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.

Announcer: [00:48:29] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

S2E34 – Bill & Don Tomoff | From Compliance Learning to Lifelong Learning

My guests today are Bill and Don Tomoff, who are both CPAs who like to say they aren’t your typical accountants.

 

Bill Tomoff is currently a CFO for InstallNET International and a consultant with Invenio Advisors, focusing on training and professional development. Bill volunteers with and is on the board of directors of Special Love, an organization serving children and families fighting childhood cancer.

 

Don is the founder of Invenio Advisors LLC, a consulting firm specializing in information management, process improvement, reporting, and data analysis, as well as education and training. Since 2010, Don is focused on the identification of process improvement opportunities and leveraging readily available technology tools to drive that change. In addition to consulting, Don is an active instructor for the Maryland Association of CPA’s Business Learning Institute.

 

The accounting profession recognizes very much that it’s not just the accounting background that’s important anymore. They are hiring people straight out of college that have liberal arts degrees and computer science or management information systems degrees with no accounting experience because they want smart people who can dig into information, and learn, and adapt, and change quickly. It is truly a new day.

 

Bill’s background started in public accounting. He graduated in 1981 from Ohio University, where he went into public accounting. He did that for about four and a half years, then had the fortune of actually getting into the sports and entertainment business. Now he’s CFO of a small business in Bowie, Maryland. When he talks about “not your typical accountant”, he’s talking about the expertise of accountants and their skillsets. You have to be evolving. And he’s spent his entire career always seeing what’s next and moving into spaces where people won’t.

 

Don believes that it is such an interesting time for the accounting profession and the opportunities available there. Don, just like Bill, graduated from college in the early ’80s, then went into public accounting for big four for almost six years. The last time he was in the industry was at Jo-Ann Stores as the VP of Finance and treasurer. Then he got out of that and said, “What do I really want to do?” He did investor relations for a while, then went into a small public accounting firm to try and focus on business advisory because he saw tremendous opportunity for small accounting firms to branch out of the compliance or get into business advisory. Then, in about 2012, he went into my own business, Invenio Advisors. That business is about teaching and working with companies to make things better. Back in 2008 or ’09, it was a good time to rethink how accountants work and approach the business. And now, 11 years down the road, we’re dramatically, dramatically better.

 

Don and Bill are passionate about what’s changed and what’s coming. Always, always be learning. You’ve got to spend five extra hours of your own time every week learning, improving, and paying attention to what’s happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And not necessarily just five hours. You have got to be studying and learning. We do not get out of college set up for the rest of our career, and that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.

 

So how do you set yourself up for a successful career in accounting and beyond?

 

Take advantage of the opportunities. Take the road less traveled. There’s a lot of roads that people aren’t taking that are huge opportunities. You can take your career wherever you want to go.

 

Build your skill set. The opportunities are all around you. Take some ownership. And lastly, be good to people. Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Take care of people, help them learn and grow. Build those relationships. You put the two of those together, and you’ll be just fine.

 

 

Resources:

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Bill Tomoff: [00:00:00] Be improving and paying attention to what’s happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And it’s not five hours. It’s 10, 15, 20 hours a week. You have got to be studying and learning. And we no longer get out of college, and I’m set. And that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:30] 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 strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:50] 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: [00:01:17] Welcome to Episode 34, and my guests today are Bill and Don Tomoff, who are both CPAs. And this episode is full of insights into the accounting profession with lots and lots of energy and laughter.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:33] Bill Tomoff is currently a CFO for InstallNET International and a consultant with Invenio Advisors, focusing on training and professional development. Previously, Bill has held various financial and accounting roles with a primary focus for over 20 years in the sports and entertainment industry. Bill earned his BSBA in Accounting from Ohio University and holds an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University. Bill is a CMA and CPA. Bill volunteers with and is on the board of directors of Special Love, an organization serving children and families fighting childhood cancer.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:15] Don is the founder of Invenio Advisors LLC, a consulting firm specializing in information management, process improvement, reporting, and data analysis, as well as education and training. Don’s experience includes big for public
accounting, senior level industry finance positions, and consulting. Since 2010, Don has focused his efforts with executives and companies on many digital process improvement, data analytics, and training initiatives, including developing and implementing mobile information strategies. His efforts are focused on the identification of process improvement opportunities and leveraging readily available technology tools to drive that change. In addition to consulting, Don is an active instructor for the Maryland Association of CPA’s Business Learning Institute.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:09] I know you guys are going to really enjoy this episode because there’s a lot of insight into becoming future-ready for accountants, as well as just they have such a refreshing view on our profession.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:22] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcast. It is 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 to www.c-suiteradio.com.
Announcer: [00:03:52] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:00] And now, a word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:04:02] 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: [00:04:52] Now, let’s get to the interview with Bill and Don Tomoff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:59] Hey, welcome back, everybody. Man, do I have an episode for you guys today? You guys better buckle up, hold on tight because this thing will be fast and fierce. And we’re going to be moving in so many different directions. It’s going to be a ton of fun because with me today, I have two very special guests. I have Bill and Don Tomoff with me today. They are brothers. And I’ll let them do their introduction, tell you a little bit more about themselves. And I’ll start with the older brother who is exactly three minutes older than the younger brother. So, they, as you can guess, are twins. Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill Tomoff: [00:05:37] Thanks, Pete. Great to be here. We are not your typical accountants. My background started in public accounting way back. I graduated in 1981 from Ohio University. We went into public accounting. I was in there for about four and a half years, then got out, and did the traditional manufacturing type role, but had the fortune of actually getting into the sports and entertainment business. Got a real, real wonderful journey there. Moved to the Washington DC area. That’s where I am now. So, spent some time with the Wizards, the Capitals. Went to Cleveland for almost two years, worked with the Cavaliers. Now, I’m back working on the small business. So, CFO of a small business in Bowie, Maryland.
Bill Tomoff: [00:06:27] So it’s been quite a journey. When we talk about we’re not accountants, what my expertise is and what all of us as accounting folks do, our expertise, I can say have to be [inaudible]. We have to be evolving. And that’s what I’ve spent and done. We’ve spent our entire careers always seeing what’s next and moving into spaces where people won’t think about. And Don will talk a little bit about it. He spends a lot of time, data. And how we structure things is huge right now and massive opportunity in the accounting profession. That’s me in a nutshell.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:08] Okay. Don? By the way, before I forget, I need to look at Bill’s shirt again because he’s got a very unique shirt. Bill say something, just like get you back on the screen here.
Bill Tomoff: [00:07:19] Okay. Be yourself boldly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:21] Be yourself boldly. And behind him, he’s got a water bottle that says, “Be good to people.” Isn’t that great? I mean — and now, let’s segue into Don. And Don’s got a black t-shirt on with a white undershirt. He looks like a priest, and it says, “Be good to people.”
Don Tomoff: [00:07:43] Yeah. I think that I — Thanks, Pete. And pleasure being on the podcast. Really enjoy this. I think what Bill and I both believe, and it’s fascinating, is it’s such an interesting time for the profession and the opportunity. Myself, personally, just like Bill, I graduated from college in the early ’80s, went into public accounting for big four for almost six years. Then, went into industry and really did the senior industry person. I was at — the last time I was in the industry was a Jo-Ann Stores. I was there for eight years as the VP of Finance and treasurer. I really got to live a lot of retail, a lot of heavy duty, what I call public company stuff.
Don Tomoff: [00:08:31] Then, I got out of that. And, you know, as Bill was talking about more fun, I just said, “What do I really want to do?” I did investor relations for a while. I really enjoyed the communication side of working with companies. Then, I went into a small public accounting firm to try and focus on business advisory because, at that time, I saw tremendous opportunity for small accounting firms. This is back in 2008. Yeah, 2008-’09 where I really saw an opportunity for firms to branch out of the compliance or get into business advisory, which people that have been CFO level, senior finance folks in industry completely understand that. I think that knowledge is a little bit missing in the core public accounting.
Don Tomoff: [00:09:18] And then, in about 2012, I went into my own business, Invenio Advisors. And, really, that business is teaching and a lot of working with companies to make things better. And I said back in 2008 or ’09, it was a good time to rethink how accountants work and approach the business. Well, we’re 11 years down the road. Dramatically, dramatically better.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:46] Yeah. And so, just out of curiosity, both you guys have had the CFO role, the VP of Finance role. Do you guys still have a 10 key on your desk?
Don Tomoff: [00:09:56] No.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:58] No?
Bill Tomoff: [00:09:59] Haven’t used the ten key in 25 years and cannot believe that 10 keys with tape, paper tapes actually still exist. And that’s not a good time.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:13] That’s why you two are not stereotypical accountants because in audiences, I’ll ask, “How many of you have a 10 key?” And you wouldn’t believe the number of hands that go up. And I say, “Folks, there’s a support group for you. There’s this thing called Excel that we have now. You don’t need it.” And some will say, “I still use the tape.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. We need to transform into the tools that we use today and that technology that we use today.”
Don Tomoff: [00:10:43] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:10:44] And Pete, we’re talking about mindset, okay. And you have just nailed the crux of what we need to get past is there are — And Don and I spent a ton of time with this, but there are tools to where the costs of entry is either free or next to nothing. And I said next to nothing, 10 bucks, 5 bucks that can literally change the game, but people won’t embrace them. And we push a lot in our profession and just on social media, trying to make people aware on social media. We do this hashtag things that, “Hey, look at this in Excel,” or “Think about this. Be good to people. It might help you.” So, we’re always trying to stimulate thought. But a 10 key with a tape, you know the challenge we have.
Peter Margaritis: [00:11:37] Yeah, we really have a big challenge. And part of the culture in public accounting hasn’t changed since the ’70s. I was showing to these guys before we started that I was speaking to a person who got into public accounting about the same time you guys did. He said, first day at the job, the managing partner came in,
looked at staff, and basically said, “Staff is like toothpaste. We squeeze everything out of you, and we throw you away.” And after he told me that story, I said, “Oh, my God. That’s a company I want to work for.” And there’s still some of that. We’re still holding on to a lot of that past that we really need to let go of and transform with the technology, transform with a different leadership style in order to grow our organizations.
Don Tomoff: [00:12:30] Yeah. I think that, really, especially the last 10 years, the opportunity of where I think the profession has, really, I wouldn’t say fallen asleep, but they’re missing is there’s a whole different generation. And the kids that are going into public accounting today aren’t the guys we want.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:53] No.
Don Tomoff: [00:12:53] They don’t want to walk into a company and work with an organization that works like it’s 1985, 1990. It’s a really difficult situation. And you still — both Bill and I, our nephew is in public accounting and data analytics. Bill’s daughter is in KPMG and advisory. So, we have a little bit of a feel for what it’s still like. And to a large degree, it hasn’t changed from when we were in it, even though the world has changed dramatically.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:27] And today’s succession planning appears to be, “Buy me.” And they complaint about the younger staff, and they use the M word, but I don’t even like that word. And by way, that younger generation are in their mid-30s. They’re not just getting out of college.
Don Tomoff: [00:13:44] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:45] The ones getting out of college or going into college and getting out of college, I think they call them Generation Z.
Don Tomoff: [00:13:52] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:52] My son is part of Generation Z, but he’s probably generation Z, Z, Z, Z because the kid loves to sleep a lot. I’m not sure how he is going to survive in the world if they keep sleeping as much as it does. But they work differently. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually really good. It’s just different. Because when you guys went into public accounting, and the mantra back then was “Cheeks in your seat.” Be highly visible around the office. Make sure they see that you got there before your bosses, and you left after the bosses left.
Don Tomoff: [00:14:30] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:31] That doesn’t fly anymore. That mentality doesn’t attract talent to an organization.
Don Tomoff: [00:14:37] Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things we were talking about before the podcast there, Pete, was this idea that when we got into public, it was if you were good enough, you went into the big four. Now, it’s there’s a lot of other choices. And they can do a lot of other things besides finish up their fifth year, get a CPA, and go into public accounting. And if I could work in technology, or I could work in data analytics, or artificial intelligence, those are the kind of things that your really smart kids have an opportunity to go. And that’s a draw that the profession has to try and fight through because they want to get the best too, but if you don’t change, and don’t keep up, and provide that opportunity for them, it’s going to be difficult.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:26] Bill, what you got on this one?
Bill Tomoff: [00:15:27] Well, the profession, actually — and that hits a nerve. The profession notices, recognizes very much that it’s not just the accounting background anymore. It used to be all this compliance stuff. They are hiring people straight out of college that have liberal arts degrees. They’re hiring people that have computer science or management information systems degrees with no accounting because they want smart people who can dig into information, and learn, and adapt, and change quickly. It is truly a new day.
Bill Tomoff: [00:16:07] My daughter, and Don was talking about a nephew, my daughter, Olivia, when she went to college, get two degrees, get an accounting degree if she would want to be in business, but get a computer information system degree. Don’t go and get a fifth, your master’s in taxation and pass the CPA exam. That’s not what I need in business. And I’ll tell you, that’s not what the business world needs. And you can just see by what the profession is hiring.
Bill Tomoff: [00:16:35] Don talks all the time in the conferences. And when he speaks, here’s what your opportunity is in the profession. Most accounting professionals, and we talked earlier, buy me, there’s only compliance work. It’s not what people need. It’s not what they want. So, it’s changed dramatically.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:58] It has. And you said something there, because I have a masters in accountancy. And, today, I’m sort of thinking, if I was sitting in a masters of accountancy class or masters of taxation, I would be thinking I’m wasting my money and my time because that’s not what — I don’t need advance auditing. I don’t need an accounting theory, which I thought was an oxymoron. I don’t need some of the stuff that they were teaching me at that level. I needed some other stuff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:30] And to the point of I know that we went to 150 hours, but most states didn’t put any meat on that bone. They wanted to take 30 more. You could take underwater bone pottery, underwater table tennis, and they would qualify part of 150 hours. And that’s just ludicrous. It’s stupid. It needs to go back to 120 hours, get your accounting degree, and then figure out the other more important pieces to add to your stable of knowledge in order to be successful.
Don Tomoff: [00:18:01] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:18:02] And Pete, you just hit on a key thing, okay. Boy, I’m glad you just went there. That is simply the start, okay. Don and I are passionate about what’s changed and what’s coming. Always, always be learning. Make it. He’s got this visual of the five-hour rule where you spend five extra hours of your own time every week and learn, learn, Excel, learn, read, but be improving and paying attention to what’s
happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And it’s not five hours. It’s 10, 15, 20 hours a week. You have got to be studying and learning. And we no longer get out of college, and I’m set. And that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:56] I’m going to come back to that. But I want to hear Don’s thoughts on this as well.
Don Tomoff: [00:19:00] I think Bill brings up a good point about learning. And we are — Brian Solis, who is a guy that we follow, huge digital marketing guy made the comment. It’s one of Bill and I’s favorite. He says, “I’m not a guru. I’m too busy. I can’t be a guru. I’m too busy being a student.” And I said, “That’s really the way you got to look every day.” And I think this just comes with age. The older we get more, the more we realize we don’t know and realize that the opportunities.
Don Tomoff: [00:19:32] So, we start taking about opportunity, Pete. And I said, “It really is. Everybody’s worried about profession’s in trouble, and this, and that.” And when I talk to the younger professionals, I always say, “I would love to be 25, in your shoes, because you can make it whatever you want to make it. It’s just not what it used to be. And that opportunity is tremendous.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:57] It goes to the point of this 40 hours of compliance, “Check the box. I’ve got my hours. I can be licensed,” when 99% of the time, nobody’s really paying attention or even — so, I had a firm that I was doing an ethics course for. And I just want to make sure that we had the hours right. And part of this is, “Thanks. I appreciate that. I think my people are more concerned about the hours than ethics.” I was just floored.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:32] And we get into this compliance. “I need 40 hours.” No, no, no. 40 hours is a bare minimum that you need. And I know they’re having some conversation at the highest levels about this type of scenario. Don, you give Bill a project. Bill goes out, and does the research, puts the memorandum together, you review it. And I figure out that little brother, really big brother this time. And give me a
couple hours. Dig into this a little bit deeper. He digs into it. So, he’s got about 10 hours into this document you guys implemented and it works. Should Bill get CPE for what he just did? And people go, “No.” And I went, “But he learned more and that 10 hours than you have in 40 hours for the last three years.”
Don Tomoff: [00:21:22] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:21:22] That should — so, I’m putting myself out of business by saying this because I do provide CPE, but in all reality, that’s better learning than some of the courses because it’s real world. He is absolutely doing it. He’s got his hands on it. And this is a Tom Hood quote, “We have to learn at twice the speed of change.”
Bill Tomoff: [00:21:45] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:21:45] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:21:48] And for those in the profession, okay, you have a lot of accountants that might be listening in. Tom Hood, and you’ve probably mentioned it before, he is a must-follow on social media.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:00] Yeah. And then, here’s a little trick somebody taught me. And so, people like Tom Hood, Don Tomoff, Bill Tomoff, you go into Twitter, and you see who they are following, and you follow them, and you see who are following these guys, and you follow them. So, now, you’re creating a bigger social media network of like-minded thought process. So, even if it’s not so much like-minded, but these influencers, you’re following people who they follow. And it helps grow. But the only thing I have remembered about social media is how to make a — I do shared with you two guys.
Don Tomoff: [00:22:37] What Bill and I feel, everybody, we talk about getting engaged and engaging on social media. And one of the things Bill and I talk about is if you don’t go into it to make a brand, sell business, you go into it and just say, “How can I help
someone today?” So, if I post something on LinkedIn – and Bill and I do frequently – if somebody sends me a message and says, “Hey, that was really helpful,” that’s a win.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:23:11] That’s what it’s for. Okay. It isn’t to to drive business. You do it because you enjoy building those relationships and helping other people. And it’s really satisfying, but it takes effort, and it takes time.
Bill Tomoff: [00:23:25] Well, it’s incredibly satisfying. And Pete, we talked earlier before we started that I’m a huge fan of marketing. Accounting pays the bills. That’s my expertise. I love marketing. I love social media. You can talk to enough people, they’ll say social media is bad, It’s this. Well, it’s what you’re looking at. Okay. And some of the people that I’ve met, and Don and I have now met in real life, are the most incredible people. They’re providing content to their network that is just it’s making us all better professionals. And that’s the potential on steroids of what social media is now enabling people to do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:07] There is a huge learning component with social media. You do learn. And for those who want to help others who push content out to their followers, yes. And this is — people say, “Have you monetize your podcast? Have you done this, this, and this, and this?” I went, “You know what, that’s not why I started it.” Trust me, I’d love to, but that’s not why I started it because why I started this was to help my audience. Not to monetize this, but to help my ideas because I’m in the event business, and I want to create more of a process for my audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:47] So, if they happen to see me at a speaking engagement, they can come to the podcast, and the conversation still goes. It doesn’t end. As well as I want to help you two guys. I would help my guests to have a better presence out in the business world. If a business comes away, than absolutely fine. Just buy me a cocktail sometime. That’s about it.
Don Tomoff: [00:25:10] Well, it’s really interesting. And in the accounting profession, I think this is any business in general, most times, we go in, we put our head down, we get it up, we leave at the end of the day. And folks don’t know what they don’t know. And if your whole world is the accounting profession and the accountants – and I used to always say this about Big Four – and it’s easy to see this when you’re out, okay. When you’re in industry, you really get kind of a siloed view when you’re in public accounting, and everybody is a certain caliber, everybody is a certain motivation, everybody thinks the same way. That’s not the real world.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:53] No.
Don Tomoff: [00:25:54] Both Bill and I got our our MBAs, and the common question would be, what did your MBA do for you? Did it get your head your career? I go, “It gave me a perspective of a world I didn’t have it because I was living in accounting.” That’s value.
Bill Tomoff: [00:26:11] Yeah. Well, that and Don just hit it on the head. When we were — I was probably 10 to 12 years out of college and decided to go back for my MBA. And it was like I actually interviewed. And they said, “Well, why are you doing that? We don’t need someone with an MBA.” And I’m like, “Wow! I want to be the best professional I can be.” And it truly has, and it was a brutal two years. But I look back and the comment Don just made and I’ve made, it changed me as a professional. We are a foundation and a service to our customers, meaning the business. Let’s never lose sight of that. Okay. And building relationships, taking care of our external customers, that’s really our world. And anybody, that’s what you got to focus on.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:07] So, you just gave a great analogy to the difference between cost and investment. Because some folks say, “Well, how much did that MBA costs you? That’s a lot of money to spend on an MBA don’t you think? And what is the opportunity cost that you lost?” versus “How much is investment? How was this investment and where did it take you?”
Bill Tomoff: [00:27:30] Yeah. You want to be — and I’m talking to Pete, the three of us, we all agree on this. You want to be the best that you can possibly be, and it’s how do I help others? If you follow us on social media, a lot of our content is we’re trying to bring value. There is no, “It’s about me.” And I get that [inaudible] really, really — I mentioned earlier, Gary Vaynerchuk, you want to get your hair blown back, listen to some of his stuff. And he’s got the long game, and he’s got a lot of great things to say. And us in the business world could learn from that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:15] Exactly. I mean, I remember the first time I heard him, I go, “Whoa, hey. Hey, hey, there’s some salty language in it. I’m not offended, but, hey, how does this fly the business world? Well, there goes another bomb.” But he’s authentic. And it reminds me of the old SpongeBob Square Pants’ episode of the sentence enhancer. He strategically uses certain words in the sentence to enhance that effect to make that wow moment, to make it stick.
Don Tomoff: [00:28:49] Oh, he’s [crosstalk].
Bill Tomoff: [00:28:49] That’s exactly right.
Don Tomoff: [00:28:52] And I think, what Bill was saying, and he’s right, we talk about how to get better and spending time getting better. When I speak to accounting professionals, and I do quite a bit through BLI, just as you do, Pete, really, it’s all about spend the time — don’t wait for your organization to tell you to do something. See the opportunity and go figure it out because it will make you better.
Don Tomoff: [00:29:21] And easy bringing it right into focus for accountants is I’m shocked that, when you talk about Microsoft Office and Excel, how many firms are not under the current version, you know? Well, we’re using your Excel 2010, or we’re using 2013. And I will always tell them, I go, “If anybody is in an organization, and you’re not on the current version, go spend $100 a year of your own money, and put Office 365 on your laptop and start learning because you’re falling behind every day if you just live with what the organization gives you in that specific case.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:04] Exactly. Invest in your own technology and stay stay up to date with current versions. I’m somewhat guilty at that because I have a Mac, and I’m running parallel, so I can run windows. But you know what I just discovered? I don’t need it. I can go out and just grab the damn apps, and it still run through the subscription, and free up my hard drive. Whoa! That was just my big wow! I can do that?
Don Tomoff: [00:30:37] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:37] Yeah. I mean, there’s so much information coming at us every single day. And sometimes, that tsunami of information can be overwhelming. So, it’s almost like you need to pick a lane and try to get rid of the squirrels. Whoa, hey, shiny objects and stuff, and pick a specific lane. I was sharing this with an attendee from the NABA Conference last year. I was in Minnesota. We had lunch together. And she asked me, “What should I be focusing in on my CPE?” And I said, “Artificial intelligence. blockchain, robotic, process automation.” And she goes, “Thank you.” And the last time I talked to her, that’s, oh, that was the lane that she was going to play in.
Don Tomoff: [00:31:22] Yeah. And Pete, I’m glad you just brought that up, because this is one of the things that I get a lot because people say, “Well, data, RPA, artificial intelligence, blockchain.” Really, it’s about picking your lane. What are you good at? But it’s also being able to decipher. And I like to use IFRS as an example. For like a five-year period, we had to do everything to learn IFRS. That’s all the CPE, etc. And I go, “I can’t put all my energy into that when we have all this until I know it’s real.” Okay. So, for instance, I go, “I look at block chain. Yeah, blockchain is coming. Artificial intelligence is coming.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:09] It’s here.
Don Tomoff: [00:32:11] Yeah, it’s here. RPA is coming. Where does my effort need to go? Where do I get the biggest value? And I talk a lot about data analytics. I go, “If you’re in accounting, start with working with data.” That will be — there is the 80/20. 20% of your effort will deliver 80% of your results in the accounting profession. Okay.
Artificial intelligence, block chain, RPA. Be aware. And if there are opportunities to leverage it, absolutely, get on board and do it, but pick those areas that will give you the biggest value for what you do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:49] So, before Bill, I’m glad you mentioned that because one of my earlier businesses was IFRS education and training. I know you didn’t know that, but yeah. I invested all in. But you know what, at the time, I was at university trying to help my students to that next level. And even though we didn’t converge, I will say we’re pretty closer than we were before. But I guess I had to get a little bit out when you said that. I’m like, “Yeah.”
Bill Tomoff: [00:33:16] Pete, you needed to hear Paul and Paul, who used to show up at the Kent State IMA Conference. They would get up on stage. And this was two accounting professors who simply said, “IFRS is not going to happen.” One of the things Don and I – and we’re heading back out in August – we have been blessed to do is we’ve been out to the LA Kings to do some training on Office 365. They’re bringing us back in late August. And this time, they’re saying, “We’ll do some advanced Excel,” and Excel is a big hit anywhere, and it ought to be. But they also want to dig into One Note and Teams, which are part of the 365 platform.
Bill Tomoff: [00:34:06] But what’s important here and what we’re going to hit on is step back. When you think about Teams, let’s talk about collaboration tools that are now becoming the norm in the world – Slack, Teams, Flack, Google Key, Microsoft One Note. Okay. You need to leverage these tools, and you need to learn them. So, the Kings are saying, “We want our employees to understand this.” And it’s bigger than the application. It’s what’s happening, and it’s changing productivity and efficiency just exponentially.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:49] Hey, if you need someone carry your guys’ bags when you go out to LA to be with the Kings, I’d be happy to do that. I’ll even come and sit in the background, and hold your notebooks, or I could bring a camera and record you guys. That would be an awful lot of fun.
Bill Tomoff: [00:35:03] We do.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:05] [crosstalk].
Bill Tomoff: [00:35:05] We love trying to help others learn. And when we went in February, it was really invigorating because there were like 75-100 people that they were engaged with it. And you bring some real interesting material and an interesting style. I wish we could bring some of your style to what we do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:24] We’ll find a way to get that. We’ll find a way to get that done.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:28] We’re accountants.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:29] We’re accountants. We’re the same. We’re not just stereotypical accountants. We see the world and from a completely different perspective. But I think this is very safe to say, and I think the audience has a feel for it, we love the profession.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:44] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:45] There is a deep love for this profession, and it’s just trying to help it find its way from a slightly different perspective.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:55] Yeah. Pete, I think, and I say this to Bill quite a bit, I said, the profession has been — we were fortunate to have been working and growing professionally for over 30 years, and it really has been very, very good to us. And I, honestly, look at the opportunity. And I said it earlier, man, if you’re a young kid, and you want to come into this profession, you got a gold mine of opportunity, but it’s not going to be doing the compliance that used to always be the bread and butter. Bill made the observation, Advisory, all the big four firms, the accounting firms, they’re bringing in that talent because they know that’s what their clients need. And the accountants might as well deliver it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:41] Exactly. And provide those opportunities for that learning for your younger staff. Let me put it, invest in your staff. so they can provide that service -excuse me – to their clients, to their customers. And when I use this, I also meant from a business, and industry, and from a public accounting perspective.
Bill Tomoff: [00:37:01] Hey, Pete, we’re in great danger. And you hit it earlier with talking to the managing partner who said, staff are like toothpaste. There are so many opportunities in this world in accounting and outside of accounting. People do not have to put up with this practically — obnoxious is a nice way to put it, and some way people are treated.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:29] Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it.
Bill Tomoff: [00:37:32] That has got to change. The profession is really — we don’t own this profession, okay. We have to adapt to what is more — read some Tom Peters, The Excellence Dividend. Every accounting professional should read that latest book by Tom Peters. It’ll rock your world. It all comes down to how we treat each other.
Don Tomoff: [00:37:59] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:38:00] Okay.
Don Tomoff: [00:38:01] And in fairness, I mean, Pete, the profession, we are shifting. Okay. They realize that this shift has to occur. Firms are adapting. It’s just probably fair to say, it’s not moving as quick as everyone thinks it should or could.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:22] Yeah. And that kind of goes to the fact — and we’ll even go back to the IFRS thing. I’m not going to pay attention until it’s real. But even if I take IFRS and say, “Okay, we didn’t converge,” that’s true. However, if you look at the new revenue recognition standard, that came out of the Convergence project. The releasing standard came out of the Convergence project. The elimination of extraordinary items came out of Convergence project. So, something that’s unusual and infrequent. The
only thing that I know in this world that’s unusual and infrequent is the Browns winning the Super Bowl.
Bill Tomoff: [00:38:56] That’s not infrequent.
Peter Margaritis: [00:39:02] So, we do evolve, and it’s how do we — here’s the question. How do we inspire those who might be on the fence or those maybe nonbelievers? How do we inspire them to change that mindset, to see the profession the way it’s evolving?
Don Tomoff: [00:39:26] Well, I personally think it’s going to happen. One of the big challenges for all organizations, but accounting especially, is people recruiting and people — retention. And if we don’t change, I mean, as soon as this starts hitting firms where it hurts, and they can’t get people, that will drive change.
Don Tomoff: [00:39:49] And unfortunately, most of us, if things are good, well, then I don’t really need to adapt. Okay. At some point, it’s got to be the burning platform syndrome where you say, “I got to adjust, or I’m going to be in trouble.” And I think we’re at that point. And we talked earlier about Tom Hood. Tom is a guy that’s out there passionate about driving the profession to a new place and doing a fabulous job. But it’s really getting those types of people out in front and helping them understand why it’s important to be changing this way.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:33] Yeah. What you got, Bill?
Bill Tomoff: [00:40:37] That’s really it. We have to expose ourselves to more outside the profession again. And I’m talking about my latest passions. But this is what, as professionals, we all need to do. And it’s at our fingertips now with social media. We don’t have to be in the same room. We can meet really genuine like-minded but in different professional paths that are just interested in helping.
Bill Tomoff: [00:41:07] Don and I have a joke. We’ve met with a few people. Johnny Andrews and Ted Rubin, if you’ve ever heard of either of those guys, they’re content
marketers. And we had lunch with them when they were driving through the area. We’ve met John, but we haven’t Ted. We had lunch, and we’re talking to these guys, and we said, “Hey, what advice would you give to the accounting professionals?”
Bill Tomoff: [00:41:32] Now, we haven’t posted that talk yet because it got a little shaky in over three minutes of me trying to hold the phone. But these guys, Don’t big joke is — and this is funny — two accountants and two content marketers walk into a bar. Okay. We were roaring for an hour and a half. And in the prior life, you would never have those paths crossed. And we’re learning from these people all the time. This is what we have to be doing as professionals.
Don Tomoff: [00:42:06] And by the way, Pete, we happened to meet these two people, two content guys on Snapchat in 2016. So, back then, it’s like, “Well, who would do Snapchat?” Why not? If it exposes me to different things, keeps me thinking, it’s a thing.
Peter Margaritis: [00:42:28] Yeah. I’m going to go back to something. You were talking about — we talked about the long term. Social media, it’s the long term and stuff. And we need to retain individuals. And that’s what keeps organization. So, I have two thoughts on that. One of them I already shared with you is I ask audiences, what business are they in? Accountant, CPAs, and I get a lot of these taxation, consulting. It’s their an industry. We sell X, Y and Z. And I always tell them that’s a byproduct because the true business they’re in is in the people business. First and foremost, everything else is a byproduct of that. You hire the right people, you have the right customers, you have the right clients, that’s how you grow your business. If you treat your people terrible, your clients great, that’s still going to drive your business down.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:17] And thinking along those lines, in that long term, so during the Great Recession, what did firms do when they were losing business? They got rid of people. They laid them off. Now, I’ve only had maybe a few people, CPAs, when I’ve asked this question, how many of started your career in public accounting? How many of you have left? And a lot of hands go down. How many of you would go back? Maybe one in a thousand would raise their hand.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:50] So, there’s a culture issue right there why they won’t go back, but, two, wouldn’t it be better for that long-term thought process is — you know, kind of like take the Southwest Airlines approach. We’re not going to lay off people because people are our greatest asset. The partnership is going to take less profit. We’re going to put more back into the business to maintain these folks and find stuff for them to do. And it may not be billable, but we’re going to continue to learn and grow this time, so when we — what goes down does come up. So, when it comes up — and Hood — Rebecca Brown said this video was watching. And I think I’ve heard Tom say that the same thing. You know how long it takes to find a 35-year-old tax manager? 35 and nine months. They just don’t grow on trees.
Don Tomoff: [00:44:45] Yeah, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:44:47] And it’s about be good to people. It’s all about people. And that is the change in the mindset. That’s what will change this profession. When we start recognizing that we’re in the people business first and foremost, everything else evolves out of that. And we want to be surrounded by good people, and we want to be good to people.
Don Tomoff: [00:45:07] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:45:08] It’s just what we have to do. Let’s take care of each other.
Don Tomoff: [00:45:11] Bill and I always talk about is as leaders in the organization, and I would always tell this to people when they were working for me, is my job is — we got to get our work done, but my job is to make you better going out of here then when you came in. Okay. It’s not just to crank out work every day. It’s to help us grow as individuals and as professionals.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:38] Yeah, I may have an uncle who’s a retired colonel from the Air Force. And I was talking to him about this mentality that we have. “Why should I train them? All they’re going to do is leave anyhow.” “Well, one, if we take that mentality, so when we replace them, I’m coming with someone who’s untrainable.” He took it to a
whole new level. He said “Pete, is bigger than that. What kind of corporate citizen will they be if we’re not constantly investing into their education throughout their business career? We’re not setting them up to be good citizens of this United States of America.” And I salute, That just blew me away.
Don Tomoff: [00:46:15] Yeah, yeah, I would agree.
Bill Tomoff: [00:46:15] I’m glad we just took that turn because I can say over my career, and I’m probably on my sixth job, and like I said, I had a 20-year career in sports entertainment, but things do end, and we change, okay. And I always say I don’t miss the work. I miss the relationships. And I have people that have kept in touch with me that it really was the relationships. And I was always interested in helping people grow and be better professionals, not for just here. We will benefit if you’re better now, or you’re improving, but you’re going to be better for whatever’s next. Let’s not kid ourselves and, okay, so, we — so, it is incumbent upon us to invest in each other and build those relationships.
Peter Margaritis: [00:47:08] It’s all about relationships. It’s all about bringing a level of trust with it because you don’t want to do business with people you don’t trust.
Don Tomoff: [00:47:16] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:47:17] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:47:18] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:47:18] And Bill and I, we talk about build the relationships on social media and stuff. And when we were younger, it was all about networking. If I was to look back on my career and go, when you’re in first 10 years of your career, you don’t take your networking as seriously as you probably should have. At least, I didn’t. And then, you realize, we really got into a situation now where it’s easier to build relationships. I mean, we literally – and Bill touched on this earlier – can build relationships with people outside our industry where when you do meet them, it’s literally a hug instead of a
handshake. They’re like friends before we ever meet them in real life. That’s the opportunity that exists at our fingertips. We just have to actively participate and engage.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:10] It’s funny you said that because one thing I was going to say about this is I used to read The Wall Street Journal. I don’t read it as much anymore. I read Harvard Business Review, but the leadership. And some years ago, there was an article that came out that was describing networking as it related to Paul Revere. And there was another writer that day. There were two writers that day. Do you know who the other writer was?
Don Tomoff: [00:48:31] Oh, but I know this. I know this, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:34] His name was Bill Dawes.
Don Tomoff: [00:48:37] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:37] And they equate it — because he’s not in the history books that much. And he wasn’t able to get that message out because his network was a clique network, it was within a few towns; where Revere’s was an entrepreneurial network. He knew people in different areas, different towns, different industries who helped get that word out to a mass group. That’s what you’re talking about right there. That’s what social media brings to that entrepreneurial network as opposed to — we tend to — I know a lot of CPAs, and I still want to know more because it’s not so much I really want to know them, but I also want to have access to who they know. It’s about relationships and creating relationships.
Bill Tomoff: [00:49:20] Pete, let me circle back to a comment you made earlier. You talked about why did you start the podcast? “Have you been able to monetize it?” people asking you. And you said, “I want to help my network. I want to help others,” not just your network. You want to help anybody who happens to come across you. And I love this. Don, we joke about this, but it is the truth, okay. There’s a guy on social media that we follow. His name’s Bruce Kasanoff, okay. And he says, “Here’s three words to
think every time you come in contact with somebody.” And he said, “Those three words are ‘help this person.'”
Bill Tomoff: [00:50:05] If you are dedicated to how can I bring value to others, and we’re not talking about being a doormat. Adam Grant’s Give and Take is a fabulous book every professional should read. But if you are bringing value to others, it will, in life, come back to you. It just simply will. That’s what too many people are missing.
Peter Margaritis: [00:50:31] Yeah, there is some karma out there that I do believe in, and it does come back in the most unique ways. So, I would teach networking to accountants and to others, and I tell them, I take the godfather approach in networking. I don’t meet somebody and go, “How can you help me?” I meet somebody and go, “Hey, how can I help you?” Because someday, I may come back and ask you for a favor, and you’re more inclined to help me if I’ve already helped you. The Godfather approach. And nobody has to die in the end.
Bill Tomoff: [00:51:09] It’s probably one of the key points that any professional on the accounting profession that we could come away with.
Don Tomoff: [00:51:19] Bill, I mean, we talk a lot about social media. It’s just basic networking. It’s just the way we do it. It’s a lot enable, a lot easier than it used to be. Nothing’s changed since the ’80s. It’s about your network, and who you know, and how you can help your network.
Peter Margaritis: [00:51:39] I love this. I love social media. And I think I can get an essence of a person’s being through reading their tweets, and their posts, and stuff. But I am still kind of old school. I love meeting face to face, so I can look them in the eye and go, “Oh, yeah. These two guys are really, really good guys,” versus, “Yeah, I’m not quite sure.” And just for full transparency, we’ve known each other — Hold on. We’ve known each other — what’s today’s date? Exactly one month.
Don Tomoff: [00:52:16] But we were following you before that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:19] Yeah. And I heard rumors about you two guys.
Bill Tomoff: [00:52:23] So, there was a little bit of a foundation of we knew each other, we hadn’t formally met, and then we did meet in person. And you are absolutely right, social media does not replace, but it certainly enhances the ability to meet people. But you’re right, person-to-person is the ultimate. And Don said, we can turn a handshake into a hug. Literally, that’s what it does.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:47] Oh, my God. And we were like — I thought we would get thrown out of the restaurant. We were laughing so hard. And Jennifer Stevens, I don’t think she even took a breath. I mean, she was laughing because the three of us were just playing off of each other, but talking about the profession, talking so passionately about it. It was — quite funny, guys, I was exhausted when we were done.
Bill Tomoff: [00:53:08] Yeah, I slept very good that night actually.
Peter Margaritis: [00:53:10] I did, too. Hey, as we start to wrap this up, what parting information would you give my audience about this conversation that we’re having? What’s the key piece that that you see that if they just walked away with one nugget, and it can’t be the same nugget from the two of you, one nugget, what would that nugget be?
Don Tomoff: [00:53:35] Okay, I’m going first, Bill. I would say take advantage of the opportunities. Take the road less traveled. And in our profession, I like to say, there’s a lot of roads that people aren’t taking that are huge opportunities. And pursue it. Make a difference. And what you’ll find is you can take your career wherever you want to go.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:02] Bill, did he just take what you were going to say?
Bill Tomoff: [00:54:04] Oh, I think this is amazing because it so absolutely puts how he and I, we believe in exactly what each other say. But what Don hit on is exactly what I would have expected. Build your skill set. The opportunities are all around you. Take some ownership. I would then say, and we spent a lot of time on this, be good to
people. Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Take care of people. Help people. Help them learn. Help them grow. Build those relationships. You put the two of those together, and you got Bill and Don, okay.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:44] So, I might-
Bill Tomoff: [00:54:48] It happens together.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:49] And you guys are spot on. As I’m saying, listening to this conversation, my mind flashed back to the ESPN commercial with Peyton and Eli Manning walking through the halls of ESPN and giving each other wet willies and kicking each other from behind. Do you guys do that when you’re together?
Don Tomoff: [00:55:07] We get crazy.
Bill Tomoff: [00:55:10] You think we’re not accountants. People who are around us regularly are like — I’m in the house talking to him. Don lives in Cleveland. I’m in DC area in Maryland now. And my wife will say, “Hey, can you quit talking so loud at 6:00 in the morning?”
Peter Margaritis: [00:55:32] Quit talking to Don.
Bill Tomoff: [00:55:35] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:55:37] Well, we really do think there’s a ton of opportunity, and the message, and appreciate you having us on. It’s a great conversation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:55:45] This was a ton of fun as I knew it would be when you guys agreed to it. I can’t thank you guys enough for taking time out. And I’m looking forward to the next time our paths cross. And actually, I’m in the Maryland area, I think all of — Probably, it’s all of next week record ing at where you are right now, Don. Jennifer Elder and I are recording updating the MBA Express, but I’m back in the DC area. Just tell me, come up to Cleveland. I’ll come out and hang out a day with you.
Don Tomoff: [00:56:19] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:56:19] That would be great. I got to make a trip over to Cleveland. There you go. That’s-
Peter Margaritis: [00:56:26] There we go. Well, you know people in Cleveland, the Cavs, probably some Indians folks and stuff. That would be a good time.
Bill Tomoff: [00:56:34] Yeah. Pete, it’s been a real pleasure. And thank you for thinking of us. And this has been an awesome conversation. I think folks should pay attention to what you’re putting out there for the profession. It’s really good stuff. Don and I are learning, we’re living in the profession, so to speak. I am more than — Don is doing more training. I help a little bit with that. But I’m learning all the time. And you guys, everybody, you’re bringing great value. So, thank you and thanks for having us on.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:07] I appreciate it, Bill. Bill, you’re going to enjoy this. I forgot to mention to Don that when he was speaking in Ocean City, he spoke the day before I did. And Don was bribing the audience -sometimes, it’s hard to get people to chime – $5 Dunkin Donuts gif cards.
Bill Tomoff: [00:57:25] That’s the best decision he made.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:27] It was the best decision until he gave me the idea. And the next hour, they say, “Hey, that guy only gave me five bucks. I get 10 bucks Starbucks cards here.” Man, it just went nuts. I’m kidding. I didn’t do that.
Don Tomoff: [00:57:38] I know, Pete, when I saw you speak, I think, it was in December, you said engage your audience. That’s where it came from.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:46] I appreciate that, but I didn’t do that. But I remembered, I wanted to tell that little bit of a lie.
Don Tomoff: [00:57:52] It went well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:56] Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. And I look forward to our paths crossing very, very soon.
Don Tomoff: [00:58:02] Appreciate it.
Bill Tomoff: [00:58:03] Thanks, Pete. Have a great day.
Peter Margaritis: [00:58:10] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to make yourself future-ready in the accounting profession? Will you change your mindset from compliance learning to lifelong learning, which is an investment versus a cost? Personally, I hope you do, because that is the biggest step in your transformation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:58:33] Thank you all 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 their network. And in honor of both Bill and Don Tomoff, be kind to people. Be nice to people. Thank you.
Announcer: [00:59:08] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

S2E33 – Jay Sukow | Teaching Improv to Businesses, Actors, & Everyone Else

Jay Sukow believes that the world will be a better place if everyone takes just one improv class – and I agree! Jay is trying to make that world a reality as the founder of Today Improv, where he teaches improv to actors, businesses, and everyone else around the world. He is currently on faculty at The Second City Hollywood and former faculty member at The Second City Chicago. Some of those he has trained with include Stephen Colbert, Stephen Carell, Dave Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, and Del Close.

 

When Jay and his ensemble go to work with businesses, they don’t claim to be business experts, but they are experts in communication, working together, being part of an ensemble, focusing on the team first, and using information. His goal is to get others to implement those skills within their businesses or their lives and make it a habit. And one of the most valuable skills and habits that you might learn in one of these improv classes is “Yes, And.”

 

Because in your professional world and your personal world, you will have to say yes to things that you don’t want to do, or else you will lose something. So learning how to say yes in a constructive manner is a very valuable skill. Oftentimes, we are struggling because we aren’t accepting something or making excuses. 

 

When we use “Yes, And,” we aren’t trying to find a quick way out of a problem or an acceptable way to make an excuse. We are saying before I shoot this idea down, how could it work?

 

 

Resources:

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Jay Sukow: [00:00:00] How are you going to take this back and implement it? Because if you don’t and if it’s just a fun thing, then we haven’t done our job. It has to be something where it’s like, “What skill are you going to use moving forward?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:23] 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: [00:00:43] 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: [00:01:10] Welcome to episode 33. And today I’m going to do something that I have not done before, and that is to replay a prior episode. This episode was released on November 27, 2017, and the guest was Jay Sukow. Now, Jay believes that the world will be a better place if everyone took just one improv class. And I agree. Jay is trying to make that world a reality as the founder of Today Improv where he teaches impromptu two actors, businesses, and everyone else around the world.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:45] Jay is currently on faculty at The Second City Hollywood and former faculty member at The Second City Chicago. Some of those he has trained with include Stephen Colbert, Stephen Carell, Dave Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, and Del Close. In the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t a lot of understanding about what improv was. However, after years of people like Jay working on the public and businesses, people are starting to accept and understand why improv is so beneficial in both businesses and in life. This is recently seen in a Wall Street Journal article titled Oh my God, Where’s This Going? When Computer Science Majors Take Improv on May 14th of 2019. Go check out that article.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:33] When Jay and his ensemble go to work with businesses, they don’t claim to be business experts, but they are experts in communication, working together, being part of an ensemble, focusing on the team first, and using information. His goal is to get others to implement those skills within their businesses or their lives and make it a habit. And one of the most valuable skills and habits that you might learn in one of these improv classes is “yes and.” Because in your professional world and your personal world, you will have to say yes, and you will have to say yes to things that you don’t want to do, or else you will lose something. So, learning how to say yes in a constructive manner is a very valuable skill. Oftentimes, we are struggling because we aren’t accepting something or making excuses. When we use “yes and,” we aren’t trying to find a quick way out of a problem or an acceptable way to make an excuse. We are saying before I shoot this idea down, how could it work?

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:41] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite family radio of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be among some of the most popular business podcasts such as The Gero Gactor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio was 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.

Announcer: [00:04:08] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume offline business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:16] And now, a quick word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:04:19] 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: [00:05:09] Now, let’s get to the interview with Jay Sukow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:14] Jay, I have to admit, I am so very excited to have you on my podcast. And super busy. Thank yous go to you for taking time out of your day to be a guest and spend some time with myself and my audience. I greatly appreciate that.

Jay Sukow: [00:05:30] Peter, thank you. I’m very excited to be on it. And I think we have to give a shout out to the Conderaccis because I listened to your podcast with Annie, and that’s how it got into listening to your episode. And I thought it was just great. I think what you’re doing is fantastic. So, thank you for having me on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:52] I greatly appreciate the kudos. And you’re right thanks to Greg Conderacci and Annie Conderacci because without either of this, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. And I owe a lot to them for supporting the podcast and supporting me, And Annie is such a delight. I mean, I had so much fun. You said you listened to the episode. I had so much fun talking with her. She’s just full of wonderful energy.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:18] Yeah, she’s great. And she is such a student of improv and has such integrity with performing it. And she sees how she benefits in her professional life, personal life, as well as artistic life. So, yes, we have conversations all the time, and it’s really great. It’s really great. I remember her from — I taught her in a class at Second City, and I’ll never forget this one move she made. The scene was about a class reunion, and she was off stage, and two people were in the scene, and she comes running onstage, and had such an energy about her that I never forgot it, and I’ll never forget it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:58] Wow. And when I was talking to her, I mean, all she raved about — and I know she’s giving you a quote on your website about what a wonderful teacher you are and how you gave her a life-changing experience through the introduction of improv. And that’s what we really want to talk about with you about is my big introduction with it was many years ago with George Caleodis when he introduced it to me, but when it got heightened to that next level and really looked at it from a personal and business perspective is when I was at Second City Chicago some years ago, and I had this instructor by the name of Brian Posen. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:07:43] Oh. yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:44] And, I mean, he just took it to a whole different level and really gave me focus on how to apply it in a daily life and in a business life because I think to many people, when you say, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think improv?” I’ll hear standup comedy, I’ll hear comedy, or I hear Drew Carey.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:04] Yeah. And to the benefit of that show, Whose Line Is It Anyway, which drew hosts, the American version, before that, people had no reference really about improv. Like I started in ’92, and people, it was very hard for them to understand the concept. And then when Whose Line Is It Anyway came along, it, at least, gave them a reference point. So, whether you did short form, or long form, or whatever kind of improv you did, you, at least, had like a base level. For most of the people you’re talking today had a base level of knowledge, and it was all thanks to that show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:44] Yeah. But the one thing that always — I guess, since I look at it from a little bit different perspective is when Drew would say, “Where everything is made up and the points don’t count,” it’s not made up. And, actually, the points really do count. That’s the one thing, when I address that, I go, “It’s not so much made up because you’ve got to have some knowledge in order to-”

Jay Sukow: [00:09:10] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:10] “… to do a scene.” And George Caleodis, when he said, “I want you guys to go study the ’70s,” so this is about 97′-’98, “and come back the next week, and we will apply this to the workshop.” And those of us who did the homework, we were funny. Those who didn’t get sucked. They really sucked. And that was the big aha moment. It was like it’s not making stuff up. You’ve got to have the knowledge, experience, and education, or whatever in order to apply to that scene or to that issue at hand.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:49] Yeah. And not that they sucked but maybe it was that they didn’t quite get the full potential of what that scene could be.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:01] Yeah. It was kind of harsh on my part. I apologize, but I think-

Jay Sukow: [00:10:04] Well, also, because it’s like with each person, it’s like another thing. Maybe they did study, but maybe they’re just petrified or like, yeah, you’re right, like maybe they didn’t study. Then, they get up there, and they’re lost because you have all this knowledge and information. And then, I think what is the funniest and most effective in improv is when people go, “Oh, I know that. Like, I’m that person. You’re that person.” I think that’s what it boils down to. So, when you have something like a style or genre, and you just play those most obvious tropes of that, then it becomes so much more enjoyable.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:42] Got it. Yeah. And maybe it was a little harsh, but I can still hear these guys after class going, “Man, we really sucked.” And I think it was for the fact, if my memory serves me correct me, and my wife says I can’t remember a thing, I think they said they got so busy during the week that they didn’t do the homework.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:03] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:03] So, they had nothing.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:04] And then, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:05] Some type of basis. So, you’ve got a business. You perform, you teach actors, you do it in business, and you teach everybody. How did you fall into the teaching aspect of this from the performance side of it?

Jay Sukow: [00:11:23] A little background is my parents in 1991 gave me as a Christmas present a Second City improv class. And it wasn’t like I had — I’m from Chicago. I heard of Second City. I had a fleeting understanding, but I had no — at that point, I didn’t really think I wanted to perform at all, but I had been artistic, and I was in plays in high school, and I worked in video department at my school. So, I like being creative, and I said, “Okay, this sounds fun.” And so, I was driving up. It was like two or three hours to take a Saturday noon class, and it became the highlight of my week. And this is the last semester of my senior year in college, and this thing was like I couldn’t wait for it.

Jay Sukow: [00:12:16] And so, I went up. And at that point, part of the attraction of improv was it was a dead-end job. You weren’t going anywhere. There was no professional improbable league. I met these people that were smart like me that were kind of — we called it The Island of Misfit Toys. Like we all kind of didn’t fit in at places, but we found our tribe in this. And I still talk to four people from my very first improv level one class, which was started in January of ’92. So, we’re still friends. And I just performed on one of the guys a couple weeks ago, and it was 25 years had gone by. And we did a show, and it was like we hadn’t stopped.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:05] So, in October of ’93, I auditioned for a group called Comedy Sports. And when I took my first improv class of Second City, you went level one, two, three, four, and five. And there was a Second City in the suburbs of Chicago. That’s where I took it. It’s no longer there. So, level one, two, three were improv. And I started with Stephen Colbert, Dave Razowsky, and Steve Carell were my first three teachers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:34] I’ve heard of those guys before.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:36] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:36] Yeah, I mean, they’re — I’m not sure what they’re doing now, And Razowsky is like traveling the world teaching. And the other two, I’ve lost track of. I’m not sure where they are. But in our level four, we started writing sketch and Second City Improvisation used to write sketch comedy. And it’s political and satirical in nature because when they would ask for suggestions in the ’50s when they were performing for University of Chicago students mainly, they would get political suggestions. And so, that’s how it became political and satirical is because of their audience.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:14] And so, then, we went from there. Our group from Second City performed two years on that stage, which was great. We did a student show that was extended for a year. Then, we did a best of Second City Northwest for a year, which was like I got to do parts from Stephen Colbert, and Carrel, and Nia Vardalos, and Dan Castellaneta Castle, who’s the voice of Homer Simpson. Like we got a really good education.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:39] Wow.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:40] Then, we went down to Chicago. We enrolled in the conservatory there and had a great time. And then, we heard about this guy, Del Close. And so, we took it. We started taking classes with him. And then, I auditioned for Comedy Sports, which is short-form improv. And it’s “competitive” short-form improv. Like there’s a referee and there are points given. But, really, you’re in this show, and there are two teams, and they’re servicing the show. So, it’s a really fun time.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:12] And I think about — it’s probably like in the following year, I want to say, that I did a workshop at a college, and the guy who was running the workshop was like, “Why don’t you teach the warm-ups?” I was like, “No. What? Teach them?” And he goes, “You have more experience than they do.” I’m like, “Okay.” So, I started teaching then. And then, I would gradually teach like exercises. And then, I would teach full-on workshops. And so, that’s kind of how my teaching started. It wasn’t necessarily by accident, but it was more like, “Okay, jump in. Jump in 100% and figure it out as you go.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:54] Oh, that sounds like improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:56] Yeah, for sure. And I was like, “Oh, I really love this aspect of it.” So, I really like teaching. I probably enjoy teaching more than performing, and I love performing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:07] Wow. Because you know what they say about teachers. Those who teach can’t do. But that’s not true in improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:16:15] Well, it’s funny you say that because our faculty show at Second City in Chicago when I was there, I’m in LA now, but the Second City Chicago faculty show was called Those Who Can’t. And it’s like the most fun show because it was like all the people that played, we were so excited to play with each other, and we would play in front of students, and I would always teach that night because the show would be like a 10:00 or 10:30. And if I didn’t teach, I would never stay awake that long. But it is like, “Oh, I have to practice what I preach. I have to do what I talked about.” And then, in class, if I was working on space work or object work, I would do that in the show, or if I was focused on relationships, I would focus on that in the show like without even thinking about it. So, that was our faculty jam.

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

Jay Sukow: [00:17:05] Now, at Second City Hollywood, it’s called Hot for A Teacher. This is like, “All right, okay.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:18] Whatever.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:18] Yeah, right. All right. If you want to call it that. Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:21] So, as a teacher of it, I’m curious about morphing in from an actor’s perspective into the business world, and what struggles, what challenges do you have when you’re with a group of actors, and then you’re in a corporate environment working with those within the organization? Yeah, with business.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:47] It’s evolved a lot. I remember one of my earliest corporate gigs, one of the people on our class showed up, and she had a jean jacket on that said, “Legalize pot.” And it was like our director went ballistic, and rightfully so. And that’s the thing. Even slightly through today, not that quote in the jacket, but the fact that I cannot bring improvisers into corporate settings, unless I know them, and I know they speak the language, and I know that they will not do these bits that you’re doing a bit in a breakout room before you’re going on, and somebody walks by. They don’t know what the reference, and they just hear you doing these bits. It’s not advantageous for that.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:36] So, one of the aspects of doing corporate improv workshops is knowing the people who are going there, they know how to present themselves in that setting. And it’s very, very difficult because it’s against the nature of improvisers because a lot of them are gregarious and really love doing bits, and callbacks, and things like that. And my wife said it great, and it sounds harsh, but she was really good at translating from business world to improv speak. And this was the way she put it to improvisers, “When you walk into a business to do a gig, you have to walk in like you’re miserable.” And she said that because, otherwise, there was no reference. She couldn’t say to one improviser, “Okay, you have to be quiet,” because that was like, “Okay, we’ll whisper our bits.” But she’s like, “For an improviser, put him in that context of walking in that way” made them understand what it was like.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:40] Wow.

Jay Sukow: [00:19:40] It made them understand this as a professional thing. And so, that’s one aspect of doing. That has to do with the facilitators and improvisers. And, also, as you know, a facilitator in a corporate setting, like Greg is a facilitator. An improv facilitator is not that same type of facilitator. It’s not the same. It’s more like you’re running the workshop. You’re not necessarily trained in being a facilitator. But that’s what we say, improv facilitator, but it’s a little bit of a different beast, I think, for the attendants and the participants in the workshop.

Jay Sukow: [00:20:21] And it’s gotten a lot easier with the age. And Second City offers classes for four-year-olds in improv, all the way up through people who have retired. They offer a workshop for everybody. They have workshops for social anxiety. They have workshops for people on the autism spectrum. They have military veterans. And so, people’s reference of improv is so much greater in their experience now. So, I do a lot of facilitation with Second City at Deloitte on their campus down in Dallas, and a lot of the sessions are like, “Hey, you’re transferring from intern to employee,” or “You’ve been working a couple of years now. You’re going to start transitioning into management.”

Jay Sukow: [00:21:13] And so, we’re using improv to help those transitions, and help with listening, and communication. And a lot of times now, I’ll see students I’ve had in Chicago in those classes or people who have been like, “Yeah, I’ve been on improv. I understand what improve is.” So, that has completely changed as far as going into a place. And before, it’d be like, “All right. Who knows what improv is?” and nobody would raise their hand. People are afraid. And this is not just in the corporate setting but in life. They’re afraid of they think they’re going to be made fun of, they think they’re going to be put on the spot, they think they’re going to be out there by themselves. And improv is the opposite of that.

Jay Sukow: [00:21:52] And they think it’s just like you’re going to go out there willy-nilly, and say whatever, and it’s whatever you say is right. And it’s like no, that’s not it. Improv is very hard, which sounds counter, but it is because you have these parameters. And you’re out there — Seinfeld said it, “People would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy.” So, you’re doing something that is addressing the fear of public speaking, addressing being in your head analyzing things because your brain wants to figure things out. Your brain wants steps. That’s why we love steps, and we love acronyms because it’s like, “Oh, here’s the thing we’re doing.” With improv, it’s, “We’re doing this thing together. We have to do it step by step together.” And to have that, where most of your life, you’re defensive, and you’re protecting yourself, and people are like, “Well, how do I get out of my head?” It’s like, “Well, sad news is you don’t.” But improv has skills to help you stay. You’re really talking about staying present.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:59] Yes, yes.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:00] And say yes and staying in the moment to be open for anything that can happen. Now, people, and there are business books like Bob Colhan has a business book, and Second City has a business book, and David [Lazuski] down in San Diego, they all have books that apply to business. So, people now have — that’s giving it a sense of legitimacy. As you know, it’s like, “Oh, you’ve got a book. Well, you must be an expert because you have a book,” which is true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:30] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:31] So, you go in there now, and it’s like that book has allowed people who are making decisions for these meetings to say, “Oh, we’re bringing in somebody. There’s going to be some takeaways. There are going to be some key takeaways that we can apply.” It’s not just this thing of like, “Oh, it’s going to be fun.” And so, you get in these situations, and my wife is a consultant, and the thing you struggle against is (1), people don’t want to look foolish; (2), they don’t want to participate. Like you know, you go to meetings, people think it’s time to — honestly, it’s a time to zone out, or just kind of not pay attention, or you do pay attention, but you don’t have to interact as much. My wife says she would rather not give an answer than give the wrong one because of how it’s going to reflect on her. And as an improviser, I’m like the opposite. I’m like, “I’m going to answer it. It might be wrong. That will be fun.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] Also, I think, within that, “I’d rather give the answer. I can just keep it to myself,” I think it also goes, “Who’s the power figure in the room?”

Jay Sukow: [00:24:39] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:39] Who’s the most senior in the room?

Jay Sukow: [00:24:42] Who’s the most senior person? And are they buying in? And if you go into a place, if you go into a session, and that person is like jumping in 100%, and they’re enjoying it, that’s the most fun easiest session because everyone defers to that senior person. And if they’re there, and they’ve got their arms crossed, and they are on their phone, or they walk out, or they are not even participating, then it’s like, “Okay.” It’s a little bit of a struggle to get them to buy in. And like a regular class that isn’t in the business setting, people are signed up because they’re there because they want to do something. They want to be a better person. They want to listen better. Heck, they might want to meet people. They might like improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:25:33] When you go in a business setting, sometimes, it’s, “Hey, surprise. Guess what you’re doing.” And they don’t want to be there all the time. They might get something out of it to the end, but not everybody is like, “Oh, I want to be here.” And so, that’s another thing that’s a challenge. And if you don’t have people who are the improv facilitators with experience in that arena, it’s hard to have them. It’s hard to set them up for success because you need people who can translate the language. You need people who can look in somebody’s eyes and say, “Okay, this person is is completely scared and nervous. I’m not going to ask them to answer questions or participate,” as far as I look to somebody else, and it’s like, “Oh, they’re willing to come out and be fearless.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:27] Yeah, you can tell by body language. I-

Jay Sukow: [00:26:30] You could tell by body language, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:32] I was doing something with a group of 400 accountants, and I asked for a volunteer, and it was quiet. And, finally, after a little bit of silence, this woman raised her hand. And she came up on stage, and she was great. We had a blast. And we’re making people laugh, and we get a whole thing about listening to stuff. And then, I asked her, “Was it that difficult?” She goes, “No. It’s actually fun. The difficult part was raising my hand and volunteering.”

Jay Sukow: [00:26:56] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:59] And I look at that leaning in, that fear, that inner critic that’s saying, “Don’t, don’t, you’re going to look stupid up there.” But to your point earlier, it’s a safe environment.

Jay Sukow: [00:27:07] That’s a huge part of it. It’s like you have to set the tone as a place that’s safe and a place that’s like you might think we’re doing all of this, but we’re not. We’re not going to pull you up. We’re not going to make fun of you. I don’t like — I don’t pull people up. I ask for volunteers. And the thing that’s scary for me is like asking for a volunteer, nobody raises their hand, and then just shutting myself up. Shut up, dude, and wait that extra second or two till somebody volunteers.

Jay Sukow: [00:27:40] And then, what we do is we start off with like doing this exercise of like, “Okay, they’re going to answer questions I ask them. You’re going to celebrate loudly with thunderous applause.” It’s like, “What’s your name.” “My name’s Peter.” And everyone claps, and they’re like, “Yeah.” So, then, it gets them in that space of like, “Oh, when I answer, I get applause.” And then, at the end, we’re like, “Okay, for those of you who are on the outside of the circle, but for anyone here, how excited were you that it wasn’t you up there?” And Peter went, and they’re like, “Yeah.” You’re like, “Great.” And you set the tone. It’s like, “This is going to be a safe. It’s going to be interactive. You’re going to be out of your comfort zone, but that’s where growth happens.”

Jay Sukow: [00:28:27] And so what we want is we’re not experts in your business, but we’re experts in what we do, which is communication, and working together, and being a part of an ensemble, and focusing on the team first, and using information. So, then, as we go, it’s like, “How are you going to take this back and implement it?” Because if you don’t and if it’s just a fun thing, then we haven’t done our job. It has to be something where it’s like, “What skill are you going to use moving forward?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:57] And creating the habit.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:01] And creating the habit, which, to me, the most effective thing is like you have to have us come in at regular times. If it’s a one off, you get really excited afterwards, and then things change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:14] Things go back to normal.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:15] You go back to old habits, right. And you’re not accountable, so you don’t have that. I think the best part is having somebody who’s like an accountability buddy. I wouldn’t call it that, but that idea of like you hold each other accountable because that, also, is improv where you’re working together to set people up to succeed rather than cutting them down to save yourself.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:38] That’s a good point. I haven’t — after I’m done, I say, “Okay, now, how are you going to hold yourself accountable and move forward?” I’ve never thought about the accountability buddy. I’ve used the piece of using index card. If yes and is what you want to begin to do more of, the writing on index card, write on post-it notes. Keep it around you. Be cognizant of it and begin that change. But I do like that idea of getting an accountability buddy, somebody within your office that is attending that you can hold each other accountable after the session is over in order to create that habit and to begin that change.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:20] Yeah, because I think we all need that. It’s very hard. And in your life, you don’t work by yourself. You might do parts of your job by yourself, but you need to rely on people. And if you have somebody holding you accountable, and you holding somebody else accountable, you’re going to do more.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:37] And I like your idea of writing stuff down too because, then, you see it, and you’re dealing with it. If you have — it’s like working out. If you work out by yourself, you might be able to do it. But if you have a trainer or a workout buddy, they’re going to also push you, and they’re going to help you, and it’s going to be a thing of like, “I don’t want to let them down.” I want, “They’re going to support me. They’re going to help me.” Because it’s like, oh, you work out by yourself, and you’re doing, I don’t know, sit-ups, and you’re like, “That’s good enough,” if you’re by yourself. But if you’re with somebody, they’re going to be like, “Come on. One more. One more,” and it’s going to push you that much farther.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:18] Exactly. And I think the writing things down, what I’ve done is if I were to ask them to write something down, then I have to prove to them that I do the same thing. And a couple of ways I found to do that is I had a little bracelet made from Etsy that says, “Yes and,” I wear it all the time. Actually, it broke. I have to get another one. And the other thing that I do to walk that talk is, most of the time, when I’m doing anything in front of corporate America, I’m more in French cuffs shirts, not because I love French cuffs shirts because I love these cufflinks that I had made. One says yes, and the other says and.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:00] That’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:02] And when I show that to them, it helps with that. I say, “I’ve been doing this for a while.” I go and apply it, but I fall off the wagon too. And I need to remember, especially when I’m traveling through the Philadelphia airport or something like that. When I get into those “no because” environments and “yes but,” I need to keep that in front of me. And I think that that does help make that connection that, “Well, if he’s doing it,” and I tell a story about how I’ve done it that maybe they will apply it the same way or do something along those lines.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:39] I have a tattoo on my forearm says, “yes and.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:43] Do you really?

Jay Sukow: [00:32:44] Yeah. And it came about because I have a son who’s 4 and a daughter who’s 2 and a half. And when my wife was pregnant, I was pushing nonstop for the name to be Yesandra. I’m not kidding. I’m like middle name, first name. And my wife is like, “That’s not my name.” And I said, “Laura, at one point in history, Laura was not a name, but somebody had to do it.” And she’s like, “No.” So, I negotiated a tattoo. I’m like, “Well, then, you go let me get a tattoo that says yes, and.” And she finally relented, which was a big yes and on her part. And so, what she did is she goes, “Well, if you’re going to get it, I want to be a part of it.” So, she wrote in sharpie yes and. And then, I went in to get it tattooed, and they just tattooed where the letters were. So, it’s my wife’s handwriting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:42] Oh cool.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:44] And it says yes and. And I say, yeah, it’s a philosophy for me. It’s not necessarily the words yes and, but it’s the philosophy of-

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:54] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:54] And my wife said this best. She goes – and this has a big impact when I do these corporate sessions. She goes, “Yes and isn’t like, ‘All right. Yes, and your way out of problems. Yes, and your way to freedom.” She goes, “Yes and is before I shoot it down, how could it work?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:11] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:12] I mean, just take a moment, and if you look in your corporate world, or your professional world, or your personal world, you have to say yes. You have to. And you have to see us the things you don’t want to do, or you get fired. And so, a lot of times, when we’re struggling, it’s because we’re not accepting, and we’re not going with it. And we can make — humans make beautiful excuses. And that no because, wonderful. It gives my ego a sense of power because no is a power word. And so, it also makes me think because they say no to your idea, my suggestion is going to hold so much more weight or like, “I’m going to say no. I have no idea. I have no other options. I’m just going to shoot it down.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:05] Oh, man. I am speaking to the choir here. Yeah, I see a lot. 100% agree, everything that you said. I love how you laid this out, and the influence that your wife has had on you when it comes to corporate America. So, I’m going to take a real sidestep here for a moment because it begs me to ask this question, did you really kick her out of an improv workshop?

Jay Sukow: [00:35:34] Oh, it was a class, my friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:37] It was a class.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:38] And she was the only one that I’ve ever kicked out of class.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:43] Now, was this-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:44] The only one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:45] Was this prior to being married or was this-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:48] Oh no. Oh no.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:50] Oh no?

Jay Sukow: [00:35:50] We were married. We were married. What had happened, the backstory is it was the first class I thought at Io in Chicago. Like I had done some workshops and things with them, but I hadn’t taught a session. I had gone to Io Chicago or Improv Olympic in the mid — like ’93-’94. I was there for a couple of years not teaching but just performing. And then, I came back, and this was like early 2000. And I said, “Come to my class, tell me if I’m talking too much. Give me some notes and some feedback,” because teachers, and like I’m doing on this podcast episode, love to talk. And I had a guy who was a coach of a team, and a show would be 22 minutes, he would talk for 45 after the show. Like come on, man.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:46] So, she was in the class. And I knew that people after that class would be like, “We’re all moving on, right?” And you move on together. But I knew she wasn’t going to because she didn’t want to. But the whole time in class, every class of the eight weeks, she would be on her phone, and I’d be like, “Can you put that away?” And so, because she has a short attention span and, sometimes, she gets bored, rightfully so watching improv, so, finally, the last week, I’m like, “Everybody’s moving on except Laura. You’ve been on your phone this whole time. You’re on your phone right now.” And a part of me was like, “Yeah,” but part of me was upset. I was like, “You can’t get off the phone?” like “Don’t you see the example it’s setting?” Like, “I’m glad you’re here, but get off the phone.”

Jay Sukow: [00:37:46] And now, when I teach, I direct a group here in Santa Monica, they’re called Air Force Fun, and they’re amazing. They’re really good. But I have them — at the start of rehearsal, I have them put their phones down on a ledge where we rehearse, so that they just don’t look at their phones because it becomes such a thing that we don’t even think about it. We go right to the phones, which goes to like that’s going against your active listening.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:13] Bingo.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:14] People think like — and they’re like, “Oh, I can multitask.” It’s like, “No.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:17] No.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:18] And I’ve worked with people that are high powered and think they can. It’s like, “No, you can’t.” Your focus is split. I mean, just based on the term “multitasking,” your focus is split. And improv is such an immediate — you have to be here now. It’s a shared experience. There are a lot of those moments that come up when you’re invested, but if you’re not invested, and if you’re a senior person, if you’re the most senior person in the room, and you’re on your phone, other people are going to think it’s okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:48] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:49] So, it’s like — and we say like, “Hey, if you’ve got to take a phone call,” that happens because everybody’s got 16 things happening at that time, “then, just step out in the hallway, and then come back.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] And come back in.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:00] Yeah, but don’t leave. It’ll hurt our feelings.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] But the whole go. Thank you for the story about why you kicked her out. But as you came back into the corporate world, it really goes down to the culture that is set. And I’ve said that if the most senior person in the room, if they would just give the craziest answer, that would free everybody else up. You’ll love this story. I was doing a workshop for a company in Maryland, and they had a week-long leadership program, and they brought their emerging leaders from the US and Latin America in. And I got to teach a creativity piece. And it was half a day, and off the premise of yes and, and along those lines. And one of the things we were discussing is, how do we increase profitability in the company? “Raise, raise, cut costs.” “Okay, that’s easy. Come on, get out of your head. Give me some crazy ideas.” And this one gentleman from Latin America was, “I tell you what, my friends, here’s how we want to increase profitability in our company, we are going to kill all of our competition’s salespeople.”

Jay Sukow: [00:40:12] Yeah. Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:13] Right? Everybody broke up with laughter, and I panicked because I wasn’t (1), expecting it. The voice in my head said, “If you believe this, run with this. If not, this is going to fall right apart.” And I paused for a moment and said, “You know, let’s take murder off the table for now, because I don’t look good in orange. However, instead-”

Jay Sukow: [00:40:38] I like how you said for now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:39] For now.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:39] For now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:40] Yeah. However, instead of killing them, why do we identify the top salespeople in our competition and poach them? Let’s give them a $30,000 increase over salary and maybe $10,000 bonus. And I can turn that — and I got a lot. As I reflected back over that, I went, “Okay, (1), would we have gotten there had that gentleman not had the — who took me literally when I said, “You can say anything and you’re not going to be judged. It is not going to come back to bite you,” and he said that. But then, it also took me someplace else in thinking about corporate America, and thinking about I was looking for ideas, and kind of knew that people are safe, they’re not going to throw away, or they’re not going to say anything, or if they give an idea, and it’s not going to be too far off of being safe, but we can’t find good ideas with that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:33] When this guy gave us the crazy idea, it took us from safe to absolutely bizarre, that’s when we find the magic is when we can pull it back and find that middle. We’ve got more room to work with. And I think that’s what improv helps us do is find that additional space to work by saying yes and, agreement, pushing it out there, having that lack of fear, per se, knowing that you’ve got support from everybody, and then we can take crazy, and come up with creative and applicable.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:07] When you say like lack of fear and a way to put that also with improv is follow the fear. And that’s what you did, like follow the fear, and we want to shy away from it. It’s like no, you accept it, and you follow it because you go through it. And I think what you said is like, “Oh, it was said, and then I panicked,” which goes back to like my first instinct because I don’t know what it is because humans don’t like — your brain wants to know everything. So, your brain wants to know the steps before they go in. But because we don’t know, we’re going to immediately shut it down.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:41] But what I think is a lost point in improv is your idea is not the end idea. Your idea, your job is to put information out there as an idea, not expecting it to be the punchline to a joke, right, the closer. It’s the setup to get us somewhere. My information. the thing about the murder, if we don’t judge it, and especially if you’ve sold them, you could say anything, then to be like murder, and somebody goes, “No,” it’s like, “No, you’ve told them. You’ve set it up to like there are no wrong answers.” And if that’s the case, then you go, “Okay, murder. Well, what was he really trying to say?” Okay. And your idea came out of that. So, instead of saying no, which is a judgment, and we say like defer judgment. “Yes and” is deferred judgment, right?

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

Jay Sukow: [00:43:34] So, instead of saying no, how could this work? You go, “Hmm, I’m not going to yes and the murder part,” and be like, “Yeah, and we can kidnap them. Yeah, and we can take them from their family,” right. That’s not the yes and we’re talking about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:48] Right, right, right.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:49] But the yes and is like, “Let me look at that idea without judging it because, obviously, that’s not going to happen.” But that makes me think of what is really the need or what is really what they’re talking about? Because, also, with improv in business and in life, it’s like breaking it down to like, what’s the human need. Like when I go into a workshop, and there’s a guy who’s too cool for school, right. I’m like, “What’s his need?” His need is to feel safe. And it’s almost always his. Not to be sexist, but it’s a lot of like too cool for school dudes because men are scared boys who want to win. That’s who we are.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:26] So, I go, “Okay, his human need is to feel safe or validated,” right? That’s it. And he needs to feel okay. Like that’s his defense. So, then, you go back to what we’re talking about of like that step was part of the journey to get us to the final result. And it’s amazing. And you’ve done these brainstorming sessions where it’s like, right away, you start off by knocking ideas and saying no; where, it’s just you’re generating ideas through brainstorming, but people will say no to them. They won’t even take a second to be like, “Wait a minute, before you shoot it down, before you even talk about something else, let’s focus on this one thing,” because, now, people are feeling heard, and that’s the big thing. They want to feel heard. They want to have people who understand them and value them.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:14] So, if you give a suggestion, that guy gives the suggestion of, “Let’s murder him,” and we don’t even hear him out, and we right away go, “No,” do you think he’s going to offer more suggestions as we go?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:26] Not a chance.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:26] He’s going to shut down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:28] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:28] Not a chance. Now, if he keeps talking about murdering, and it’s like, “All right, dude.” I would be like, “Great. We talked all about that. You don’t have to do it anymore. That’s retired. That’s such a great suggestion. We’re going to retire that. We’re going to move on past that.” Like it’s in our hall of fame, but let’s put it in a graveyard. It’s in our improv graveyard where that’s been — that’s retired. Now, let’s move on to something else.”

Jay Sukow: [00:45:53] But if that kicks you off of your session, that’s the first thing said, and if you go no, then that’s setting the tone. And side note, I’m going to get on my soapbox for a second about improvisers and shows, I’ve seen far too many, and it makes me sad, somebody asks for a suggestion from the audience, they give a suggestion, and then the improviser goes, “No,” or they go, “We took that suggestion last week.” And I’m like, “Oh, she’s done everything about that suggestion,” or you’re upset that an audience member says pineapple again.

Jay Sukow: [00:46:26] They’ve never come to a show, and they want to see you take their suggestion, and turn it into something magical. And what you’re doing is you’re telling them, “No, we’re not going to do that.” So, you’ve already discounted their experience and their suggestion. You’ve already discounted it. So, now, not only do, I think, lost that person, you’ve lost other people in the audience because they’ll be like, “I’m not going to give you a suggestion.”

Jay Sukow: [00:46:46] And the same with the corporate setting. You have to make it safe. And sometimes, it’s like scared dogs. You have to slowly pull them out of that state where it’s like they’re very scared, they’re defensive. So, if you lay a little bit of food out, they’ll come out a little bit. If you lay a little more, they come out a little more. If you make it a safe place, then you have that person who’s bought into it. And so, kudos to you for doing that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:15] Thank you. Looking back and listening to you, I just reacted in what I have learned through improv is not to shoot it down, not to shoot any idea down. Let’s play with it, but let’s qualify it by saying, “Okay, we’ll take murder off the table.” But it also goes back in the book from Second City Works, Yes And, bad ideas are just bridges to good ideas. No ideas lead us to nothing. And I believe that mantra. And I think in a lot of the workshops, we are brainstorming and getting ideas.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:50] I look at the word innovation, and I think when we talk about innovation, there’s two points to it. An innovation is creativity and the application of it. And in a brainstorming, I want quantity not quality. And I work on the quality after the fact. So, when you come up with ideas, you can’t say, “Do we have the resources for that idea?” No, no. That’s later.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:15] And I think that’s the hardest part in teaching that aspect of it because we all want to maybe shoot an idea down, or we will have the people, we’ll have the money, or there’s always some excuse. But if we take that excuse off the table and just run with the ideas, we’re going to make something magical out of it. To your point, the idea is not the be all and end all, but it’s the start of a process.

Jay Sukow: [00:48:40] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:42] Start of an exploratory process to solve the problem that we have at hand. And if we’re muting ideas from our people, then it’s just going to be a lot harder to solve those problems.

Jay Sukow: [00:48:56] For sure. And again, you’re setting the tone. And the tone is this not a place to give suggestions. And the same thing with when you talk to people at work, you know those people that are like they have the yes and philosophy. They might be like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, Peter, but — I mean, we love it. Running out into traffic is not going to help us. But I hear your idea. I’m going to validate that.”

Jay Sukow: [00:49:20] You also know the people who come in, and they’re like, “No.” Like before you even open your mouth, you know it’s going to be a no, and you dread going to those people, or you know the people that are always going to counter with, “Yeah, but.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:32] Sadly.

Jay Sukow: [00:49:35] You know those people. And so, think about how you feel going to those people. And think about what kind of person — in improv, we say be the improviser you want to play with. So, it’s like be that person in your business that you want to work with. And who is that person? Be them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:55] Wow. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, but I love that. Be the improviser you want to be.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:00] Yeah, that you want to play with.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:03] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:04] What improvisers do you want to play with? Do you want to play with somebody who yells at you? Okay, then yell. If you do want to be the person that places some of your goals before you can finish, they go, “Yeah, absolutely.” And they have this aggressive yes and where it’s like, “I’m agreed to before I even know what it is, but I value your information, and I value your moves.” And like that, to me, is the improviser’s job is like make them look good. And you do that by like if you’re ever stuck in an improv scene, shake your head yes. It’s hard to say no when you shake your head, when you’re like yes, it’s hard to say no to that.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:39] And with improv and business, it’s all in the eyes. Eye contact, you’ll be able to see in their eyes where they are and body language. We also we also say improvise the scene you’re in, not the one you want to be in. So, improvise that. Be in that meeting that you’re in, not the one that you wanted to be. And that goes for presenters as well. It’s like improv helps you read a room, and you go, “Well, this plan is not going to work. I have to adjust. I have to be agile and pivot in this moment.” And how many times has it been like, “That plan went off to a tee,” versus how many times have you heard, “Well, that plan didn’t work”?

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:21] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:22] That went off the rails.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:23] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:23] So, improv helps you to adjust to be like, “Okay. Now, what do I do?” Like you did in that session where it’s like, “Okay, how do I adjust right now because that was not part of the plan?” And your brain is like freaking out. Your brain is like, “Plan awry, plan awry. Just go back and push it again. You go back and try to get through this presentation again.” Maybe just be louder. Maybe just reinforce it. It’s like, well, you’re not improvising the scene you’re in. You’re doing it into one you wanted to be.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:53] So, you accept the moment, accept what this is, and then trust that you’ve got the answers. Nobody wants to sit through a bad session. Nobody goes to a show, an improv show, or a learning session, and goes, “I hope this is terrible. I really hope it’s bad. I hope the presenter struggles. I hope I don’t get anything out of it.” They don’t go to it like that. They might go to a session like, “I’m not going to get anything out of this,” and their mind’s made up, but they really don’t go to a session, nobody goes in and thinks, “I want my time wasted.” And we forget that as presenters too, as facilitators.

Jay Sukow: [00:52:30] I do that where I go into a setting, a business setting, I’m like, “I’m nervous. They’re not going to like it.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. I’ve gotten through these sessions before. When some problem comes up, I’m able to address it in the moment, and I’m never going to have to do that session again. Good or bad, I never get to do it again. So, go into it.” I have a friend who says before a show, he’s like, “I can’t wait to see where we go and who we meet.” And I’m like, “That’s a really good attitude.” I can’t wait.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:59] That is.

Jay Sukow: [00:52:59] I can’t wait.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:01] I can’t wait.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:01] I can’t wait to see where we’re going and who we’re going to meet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:05] So, as you’re talking about presenters, when I do teach public speaking and presentation skills, I set the scene that you’re getting ready to deliver an hour conference session. You get there early enough, everything’s working fine, but just as you begin, your computer freezes up.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:21] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:21] What do you do? And most people begin to, “I’m going to fix the computer.” Well, no, no, you’re supposed to be here to give this information whether your computer’s working or not. And they look at me, and I go, “Seriously.” This has happened to me two or three times. And the computer froze up or we don’t have the AV facility that we’re going to get, but we’re going to use this room that has no technology. “Okay, do we have that? Does that whiteboard have wheels on it? Sure, bring it over.” I’m going old school PowerPoint right now.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:55] And then, if you see that the audience laugh because they’re like, “Ah, that’s me. I’m that guy,” and they laugh at you acknowledging the obvious.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:05] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [00:54:06] There’s an exercise I’ve done where it’s you’re outside to get people, you tell them they’re going to present this PowerPoint deck. They don’t know what it is, but you give them maybe a little overview. They come in. and you have a PowerPoint deck that doesn’t go well. Sometimes, it’s like, “Let’s go to the next slide,” and it’s a picture of a cat. It’s like, “Okay.” Or we’ve done it before where it’s like, “Let’s take a look at them first slide,” and it just comes up, and it , “Any questions?” So, then, you’re like, “How do you adjust in that moment?”

Jay Sukow: [00:54:44] And especially, you forget that if you’re co-facilitating or you’re with a group, you forget to rely on those people. So, you immediately go into the, “Oh, what am I going to do?” because we think about ourselves more than anybody. It’s a natural human thing. That’s why we’re in our head is we’re thinking about ourselves all the time. And that’s not a bad thing, but you go, “Okay, now, what do I do? How do I improvise? How do I work the scene I’m in right now versus the one I want to?” Are you just going to shut down, or are you going to use those skills to be like, “How can this work? And how can I look at mistakes as gifts? I might not know it at the time, but it’s like this PowerPoint going out, it’s happening for a reason, and it’s a gift,” instead of like looking at a mistake like failure. It’s like, “No, no, no, no.”

Jay Sukow: [00:55:30] And I say — my wife still doesn’t agree with this, I say, “Aim to fail.” Like give yourself that freedom to be like, “Okay, I’m not going to try and get this perfect,” because once you do that, all the chains of being perfect are lifted. All the chains of getting it right are lifted. And you forget like you’re all experts in this thing. That’s when you brain comes in handy is when it’s scrambling to survive. And if you add that element of yes and to it, then you’re very powerful and dynamic as a speaker, as a leader, as a team member, whatever it is. And then, you’ll see it trickle into your life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:13] I believe as you were talking about failure and stuff, I had a visual in my head of Annie saying the same thing and giving you — that was the thing that she got for me more than, I think, anything she said was accepting failure. And it’s hard for people to do. It’s hard for people to say it’s okay to make a mistake because we don’t want to make mistakes.

Jay Sukow: [00:56:36] And you’re penalized. You’re constantly penalized for mistakes. But if you look at companies like Google where they go, “You’re going to have a day to work on your project, and you’re a failure.” You look in history too. It’s like the guy who does Dyson vacuums. It’s like he went through how many designs. Hundreds and hundreds of failed designs till he got that right. The same with like cars. And yeah, it’s like you got to accept failure. And penicillin is a failure that became a gift. So, if you start looking into it like that, and you go, “Okay, let’s accept these failures,” but it’s accepted as collateral damage, but also let’s accept that like, “Peter, your failure is going to help us succeed in the long run.” But we are so focused on immediate results that we don’t allow ourselves that space.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:28] I couldn’t have said that any better. Wow, actually, I love that, the way you put that.

Jay Sukow: [00:57:37] Thank you. None of this is my original thought. None of these thoughts are like, “Jay came up with this.” It’s like, no, no, no, none of it, not a single one. They’re just things I’ve heard that resonate with me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:49] Right. That you’ve heard through your journey through the improv world.

Jay Sukow: [00:57:54] And life, for sure. And like I stopped drinking in 2008, and there are things that I’ve heard in recovery rooms, or with my friends who don’t drink, or a friend struggling, whatever, that I use as well. I’m like, “That’s really good information.” Like things will change. Accept the fact, things will change. I’m like, “Oh, that’s a really good philosophy.” So, you gather all this information from your life, and you look at things like inspiration. You, then, incorporate it into your lifestyle. And it’s very scary to make changes in that business world. Like we’ve been doing PowerPoint for how long?

Peter Margaritis: [00:58:36] Oh, yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:58:36] And it’s like — my wife and I, we originally had a company back in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 that was called The Riot Act, and we used improv to drive behavior change. And so, we would go into because she had experience with meetings, and there were a lot of just live meetings, and it’s like, “You go into the meeting. And then, after the meeting, you have these discussions.” So, we tried to bring the discussions into the meeting to be like, “Let’s have them out here. Let’s make these discussions now. Let’s make it a safe place where you can be validated by that. And let’s try to bring that conversation in here that we’re all going to say,” which is like, “Well, I’m not engaged,” or “That was not good.” Like, “Let’s take that in here.” And that’s a way to drive the change is to acknowledge what it is.

Jay Sukow: [00:59:22] And so, we were really successful at what we did. And in 2008, it was like all of our clients said, “We’re not having any meetings.” And it was like, “Oh.” Like our first client was Indra Nooyi, who is the president and CEO of PepsiCo. And then, we worked with McDonald’s and Yahoo!. And like we had really great clients, and we worked in the C Suite arena. And then, what happened is, okay, we had to accept that, now, we are changing. Our business is — we are not able to sustain it. And that failure led us to realize, “Oh, I can still do this with the clients.” We were thinking about having kids now that will help us. My wife got a job at Ernst & Young or EY, which allowed us to have insurance, which allowed us to have kids. And so, that failure turned into something magical. Now, at the time, it didn’t feel good, but it turned into a wonderful gift for us. And I’m still able to work with a lot of those clients now. It’s just I had to wait for that bounce back.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:29] Right, right, right. Wow. That’s a great story. And yeah, 2008, set a lot of people back in the-

Jay Sukow: [01:00:35] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:35] Yeah, I had to go back teaching hardcore technical accounting because nobody was paying for a communication type of courses, especially when there are equated to improv, and being silly, and funny.

Jay Sukow: [01:00:47] And you know it’s like, “Well, that’s the first thing that’s going to be cut.” Improv is seen as extra.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:55] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [01:00:55] And so, when you’re crunched, to me, when you need it the most, you cut it out because that’s seen as an extra expense. And it’s not that. It is such a necessary expense that you’re driving behavior change, and you’re changing cultures, and you’re retaining your employees because they feel validated, and they feel like this is a place I’m safe to make mistakes, and this is a place I’m going to grow, and this is a place that values my time in my opinion. And, now, especially with younger generations, they don’t sit at a company for a career and go, “Well, I’m going to work 30 years for IBM, and that’s it.” They will harp around because the money is not important.

Peter Margaritis: [01:01:38] Let me change one word, which you said, that I’ve used to help frame it in a different way. I learned this from somebody else. I don’t use the word cost anymore or expense. I look at it as an investment. You’re investing in your people. It’s not an expense in your people. You’re investing in your people because with an investment, you’ll say, “Where will this take me?” When somebody comes to me with an idea, where would this investment take us?” And I think when we look at from that perspective that maybe we’ll frame it in a different way that people might not, knee-jerk reaction, start cutting these “expenses” that ultimately are really just investments into the company’s future.

Jay Sukow: [01:02:26] Yeah, I love that. I love that positive spin on it. Like it’s the same idea, but you’re making it that positive spin. And that’s what, to me, the improviser is. And so, yeah, I love that change to be like it’s an investment. You are going to get something out of it rather than take something away from it.

Peter Margaritis: [01:02:48] Bingo. Bingo. And I’ve used that a ton of times. And most of my audience are CPAs and accountants, and they love the word cost. But when I frame it in that way, that’s Scooby Doo, “Awoo,” comes on their face, and the light bulb goes off and allow, “Yeah, that’s a better way of framing that comment or that sentence.”

Jay Sukow: [01:03:17] And it’s such a slight change, it’s such a huge change.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:20] Exactly. Jay, we could talk probably for five hours.

Jay Sukow: [01:03:26] Well, then, let’s say this is the first part of a five-part series.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:31] Five-part series. I want to respect your time. I-

Jay Sukow: [01:03:38] You did respect my time by having me on. It’s very respectful that we talk about improv. For sure.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:44] And the one thing I know about that, I’ve interviewed two other people about improv, we already talked about Annie and another woman named Allison Estep.

Jay Sukow: [01:03:55] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:56] You know Allison?

Jay Sukow: [01:03:58] She was a student of mine.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:00] Her too?

Jay Sukow: [01:04:00] I talked to her about this. Yeah, I talked to her. She’s living in London now. And I said, “Allison, are you the same Allison Estep that was on Peter’s podcast?” And she goes, “Yes.” You interviewed her a couple of years ago.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:16] It wasn’t that far back. It was maybe six months ago actually.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:21] Okay, a couple months ago. But, yeah, for sure, we talked about it.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:24] Yeah. And one thing that — and Allison used to work for the Indiana Society of CPAs as a marketing person.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:30] Yes, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:32] She found out that I do Improv Second City, and we just merely — I don’t literally mean this, but we literally fell in love with each other just having that conversation, just having that energy. And I interviewed her. She’d left the United States and went to Dubai. She’s in Dubai for long. I guess, now, she’s in London or whatever, and-

Jay Sukow: [01:04:53] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:54] … yes-anding her way around the world.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:56] And so much happier now.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:58] And so much happier. But I love talking about improv, and I love talking to people who understand it because you hear the passion, you hear the energy, you get the knowledge. And like I said, I could have — with you, with Annie, with Allison, love the conversations. We will have more. And I appreciate your time. I appreciate you sharing this with myself. I’m going to be selfish right now. Thank you for sharing this with me, my audience will get it as well, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned some new things. I’ve learned some different approaches just within this hour conversation. And I look forward to having a conversation with you again in the very, very near future.

Jay Sukow: [01:05:48] You’re welcome. And I’ve learned a lot as well. And I appreciate you. And, yeah, let’s talk more.

Peter Margaritis: [01:05:54] Perfect. And give your lovely wife my best. She doesn’t know me, but I figure she’s going to hear about me, and-

Jay Sukow: [01:06:03] She’s going to. I’m going to make her listen to this one, for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [01:06:10] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to make better connections with those around you? How will you become better at accepting and learning from your failure? Will you adopt a yes and mentality and bring it with you every single day? Remember, to enact change, you have to practice it every single day by taking baby steps.

Peter Margaritis: [01:06:37] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit wwww.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their network.

Announcer: [01:06:59] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio:turning the volume up on business.