The Change Your Mindset Podcast

Welcome to the Change Your Mindset podcast, hosted by Peter Margaritis, CPA, AKA The Accidental Accountant. Peter is a speaker, expert in applied improvisation and author of the book 'Improv Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. Peter's new book, Taking the Numb Our of Numbers: Explaining & Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity will be published in June 2018.

S2E39. Raising Self-Esteem Through Improv Techniques with Eileen Kahana

Eileen Kahana is the Founder and CEO of a Chicago nonprofit, Room to Improv, a non-profit dedicated to raising the self-esteem of students, veterans, and seniors, and, ultimately, empowering them to enrich their lives. It teaches them how to explore, embrace, and adopt the techniques of improvisation into everyday living in order to motivate individuals to care about themselves and others, make healthy choices, effective decisions, and use their confidence to overcome their fears.

Improv had always been a part of Eileen, but it was only recently that she discovered its name and process. After retiring from an accomplished career as a teacher and mentor from the Chicago Public School System, Eileen challenged herself to take an improv class at the Second City. That one class turned into a two-year, life-changing experience, and inspired her to create Room2Improv. The more she took, the more she realized that everyone needed an improv class. And she realized that this is what Chicago Public School children need.

She thought about all the things improv can bring to people: confidence, being in the moment, public speaking, team building, supporting your partner, and being in a place where everything you say and do is correct. These were all things students needed. We raise kids at home and at school constantly telling them “no” and what they are doing wrong. Why would anybody want to be in an environment that is not supportive? Improv was an environment needed in school.

Eileen started this nonprofit, Room2Improv, that’s dedicated to raising the self-esteem of students and, ultimately, empowering them to live enriching lives. Her goal is to make improv available to those who wouldn’t think to do it and to those who can’t afford it.

There can be a lot of pushback about introducing improv in schools, though. Besides the misunderstanding that improv is just comedy, and that it’s not important, there is the issue of budgets. The arts are continuously being cut across the board, not just in Chicago, but in many school systems. But this is so important, because a well-rounded student needs the arts.

No matter what neighborhood or school, the needs are the same. Students have a human need for confidence, which motivates people to care about themselves. And once you care about yourselves, it trickles down into caring for others. It’s the fundamental human need of being validated, encouraged, and accepted.

The goal of Room2Improv is to make improv available to everyone. To make this possible, to give space to visit schools who don’t have the budget to spend on the arts, they rely on donations and fundraisers to give access to as many people as possible.

Please visit room2improv.com. There are some great videos there talking about their mission and some of their accomplishments. If you keep scrolling down, there’s an area for giving. If you feel compelled to do so, please consider donating. This is a cause that is making a huge difference in children and in the military. Let’s help Eileen reach this goal of bringing improv to as many people as possible.

Resources:

Transcript:

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Eileen Kahana: [00:00:00] When you have self-confidence and good self-esteem, you’re not going to allow anyone to bully you, and you don’t need to be a bully.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:20] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv Is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:05] Welcome to Episode 39. And my very special guest today is Eileen Kahana, who’s the Founder and CEO of a Chicago nonprofit, Room to Improv. After retiring from an accomplished career as a teacher and mentor from the Chicago Public School System, Eileen challenged yourself to take an improv class at the Second City. That one class turned into a two-year, life-changing experience, and inspired her to create Room2Improv.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:33] Now, the mission of Room2Improv is dedicated to raising the self-esteem of students, veterans, and seniors, and, ultimately, empowering them to enrich their lives. By teaching them how to explore, embrace, and adopt the techniques of improvisation into everyday living, we motivate individuals to care about themselves and others, make healthy choices, and effective decisions, and use their confidence to overcome their fears.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:00] I met Eileen this summer when attending a two-day improv workshop in Chicago taught by Jay Sukow. Now, Jay has been a guest on this podcast before and was Eileen’s first improv instructor at the Second City. And as part of Room2Improv’s team, he is Eileen’s improv mentor. Also, Annie Conderacci, who’s also been a guest on my podcast, sits on the board of Room2Improv. The more I learned
about the outstanding work she does, I had to have her on my podcast, so she could share her story and mission with you, my audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:34] After you listen to this episode, and you feel compelled to donate to Room2Improv, please go to www.room2improv.com, and scroll down to the gift section, and donate whatever you can to this wonderful cause.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:50] Now, before you get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite family radio of podcasts. It’s an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more prevalent business podcasts, such as The Hero Fact with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com. And you can also listen to this episode now on iHeart Radio.
Announcer: [00:03:20] This podcast is part of the C-suite Radio Network: Turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:27] Now, a word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:03:30] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:19] Now, let’s get to the interview with Eileen Kahana.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:25] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’m very excited about my guest today, Eileen Kahana. I met her—up to taping of this, I met her about a month, a little over a month ago. I attended a two-day improv improper intensive workshop in Chicago. And I met Eileen, and she has such a wonderful story that I had to have her as a guest on this podcast. First and foremost, Eileen, thank you very much for taking time to be part of this podcast. I’m so looking forward to our conversation.
Eileen Kahana: [00:04:56] Thank you, Peter, for inviting me. I’m looking forward for this opportunity as well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:03] So, I have to ask this question first, right off the bat, how does a former teacher in the Chicago Public School System create this wonderful not-for-profit, Room2Improv?
Eileen Kahana: [00:05:18] It’s a great question. I wish the answer were simple or short. Let’s put it that way. The answer is simple. Improv has always been my way of being. And only recently did I discover its name and its process. So, my career ended unexpectedly. The Chicago Public School System decided that I was no longer beneficial for their needs, and I wanted to go out on top of my career. So, I-
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:56] Okay.
Eileen Kahana: [00:05:56] I resigned. I retired. I did not resign. I retired. And I wasn’t ready for a rocking chair or knitting needles. And I challenged myself, as I have my entire life to learn new things, and I decided to take one class at world-famous Second City in Chicago. And that was my intention, take one class and move on. And then, maybe go do piano lessons or something else. And that one class turned into a two-and-a-half-year, life-changing situation. The more I took, the more I realized that everyone needed an improv class. The more I took, the more I realized that this is what Chicago Public School children need.
Eileen Kahana: [00:06:59] Being involved with the system, every two years, there were new initiatives. How can we make Johnny stay in school? How can we get him better
grades, better attendance, whatever? And they would spend millions, and millions, and millions of dollars on these initiatives. And it took any teacher an entire year to figure it out. By May, we finally got this new system. And then, in September, they said, “Forget what we did last year. We’re starting all over. [Crosstalk].”
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:38] Jeez.
Eileen Kahana: [00:07:38] And so, I saw millions, and millions, and millions of dollars wasted. And then, I thought about improv, how its confidence, and being in the moment, and public speaking, and team building, and support your partner, and being in a place where everything you say and do is correct, I said, “That’s what students need.” They leave home after their moms told them, “No, no, no, no.” They get to school and all they hear is, “No, no, no, no.” And why would anybody want to be in an environment that is not supportive? So, I thought improv was an environment needed in school. So, where—I started this nonprofit that’s dedicated to raising the self-esteem of students and, ultimately, empower them to live enriching lives. I want to make improv available to those who wouldn’t think to do it and to those who can’t afford it. That was my goal.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:47] And thank you for doing this. Clearly, I get it. And the person that you took this improv class, Jay Sukow, is also the instructor that we attended in Chicago. But I’ve interviewed him before on this podcast. And he’s always said, “If everybody would just take one improv class, the world would be a better place.”
Eileen Kahana: [00:09:13] Agreed.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:14] And that’s—you know, people kind of look at it, “Okay, that’s kind of pie in the sky,” but that’s dead on. If everybody just took one improv class, and just learned the simple basic skills, and apply them every single day, the world would be a much better place.
Eileen Kahana: [00:09:28] Right. I agree with that. It’s a mindset. It is such a positive, welcoming environment that—I mean, I marketed to schools as bully busting.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:44] Nice.
Eileen Kahana: [00:09:45] Because when you have self-confidence and good self-esteem, you’re not going to allow anyone to bully you, and you don’t need to be a bully. And it works.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:02] You’re right. And I would imagine, it’s tough to get this into the school system, into the classroom, because my interactions is when I introduce improv out into the business world, I hear, “I don’t—I’m not—I don’t want to be funny.” I say, “This has nothing to do about being funny. This has everything to do with the confidence, and having a positive outlook, and moving things in a positive direction by using the two magic words – yes and.” Do you get much pushback from schools?
Eileen Kahana: [00:10:32] I get a lot of pushback from schools for the reasons you just mentioned and, unfortunately, money. They don’t have the money to have the programs. And the arts are continuously being cut across the board, not just Chicago, but in so many school systems. And that, to me, is the saddest possible. I mean, a well-rounded student needs the arts. Yes, it’s a hard sell because of what you said with the, “Oh, I don’t want to be funny,” or “I’m not funny.” And I, again, talk about the bully busting and what improv really promotes, which is the fundamental needs of humans of being validated, encouraged, and accepted. And once Johnny, the student, feels that, he’ll show up, and he’ll be there regularly. And once he starts liking himself, he’ll learn how to like others. And I just know children. I mean, I have a passion for education. I have a passion for accelerating the effectiveness of teaching. And this is the way to do it. Period.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:22] Okay. Now, I’ve got goose bumps. I literally have—I really have goose bumps because I feel that passion coming through this conversation. And being a a believer, you’re spot on. And it’s just getting past that mindset that it’s, you know, we don’t bring funny here, or this is a serious situation. Improv is serious. I mean, it’s very—it’s very—it’s easy. It’s kind of laid back to some degree, you know, but there’s a very serious side to this because when you apply it in the manner that you’ve described, it helps with self—like you said, self-esteem, confidence.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:08] And it’s interesting that we’re having this conversation because last night, I was having a conversation with Annie Conderacci, who is on your board, while I was in Chicago. And we both said the same thing. When we have gotten away from that almost daily dose or weekly dose of improv, we find ourselves transitioning back to—transitioning away from it, not having it in the forefront. But when we keep it in our lives as constant as we can, we see how we show up differently. We see how our lives, how we embrace every single day in a much different, more positive manner than we ever have before and even before the introduction to improv. And along the same lines, you talk to students about this, but you also talk to more than just students. You talk to veterans.
Eileen Kahana: [00:13:57] Correct.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:59] And I’m trying to remember the other audiences. Well, you’ve got veterans, you’ve got seniors, you get the faculty members.
Eileen Kahana: [00:14:08] It sounds like I’ve got everybody covered.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:11] Actually, the only part that you don’t have covered is the extreme youth from 0 to 9. Outside of that, I think you do have everybody else covered.
Eileen Kahana: [00:14:22] Yeah, I’m about effectiveness, about quality over quantity.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:29] Yeah.
Eileen Kahana: [00:14:29] I want to make sure that, at least, by the age of 10, that’s our minimum age, although we have gone into classes of third and fourth graders, and they just love it. I mean, part of what they love, and any educator will tell you this, is that when the kids are having fun, or when the kids are learning and having fun, they don’t realize they’re learning.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:58] Right.
Eileen Kahana: [00:14:59] And so, the tools of improv and the way of teaching improv is such a fun way of learning/living that you promote it to go home and tell your moms and dads what happened today. And hopefully, you tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. And it becomes the mindset and the way of living. I mean, we have been fortunate enough to go into very diverse geographical neighborhoods where all of them have been quite different, and their needs are all the same. I don’t care what neighborhood we’ve gone to, what school we’ve gone to, the needs are the same. It’s the human need. I just have a passionate belief in building of self-esteem to develop people’s confidence, which just motivates people to care about themselves. And once you care about yourselves, it trickles down into caring for others. And think about like what Jay Sukow has quoted, how the world would be better. It’s that simple.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:35] It is. And it’s hard.
Eileen Kahana: [00:16:37] Correct, correct.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:38] Because—and the conversations we’re having before we start recording, you said something about the five Ns.
Eileen Kahana: [00:16:46] Yeah. I mean, I believe or I try and practice to eliminate the five negative words in my vocabulary – the no, not, never, none, nothing. And that includes contractions.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:12] And we could put the word “but” there as well because that’s a negative word.
Eileen Kahana: [00:17:17] Well, the minute you say “but,” you negate the first part of the sentence. For instance, as my students would say, “I did my homework, but I left it at home.” So, I say to them, “Keep your but. I have my own.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:38] I love that. And how would they reply back to that?
Eileen Kahana: [00:17:50] I always got a laugh. Yeah. They—you know, we’re on the same page. I always made sure in my classroom that there was fun on a regular basis. I do believe everything is about the teacher and the relationship that she or he builds with their student. Teaching will only happen once there is a relationship. And that philosophy and that mantra goes with life, goes with improv, goes with anything. Everything is about relationships – everything. And in order to have that happen, you have to have your self-confidence, and you have to be a team player.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:47] And I think a big word is that in order to have that relationship, there has to be a level of trust.
Eileen Kahana: [00:18:57] Yes.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:58] And that’s one of the aspects that when I look at—when I teach improv, what I call the foundation. And one of the foundation blocks is trust. And there’s a quote that I used [indiscernible] David Horsager, who wrote the book, Trust Edge, “Everything of value is built on trust.” The lack of trust is the biggest expense organizations, people, whatever, incur. Once we lose that trust, it takes a long time to get it back. And improv is based off and relationships are based off of the ability to maintain trust and be trustworthy.
Eileen Kahana: [00:19:36] Correct. I agree with that. That’s a quote that should go up in everybody’s office.
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:43] Absolutely.
Eileen Kahana: [00:19:44] I mean, think about the trust and, again, the relationship when—we don’t even have to take the classroom. We can take an office environment. When an employee goes up to his boss and says, “I’ve got this great idea that I think would help our organization,” and the boss knocks it down, says no.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:12] Yeah.
Eileen Kahana: [00:20:12] So, why would I want to work hard for you? Why would I want to work more for you if I’m always going to be shut down? And there are ways—and it’s the same thing in the classroom. When Johnny raises his hand, and he knows the answer or thinks he knows the answer to something, and he’s wrong, and the teacher goes, “No,” why would he want to participate again? It’s so important to encourage and accept the ideas, the answers, the input to help motivate and build that self-esteem in your organization, in your classroom, in your business, in your life, in your relationship with your spouse, with your children, with friends, with everybody who likes to feel good about themselves.
Peter Margaritis: [00:21:17] So, when I am listening to you say that, I’m going, “Okay. So, what gets in the way when the boss says no?” And that’s basically-
Eileen Kahana: [00:21:27] Power.
Peter Margaritis: [00:21:27] The power, the ego.
Eileen Kahana: [00:21:29] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:21:29] And improv is all about, you know, basically putting your ego aside.
Eileen Kahana: [00:21:33] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:21:34] And in a conversation I had recently with Jay, it’s like improv is all about deferring judgment.
Eileen Kahana: [00:21:41] Correct.
Peter Margaritis: [00:21:41] And there’s no such thing as a mistake. It’s a gift. And we shouldn’t punish for that. We should praise that, “Okay. So, what did you learn? How are you going to do this differently?” or “How do you perceive this differently now that this didn’t work?” versus having that punitive effect by saying, “No, that was wrong.” It
just stops conversation. And if people can just set their egos aside, and defer judgment, and and fill that basic human need of listening to other people, which shows appreciation, just morale should never really be bad.
Eileen Kahana: [00:22:26] Sounds great. It sounds like the perfect world.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:30] And I caught myself that time. And it is hard to do because other factors tend to get in the way.
Eileen Kahana: [00:22:37] Because everyone needs to be aware of the value of improv.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:46] And that’s what I love about what you are doing because you’re introducing this at a school level, at a youth level. And by introducing this power of improv and the positive effects it have at this youth level, it’s almost like I can’t wait until they grow up. I can’t wait until they’re out of college, and they’re running businesses and stuff, and see how that all morphs itself and change if they’ve maintained that improv muscle over the years.
Eileen Kahana: [00:23:20] Thank you. Thank you for recognizing that. I am very proud of the lives changing and making a difference to those schools, and children, and veterans, and seniors who I’m able to touch and, hopefully, you know, increase those numbers. And I’m so proud. I’m really very, very proud of where we’ve come from, where we’ve gone, how we’ve grown. And. If it stays where it stays, I’m so aware of the difference that has been made. I don’t know. The Beatles called theirs a Magical Mystery Tour. I call mine an Incredible, Intoxicating, Improv Journey.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:17] Oh, I love that.
Eileen Kahana: [00:24:19] And it is intoxicating. I just want to get the word out there. And I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to help grow our opportunity to be in more schools.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:37] You had me at hello when you were explaining to me in Chicago what you’re doing. And I came back home, and I was bouncing all over the place, (1), because of the two days; and (2), I tell my wife, “I met this incredible woman,” and I started explaining. And I’ll say, “By the way, I got the shirt,” which I’m wearing right now. And I’m just like all over the place. She’ll go, “Would you slow down? Take a breath and tell me about Room2Improv.” And I did. And she kind of—actually, I mentioned this before we got started recording, this has always been at the back of my mind, this is why I’m so passionate about what you do, because I have that same passion.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:21] And she saw that in my eye and said, ‘You’re thinking about it again, aren’t you?” And I said, “Absolutely.” I said, “Not right now,” but you helped replant that seed in my mind because I believe, and I believe you’re making a huge difference, you’re absolutely making a huge difference in the Chicago area, and I want to make a huge difference in the Ohio, the Columbus area. Right now, I’m trying to make a huge difference in the corporate world. But eventually, I want to bring that down to the starting point, children, and having an impact on their lives, do something as intoxicating and magical as improv is.
Eileen Kahana: [00:26:03] Wow! I’m on your team.
Peter Margaritis: [00:26:07] But one question I have is, how all—when did you—what year did you start this?
Eileen Kahana: [00:26:11] It is five-and-a-half years old.
Peter Margaritis: [00:26:16] Okay.
Eileen Kahana: [00:26:17] And we have reached over 400 students in over seven different communities. We are not just based in the Chicago school system, but we have gone to neighboring suburbs and, also, in Chicago area of the Great Lakes Naval Base. We have been fortunate to work with, not veterans, but military men and women currently. And they just loved it. They just love the opportunity to feel supported, and
understood, and validated, which I believe our country needs to improve on how we treat our military and our veterans. And let’s not be political here.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:21] Right, yeah. But you’re right, we do need. You know, when I—in my travels, if I see someone in uniform, or I hear that someone has served, I always thank them for their service.
Eileen Kahana: [00:27:31] Exactly, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:32] And—but—so, you’ve done work for the military, which just in that essence, when we think of the military, we don’t think—they’re not trying to be funny. If there’s ever an example of an organization that really doesn’t want to be funny, but they’re bringing you in, and they’re embracing this concept, and embracing this improv as more than being funny, that right there is a bedrock. That is—well, if the US military is using us, why can’t you?
Eileen Kahana: [00:28:04] Right. I mean, think about it, who more than veterans need self-esteem, and confidence, and team building, and feeling validated, and appreciated.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:19] I have some family members who are in the military, and I’ve had an uncle is a retired colonel. And he did a few tours, who flew jets for the Air Force, did a few tours in Vietnam. And coming back to the States at that point time, I mean, we know how rough it was. And I assume, I’m making this assumption, that some of these veterans that you are working with may have served during this period of time.
Eileen Kahana: [00:28:44] Correct.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:45] Yeah. And it’s a wonderful work that you’re doing with the veterans because without them, this country wouldn’t look like the way it is.
Eileen Kahana: [00:28:55] Exactly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:56] We would—you know. As my uncle said, you know, “We have our freedom, but it’s not free. There’s a cost.”
Eileen Kahana: [00:29:01] Exactly, right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:03] There’s a cost to it. A lot of people have given for a greater cause in order for our freedom. So-
Eileen Kahana: [00:29:12] We also do classes for a nonprofit organization called Kids Rank. And they are all military children.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:25] Oh!
Eileen Kahana: [00:29:26] So, for instance, the average age or the youngest age is 10. And last year, that 10-year-old was already in his Seventh City.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:38] Oh, wow!
Eileen Kahana: [00:29:38] So. these kids don’t feel belonging anywhere, or at home anywhere, or always an outsider. So, this fabulous woman started this nonprofit called Kids Rank. I found out about it. And I said, “You guys need us.” And so, we’ve been working together, and we provide classes for them. And that is, usually, on a military base in the Chicago area, which has been awesome. The kids love it. And if you go to the website, under testimonials, or you’ll hear all of the kids, not all of them, but, obviously, you will see some great feedback that it makes—it’s a very feel-good result.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:44] You know, I never thought about that, the military children. And my uncle was stationed in a lot of different places over his career and the family was there. And even to the point being overseas for a number of years. And if improv could help anybody—I mean, you have to assimilate and adapt a lot-
Eileen Kahana: [00:31:10] Exactly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:10] … a lot quicker than those who don’t have that situation. And if you don’t have an ability to do it, that—those times can be very stressful.
Eileen Kahana: [00:31:19] Right. And it can cause depression or lead to a lot of negative behavior.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:27] Right. Because I’m leaving my friends. I’m leaving this area that I love to go to another place. And this is the seventh time I’ve moved in. We’re just-
Eileen Kahana: [00:31:37] And I’m 10.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:39] And I’m 10, yeah.
Eileen Kahana: [00:31:39] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:40] Yeah. Well, let them ask you this question, and we’ll take a phone from the school perspective. You mentioned earlier in the interview that, you know, some schools don’t have the budget to have you guys come in. Let me ask. So, the question is, is all of your resources, your financial resources, coming from the ability for schools, or the military, or whoever to pay for you to come in, or do you have other means of raising money?
Eileen Kahana: [00:32:10] Great question. So, because schools don’t have money is not the reason we don’t go, okay?
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:18] Okay.
Eileen Kahana: [00:32:18] We do have fundraisers. We do have people who understand this. We’ve had many donations. I’ll go into a school for free. I’m about making improv available to everyone. That’s usually what nonprofits want to do. I’m not about making money or getting the money. I’m about getting the message out. But we get a no from a school because of a time constraint. There is no time for this, or it’s not
important, or they don’t understand, or they’re cutting the arts, or all kinds of reasons. The money is the last answer because I don’t want your money. I don’t need the school’s money. Would it be nice? Would it be nice if they have it, and they gave it to us, and we can, you know, then go into another school that doesn’t have it? Yeah, it opens up opportunities for us to other schools.
Eileen Kahana: [00:33:26] You know, there are schools that have more money than others. There is an inequity in budgets across the system. And if a school says, “We can pay,” I’ll accept it. And with that, I’ll be able to go to a school that cannot pay. And I hope I answered your question. Yes, we do fundraising. Yes, we take donations. Yes, if you want implants at your school or at your professional development for teachers to learn how to get along with one another, to learn how to support one another, we will come and do a professional development workshop for you. We can come and do a team building corporate workshop for you if you’d like to. The goal is to get the message of improv out, because once you get the message of improv out, you have a better world.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:34] Absolutely. And the reason why I asked the question the way I did, I believe my—every now and then, my accountant had jumped on top of my head, and I’m sitting there going, “Okay. You’ve got a great cause. I want you to be heard. But also, it takes financial resources to keep the organization moving forward, and running, and doing the good that it has.” And yes, you’ll go in and do free, but you still have to have some cash flow in order to-
Eileen Kahana: [00:35:05] Of course.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:05] … sustain the business.
Eileen Kahana: [00:35:07] Correct,
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:08] And I’ve gone to the website. I’ve wanted to just, (1), the website is room2improv.com. And scroll down, read through. There’s great videos on there. There’s Eileen talking about a campaign. There’s the military. There’s a video of
Hope Manor talking to veterans. But if you keep going down there’s an area for giving. And it’s a Go Fund Me page that says donate. If you’re listening to this, I would love if you would just take a moment, and go to the website, and donate, 10 bucks, 50 bucks, 100 bucks. This is a cause that is making a huge difference in children and in the military. And let’s help Eileen reach this goal of bringing improv to as many people as possible. I just—I love this. You can probably tell by my voice. I’m very passionate about what you are doing, and I want you to succeed far beyond your wildest dreams. And whatever I can do to help you do that, you know how to find me, and the answer will be yes. And now I have to tell my wife, but that’s okay. But that’s okay. But you know, she understands my passion as well. And I understand her passions. I love what you do. I’m blessed that I got to meet you.
Eileen Kahana: [00:36:42] Thank you. And I feel the same.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:43] It was so much fun getting to know you and watching you on stage. And you know, I’m somewhat—I’m not—a complete novice, but I’m nowhere near some of the levels that folks were performing at that intensive weekend.
Eileen Kahana: [00:37:01] Right. I feel the same.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:04] But the cool thing about—this goes to improv, but the cool thing about it, none of them ever looked down at us and said, “What are you doing here?” Everybody was so supportive in so many different ways. It just, you know, you walk into a place, and there’s this huge fear that I don’t know anybody. Am I doing things wrong? What are people thinking? That never came across my mind at all because the environment was never set in that manner. It was set in such an inclusive way.
Eileen Kahana: [00:37:34] I agree. And I have to go back to my statement made earlier that everything is about the teacher. Everything. I mean, I walked in there, I signed up for the class because of Jay, and I knew that my improv skills would be honed and needed to be. You know, I started hearing myself say no a little bit too much. And when I walked in, and after 10 minutes, I realized, “Whoa, this is not for rookies. This is a
professional workshop.” And there is a level of comfort, whether it’s day one or your 20th year that—you’re right, everybody made everyone feel welcome. And Jay made everyone feel on the same level.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:38] Yeah. Yeah.
Eileen Kahana: [00:38:41] And he’s the best.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:44] Okay. We got this Jay Sukow love train right now. But yes, he is the best. And I enjoy working with them, actually. He’s helping me with some of the stuff in my business now. And we’re considering—well, we’ve come into agreement. We just need to move forward with a little bit more of co-authoring a book together, having improv with the aim or the audience being the C-suite. I hope that this time next year, we would be very close to having that book completed and out. And just the opportunity to work with him in that manner, I’m giddy would be an understatement. But he’s got a great message. He’s got a great way about him. And he’s—as Eddie said last night, “The man has really drank the Kool-Aid and lives the life of the improviser.”
Eileen Kahana: [00:39:39] Exactly. That’s exactly right. And it’s something I’d like to emulate and share with anybody I can bring improv to. It’s such a fulfilling positive lifestyle. It works.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:03] Absolutely, it does. And so, remember, the website is room2improv.com, Eileen Kahana. Ad you can reach her at, I believe it’s info@room2improv.com. Is that correct?
Eileen Kahana: [00:40:18] That’s correct.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:20] And Eileen, thank you so very much. I can’t wait for the next time our paths cross. It will probably be in an improv class or better yet, you’ll call me and say, “I need some help with something. I’m going into school in Chicago. Can you come up and help me?” And the answer is yes, and I still have to tell my wife.
Eileen Kahana: [00:40:37] It would be my pleasure. No, no. Yes, and it would be my pleasure.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:42] Cool. I look forward to it. And thank you so very much today.
Eileen Kahana: [00:40:44] Thank you, Peter.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:49] I hope you enjoyed Eileen’s story. And please remember to visit Room2Improv’s website to learn more. And if you feel compelled to donate, please do. Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Make today your best day.
Announcer: [00:41:13] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: Turning the volume up on business.

S2E38 – Entering the Niche Realm of Forensic Accounting with Chrissie Powers

Chrissie Powers is the Founder of Powers Forensic Accounting LLC. Chrissie’s experience includes investigations involving diversion of corporate assets, fraud examination and investigation, forensic accounting and record reconstruction, damaging claims analysis and documentation, and providing valuation of closely held businesses for purposes of divorce, estate, and purchase, or sale.

Additionally, she works with clients to strengthen their internal controls and management systems to deter fraudulent activity and asset diversion. She has testified in US Bankruptcy Court, Civil Service Commission, and various Ohio Common Pleas Courts and Depositions. She explores her journey from staff audit and tax accountant to finding her passion for forensic accounting. She also discusses the opportunities and challenges of being an entrepreneur, and how strong communication skills are essential for success.

Chrissie started her career in the traditional public accounting world doing tax and audit work. Early in her career, she was sent on an audit where one of the clients had been involved in a fraud incident, and Chrissie was tasked with determining the dollar amounts. After that, she was hooked on the puzzle of finding out how people were stealing money and how much was taken. She went through the CPA exam, and transferred herself to a firm that specializes in forensic accounting so she could grow in that niche.

Always Be Networking

Forensic accounting work is typically not recurring. A traditional CPA would land an audit and they may have that audit for several years before it goes back out for bid. A forensic accountant should only be coming into your corporation to investigate the fraud that happened one time, and then hopefully never again. Some of that will recur while working with various law firms, but if it ends up in the courtroom, they want to use several experts over the years instead of the same individual, so there isn’t the appearance of corruption or favoritism.

You’re always trying to find new ways to position yourself or get in front of potential prospects, potential attorneys for firms that you can provide that expertise that they’re looking for. Chrissie does a lot of speaking engagements at the bar association, banks, law firms, and CPA firms, coming in and speaking on continuing education. In this line of work, you have to keep putting yourself out there and networking.

A Future in Forensic Accounting

Looking at the accounting profession today, more and more people are beginning to specialize. The generalist approach in accounting seems to be withering away and people are looking to gain those credentials, and specialize, and become experts in a niche area. What should you look out for if you’re considering getting into forensic accounting?

Chrissie advises that having an audit and tax background was helpful to her, because those are the types of reports and records that she reviews and analyzes on a regular basis. There are classes that you can take on data analytics and more law classes to understand the laws that get looked at in a lot of the forensic accounting classes.

When you get out of school, get into public accounting and work with a firm that offers forensic accounting or litigation support. Going into a smaller, boutique firm, it’s more likely you will need to have the experience already. Find a firm that you can get some experience in.

The future of forensic accounting is very sustainable because the type of work done will not be going away anytime soon. And technology, as it’s evolving, is more likely to enhance the business model than disrupt it.

For those of you who are curious about forensic accounting, Chrissie will be speaking at conferences in 2020. She keeps a calendar of her speaking events on her website, so if you’re ready to learn more, be sure to look up her calendar and plan on attending.

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Chrissie Powers: [00:00:00] The biggest thing that you need to remember is that as an expert witness, you are an advocate for your opinion and not an advocate for your client. So, regardless of whether I’m representing the plaintiff—being hired by the plaintiff or the defendant, or the wife or the husband in a divorce that I’m still going to have the same opinion regardless of which side I’m on.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:32] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:19] Welcome to Episode 38. And my guest today is Chrissie Powers, who is the Founder of Powers Forensic Accounting LLC. Chrissie’s experience includes investigations involving diversion of corporate assets, fraud examination and investigation, forensic accounting and record reconstruction, damaging claims analysis and documentation, and providing valuation of closely held businesses for purposes of divorce, estate, and purchase, or sale.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:47] Additionally, she works with clients to strengthen their internal controls and management systems to deter fraudulent activity and asset diversion. She has testified in US Bankruptcy Court, Civil Service Commission, and various Ohio Common Pleas Courts and Depositions. Our discussion focuses on her journey from staff audit and tax accountant to finding her passion for forensic accounting. As she states, she doesn’t count the beans, she finds the hidden beans. We also discuss the opportunities and challenges of being an entrepreneur and how strong communication skills are essential for success.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:28] Before we get to interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It’s an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more prevalent business podcasts, such as The Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzlett Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many of the outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.
Announcer: [00:02:56] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio network: turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:03] Also, you can now listen to this podcast on iHeart Radio. And now, a word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:03:10] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter and peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:59] Now, let’s get to the interview with Chrissie Powers.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:06] Welcome back, everybody. My guest today is a longtime friend who I haven’t seen in a long time, Chrissie Powers. And Chrissie, thank you for taking time out of here, I can imagine, hectic and busy day to spend some time with me on my podcast.
Chrissie Powers: [00:04:22] Thanks for having me, Pete.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:24] I’m so excited for you because you—well, first, before I talk about that, I have to ask this question. You started your career the traditional way of public accounting counting the beans and doing that type of work. How did you—what made you—what was the driving force for you to say, "You know what, I want to do something in the forensic accounting world"? Was it one too many CSI episodes that you watched and said, "If they can do that on bodies, I’m sure I could do that in financial statements"?
Chrissie Powers: [00:04:56] I don’t know if CSI was even around at that, but I did start my career in the traditional public accounting doing tax and audit work. And like we all have read through the AICPA magazines, the newbie was sent out on a [crosstalk] where funds were missing. And it just so happened that one of the audit clients had had fraud occur through cash. And I was tasked with determining the dollar amounts. And it was like after that, I was hooked on this puzzle, if you will, as to find out how people were stealing money and how much was taken. And there was a lot in the news back then with Jessie Oddi here in Franklin County back in 1998-1999 where funds were misappropriated. So, I just kind of got hooked, and got through the CPA exam, and transferred myself over to a firm that specialized in the forensic accounting, so that I could grow that area and niche.
Peter Margaritis: [00:06:05] And as well, as you have grown it because you left the firm, and you had a partner, and you guys went out on your own, which is (1), one scary enough as it is; and (2), because you only have that—that paycheck every week, and you’ve got to figure out benefits, and you got to do all that other stuff. But you grew that firm. And I’m looking on. And now that you’re—as the beginning of this year, you went out on your own by yourself. I looked at your website and your list of clients are just phenomenal. I mean, the list simply go on, and on, and on. Mostly, it seemed like you’re doing a lot of work for attorneys.
Chrissie Powers: [00:06:46] Yeah. I would say that probably, at least, 90% of my referral source comes from the attorneys. If I have a corporation that reaches out to me with fraud occurring, we want to make sure legal counsel is involved. So, we have that attorney-client privilege, at least, until I would be named as an expert in court. So, even
if the corporation is engaging me, we’ll get legal counsel involved, so that we have that attorney-client privilege. And then, working through other CPA firms that don’t have the specialty niche, and want to keep their independence, and keep that client as a tax client or audit client. And then, a lot of treasury management bankers because they’re looking at the financial statements, and they’ll have that face to face with the business owner, and the business owner may say to them, "Something just doesn’t smell right." So, possibly, those bankers are saying, "Hey, speak to Chrissie. Powers Forensics can help you."
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:45] So, as you’re describing that, I went, "Wait, you’re not a stereotypical accountant." For one, as you—and I’ll let you give your tagline about the beans-
Chrissie Powers: [00:07:58] Yes. Most accountants count the hidden beans. I find the hidden beans.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:04] So-
Chrissie Powers: [00:08:05] Count the beans, I find the hidden beans.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:07] Yeah. She’s looking for those hidden beans out there, but, also, it just dawned on me, something else, that in order to be as successful as you are, you said the R word, referral, which means that you have done one – it’s my podcast, I can say this – one hell of a job out there networking to find business. And that’s something that those in the profession aren’t the greatest at doing, or they don’t like talking to strangers.
Chrissie Powers: [00:08:36] Yeah. Some accountants will prefer to sit at their desk and just crunch that tax return or crunch the numbers. But my forensic accounting work typically is not reoccurring. So, for your traditional CPA, they go out, and they land the audit, and they may have that audit for five, six, seven years before it goes back out for bid. I, hopefully, am only coming into your corporation to investigate the fraud that happened one time with the problems with internal controls. And then, hopefully, you
never need to find me again, unless you’re wanting to refer me to a friend at another organization. So, my type of work is non-reoccurring for the most part. Now, some of that will reoccur working with various law firms. However, once again, if it ends up in the courtroom, they want to use several experts over the years, and not continuously using the same individual, so they don’t give the appearance that that expert is in their pocket.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:39] God. So, that takes—I mean, that takes a lot of work. And that takes—because when you said that, "I don’t have that nonrecurring," let’s just put it in accounting terms, "cash flow," and you’ve got to go out and find new business almost all the time. And to your point, you’ve developed a wonderful referral service because you do a lot of work with attorneys. You’ve got—you’re well position here in Central Ohio with accounting firms, one of your specialty, because you do a lot of—in the past, you’ve done a lot of speaking up at the Ohio Society of CPA conferences. I know on your website, you’ve got a number of articles that you’ve written on the topic to help drive that business because you’re an expert and you’re an authority in this area, but I would have to imagine, because myself, I have sleepless nights when I don’t have—because I don’t know—a lot of times, I don’t have that non-recurring cash flow coming in. And you’re always trying to find new ways to position yourself or get in front of potential prospects, potential attorneys for firms that you can provide that expertise that they’re looking for.
Chrissie Powers: [00:10:52] Yes, yeah. So, a lot of speaking engagements, Columbus Bar Association. I spoke for the Ohio Bar Association in the past. Banks, law firms, CPA firms coming in and speaking on continuing education. Just definitely got to be out and about and continuing to network.
Peter Margaritis: [00:11:14] Yes. And I love networking. I think it’s it’s a blast. But there’s something in that word that it’s not just easy because it has the word "work," and it does take a lot of work. So, let’s talk about the services that you provide. I guess, of your services, what is the more requested service?
Chrissie Powers: [00:11:38] Well, that varies by year and the economy.
Peter Margaritis: [00:11:40] Oh, okay.
Chrissie Powers: [00:11:43] So, back in 2009 when we say we sort of went through a depression or a recession, if you will, the divorce world, those cases were not as prevalent because people couldn’t afford to maintain two households. They were watching their cash, if you will, just like the traditional accountant. On the reverse side, I saw a spike in fraud investigations because the corporations did layoffs. They were watching where every penny was going. People started scrutinizing the financial statements. And then, those were where some of the frauds were caught because somebody had taken the time to pay attention and look at those accounts. So, it all depends on what’s going on in the economy.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:35] Interesting. So, this is 2019. What is your most requested service? Since we’re not in the recession, per se. They’re talking about it, but we’re not quite there yet, what are people coming to you for?
Chrissie Powers: [00:12:50] All right. Now, I have quite a few fraud investigations going on. A handful of divorces and some business interruption claims. So, like the businesses, one of the owners has an accident, and the revenue stream isn’t where it was because they’re not able to work within the business. So, I’ve got to go through and look at what the yardstick measurement was three to five years before the accident occurred, see how that affected the future revenue stream, and put a calculation together for that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:23] Interesting. So, you, obviously, do a lot of divorce, as well as fraud related. What other services you provide?
Chrissie Powers: [00:13:33] I work with receivers here in town. Some of that is because organizations go into bankruptcy, and someone needs to come in, and either wind the company down or keep it running. Or over the years, some of those receivership have just been because two partners aren’t seeing eye to eye. One that’s locked out. So, the court appoints a receiver to try to either continue the business and buy one of the owners out, or sell it altogether, or just shut it down and make a
distribution, so that the two of them can part ways. I work in the bankruptcy arena. There has not been a lot of that with the economy doing well right now. So, that’s kind of—it’s on the backburner, if you will. It’s not real prevalent. So, those are some of the areas that are—where we get into and specialize in that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:23] And you also mentioned that—and prior to us recording this, I made this comment because she—Chrissie, you actually go to court and testify. And you say a lot of CPAs and even ones who are none—who are the accidental accountants, I don’t think I would want to have that type of pressure to testify in a courtroom on a case. But you take that on, and you go to court, and you testify on behalf of your client. And so, that’s going to be a little bit nerve wracking.
Chrissie Powers: [00:14:55] Yeah, it can be. The biggest thing that you need to remember is that as an expert witness, you are an advocate for your opinion and not an advocate for your client. So, regardless of whether I’m representing the plaintiff—being hired by the plaintiff or the defendant, or the wife or the husband in the divorce that I’m still going to have the same opinion regardless of which side I’m on. So, that’s—sometimes, you get put into a corner where you’ve got to reiterate and remind clients and/or attorneys of that. But not everyone likes to go into the courtroom. It just comes with time and lots of continuing education on how to handle those difficult questions and knowing how to respond to the aggressive attorneys.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:45] So, I have to ask everybody, there’s a starting point for everything. I remember the first day I walked into Pricewaterhouse as an accountant. Do you remember the first time that you went to court to testify?
Chrissie Powers: [00:15:57] Yeah, that was a divorce case in Delaware County. I’d had some deposition testimony prior to that, but it definitely was a restless night until you had your first first chance, if you will.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:13] So, when you got called to the stand, I imagine nerves were probably going in every which way, shape, or form.
Chrissie Powers: [00:16:19] Uh-huh (affirmative). Yes. It was a very well-known attorney that was asking questions.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:29] And apparently, you do well because you went back, and keep doing more, and you keep getting continued education, and getting better and better at that role. But that’s—I don’t think I could sleep the night before or maybe even the week before knowing that that’s staring me in the face. That’s a skill set that many don’t have. And I applaud you for taking that head on and do it as well as you have being an expert witness.
Chrissie Powers: [00:16:56] Thanks, Pete.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:59] But please don’t ever call me to be an expert witness. I’d be happy to help if there’s anything I could help, but when it comes to—so, I don’t mind I don’t mind speaking in public. I do that for a living. But my idea of public is not a courtroom.
Chrissie Powers: [00:17:17] Like I said, there’s continuing education up there to prep you for that. I read lots of materials published by the Sikh Group to prepare myself. And then, the attorney that you’re working for and the partner at the firm helps to get you ready for that first time until you lose your virgins [crosstalk].
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:37] So, thinking about what you do and thinking about you got an early start on this because you said you started this back in—about around 2000. Was it? That’s about right?
Chrissie Powers: [00:17:54] My first fraud investigation was in ’98. So, doing this for over 20 years. But at that time, I wasn’t 100% forensic accounting.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:06] So, if we look at the profession today, and we still have the traditional services that are out there, but the way technology is having an impact, and things that I’m reading, things that I’m hearing, that there’s a lot—more people are beginning to specialize. That generalist approach in accounting seems to be withering
away and people are looking to gain those credentials, and specialize, and being that expert in that niche area. What advice would you give someone who’s graduating from, let’s say, the Ohio Dominican University, and with a degree in Accounting, and let’s say they’ve passed a CPA exam? What advice would you give them as they matriculate into the accounting profession as relates to niches in the accounting profession?
Chrissie Powers: [00:19:01] Well, I think that having an audit and tax background definitely helped me because those are the types of reports and records that I review and analyze on a regular basis for my different forensic accounting specialty areas. So, definitely, that background helped, and I was able to build on that. But forensic accounting really wasn’t offered in college back when – now, I’m dating myself – back when I went through school. So, there are classes that they can take on data analytics and in more law classes to understand the laws that get looked at in a lot of the forensic accounting classes.
Chrissie Powers: [00:19:46] So, those definitely would help them taking those when they were going for school. But when you get out, starting to get into public accounting and working with a firm that offers the niche areas of the forensic accounting or litigation support, so that even if they’re in audit and can help when there’s an overflow because going into a boutique firm like myself definitely me being a smaller firm now, I need somebody that has the experience versus someone straight out of college in that. So, looking for a firm that they can get some experience in.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:27] Right. And I guess, you made the point, as what do you want to specialize in – forensic accounting, or business valuations or whatever – you still got to get the basics down and have a good solid knowledge of the basics, actually, from both sides, from the audit world and from the tax world. And then, decide how you want to specialize or where that interest lies. And I think during that period of time, as they’re building up the knowledge base is to begin to take continued education classes in those areas to see if something sparks, if there’s some interest there, or it’s like they sit through a business valuation question, "That’s why I want to do," and after a couple of business valuation classes, you go, "There’s no way I want to do that." And they have very little vested or invested at the time, and they can’t begin to look at different areas,
or if they’re lucky enough to get with a firm that has specialties to find themselves working on one of those specialties.
Chrissie Powers: [00:21:30] Yeah. And then, once you start getting the specialties and the alphabet soup after your last name, you can work out, "Am I needing all my continuing education?" because all those credentials have deferred reporting period. Some are 12/31. Some are on your anniversary date. So, that starts to be sort of a headache to try to make sure you’re in compliance with everything you’re needing to track that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:02] Oh, yeah. And then, there’s that too, maintaining the compliance aspect of it and keeping track. And that in itself can be its own separate, I wouldn’t say headache, but I’ll use the word challenge. But as I sit and think about the forensic accounting, and so here’s what I know as relates to divorces, marriage is the leading cause of divorce. That is statistically proven. And in those marriages, they say 50% of marriages end in divorce, and now I had a first wife, and we ended in divorce. My second wife, we will make 24 years here by the time this episode goes live. We have already celebrated our 24 years. So, I don’t think that’s going to happen again, but-
Chrissie Powers: [00:22:50] Well, congratulations and happy anniversary!
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:54] Thank you. It depends. She gives me my performance review on my anniversary to see if she wants to exercise an option on another year. But with with the aspect—I don’t think fraud is ever going to go away. Sarbanes-Oxley is not going to get rid of that. There’s always gonna be some aspect of fraud, whether from a large organization or from a small church where there’s one person in the accounting department, they end up stealing from the church. There’s always going to be fraud. There will always be divorces. There will always be disputes when we have partnerships because something tends to go awry in those. I guess, my point is looking on to the future and looking at your business, it is very sustainable because of the type of work that you’re doing. And the bigger question on top of that is it’s sustainable, and I don’t believe technology, as it’s evolving, will disrupt you. But I think the use of that
technology could actually enhance your business and your business model. Would that be a fair statement?
Chrissie Powers: [00:24:09] Yeah. And things have changed over the years. A lot of it, too, is driven by the client, and the size of the client, and how they’re keeping their records. So, I’ve used data mining software like ACL and Idea over the years. But then, we’ll run into clients that don’t use formal accounting software on the smaller side when you’re doing an investigation. So, then, they’re giving you a Quickbooks or another type of smaller package, if you will, to go through.
Chrissie Powers: [00:24:42] With the divorces, sometimes, we’re trying to find out the one spouse’s economic income, so that we can determine spousal support and/or child support. And a lot of times, they don’t have a full set of books, if you will, because the spouse uses a Schedule C. So, nobody is using Quickbooks. And so there could be a lot of keying of the bank statements to come up with what that is. There is software out there now that can scan those bank statements and dump it in. And then, it’s just us categorizing it, if you will, putting it in the right buckets for court purposes. Certain things may be deducted on the tax return, but they are not considered a true expense for more coming back to the income for the spouse for court. So, we’re adding that back.
Chrissie Powers: [00:25:32] And just kind of give you an example. So, we might have a husband that owns a business, and him and his wife have two children. All four of the cell phone bills are being run through the business. So, he deducts that as an expense tax return. Well, when I’m looking at that for divorce purposes, we’re adding that back as if he was a true employee at arm’s length, and he worked for me. I wouldn’t be letting him run his entire family cell phone bill for the company. So, those types of things would need to be scrutinized and addressed appropriately for the court.
Peter Margaritis: [00:26:09] I could imagine, trying to find that information, (1), has evolved over time. And it makes me think of a company that’s based out of Canada that’s called MindBridge. And basically what they’ve developed is an artificial intelligence Watson type of platform where you dump the GL into this Watson—into their the MindBridge artificial intelligence platform. And it immediately, within a matter of
minutes, will categorize the transactions in three ways – high risk, medium risk, low risk. And the high risk ones, from an audit perspective, those are the ones that those transactions are being immediately looked at and scrutinized to see if they’re legit or not. And thinking about your business and trying to find this type of information, I would assume that type of technology would be of great assistance to you. No, you’re not doing an audit, but you’re trying to get to find where the high-risk types of transactions are in order to help you do your job.
Chrissie Powers: [00:27:14] Yeah. And the thing that would be different is, like looking at the cell phone bill, while it might be only employees for company A, but when I come back and look at company B, this guy or wife, husband or wife, one of, whoever the business owner is, pushing more personal expenses, if you will, through. So, it’s not a one platform fits all, if you will.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:38] Right, okay. And I can imagine that you see a lot of that where the business owner, and maybe a single member LLC, or even a small partnership are trying to run their personal expenses through the business to get the tax deduction, but they’re taking a huge risk and doing so because that corporate veil can be pierced.
Chrissie Powers: [00:28:01] Yes, yes. Yeah. And I mean, the things I’ve seen over the years from the fraud investigations to the divorces are just—make for really good stories, if you will.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:15] So, I love stories. And so, of all your time in this, and what you do, what is—and if you can. If you can’t, I understand. And if we can keep it kind of sanitized and not name any clients or anything like that, what is the craziest thing that you’ve seen?
Chrissie Powers: [00:28:37] Well, this one wasn’t something that I saw, but there was a divorce that I worked on, and there was a child in it. And the child’s pet dog had died. And it was the attorney bringing us up to speed, but rather than properly dispose of the animal, like taking it in, and getting it cremated, and have a nice little box with Fido’s
name on it, the parent put it in the freezer. And they were pulling it out, and letting the child see it on a daily basis, and give it a kiss on the nose. That’s not accounting related but just some crazy things that I’ve seen over the years and heard about working on these cases.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:27] Okay. I wasn’t expecting that.
Chrissie Powers: [00:29:31] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:31] But that is—I asked the question, and I should be prepared for what I was going to hear. But yeah, that’s creepy. That’s [inaudible].
Chrissie Powers: [00:29:41] Yeah. I mean, like I had another one that the business went into receivership. I went with the receiver to go pick up the accounting records. As we’re walking up the door, we had the fire department come flying in, the police department come flying in, and it was my alleged suspect that had been accused of misappropriating records that we we’re going to get the records from, the individual had threatened to commit suicide and had dialed 911. So, here comes everybody in, which, of course, postponed us being able to obtain the records that particular day. And on that same case, there were days that we were scheduled to be in court, and the individual wasn’t present because it, again, threatened to commit suicide and was at the hospital. But I think what had really happened is they knew the brunt of what had occurred, and that the hammer was going to be coming down sooner or later, and they just couldn’t live with themselves as to what could happen, whether that meant jail time, whether it just meant restitution.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:48] Right, yeah. And thinking about the human aspect of a lot of what you do, there’s a lot of emotion in these types of cases outside of trying to find those hidden beans, but there are people involved. And sometimes, people take different actions or process things differently, and you come up with, again, something like that, which is kind of difficult to, to some degree, get your mind around, but we kind of understand it’s human nature and that fear. But that’s not what you kind of signed up for when you kind of went down this path initially, and it’s something that you had to
necessicize yourself with over time to not be so emotionally involved into things like that.
Chrissie Powers: [00:31:32] Yeah, yeah. You learn as you go. You’ve got to kind of leave some of that at the office, if you will, when you go home at night to family, not let that impact your daily lives. I know I have two boys who both are going to be teenagers here because my youngest is going to be a teenager. And I ask a lot of questions, and follow through, and validate, and verify things. So, if they’re trying to get away with things, you know. Before they graduate high school, it’s going to be real difficult because mom doesn’t trust anybody because of her job.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:11] Oh, those poor boys. Oh, my goodness gracious. I wish—now, I wish I’d gotten to forensic account. Mine just started college this week, and I’m a pretty good reader of body language, but he may have something over on me. I may need to take a Chrissie Powers class in detecting fraud out of your kids. You might want to add that to be one of your services. Well, Chrissie, I’m thrilled about you going out on your own. I love what you do. It’s very fascinating. If somebody wants to find you or reach you, how can they find you?
Chrissie Powers: [00:32:56] My website is www.powersforensic.com. My email is chrissie.powers@powersforensic.com. Or if they just want to pick up the telephone, 614-745-5192. I’d be happy to chat.
Peter Margaritis: [00:33:22] And your office is located on Mound Street in Downtown Columbus?
Chrissie Powers: [00:33:26] That’s correct. 150 East Mound, just two blocks east of the Franklin County Courthouse.
Peter Margaritis: [00:33:33] And I do have to ask one question before we wrap up. Is all of your work sourced and done in basically Central Ohio in the Ohio area, or are you working on cases throughout the country?
Chrissie Powers: [00:33:49] The majority of my cases are in Ohio. A lot of them in Columbus. Sometimes, I’ve got stuff up in Lima, Cleveland, Cincinnati area. And I’ve had cases over the years far reaching as Miami, Florida, and West Virginia, and Kentucky. I had the pleasure of traveling to Miami to get records on a case. And, unfortunately, they complied and produced the records, but if they wouldn’t have complied, I would have gotten to go to the Dominican Republic, which was where their home office was sourced. So, that particular one, I was a little bit bummed. I was hoping to get to travel to the destination.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:32] So, you do work outside of the State of Ohio. And, I guess, with technology, the way it is, you don’t—a lot of times, you’ll have to physically be there to get the information. So, if people are listening to this, because the podcast is being downloaded in almost every state and, actually, in about 35 and 36 countries, so that’s why I wanted to bring that up, that if somebody outside the State of Ohio wanting to contact you, you have done business outside the state, and they can contact you as well.
Chrissie Powers: [00:35:01] Yeah, yeah. I know, right now, I have a divorce matter that’s pending that’s in Tennessee too. So, I’m willing to travel and able to travel.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:11] Well, cool. Well, once again, I will put your website, your email address, all that on the podcast website for this episode. I appreciate your time. I wish you all the best luck. And I know you’ll do great things. And for those of you who are thinking about going, maybe curious about forensic accounting, Chrissie did say she will be speaking again at conferences in 2020. And she does keep a calendar of her speaking events. So, if you visit her website, and keep up to date with it, and look, maybe attend one of her classes, tell her that you heard her on this podcast, and go watch her work. I’ve seen her present. She does a wonderful job. So, once again, thank you very much. And I’m sure we’ll talk soon.
Chrissie Powers: [00:36:01] Thanks for having me, Pete.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:06] Now, that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to find your passion or your niche? What steps should we begin to take to achieve that dream? What system of accountability will you use to ensure your success? Changing your current mindset to achieving those dreams is critical to that success. So, thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. And make today your best day.
Announcer: [00:36:45] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

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S2E37 – Ralph Picano | Adapting to New Technology in a People-Focused Industry

Ralph Picano is the CFO and a member of the board of directors for Wade Trim, an almost 100 year old engineering firm. Ralph believes financial strength enables his firm to maintain business operations while pursuing growth opportunities. He works to manage Wade Trim’s financial risk by balancing the demands of internal operations with governmental regulation compliance.

Ralph believes in the ethical and timely reporting of financial information and maintaining a diverse capital structure. He creates value through effective financing, measuring company performance and guiding Wade Trim’s strategic decision making for fiscal success. Ralph has worked in the consulting engineering industry in a finance role for over 20 years after beginning his career in public accounting.

As a CFO, the thoughts that keep Ralph up at night are the ones related to his company’s largest expense: It’s employees. The engineering industry bills hourly. They provide talented people to perform services for clients, and they charge their clients to create value and give them a reason to pay them. The fact that their largest expense in the company itself is payroll means that that expense category is going to be the main focus of any CFO.

Utilization is the Name of the Game

Utilization is the industry term for when employees are billing to projects. Utilization is probably the most important metric that Ralph deals with. With payroll being their largest expense category, if they are able to manage utilization appropriately then they can be successful. But if managed improperly, it becomes very problematic and that creates challenges within the entire enterprise.

Utilization can be measured in two different ways. One would be in hours and one is in dollars. How effectively is the company utilizing it’s hourly employees’ time? What percentage or hours in a work week are going to billable projects? Utilization of around 70 percent is the benchmark for where a firm wants to be.

Balancing Utilization With a Need for Technical Advancement

Ralph’s company is in the middle of converting to an entirely new ERP platform, and that has come with some struggles. The changes are necessary, they will help the company in the long run, but the time put into the conversion has been pulling people away from billable hours. And now in the second half of the year, they’re faced with an uphill climb to their profitability goal.

And so the focus has been to pull away from some of these non-chargeable initiates and get people back to working on projects. But ERP is the backbone of the company, it is the software that runs the company, and they need to make sure everyone is properly trained on it when it goes live.

How do you balance a necessary change that conflicts with the everyday needs of the company?

Adapting Business Models to New Technology

Engineering is a people industry. They charge clients for the labor, the services that they provide. But more and more technology is becoming part of that service. And you need the technology to provide that service to the client.

The technology costs to Ralph’s company have been rising quite a bit over the past few years. And the industry is still used to hours and dollars, and not necessarily the equipment or the technology that they’re using.

Now that we have the technology, it takes less time to do the same job for the client, but they are still charging the client on hours. Ralph’s firm has been working to change that model. This means a shift in charging for the value that the client has gained regardless of how many hours were put on the project.

What will you do to ensure that you’re handling all of your employees’ challenges in a way to ensure the organization’s profitability? Remember, you’re in the people business first and foremost. If you treat your people with respect, they will treat their customers and clients with the same respect that you have shown them.

Resources:

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Ralph Picano: [00:00:00] The industry is still used to hours and dollars and so, you know, people working hours, not necessarily the equipment or the technology that they’re using.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:22] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is no Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, a CPA a.k.a. the Accidental Accountant, and he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates and peers.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:58] All the while growing their businesses. So let’s start the show.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:06] Welcome to Episode 37. My guest today is Ralph Cano, who’s the CFO and a member of the board of directors for Wade Trim, an almost 100 year old engineering firm. Ralph believes financial strength enables his firm to maintain a business operations while pursuing growth opportunities. He works to manage Wade Trim’s financial risk by balancing the demands of internal operations with governmental regulation compliance.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:34] He believes in the ethical and timely reporting of financial information and maintaining a diverse capital structure. Ralph creates value through effective financing, measuring company performance and guiding Wade Trim’s strategic decision making for fiscal success. Ralph has worked in the consulting engineering industry in a finance role for over 20 years after beginning his career in public accounting. He has a bachelor of accountancy and an M.S. in finance from Walsh College of Accounting and Business Administration. He is a member of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Institute of Management Accountants and the American Consulting Engineering Council, and he’s on the Finance Committee. Our discussion begins
around exploring what keeps a CFO of an engineering firm up at night. If you’re a financial leader in any profession, you’ll recognize these issues that keep Ralph up at night. Before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset as part of the C-Suite Radio Family of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more prevalent business podcast, such as The Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.
C-Suite Radio: [00:02:57] This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network. Turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:04] Also, you can now listen to this podcast on iHeartRadio. And now a quick word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:03:10] This episode is sponsored by Peter A Margaritas LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritas.com and visit his web site at www.petermargaritas.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:00] Now let’s get to the interview with Ralph Mercado.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:05] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’m excited about my guest today. First time I met him was through an e-mail that the IMA sent me because my guest actually attended one of my sessions at an IMA conference.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:22] And I actually took this as a as a compliment because usually everybody has an idea of my last name, you know, margaritas or martini or something along the lines.
[00:04:31] The e-mail that I got from the IMA said, this gentleman said in your session, he remembers the course, he remembers the title, but he doesn’t remember your name, which was such a great compliment that the material must have been, you know, damn it was good because he remembered it but he forgot my name. So I’d like to welcome to the podcast Ralph Picano and, who is the CFO of an engineering firm, and, one, I know you’re busy. I appreciate you taking time. And I’m looking forward to our conversation today.
Ralph Picano: [00:05:05] It’s a nice diversion. Appreciate you taking me away from my time.
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:10] Hopefully that doesn’t mean you have to stick around later tonight in order to make up the time that you would have.
Ralph Picano: [00:05:18] I’ll figure it out.
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:19] As a CFO, I want to start off with one very simple question. What keeps you up at night?
Ralph Picano: [00:05:28] Well, do you think that’s simple? But it changes and that’s good. It’s good that there’s a variety in life. I can tell you that I come in and each day is a little bit different here. And, you know, so whatever the issue is at that point time, which ultimately is the one that keeps me up at night. But you know, this industry, we, we, we bill hours we’re a service industry and people are working on projects and doing a good job. And we’re able to charge our clients to create value and, and give them a reason to pay us then that everything is good. So the fact that our largest expense in the company itself is payroll means that that expense category is the one that’s going to keep you up at night. And utilization is the term we use in this industry where employees are charging or I should say it’s their billing to projects or charging projects, then we’re
getting utilization. Utilization is the, is probably the most important metric that we deal with, at least currently in this industry. And so with payroll being our largest expense category, if we’re able to manage that appropriately and we can be successful, but if we’re not, then that becomes very problematic. And so in times when when we’re not able to to get our backlog to the employees and get them on projects, you know, we’re not we’re not gaining the contribution margin that we’d like or the profit that we’d like in our business. And that creates challenges within the entire enterprise. So that’s what keeps me and the management team, certainly these days, that’s what’s keeping us up.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:23] So define utilization for me in your world.
Ralph Picano: [00:07:25] Utilization can be measured in two different ways. One would be in hours and one is in dollars. And effectively what that is, is if the employees time, if they’re charging their time to an outside client, billable client, then they’re utilized, or as it’s considered chargeable time, and that’s the numerator in the equation. The denominator is the total dollars, total hours that employee is working. So utilization and the range for an operations individual at 70 percent or so is about where, typically, you want to.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:05] I understand. So if basically it sounds to me, kind of, in a nutshell, what keeps you up at night, are people?
Ralph Picano: [00:08:15] Sure.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:17] The people aspect of the job and, in order to be profitable, in order to make it to get those projects done in a timely manner, one, you have to have a workforce that shows up. That part’s not a problem. But what about morale within the organization? And how does that, does that have an effect? And you mentioned before we started recording, you’ve got a major project that’s going on that you have to have done by October. And that could affect morale within the organization or hours spent and you’re implementing, is it an upgrade or a new ERP system?
Ralph Picano: [00:09:01] It is, it’s an upgrade, but it’s to an entirely new platform. So it’s almost like it’s a brand new system.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:08] And you know what ERP stands for, don’t you?
Ralph Picano: [00:09:12] Wait, I did hear this before, but I can’t remember. What?
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:16] Entities Reoccurring Problem. Yes, it’s always a challenge. And rarely is not the right word. But there’s always some hiccups. There’s always stuff that’s going on that causes the team to have to work later hours than anticipated. And then that puts additional strain on the organization, especially if we’ve got to hit this deadline. So that goes into that whole utilization hours. And even from an overhead perspective, you’re trying to keep your team motivated and deal with this. And hopefully the engineers aren’t getting frustrated by all of this that’s going on at the same time and then it just kind of manifests itself.
Ralph Picano: [00:10:00] Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great point. The timing of this on this conversion is a little bit unfortunate. So we we’ve been, the company has been growing and we’ve instituted quite a few initiatives in recent years. We brought on a safety manager. We have a branding manager, a training manager, and we have a lot of really cool things going on here. But they’re taking away a lot from from the operations side. And then working on chargeable projects. And it’s all good and everybody’s busy and the profit is good. No one is saying anything. But in recent months, that hasn’t been the case where utilization is lower. And here we find ourselves in the second half of the year, we’ve got a little bit of an uphill climb to our profitability goal. And so suddenly the focus now is, “Hey, let’s back off some of these non-chargeable initiatives and let’s get back on projects.” And I’m dealing with this ERP conversion where, you know, it’s our backbone. You know, this is the software that runs the company. And we need to make sure everyone is properly trained at it when we go live and hit that switch, and we have some constraints as to how we can get there with, you know, with the restriction of time on our operations side. So, you know, my crew has been doing this for a couple of years. The I.T. staff, accounting, really been working hard on getting this conversion in place and understanding the system. And most of us are salary and most of us are
non-chargeable, so that’s not so problematic to the company profitability. But now that we’ve got to roll it out to the other side, to the operations side, and there’s this whole sensitivity of non-chargeable time that is really creating creating a challenge. So you asked what keeps me up at night, if you were to ask me specifically today, here in, you know, late summer 2019 and it’s this ERP conversion hands down. So that’s where we’re at today.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:12] But without it, like you said, it’s the backbone. It’s what really runs the organization. So, and if it takes a little more, it takes away from those chargeable hours cause now they’re non-chargeable in order to get this running properly. And with that concern of, it’s later in the year and the year end is coming. Are you on the calendar or fiscal year?
Ralph Picano: [00:12:34] We’re calendar.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:36] And so December’s creeping up. So there’s that added pressure. But is there another way of looking at it going, ok, so we have to get this right. I mean, if it’s the backbone, we got to get it right. So we might ultimately have to take, I hate uttering these words, but we may have to take a little bit less in profitability in order to get it right. But that investment that we’re making into that this year should wash itself. And then some next year when the system is up, fully running, in sort of a mature state.
Ralph Picano: [00:13:13] That’s right. That’s the ultimate outcome. You know, we know we’re moving to this platform because it’s providing a lot more visibility to the project managers. It’s going to make their ability to run projects be that much more improved. So, you know, there is a benefit that we’ll reap at some point. But it’s hard to see that where we’re at today. So. So I think the answer is, the answer is somewhere in-between. Right. We got to be as efficient as we can in rolling out this training, minimize the non chargeable time, yet effectively train our staff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:47] Right. And there’s an organization that I did some work for and they rolled out these communication initiatives on how to better communicate within
the organization. It was a really large organization, but they rolled these tools out, you know, even from like Windows 365 and some version of Slack, and these, a variety of project management, you know, technology pieces to this group. But they never trained them on it.
Ralph Picano: [00:14:21] They didn’t communicate properly, did they?
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:24] They gave them the tools. But they didn’t show them how to use the tools. And it was a, literally, somewhat of a train wreck there for a while until they could untangle themselves. I mean, just because we give you the tools. There’s a lot of training that goes on. So you know how to use it. And it’s not, “Here’s a manual,” because, you know, if it’s a guy, we’re not going to read a manual. We want pictures or we’re going to figure it out ourselves unless somebody is there to walk us through it. Right. Yeah.
Ralph Picano: [00:14:55] I have the experience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:56] Yes. So the size of the firm. How many professional staff do you have any sense of from the engineering world?
Ralph Picano: [00:15:04] We have, considered professionals, roughly 300.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:07] Now 300. Located in just one location, or?
Ralph Picano: [00:15:13] We’re headquartered in Detroit, but we have offices in ten different states now, we have 20 offices in total. I’m, today I’m sitting in our in our largest facility here in Taylor, which is a suburb of Detroit.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:28] OK. Where do you find your talent? What do you, how do you recruit?
Ralph Picano: [00:15:34] That’s been a challenge. Yes, sure. All of your listeners can attest to. We have had, we’ve really had to bring on, particularly for the higher, higher
level professionals. We’ve had to bring on recruiters that are specific to the industry. And, you know, search high and wide throughout the country to find the right talent. It’s a challenge. And that’s, it’s not inexpensive.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:59] No. But, also, do recruit out of the universities?
Ralph Picano: [00:16:03] We do. We do. And our CEO has been adamant about making that a priority. Our managers are very, are oftentimes very sensitive to adding staff. And if you don’t know what your needs are going to be eight months in the future, you’re more tentative in making a hiring commitment and, you know, to get the university, the best of the universities to attract students. You got to get them in October. Right. When they graduate in June. During recruiting season. Andy McCune, our CEO, has been very adamant on telling managers that you’re going to extend offers in October. You’re going to hire em in June. Even though you don’t know what you need at that point. Just we need that staff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:50] And talking to a friend of mine who’s the CEO of a engineering firm in Lexington, Kentucky. He mentioned something about there’s a hiring scarcity out there for talent in the engineering world. And the way he explained it was, so we’ve got a lot of this younger talent in and they kind of have, they have a little bit more leverage against, with management, than maybe in the past, because of the scarcity that’s out there and it’s almost to some degree like, “You need me more than I potentially need you.”
Ralph Picano: [00:17:30] That’s accurate. We’re experts in that. And the impact of that is that, you need to start adjusting wages for those who are a little bit higher. Who’ve been with the company a couple of years longer or maybe a little bit older and more experienced. And so you have that cascading impact of increasing wages across the board.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:54] So when we talk about bottom line there just a few minutes ago? I mean, in talking with him. That was one of the things that keeps him up at night is the ability to find the right people to come and do the right jobs. And be dedicated to
their job and not be so sensitive that if this, something doesn’t go my way, I’ll just go find something else.
Ralph Picano: [00:18:18] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:20] And the other thing that he mentioned to me that that keeps him up at night is, well, he’s an engineer and now he’s CEO, and he’s not an accountant. He never wants to play one on TV, but he’s had to learn being in that role and understanding the numbers a lot better than he did when he was a project manager. But then he also realized that the project managers have no idea how profitable the organization can be or their world is because they’re so focused on their project, but not understanding what the revenue comes in from. And also the expenses, because still in business, you know, I’m going to I’m going to buy it here, but I’m going to market up to here in order to make that profit. And it’s something that he struggled with and getting those engineers to understand the basic accounting side. And then when you say, I know you say accounting to engineers, they just shut down.
Ralph Picano: [00:19:22] Right. Right. Actually, that’s that’s one of the reasons, too, that we’re making this conversion, is that the previous version of the software is very accounting centric. And so engineers weren’t able to, or always felt it was an accounting application. The new version is more project manager centric, so it’s more dedicated towards what they do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:44] Oh, OK.
Ralph Picano: [00:19:45] That should be a good thing. But I completely agree. And it’s been that, since I’ve gotten into this industry that I’ve been amazed at the fact that these are some of the brightest, smartest people I’ve ever met. And you just assume that they understand the concept of profitability. But a lot of them are, some of them are outstanding and they do, and others are just so passionate about what they do and want to do a great job for the client, which bodes well for us, right?
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:14] Right.
Ralph Picano: [00:20:15] You know, but they don’t always, they don’t always completely grasp the whole nature of profitability and how we are successful at having that profitability. So education is important there as well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:31] And it takes me back to my days when I was a banker and I was a lender and lenders were bonused on the gross amount of the loan, which I thought was ridiculous. So we’ve got, we had lenders out there making deals and basically giving the business away. But they were thinking about their bonus and accumulating those bigger dollars, when I always said we should be bonused on the amount of profitability that we get.
Ralph Picano: [00:20:58] That’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:58] But even the lenders who had somewhat of an accounting/finance/numbers background, maybe not as deep, just would never understand and would never grasp or whatever. And to me, it was just, I can’t. And this is before I got into the accounting profession. I just never understood it and it’s the same thing with engineers, probably even with architects, and those highly technical fields that do great work. But there’s still the semantics of. The accounting world.
Ralph Picano: [00:21:30] Yeah, yeah. Your bonus comes from somewhere, right? It doesn’t come out of thin air. Yeah, it’s amazing. You know, we accountants and engineers are kind of lumped together often with being, you know, we’re all geeks. Right. And one of the other things that I’ve learned in being in this industry is that, I’m getting off of the profitability side here with this comment. But, one of the, you know, you have this perception that engineers have, you know, the black socks and the tennis shoes, and they’re the geeks, but one of the things I’ve learned in this industry is these guys are very personable, very, I mean, they have, their job is to convince others and to be collaborative and to, you know, communicate. And so, they’re not geeks, they’re not geeks. Us accountants got them easily beat in geekdom.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:34] When I think of engineers and accountants, until I started understanding the engineering world a little bit, after I kind of had an idea of how they think, I wish that I’d have taken more engineering classes because accountants look at things as how much is it cost? Right. Engineers look at things that can I make this better? And that’s the part of their mindset that just blows me away, is that when they look at things, they’re not looking at what it cost, they’re going, how can we make this more efficient? How can we make this better? How can we do this differently to make our, obviously, our client happy? But that’s how they work and they’re not processing, well, this is costing us this much.
Ralph Picano: [00:23:19] Right. Right. And they’re just smart. They’re smart people. And, you know, ultimately, they’re making the world a better place.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:27] Ultimately, yes, they are making better place and safer. Right. I think about that when I cross a bridge and I’m going, “I hope the thing is structurally sound.” You know. And I’m in an elevator going up 30 flights, 30 stories and going, “Okay. Somebody had to design this. And hopefully they took all the continuing education courses in order to make this thing a solid.” But there’s gotta be a way. Well, I know there is a way. It’s just, how do we communicate that information? Oh, the importance of the, having the business acumen, to engineers, to have a better understanding of the organization, and how it operates financially.
Ralph Picano: [00:24:12] You know what? One thing we do here, which I think helps, is we try to be as transparent as we can with our financial results, with our staff. And so on a monthly basis, there’s six metrics, six or seven metrics that that we continuously measure and we put them on the bulletin boards in all the offices. So there’ll be a chart indicating what our results were in the various metrics. And then a little, just a short little commentary that I write each month. And so it’s visible to everybody. Everybody can see how well the company is doing or areas where we need to improve. And I think, inevitably, that rubs off and they have an understanding of how things run and how profitability is achieved through those metrics.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:00] By doing this, have they started asking more questions?
Ralph Picano: [00:25:05] Some do, some do. I mean, we were doing it for a number of years. So, you know, the questions may may have been more, there may have been more questions early on, but yeah, they generally, periodically, we’ll get some questions.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:18] And the response back to them, do they understand or have some grasp or they’re going, OK, and they walk away going “I’m still not sure.”
Ralph Picano: [00:25:30] Most walk out of here with, I think, understanding. And you feel that they’re, you know, react accordingly if there is a way that they should be reacting, I don’t know, once they leave my office, what happens. But when they leave here, it feels that way.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:50] There was an engineer that was, excuse me, there was a CFO who worked for an engineering company in the Pennsylvania area. One of my courses. And at some point he says, “I learned to be a translator.” I said, “OK.” I knew it was going. But the rest of the class wasn’t quite picking up on it. “Tell me about your translation.” “Well, I’ve got to take financial numbers and then I have to translate it so that the CEO understands what I’m also saying. I also have to learn, I’ve had to learn engineering. The language of engineering, to be able to translate that into financial to be able to translate that. I’m multilingual.” I know English. I know accounting. I know engineering. And we all think about that. You know, these professions that we’re in. We do, we all do speak a foreign language to those who are not, you know, in that same industry. But we tend to think that even though you’re the CFO in this engineering firm, that you should understand engineering and probably now as many years as you’ve been doing it, you have a much better understanding. But in those early years.
Ralph Picano: [00:27:07] Don’t ask, don’t ask me questions about engineering stuff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:11] I had very little in that engineering world. But over time, you’ve kind of, you’ve been able to translate, have a better understanding where they’re coming from. But they didn’t sit down and say, “OK, now, Ralph, I know you don’t have
an engineering degree. We do. We’ve got like thousands of hours more than you have. So I’m going to take my time and explain engineering to you.” That didn’t happen.
Ralph Picano: [00:27:31] Right. That’s true. Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:34] They just came at you with guns blazing and just going. I’m sure you understand this because you’ve been employed here at this engineering firm and you have no idea what they said.
Ralph Picano: [00:27:45] Yeah. And the industry is changing. And I don’t know if you’re if your friend, who’s the CEO of the engineering company has expressed this to you. You know, you talked about when you cross the bridge and hoping that that bridge won’t fall apart. You know, a lot of our funding is public funding, right, to fund the projects that we that we work at. And, you know, the public, it’s not sexy stuff. It’s infrastructure stuff. Right? So it’s tough to get the public or to get the lawmakers to approve or to allocate funds to these projects, which we all feel, we all know, are very important. But they’re just not front and center, you know, and that’s problematic in our industry as well. If you talk to any of those in the know, they’re going to paint a pretty bleak picture as to the status of our bridges and our roads, up here in Michigan the roads are horrendous. And, you know, there’s a lot of funding. We certainly are in need of a lot of funding. But, you know, where is it going to come from.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:59] Yeah, well, that’s a very good point. And thinking about that, the infrastructure and where those dollars ultimately come from and who does the work for the US government or the state of Michigan or whomever and where that money is. But it’s a necessity that we need, but you’re right. And you know. We’ve known this for a while. The infrastructure is not in great shape. And here in Columbus, one thing I have noticed more lately, I mean, we’ve gone through orange barrel seizing and we’re still into it for a little while. But I’ve seen more other types of infrastructure projects going on with our roads. One in particular, 270 which goes around the city, they’re doing a major construction project to put an HOV lane in. And because they’re gonna put the HOV lane in they’ve had to kind of help fix everything else associated with that. And so I’m starting to see more of these types of projects,.
Ralph Picano: [00:30:10] And bike lanes as well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:12] Yes. Bike lanes. I love it. I love riding my bike. But I rarely ride it on the road just because the, you know, there’s too many stories out there. But yeah. He didn’t mention that, but I know that his firm does a lot of work in the government sector and that’s, that in itself, if I had a large piece of my business in that industry or relied upon the U.S. government, I don’t know if I would sleep at night.
Ralph Picano: [00:30:46] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s you know, there’s so much that we don’t even see. You know, we in the public general public thinking, you know, we don’t see what’s underground. We don’t see the status of the of the condition of the pipes. You know, the energy grid, you know, that type of thing. There’s so much out there we don’t see. But it’s out there and it’s, there is issues and, I don’t know. Hopefully there will be no major catastrophes that force us to pay more attention to the funding of these things, but.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:21] Unfortunately that’s usually what happens in order to get the attention, which is the wrong piece. It’s that, right now, we’re probably living in the equivalent of BlackBerry. If you think about BlackBerry, they were the be all and end. All right. They were the communication expert and they got, they became very complacent at what they were doing. And next thing you know, the catastrophe happened. Here comes Apple. And they never really took Apple serious. And ultimately, it took that to wake them up. By the time they woke up, it was too late. So that’s true. I didn’t think about that. But that’s very true that we had to figure out a way to fund in order to keep the infrastructure, as, you know. And I travel a lot between trains, planes and automobiles. Yeah, it’s kind of scary. I appreciate that.
Ralph Picano: [00:32:18] Sorry to put the doom and gloom on you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:24] Oh, no worries at all. But it is. I’m glad you raised that point, because we don’t think about that because it’s there. And we think about it. We
think about it when a major hurricane comes through and knocks out the electricity or knocks out the roads or, you know,.
Ralph Picano: [00:32:44] Up here in Michigan, the Flint water crisis, right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:47] Right.
Ralph Picano: [00:32:47] Everyone’s heard of that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:49] Exactly. Yeah. And then we wake up, by that time, to some degree, it’s too late. So as we begin to wrap up. There is one area I do want to broach real quickly. And in your world, you mentioned about the ERP, but how has technology began to affect your world?
Ralph Picano: [00:33:09] Yeah, I was going to comment on that even without you asking, as we’re talking about profitability and this has been a drain on it. So as I mentioned earlier, we, you know, we’re a people industry. We charge clients for the labor, the services that our employees provide. But more and more technology is becoming part of that service. And you need the technology to provide that service to the client. And what we’ve experienced here is that the technology cost on our PNL and our capital expenditures have been rising quite a bit in recent years. And the industry is still used to hours and dollars. And so, you know, people working hours, not necessarily the equipment or the technology that they’re using. So the struggle is, now that we have the technology, you need less time to do the same job for the client, but we’re still charging the client on hours. So we’ve got to, we’ve got to get used to or we’ve got to change that model to reflect either. And we’ve been we’ve been trying to do this. And we’ve been relatively successful in charging for rental or, you know, other costs, non labor costs associated with completing the project, or basically just provide or just charging for the value that the client gained regardless of how many hours were put on the project. At what rate. It’s just the value that the client has gained. Just do the whole mix of engineering services and technology. So that’s that’s a model we’re kind of still evolving.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:59] Yeah. Funny you should mention that because I’ve heard that even in public accounting firms, this technology, we’re not having to go out and do the audit per se, and get, you know, a conference room. We were able to take the GO, throw it into a, some type of artificial intelligence. Out comes, you know, these are the areas you need to look so that a lot of time has been cut. So what does that do to, but, how do we price it now?
Ralph Picano: [00:35:26] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:27] And do we, but to your point, we’ve done it quicker, but we’ve had the investment into the technology that we still need to recoup. So that’s that’s a mental exercise that can hurt in trying to figure that out.
Ralph Picano: [00:35:46] And trying to convey it so that the client understands.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:50] Yeah. How do I explain to the client that we got it done quicker, much more efficient, but the price really didn’t come down, right? It’s that it’s, yeah. We can look at the same thing in healthcare. I mean, we’re doing more with technology and health care than ever before. The prices haven’t come down because we forget about the investment into that technology and what it cost. And we still need to recoup that cost.
Ralph Picano: [00:36:19] Somehow health care pulls it off.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:23] Yeah, not well. Yeah, you’re right. Other professions are struggling with that. But it’s really just the same thought process. Yeah. Yeah. I admire CFOs for the vast knowledge that they have. Because I would, I’m going to make this assumption. As a CFO, you not only have finance and accounting reporting to you. Who else reports to you?
Ralph Picano: [00:36:54] I have administration reporting to me. I don’t have human resources or I.T. They report to the CEO. Obviously, I was very close with those groups though.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:05] Right. OK. So, yeah, I had other CFOs have had I.T. and or H.R. Oh, really? You have an H.R. background. So I qualify and they laugh. I’ll go, I’ve had to learn it, and I had to get it, you know, obviously gain a better understanding of it. And when I speak with CFOs I have the utmost respect because I can’t, I don’t know if I could ever do that job or I want to, but the number of balls that you have to juggle on a daily basis and then still go home to a family and have a good night’s sleep. It’s a tough job.
Ralph Picano: [00:37:40] It’s rewarding. It’s good to be relevant.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:43] It’s good to be relevant. And speaking of being relevant. Since you mentioned, I had to have all the admiration. Before we started, I noticed something on Ralph’s desk that, tell me if I’m right. He still has his ten key on his desk, folks. I know. I know. Anyone who’s listening who’s an accountant, who’s a CFO, they go, “Well, what’s wrong with that? We have ours on our desks as well,” right?
Ralph Picano: [00:38:09] Well, I mean, I told you, Peter, that I also have the painted rock from my daughter when she was in kindergarten on my desk as well. So I have two paper holders here.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:21] And by the way, how old is your daughter now?
Ralph Picano: [00:38:24] That daughter is now 22.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:26] Oh, wow.
Ralph Picano: [00:38:27] I have a 22 year old and an 18 year old.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:29] Congratulations.
Ralph Picano: [00:38:30] Thank you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:31] One’s off payroll, one’s almost?
Ralph Picano: [00:38:34] No, they’re both still on payroll.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:40] I appreciate your time. I appreciate your candor and this conversation. It’s been fun to get to know you. And I’m looking forward to seeing you in September in Denver. And actually, in a much more relaxed environment, especially at the Rockies game.
Ralph Picano: [00:38:58] Yeah, it’ll be fun.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] And then the next day when I’m presenting you, you’re free to heckle as much as you would like.
Ralph Picano: [00:39:06] We appreciate you coming out, Peter, we’re looking forward to having you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:39:10] I’m looking forward to getting there, sir. Safe travels out to Denver. I hope by that time the ERP project is maybe getting close to winding down. And you can have a couple nice evening sleeps that you might not have when you’re at home and in the office. Thank you again. I look forward to seeing you in September.
Ralph Picano: [00:39:35] Thank you, Peter. See you in September.
Peter Margaritis: [00:39:39] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to ensure that you’re handling all of your employees challenges in a way to ensure the organization’s profitability? Remember, you’re in the people business first and foremost. If you treat your people with respect, they will treat their customers and clients with the same respect that you have shown them. Thank you for listening. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their network.
C-Suite Radio: [00:40:27] Like what you just heard? Visit c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

S2E36 – Kevin McCarthy | Uncover Your Blind Spots to Make Better Decisions

My guest today is Kevin McCarthy, author of the bestselling book, Blind Spots: Why Good People Make Bad Choices. Kevin works globally with industry leaders to reveal blind spots to unleash the potential in organizations and teams.

Kevin spent 33 months in a federal prison for a crime he didn’t knowingly commit. His boss at the time was committing stock fraud, and when Kevin discovered this, he realized he had these severe blind spots. How did he wind up working for this boss, and how could he have possibly believed he was a good man doing good things? He became passionate about discovering that for himself.

This was when his journey of professionally helping leaders make better decisions by exposing their blind spots began. Kevin was first introduced to this concept of blind spots while working with his public defender. He didn’t know that his boss was committing a crime, but he was guilty in the law’s eye. And he saw that once she explained it this way: “Kevin, you are seeing this through a moral perspective. I’m seeing it through a legal perspective.”

So he took the plea deal. He knew that from a legal perspective he was guilty, and there was no use going to trial and risking more time in jail.

While in prison, Kevin had an opportunity to participate in a cognitive behavioral psychology course over a nine-month period. That’s where he began asking himself questions like, “What was I thinking? How could I not know that he was a scoundrel?” That’s where the research began within the library, and understanding all the different areas of how we think and what makes us tick.

One of the biggest things we can do for ourselves when making decisions is to just slow down, assess the situation, and gather context. When you start making snap judgements, step back real quick. Stop temporarily. Think deeply. Engage in your rational system of thought.

If we’re not careful, we can allow external factors, whether it’s people’s expressions or whether it’s just the environment we’re in, to change our mood or to put us into a bad place. But just keep in mind that you don’t have the whole context, and realize there’s something else going on that you might not see the full context of here.

Whether you’re a CPA public, have your own firm, work for a firm, work in the government sector, do internal audits, or work in any financial area, just remember that you don’t know what you don’t know and challenge your own assumptions. Even if it’s a mundane routine process that you know like the back of your hand, and you’ve done it over and over, and the numbers seem okay, just challenge it, and ask yourself, am I making any assumptions here? Do I have the full context? Is there any other perspectives that I need to bring into the equation? This kind of critical thinking could, quite frankly, save your life.

What will you do to uncover your blind spots? Will you change your mindset, and bring to light your blind spots, and take action on eliminating them?

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:00:00] We all have our own issues we have to deal with. And in fact, frankly, many of us are in our own prisons, the prisons of our mind.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:07] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:00:08] Right. So, the tragedies, the things that we have to deal with, the pressures, the anxieties, everything else that we have to deal with, we have a choice to make.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:16] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:00:16] And you talked about transformation, and that’s the choice that I wanted.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:29] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:49] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:14] Welcome to Episode 36. And my guest today is Kevin McCarthy. And our discussion is on the topic of blind spots. Now, blind spots, our hidden biases, assumptions, and thinking errors. They cloud perception, drive destructive behaviors, and impair decision making. Kevin works globally with industry leaders to reveal blind spots to unleash the potential in organizations and teams. Kevin is the author of the bestselling book, Blind Spots: Why Good People Make Bad Choices.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:48] Also, Kevin holds the highest certification recognized globally by the speaking industry. He’s a certified speaking professional. Kevin is award-winning sales professional. He built one of the largest Century 21 offices in America. Then, developed and sold a dot.com startup. Now, in 2004, Kevin’s boss was arrested for the largest stock fraud in Washington State’s history. As a result, Kevin spent 33 months in a federal prison for a crime he didn’t knowingly commit. There, he studied Cognitive Psychology and recognized – then deeply researched – the blind spots that led to his predicament. Today, Kevin exposes the invisible barriers that impact culture, organizations, training, service, and leadership. Here’s a fascinating story, and I hope you listen to this entire episode.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:48] Before we get to the interview. Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It’s an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts, such as The Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going www.c-suiteradio.com.

Announcer: [00:03:19] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume off on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:26] In addition, you can now listen to this podcast on iHeart Radio. And now, a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:03:33] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritas LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter and peSter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:23] Now, let’s get to interview with Kevin McCarthy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:31] Hey. Welcome back, everybody. I’m actually interviewing a friend, a fellow certified speaking professional, Mr. Kevin McCarthy. And we’re both here in Denver, Colorado attending the NSA Influence Annual Convention. And I was able to grab Kevin, because he’s a very busy man – we’re all very busy right here – to get him to sit down with me and talk about—I’m just—we’ll let you know what we’re going to talk about, but it is well worth a listen. First and foremost, Kevin, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend some time with me talking about your book, Blind Spots. And we’ll get into some depth with that. So, I’m just giving them me a little teaser there.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:05:10] Yeah. Sounds good. Thanks, Peter. Thanks for having me on the program. Super excited about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:14] So, Kevin, can you give the audience just a little bit about your background?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:05:19] Absolutely. So, in all fairness, let me start with the punchline.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:24] Okay. I love punchlines.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:05:24] So, as you know and as anybody who picks up a copy of the book will know right from the front cover, I spent 33 months in a federal prison for a crime I didn’t knowingly commit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:41] And that’s the key part of this conversation – knowingly.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:05:44] That’s right. That’s right. And I’ll fill you in on the story, but I basically discovered that I had blind spots. And so, I became passionate about discovering why I found myself involved with the—with this boss, and how I could possibly have believed him to be a good man doing good things when, in fact, it turned out to be the opposite. So, there’s the punchline. Let me give a little backdrop to that. How about that?

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:09] That’s great.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:06:09] All right, all right. And if you’re driving, pull over.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:14] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:06:14] Maybe not, but yeah. So, the backdrop is that I’ve been an entrepreneur for a number of years. I’ve been self-employed the vast majority of my career. And I was fortunate and blessed in the ’90s to own the 13th largest Century 21 real estate franchise. And I gave a presentation to 31 independent franchise owners in the Phoenix Metropolitan area at one point, which I didn’t realize, the Vice President of that area was in the audience. And so, he came up afterwards and asked if I would give a keynote speech to five different sales rallies throughout the southwest region of Century 21, and I thought that was cool.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:52] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:06:53] And he offered to pay me for it. I thought, “Well, that’s amazing.” I’m sure they way overpaid me. But while I was giving those keynotes, then it turned into a 14-state contract, which then turned into a national speaking opportunity. So, I sold my real estate company. While I was traveling on the—largely, in hotel rooms all over the country, I realized the realtors needed help. This is 1994.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:19] Okay, okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:07:19] So, I realized realtors needed help figuring out this new technology available to them called the internet. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:26] You mean the World Wide Web?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:07:27] That’s the one, the www. And so, I don’t know programming myself, but I understand leading people, So, I did—I hired a number of programmers, developed a plan, and then executed. And we developed the first-of-its-kind system to get the realtors a web page, and then automatically filter their listings out of the MLS system. Cool.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:51] Cool.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:07:51] And this is six months before the big dog showed up, which was realtor.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:56] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:07:56] Obviously, we were all on the same parallel path trying to get to market. Well, I beat them to market. And that’s another whole story, but they tried to buy me out. That’s why I say it’s another whole story, and I said no. And that was stupid. I didn’t know what they meant when they said one realtor.com. I said, “Well, we’re doing public, and we want to give you a lot of options.” So, yeah, in hindsight, well, anyway.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:22] Yeah, we all make those.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:08:23] I know, right? Boy, there you go. We all have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:28] Well, that was a blind spot.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:08:30] That was clearly a blind spot, which is interesting to see those two words in the same sentence.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:36] Exactly

Kevin McCarthy: [00:08:37] Clearly a blind spot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:39] Clearly.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:08:40] So, anyway, flash forward, I did not sell my company to realtor.com. Then, homeseekers.com, which was the number two in the market, they offered to buy my company, and I said yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:51] And how much?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:08:52] And it was awesome. And so, I sold the company for a substantial sum during the craziness of the dot com. But then, what happened is I—going along almost a year into working with them as the president of one of their divisions as a publicly-held company, they lost all their funding when the dot com bubble burst. And so, they started closing down the visions, laying off personnel. My division was the newest and they closed it down. I had to fire 54 people. That wasn’t fun.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:23] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:09:23] And so, here I am. Now, we bring this up to the punchline.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:28] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:09:28] Here I am having been at what I felt was the top of my game, and, now, I’m pretty much broke because I took all that stock that I had, and I learned how to leverage it in what’s called the margin.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:40] Yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:09:41] Then, I couldn’t pay back when the dot com bubble burst.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:44] That margin call is really how you to want to pick up.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:09:47] That margin call was just not fun. So, I—so, I learn about finances the hard way-

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:53] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:09:53] … which is always fun because when I speak to these financial audit audiences, everybody in the room is smarter than me, and I love it. The expectation level for me is so much lower than. So, yeah, I learned the hard way about the margin. And so, now, I find myself enjoying a summer to whatever degree you can when you’re trying to figure out the next thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:14] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:10:15] Right? And I’m in the northwest. So, it is a beautiful time of the year.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:18] Exactly.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:10:18] And then, a buddy of mine from church tells me about a stock opportunity he has. And I can see by the look on your face, Peter, you know where that’s going.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:28] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:10:28] And so do your listeners, I’m sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:30] Yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:10:31] So, he happened to know the treasurer of this company that was getting ready to go public and so on. And the story was awesome. It was the perfect timing. And I had just enough money to invest. So, I invested in this company. And, now, of course, I have to justify and rationalize how intelligent that investment really was.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:51] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:10:51] So, I’m pumping myself up over the next few months, excited that the IPO is going to happen. And then, I get a phone call from the same guy that introduced me to the stock who said that the CEO of the company had heard about my business development background. So, through the grapevine, my buddy, to the treasurer, to the CEO. Then, all he needs is a consultant for one project for 30 days. And that was in my wheelhouse of setting up and developing a division or a group. And so, I took the project as a consultant before the public offering. And by the way, side note, when I shared this opportunity with my wife-

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:35] Oh, that’s right, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:11:35] … she had this gut feeling that I should say no, but I said yes. And she will never let me live this down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:45] Absolutely.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:11:47] So, there’s a whole lesson in that right there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:49] That’s right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:11:50] All right, in any case. By the way, we will celebrate our 33rd anniversary coming up here in August.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:55] Oh, congratulations!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:11:55] So, yeah, yeah. I don’t know how she did it, but she’s put up with me all this time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:00] She doesn’t want to train another one.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:02] Well, yeah. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. So, here I am now, a consultant with this company in which I’m an investor, and I’m super pumped.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:12] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:12] And then, the IPO date gets pushed off for one reason or another. And then, we keep moving along, and it gets pushed off again, and again, and again. And so, ultimately, I ended up working for this guy as a consultant for 15 months instead of 30 days.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:29] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:30] And it wasn’t until the FBI came knocking at our door-

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:36] At home?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:36] … at home, with search warrants-

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:39] Oh, my God!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:40] … that I really understood something was dreadfully wrong.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:43] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:44] All that time with working with him with the company, 34 employees, I never once saw prison coming.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:51] Wow! So, they execute the search warrant. I mean, obviously, you’re asking what the heck is going on here?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:12:59] Oh, yeah. It was crazy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:00] And what did the FBI say? Could they even give you any hint of anything?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:04] They, of course, can’t talk about anything. They ask all the questions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:08] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:08] They don’t answer questions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:10] Yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:10] And so, they came in. They were looking for anything they could get their hands on. They explained that they had the warrant for anything related to the company.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:18] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:18] So, they were looking for paperwork, any kind of information.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:21] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:21] And so, they took all that they wanted, including some things that I didn’t think they had entitlement to, but they—stuff got swept up into the occasion. And then. I went down to an attorney’s office in the Seattle area to figure out what just happened.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:42] Yeah, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:13:43] So, I drive down to Seattle. I’m talking to this attorney I provide a retainer, and he does some due diligence, calls me back a number of days later, and I go down to the office, and basically said, “Yeah, I’ve got some not-so-good news for you.” He said, “You are, in fact, a target of the investigation.” Like, “What does that mean?” Yeah, I’m freaking out, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:07] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:14:07] You’re feeling it, aren’t you?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:08] Yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:14:09] And I’m like, “What do you mean target?” He goes, “Well, you’re not being indicted. They’re not going to come in and arrest you right now or anything like that.” He said, “But they are actually looking into your involvement in your boss’s crime.” He said, “So, that’s not the worst news.” He said, “The worst news is I can’t defend you in this case.” I’m like, “Why?” He said, “Well, based on what I’ve learned about the gravity and the magnitude of this case,” he said the, “It can cost you $150,000 to $200,000 for your defense.” He said, “So-“

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:44] I mean, I have put in my stomach right there.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:14:46] Yeah. And I didn’t have it. I had just squandered it away during the dot.com craziness and couldn’t pay back Merrill Lynch, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:53] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:14:53] So—and he knew that. So, he basically said, “Well, I’ve got good news.” He goes, “I’ll get you assigned early to the public defender’s office.” Yeah, I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:04] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:15:06] Like, “That’s good news?” It turns out actually it really was because my attorney was phenomenal. She was the number two in the federal public defender’s office. But this is where it begins to unfold in the book and in, now, what I do professionally with helping leaders make better decisions by exposing their blind spots because I, first, understood this whole concept of blind spots with my public defender. And so, we were arguing and bickering. And I was sobbing like a baby every time I’d leave her office because she was just beating up on me emotionally. Then, I found out later that that’s just part of the process. She had to know who she’s dealing with, test my resolve, and know what—find out the truth, and all that, right. But it was not a fun time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:58] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:15:58] And so, I go into her office on this occasion expecting the same horror. So, I’m walking in with fear and trepidation. And we didn’t even get to sit down. And she turned to me, and she asked if I was going to sign the plea bargain. Like, “No. Why would I sign the plea bargain? I didn’t know my boss was committing a crime,” right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:22] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:16:22] And I want to go to court. I’m just putting my trust in the jury of my peers that they’re going to see sift through the truth, and they’re going to realize that I just did what I did. I worked according to the boss’s instructions, and I had no idea that he was just taking people’s money, right? Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. She explained it this way, she basically said, “Listen, it doesn’t matter what you knew or what you didn’t know.” She said, “Because they’re not going to charge you with fraud. They’re charging you, or they will charge you with conspiracy to commit fraud.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:59] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:17:00] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:01] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:17:01] So, follow me in this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:03] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:17:03] At the federal level, at least, I can’t tell—I don’t know what the states do, but in the federal level, only one person in a conspiracy needs to know a crime is being committed. I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:15] Yeah, that doesn’t—yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:17:17] Yeah. It’s like a question mark. And it’s just—I think, it’s just—and this is my layman understanding of all this and how it works, but I think it’s the RICO Act and the way that the government has its wide net to capture a lot of organized crime and so forth. And then, it makes sense really from that standpoint. But as my attorney put it, it’s a very wide net. So, where I let the audience or even the readers in my book, when I was involved with my boss, I was working with him doing—following instructions. I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t know the intent or the motive behind what he was doing. So, I did what I did. And that’s what makes me guilty of conspiracy to help him further the crime ultimately. Yet, he is the one that was the ringleader, if you will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:08] I’ve heard your story before, and I am still, at this point. I’ve just complete confusion and speechless because—so, he hands you an envelope and says, “I want you to mail this envelope.” You have no idea what the contents is in that envelope, and you put it in the mail. That’s conspiracy.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:18:30] That could be roped into the concept of conspiracy. Now, if it was as simple as one act of putting on an envelope in the main, right, the prosecutors aren’t going to mess with you. But it wasn’t that simple. I was there for 15 months. I did a lot of things. And in hindsight, I’m looking back on, I did some stupid things. But in the context of the moment—that’s the key-

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:49] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:18:50] Right? It’s context. And even today, when we make decisions or when we have to arbitrate conflict at the workplace or whatever, we always have to remember there’s some really important steps in that process. And one of them is, what is the context I’m missing?

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:09] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:19:09] Right? So, context is key.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:10] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:19:10] Right? And so, in the context, in the framework of our thinking, and what was going on, and in the business, in the marketplace at that time, all the red flags made total sense. Even the ones that, at first, didn’t, we rationalized and justified them because we wanted them to be true, right? So, I’m getting too deep in the content here. Let me back up.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:31] No worries. No, no, keep going. This is good stuff.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:19:34] Yeah, yeah. So, ultimately, this is where I explain, it’s like I didn’t know my boss was committing a crime, but I was guilty. And I saw that the minute she explained it this way. Carol said to me, she said, “Kevin, you are seeing this through a moral perspective. I’m seeing it through a legal perspective.” And by this point she was able to confidently say, “Morally, I believe you. In fact, I know I can convince the jury that you had no knowledge of your boss’s intent to commit fraud.” She said, “But that won’t matter because you did what you did.” And as an example, similar to one you just gave, Peter, is she said, “Because you put those envelopes in the mail at your boss’s request as letters to the investors,” she said, “You became an unwitting accomplice in his mail fraud.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:26] Unwitting accomplice.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:20:27] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:27] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:20:28] Unwitting accomplice in the mail fraud. And so, it had been just, again, one little act like that, not a big deal, but it is a compilation of acts like that-

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:38] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:20:38] … that all came together. And then, there was a couple of smoking guns, which, I think, I’ll save some of the cliffhangers for the book.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:45] Okay. Well done.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:20:47] Yeah, there are a couple smoking guns. I mean, it’s, again, hindsight. I found myself caught in a moral dilemma at one point, and that’s all explained in the book. But, ultimately, the lessons that came out of this are just absolutely critical because I realized how, first of all, unaware I was. I used to think, if you would have asked me back then, “How self-aware do you feel like you are?” I would have said probably same thing you or any—most of us would say, “Oh, I’m doing pretty good. I’m good,” right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:19] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:21:19] Because that’s how we think of ourselves. We always think of ourselves as better than we are. And even inasmuch reading as we might do or, at least, not do, we all have room for improvement. But what I realized in hindsight is that there is some—so often, we are less self-aware than we think we are. And that creates, all by itself, another whole set of issues with blind spots. So, I didn’t realize how unaware I really was.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:48] Okay. So, you signed a plea deal?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:21:51] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:52] Reluctantly, but you said, at that point, when she explained it to you, you were—now, you saw that you—you said, “I saw that I was guilty.”

Kevin McCarthy: [00:22:01] Yeah. Yeah. So, the minute she really explained that, my eyes were opened, and I really understood through a different perspective that, in fact, I was guilty. And so, because I was guilty, I knew going to trial was futile. And I wanted to own up and, sort of, pay whatever price was necessary for my stupidity, really. And unfortunately, the government was offering for the first person that would take a plea, their best offer was 10 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:36] Holy shit.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:22:36] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:36] But you said 33 months. So-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:22:38] Right, yeah. So, that’s the best of silver lining, but yes. So, I actually signed a 10-year plea-.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:42] Oh, my God.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:22:44] Reluctantly, but willingly. And at that point, my daughter was 9, and my son was 11. I was the breadwinner. And so, all these crazy thoughts just were racing through my head as I’m driving home from Seattle back to my house, and all I could think of was, “Wow! 10 years. My kids are going to be fully grown, out of the house probably. Who knows what kind of relationship I’ll have, if any.” Certainly, Rachel would be off in another relationship. I mean, I couldn’t blame her, and I would encourage. That’s too long to be single and wait for your man to come home.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:24] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:23:24] And so, it just felt like life was over for me. So, it was really the issue that—the first and, frankly, the only time I ever considered suicide. And that-

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:31] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:23:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:35] Oh.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:23:35] It was pretty devastating. Just to lighten the moment and explain the silliness of my thinking.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:45] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:23:47] Much like my financial prowess, I—the thought that raced through my head for that moment about ending my life was to simply grab my orange extension cord, cut off the end, plug it into the wall, and jump into my hot tub. That’s the silliest thing. I mean, it’s almost embarrassing to say. It’s like it never even dawned to me that there’s circuit breakers, and they would just pop. It’d be an ouch for a minute, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:16] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:24:16] So, that was if. That was the extent of it. Never had a problem since. It’s just-

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:20] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:24:21] But you get-

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:22] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:24:22] It’s that devastating moment of wow, life as I knew it is over.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:26] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:24:27] Today, it’s better, by the way.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] Right, right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:24:28] I mean, that whole experience is—has been amazing on a positive level for my family.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:34] Wow! But I can see how. And as you’re describing this, I’m sitting here thinking if I was in your shoes, I’ve had the same thoughts. I think any—almost any human being would probably go down that path, might not execute. Probably that’s the right word, but commit suicide. But I think that thought does come into our head. It’s something that would be, at first, absolutely scary. I mean, just almost blinding scary. But thankfully, we didn’t come up with another idea.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:25:15] Right, yeah, no. Thankfully, that was the end of that thought process. But let’s—and this isn’t really a purpose today, but since we brought it up, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:23] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:25:24] Since I brought it up, let’s just address that because there might be one of your listeners that have had those thoughts, or deal with those thoughts, or maybe one of you are in that position where you have already crossed over a line, maybe unwittingly, and now you’re dealing with the same kind of thoughts I was dealing with saying, “Oh, no. Now what?” Right? What’s life like on the other side of this? In fact, I get asked by our colleagues who meet people who are facing these situations or are already. I’m talking—I’m going to be talking to a gentleman, for example, who one of our colleagues introduced me to. And he is already being—he’s already sentenced, and he’s waiting for his time to show up. So, he would like to talk to me about what to expect, right? So, that happened. So, all I can say is, if you’re dealing with any of that, just hang in there. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t despair because there is still life after you go through it, after the smoke clears from the nightmare, if you will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:24] Right. So, you show up. You’re, your mind, thinking, “I’m here for 10.” How did you get it down to 33?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:26:34] Yeah. So, there’s a couple of steps in between. So, I agreed to sign the plea bargain. And then, I did. And then, I was out of my own reconnaissance for another two years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:46] Oh, really?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:26:46] Yeah. Because it’s—the case against the boss was still being made, even though, I believe, from what I understand, that it was already under—he was under investigation almost two years before he hired me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:59] Oh, wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:00] And I also heard that he had already been in front of a grand jury during that two years and testified, answered their questions over it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:09] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:10] So, there was a pretty big case going on, at least, what it seems like. So, I was out in two years. And then, the goal was or the idea was that I was going to be one of the government witnesses that they would call to the stand during the boss’s trial. Well, that kept getting postponed. The trial date kept getting postponed. So, I would continue to be out for two—those two years, which is, in and of itself, its own level of prison because-

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:34] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:34] … not knowing the certainty of when that date would come.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:38] And trying to find work, given everything else associated with that-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:41] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:42] … period of time of uncertainty, yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:43] Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:44] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:44] And there’s a whole lot of blind spots in that uncertainty that just really creates stress, and caused anxiety, and depression, and just everything else goes with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:53] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:27:53] But I worked really hard trying to, at least, leave my family with a little bit of something whenever that day came. And then, the day came. And then, I had to go to sentencing, which is a hearing at the courthouse. And that’s where the unknown became known, which is we went in there not knowing what the outcome was gonna be, but we did, at least, know that my attorney and the prosecutor negotiated a 48-month sentence.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:15] Oh, okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:28:16] Yeah. It was because of my cooperation. In fact, my boss or my lawyer even said that the government felt like I was most cooperative witness they’d ever worked with in Seattle office. And the judge actually departed 60% off the original play, which, apparently, that was a unique situation as well. Never had really departed that far down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:37] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:28:38] So, I really see it as a gift. I mean, 48 months seems crazy, but to be a gift, but it was a gift.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:45] Yes, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:28:46] Then, while I was in prison—so, now, to your question, I show up, and here I am. I’m in this federal prison. And that, in and of itself, is just horrifying, the concept. It’s not—fortunately, it’s not like Alcatraz or the movie, Alcatraz or Shawshank Redemption. It’s because I was in a minimum-security federal prison.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:09] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:09] So, I was in there with mostly white-collar criminals that were first-time offense, nonviolent type crime.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:17] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:17] So, we have about 40% of the 504 men that were there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:21] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:21] So, I was in there with, gosh, financial people. Hopefully, none of your listeners-

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:27] Hopefully.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:27] … will ever be there. But I was in there with financial people, legal folks. I was in there with wealthy folks who are successful businesses across the line themselves. An NFL football player who had two Super Bowl rings. Just for his own character’s sake, I won’t mention.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:44] Right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:44] And, oh, I was in there with an 18-year-old kid who hacked his way into NASA, right? I’m just a-

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:52] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:52] Yeah, wow! Smart and stupid cohabitate. That’s all I can say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:56] Hacked into NASA.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:29:57] That kid was brilliant.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:00] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:00] He shouldn’t have done NASA, but he-

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:03] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:03] Now, I hope the FBI or CIA get a hold of him, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:05] Right, right. Put him in a good use.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:06] Put him on our side.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:06] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:06] Yeah, for sure. So, it was crazy. The other 60% of the men were simply commodities dealers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:14] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:14] Well, come on now, Peter. That’s what they called themselves. They’re drug dealers. Let’s make that clear.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:18] I was thinking they’re in the import/export business.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:21] Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:23] Come on, this dealer.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:23] There’s all homegrown.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:24] As we see in-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:27] Homegrown businesses.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:28] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:29] Yeah. Now, Denver, here we are where it’s legal to, but—so, there I was. And in the federal system, they automatically credit you 15% off of your sentence for good behavior. And so, that’s what you can, sort of, look forward to. But if you mess up, then they start pulling it back and taking that away.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:48] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:48] So, they dangle the carrot out to keep everybody in good behavior. And for the most part, most people are staying along those lines on good behavior.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:56] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:30:56] And then, I had an opportunity while I was in there to participate in a cognitive behavioral psychology course that was 500 hours of inpatient. That’s not the right word I’m looking for. But basically, because we couldn’t go anywhere, it was inhouse.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:12] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:31:12] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:12] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:31:13] And so, literally, we met five days a week, a couple hours a day for a nine-month period. And it was a deep dive into cognitive behavioral psychology designed for drug addictions, alcohol addictions, that kind of thing. But it was an eye-opener for me. And that’s where-

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:31] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:31:31] … that’s where the research and asking those really hard questions, like, what was I thinking? And how could I not know that he was a scoundrel? How could I have missed the red flags or, worse, justified the ones I saw? And so, that’s began my journey. That’s where the research began within the library, and having my family and friends send in books, and just collecting quotes, and understanding all the different areas of how we think and what makes us tick. And so, that was the research that went into writing—finally writing the book in 2017, which got published. And then, literally, fueled a whole new passion. And so, what I do today, as a professional speaker and author, is not a job or a career. It’s a passion that was birthed as a result of, how did I get here, what was I thinking, and how do I not find myself in this kind of a position again?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:35] Right. And it’s funny. Funny is not really the right word, but it’s interesting that we’re having this conversation at this convention that is all about transformation. And then, I sit there, and I actually remember half of the mainstay presenters, but all of them had some type of major adversity. One gentleman. Eric-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:32:59] Yeah, Weihenmayer or something like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:02] Yeah, blind-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:33:03] I’m probably butchering it, but-

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:04] Yeah, blind. So, that was—be he has scaled El Capitan, Mt. Everest. He’s kayaked the Colorado River.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:33:15] Blind.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:16] Blind, blind. And he showed some video of him in probably some of the worst rapids on the Colorado River. And first, it had to beat him up, but he went back at it again. So, dealing with that adversity and finding the passion and the positive side of it, a lot of what was talked over the last two days. And, basically, that’s you as well that you had this limitation, and you were limited there, at least, for 33 months, and this blind spot. And you could have come out of this saying, “I’m done.” But no, you just—you found that, and you turned it into something positive. And you’ve walked into a lot of doors because the one thing that comes with doing the transformation, we’re going to skin our feet, we’re going to skin our skin our knees, we’re going to walk into doors, we have bloody noses. You’ve had all of that. Some of that probably physically, but some kind of metaphorically. But you came at the other end, and you said with this passion that you could probably honestly say that if that never happened to you, this would have never happened.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:23] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:25] Yeah. That’s this—that’s wild.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:27] I know. It is crazy. And to your point, we all—my story is just my story. And it’s the representative of all of our stories.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:36] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:37] Because we all have a story, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:38] Right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:38] We all have the—we all have our own issues we have to deal with. In fact, frankly, many of us are in our own prisons, the prisons of our mind.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:46] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:47] Right? So, the tragedies, the things that we have to deal with, the pressures, the anxieties, everything else that we have to deal with, we have a choice to make.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:55] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:34:55] And you talked about transformation, and that’s the choice that I wanted to make. It’s like, I wanted to use this—these lessons as an opportunity to forge greater character, to be a better person, to come out the other side of this, and not be bitter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:11] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:35:11] But literally, just learn how to be better, and then help others do the same. Make those same better choices.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:19] Right. And it’s that message that resonates with your audience because I can imagine that—I mean, first of all, with your story, I’m going, “Could this be happening to me right now that I just really don’t know.” And that audience is going to be sitting on—because, firstly, because I know you talk to a lot of financial professionals, CPAs, and the like. A lot of my audience is that. And unbeknownst to them, they might be committing something. But I think the bigger message is getting through it and what’s on the other side.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:52] And you said the word bitter, and you could have taken that bitter side, but you saw something greater there. And I applaud you for that because we were talking about the limitations that we have, and our mind, what it limits us, our own personal thoughts. And to maintain a positive mental attitude during a very tough time is exhausting. But you saw that, “It’s time, I’m out. Now what do I do?” And that passion is giving back, so others don’t fall into the same trap.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:36:33] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:34] But you did.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:36:34] Yeah. And, to carry on that thought that you share there, it’s not about just a – to use the old ‘ 80s term – PMA positive mental attitude. It’s not about just pumping yourself up to, sort of, overcome the trials that you’re going through. It’s really facing what you’re going through head on, but it’s making moment-by-moment decisions to push through it, to deal with it, and not let it become—not let it define you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:07] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:37:07] Become bitter about it because everybody has tragedy. Everybody has trials. Everybody has pressures. But we can make those momentary decisions. And oftentimes, we’re just one decision away from going positive or going down the wrong path.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:25] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:37:26] Almost every audience I speak to, and I speak to audiences all over the country and even outside the country, there’s almost always somebody, Peter, who comes up to me at the end after everything quiets down, and I’m packing up my stuff, and they waited patiently from the moment when nobody else was around.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:44] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:37:45] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:45] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:37:45] And I always expected, so I’m always kind of methodically just hanging out and packing step up after I’m done talking to the group. And they’ll come up, and they’ll share their story. And they are what you just said. They’re that person who has just found themselves in a predicament where they could have said to themselves, “I never saw that coming,” right, because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. And so, they’re facing the issue right this minute. How did I get here? Now, what do I do?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:38:13] Or the other side of that is that there’s always somebody in the audience, oftentimes, more than one, who knows somebody who just found themselves having crossed the line, sometimes intentionally, but sometimes not. And it’s such a crazy landscape legally, right. There’s so many laws, so many loopholes, so many ways. If the government really wants to, they can come down on most of us at some point, right. Not that they would, not a lot of what—the little infractions are worth their pursuits, but there’s so many of those. And sometimes, we just get caught up in the day-to-day minutia. We get caught up in the fast pace. I call it the speed of life that, often, we’re just not paying attention. So, it’s like we knew what we should have known, but we weren’t paying attention in those cases.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:39:07] There’s other blind spot areas. There’s hundreds of blind spots. They have three categories, really. There’s those I just mentioned where we should have known, but we just weren’t paying attention. In hindsight, with the benefit of hindsight, we go, “What was I thinking?”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:19] Yeah, right, okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:39:20] “How could have I said that or done that?” or whatever.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:23] Yeah, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:39:23] But then, there’s those blind spots that are literally the psychology that most of us just don’t realize, the implicit associations, the stereotypes of the biases that are hidden, that kind of lurk in the background, and influence, and impact our decisions and our behaviors. And we’re just not really aware that we’re doing it, again, largely because we could all use some help with growing in our emotional intelligence and our self-awareness, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:49] Right, right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:39:50] And then, there’s the third group, which is really the presuppositions. We believe we know already, but because of the framework of our thinking, and our world view, and all these other biases that come into impact that we think we know, but, in fact, what we think we know isn’t always so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:04] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:40:06] So, all these blind spots, they’re waiting to impact and influence how we behave and decide what we decide.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:40:13] So, as you’re describing, like 33 modes coming out after that, and maintaining or fighting through, an improv term came to me. And I think to get through anything similar that you would experience, you had to be present. You had to be present at—because you—like baby steps. We get ahead of things today, can’t worry about yesterday. That’s past. We all tend to go think further out. But then, we come blinded again. And you were—maybe unbeknownst to you or maybe it wasn’t but you’ve maintained your presence being in the moment, not getting too far from yourself, and not relying too much on the back. And that presence that you demonstrated helped you to maneuver your way through this nightmare because if—I don’t know. I come from a family that tends to think way too much in advance. We forget about worrying about today. And it’s not easy. But when we do that, we can manage anything. We can get—we can literally get through anything on a positive track versus going down that dark alley.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:41:38] Yeah, being present is really a key component to being aware.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:45] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:41:45] Just to maintain awareness. Now, being present in whatever the situation is, you need to kick into a rational thinking mode.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:58] Right, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:41:58] So, we need to get out of the automatic, what Daniel Kahneman calls the system one. You need to get out of that automatic mode, this rhythm that we get into. Even at work, the rhythm or the home life rhythm that we get into.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:12] Yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:42:12] And literally, kick in what you calling presence. We need to kick into the rational part of our thinking. We need to really analyze our surroundings, be aware of our environment, understand our biases, understand that we have—everybody has biases.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:27] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:42:28] So, what—how are my biases now playing into this decision? Now, one of the tools that I like to teach is fairly simple. It’s not easy, but the simplicity of it is I call it the STPCAP.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:41] STPCAP. Like the-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:42:41] Like the engine performance.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:48] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:42:48] But STP is simply stop, think, and process.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:50] Stop, think, and process.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:42:52] And the reason that’s important is because, oftentimes, we’ll make decisions based on a knee-jerk reaction, or a gut feel, or an intuitive thought. So, we get—we forget because we just think we know what we know, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:04] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:43:04] We think—especially if you’re one like I was where I felt like I could process pretty quickly and make what Malcolm Gladwell will call snap judgments. Yeah. So—but you have to step back. When you feel that or start doing that, you start making snap judgments. Step back real quick. Stop temporarily. Think deeply. Engage. In other words, that rational system too, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:30] Right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:43:30] And then, proceed cautiously, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:34] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:43:34] And while you’re thinking deeply, so here’s CAP. That’s STP. Here’s CAP. I feel like I’m teaching suddenly. And I’m sure this wasn’t the intent, but-

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:43] No, no, no, please, please, please.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:43:44] All right. So, let me just finish this. So, CAP is—and this is awesome for board meetings, for sales meetings, for staff meetings, for dealing with conflict in the workplace. CAP is C-A-P, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:55] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:43:57] Context, assumptions, perspectives. What context am I missing here?

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:01] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:02] What assumptions am I making? We all make assumptions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:06] We make a lot of assumptions, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:07] And what perspectives are available? What perspectives are available? See, one of the blind spots is we like to hang around with people that are like us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:15] Right, right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:15] We like to hire people who are like us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:17] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:18] Now, HR directors cringe when I say they know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:20] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:21] It’s like, “Yeah, that’s what we’re trying not to do, Kevin.: But we just—so, what other perspectives are available? If you think about just that one right there, I mean, that’s huge, especially if you’re trying to build an inclusive workplace because we need to value one another’s perspectives. We’re all unique. We’re all different

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:39] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:39] And nobody is really like us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:42] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:42] We try, but-

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:44] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:44:44] But if you can rein in and pull in other people’s perspectives, then you’ll make better decisions. You’ll have less blind spots because you’re bringing in context, and understanding assumptions, and bringing in new perspectives. So, that, all by itself, is probably the worth the purchase of my book.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:00] Absolutely. Because I’m glad you went into that teaching mode because as you’re describing that, I have an impulse. I was—I didn’t realize this until my son was diagnosed with it. Then, I have ADHD, which explains—once he told me, I found out, “Well, that explains everything.” And so, I don’t really know how many years it’s been now, but my hardest part—because I can tell when I’m about to make a snap decision is the stop and not follow through that decision, and being—has been a solopreneur at home trying to run a business, I’ve learned I’ve actually become better at the stop. Wait, let me think through this a little bit deeper and close Amazon for a moment because there’s a purchase there that I think would help—I think that would help the business that, you know what, it really wouldn’t.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:01] But since I don’t work in corporate America, I think back when I was, I probably needed to be a better person to stop and think through because hindsight, which is obviously 20/20, there were some decisions and things that I made that were under impulse, filled with biases, not taken in perspective at all, and I’ve learned how to manage my ego. At that time, I wasn’t managing it very well. And I’m just not—knock on wood, that nothing ever, to the same degree, to do that, but yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:46:39] Yeah, yeah. I know this is just one example of many tools but this, if you can just do that much, you’ll already begin to make better decisions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:50] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:46:50] Like you explained.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:51] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:46:51] Don’t make that impulsive decisions. And with that impulse, not just buying something, whether it’s personally or for the company, but even the tendency to make snap judgments about somebody else.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:06] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:47:07] Right? I mean, because we all do that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:08] Right, yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:47:08] It’s natural to see somebody’s reaction on their face, their facial expression, their body language, their tone of voice. And if we’re not careful, we’ll make a snap judgment. Even if we don’t vocalize it or even consciously think through it, we’ll just have this gut reaction, and then we’ll chalk it up to, “Yeah. I don’t like being around them very much,” or “Oh, gosh, when a mean person,” or the list just goes on. You fill in the blanks, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:38] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:47:38] And yet when we realize that there’s context, what is the context? What’s going on really inside? What’s going on with them? In fact, if you really use this tool, it creates more empathy because you can actually take that same snap judgment, turn it on its head by thinking deeply through it. And when you apply that to the whole context and your assumptions that you’re making right now about that person, and what other perspectives. What—look at it from somebody else’s viewpoint. What else is going on? You might find out. Who knows? They might be—that look might have been simply because they just had a loss in the family.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:15] Yes.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:48:16] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:16] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:48:16] They just found out that they were terminally ill. I mean, I’m taking it to the extreme, but we never know what the full story.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:26] And that’s something that the Speaker Association has taught me about the audience. You might perceive bad body language as something’s wrong, but you don’t know the context of what’s going on in their life. It’s not you. Not in that present time, they’re not mad that you’re this. Somebody, he finds that I am doing a terrible job. That’s not it, but that’s what we’re feeling at the time.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:48:48] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:49] That I’m up here bombing it. Why am I not connecting with this one person? However, you don’t know. But when you said that, the other night at the cocktail party, went up to a colleague, and I just had this bad vibe. And I merely would, “Did I do something stupid lately? Did I say something to her?” And I just kind of distance myself. “Wait, I must have done something.” And I saw her the next day, and, oh, my God, [indiscernible] and just give me this great big hug. And I said, “Okay.” I found I just—as you describe, I’d snapped judgment, bias kicked in, all that, it must be me; when, in fact, I never—I will approach her and make a comment to her at some point in time, but what you just described, I just experienced just two nights ago.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:49:37] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:37] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:49:38] Yup. Yeah, I was speaking for the Association of Government Accountants, this national conference last fall. And the audience was fully engaged. It was awesome. It was a great presentation. In fact, it was—it’s the one that I now have secretly behind a firewall that’s available to clients that want to see it ahead of time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:55] Okay.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:49:55] But there is a person in the audience that was just what you described. And I glanced over and see you see him with this look on his face. I was like, “Oh, I don’t even want to look over there,” because I couldn’t connect. And like you said, you never want to make that judgment.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:13] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:50:13] And this doesn’t normally happen, but he literally came up to me afterwards and thanked me, really valued the information, and he apologized. He said, “I apologize if I didn’t seem engaged,” he said, “because I had these other things going on, going through my head.” But he said, “I was listening. And I did actually enjoy the information.” So, yeah, right? How often have we done that as we go into our weekly meetings with somebody in the room?

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:39] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:50:39] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:39] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:50:40] “Oh, man. They’re in a bad mood. I’m going to stay away from them.” Well, what if you just reach out? “How are you doing? How are you feeling?

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:44] “Is something bothering you?”

Kevin McCarthy: [00:50:46] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:47] I have a gentleman, I was at the Washington Society of CPA speaking, and he pulled his chair out from the round table, and just kind of set it right in front of me, and sat there with the scowl on his face. I think he’s going to come up and punch me.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:51:02] Oh no.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:04] And at the break, I went up to him, I said, “Excuse me. One, it’s kind of unusual for me to do this. And two, have I offended you in any which way, shape or form?” He goes, “Oh, my God. No.” And I went then. And I took a chance here and said, “Well, can you tell your face that because you are—I mean, I thought that you really hated it.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” Basically, “I’m so sorry. The reason I pulled away from everybody is because, okay, coming in on my phone with my attorney with a nasty divorce case. And I didn’t want my bad language, body language-” And he just thought that it would better that he set himself apart, but he didn’t realize. And if I didn’t ask, I don’t think I made it through the whole day.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:51:59] Wow! Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:00] But he came up to me afterwards, after was all said and done, and thanked me for letting him—making him realize how he was coming across, and it completely changed after that.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:10] Yeah. And that’s what happens. If we’re not careful, we can allow external factors, whether it’s people’s expressions or whether it’s just the environment we’re in, we can allow those external factors to change our mood or to put us into a bad mood. But just keep that whole context, CAP, in front of—the forefront of your thinking, and realize there’s something else going on that I might not see the full context of here. And by the way, I don’t necessarily recommend telling—

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:36] I know.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:36] … saying what you said.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:38] I know.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:38] You can get away with it because you’ve got that—you’re just that nice guy, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:41] Yeah, yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:41] So, you can get away with it. A lot of people, like a lot of us can’t get away with saying it quite that bold.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:46] Yeah. I didn’t know any other way.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:46] I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:50] Actually, I didn’t know any other way.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:50] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:50] I know. You could say-

Kevin McCarthy: [00:52:50] Like I was talking to a gentleman at a conference who had read my book ahead of meeting me at the conference. And he was so excited. He’s like, “Listen, I read your book. I’m excited. I’m learning.” And he goes, “My wife and I were leaving church, and she started badmouthing the pastor because she didn’t like some of the things he said. And I said, ‘Honey, I think you might have some blind spots.'” I looked at him, and I said, “Well, how did that go over for you?” He goes, “Not really well.” So, yeah, there’s—that’s not the way to approach the blind spot story.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:23] That’s great. So, one piece of advice, as we wrap up, that you would give my audience?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:53:31] One piece of advice. Whether you’re a CPA public, have your own firm, or work for a firm, work in the government sector, whether you do internal audits, or purchasing, treasury, any financial area, just remember that you don’t know what you don’t know and challenge your own assumptions. Even if it’s a mundane routine process that you are—that you know like the back of your hand, and you’ve done it over and over, and the numbers seem okay, but just challenge, just ask yourself, am I making any assumptions here? Do I have the full context? Is there any other perspectives that I need to bring into the equation of either the reports or the outcomes, whatever I’m working on? Or the off—the instructions being given to you by a superior?

Kevin McCarthy: [00:54:27] Because I was in prison with the CFO of Cutter & Buck, Steve Lowber. And Steve and I are friends now. And he’s shared the story, and he was totally humbled by the stupidity of his own decisions. And one thing he said as the CFO was that he should have pushed back when he was being asked to make some what seemed to be innocuous sleight of hand with the numbers, right? And so, he followed along, did what he did, and he ended up getting some trouble.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:00] Wow!

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:01] So, yeah, just challenge, push back, always challenge your assumptions and the information provided.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:06] And don’t subordinate your judgment to your boss.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:08] No.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:09] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:09] You know what? That’s another blind spot is, sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our lives and in the level of financial requirements and responsibility of our lives that, sometimes, it’s hard. The higher we’re up in the ladder financially, the harder it is sometimes to push back and realize, “Well, if I push back, I could get laid off, or fired on the spot, and suddenly find myself living on savings if I have any savings.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:34] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:35] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:36] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:36] Well, that’s where you have to draw the line and just say, “You know what, I will not make a decision that breaches integrity.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:41] Exactly.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:43] Even if it cost me dearly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:45] Right.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:45] Right? So, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:47] Cool. Well, Kevin, thank you for taking time. I love the discussion. We can—people, if they want to find you, they can find you by your website. So, if you can give us some information.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:55:55] Yeah. In fact, I’m super excited, Peter. Finally, after a few years of trying, acquired blindspots.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:02] Oh, cool.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:56:03] Yeah. So, I’m the author of Blind Spots, best-selling book on Amazon in 2017. And now, I have blindspots.com. They can go there. They can click on the speaking page if they’re looking to hire a speaker.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:14] Yeah.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:56:14] And we do keynotes training. We work with organizations, as well as public and private sector companies and so forth. So, yeah, they can go there and find that information. They can get my book on Amazon. If anybody—if any of your listeners want an autographed copy of the book, we’ll figure out a way to make that happen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:31] Okay. If anybody wants an autographed copy of the book, give them your email address.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:56:36] Yeah, you can reach me at info@kevinmccarthy.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:37] And just say that you heard this on my podcast, Change Your Mindset, and he’ll autograph, and you can purchase a copy of his book, and he will autograph and send it to you.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:56:51] Yeah, have them reach out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:52] Cool. Thank you very much, Kevin. And enjoy the rest of this wonderful conference we’re in.

Kevin McCarthy: [00:56:56] Thank you, Peter. Great seeing you as well. And enjoy the conference yourself.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:04] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to uncover your blind spots? Will you change your mindset, and bring to light your blind spots, and take action on eliminating them? Personally, I hope you do, because we all have blind spots, and, hopefully, you’ll see them, avoid them, and stay out of serious trouble.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:27] Thank you again for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their network.

Announcer: [00:57:49] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

Resources:

S2E35 – Dave Caperton | Using Humor to Open People Up to New Mindsets

My guest today is Dave Caperton. Dave is an author, speaker and thought leader on ways that joy drives success.

 

Dave uses humor to teach corporations, associations, individuals, and groups how living and working with intentional joy is an act of leadership and a disciplined will. He has 20 years of real-world experience speaking, coaching, and writing about the benefits of a joyful mindset in a business context, including how to unleash creativity, improve health, increase engagement, supercharge learning, and provide legendary service and care while reducing stress and conflict. As a veteran educator, performance consultant, comedian, and comedy writer, Dave fuses entertaining stories, in-depth research, and proven learning strategies to provide conversations about joy to celebrate success, solve people’s problems, and build a bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.

 

Dave came out of education. He was a teacher, and grew up with a family of teachers, teaching high school English. He did that for 11 years, and then he got into stand-up comedy. That led me to an opportunity to be a weekly radio guest in Columbus on a local FM station. And from there, he met a motivational speaker, Phil Sorrentino, who got him started down the path of combining humor and development.

 

Using humor as a vehicle to open people’s minds

 

When you are happy, you’re open. And while people are open, you can drop them ideas and new ways of thinking. Some of those new ways of thinking are choices that you can make that affect your mindset, which affects everything – the way that you approach your work, the way you handle stress, the way that you interact with the people you work with, and the way you serve your customers.

 

All of that happens by the choices we make, how we choose to explain our adversities to ourselves. It’s a decider on whether or not we’re happy, joyful people, or we’re people who are pessimistic and feeling put upon.

 

At a conference for cancer survivors, Dave watched this woman walk into the room. She had people around her who were laughing and smiling. And yet, she was clearly a cancer survivor going through treatment: She had her head wrapped in a scarf to hide the hair loss.

 

Dave was nervous about speaking in this group. He hadn’t walked in their shoes, he didn’t have the authority to tell them, “Humor is going to be important for your coping with this life changing illness.”

 

But when she got close enough, he read her T-shirt. It said, “Hair by chemo.” He laughed, and at first he felt bad about it, but then he realized what she was doing: She was understanding what was life and death and what wasn’t.

 

Loss of hair wasn’t life and death. It was a side effect, and it would go back. She allowed humor to be the way she coped with that.

 

Humor Is An Insulator

 

Dave loves to cook breakfast. Saturday morning rolls around, he is out of bed, downstairs, at 6:00 a.m. He puts the fire on, plops some bacon grease in the cast iron skillet, and starts chopping up some potatoes and onions. He’s in the zone.

 

Suddenly there’s smoke coming up off the fat that’s liquefied. He thinks, “Oh, that’s going to burn the onions charred. It will ruin everything.” So, he turns around and grabs the handle of the skillet. The hot, cast iron skillet.

 

He seared his hand. Then a fire started, the smoke alarm goes off, his hand is puffing up. He looked down and there’s a big red potholder sitting on the counter. So he grabbed it, wrapped it around the handle of the skillet, and moved it off to fire. Then he put out the fire.

 

His wife Suzanne comes down and looks at him saying, “What has happened in here?” The room is filled with smoke, alarm still blaring away, and he’s pouring water on this handle-shape brand on the palm of his hand… but he’s laughing.

 

And at that moment, he looked down at the potholder and something clicked. He went, “That’s it. That’s humor. That’s how it works. It didn’t put out the fire. It doesn’t really change that reality, but it gives you an insulator that just, for a moment, you can get a hold of something that maybe is too painful a reality to come in direct contact with.” And most of the time, that’s enough.

 

 

Resources:

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Dave Caperton: [00:00:00] But here’s the problem with transactional thinking. You’re an accountant, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:03] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:00:04] You know that at the heart of every transaction is what? What’s the least I can give for the most I can get?

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:11] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:00:12] That’s not a recipe for real engagement. That’s not a recipe for people who are going to be able to create more than the sum of their parts, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:23] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:00:23] That happens when they’re getting needs met. That happens when they feel included. That happens when they feel appreciated. That happens when they laugh together.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:39] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers; all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:26] Welcome to Episode 35. My guest today is Dave Caperton. Dave is an author, speaker and thought leader on ways that joy drives success. Dave uses humor to teach corporations, associations, individuals, and groups how living and working with intentional joy is an act of leadership and a disciplined will. It’s not about avoiding or denying pain, which is impossible, but about maintaining joy as the default mode. It’s like the King of the Hill game we played when we were kids. Joyful people are always happy, but they don’t whine, and they don’t choose responses like compassionate humor to give back to joy quickly when life knocks them down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:07] Dave has 20 years of real-world experience speaking, coaching, and writing about the benefits of a joyful mindset in a business context, including how to unleash creativity, improve health, increase engagement, supercharge learning, and provide legendary service and care while reducing stress and conflict. As a veteran educator, performance consultant, comedian, and comedy writer, Dave fuses entertaining stories, in-depth research, and proven learning strategies to provide conversations about joy to celebrate success, solve people problems, and build a bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:49] His clients values programs because they provide a shared experience that is highly interactive, informative, and funny, but also because they get results. Unlike many humor speakers, Dave’s programs are infused with relevant and transformative takeaways that provide lasting value to accelerate you towards your goals. Dave is the author of Happiness is a Funny Thing, a book he describes as a why-to book for greater happiness, health, and laughter both at work and at home.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:22] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts, such as The Hero Factor, which Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com. In addition, you can now listen to this podcast on I Heart Radio.

Announcer: [00:03:55] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio network: turning the volume off on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:02] And now, a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:04:05] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:54] Now, let’s get to the interview with Dave Caperton.

Dave Caperton: [00:05:00] Welcome back, everybody. I’m here in Denver, Colorado to NSA’s annual Influence Convention and ran into one of the NSA Ohio chapter members, Dave Caperton. And I coerced him. I think have to buy him cocktail, but he said that he would sit and be interviewed on my podcast. So, Dave-

Dave Caperton: [00:05:22] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:22] … thank you very much for taking time out of your hectic and busy schedule to spend some time talking with me.

Dave Caperton: [00:05:29] I can’t think of a better way to spend a few minutes. Well, I just thought of a couple of things. I thought of a couple. They’re coming fast and furious now. I’m thinking of dozens of things.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:40] And the sarcasm was dripping off of that.

Dave Caperton: [00:05:46] That’s just a value add.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:47] Yeah. And just to help it all come to fruition. So, can you give my audience a little bit about your background, Dave?

Dave Caperton: [00:05:55] Yeah, I came out of education. I was a teacher from a family that had quite a few educators. My wife is a teacher, my sister, her sister. So, we’ve got education in our DNA. And so, I did that for about 11 years. I taught high school English. And then, I got into stand-up comedy. I started doing that. And that led me to an opportunity to be a weekly radio guest in Columbus on a local FM station. And there, I met a fella who was a motivational speaker, first one I had ever met. And name is Phil Sorrentino.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:31] I knew exactly who you’re going to say, yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:06:33] Absolutely. He came in every Saturday morning on Sunny 95 to do his Monday morning self-motivational message. Well, I was on before him each Monday. So, we would overlap. He was always early. And we got acquainted. And so, he gave me an opportunity to do a program. And within a couple of years, I was working for him and did it full time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:56] So, you worked really?

Dave Caperton: [00:06:56] Yeah, worked-

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:56] You worked for Humor Consultants?

Dave Caperton: [00:06:56] Full time for five years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:01] Really?

Dave Caperton: [00:07:01] I did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:01] I did not know that.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:02] You didn’t know that. So, yeah. So, people in Columbus, if they’ve been around a few years, they might remember.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:09] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:09] Phil Sorrentino and Humor Consultants Incorporated.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:11] Yeah. Actually, I almost worked with Phil at one point in time.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:15] Did you really?

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:16] Yeah. It never transpired, but yeah. Yeah. That was probably after your time because he didn’t have any-

Dave Caperton: [00:07:21] He didn’t have any with him at that point?

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:23] No.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:23] Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah. He moved from Columbus down to Fort Lauderdale. And now, he’s a Florida guy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:29] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:30] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:30] So, you’ve got this education background, standup comedy on the—see, this is why you’re natural. I mean, with the radio voice, you’re used to this, this interview style.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:40] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:41] Yes.

Dave Caperton: [00:07:43] But you know what? I mean, you say it’s natural, but I came from standup. And when I was first invited on to the radio station for this morning bit, I said, “Well, what do I do?” And they said, “Just do something you do when you’re in your act.” And I said, “Oh, okay, I got this.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:01] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:08:02] And I walked in, and they played some music for me to come on. “We have a new guest. He’s here this Monday morning. And he’s going to share some humor with us. He’s a teacher and a standup comedian. It’s Dave Caperton.” And my heart’s pounding. This is kind of new. There’s no audience out here. I’m just looking at a microphone. And all of a sudden, he says, “Hey, Dave, what’s the hubbub in education?”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:25] He used the word hubbub?

Dave Caperton: [00:08:29] Hubbub. And the word just threw me, and I said, “The hubbub?” And suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything because I had this whole other thing planned. And now, we’re talking about the hubbub, and I froze. Well, on radio, of course, you can lose your FCC license-

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:48] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:08:49] It was dead air. And my mouth is moving, nothing’s coming out. The producer watered up a piece of paper and beat me on the head with it, which kind of snapped me out of my—

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:59] Out of that [inaudible].

Dave Caperton: [00:08:59] He did. I think he’s figured it, the rolling motion, “Talk.” I finally got into motion. I thought, “Oh, what a disaster. I’m done.” And fellow’s name was Mike Fist. It was Mike and Jane in the Morning. And he called me up that night, and he said, “What happened to you today?” “I don’t know. This “hubbub in education” thing threw me.” He said, “It doesn’t matter what I say? You talk about whatever you want. I say, ‘Education.’ You say, ‘I don’t talk about that. I want to talk about the Cleveland Browns,'” And, finally, I realize, “Oh, okay. Now, I kind of get it.” So, every single week I went in terrified that I was going to forget. So, I had my bit bullet pointed. And in my breast pocket, every single week for five years, I never took it out of my pocket. It was like Dumbo’s magic feather in there. It’s just like I know it’s there. I’m okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:52] That’s cool. But will it be nice if he told you at the beginning, prior to you coming on that first time, “By the way, when I ask you a question, just change the subject”?

Dave Caperton: [00:10:00] Yeah, yeah. Well, he didn’t say that, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:03] No, but you’re a professional. I don’t have to tell you that. What do you want to be talking about?

Dave Caperton: [00:10:07] I thought you were until you fumbled with recording device for 10 minutes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:12] Well, sometimes, you forget to hit a button. It proves that you’re a true podcaster when you can mess it up and still keep the guest wanting to still be interviewed.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:21] Yeah, yeah, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:23] So, now, you’re a professional. You’ve been a professional speaker.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:27] Yeah, 25 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:28] For 25 years.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:29] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:29] And you’re not up on stage just telling jokes.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:32] No.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:33] And that’s not-

Dave Caperton: [00:10:33] No, no.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:33] You have a message in there that you share.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:36] Right. The way I look at it is I’m using humor as the vehicle because that’s what opens up people’s minds when we’re laughing together.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:45] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:45] I mean, think about it, when you laugh, part of you is in agreement with whatever is making you laugh, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:50] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:10:50] And I just believe that when you are happy, you’re open. It’s almost like an open channel. And while people are open, you can drop them ideas and new ways of thinking. And so, some of those new ways of thinking are there are choices that you can make that affect your mindset, which affects everything – the way that you approach your work, the way you handle stress, the way that you interact with the people you work with, the way you serve your customers. All of that happens by the choices we make, how we choose to explain our adversity to ourselves. It’s a decider on whether or not we’re happy, joyful people, or we’re people, all the time, pessimistic and feeling put upon. So, I use humor to help people in my stories or my observations, and they’re laughing. And then, I try to bring it back to, “But the lesson here is this.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:48] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:11:49] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:50] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:11:50] And so, they walk away and, hopefully, spend some of that sticks. But it’s not in spite of the laughter. That’s because of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:57] Exactly. So, what’s the old joke at NSA about if you to be a professional speaker? Do I have to be funded to be a professional speaker?

Dave Caperton: [00:12:05] Only if you want to get paid.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:07] Yeah. But there is some—along those lines, there is some truth in that, because the more we can make the audience laugh, the more engaged they are.

Dave Caperton: [00:12:16] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:16] Their the mind is opening, and we’re making them laugh, and put in there learning.

Dave Caperton: [00:12:23] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:23] There is a journalism professor at OU named Mel Helitzer.

Dave Caperton: [00:12:27] Yeah, Mel Helitzer, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:27] And he wrote a book called Comedy Secrets.

Dave Caperton: [00:12:30] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:31] But I read somewhere, I’ve kept this. I use this when I was teaching that it’s not what’s taught at universities, what’s caught. And if I can make my students laugh, and then spoon in that knowledge-

Dave Caperton: [00:12:43] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:43] … same way that—yeah, just-

Dave Caperton: [00:12:44] Exactly, yeah. That’s what it is. It’s funny because, sometimes, you work with the bureau, or you work with a client, and they’ll ask this question, which always kind of both amused and puzzled me, where they’ll say, “What percentage is content in your message—in your program, and what percentage is entertainment or humor? What’s the percentage of each?” So, I like to get on something really specific, like it’s 48% content and 52% humor. But I thought, no, look, honestly, it’s 100% content.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:18] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:13:20] But it’s wrapped in something that they can digest. That’s the sugar coating on the nutritional core, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:31] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:13:31] And that’s all it really is. So, I just find it’s an effective teaching. It was true in my classroom. When kids were laughing, not meaning that you could get carried away.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:41] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:13:42] I think that’s even true in speaking. You can chase a laugh to the point that you completely dilute the message.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:48] Exactly.

Dave Caperton: [00:13:49] And if it’s been—if you just want to entertain, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you can strike that balance, it’s in there, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:57] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:13:58] Or it has a point. And when bring it back to it, then the laughter really does—it serves, and it adds value.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:05] It adds value.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:05] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:06] So, thinking about my audience, and they tend to be financial professionals, and they go through very stressful times.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:14] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:15] And because I remember when I was in public accounting, those stressful times and there’s no humor.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:21] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:21] I mean, when they need it the most, there was no humor. I tried. I was told not to. We’re very serious.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:29] We need to get serious here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:31] Right, we need to get serious.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:32] You treat this like it’s a big joke.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:34] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:35] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:35] Were you there? God, I got goose bumps. I’m reliving something from the past.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:42] He just had a flashback.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:44] Yeah, but I could never make the argument that if we had some fun, we had some humor, it would help manage that stress level.

Dave Caperton: [00:14:50] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:51] It just never—and I think that has changed. But can you describe a situation like that where you’ve helped a group who have these periods of time that they’re stressed out? What advice do you give them in order to [crosstalk]?

Dave Caperton: [00:15:05] Well, you know what? That really laid back because I’ve been doing this a long time. On 9/11, I was in line at the ticket counter checking in for a flight on United to go to New York, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:20] Really?

Dave Caperton: [00:15:21] I’m going from Columbus, right? So, it’s not like it’s-

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:23] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:15:23] But my wife knew that I was on a flight to New York. And all of a sudden, we’re hearing what’s happening.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:28] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:15:29] And so, naturally, national ground stopped. The event that I was going for that night was canceled. But they, then, wanted to reschedule a couple of weeks later. But I got a call from a client and she said, “I’m really not certain that your part with humor is going to be right. These people, some of them were actually on the bucket brigades-”

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:55] Oh wow!

Dave Caperton: [00:15:55] “… at ground zero doing the recovery effort.” She said, “So, I’m wondering if this is appropriate.” And I told her about our son, Alex, who was just a young fellow then in 2001. He was just in second grade. But a few years previous, he had gone through childhood cancer. And I mean, in that moment, you’re like, “Laughter’s got no place.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:20] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:16:21] But we found out how much it did. It had a huge place. So, I told her that. And I said, “You know what has helped us cope? We found ways to laugh. We found reasons to laugh. We sought reasons to laugh because we needed it.” I said, “Your people need to heal. This is what makes them start to feel normal again. We’re all shocked. We’re all traumatized. This is healing. This isn’t disrespectful.” So, I went, and I did share that with them. It was just amazingly well received. And people laughed, and they enjoyed.

Dave Caperton: [00:16:51] And then, I had a moment where they could share something. One of them was a firefighter. He said, “On the bucket brigade,” he said, “We’re down there in ground zero.” And he said, “Whatever you need,” he goes, “it’s grim work. We know that there are thousands of American lives that were lost and their bodies are in there.” He says, “We’re passing things up and down the line. If you need a short ladder, if you need a flashlight, because you’ve shoved it down the line. And then, it would be repeated over and over again. Flashlight, flashlight, flashlight all down the line. And they would pass that back up.” He said, “And every once in a while, it was just like it got to be too much. And you would just feel everybody fall into this kind of gloom.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:30] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:17:31] And he said, “All of a sudden, right then, this guy said, ‘Elephant.'” And he said, “Three people said ‘Elephant,’ passing it up the line because they were so used to repeating it. And then, there was this—everything stopped. The whole line broke up.” He says, “I laughed.” And he said, “And then, we went back to work.” And he said, “That helped kind of reset. We were able to go back and do what we were there to do.” And I think that’s really all the humor. Well, it’s one of the many things that humor does. It gives you that break. It’s like a little ray of sunshine in clouds. It gets, “Ah! And, now, I can go.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:07] So, I don’t know if you remember where you were on October 11, 2001. Probably don’t. A month later. But that night, President Bush was doing a press conference.

Dave Caperton: [00:18:17] Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:18] And the tension in the room was out of control.

Dave Caperton: [00:18:21] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:21] I mean, the meter was way to the right. And he got towards the end, and an AP reporter stands up and says, “Mr. President, what are we supposed to do?” And Bush paused for a moment, said, “Well, if you see somebody you don’t know get into a crop duster, call us.” Now, right now, that’s not that funny. But at that moment, the whole room started laughing.

Dave Caperton: [00:18:48] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:49] And he just kind of—it’s like he, kind of, reset the room.

Dave Caperton: [00:18:52] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:52] … to, “Okay. Now, we’re going a little bit on the way too emotional rational side. Let’s bring it back to something real that we can manage moving forward and try to contain that.” So, somebody—it was almost hysteria at that point if you-

Dave Caperton: [00:19:08] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:08] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:19:09] Yeah. I read a book one time called This Job Should Be Fun by Bob Basso. And he told a story in that book about this flight that he was on. And all of a sudden, there was this horrible turbulence unlike anything. He said, “Turbulence is a normal thing,” and he said, “But this was—” He said, “It was scary.” And he said they were really afraid that this was something much more than just turbulence. And all of a sudden, the door opened to the lavatory, and this big guy from Texas steps out. And all of a sudden, all this turbulence stopped, and he stepped out, and they all looked at him, and he said, “I just jiggled the handle, and everything is okay.” And he said, “There was a moment of laughter.” And he says, “Sometimes, that’s what humor does. It just allows you to kind of jiggle the handle. Then, it’s okay.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:02] It’s a great analogy. But let’s talk about humor. There’s a-

Dave Caperton: [00:20:05] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:06] There’s a difference with humor and jokes.

Dave Caperton: [00:20:11] Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s—humor, certainly, includes jokes. That’s the-

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:16] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:20:16] That’s the big banner here, right? Jokes are part of that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:18] Well, the structure of jokes or-

Dave Caperton: [00:20:18] The structure of jokes, yeah. I mean, it’s to evoke humor. But I just think of humor as an attitude of lightness.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:27] There it is. It’s an attitude.

Dave Caperton: [00:20:29] It’s an attitude. More than anything else, it’s just an attitude. So, it’s the way you approach. It’s the way you come at difficulties, as well as the good stuff if you can apply humor in the easy moments, but that’s great. But when it’s really useful is when it gets tough. That’s when you need it. That’s when we needed it when our son was sick. Any by the way, he did great. He’s fine. And he’s grown up. And he’s-

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:05] He’s off payroll.

Dave Caperton: [00:21:05] He’s—yeah. But yeah. I mean, it’s— those were moments we needed it. And so, humor was just something I think, at that point, you got to seek it out, right? I remember, my mother-in-law is a West Virginia born and bred. I’ve got family members from Appalachia on both sides, right. But she was from Mud Fork, West Virginia, right. Now, you don’t get more West Virginia than Mud Fork-

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:36] Mud Fork, yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:21:36] … West Virginia, right? Coal country, Logan County. And so, she cooks what she describes as hillbilly cook, right? And so, I was at a conference one time for cancer survivors, and I watched this woman walked in the room, and she had people around her who were laughing and smiling. And yet, I could see she was a cancer survivor going through treatment right there, and her head wrapped in a scarf to hide the effects. But she had this T-shirt on that had something written on it. And I was nervous about speaking in this group because I’d go, “Hey, I hadn’t walked in their shoes. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have the authority to tell them, ‘Hey, humor is going to be important for your coping with this life changing illness.'”

Dave Caperton: [00:22:21] So, I was nervous. And she came right down front to sit. And I remember when she got close enough, I read her T-shirt. It said, “Hair by chemo,” right? And I laughed. And then, I kind of stopped. I remember like, “Oh, [inaudible] cancer joke.” But it took me a while to understand that what she was doing was she was understanding what was life and death and what wasn’t.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:46] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:22:47] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:47] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:22:47] Loss of the hair wasn’t life and death. It was a side effect, and it would go back. So, she allowed humor to be the way she coped with that. So, back to my mother-in-law from West Virginia, right? So, she would make these wonderful breakfasts. She’d call them hillbilly breakfast. And you know what that is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:03] Exactly. I grew up in Kentucky. I’m getting hungry.

Dave Caperton: [00:23:07] Kentucky. So, you know it is fat, and cholesterol, and salt, and nothing good for you. It’s fantastic.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:12] It tastes wonderful.

Dave Caperton: [00:23:13] It does. Yeah, I think the family crest is like two iron skillets over a field of Lipitor capsules, right? So, anyway, one day, she gave us one of those iron skillets. It had been her great grandmother’s.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:32] Wow!

Dave Caperton: [00:23:33] Right? From the 1920s, right? Do you know you don’t wash those things?

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:37] Yes, I do know that.

Dave Caperton: [00:23:38] You just wipe them out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:40] You’re just going to wipe them out.

Dave Caperton: [00:23:40] That seasoning.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:41] It got the—yeah, exactly.

Dave Caperton: [00:23:42] It’s like, “Man, this got seasoning from the Coolidge administration. It is incredible.” So, I took this thing home. I love to cook breakfast. My wife and I both like to cook, but I love to cook breakfast. That’s my thing. And so, I said, “I am making us a hillbilly breakfast on Saturday morning.” Now, Saturday morning rolls around, I am out of bed, downstairs, 6:00 a.m. I put the fire on. I put that big black iron, a big dollop of bacon grease on the air. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve gone all right. Over there chopping up potatoes and onions, right? I’m kind of whistling the ballad of Jed Clampett. I’m just in the zone.

Dave Caperton: [00:24:16] And almost, as I look around, there’s smoke coming up off the fat that’s all liquefied. I thought, “Oh, that’s going to burn the onions charred. It will ruin everything.” I’ve turned that, get it out the fire for a minute. Like, cool. So, I grabbed the handle of the skillet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:32] Oh, you can’t.

Dave Caperton: [00:24:36] Where were you that day, Peter?

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:36] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:24:38] And I dropped it because it seared my hand. That, and then a fire started and stuff. Smoke alarm goes off, right? And I’m just, “Ah!” Fire licking up the walls above the stove. And you can’t pour water on it. It’s a grease fire. “What do I do? What do I do?” And my hand is puffing up, and I looked down, and there’s a big red potholder sitting on the counter. I grabbed the potholder, wrapped it around, the handle of it, and moved it off to fire. Grabbed the baking soda, put out the fire.

Dave Caperton: [00:25:07] By this time, Suzanne is down looking at me going, “What has happened in here?” Because not only is a room filled with smoke, right? Smoke alarm still blaring away. I’m over there pouring water on this skillet handle shape brand on the palm of my hand, but I’m laughing. And she’s looking at the scene trying to figure out what it is that’s so funny because it’s all kind of playing back to me, the slapstick scene.

Dave Caperton: [00:25:34] But at that moment, I looked down at that potholder, and something clicked. I went. “That’s it. That’s humor. That’s how it worked. It didn’t put out the fire. It doesn’t really change that reality, but it gives you an insulator that just, for a moment, you can get a hold of something that maybe is too painful a reality to come in direct contact with.” And most of the time, that’s enough.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:00] I had no idea where you were going with that.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:03] A long way around the bar.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:04] It was a long way around the bar. But man, did you nail it at the end. Once again, Dave Caperton nailed it, but that’s a great metaphor.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:13] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:15] The red-

Dave Caperton: [00:26:15] The potholder.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:15] The red potholder.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:15] That’s all you need, red potholder.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:15] And then, turned that into a story and delivered it to a group of folks.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:20] You know what? I used to take potholders with me and tell that story.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:23] Oh, yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:24] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:24] Great visual.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:25] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:26] And you were talking about your son, and stuff, and how humor helped. I remember when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Dave Caperton: [00:26:33] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:34] And I get him—we get him to the—I’m not sure if he has. I was pretty sure. They do some blood tests and stuff. And then, the doc comes in, and looks at my son square in the eyes, and he’s 16 years old, 15 or 16. Stands and looked at him straight, “You have diabetes.” He did not flinch. He did not cry. All he did was turn, and looked at me, and went, “Hey, thanks, dad!” And I went, “That’s my boy.” He used that little bit of humor-

Dave Caperton: [00:27:11] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:11] … to fuse it because he knew that I was over the moon. I mean-

Dave Caperton: [00:27:16] I’m sure, yeah, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:16] I was just completely way over the moon, but he reset me, and brought me back, and basically told me, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”

Dave Caperton: [00:27:26] Wow! That’s-

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:27] Yeah. Thanks, dad!

Dave Caperton: [00:27:27] Thanks, Dad.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:30] Great. Now, I have guilt. Oh, no. Just as an aside. We’re sitting around with some friends, and talking, and the conversation came up. “What did you get from your mom and dad? What characteristics?” It gets to my son, and he goes, “From my mother, I got a kind heart. From my father, I got all these diseases.”

Dave Caperton: [00:27:53] It’s like, “Yeah, I do.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:53] I tried my best. But he’s—I mean, really, I actually tried to get him to maybe start thinking in the comedic layer of doing some-

Dave Caperton: [00:28:01] Really?

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:01] Started doing some writing and stuff, but-

Dave Caperton: [00:28:04] It sounds like he’s got the humor perspective.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:07] He does.

Dave Caperton: [00:28:07] The humor attitude.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:07] I have worked very hard to try to help keep that with him.

Dave Caperton: [00:28:11] You know what? And I find a lot of people who have great senses of humor and do something with them are people who have had to use that humor to overcome, to get through, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:24] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:28:24] The hard stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:26] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:28:26] Right? That’s the reason why so many comedians, they’re like, “Hey, look, I had a dysfunctional childhood,” or, “I was picked on as a kid.” And it was their way of surviving. It’s their way of coping. It was their way of getting through. And then, finally, they went, “Wow! I can actually do something with this professionally,” so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:42] But it’s that part that, now, you turn it around, and you’re trying to help others.

Dave Caperton: [00:28:48] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:49] I mean, I don’t know about your background, but kind of getting to know you, you’re probably like a Norman Rockwell kind of growing up. Like no dysfunctionality. Nothing that is pretty cool, but you have this sense of humor.

Dave Caperton: [00:29:05] Yeah. You know what? I didn’t have a dysfunctional childhood. I had loving parents and a wonderful, loving sister as I was the youngest. I was a baby. I was spoiled rotten.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:13] That is amazing.

Dave Caperton: [00:29:15] Yeah. But I mean—and that is part of it. It was like you’re always getting the spotlight. So, you grow up the rest of your life going like, “I deserve it.” And so, I think there the low part. Yeah. That’s where the other comedians come from. Some of them were using it as therapy. The rest of us are just jerks, spoiled brats.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:35] You’re taking that humor, and helping audiences cope with everyday things.

Dave Caperton: [00:29:40] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:41] And I think the hard part is—I am going to make the assumption because it’s a hard part for myself. We see them laugh. We see them enjoying. We see them going—we can tell by their eyes and the way their heads-

Dave Caperton: [00:29:53] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:53] … they’re picking up what you put down.

Dave Caperton: [00:29:54] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:55] But then they leave.

Dave Caperton: [00:29:57] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:58] And you know what happens when they leave

Dave Caperton: [00:29:59] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:59] They go back to the same old thing. They want to go back to the comfort zone.

Dave Caperton: [00:30:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:11] And I challenge audiences, you don’t have to be Dave Caperton to make people laugh. Everybody has some sense of humor. Some humor is drier than others. Some are drier than the Mojave Desert. But there’s some humor there. And at those times at work, whether it’s elephant.

Dave Caperton: [00:30:32] Yeah, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:32] Or you start—you bring a beach ball, and you can feel the tension, so you have like a beach ball around the offices just to lighten the stress load.

Dave Caperton: [00:30:44] Right, right. I mean, it’s not—and what I always try to give the groups that I have the privilege of sharing with is something small. I don’t want them walking out with a laundry list of to-dos because I know that’s doomed to fail.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:01] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:31:02] Walk out with one thing that you’re going to change. However small, if you say, “Wow! I could do that,” I think if we—I believe in granular change. Make it as small as possible, but do it all the time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:16] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:31:17] Right? So, that might be simply developing a habit of when—I mean, here’s something people could do when they’re saying, “Man, when things get stressful, how in the world do I find some fun, and joy, and laughter in that moment?” Like start practicing, “It could be worse,” right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:38] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:31:38] And those can get awfully ridiculous. Oh, it could be worse. I don’t remember that movie, Young Frankenstein. And they’re digging the grave. They’re going to rob a grave. And Gene Wilder’s character, Frankenstein, he says, “Oh, this is a miserable work.” And Marty Feldman says, “Oh, I don’t know. It could be worse.” He says, “How?” He goes, “It could be raining.” And all of a sudden, he hears thunder. And it’s downpour. “Well, there you go.” So, I think that’s a good exercise. It doesn’t get any worse. It could be worse. It could be raining.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:16] I did that.

Dave Caperton: [00:32:18] Did you?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:18] I did that when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes-

Dave Caperton: [00:32:21] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:21] … I said, “It could be worse. It could have been pancreatic cancer.”

Dave Caperton: [00:32:24] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:26] And that helped me get through.

Dave Caperton: [00:32:27] Yeah, that’s funny. What’s funnier?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:32] Pancreatic cancer. That’s a death wish. My pancreas wasn’t working, but it could have been.

Dave Caperton: [00:32:40] Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean, that is a good—because it does. Well, it’s just forcing you to change your perspective, right? And then, you can also take it in a fun way. It could be worse, right? I could look like Dave Caperton. I mean, I don’t know. But I mean, you could point-

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:56] You reading my mind right now, my friend?

Dave Caperton: [00:33:00] I got a face for podcast.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:03] That’s what my mother told me when I was younger. I had a face for radio, so I knew I was going to be successful at this.

Dave Caperton: [00:33:08] We’re perfect together. I had—once, I’ve met somebody after I was doing radio for a while, and she said, “Are you the guy who does this thing on Monday morning?” “Yeah.” She said, “You sound fat and blonde. That’s how I pictured you. A big, heavy guy with blonde hair.” And then, “How do you sound? Overweight? Have a hair color in your voice?” That’s just how she envisioned me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:37] I’m not going to be able to get that out of my mind now.

Dave Caperton: [00:33:41] I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:43] So, here’s the other thing, and I know you do this. A lot of us do, but a lot of people don’t and tend to find it funny. Funny is around us all the time.

Dave Caperton: [00:33:52] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:52] And when you see something funny, or there is something funny, write it down-

Dave Caperton: [00:33:56] Absolutely, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:57] … to remember. But most people don’t. Oh, just start looking for things that just are unusual that just make you go, “What?”

Dave Caperton: [00:34:03] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s so much incongruity. There are signs that are wrong, right? There are people who are just—I love to watch—just be a people watcher.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:17] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:34:17] Right? You can almost always find humor in the bathroom mirror in the morning. And I mean, there’s always some place that you can find humor. And I remember walking up to a—there was a sign up where I was at this hotel, and they were doing construction, and they had made a sign. It was a perfectly made sign. They printed it up and it said, “Please excuse our mess. If there is anything we do, just ask.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:51] If there is anything we do, just-

Dave Caperton: [00:34:51] Somebody left out some words somewhere.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:51] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:34:52] If there is anything we do. Just ask. I’m like, “Is there anything you do?” So, I mean, it’s just—and my son, he loves to walk around taking pictures of funny signs and things that are—because it is. I mean, once you develop, sort of, a radar for it, then you filter for it. And the funny things that people say, and they’re contradictory things that people say, it just makes you laugh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:18] And the other night in the cocktail hour, they were reminiscing about the day with a bunch of other people. And there’s a few things that they love, the content of it now. But you see things differently, and you’re able to deliver it in a way that just makes people laugh. And you weren’t being disrespecting or anything, but you just—almost like this, “Well, what if?” if anything? But-

Dave Caperton: [00:35:45] Oh God.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:45] But it’s that attitude. It’s just looking at things, and looking at the world from a different lens, and there’s more humor around us. I was like kind up on a flight, Delta flight. We’re flying to Atlanta. And I was in the bulkhead seat with a gentleman next to me, and there was a young couple, and they had a baby.

Dave Caperton: [00:36:07] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:08] And then, all of a sudden, as they unbuckle your seat belts, they go, “Please move around the cabin.” Oh, good lord. Something stunk. My eyes were—what the heck? Nuclear. And the young couple’s changing the baby’s diaper right there. The flight attendant comes out, hits the—and goes, “Oh, dear lord.” And walked right back. Oh, wow. I mean, it was just nuclear.

Dave Caperton: [00:36:42] But those tray tables are awfully handy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:47] Yes, they were. I said, “Oh, my.” And they did say, “Please go into the—” But I wrote that down. There’s a story in there. There’s a story in there. There’s some humor there-

Dave Caperton: [00:36:56] Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:56] … at some point in time. So, I guess, the message to our audience is, (1), lighten up a little bit, right?

Dave Caperton: [00:37:03] Right, sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:03] [Inaudible], but bring humor to work with you every single day.

Dave Caperton: [00:37:09] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:09] But I liked what you said, granular.

Dave Caperton: [00:37:12] Right, a little thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:14] A little thing.

Dave Caperton: [00:37:14] A little thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:15] Don’t come in and go, “Hey, do you know about the priest, and rabbi, and Bill Clinton walk into a bar?” “I did not walk in that bar. I hadn’t walked in a bar in years. I gave that up.” You’re going to-

Dave Caperton: [00:37:25] You always try to find a way to get your first impression.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:27] I know. That’s the only one I have that really works. But I’ve been working on Morgan Freeman because I think of Morgan’s voice that he can read an IRS letter to you, and you would be happy about it. He has that smoothness in his voice.

Dave Caperton: [00:37:45] Yeah. Yeah. That’s Bill Clinton doing Morgan Freeman.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:49] Freeman. Why are you going to say that?

Dave Caperton: [00:37:49] It’s a very obscure impression-

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:53] Exactly.

Dave Caperton: [00:37:53] … of Peter Margaritis.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:54] Right. I’m not a professional impressionist, but I try to be. I play one on TV.

Dave Caperton: [00:38:03] Anyway, I—here’s a very simple—I think, a very simple challenge is the things that irritate us, we all have to get in traffic sometimes. It’s irritating. We all have to deal with the idiot who is in the left lane with his right blinker on, and it’s been on since you’ve crossed the state line, right? We all have to deal with that. This is what I have tried to make much more my habit, choose amusement over anger.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:39] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:38:39] Choose amusement over anger. That is the choice you have. There was a YouTube video that went viral a few years ago. And this little kid who, at his grandmother’s house, was eating things that his mother told him he could not eat. He was three years old, right? He is a little Hispanic kid, and his mother, she’s filming this. And he’s calling her by her name. Not mom, he’s calling her Linda, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:09] Really?

Dave Caperton: [00:39:09] And she said, “You are not listening to me. You are not—” He said, “No, no, you are not listening to me, Linda. Linda, you are not listening to me.” And it was cute as it could be. He’s closing his eyes, and pointing his finger. “No, no, you are not listening to me. I am allowed to eat at Grandma’s house, right?” And it went viral because it was so cute to watch this kid go, “Linda.” But my wife and I, because we’ve been married for over 30 years, and she’s my best friend, and my business partner, and my laugh buddy. She is absolutely all those things. I’m very blessed in that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:45] Yes, you are because I’ve witnessed it. And, yes, you are very blessed that way.

Dave Caperton: [00:39:48] Thank you, yeah. And so, I mean, I couldn’t get through the day without her. And I know that that’s an advantage and something that I have that a lot of people don’t have. But we still bicker.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:00] Of course, you’re married.

Dave Caperton: [00:40:01] We’re married. I hear people are like, “We never fight.” I’m like, “Then, one of you is dead,” right? Or wishes they were, or wishes you were, right? Because if two people are together, and they agree on everything, one of them is not necessary, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:18] Right, right.

Dave Caperton: [00:40:19] So, if we would find ourselves getting into some stupid little, we knew. You know how you know you’re heading for it, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:27] Yes.

Dave Caperton: [00:40:27] There’s just—we’re just not in the same emotional place, and some things kind of getting under the skin. If one of us would go, “Linda. Linda, you are not listening to me,” what that did was it was like it gave us an exit ramp. You can take this, or you can continue down that road. And you know, it’s down that road. A really ugly day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:48] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:40:48] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:49] Right, right.

Dave Caperton: [00:40:50] So, if we could take that, that was an opportunity. And if we could laugh in that moment, and that allowed us to kind of go, “You know what? This is stupid.” And so, that’s the choosing amusement over anger.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:01] Amusement over anger.

Dave Caperton: [00:41:04] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:04] And I kind of do that all the time.

Dave Caperton: [00:41:05] Do you?

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:06] But when my wife and I, we have disagreements, or I’m being a knucklehead, I know I’m not the easiest person to love, but the one thing—and hopefully-

Dave Caperton: [00:41:14] That’s true, you aren’t.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:15] But, hopefully, she says, at one point in time, maybe it’s at my eulogy, whatever, she goes, “You know what, he made me laugh every single day.”

Dave Caperton: [00:41:22] Oh, that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:23] “He was home, though. When he was home.”

Dave Caperton: [00:41:25] When he was home.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:26] When he was home. But I just love making her laugh.

Dave Caperton: [00:41:30] There you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:31] That’s my goal every day on the phone or if I’m home.

Dave Caperton: [00:41:37] As opposed to your previous marriage, which was, “He made me smile every single day he was gone.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:41] He was gone. You knew my first wife? It was a lot like that. There was a whole lot of humor there. But I attribute that coming up to 24 years. First one lasted three years-

Dave Caperton: [00:41:57] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:57] … on paper, but just that congruency. And once you get to know the person for a long period time, you can be at an engagement or a cocktail party looking across the room and know exactly what the other person is thinking.

Dave Caperton: [00:42:13] Oh, yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:13] And just, sometimes, even by that look can make her laugh.

Dave Caperton: [00:42:16] Right, right, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:17] Yeah, yeah. And that’s like the creme de la creme right there.

Dave Caperton: [00:42:19] Oh, yeah. Well, that’s what—when you have a wonderful marriage, or you have a wonderful, even a friendship, close relationship, this is what I think organizations, business organizations, work teams, and all, we act like that’s some completely different animal that runs by different rules. Human relationships and the dynamics of human interaction are remarkably similar in marriage, and work teams, and friendships, and groups of people-

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:52] Co-workers and-

Dave Caperton: [00:42:53] Co-workers, yeah, I mean, remarkably similar needs and remarkably similar communication. A lot of this, there’s a lot more similarities between groups of people who are bound together in a single purpose. And what you want is a certain amount of intimacy. And when that happens, you know it happens. It’s because you have—you know what in a marriage looking across-

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:16] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:43:17] Stephen King, the author, he called it the interior language of marriage. We have our own language that we understand, words that we say, stories we share. Families have that, have an interior language. Humor is one of the great uses of it is it defines an outside from an inside. The people who get the joke are inside. And by getting it, they know they’re inside. Yeah. When we share an inside joke, that means, “Hey, I’m safely in here with my tribe.” And that’s one of the things that humor does. So, nobody’s laughing together, you’re not making enough contact points that really could be beneficial in a lot of ways.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:06] And if you’re not laughing together, they’re looking for other employment.

Dave Caperton: [00:44:12] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:12] I mean, it’s an engagement tool that we need to remember to have fun at work and bring that humor because that keeps people engaged versus they’re fighting all the time.

Dave Caperton: [00:44:22] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:22] Really, it’s just like a marriage.

Dave Caperton: [00:44:28] It is. It is. I mean, there are things that we all want. We have to know we matter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:31] Right, right.

Dave Caperton: [00:44:32] We have to be recognized, right. We have to feel included, right? That we are actually part of this, and share a purpose together that’s bigger than any one of us. And we have to know somebody cares about us. Those really are the things that they’re central to every successful and functional relationship. And I think what the mistake sometimes that work teams make is they make it all transaction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:01] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:45:01] “I give you money. You give me work. We have a contract. That’s how it works,” right? Like, that’s fine. But here’s the problem with transactional thinking. You’re an accountant, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:11] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:45:11] You know that at the heart of every transaction is what? What’s the least I can give for the most I can get?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:18] Right.

Dave Caperton: [00:45:20] That’s not a recipe for real engagement. That’s not a recipe for people who are going to be able to create more than the sum of their parts, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:31] Yeah.

Dave Caperton: [00:45:31] That happens when they’re getting needs met. That happens when they feel included. That happens when they feel appreciated. That happens when they laugh together.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:38] So, Dave, it’s—I don’t know. What time is it? It’s 2:56 here in Denver, Colorado, which means it’s 5:00 back home.

Dave Caperton: [00:45:48] I know what that means to you, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:50] I was thinking that maybe I should just go to the general session, and listen to the speakers, and then wait for Denver 5:00.

Dave Caperton: [00:46:00] Yeah. Yeah. But you’ve decided. That’s doesn’t sound like that’s what your decision is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:06] Well, I’m still deciding, but, in all honesty, I greatly appreciate you taking time. I love your message. Every time I’m [inaudible], I’m always laughing. I wish you would teach me a little bit more of what you—about how you craft humor because you’ve been doing a lot longer than I have. And you’ve got some chops that I wish that I had. But I love talking with you. You’re funny as hell. And I love this message that you’re out there—I’m not going to use the word preach or casting among the organizations. Really have to run their business successfully by incorporating joy and humor.

Dave Caperton: [00:46:49] You got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:50] All right.

Dave Caperton: [00:46:52] I think I’ve got a convert. One more disciple.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:58] Yeah, let’s—hopefully, this episode will turn out some more converts and more people that will drink the water.

Dave Caperton: [00:47:09] Yeah, I hope so. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:11] Not the Dave Matthews song, Don’t Drink the Water. I didn’t want to use Kool-Aid because that’s Jim Jones kind of thing from way back in the past. So, I hope-

Dave Caperton: [00:47:21] Let’s get on a mass suicide joke. So far, we’ve covered pancreatic cancer, diabetes, childhood cancer, and a bionic tragedy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:36] Okay. Let’s both say goodbye the same time.

Dave Caperton: [00:47:38] No, you hang up first.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:39] No, you hang up. You go first. No, you go first. Thanks again, Dave.

Dave Caperton: [00:47:43] Thank you, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:47] All right, bye.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:47] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to bring joy to your organization? Will you change your mindset and bring the attitude of humor and joy to work with you every single day? Personally, I hope you do, because everyone would rather work with someone with this attitude versus the opposite. Take a moment and think about that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:10] Thank you for listening. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent business podcasts they have in their network.

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