one international trip a year just to go to another country that I’ve never been to.
John: Right. Yeah, I saw the picture at the Great Wall of China. I was like, wow, that is awesome. Is that one of your favorite places you’ve been?
Kerry: It was one of our favorite trips. It was incredible, but I will tell you, it was also the coldest I have ever been in my life.
John: Really? Okay.
Kerry: We were there at the end of December and into the first week of January. We were there for a couple of weeks. It was freezing, freezing cold, but it was amazing. It was incredible. We went all over the place. It was great.
John: That’s cool. Do you have any other favorite places? Because people always ask me and it’s hard to know.
Kerry: Oh, for sure Africa.
John: Oh, yeah. Where did you go?
Kerry: We went to Botswana and South Africa and to Zambia as well. That was a wonderful trip, on safari, and that was just incredibly amazing. It’s so exciting. I’ve been thinking about it. That was in 2012 that we went, and I’ve told my husband every year, “This year, we’re going back. This year, we’re going back.” We just haven’t gotten there. Finally this year, we have a trip to Tanzania planned in October, for two weeks.
John: Oh, nice. Yeah, people in the US especially don’t understand Africa is huge. It’s so big. On the map, it is not proportionate at all. The top part width is two and a half times as wide as the US. When I went there, it was like, this is huge. This is unbelievable. The differences, talking about from state to state, I mean, from country to country, and Africa’s crazy differences. That’s really awesome to hear. That’s neat. Do you feel like any of the skills, whether it’s helping animals or being passionate about animals or travel, translates to work at all?
Kerry: Oh, I think all of it does, absolutely. When I think about my work with the animals and the wide range of needs that they’ve had, I think what really translates from my work with that is compassion and empathy, and how I then take that and translate that to my team or to people that I’m working with or anybody in the world actually that I come in contact with.
Kerry: It’s always trying to be compassionate about whatever situation they’re in and be empathetic to where they’re coming from. I think that ties really well with my travel in terms of culture as well because my experiences in travel has always been around understanding what the new culture is with the area that I’m in, the new city, state, country, whatever that is. As we talked already about growing up as an army brat, you grow up in that type of diverse environment already, just based on the fact that the army has such a diverse population, I guess. Then wherever you’re stationed, you’re forced to make new friends and to meet new people and understand their cultures and all of that.
That, for me, I think has been really, really imperative in terms of how I approach various people from different walks of life, where they’re from, and tying that empathy and compassion into trying to understand where they’re coming from and trying to understand what they’re thinking about a certain thing. Because cultures obviously are very, very different and what might be great or okay for me, might be something that’s really different for them. Trying to take that empathy and compassion and just look from their shoes, I guess, sort of see things.
John: Yeah, which is awesome as a CEO to have that perspective, that it’s not just do it my way or get the heck out of here. It’s almost the opposite, which is really fantastic.
Kerry: I think it’s definitely helped me, and I’ve grown quite a bit in terms of how I work with my teams and how I lead my teams or how I try to lead my teams. It really has — I think all of these combined experiences have really helped me grow as an individual and helped me grow as a leader for organizations that I tried to lead and work with my team on.
John: Because it’s not like you’re traveling so then you become a better leader, or it’s not like you’re helping animals, but it’s a pretty awesome byproduct that just comes about. I’m guessing that this is something that you talk about at work, with coworkers or even the Board and what have you.
Kerry: Oh, sure. I recall in my interview with this group, they asked me one fun fact about myself, and I think I said something about I’ve been to five continents or something. It always goes back to travel. Of course, we talked about what kind of animals you have and that kind of stuff.
Kerry: It always goes back to that. I’m always willing and ready and excited to talk about either one of those things, my passions, with anybody, as soon as the topic comes up. Yeah.
John: Yeah, it’s a more interesting conversation than, can you tell us one thing about where you used to work? Well, we used Excel.
Kerry: It humanizes, though, when we talk about our personal interests and our passions, and I think it really gives insight into an individual when they talk about something that they’re really passionate about. You can really learn a lot from people that way.
John: I found though, that some people, for whatever reason, just in their head, there’s a narrative that no one cares, or this has nothing to do with my job, or it’s not professional to have something outside of work besides thinking about more work type of thing. As a CEO, I mean, how do you approach that with people, to encourage that?
Kerry: Well, certainly with my team, we’re very, very close. It’s a fabulous team. We know a lot about what’s happening in each other’s lives. We text on the weekend, if we’re out gardening, or if we’re doing other things. We’re group chatting, and we’re texting that way. We’re really close. When I’m meeting new board members, new clients, new whatever they are, it’s a great icebreaker. Do you have any pets? Do you have any kids? Do you like to travel? It’s just a great icebreaker, and I think it puts everybody on a level set. Because we’re all human at the end of the day and we can all find things that we can talk about. Even if I was talking to, I don’t know, the president of some big corporation or whatever, at the end of the day, he’s still human. He still might have a dog. I might not understand the work that he does, but darn it, I can certainly understand about his dog, or he can understand about mine and how I feel about it, right?
John: No, I love it. Absolutely. Because the animal lover part of that person and you is just as big if not bigger than the work part of you and him, so that conversation, you’re getting who he is or who she is as a person, which is just deeper and richer.
Kerry: Absolutely. Yeah, and it just builds a great foundation for relationships for the future.
John: Yeah. I love that. That’s so awesome to hear that I’m not crazy, and it’s a real world thing.
Kerry: It’s a real world thing, at least in my world.
John: Yeah. No, totally, and the other 400-plus people that have been on the show. Yeah, it’s just cool to hear that. How much is it on the organization to create that atmosphere, like it sounds like you’ve done, versus how much is it on the individual to maybe they could start it among their little group or to even join in, if this is the way it is?
Kerry: Well, in my mind, it’s all about leading by example. If I am demonstrating a behavior and if that means, so, how are things going with you, what are you doing this weekend, those kinds of things where you’re trying to really get in touch with somebody on a personal level, if I’m leading by example, it gives the okay for others in my space, whether it’s my team members, whether it’s my Board, whether it’s other volunteers or people that I meet, it doesn’t matter. It gives that green light to have those conversations back with me, to ask me those kinds of questions. I think it breaks down those barriers of I’m a CEO, and this person over here is another job title that maybe not, they might consider, at the same level of me, for example.
Kerry: It breaks down those barriers, right? If I lead with that, if I’m able to sort of say, let’s cut through all this other stuff and get down to the fact that we’re both humans, talk to me about your dog, your travel, whatever, your grocery store trip, whatever that is; I think that example then gives permission to others to have those similar conversations. I certainly see it with my team. Everybody is extremely close. It’s a very family type atmosphere, and I have similar relationships with my Board and volunteers. I’m very eager to hear about what’s happening in their lives and just to continue to build that relationship which, in turn, builds that trust and then makes for a better working relationship.
John: I couldn’t agree more. That’s awesome to hear because that reciprocity of — the universe is out of balance, if only one of us shares. Somebody else has to or it’s just going to be awkward. It’s cool that you create that space. That’s awesome to hear. That’s really cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that have that hobby or passion that they think no one cares about?
Kerry: I would say you’d be surprised to find others that have an interest in what you’re doing and whatever your hobby is. Never be afraid to ask and to open up. You’ll find out pretty quickly if somebody is open to the conversation or not. If they’re not, that’s okay. You haven’t lost anything. So I would just say, don’t be shy. Just ask the question, or just put yourself out there and start a conversation around something that’s of interest to you and see what response you get. There’s no harm done.
John: Yeah. You’re out a couple of minutes. That’s the worst case scenario. Then you know that that person’s on a list of people to not talk to.
Kerry: Don’t waste your time on.
John: Right. It’s not just at work. It’s all over in life. The more that people are talking about these things, I love that, how it just humanizes us. It brings us all level set, like you said, and it just makes for better work and better life in the end.
Kerry: Yeah. Tear down those walls, exactly.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s very cool. Yeah, this has been so awesome, Kerry. Before I wrap up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables because I very rudely fired away at you, 17 questions. I’m going to turn the tables. This is the first episode of The Kerry Crockett podcast. Thanks for having me on. I’m all yours. Whatever you want, you can ask away.
Kerry: All right, John, here we go. I’ve got three questions for you in rapid-fire sequence. Here we go. Are you ready?
John: I’m ready.
Kerry: All right, dog or cat?
Kerry: All right. Tell me again, what kind you have?
John: It’s a terrier mix. Although, funny story, we did the DNA thing, because it’s clear that he’s a terrier mix, if you just look at him, but it comes back where he’s got a grandparent that’s full Chihuahua and then on the other side, a great grandparent that’s a Rottweiler and everything else. They were like, we don’t know. I was literally like, I think we get our money back.
Kerry: I’ve done the same thing. I’ve had the same kind of experience.
John: Rottweiler-Chihuahua mix? What are you talking — look at him. People in the dog park, they call him pinschy in the dog park. He looks just like that, not a Rottweiler-Chihuahua mix. What are you talking about? It was hilarious.
Kerry: They clearly need to do a little bit more scientific work on those DNA tests for dogs, don’t they?
John: Exactly. It was just more funny for me, but, yeah, he’s awesome.
Kerry: Okay, next question, theater or Netflix.
John: So, for movies, not live theater, okay. Yeah. That’s tough because in the theater, if I’m the only one there, I control who’s in the theater with me, then theater.
John: If I’m with the general public, probably Netflix just because, I don’t know, people’s phones, and they talk. It’s just like, what is happening? The world has lost its mind. So, if it’s like a private viewing, then theater, for sure.
Kerry: Do you like it when people talk back to the screen in the theater?
John: No. Although it’s hilarious. It’s more hilarious to me. Although, there are times where I think something’s absolutely funny, and I’m the only one laughing at the whole theater. That’s just funny.
Kerry: I wish I was home watching Netflix.
John: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, but it’s the ones that are just talking openly, not at the movie, just talking. It’s like, what are you doing? It’s not like we can pause for you, type of thing. Probably theater, I guess, in the end because you can feel it. My house isn’t quite set up with the sound system that theaters have.
Kerry: Yeah, it’s not the same experience.
Kerry: All right. Last one, baseball or football?
John: Football, for sure. I don’t know. Baseball, I feel like, if we could make it six innings.
Kerry: Yeah, speed it up a little bit.
John: Something or, I don’t know, just more entertaining. Let them taunt each other and whatever. That’s fun. Cool. Well, Kerry, this has been so much fun. I appreciate you being part of this and also for having me speak at IASA Conference. That was super fun, too. Thank you so much.
Kerry: Thank you. Appreciate it. Enjoyed the talk, and it’s good to see you again.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Kerry’s travels or her dogs or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and 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.
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
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
Photos of Bill’s Travels
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
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
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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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