S2E15 – Sean Kenny | How PrepLink Plans to Transform Public Accounting

Sean Kenny is the Co-Founder of PrepLink, a platform that allows accounting firms to work with freelance CPAs remotely, flexibly, and on demand. He is on a mission to transform the landscape of public accounting, and as you’ll hear in this episode, he is extremely passionate about this mission (and, personally, I think PrepLink is going to evolve into something very special).


Before founding PrepLink, Sean worked as a CPA for several firms in their tax departments, and the idea was born out his frustration with the lifestyle of public accounting – a frustration many of us understand all too well.


Sean realized that by providing a tool that allows accountants the option of finding remote, flexible work, he could tap into the abundance of talented and experienced CPAs willing to take on freelance assignments and open that up to firms who can benefit from a large pool of reliable on-demand experts.


“I want to offer a small firm all the resources of a large national accounting firm.” So when a small firm needs help with a specific subject matter they don’t know much about or a big project that needs more hands, they know they can find someone perfect for the job and bring them on.


PrepLink isn’t just outsourcing, though. It’s a new network for public accounting, allowing firms and professionals to establish and build relationships within the CPA community.


Sean shares an example of how he plans to use PrepLink to help him navigate the complexities of Nexus for an online business operating in multiple states:


“Right now, I have a business. I have clients all over the country. I’m actually going to have to use PrepLink to bring on people to help me understand my requirements as an internet business with all these accounting firms that I’m dealing with across the country. I need help there.”


But it’s just not the accounting entrepreneurs like Sean who will benefit from this. It’s tax managers or auto managers have this nagging feeling that there’s to be a better way of doing things. “I’m screaming from the mountaintops,” Sean says, “if you offer flexibility, the amount of people willing to work with you will outstrip the amount of work that you have.”


Sean also stresses that you don’t have to use PrepLink. “You can do it yourself. I hope this message gets across. Just offer flexibility and offer optionality, and you’ll get people. You’ll get amazing people.”


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Sean Kenny: [00:00:00] It’s really important to be able to tell this vision, tell this story, so I can build up this army of people who want to make change. I’m telling them this vision. I’m giving them these tools. I’m like, “Come along.” Like, “Let’s go.” And these people are telling other partners.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:31] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation. Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:19] Welcome to Episode 14. And my guest today is Sean Kenny, who’s the Co-Founder of PrepLink, a platform that allows accounting firms to work with freelance CPAs remotely, flexible, and on demand. It’s the only platform of its kind designed exclusively for people in public accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:39] Before founding PrepLink, Sean worked as a CPA for several firms in their tax departments. The idea for PrepLink was born out his frustration with the lifestyle of public accounting. Sean discovered that by providing a tool that allows accountants the option of finding remote, flexible work, he could tap into the abundance of talented experienced CPAs willing to take on freelance assignments and firms who could benefit from the large pool of reliable on-demand experts. With PrepLink, firms can serve their clients better, retain their in-house staff, and become more profitable. He’s bringing this message and solution to public accounting to create a change for the better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:25] Now, Sean lives in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife and co-founder, Emily, and their two children. Sean is also a member of the South Carolina Association of CPAs. And I would like to thank Chris Jenkins for putting me in touch with Sean. By the way, if you know someone who would make a great guest for this podcast, please email me at Peter@PeterMargaritis.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:49] Now, if you’ve been listening to my podcast, you know that I published my new book, Taking the Numb Out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity, on July 30, 2018. The feedback that I’ve received has exceeded my expectations. You can read the reviews on Amazon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:08] But I would like to share with you an email that I received from Ryan Parker who is a CPA, who is also the CEO of Endicott Clay Products. Ryan said, “Peter, as I sit here on a flight to Lincoln, I just finished your new book. Congratulations. It was a great read and full of practical sound advice for presenting seemingly boring numbers in a way that engages an audience and challenges those of us that do present to elevate our game.” Actually, he liked it so much, he purchased 10 copies for his team, his sales team. He says his sales team presents to architects. And instead of taking the numb out of numbers, he wants them to take the ick out of the brick. God, I love that parody he used.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:57] If you like to order my book in bulk, that’s 10 or more, for your team or as a holiday gift for your clients or customers, please email me at Peter@PeterMargaritis.com. I will fulfill the order from my office, personally sign all copies, and provide you with a discount somewhere between 10% and 15%, depending upon the size of the order. The book is available on Amazon, in paperback, and on Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing, buy it today, and begin taking the numb out of numbers or the ick out of the brick. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Sean Kenny.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:40] Everybody, welcome back. I’m talking to Sean Kenny today. And he is one of my all-time favorite cities. He’s in Charleston, South Carolina. And Sean, welcome to my podcast.

Sean Kenny: [00:04:54] Thanks, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:54] It’s great to meet you because this is the first time we’ve met. The South Carolina Association contacted me and said, “You got to interview this guy. He’s got something special.” So, Sean, before we get into what you’re providing the accounting community, give us a little bit of your background.

Sean Kenny: [00:05:14] Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ve been a CPA for five years. Well, I worked in the industry for five years, primarily in the tax department. I was looking to, one day, open up my own firm, serve my own clients because I really enjoyed the work. I really enjoyed helping people. And that is when I came up with my idea because I think a lot of people out there, we love the work but had a hard time swallowing the concept of the next 25 years of tax seasons. And then, also, I didn’t really have all the technical skills because I was only there for a few years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:10] So, you said you couldn’t envision or swallow the fact that you’d be in a cubicle doing tax work in busy seasons for 25 years. My background, I was at Pricewaterhouse. So, this is before the Cooper’s merger. And I had that same realization, but it took me three years to finally go, “Right. This isn’t going to work.” I love the work. I wasn’t really a technical person, but I love helping my clients, I love that interaction, and just the model didn’t fit me either. So, you didn’t go out and start your own firm, but what did you do? What is this thing that you’re creating?

Sean Kenny: [00:06:54] So, I created PrepLink. And what we are is we are a platform exclusively for accounting firms. And it’s where a firm can go out and look for a person to bring on that can help them when they need it. It’s on-demand. And it’s only for accounting firms and accountants. And this allows them to collaborate on projects. Projects being maybe they need extra hands on a tax fund, or maybe they just need help understanding a certain issue that’s outside of their expertise. And what I want this to be is I want to offer a small firm all the resources of a large national accounting firm that when they need help, they can go out and bring people on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:43] So, I think it’s a community that I’ve got maybe a state tax issue, I’m in Ohio, but I’ve got a client in the State of Washington or, probably, California would be a better example. I could go to this PrepLink, your resource here, and find that expertise to help me solve that problem.

Sean Kenny: [00:08:09] Exactly, exactly. What I’m promoting is not outsourcing. I want you to be able to develop relationships with people. So, when you have issues from California, you say, “You know what, I really liked working with Greg. I want to work with him again.” It is a community, a network, but it’s a network to establish relationships within the CPA community. So, when you have an issue, you know, “Oh, I can reach out to Jane,” or “I can reach out to Phil. He’s an expert on this.” And that’s exactly what happens at a large accounting firm because these partners, they deal with a wider range of issues. And when they hear an issue, they say, “You know, it’s that Jane from the Atlanta office. Ask her. She’s an expert on this.” Okay.

Sean Kenny: [00:09:00] So, I want to offer that to these small accounting firms because I hear, and I’ve heard this a number of times multiple ways of saying, “If I had an issue that’s over my head, I can’t walk down the hall and knock on a partner’s store. It’s just me. I have to spend all day researching it. And that’s just so I can get some level of comfort, but I would rather bring on a person who plays in the sandbox and just help me with this.” So, I want to offer them this resource of this network of experts. But then, also, it’s also a network of sometimes you just need a person to help you out with tax prep or bookkeeping, and I want to provide that to these accounting firms because so many of them out there are hurting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:54] So, Sean, tell me what — You’ve got these freelancers out there. Can you give me the demographics of them? Are they retired individuals who are looking for additional work? Are they people in firms? Who are these folks?

Sean Kenny: [00:10:11] Honestly, they’re all over the board. Initially, I thought it would be mostly millennials like me. And I was surprised that in the beginning, the largest were, surprisingly, baby boomers, people who have been in the industry for 20 plus years who I heard this over and over again are like, “Dude, I’m tired of going through these tax seasons. I would rather not.” And they’re looking for alternatives.

Sean Kenny: [00:10:48] And there’s also a big demographic of people who left the firm and looking to open up their own practice or have opened up their own practice that need that bridge, that extra income right now. And what I’m learning as I’m going along is that there are people who are very focused at what they do. They’re very specialized. And their clientele are actually other accounting firms, and they’re saying, “I only do not-for-profit. That’s just what I’m homed in on.”

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

Sean Kenny: [00:11:35] And they have a lot of clients who are not-for-profits, but they’ll also have a few accounting firms in their geographic area that they help, and they’re a resource. So, what I see is PrepLink really allowing people to get really honed in and specialized, and really having that deep knowledge about a specific area that a firm can turn to and say, “Hey, I need help.” Let’s just use not-for-profit. It’s like, “We’re having that issue right now,” where a firm is like, “You know what, I have this client, a not-for-profit, they have some issue that’s like registration. I need a person who deals with them all the time.” So, there are people out there who all they do is not-for-profit. And when I’m telling them what I’m doing, they’re like, “This is amazing. I get to market my skills to them, and they understand the value I have.”

Sean Kenny: [00:12:39] So, I want to bring that, not just for nonprofits but nexus. What happened this past year with Wayfair, there is going to be so many clients asking their accounting firms like, “What’s happening?” I’m telling you right now, most people, when it comes to the Nexus and multi-state, they shake in fear. This is like it’s so confusing. There’s so much out there that you really do need a specialist. And I want to offer these small firms because more and more people, as the e-commerce and internet is growing, more and more people are realizing that their business is not restricted to a geographic area. They’re actually now having internet.

Sean Kenny: [00:13:33] Right now, I have a business. I have clients all over the country that I’m actually going to have to use PrepLink to bring on people to help me understand my requirements as an internet business with all these accounting firms that I’m dealing with across the country. I need help there. And I can tell you right now, after working in all these accounting firms, when you have a client that has customers in a bunch of states, everyone is like, “Oh man. This is going to get really hard. This is going to be — Oh.” And there’s only a handful of people in the firm who actually have expertise. So, I want to be able to be this resource and offer people this access to this expertise, this knowledge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:23] So, it’s almost like the gig economy has come to the accounting profession through you, in essence, into the internet. I need a person, I can come to you. I need some expertise, I can come to PrepLink. I can find that individual. I can hire them. They can do the job. And they might stay with me through the whole period of time. They might be my main go-to resource, but if I’ve got another issue that are maybe from a real estate perspective, I can come to PrepLink. I can find an individual to give me that and help me with that information. I think it’s really, really cool what you’re doing. The alternative to being in a firm, to be able to freelance work, and provide a service to accounting firms, especially those smaller accounting firms. How did you come up with this idea? I mean, you just-

Sean Kenny: [00:15:19] Because I wanted it. I wanted it. I’m not some software engineer. I’m a CPA. This is an idea that I had. I was like, “Dude, I want this. This is really cool.” A little over a year ago, I was in a cubicle. I was working in a firm. I had this idea, and I thought it was so — I was so very impressed. I was so moved by it, and the possibilities, and the future. Like what the possibilities, what it just could do that it sprung me into action.

Sean Kenny: [00:15:53] I was inviting partners, which I would never do, in the area and saying like, “This is the vision I have. Would you be interested?” And all of them were just like, “Yeah, obviously,” but it didn’t exist. And they’re looking at me like, “What are you, crazy?” It made me realize that like, “Yeah.” I’m convinced in time that, when this actually becomes a thing, I say that once I have, let’s say, this, it is socially justified where it becomes the norm. I think every accounting firm, every CPA firm is going to be on this thing because how could you not? The value prop, it makes too much sense right now.

Sean Kenny: [00:16:48] But I know most accounting firms right now would not because like, “Hey, I get it. It’s new. It’s this new concept.” So, I’m realizing right now that I have to find CPAs out there who are very entrepreneurial-minded, who want something different, who want something better than the status quo because most things that, right now, the accounting industry, working in public accounting is difficult. It’s really, really difficult. There is a lot of churn.

Sean Kenny: [00:17:27] A lot of the firms hire people entry level. There’s a high demand in entry level because we’re taught experience in public accounting is invaluable if you’re going to be an accountant. And it’s true because we see so much. There’s so many businesses you interact with. And the work is actually great. Every woman will tell you that the work is great. It’s rewarding. It’s the lifestyle. It’s the lifestyle of working in public accounting that they have an issue with, right. That it’s just like, “Man.” Small firms, I think, are getting hit harder because everyone wants to work for a prestigious accounting firm because like, hey, put that on a resume, and you have more options, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:23] Right.

Sean Kenny: [00:18:23] You go work like Henry & Company where no one really knows what Henry & Company is. They have a harder time. So, when they lose that manager, if you’re a partner, and you lose that that tax manager, the whole office feels it. It’s like a person took a leg from out of the table. It’s just like, “Whoa. This is serious.” Now, that partner or that sole proprietor now has to shoulder that work because there is expertise that you need that I want for that firm not to lose that tax manager.

Sean Kenny: [00:19:09] So, a lot of times, that tax manager, they’re mothers, they’re fathers, they have families, they want to get home. They’re missing what’s out there. And if you’re a recruiter, you’re tapping into that. So, you’re like, “Hey, I got this client, this industry. He’s going to pay you equal, maybe more. You don’t have to work weekends,” that’s really appealing to a lot of mothers and fathers. I know because I talk to them all the time. They love the work. There’s issues here that we just need to address.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:43] So, are you focused primarily on those in the tax world, or are you also on M&A world and the A&A world?

Sean Kenny: [00:19:52] That’s a great question. Yeah, right now, we’re pretty taxed-focused in accounting. In accounting right now. And that was me just saying that’s what I know. I know there’s an issue there. I know everyone needs on tax now. So, let’s offer that right now. That’s easy. I know it, and we have all the tools here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:14] What I realized, actually, the first one of like us just being live, it’s like, “Oh no, dude. I got pack this up with all these subject matter experts. I got to put in people who can help on not-for-profit.” Not the tax stuff, but the admin stuff, which I have a hard time even explaining. And I worked on 990s before, and the questions they’re asking, which are just normal everyday questions a not-for-profit would have, I was like, “Yeah, you would need a person who was CFO at a national not-for-profit that you could just consult with, help with that client.” They say, “Okay. Yeah. What you need is you need to register in all key states.” And they have resources. They’re tapping into that knowledge.

Sean Kenny: [00:21:14] I’m using this as an example because this just happened yesterday where a person is like, “You should use this resource or this resource.” So, we’re just bringing knowledge. We’re unlocking these efficiencies in our model that could really change the course of public accounting. My goal here is not to be just like another app. My goal here is to change public accounting for the better. I want to unlock efficiencies.

Sean Kenny: [00:21:49] And I’m telling the firms about this vision. I’m telling the freelancers about this vision. I’m like, “Listen, don’t look at this thing like right now. We just went live. There’s only X amount of firms right now and X amount of freelancers right now.” It’s what it can do right now, absolutely, but it’s also like, “Dude, this is where it’s going.” This message is resonating with a lot of people. Not everyone, but a lot of people are like, “Whoa.” And I’ve had a number, a number of partners and freelancers saying like, “I’m rooting for you. Yeah, I do. I think this needs it. I want this.” I’m like, “Yeah. Come on board.”

Sean Kenny: [00:22:39] And I’m realizing that anything that’s significant that if you truly believe in something, which I do because I’m doing it, it’s really important to be able to tell this vision, tell this story, so I can build up this arm of people who want to make change. I’m telling them this vision. I’m giving them these tools. I’m like, “Come along.” Like, “Let’s go.” And these people are telling other partners. They’re telling other freelancers. I get an email, or LinkedIn, or just a person signs up like, “Hey, Jorge told me about this.” I’m like, “God, that’s great.” It’s beginning to spread.

Sean Kenny: [00:23:25] I wrote a tweet two weeks ago, and I’m not the guy who quotes himself. It was just like a thought. I had him like Tesla. It’s like we all know the company. They have a waiting list. It’s like a year, or 18 months, or something like that for a Model S. I don’t even know if that is what it’s called. They have never spent a dollar in marketing. They’ve never had a commercial.

Sean Kenny: [00:24:01] I just watched a Giants game. Definitely looked horrible, but every commercial break, there was a commercial about a truck or a car, and it’s just nonstop. Nonstop, right. But Tesla moves people because regardless of your belief in electric cars, just appreciate what they’re able to do with no marketing dollars. They had something that inspired people that it tapped into, “This is the future that you wanted.” And it’s an amazing looking car. Yeah, it’s electric, but the thing is badass. It is amazing. It is a car people want to drive. My Facebook feed are people at Tesla. They’re either taking pictures of them buying this really expensive car, and people congratulating them. It’s like inspired.

Sean Kenny: [00:25:10] And that’s what I’m realizing. I’m like, “Dude, I got to keep telling people it’s an app, but no, no, it’s change.” The reason I left my job, the reason that I lose sleep, and I’m still like so excited about it is because I believe in this. I believe in what I’m doing. And I’m telling people in earnest that I’m a CPA, and I want this. And I have to realize that I can’t soften my message to get these nonbelievers because it’s not for everyone. It’s for these people who want change.

Sean Kenny: [00:25:58] And it’s just not the entrepreneurs. It’s tax managers or auto managers who are just like, “There’s got to be a better way.” That they’re like, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” And it’s not. I’m screaming from the mountaintops. If you tap — I’m not going to use the word gig because that has too much baggage with it. I’m going to say if you offer flexibility, offer flexibility that the amount of people willing to work with you will outstrip the amount of work that you have. You buy by factor.

Sean Kenny: [00:26:44] Look at WeWork right now. WeWork’s valuation is $35 billion. That’s equal to Ford. WeWork is an office-sharing company. They offer flexible arrangements where they have offices. They’re actually the largest real estate owner in Manhattan. They surpassed the Catholic Church and NYU. All they offer is flexible arrangements for people, like freelancers or companies. They’re just offering office space. Like a model that’s been around for forever, but they’re offering flexibility. It’s like, “That’s what we want.” People love options and flexibility. And, now, what’s happening in the world, it’s changed. We have options, and we want flexibility.

Sean Kenny: [00:27:40] The CPA profession is behind because everyone says, “No, no, this is the model. This is the way we do it.” It’s like, “No, no, no. People can tap into this option and flexibility.” You don’t have to use PrepLink. You can do it yourself. I hope this message gets across, just offer flexibility and offer optionality, and you’ll get people. You’ll get amazing people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:10] Flexibility, that’s an interesting concept. There’s a firm in Maryland. They’ve got three offices. I’ve interviewed the partners before for the podcast. And, actually, they help contribute to my book there. The firm’s name is DeLeon & Stang. January of this year, they rolled out a new mission statement, as well as some new benefits. And the mission statement, they used to be, “We serve our clients and our staff,” Well, they flipped it with “Staff in front of clients.” I love that. It’s like Richard Branson, “I don’t worry about my customers. I worry about people I hire because if I hire the right people, then they’ll take care of the customers.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:51] And then, they also rolled out that there are no mandatory Saturdays and Sundays during tax season. And then, they took it one step further. They changed their vacation policy to unlimited PTO. Flexibility to a degree, but still not that — And I I put it in this way. That firm is telling their people, “We trust you.” And they have very little turnover, and they’re growing. And the other cool thing about this firm is both of the partners didn’t start their career in public accounting. So, they weren’t pre-wired like most firms are.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:40] So, as I think about what you’re doing, and you’re thinking about the flexibility. So, I see two pieces out there for you. One, baby boomers are retiring. There’s a lot of folks who are still — CPAs don’t stop working, I’ve learned. They love to work. But they may not be in that structure. You have an avenue to tap those who have retired from firms who still want to work, still want to contribute, but maybe not on a full-time basis. I think you got a huge pool of those folks. And then, you’ve got the folks who are at a management level, and most accounting firms, I don’t like the millennial word, but I look at that younger generation that you could tap. I mean, you’ve got a lot of places that you’ll be able to draw those resources on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:34] But I want to talk about you said something about your story. And now, you’ve just jumped in my passion, my lane. And most CPAs, most people don’t really know how to tell their story and what is that story. They think the story is, “Well, we got 14 partners. We’ve got X, Y, and Z.” Those are stats. That’s not a story. And as you continue to grow your business, I think I can go out on a limb here, Sean, and say I think you’re just a little passionate about what you’re doing here.

Sean Kenny: [00:31:12] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:12] Yeah. Now, it’s harnessing that passion into that message that resonates. And I work with some CPAs here in Ohio along those same lines. How do you take that passion and that vision of what you’re doing, and how do you wrap that up into a tagline, into something concise?

Sean Kenny: [00:31:36] It’s so hard. It is so hard. I was asked a few months ago, “What was something that surprised you about this process?” And I was like, “It’s been a lot.” But for a guy who was a CPA, what surprised me was how difficult communications was because I had this idea. This is what I want to do. And it’s so difficult to express that, or how do you write that up? What do you put when you have something?

Sean Kenny: [00:32:21] And we still spend so much energy, mental energy, and the time rewording, coming out. I feel like even on this podcast, I was coming in. I’m constantly thinking about it, retooling it because what you have in your head about what you are and what you want to provide might be miles away from the perception a person has about what you are. And they already have not only a perception, but they also have their prejudices. Everything is baked into it.

Sean Kenny: [00:33:12] If you’re able to tell that story, so that there’s this clarity, and a lot of people, the art of storytelling, I didn’t really have context to it before I started this. So, if you love start telling, “Yeah, the ghost story.” No, storytelling with communication is how human beings understand anything. Okay.

Sean Kenny: [00:33:41] I’ll give you an example because I see it all the time with accounting. They’re telling their clients that they had Big Four experience. I don’t think your clients understand who Big Four is. They’re not accountants. Anyone who’s an accountant or touched the accounting industry knows exactly what Big Four is. I told my engineer, like, “Dude, this guy is Big Four.” He’s like, “What are you talking about?” I was like, “He worked for the Big Four.” And he’s like, “Big Four? What are you talking the Big Four?”

Sean Kenny: [00:34:15] And so many people, amazingly, talented people, accountants with 20 years Big Four experience, which you’re like, “Dude, I would work with him in a second. You know how much knowledge he probably have in this area?” But they tell them, “I’m Big Four,” and they did not convey their experience, their value to them, their expertise, and how they could help them because they told them a story that the other person just fully didn’t understand.

Sean Kenny: [00:34:45] Like, “Wait, Big Four, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” They didn’t tell them that, “Hey, I worked in the Big Four for 20 years on the energy sector about depletion, about oil and wind. They probably know more about their industry than fine. That’s an amazing environment, an amazing resource as a business model but you could express your issues, problem solve with. There’s such value there. But we, as CPAs, we don’t get that training. We don’t appreciate that. So, we’re not able to tell how we can help these clients.

Sean Kenny: [00:35:24] And I didn’t realize this until I was literally — I was an accountant, again, at a cubicle who struggled. Struggles nightly, nauseating where I couldn’t communicate what I was doing. I was terrible at the sales. Just terrible at the whole process. Now, I can appreciate it because I’m better than I was, but I still have to go a long way. So, now, I’m very passionate about how important I think it is for CPAs in public accounting because it’s different if you’re in an industry for public accountants to truly appreciate the skill of marketing and sales.

Sean Kenny: [00:36:24] But under that is the storytelling. My sister works for one of the most well-known technology companies. She’s a very senior sales account manager. They go through so much training for sales. Executives are constantly telling them, “Get your storytelling down.” But what is your story? How can you express what we can do for them where they could understand?

Sean Kenny: [00:36:57] That’s the one. Technology companies out there, and they’re are at the top of the game. So, the top people, the top technology company, the top industries in the world, and they’re talking about storytelling. Their heads are saying like, “Storytelling, storytelling.” And I heard it recently from heads of very influential people from like GE, they’re like, “Storytelling is everything. Otherwise, what are you giving?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:36] What you’re giving them is facts and figures. And facts and figures don’t drive decision making. Emotions drive decision making. And storytelling, that’s what would bring the emotion in. So, you’re talking there a moment. You said the Big Four, and you said all this stuff, and it made me think of something. And we’ve talked about this. So, I asked you the other day, “Do you speak a foreign language?” And you said “No.” And I said, “Well, let me rephrase that for you. Do you speak the foreign language of business and accounting?” And you said, “Of course, I do.” And it is a foreign language.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:11] And I will say, the foreign language of accounting, whether you’re in public accounting, or in industry, or in government, you’re in education, you’re still speaking that foreign language.

Sean Kenny: [00:38:22] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:22] And you are cursed, by the way. Sean, you are cursed. And most people in the accounting profession are cursed. They’re cursed with their knowledge. Here’s a book that you should really read that really pushed me down this path. It’s called Made to Stick by Chip Heath. Great book. And one of the first things he’s talking about is this curse of knowledge, you cannot unlearn what you’ve learned. Trust me. I can still recite some stuff. I haven’t done accounting in forever. I can still go back in my mind and pull this information out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:54] But when you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t have that language, you can’t speak accounting speak. You have put it in plain English. Even in the world of accounting, if I’m the partner in a firm, and you’re a senior or maybe even a manager, my knowledge level is still — my comprehension is still higher than yours. I have to be able to bring my knowledge. I’m not dumbing it down but to a point where we can connect. And we don’t do it. And that’s the other big challenge we have in that aspect of storytelling. You said it, the accounting is easy, the communication is hard.

Sean Kenny: [00:39:30] It’s so hard.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:31] Well, we tend to call it soft skills, but I say we may call it soft skills. I think you’d agree, they’re pretty hard to master.

Sean Kenny: [00:39:39] Yeah, absolutely. It’s not like — In accounting, it’s very rational for the most part. There are tax courts, for sure. And there are ways to go around it. It’s that old joke, what’s one plus one? And I come, and I say, “Where you wanted to be.”

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

Sean Kenny: [00:40:05] Great, but the knowledge is rationale-based where like soft skills, there is not that it’s harder on that feedback loop to know whether or not you’re doing well. And feedback is also big. It can be very painful and awkward where you’re like, “Man, sales call, I was so nervous. It was horrible. It was really awkward for both of us,” where if you look at it as a skill, you would you say, “Okay.” You would assess that conversation, “That didn’t go too well because of this reason, or I could guess.”

Sean Kenny: [00:40:51] If you look at it as a skill, you know you can get better at it. I think a lot of us have this belief that these sales skills or the communication, it’s enhanced, like, “I’m just not good. I’m an introvert.” But it’s not. It’s a skill that you got to keep working on, and you can get training and learning.

Sean Kenny: [00:41:13] Dude, I watch YouTube videos all the time on good people, like quality people, because I’m a millennial, and you watch YouTube to learn a few things. It’s been really helpful where I can approach a sales call where I used to get just so worked up and so nervous. Now, I have fun because I feel like I’m helping. And I think, we, as a profession, need to really respect the sales. I have heard this. And I’m now, as an entrepreneur, I believe sales is so necessary and so great.

Sean Kenny: [00:42:04] If you have the right skills or you have the right approach to it, it really is a noble profession because you are helping people. And a good sales experience, a client will walk away with the feeling of “I was just helped.” If it was a bad experience, and if that person had bad skills, it’s that creepy feeling. It’s just unpleasant. It’s just an unpleasant feeling. And like, dude, there’s just a lot of bad salesmen out there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:39] Right.

Sean Kenny: [00:42:40] Great ones, you don’t feel like you were dealing with a salesman. In fact, I think a lot of companies are changing the names or going away with the needs of sales and using things like customer success or something like that. We’re late in it, but we should. As CPAs, we should be like, “Dude, sales. you know what, forget CPAs, forget others. You want to be an entrepreneur? You want to go out and tell people what you can do for them, you got to go on sales,” because it’s a skill, and there’s a way to approach a client. How do you know there are prospects? How do you know who’s the lead? These are skills. You got to learn them.

Sean Kenny: [00:43:29] Dude, I remember last year, I got a CRM. I didn’t even know really what I was using. And they said, when you have CRM, is this guy a lead? Is he a prospect? Where in the cycle? I was lost. I don’t know. What’s a lead? I don’t know what’s a lead. I don’t know. How else is it qualified? What’s a prospect? What do you do with a prospect?

Sean Kenny: [00:44:00] Now, I’m like, “Yeah, I know exactly where they are,” because like it’s like how do you approach the person? Where are they with a comfort level? Because I was just really educating people, and understanding their needs, and educate them in what you could do, and it’s about helping people. It’s about like, is what you’re looking for what I have? And that’s a generalization, but whatever.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:35] I got to wrap this up, but I do want to say before we go, I want to say a few things. One, you just summarized sales in a way that — and you’ve said it through this interview, you want to help people. You didn’t say, “I want to make a trillion dollars.” No. You said that you want to help people, and you want to see change. And you bring that passion, you bring that message, you’ve got a really cool product, really cool service that you are offering the profession.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:06] If I can look into my crystal ball, I would say if I came back in a year, let’s plan on that. If I still have the podcast a year from now, I’ll be going into my third or fourth year, let’s revisit, and let’s see where you are, and how you have grown this, and think back to this conversation. Then, a year from now, how big has this gotten? Where’s the new product lines? Where’s the service lines? How has all this reformulated or repositioned your view?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:40] Because you get that entrepreneurialship. You get the need for communication. And you’re out there to serve your clients, to serve the profession. And just by having that mentality almost guarantees your success, almost guarantees that you’re continually hard working towards that goal and being able to adapt to a changing landscape.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:04] So, one, I thank the South Carolina Association, Chris Jenkins and his team, for putting us in contact with each other. We will stay in contact over this next year. I wish you the best. I think you have a great website. And we’ll put the link to the website in the show notes. I’ll mention it in the intro. It’s been a pleasure having this conversation. I’ll look to more future conversations with you.

Sean Kenny: [00:46:32] I really enjoyed this. This has been fun because you don’t always get to express what you’ve learned the past year with a person who appreciates how tough it is to communicate. So, yeah. It’s been blast.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:49] Cool. I appreciate it. Take care. And enjoy that good food down there in Charleston, South Carolina, my friend.

Sean Kenny: [00:47:00] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:00] I want to thank Sean for taking his time to explain how he wants to transform the public accounting business and his platform for doing it. I will have to say one thing, he is very passionate about his mission. And I can’t wait to see it evolve into something very special.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:19] In Episodes 16, my guest is Carrie Sechel, who’s an entrepreneurial business consultant, speaker, and bestselling author who is a former partner with Deloitte. Becoming an entrepreneur is extremely challenging and Carrie can help you think through everything that you need to do, so you can start your own business and be a success.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:41] Thank you for listening. And begin the process of changing your mindset, and getting out of your comfort zone, and develop new skills sets to become more future-ready. Your call to action is to take one hour a week to think about what you need to do to become future-ready. What skills do you need to begin to learn, so you can begin to transform your career and be ready for the future? Remember part of being future-ready is being an improviser, and being an improviser is someone who’s willing to take on risks in order to grow. So, thank you for listening, and please share this episode with a friend.



S2E14 – David Krebs | Making Tax Law Fun

Have you ever laughed out loud at a tax seminar? Do you wish that you could understand complex tax law in simple terms? Would you like to make more money with great tax planning strategies?


You may not believe it’s possible – mostly the laughing part – but today’s guest, David Krebs, is here to prove you wrong.


David is an author, speaker, Thomson Reuters Gear Up Tax Class teacher, silver-certified bowling instructor, and Olympic Calculator Edition champion, and he is unique in the tax space for two reasons: One, his unparallelled passion for helping his clients save money and grow their businesses. Two, when he’s teaching or working with his clients, he makes taxes fun.


That’s right – taxes and fun, in the same sentence, on purpose!


David even says that his spiritual gift is making tax law fun. Because “if you have to sit through a seminar for eight hours on taxes, and you enjoy it, that is a gift!” And I really couldn’t agree more.


In this interview, you’ll hear the passion that Dave exudes, and it’s completely contagious. He got me so jazzed that I think I want to attend one of his tax seminars. And I’ve never – I mean never – willingly wanted to attend a tax seminar.


If you also find yourself wanting to attend one of David’s seminars, look at the full list of upcoming events at gearup.com and send David a message asking if he’ll be speaking at the sessions near you (dave [at] cpaagi.com).


Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:00] Welcome to Episode 14. And my guest today is Dave Krebs. Dave is a CPA and owns his own tax practice right here in Westerville, Ohio. And during the months of October through January, he teaches for Thomson Reuters Gear Up Tax Classes throughout the entire United States of America.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:19] Now, what makes Dave so unique is two things. One, his passion for helping his clients save money and grow their businesses. The second one, when he’s teaching or working with his clients, he makes taxes fun. That’s right. Two words you thought you would never hear in the same sentence: taxes and fun.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:42] In this interview, you’ll hear the passion that Dave exudes, and it’s completely contagious. He had me so jazzed up that I said that I wanted to attend one of his tax seminars. And I’ve never, trust me, I’ve never willingly wanted to attend a tax seminar, but I would for Dave.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:02] Before we get to the interview, I want to share an article from February 2018, magazine Financial Management, and the article is titled How An Improv Class Can Help Develop Essential Business Skills: Improvisational theater is moving into business schools and boardrooms. Discover how it can help finance professionals develop soft skills and more.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:25] Now, according to this article, financial professionals are taking improv classes as part of their personal development plan to help develop their listening skills, increase their ability to read body language, and to think on their feet quicker. The article states, “When you have better soft skills, you can tell your story more effectively, and you’ll get more respect for your technical skills.” This is critical to financial professionals as our roles continue to evolve in an advisory role versus the number cruncher.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:00] The article lists six skills that improv will help improve. And those six are: listening, reading, body language, communicating insight effectively, yes and — my two favorite words — and team building.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:18] Now, two calls to action. One call to action is find and read this article. Second call to action, take an improv workshop sometime between tomorrow and the end of November. It is well worth your time and is a wonderful, wonderful investment in your career.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:38] One more thing, let me ask you a question. Are you tired of getting the deer in the headlights look when you’re trying to explain an accounting or tax-related issue? Then, read my book, Taking the Numb Out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity, and let it be the guide in your transformation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:58] Because when you take the numb out of numbers, it leaves you with ERS, E-R-S. ERS stands for effective relatable stories. And isn’t that the goal of every financial presentation? Because when we use story, people will remember and understand what you’re trying to convey. When you use data and numbers, your audience will not understand you. Recognize this, change your delivery. And by doing so, watch your revenue, productivity, and free time grow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:34] The book is now available on Amazon, in paperback and on Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing right now. Go, and purchase this book, and begin your transformation in how you deliver financial information to your clients, to your boss, to your spouse.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:51] Now, I would introduce Dave the same way he is introduced before he begins his presentations. So, here we go. Have you ever laughed out loud at a tax seminar? Do you wish that you could understand complex tax law in simple terms? Would you like to make more money with great tax planning strategies? Our speaker today has written the book, Outrun the Pack in the Tax, and has presented to over 100,000 — That’s right — 100,000 accountants and small business owners across the United States for the last 25 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:26] For well over 30 years, he’s been a Chief Visionary Officer of the CPA Advisory Group, a million dollar plus, 13-member tax accounting, consulting, and investment advisory firm, helping us love taxes from the land of poisoned nuts. Sorry about that. Every time I read it, I laugh. Helping us love taxes from the land of poisoned nuts, a buckeye from Columbus, Ohio. Please join me in welcoming the author, speaker, silver-certified bowling instructor, and Olympic Calculator Edition champion, please welcome Mr. Dave Krebs.

David Krebs: [00:05:07] Hey, welcome back, everybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:08] Man, we’re going to have fun today because my guest, my very special guest is Mr. David Krebs. And I’m going to let him tell you all about his background because he’s got a very unique background. And there’s something very special that, I think, everybody who facilitates, teaches, whatever should take from this conversation and employ.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:29] So, David, first and foremost, I know it’s somewhat tax season bearing, you know, the extension filing season. So, I know that you’re busy. I can see all the stuff on your desk and whatever, but thank you for taking time to be on my podcast today.

David Krebs: [00:05:43] Oh, absolutely. It’s great to be with you, Peter. I couldn’t think of doing anything else. And who would really want to a tax return when they can talk to you?

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:50] Well, exactly. So, now, if you’re starting to look in different directions, I know you’re multitasking getting the tax returns done. We go back, I don’t know, many years. I’m not going to name them because I remember when was the first time I’d heard about you, and I remember when the first time I saw you was at the Dayton Accounting Show. I don’t remember what year it was, but somebody said, “You got to go in. Just stick your head in there.” And I did because I think I was between sessions. And you had — You were teaching tax, and you had a parade going on with Ohio Society staff in your session. And I liked that. I’m not sure what I just saw, but that looks like a whole lot of fun. Do you remember back in those days? You’re probably still doing that stuff, right?

David Krebs: [00:06:39] Oh, you never know what I’ll do on a given day. But, yeah, I remember some sessions like that. But people ask me what my gift is. And I say my spiritual gift is I make tax law fun. They’re like, “That’s a gift?” And I’m like, “Well, if you have to sit through a seminar for eight hours on taxes, and you enjoy it, that is a gift.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:05] Yes.

David Krebs: [00:07:06] So, that’s kind of what I try to accomplish. And I think the incident you’re speaking of is I have the entire Ohio Society staff dancing to music before we even got started, mostly because they are much better dancers than I am and just created a lot of energy in the room before we even got started that particular day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:29] Okay. I’m going to ask you a little bit about your background in a second but you said something. You said tax law, fun, and energy before the class starts. Those are all oxymorons to a degree when I think of a traditional. And I used to teach. I mean, I teach. Well, I did teach some tax, but I was also a tax accountant back in the day. And when I had to attend CPE, that was the last thing that I saw in the classroom, any of that.

David Krebs: [00:07:53] Sure, Well, you know, we call it a tax seminar. I really just always say, “Welcome to the show,” because if we’re not really putting on a show, people are going to start to lose interest pretty quickly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:08] Oh my god. I think — Have I heard you say that before because if I haven’t, then dagnabbit, because I thoroughly agree. It’s a performance. It is a show because the more that you can entertain them, the more they’ll retain.

David Krebs: [00:08:23] Right, exactly. And, you know, that’s why all the different ways that you can stimulate people, it’s just endless. But I find that, certainly, music, which you can start, you can do it in the middle, things, videos that you can do, stories that you can do, if you don’t intersperse that regularly, it is just so easy to lose an audience when you’re talking about code section. And how do you bring those to life? That’s really what it’s all about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:54] All right. So, how did you — So, you’ve been in the profession for a few years.

David Krebs: [00:09:00] I don’t know. You can mumble that one. 32 years on my own firm.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:05] And you have your own firm, you have your own practice, and you’ve been on the CPE tax circuit for a number of years.

David Krebs: [00:09:14] Right. I’ve been with Thomson Reuters now. Gear Up Tax Seminars was the original name, and it still is, but Thomson Reuters bought it some years back. And this is now my 26th year with them. And I was just noticing, being the angel accountant that I am, I was able to add up each seminar I’ve done and within them, I’m at 990 today, which if you’re a tax guy, you go, “Oh, that’s a nonprofit tax form.” But my goal was always, “Gee, I can’t wait to get a thousand of these programs and shows.” And I don’t know, maybe I should just retire at a thousand. It seems like I’ve accomplished my goal. I don’t know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:55] So, if you’re 10 short, where will you be on that 1000? What city will you be in?

David Krebs: [00:10:02] Well, you know, funny you should ask that because I just got the schedule. And I guess I can do that. Oh my goodness. What better place? Cleveland, Ohio. It’s the only Ohio seminar I have this year. So, I’ll be close to home actually.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:17] Where will you be in Cleveland?

David Krebs: [00:10:20] I have no idea. I just get this little piece of paper, and I show up. So, that will be the only one I don’t have to fly to this year. So, that would be great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:30] So, everybody in Cleveland, if you’re listening to this, and you’re going to the Thomson Reuters Tax Gear Up in Cleveland, is that October or November?

David Krebs: [00:10:42] I think that one’s November 12-13, somewhere in there. So, it’s gonna be a party.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:46] It’s going to be a party. It his 1000th. And if he starts and doesn’t mention it, everybody who’s listening who’s in the audience, stand up and say, “Hey, Dave, happy 1000.”

David Krebs: [00:10:56] There you go. Oh no. I’ll let them know. We’re going to have a big party that day. Although, you know, don’t hold me to this. I can’t count very well. I just got the schedule really. It could be Boston the day before, but we’re right there, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:11] You’re very close. So, I have to ask. I’ve always said we do what we learned, and we do what we see. A lot of times, we see in the classroom the presentation that’s full of bullet point, just very technical. There’s no animation. There’s no engagement. And we learn from that. And when we get the opportunity to present, we mimic that. So, when you started off, did you do that, or you got it early on like, “If I’m going to get in front of people, I’m not an anesthesiologist. I want to keep them awake”?

David Krebs: [00:11:48] Well, you know, you have an advantage, Peter. You’re so much younger than I am. Back when I started, there was nothing called PowerPoint, all right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:57] Oh yeah.

David Krebs: [00:11:58] I, basically, had this giant pop drawer. And by the way, I just happened to be looking through it the other day because we’re going to be moving our offices. And so, I was going through all my toys. And in the old days, I had a rip-apart doll when I talk about the IRS, that we can rip it apart, and I could take the head off, and the arms off, the legs off. I mean, I had Ken and Barbie dolls that would talk to each other. An attorney who would yell, a shark hat for talking about attorneys. It was kind of my PowerPoint before I knew there was going to be such a wonderful thing.

David Krebs: [00:12:36] And once PowerPoint came along, I fell in love with it because I saw all the amazing things you could do with it. And I’ve seen while you’re talking about the ways you can help out, help people with PowerPoint too, which is taking the piece of paper they’re already looking at and copying it on a white sheet of paper on the screen, so they can look at it again.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:57] And you can read to them.

David Krebs: [00:12:57] Yeah. That’s not really a good way to use PowerPoint in any way, but I might freak you out, but when I go on the road this year, if I’m doing an all-day seminar, we’ll have over 800 PowerPoint slides.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:12] I think I’m getting airsick.

David Krebs: [00:13:14] Yeah, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:15] 800. Okay. Describe these 800 slides to me. Are they formulated the same way? Are they developed the same, look the same in essence?

David Krebs: [00:13:24] There is a standard background for the most part, but each of the slides will have a picture, every one of them, 800. 800 of them with pictures. They will have, sometimes, music tying in to whatever we’re talking about. Sometimes, a video tying into what we’re talking about. So, each one is going to have a visual piece to what the PowerPoint is saying. So, there’s very few words on a lot of these, that’s why there’s 800 of them, but it allows me to drive home the visual point. You’re looking at a book. I think it’s this 561-page book in the 1040 course I do. I teach practice management, how to run your accounting and tax practice. That may be 300 pages. But they have that, so there’s no reason to just repeat it, but if we can visually stimulate their learning, wow. And so, that’s where that can be a very powerful tool.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:20] So, I’m just — Baffle is not the word. It’s almost like you got it from the get-go. I mean, you didn’t sit there and start presenting, even without a PowerPoint, with an overhead projector, and the grease pencil, and stuff.

David Krebs: [00:14:43] There you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:43] You had props and stuff. I mean, I would assume people thought you were, you know, kind of nuts, and it’s something completely different because the way you presented was very different from what they were even accustomed to.

David Krebs: [00:14:58] Well, I even got that, Pete. The ones who actually started Gear Up, a couple of them came to me said, “That’s not very professional to use props. Do you realize that we’re dealing with a professional crowd?” And once my numbers on the evaluations got to be better than theirs, they’re like, “Huh.” That opened their eyes a little bit because I just did more and then kept doing it.

David Krebs: [00:15:21] And, you know, having the actual PowerPoint was a great way to basically have props, but not have to take them all on the road with me because I needed an extra suitcase with all the junk I carried along.

David Krebs: [00:15:37] So, you know, a good example is I have a map of Ohio that I used to take on the road with me, and it was a pair of underwear. If you really study a pair of underwear, it very much looks like the State of Ohio, geographically speaking. So, I would take it, and tell about the state, and where I live, and where I went to school, and all these wonderful things. And now, I can just show a picture of my underwear or, I guess, I could take off the ones I’m wearing during the seminar, but probably would not go over there yet. So, I can just put that on a PowerPoint, and accomplish the same thing, and not have the extra luggage thing. So, your underwear, you can always use, can’t you? Always can use an extra pair, so-

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:16] Oh my God.

David Krebs: [00:16:17] I guess, I gave you an idea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:18] I’m in pain. I’m trying to hold back this huge laugh as you’re describing the State of Ohio looking like a pair of underwear.

David Krebs: [00:16:27] Study your underwear, Peter. You’ll see what I mean. Really, it’s true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:32] I’m going to do that when we’re done. Did your family — I mean, your background, did you even have any theatrical, or did you ever take acting classes, or you were just always this creative? Then, which leads me to the question, why did you become a tax accountant?

David Krebs: [00:16:49] Well, it was just I had a dream early on. I think most accountants do. I was in high school. And, you know, it just came to me, “This is where it’s at. This is where the fun is.” And doesn’t everybody have that dream? But it actually, for me, you know, I think, there was a genetic problem because my mom was a bookkeeper, my dad was a freight auditor. Both my older brother and sister were in accounting. So, there is some genetic fall there somewhere along the way.

David Krebs: [00:17:18] But, to me, it was exciting to save people money. That’s what really drew me to the tax side. I actually started out in the audit side, but it was that saving people money and helping them in that way was just exciting. But I think that’s something important. You’re not going to be a good speaker in what you do if you’re not passionate about what you do. And I have this whole button I wear all the time, it says, “I love taxes.” And it’s really fun to wear in airports, especially just to hear the comments that people will make. And, you know, from a distance, they think, it’s “I love Texas,” so they’re okay with it. If not, they’ll go, “Taxes? What’s wrong with you, man?”

David Krebs: [00:18:01] But, you know, whatever we do, whether you’re out there, and you do investments, or whether you do, you know, audit or tax, if you’re not passionate about it, don’t become a speaker because you got to love what you do. And, honestly, that’s why it’s great for me to come and service, I love saving people money on taxes. It’s just great to come up with ideas. And so, that’s what can be conveyed when you’re speaking in front of a group if you have that passion.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:28] It gives you a lot. And so have I. I’ve seen a lot of speakers who are technically sound. They know their stuff, but it’s not coming across with that passion. They’re coming across, “Bueller, Bueller.”

David Krebs: [00:18:42] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:42] It’s coming kind of monotone, “Anybody, anybody.” And that doesn’t keep an audience awake. I mean, you’ve got me so jazzed up right there. I might come to Cleveland. I may come to Cleveland, sit through your tax session.

David Krebs: [00:18:55] That’s called desperation. Maybe, at least, there’s a Cavs game that you can go to, and that can really work, but okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:01] But I mean — But you — The thing is you get it. You get that we got to do more in the classroom than just lecture. We got to do more in the classroom to engage. And the ability to take something as dry as taxes, and bring it to life, and, you know, using PowerPoint as the aid, not the crutch, and engaging your audience, whether it’s for an hour or for a whole-day seminar, yeah, it is a gift.

David Krebs: [00:19:30] Well, you know, you like to hope so. And it really is an opportunity for you to help people learn something and get to a new level. That’s what I like, especially practice management courses, to see people know their practice, and make twice as much money from some ideas, or really get a concept that they didn’t get before.

David Krebs: [00:19:54] And you can sit there and tell them all things, but they’re going to zone out before they really get to the part, “Oh, I get it.” And so, it’s trying things in different ways, so that you can bring it home. And that’s what’s exciting, I think, as a presenter when you see everybody really enjoying themselves, but also getting the message.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:15] Yeah. I’ve seen that look like, “Hmm.” I’m with you. Then, seeing their eyes kind of, “I get it now. I know exactly what you’re talking. I can do that.” And that has a big impact. It has a big impact on (1), your practice; and (2), the people that you interact with. You’re leaving a little bit of you every time you leave a place, and they’ve got that piece. And, you know, you may not see them for a year, but you just hope that they act on it because you know it has value, what you’re bringing to the stage, what you’re bringing to them.

David Krebs: [00:20:52] Well, that’s maybe the most frustrating part as a presenter is when they love the idea, they get it, and then they don’t do anything with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:02] Right.

David Krebs: [00:21:02] And sometimes, that’s hard where I come back because it seems like, especially among accountants, you know, 80%, they’re going to hear something really important, but they’re not going to write it down. They’re going to just let it slide right through. And that’s why I always try to have them have action steps when they leave, that they’re going to go back and act on it right then because it’s so easy to lose that after a week or two.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:29] Right. That’s my challenge too because I don’t want to be considered an event. I want this to be a learning process, a learning system. But once they leave, the accountability goes back to them. Then, what can we do to help them stay accountable? What can we do to help them continue to see this thing through, and hopefully put those steps that are necessary that they actually evoke positive change.

David Krebs: [00:21:53] Well, that’s probably the hardest thing for us as speakers is we can do a great presentation, wow them, they love it, they learn it, and then, they don’t do anything with it. And that’s such a difficult thing, but that’s where, you know, trying to have follow-up types of programs. That’s why I do individual coaching, and webinars, and mastermind groups, and just anything where I can get them really working together to implement because it is so hard to kind of bring all those pieces together. So, sometimes just the speech alone won’t do it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:27] So, you have a a mastermind group. So, explain that one to the audience.

David Krebs: [00:22:36] So, we’ll get like five to eight like-minded folks together. And they can put in as many people as they want. Usually, they’ll bring two or three people. Sometimes, it may be a partner group or there’ll be a few other partners. And we’ll just get together every couple of weeks, and we’ll talk about the areas of successful business. I do this a lot for managing, and accounting, and tax practice.

David Krebs: [00:23:01] So, we’ll how one session is all about visioning the company, what you want to be when you grow up. Another might be the marketing strategies that will get you there, which for most accountants, marketing is a very difficult thing. Usually, they’re very good in operation, they’re very good in sales, and never between shall meet. Well, you know, we’ll look in that side of it. We’ll look at developing the team. We’ll look at getting the right clients as opposed to ones that just have a pulse. So, I know when I first started, that’s pretty much what I did. And if they didn’t have a pulse, I said, “Hey, we do estate work too.” So, okay. But we’re getting the right ones there. And then, getting the real accounting stuff like measuring things, looking at the technology, developing systems.

David Krebs: [00:23:45] But it’s really nice to have other folks go, “You know, I’m struggling with this too. What are you doing?” and hearing that feedback. And I learn something every time I do one of those because, yeah, I always like to see what’s working and what’s not working in different firms. And it’s different in different parts of the country and different size firms. So, it’s really interesting from that side too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:05] That’s interesting because they’re sharing freely amongst each other, which they’re all competitors, in essence. But they’re sharing amongst, and doing the best practices, and stuff. And, hopefully, they are applying it, and they are seeing that type of change.

David Krebs: [00:24:25] Well, they’re not really competitors in our groups because like my last one, we got somebody from Alaska, somebody from Arizona, somebody from Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Florida. So, it’s not really like there is lot of competition going on in those locations. So, I think, everybody is a lot freer to share things when they know nobody is really — They’re not down the street.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:44] Right, yeah, yeah. Maybe not down the street, but with the way technology is. There’s a person I know. Her name is Jody Padar, she’s out of Chicago, and she put the boutique firm, and she doesn’t think she’s in Chicago. She thinks she can, you know, grasp this wider net because of technology, and upload it, and so on, and so forth. And, you know, there is some validity but, you know, so, but I think most most people, most businesses, their CPA is somewhat local within that range.

David Krebs: [00:25:21] Right. And that’s what I find most everyone in our groups are.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:24] Yeah. And how long have you been doing these masterminds?

David Krebs: [00:25:28] That just happened really in the last four or five years. We just really — I just listened to the feedback of everyone. Like, for a while, I was doing the practice management book, and somebody came up, and said, “Hey, how do I copy every item out of your book, and put it on a Word document or Excel document because this is some great stuff?” And I’m like, “Oh. I guess, I need to have a whole CD together or DVD together that they can, basically, put their logos on, and they’re off and running.” And something new came from that. So, we had a product that any accounting firm can just plug right in, and be able to get all that information, put the measurements on. And it cuts a lot of the time out of what it takes for them to be successful. So, that’s kind of a neat thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:13] That’s cool. So, out of this speaking and tax practice, you developed these other products that are out there for the business to keep that learning process constantly moving forward versus, you know, I’m going to bet I’ll see you next year on November for your Gear Up session again.

David Krebs: [00:26:34] Right. And I’m open when after people take the course, and they have a question on something, they e-mail me, and I sort of help. And for me, it’s very satisfying to see somebody do well and know you have a small piece of that as they get going. That’s very satisfying.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:52] Yeah. And I like the way you put it, “I like to help people save money,” because it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. It’s about them. And that’s part of — A big part of your success is where your focus is. Your focus is not so much on you, and my firm, and all of this. That passion lies with helping people. And because of that, you know, your business just explodes.

David Krebs: [00:27:20] Well, you know, you think accountants just like to sit at a desk, and punch numbers in, and that is probably a piece of the learning process. But really, for me, it’s all about helping others. That’s the part that’s passionate. And clients, it’s about helping them save money and strategize for their futures, and their retirements, and their kids. For accountants, it’s great to see them make more money, balance their lives, and have the type of firm that they really want to have. So, when they can vision out what they want to be, and I can help them get there, that’s exciting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:51] And for those of you, you’re listening to this, but as Dave is explaining this and talking about this, I kid you not, he’s got the biggest smile on his face. I mean, it’s very genuine when he say that. And you can hear it in his voice, but his face gives it all away. I mean, he’s smiling, and he’s, you know, thinking about his clients, and his eyes are sparkling, which is really cool because he’s just not a tax accountant.

David Krebs: [00:28:16] Oh, I apologize there. Peter started looking at me. The rest of you are lucky, you don’t have to. So, congratulations.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:26] So, you like helping people. So, let’s go down that path. What else do you do to help people outside of your practice?

David Krebs: [00:28:33] Oh, wow. Okay. Well, I have a couple of other full-time jobs. One of them is I am a high school bowling coach, believe it or not. And now I understand, all you people from California and Florida, all right, it’s cold here in the winter, and there’s nothing do, all right. So, it’s been a popular thing. Every high school in Central Ohio has one.

David Krebs: [00:28:56] And so, for me, that was a great challenge when I found out the school my son went to, they won two matches in four years, and we kind of put some of these different things that I teach in practice, and visioned out going to the state finals. And believe it or not — Peter, this is amazing — in three years, we made it to the state finals in Ohio from a team that had won two matches over four years.

David Krebs: [00:29:19] It’s just the principles that we’re teaching to an accounting firm, to our small businesses, that type of stuff. Accountants and advisors have a great opportunity to use these principles in anything we do. So, it’s kind of similar to I’m the president this year of the Rotary Club in Westerville, Ohio here, which is a suburb of Columbus. And so, you know, my vision in that was to — Especially before that was to have the greatest 4th of July celebration in Central Ohio.

David Krebs: [00:29:51] So, we added different bands and music all day. We have a parade and a race that were already there, combining with fireworks. And so, it’s just an incredible day for the City of Westerville all because of visioning it out, where we want to be, what does this kind of look like. And so, we’re doing a lot of that even with just our regular meetings, and things, hearing what members want to do, and how to achieve that. So, it’s fun to use what we know as financial advisors in all kinds of areas, whether it’s Rotary, whether bowling, whether it’s doing tax return.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:25] Yeah. As you’re describing the bowling team, and I’m sort of thinking, you’ve turned it into a presentation or speech, haven’t you? And so, for transparency, Dave is a member of the National Speakers Association. So am I. And Dave has been a member for a while. And as you saying that, I’m thinking, “God, that will make a great speech.” As you were describing that because how we took — we won two games in, what, two or three years. And then, three years later, we won the state championship. I mean, there’s a lot of lessons there that you could share using that story that would capture audiences’ imaginations.

David Krebs: [00:31:04] Right. Well, you know, if you’re doing tax, then that will probably be a keynote for me, you know, rising to the top of the bowling empire, right. But the reality is, you know, anything in life, there’s a story. And I think the key, if you’re going to be a presenter, is to just look at life on a daily basis. And, for me, because, you know, I’m an old man now, I can’t remember anything, I have to write down things that happen on a daily basis or it’s gone. And those things can be so tied into a presentation, even in a tax talk. It can be done because you can talk about — Just that example there where you’re talking about the bowling team, and visioning out, and making it. It wasn’t that perfect story when you’re talking about visioning your company, or accounting firm, or for a small business. Those stories are what make the seminars interesting, and that’s what holds interest.

David Krebs: [00:32:04] And so, wherever I go, I’ve got my camera ready to take a picture of something stupid. I was just in New Zealand, and it had a crossing for the aged. So, I went out next to it, had my picture taken next to it, and kind of hanging on the side. When I’m talking about retirement, they’re going to see me hanging on the sign for the aged from New Zealand, right. But, you know, all those little things that happen day-to-day can be tied in.

David Krebs: [00:32:35] Now, I know a lot of people do tax seminars, and they’ll tell story after story, but it’s had nothing to do with the topic. I’m like, “I’m also here for tax seminar, guys. Don’t waste my time just telling stories. Let’s go out afterwards, and you tell me stories. I want to learn something here.” When you can tie your life and your stories into your seminar, now, you got something of value.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:00] Right. You’re able to take that story. And I find the more stories that we can tell that involve our daily life, and bring it into the business world, and have it attached to something that’s going on in business, it’s put in a context that everybody in that room can understand, and everybody gets it, And you could see through the body language that they’re nodding their head or whatever, but stories have emotion to it. There’s some type of emotion. And think about — You’re talking about the passion of what you do. There’s a lot of emotion in there, which keeps audiences engaged.

David Krebs: [00:33:35] Correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:35] Hold on, Cody. I got to — Cut this part out here a second.

David Krebs: [00:33:42] Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:42] Jack Park was calling in. It just kind of threw me there for a second.

David Krebs: [00:33:45] Hi, Jack.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:47] He probably wants to talk football or something.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:49] So, you’ve accumulated all these stories. You weave it into every tax presentation you do. You keep them engaged. What’s left? What’s next? Well, I mean, let me rephrase that. What’s the new thing that you’re going to bring into the classroom? What’s that next new shiny object that you’re going to use to help engage that audience to keep their attention? That’s what the question was leading to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:21] Here we go.

David Krebs: [00:34:24] So, I think that the idea of lifetime learning just comes to mind when you’re asking that. I’m not sure what the next unreal thing that I’m going to do during the session will be because I’m always watching. I’m always learning. I love to see how people tie in technologies. I love to learn what people are doing. I love to just listen to the attendees. Oftentimes, they have the best ideas and what do they need.

David Krebs: [00:34:52] And so, I don’t always know what it’s gonna be until somebody brings it up. But I do know that, you know, if there is a new technology, I am going to waste my money and get it just to see what it does, and can I use that on the sessions? You know, I’ll try just about anything. And some things work, and some things don’t, but it’s always good to push the edge on what people do. And it’s just kind of keeping the eyes and ears open to what’s going on out there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:23] Once again, he’s focused on the audience. That’s the theme I get, which is awesome because that’s what we should be doing, focus on that audience. They’re giving us information. We just have to be able to grab it, mold it, and deliver back to them to help with that engagement. And thinking about that, you said something about technology. So, I’ll go down this path just a tad bit with artificial intelligence, blockchain, all this technology that’s coming out. And we hear that it may have an impact on the profession itself. What do you envision? Where do you see this technology? How would it potentially impact with the enhancement, or will it impact in a negative way your tax practice?

David Krebs: [00:36:10] Well, I think artificial intelligence would have a lot of implications in just about anything. I can’t wait to send just a 3D picture of me to Cleveland instead of having to drive, I’ll tell you that. That would be a awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:25] A hologram of you.

David Krebs: [00:36:27] Exactly. I’d be totally cool with that. But even in that profession, what I’m finding is, now, which never happened before, I’m doing a lot more webinars. So, I can sit at home in my bunny slippers. Are you wearing bunny slippers right now? I guess-

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:42] No. I’m wearing my dog slippers.

David Krebs: [00:36:45] Okay, that’s fine. I’m not prejudice against dog slippers, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] Okay.

David Krebs: [00:36:50] But, anyway, you know, that’s a thing that’s happening now. Webinars are becoming a lot more popular where the attendance at our live seminars goes down, but the webinars have exploded in the number of people. So, I can stay at home through some of the technology instead of going on the road, and fighting over travel and things like that, which I’m not sure my family will be happy or not about that, but I’m hoping they’ll be happy that I’ve got more time at home. So, that’s good.

David Krebs: [00:37:19] And then, you know, certainly, on the work side, and this is something I teach a lot of about the future of the accounting profession, there’s no question, bookkeepers and individuals like that are going to be hard pressed to have the amount of work they do in accounting firms moving ahead because a lot of that stuff can be done by taking a picture of it, the artificial intelligence will figure out when it was, file it in the right place, and it’s done. It doesn’t even have to reach the accounting firm anymore.

David Krebs: [00:37:50] So, now, we’ve got to be able to translate that information, and work at a higher level, and tell what information we need them to read it, and put it into that product that they’ll understand. So, it still comes back to helping a client understand what they have, but they’re going to have so many more resources with artificial intelligence than just the type of business changes.

David Krebs: [00:38:14] And a good example is the 1040 practice here right now. I mean, 1040s, because they double the standard deduction, well, there’s a lot of people who probably could do their own return who have very simple returns. Now, my practice think, “Well, we don’t do too many of that because we do fairly complicated returns.” And actually, we’re seeing a giant increase in business because we work with businesses, and rentals, and things where it’s actually more complicated under the new law than the old law. There are certainly winners and losers in there. And it’s who’s going to win that? Who’s going to say, “Okay, I see this one coming. I got to do something else.” Now, that something else could be retirement. You can do that. Not bad. That can be a bit, but we’ve got to kind of look ahead a little bit and go, “Where are these things headed?” and start to make those adjustments early on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] Yeah. You said an interesting word. You said translate. We need to translate this to the client. And when I think to translate that, I think we’re not speaking to them in tax law or accountingese. We’re speaking to them in the language of plain English and-

David Krebs: [00:39:19] I always call financial statements Greek. And I try to translate it from Greek. Luckily, my wife is a minister, and she had to study Greek and Hebrew last year at seminary. So, I can always go to her to maybe understand these, kind of, financial statements. But most people like them in simple English. How do you do that? That’s a great challenge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:38] That is a great challenge. By the way, I’m Greek. So, if you need any help, I can send my wife down. She’s better at the Greek than I am-

David Krebs: [00:39:45] Perfect.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:45] … to help with the translation. But I ask accountants in my sessions, how many of you speak a foreign language? And a few hands would go up. I say, “Well, let me rephrase that. How many of you speak the foreign language of accounting or foreign language of tax?” And they raise their hand. They start laughing, but they go — When you talk your lingo to your client, to a customer, to somebody who doesn’t have that knowledge, it’s a foreign language to them. That’s why I keyed on that word. We need to become translators of Greek into plain English, so they can understand.

David Krebs: [00:40:19] Right, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:21] So, you’re getting ready to hit the road I hear.

David Krebs: [00:40:26] Well, it’s coming up. I usually have this little season where, for two months, I’m all over the country. In fact, over the last 26 years I’ve been to, at least, every state twice.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:39] Wow.

David Krebs: [00:40:40] So, some many more times than that, but, at least, every state twice.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:45] So, this trip you’re going on because you were saying that you’ve pretty much gone for a couple months, month and a half, like that, almost constant travel, doing seminars.

David Krebs: [00:40:56] Well, I always get back to the weekends.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:58] Right.

David Krebs: [00:40:59] And I try to — You know how important bowling is. I try to, at least, be back one day during the week to make sure that my assistant … the Las Vegases, the Santa Barbaras, and the big sessions in Florida. I’ve gone to Disney and some different ones like that, which are kind of traditional. This year, we’re doing a little less than that. I think, I get my — My hottest one will probably be Phoenix, since we talked coolest spot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:04] Yeah.

David Krebs: [00:42:05] So, that will be nice. But it’s really, you just think slow out the cut across the country, and I try to hit every place, at least, once every three or four years. And some of the places are like, “We need him back down,” and try to push to get me there sooner, but it is hard to hit everywhere. And after 26 years, you have a lot of friends all over.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:28] I bet.

David Krebs: [00:42:28] And you want to be everywhere, but there’s still only one of me. That’s where that 3D hologram would really be nice on that. I’m waiting for that technology.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:34] So, I don’t know if you were there, but in 2000, I think it was 14, at the National Speaker’s Annual Convention, Mike Rayburn had a hologram of himself standing next to him onstage while he was — And they were both performing. It was expensive but it was pretty cool.

David Krebs: [00:42:55] Yeah, I heard about that. Yeah, that’s outside of my budget.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:58] Yeah, way outside of my budget too, but yeah. So, that technology’s there. It’s coming.

David Krebs: [00:43:04] Remember, I used $3 props. You know, the hologram is a little beyond that, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:08] Yeah, there’s a lot more zeros behind that.

David Krebs: [00:43:12] Although I will tell you, I just produced a video that I’m going to release this year. So, my budget has increased. So, last year, I did my first one. This is my second. And one was on the phases of tax season. And this one is on — you’ll love this — the Olympic Calculator Edition Championships. It’s pretty incredible. So, we’ll be releasing that on the road this year.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:39] So, where can my audience fine either one of those?

David Krebs: [00:43:44] They can’t yet. It’s the anticipation. Once I get off the road, it will be on my website.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:52] Okay. So, we need to go look at your website while you’re off around Christmastime?

David Krebs: [00:43:57] Yeah. So, after that, we should be able to get that up and running there. Actually, the website is CPA — how original — AGI.com. So, CPA, Adjusted Gross Income, AGI. So, CPAAGI.com. For all you tax nerds, there you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:10] Well, cool. I’ll make sure that we put that in the show notes here and post it on the website, so people can find that. I’m looking forward to it. I have to ask just one last question because when we talk about technology and stuff, do you still have on your desk a 10-key?

David Krebs: [00:44:35] Of course. I actually have next to my desk one from probably 1940, one of the very first ones. That’s my museum portion. Yet, I still — I just feel comfortable. It’s kind of like sucking your thumb. I mean, you’ve got to have a calculator, if you’re an accountant, on your desk. I’m sorry if anybody doesn’t, but that should just be part of life, and you carry it with you at all times. But, you know, our phones now have calculators. So, that makes it easy, but there’s nothing like whipping out a quick tape of numbers, you know, occasionally just to stay sharp.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:13] You just answered my next question. So, do you have tape in your 10-key or adding machine?

David Krebs: [00:45:18] You know, I never use it. I have the same tape, the same paper tape that’s probably about six years old because as old as I am, I know the numbers are right. I don’t have to guess. And occasionally, it will happen, I’ll print something out for somebody to hand to them the tape with them. But the one here at home, it’s got that same tape on there. I can usually use one tape for the entire time I burn out the calculator over the four or five years. So, we are almost paperless even on our paper tape. So, there you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:49] Well, I think I’m going to start a support group for people that still have their 10-key on their desks as technology continues to evolve. That will be a very big support group because, eventually, if we don’t have to crunch the numbers anymore, it’s just going to be another museum piece, right?

David Krebs: [00:46:04] I’ll put flower on it if I need to, but I’m going to always have it on my desk. So, I should probably be a part of your support group, Pete. I mean, there’s no way I’m getting rid of that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:14] And most of the people in my audience, when I say that, they laugh, and they go, “What will we do without it?”

David Krebs: [00:46:20] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:20] Yeah, it’s-

David Krebs: [00:46:20] You know, there’s downsizing. And then, there’s just you couldn’t, but, you know, give me a way.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:22] Oh man. So, like I say, I’m going to say in this intro that you’re going to have a lot of fun in this episode. It’ll make you laugh. It is so good to finally sit down and have this conversation. You rock it out. I love what you’re doing. Keep up the great work. Thank you so very much for taking time out to be on this podcast. And I know that the audience will take away a lot of value for what you’ve offered. And you’ve got the website, CPA AGI, Dave Krebs. Is there another way they can find you?

David Krebs: [00:47:03] Well, that’s actually a great way to start because they can always contact me right through the website, and that works out really well. So, best place to begin.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:13] Okay. So, that’s where you get a hold of Dave, talk to him, or is your calendar for your upcoming events on your website?

David Krebs: [00:47:21] Well, actually, I should mention, if you — Here’s the easy way to get there. If you go to something called GearUp.com, it will enter you into something called Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Learning, which is why you don’t want to enter all that. And then, that will give us all the live seminar schedules for the year. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily at every location. So, if you’re really interested to go to one where I’m at, then shoot me a note. I’m going to have to tell you where all of them are and let you choose from there. So, like, I just got done with my coaching all the way from Phoenix, and he said, “If you’re coming to Phoenix, let me know.” And so, I’m going to be shooting him a note because December 12 and 13, I’m going to enjoy that warm weather.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:01] Yeah. Yes, enjoy that warm weather. If you’re in any of these cities, go to Thomson Reuters, find out where he is, go attend his session, you won’t be disappointed. And once again, Dave, thank you so very much for taking time to spend with me this afternoon.

David Krebs: [00:48:19] Peter, thanks so much for having me. It’s been a lot of fun. Great seeing you as always.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:24] I want to thank Dave for taking time to make us all laugh and to realize that being an entertainer helps to keep your audience engaged and helps to increase their level of retention. And that’s part of the goal too, making it stick. Thanks again, Dave.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:44] In Episode 15, my guest is Sean Kinney, who’s a CPA. And he is the prep link guy. And he’s trying to change the public accounting model into one that drives more revenue and provides more free time for those in public accounting. What? You heard me right, to drive more revenue and provide more free time for those in public accounting. If you’re in public accounting, must listen to episode.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:12] So, thank you for listening. And begin the process of changing your mindset, and getting out of your comfort zone, and developing new skill sets to become more future-ready. For those of you who take me up on the first call to action about grabbing that article and reading it, I would greatly appreciate if you post any of your thoughts that you have on reading this article on my Facebook page, The Accidental Accountant, or on Twitter, and tag me @PMargaritis.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:37] Remember the part of being future-ready is being an improviser. Being an improviser is someone who is willing to take risks in order to grow. Thank you again for listening, and please share this episode with a friend.



S2E13 – Kristen Rampe & Jason Lieu | Slide Deck Improv: Practice Presentations, Build Confidence, & Have Fun

I recently started facilitating an experimental new professional development program called Slide Deck Improv, and today I am excited to introduce you to two of partners in crime in this venture, Kristen Rampe and Jason Lieu.


Kristen is the creator of Slide Deck Improv, a 10-year veteran of public accounting, and the owner of Kristen Rampe Consulting. Jason actually worked for Kristen during his short tenure as an accountant, but he left the profession to pursue improv and acting. Now he’s back in the professional services field as a fellow facilitator for Slide Deck Improv.


So what is Slide Deck Improv?


It’s the most fun way to improve your presentation skills and gain confidence in your abilities, all while practicing the life skill that is improvisation.


Slide Deck Improv combines the basic concepts of business communication and improvisation with practical – and fun – hands-on exercises.


The groups take part in improv games, culminating in the titular event: people take turns coming onstage, the audience chooses a topic, and then the presenter has to prepare a presentation on that topic using a slide deck they’ve never seen before.


In the process, presenters get an opportunity to take a risk in a safe environment, while practicing new communication and storytelling skills.


“I think one of the beautiful things about improv is that it shows you what you actually do know and what you actually have internalized; to have a little bit more faith in your abilities and to not feel so insecure in a public realm,” Jason says. “I think a lot of us feel like we can’t do it, we don’t know how to do it, we don’t trust our instincts. [But Slide Deck Improv] opens up a whole new realm for people.”


I fell in love with this program the very first time I saw it, and I couldn’t be more excited to be part of it. Because we’re not just teaching business communications skills, we’re teaching everyday life skills.


Improv is all about connecting with your audience, no matter who the audience is. It could be your customers, clients, a sales team, family, strangers, whatever – at the end of the day, it comes to people talking to people. And if you can connect with and engage people, you’re going to have this newfound confidence in your abilities.


If you want to see Slide Deck Improv firsthand, check out these videos of their past presentations on YouTube.



Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.


Peter Margaritis: [00:00:45] Kristen, Jason, thank you for being on my podcast. Today, this interview, I’ve been looking forward to ever since we came up with the idea of doing this. I’m so excited about our conversation. One, thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedule. And Jason is out in California. So, he’s kind of up a little bit earlier than normal. So, I appreciate you getting up to be on this podcast. And both of you all, welcome.

Kristen Rampe: [00:01:13] Thank you. Good to be here, Peter.

Jason Lieu: [00:01:15] Thank you. Actually, I’m in Seattle, Washington.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:19] Oh nice. Actually, that’s the fourth reference to Seattle that I’ve had in three days. Interesting. Maybe I need to go out to Seattle really, really soon. So, let’s start with backgrounds and short bios, so the audience gets to know who you are just a little bit better, and we’ll start with Kristen.

Kristen Rampe: [00:01:39] All right. Well, thanks, Peter, for having me back. I don’t remember how long. I feel like we’ve done two of these before, but I’m excited to be here again, especially to talk about improv again today.

Kristen Rampe: [00:01:50] So, my background, I started my professional career in public accounting out in California. And I worked in that field for about 10 years, with a quick visit into industry. And then, seven years ago, I stopped working in public accounting and I started my own consulting practice where I bring leadership development workshops and consulting to professional services all across the country.

Kristen Rampe: [00:02:18] And more recently, I have sort of developed this really great program that I’m excited to be here with you guys on my team about today called Slide Deck Improv. So, we’re working together on presentation skills, communication skills in business with an improv angle, and it’s really fun.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:38] Yes. I remember when you sent me the email of what was something similar that you found. And I think I jumped straight out of my chair. I got so excited. I said, “This is really, really cool.” So, I can’t wait until the audience gets a great taste of this. But before we start down that path, Jason, out in Seattle.

Jason Lieu: [00:02:58] Yeah, I started my career at an accounting firm, actually working for Kristen in California about three years before I jumped ship. It didn’t take me long. Yeah, about two years into it, I asked my brothers to buy me an improv class for my birthday. And after they gave me a lot of good roasting, they did it. It was like an eight-week program, and I just fell in love with it. And I quit my job about two months after.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:34] That’s the epitome of improv. I took an improv class, and I came to my employer and said, “I’m out of here.” And, actually, he had to go tell Kristen that he was leaving the firm.

Kristen Rampe: [00:03:44] That’s true, although he didn’t mention improv as the reason why he was leaving. It’s good to hear that that’s what it was.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:51] Jason, so, what was it that you saw that made you interested in having your brothers buy this for you?

Jason Lieu: [00:04:00] I just needed a creative outlet, I think. I’m a deeply analytical person. I think, most professionals are. So, I spend a lot of time in my head. I just wanted something that was unpredictable and a little bit more in the moment.

Jason Lieu: [00:04:26] Yeah, when — In any given moment, I’m in my head trying to digest information. And I like to go back and analyze everything before I come up with an answer. Improv gave me this tool that allowed me to live in the moment, listen to people, and to actually engage in real time, and I just love the feeling and energy of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:55] Yeah, it is a great feeling when we’re able to do that, and that you saw the light. And just so the audience knows, please correct me if I’m wrong, since that time, you have also done some acting as well.

Jason Lieu: [00:05:10] Yeah. Yeah, I did improv for a little bit. And then, when I quit my job, I took a part time job doing just accounting services while taking accounting classes at night. I mean, while taking acting classes at night. After about a year, I actually made the move to LA, and went to the big improv class at UCB. I went through their Foundational Improv Program as well.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:41] Oh, man. God. If I was your age again, I would do the exact same thing. I think, it’s a great skill set in life. And, actually, I’m trying to get my 18-year-old son to maybe take a gap year before going to college. I told him I’d pay for it. I’d send him to Second City in Chicago for a year and just let him study on my dime. But I’m dad, and I’m an idiot. So, what do I know? But it is a great skill set to have.

Jason Lieu: [00:06:07] Yes. He’ll have his quarter-life crisis. Don’t worry.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:16] Yeah. Don’t we all at some point in time? All right. So, my question is, and I’ll point it to you, Kristen, what is Slide Deck Improv, and where did you come up with this idea?

Kristen Rampe: [00:06:31] Yeah. So, I’m going to start with where the idea came from. I was talking with some people that I know locally where I live in Michigan. And one gal asked if I would be a part of this event they wanted to host where they were going to have people come onstage and present with a PowerPoint presentation that they’d never seen before. And I thought, “Wow, that sounds kind of different and interesting. And I’ve never heard of it,” but I didn’t really know the group, the networking group, that was hosting this. I didn’t know them that well, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it.

Kristen Rampe: [00:07:10] So, I told her, I was like, “Well, maybe but I don’t know.” And it kind of kicks the can. And then, she came back again and said, “You know, I really think it’d be great if you wanted to work with us on this because you have an improv background, and you, obviously, do a whole lot of speaking and presenting.”

Kristen Rampe: [00:07:23] And I was still humming a hum because it was an evening event. I’ve got a family. So, I’m pretty sensitive about when I give up my evenings. But, finally, I told her, I said, “Listen, I will facilitate it for you because I don’t know why your group wants to see me on stage for five minutes doing this.”

Kristen Rampe: [00:07:40] So, we agreed to that. And it worked out really well because I was able to bring some, you know, kind of wrap new event with, you know, not formality in a stiff way but kind of getting things in line, so it would be a good event for their audience. And we just, collectively, the whole team, that was ACG West Michigan group, we knocked it out of the park.

Kristen Rampe: [00:07:59] And so, the idea came from them. Someone on their board committee had suggested it. And then, I kind of looked it up and, again, put some structure around it, so there’d be a little bit of learning, a little bit of practice, and just a whole lot of fun.

Kristen Rampe: [00:08:12] So, what Slide Deck Improv is, is professional development or learning program. And it could come in the format of either a sort of an event with a speaker or, for a smaller group, it’s like the classroom learning program. And we talk about public speaking. We talk about business communication. We tap it into some improv concepts.

Kristen Rampe: [00:08:35] Most importantly, we play some improv games, which is really fun with a whole audience. And then, the real cornerstone of it is we do get people to come onstage. We choose a topic from the audience that nobody knows until we figure out what the topic is. We give them a slide deck with a handful of slides they’ve never seen before, and give them 45 minutes, and then let them go to town.

Kristen Rampe: [00:08:58] And it’s great fun to see professionals think on their feet where they ordinarily would not, you know, have the opportunity to do that. Sort of what Jason was saying that, you know, most professionals really spend their time in analytical places problem solving, working the details, working hard, and not a lot of opportunities for creative expression at work, but presenting is one of them that’s fun to give them a new way to do that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:24] It almost is like when we’re giving the professional group out there a little arch education in the sense of a problem solving on our feet, and actually taking our knowledge that we don’t know that we have what we have and apply it to the situation at hand in order to make some type of success.

Kristen Rampe: [00:09:45] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:46] And you had sent me a video that, I think, that you saw that when I saw it, oh my god, this looks like it’d be — It really looks like I have no net. And, for me, that was exciting. For many, it will be petrifying. But there’s so many benefits from doing this. And, Jason, would you mind sharing some of the benefits and takeaways that you’ve seen when you’ve facilitated with Kristen from the audience on their big aha moments?

Jason Lieu: [00:10:18] I think one of the beautiful things about improv is that it shows you what you actually do know and what you actually have internalized to have a little bit more faith in your abilities to not feel so insecure in a public realm. I think a lot of us feel like we can’t do it, we don’t know how to do it. We don’t trust our instincts. I think this opens up a whole new realm for people.

Jason Lieu: [00:10:52] I think a lot of people with the “yes and” to accept what people are giving you and to build on it is a great listening technique. People don’t get taught how to listen. I think thinking on your feet, as well showing that — Not an idea.

Kristen Rampe: [00:11:12] Like I did right now.

Jason Lieu: [00:11:24] What about you, Kristen?

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:24] It’s okay, man. All good.

Kristen Rampe: [00:11:24] Yeah. You know, I think those are great points. I saw in the last couple of times that I’ve done this recently, you know, that confidence piece come out in unexpected ways. And, also, the storytelling part of it, a lot of the technical work that people do, it just seems like it doesn’t lend itself to a story. You know, it lends itself to a spreadsheet or a bulleted list of information.

Kristen Rampe: [00:11:50] But when the participants step back and take a moment to think about, “Okay. Now, I have to tell a story about this.” And, you know, the classroom workshops where we have more time for people to get into a story that’s relevant to their work, they can find it. And we can find interesting pictures that can connect what’s important about their message or what they’re trying to persuade people to try, so that it works. It’s more effective for them in terms of their communication.

Kristen Rampe: [00:12:20] So, a lot of other cool benefits in the confidence area and the storytelling area. And, as Jason said, even just giving yourself a chance to think on your feet and be vulnerable.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:30] So, let’s talk about confidence. Most people are not very confident about standing in front of a room full of people and delivering anything. My question is the participants that have done this and, you know, follow that fear, and accept the “Yes and” in the moment, do you feel like their confidence level has quadrupled or doubled from like doing a normal type of presentation? Do you think they find more confidence in themselves by, “I just did something really hard. And it wasn’t — I did it well. I mean, I did it. It wasn’t perfect but that’s okay”?

Kristen Rampe: [00:13:08] Yeah. I would say that’s a definite boost people get as a result. In terms of the multiply, I’m not exactly sure. And I do think it gets stronger, in some ways, the further out they get from the moment of finishing because, as you said, it doesn’t — You know, most people don’t end it and say, “Oh, man. That was the best presentation I’ve ever given” because to them, the best presentations they’ve ever given is one that’s scripted, and prepared, and on point, and relates to their knowledge base. And this was totally not that.

Kristen Rampe: [00:13:40] But after they get off stage, and digest it, and talk with their peer groups a little, and we bring them back up and talk with them about what did you learn. And I just did this yesterday actually. And when the group came back up, and we talked with them about, you know, what was the hardest part, what were some of the things that you had as takeaways, and they all had some interesting things to report. And you could tell that, like you said, just having done it, and being able to say, “I got up there, and I stood in front of-”

Kristen Rampe: [00:14:11] Yesterday, it was a group of young professionals, and none of — not none of them, but each person probably only knew two or three other people in the room of 40 or 45. So, for the most part, it was strangers. So, I’ve got this one gal. She was in like the internal audit group. And she got up there, and presented to all these people she didn’t know, and did a great job talking through her slides. And you could just tell, that wasn’t something she had done before. So, that inherently boosted her confidence, you know, after she got to digest like, “I just did that.” It was great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:44] So, you guys deliver this, or, I guess, I could include myself in that aspect of it, to not just CPAs and financial professionals, but it also applies to other industries, other facets. And, to me, it sounds like that young professionals just eat this thing up.

Kristen Rampe: [00:15:04] Yeah, young professionals group, sales groups, you know, a lot of those people who fall into that sort of category of, “It’s not my job to be speaking all the time or is a big part of what I do, but I do have to do it sometimes.” Yesterday, I had some engineers come up to me afterwards and say, “How do I — I feel like I have all this technical information that I need to share. I have lots of data that needs to be shared. What can I do about that?” And we talked through how you can maybe change up what’s really needs to live on your slides and what doesn’t. So, it’s applicable to so many different groups of people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:45] Jason?

Jason Lieu: [00:15:46] Yeah. I love improv because it’s such a general skill. It’s not just a business communications skill. It’s a life skill. You know, you can bring this into all your facets of everyday life. And it’s all about connecting with your audience no matter who the audience is. It could be your customers, clients, a sales team, internal, external, whatever. At the end of the day, it comes to people talking to people. And if you can connect and engage people, you’re going to have this newfound confidence in your work.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:22] And it’s all about building relationships. And, okay, shameless plug. I published a book three years ago, Improv is No Joke: Use Improvisation, Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life, and we’re talking about the same things now. Another shameless plug, in my recent book, Taking the Numb Out of Numbers, same thing about storytelling. And as we’re sitting here talking, I’m going, “I wonder if we could get a chapter written on Slide Deck Improv and include it into the book because it does help with building confidence and making those connections.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:57] Also, I do talk about improv at the very beginning of the book by adding that additional piece of SDI there. And I think confidence is a big thing that people lack when they’re asked to present, and presenting to be presenting in a client meeting, presenting to be, you know, at a luncheon learner, or any time that-

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:17] Right now, well, the three of us have presented to an audience of three and however many the other two people that are listening to this podcast, the other thousands of folks who are listening at this time, but some folks just freeze up at that point. They don’t have that confidence. And SDI seems to help in building at a much rapid rate. Now, I know you guys did a big thing for the Iowa Society of CPAs about a month or so ago. Is that correct?

Kristen Rampe: [00:17:48] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:49] And could you tell the audience what you did for them, and the outcomes, and the takeaways that that group went away with?

Kristen Rampe: [00:17:56] Sure. So, we were out there as part of an emerging leaders conference. That dovetail with the young professionals group again. And with slide deck improv, we had a short segment that covered the improv concepts and some improv games. So, some of the takeaways everyone got to experience was some getting comfortable with the uncomfortable pieces, which I think really helps with that confidence part because, a lot of times, they feel unconfident because we’re going into a situation that’s uncomfortable. And then, when we give them fun, sort of safe places to fail, it helps with that.

Kristen Rampe: [00:18:39] We got a few people on stage and let them go through the Slide Deck Improv presentations where they had to speak on a topic that they didn’t know until they’ve gone up there with the slides that they had never seen it before. And, you know, the takeaways is sort of, “I can do it,” right. “I’ve got the confidence to get up here.”

Kristen Rampe: [00:18:59] And it’s interesting seeing different people’s approaches We have one guy who is really kind of cool, and just sort of talking to his points, and wanting to make a point of having people be kind to them because it was his birthday. I thought that was very cool. It was a birthday. And then, we had one gal who got up there, and she had to talk about printers and copiers. And she just rocked it with all the different images. So, it was a good event, and I think they all enjoyed being up there. Jason, anything from your perspective?

Jason Lieu: [00:19:29] I love that after we were done presenting, another person came up, and asked if they can do it, you know, without a crowd because he’s just really wanting to get into it. Just showed that it was connecting with people, and they really are having a lot of fun doing it.

Kristen Rampe: [00:19:47] Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because I think I was — I even told that story yesterday too. He was so — He wanted to do it so badly that he was willing to. I mean, it was a lunch break next. And we didn’t have time to add another presenter, so we did the lunch break. And he said, “Can I just do it right now?” So, I think, Jason, it was you, and me, and like one or two other people in the room, and this guy standing up doing his presentation. It was great. Good point.

Jason Lieu: [00:20:12] He rocked it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:12] But his fear was doing it in front of other people, it sounds like, or maybe did he wait and didn’t volunteer quickly enough?

Kristen Rampe: [00:20:23] No, we didn’t have time to add him in. He would have loved to have been on the stage.

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

Kristen Rampe: [00:20:28] But I think what stood out was his enthusiasm to do it. Like he wasn’t going to let the fact that there was no crowd stop him from doing that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:37] Actually, that’s cool. I mean, it is energizing in so many ways. And to have an audience member go, “I don’t care. I just want to try it. I just want to do it. I don’t care who’s around.” But that shows the power of this stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:52] I did it. I was in South Carolina, at the South Carolina Association of CPAs. We were doing a two and a half day train the trainer. We train the discussion leader to be more engaging. And we had some time when we were finished, and I said, “Would you like to try this?” And they said, “Sure, Pete. You can try this.” I said, “Okay, I’ll start off. and I’ll do it.” And I had asked prior to that one of the staff members to come up with some slides that make two decks in case get somebody else up there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:21] And we started. I said, “Give me a topic.” And somebody said, “Styrofoam cup.” I go, “Okay, yes.” And I accept it, the gift that they gave me, and run with it. And once that first slide came up, my energy level went through the roof. I felt like I was jumping in a pool at a very hot day, and it was just so refreshing. And it was over like that. And I went, “Oh my god. That was so cool.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:48] And another guy says, “I’ve done improv way back. Can I do it next?” and got up. Basically, at the end of the day, everybody in that room went, “This is a great training tool.” And anything got to do with presentation skills because of that confidence, that fear, that trust. You know, it was really, really cool. So, you guys up for some improv?

Kristen Rampe: [00:22:17] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:19] Jason’s laughing. So, what we’re going to do, we’re going to try this. And I’ve created a four-slide PowerPoint presentation with just a picture on each slide. And they have not seen it. We have not talked about it beforehand. And I was going to ask them to give me a topic, but then I was watching this real cool video of Kristen as she was practicing. And I didn’t know there was a website that would just generate random words.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:50] So, I found a random more generator. I’m going to generate the word. And then, I’ll put up the slide deck. And then, I’ll share my screen with you. And then, Kristen, you start off when you see the slide. And when you’re done with that slide, I’ll click. I’ll change it. And then, Jason’s going to take the next slide, and kind of follow that thought process per se of Kristen’s and see if we can get through all four slides going back and forth.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:21] This is advanced level slide deck improv, which this — I’m excited. I wish I was on your side and you guys were interviewing me at this point. So, what we’re-

Jason Lieu: [00:23:30] If you want to trade places, I’m okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:34] I don’t think I’d get there quickly enough. So, we’re going to try this. And hold on a second. Let me do a couple of things.

Kristen Rampe: [00:23:43] Peter, let me ask you a quick question too. For the podcast piece of this, do you want us to describe the photo in brief because I assume-

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:52] Yes.

Kristen Rampe: [00:23:52] … your podcast people aren’t going to get with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:54] Yes. If you can describe the image and then start. Then, Jason, if you describe the image real quickly, and then pick it up from there. Yes. And Cody, you can cut that piece out, Ben, whoever is doing the editing on this, that little instructional piece out. So, I think I have to share my screen first before I can — So, don’t look at this. Close your eyes, everybody.

Kristen Rampe: [00:24:20] All right. My eyes are closed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:22] Okay. Can you guys see my screen?

Jason Lieu: [00:24:28] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] My messy desktop here. Okay. So, open your eyes. Oh, I can’t go back to the word generator. I forgot to get the topic. Don’t look at that. So, Cody, you can — Ben, you guys can do some editing during this piece. Let’s see. Random word generator comes up with friends.

Kristen Rampe: [00:24:58] Oh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:59] The topic is friends. This will be interesting. All right. So, let’s go full screen. Kristen, are you ready?

Kristen Rampe: [00:25:11] I’m ready.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:13] Okay, one, two, three.

Kristen Rampe: [00:25:17] All right, everybody. I’m really excited to talk to you today about friends. And I want to describe to you the image that I have in front of me, so you know what I’m seeing. It’s basically a bank of power meters, like the old school kinds that have the kilowatt hours, and all the little dials on top, and the red thing that spins around. And when you get your air conditioning on, you go outside and look at it, it’s going really fast.

Kristen Rampe: [00:25:44] There’s a whole bunch of those, which is clearly closely related to friends because when I see this, I think, of the meter reader. And they just come by my house when we didn’t have one of those smart meters. And they come in your backyard, and you’d think. “Hey, wait. Who’s that? Are they my friends? Why are they in my backyard?”

Kristen Rampe: [00:26:03] And, ultimately, the meter reader is not necessarily the kind of person I would call a friend, but anybody else who’s in my backyard is definitely a friend. So, if you ever find yourself in my backyard, whether you’re looking at the meter reader — the meter itself, you’re probably a friend of mine, meter readers aside. So, that’s just the first thing that’s important to say as it relates to friend. And, now, I’m going to pass this on to my friend, Jason, who’s going to continue this concept.

Jason Lieu: [00:26:36] Thank you, Kristen. Here, you have an image of a kayaker kayaking into the horizon. Obviously, you could do all sorts of things with your friends. Kayaking is one of my favorite pastimes. Usually, you require two people. One person’s in front to steer. The other person in the back is for the power. It might be the other way around actually. But it’s important to have friends to have these activities because getting out and knowing that you’re not alone in the world is beneficial to your soul and to your well-being. Okay.

Kristen Rampe: [00:27:23] There is another picture you really wish you were seeing right now, which is a guy in free fall on a skydive. So, his parachute hasn’t opened yet. And he’s got a big smile on his face and a whole parachute getup. And he is the guy who’s parachuting down to land at the site at which he’s going to go kayaking later this afternoon. And if this guy were my friend, and he probably should be, I would totally be skydiving with him. I would be attached to the tandem dive master because I don’t really have any skydiving skills of my own, but I’m really good at being strapped into a harness.

Kristen Rampe: [00:28:02] And that too, let’s bring this back to power and friends. It’s really powerful to be falling through the sky at whatever meters per second things fall that I learned one time in physics class. And a great way to build a friendship is to do something really dangerous together or really scary. So, skydiving before or after the kayaking with your friend who’s cool to be in the backyard who’s not the meter reader, and that would be one way to do it.

Kristen Rampe: [00:28:30] And, you know, I mean, just even the view you get from here is that sort of awe inspiring that you and your friend, when you skydive together, can take with you for the rest of your life. Click.

Jason Lieu: [00:28:45] Here’s an image of that empty stage. It’s a beautiful image. It depicts how lonely it can be when you’re the only person in the spotlight. Friendship is about sharing. It’s sharing the spotlight with everyone. If you’re out there alone performing for a group of people, they’re just strangers. You really want to invite everyone on stage because everyone has an equal part in your life. And that’s what all friendships are about. Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:26] I’m trying to hold back the laughter. You guys are good. I mean — And so, I just grabbed some. And when it came up friends, I started thinking about the slides. I went, “Oh, I’m not sure how they’re going to do this,” but that is Slide Deck Improv without a true net with two people that I don’t think that’s ever been done before in the Slide Deck Improv era. But you guys just knocked it out of the park.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:55] I hope my audience can appreciate that this is — And you could tell. You could tell by the tone of the voice and what they were saying, they’ve never seen this stuff before, and they were drawing upon their knowledge accepting the picture, leaning forward, following that fear, and absolutely nailed it. Great job, guys. Wow.

Kristen Rampe: [00:30:16] Thank you. Thank you, Jason, for being a good partner in crime there. That was great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:22] That was. That was really, really. That was really great. And beforehand, we were talking about doing this because I didn’t want to just completely throw it at them and doing the tandem, and what did both of them do? “Let’s give it a shot. Never been done before, but let’s give it a shot.” And that’s all about improv.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:44] Guys, I can’t thank you enough for putting yourself out there and talking about this new venture that we are doing. Kristen, I am so glad that I met you. Somebody introduced us together because — I feel like the three of us are on the island of the accidental accountants. It’s kind of like the misfit world, but it is a little bit different. It’s probably the island of improv because it’s all accepting, and this is really an exciting teaching tool that applies to everybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:27] And if you want to have your career continue to grow, embrace improv, and better yet, embrace a session of Slide Deck Improv. And before I let you guys go, I know that — Kristen, if you could tell the website. I know that you’ve got some videos out there. I know that you’ve been posting a lot on social media to get people to follow. Give us all that great information, so people can find us.

Kristen Rampe: [00:31:54] Yeah. So, I’ll do the website piece, and I’ll let Jason do the rest. So, if you go to SlideDeckImprov.com, as simple as it sounds or search it on the web, you’ll find information on the programs. You’ll find bios on myself, and Peter, and Jason, and some of the other people that support us in this program. Also, some ways you can get in touch with us if you’re interested in maybe getting an outline about a program or seeing if we have availability to facilitate an event for you.

Kristen Rampe: [00:32:25] We’re also working on a DIY kit. So, if you have a particularly small budget, and want to try to do this yourself in-house, we’ll set you up with the materials you need to have a fun program at a good price. So, a couple of different options there. And then, Jason, you could tell them all the many, many places to find us on social media.

Jason Lieu: [00:32:45] Yeah. You can find us on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, @SlideDeckImprov. Just google it. Subscribe, like, follow. You can find — We post a lot of articles about communication, leadership skills, tips, loads of fun things. On YouTube, you can find some short clips about –You can find some short clips of our past presentations that you might find quite funny actually. So, find us and get in touch.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:21] Yeah. Speaking of short clips they might find funny, I love the one that you guys did, the video of the group, and the guy happened to be a CPA, and his topic was botany.

Kristen Rampe: [00:33:32] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:32] I watched it. Every time I watch it, even though I’ve seen it, he was really, really good, and made me laugh. But, man, that was really powerful stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:42] So, guys, thank you so very much for taking time out. I look forward. Kristen, I’m going to see you in less than 10 days, I believe. I’m coming to Grand Rapids for the event that you have lined up. And I’m looking forward to doing that with you. Hopefully, Jason, our paths will cross. Apparently, I need to come out to Seattle. So, maybe I’ll just take a trip, and come out, and visit for a while, and then come back. But it’s been a pleasure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:08] Personally, I think the three of us could probably talk for hours on improv. And we have. But we’ll give the audience a little rest. But for those of you who are listening, just think about what we discussed. Come out and find us. Read this stuff and contact us. We’re here to help, and guide, and help you guys become better in the business world. So, thank you all very much, and we’ll see you on the next episode.



S2E12 – Courtney Kirschbaum | Give Humanity a Seat at the Table

My guest today is Courtney Kirschbaum, who I had the pleasure of speaking with after her keynote address at the Georgia Society of CPAs’ Southeastern Accounting Show in Atlanta. Courtney’s keynote address was titled “The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?” and it focuses on the idea that everything old is new again, especially when it comes to panicking about the younger generation.


This talk was first inspired by a quote from Socrates: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”


Sound familiar? Because 2000 years later, some older folks are still singing this tune – and yet, things are still getting done.


“Everybody thinks that their beginning and their end are like the ultimate beginning and the end… [but] anybody who had been in business for even a short while knows that so much of what we see is just something old with a new name.”


Burnout & Karoshi


Part of Courtney’s presentation covered the idea of karoshi, which can be translated literally as “overwork death.” Both Courtney and I have seen how this affects the Japanese people first hand, and you can learn even more about it in The Washington Post’s article “Do Japanese really work themselves to death? In some cases, yes.”


The sad truth is that the work culture in Japan has led to thousands of deaths, to the point where the government is now involved – and our culture here in the U.S. isn’t so different.


“It’s going to come here, I think. It might come more slowly, it might take a different form, but we are turning into a culture that is work-obsessed. Well, we’ve been there for a while.”


The average workweek is 47 hours now. Not only that, from 2000 to 2014, the productivity at work increased by 21.6% – but, at the same time, the remuneration only increased by 1.8%. And that is simply unsustainable.


“We abandon our humanity, and we’re working people to the point where they can’t take it anymore, and they leave. And I think when we make millennial a pejorative term, we’re kind of doing the same thing.”


So let’s all cut each other some slack, let’s learn what we can about self-care from the younger generation, and let’s add a little humanity to the equation; Let’s just bring some humanity into the boardroom, into the conference room, into our meetings, into how we manage our people, and how we interact with our people.


Don’t just ask, “Will it work? Is it profitable? Is it right?” – Ask, “Is it humane?”


The evidence that treating people like people isn’t just nice, but a financially viable strategy, is abundant. So do you have the guts to do it?


Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.


Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:00:00] Give humanity a seat at the table and don’t just ask, “Will it work? Is it profitable? Is it right?” but “Is it humane?” It’s really simple. Just bring some humanity into the boardroom, into the conference room, into your meeting, and into how you manage your people, and how you interact with your people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:25] Welcome to Change your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing in 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: [00:00:46] 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: [00:01:11] Welcome to Episode 12. And my guest today is Courtney Kirschbaum. And I caught up with her at the Georgia Society of CPAs Southeastern Accounting Show in Atlanta. Now, Courtney is a global career strategist and a keynote speaker. And she’ll help you manage your talent and create a strategy for more profitable career.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:30] As she writes on her website, “Are you on schedule? And where do you want to be in the arc of your career? Are you happily working at your potential or feeling frustrated beneath it? If you’re not where you want to be, does your employer care? Are they promoting and advancing when you’re ready or at their convenience, usually, long after you’re ready? If you want that title recognition and salary that reflects your high performance and your potential, to put a plan and strategy in place to get the results you want on your timeline, to transition successfully from the employee to entrepreneur, then contact Courtney by going to our website, CourtneyKirschbaum.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:16] Our conversation focuses on her opening keynote address in Atlanta: The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning? And I’ll let the interview speak for itself. But before we get to the interview, I want to share an interesting blog that I found on Watershed Associates titled Negotiation Lessons from Improv “Yes, and.” I wonder why I picked this one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:41] In the article, the author discusses two main principles that improv teaches that will make you a better negotiator. Number one, be a better listener. And to do this, you have to be present, and in the moment, and drop your agenda, and listen to what the other person is saying. If you’re rehearsing what you want to say next while the other party is talking, you’re going to miss out on some real important information.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:09] Number two, “Yes, and.” We use “Yes, and” to keep the conversation moving at a positive direction, and to help keep our emotions in check. In the article, the author writes. “Actually, saying yes in negotiations can have dreadful ramifications. So, in negotiations, we want to be a bit more verbose. Try saying, “Yes, I see what you mean and,” or “Yes, I’m beginning to understand and,” or “Yes, you have some valid points and.” You get the idea. So, go find this article, and read it, and become a better improviser during any type of negotiating situation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:50] One more thing, let me ask you a question. Are you tired of getting the deer in the headlights look when you trying to explain an accounting or tax-related issue? Then, read my book, Taking the Numb out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity, and let it be the guide in your transformation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:10] When you take the numb out of numbers, that leaves you with ERS, effective relatable stories. And isn’t that the goal of every financial presentation? Hayden Williams, who’s the CFO at the Washington Society of CPAs is quoted saying, “A must read for any financial professional.” The book is now available on Amazon, in paperback, and in Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing and go buy it today. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Courtney Kirschbaum.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:46] Hey, everybody. I’m actually in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Society of CPA Southeastern Conference, big conference. I guess, big-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:04:55] Big conference.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:55] Yes. And one of the reasons why I came down is a friend of mine, Courtney Kirschbaum, was the opening keynote session for the, as they say, SEA Southeastern Accounting Show Conference. And she kicked it off this morning big time. Her topic was The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning? So, I’ve got Courtney here, and we’re going to talk about her session this morning and how it relates to the accounting profession. So, it’s wonderful seeing you. I loved your session. I love taking photos of you for your website. I heard the big round of applause, and I knew you did well. So, welcome, Courtney.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:05:38] Thank you, Peter. It is great to be here with you. I was so happy when I found out we were both going to be here. And it’s great to be at SEA. This is a great conference.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:45] So, what was the premise of the conversation that you had with your audience? But folks, by the way, it was a big audience. I think, there’s like 1200 people here. There had to be, at least, a thousand in that room.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:05:56] It was a big room, a lot of folks. And I’ll tell you how I got the idea for this talk. Every generation, I’ve noticed — I’m old enough to notice this now, which is scary enough — but do you notice how, you know, you’ve got this uncle or someone that, you know, that’s like, “Kids today. The world’s going to hell in a hand basket.” That is the phrase. It’s like we are in trouble.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:06:18] And when I was invited to give this talk, I started doing some research, and I found this quote by Socrates. And the quote is, “Children today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders. They chatter in place of exercise, and they tyrannize their teachers and their parents.” And when I saw that that was Socrates, I thought, “Okay, that was 2000 years ago when we’re still saying this stuff. This isn’t right, you know.”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:06:51] So, it just got me thinking like everybody thinks that their beginning and their end is like the ultimate beginning and the end. And there are so many — anybody who had been in business for even a short while knows that so much of what we see is just something old with a new name.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:04] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:07:04] So, that’s how it started. That’s how I got the idea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:07] Wow. And when I do talk to the audiences, and we get on a conversation of the generations, I ask the baby boomers to raise their hand, and they do. I say, “You’re the ones that raised the millennials.”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:07:18] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:19] “So, quit complaining about them. And no, it wasn’t us. It wasn’t us.” And then, I ask the baby boomers this question, “How do you remember Vietnam because you had Vietnam in your story today?”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:07:28] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:29] “How many of you had long hair? How many of you smoked pot, dropped acid? What did you guys? Do you remember? And your parents of the Silent Generation, that was the opposite of what they liked.” And they get this really not-me look.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:07:44] It’s not my fault how they turned out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:46] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:07:47] I think, there’s almost a slingshot effect. Every generation gets the opportunity to observe their parents. And a lot of the complaints I heard about millennials, everybody’s heard this, “Oh, they don’t want to work. I can’t get him to come to work.” And the reason, one of the reasons for this is that millennials saw their parents kind of give their entire lives over to work, and they saw their parents’ marriages fail, and they saw the result of that, and they thought, “Well, what’s so great about work if you give it everything you got, and then you end up divorced and unhappy,” you know, whatever. That’s just one slice of it.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:08:24] But I’ve always been a little bit more empathetic to that perspective. I think, I must be an honorary millennial. I really must be because, you know, I worked for many years, and I’m in the, you know, big four firms, demanding job, and I’ve kind of thought some of what they were saying made sense.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:08:41] So, I’ve always tried to kind of speak for the side of that up-and-coming generation because when you’re young, you don’t have any sense of perspective on your experience. When I think about, you know, what I thought about work, and my job when I was in my 20s and 30s, I get it now. But, now, I’ve got, you know, some perspective on it. And I feel — And this is really corny, but I really feel like when you start, you don’t know a lot. And work is one place where you don’t want anybody to know that you don’t know anything. I mean, and that will stay with you until the day you retire.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:09:13] You know, people are self-conscious about making mistakes. We have stigmatized mistakes in the workplace. So, people come in, they don’t know anything. You know, you’re young and even if you know something, you’ve got a lot to learn. And it’s hard. That’s a hard continuum to traverse. So, I’ve always thought I know that I could have moved ahead faster if I had gotten a little bit more support and a little less, “These kids today are no good.”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:09:39] And I just think that’s universally true. And I talk about, you know, these continuums. I talked about them today. And I’ve always had this natural inclination to think, you know, “Let’s give them a chance. Let’s see what they can do,” because we’re all pretending we know a little more than we know or have at one time or another.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:56] Exactly. And I don’t like to use the M word.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:09:59] I honestly stay away from it too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:01] I call it the younger generation.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:10:03] Yeah, that’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:05] But we’ve made that we’re evil when it’s really not, and we stereotype a group that, “There’s this millennial you might know, what, Mark Zuckenberger? Facebook. Is he the Facebook guy? He’s a millennial.”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:10:18] Exactly, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:18] The millennials are, you know, in their 30s now. And we all have different — You know, going in public accounting, why would I want to be a partner of a firm when I see these partners killing themselves?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:10:33] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:33] And work as many hours. And they shouldn’t try to figure why I have no succession plan. Well, you’ve got to redesign the firm to make it something that you’d want somebody to do.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:10:43] Exactly. I love millennials. I mean, I’ll just say it straight up. I love millennials, and I love what they’ve done for the workforce because they stand up for themselves, and they stand up for their — you know, that work-life balance. You know, I talked about karoshi in the talk today. I worked in Japan in 2003.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:02] That’s right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:11:02] I worked in Japan in 2003. And I told the story in the talk today. I would walk to work. I walk to the subway station, and then go to work. And, occasionally, I would see somebody asleep in their car. Now, I was in my 30s, and I thought, “Oh they must have had too much sake and lost their apartment keys.” You know, what’s the Japanese word for that?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:11:24] But years later, in 2015, I was back in the States, and I read an article in The Washington Post that said — the headline was, ” Are the Japanese Working Themselves to Death?” And I had been there in 2003, and I’d seen how embedded they were in this work culture, and how that it was so important to them not to bring shame upon themselves. This is fundamental to their culture, and where it shows up is at work.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:11:48] And the people that I had seen in their car sleeping and didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t know why they were there, they were there because they had worked all night, and were trying to get a few hours of sleep, and then go back in, and work again. So, the article was about how karoshi, which means death by work-

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:06] Wow.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:12:06] … has taken hold. In the last 13 years since I was there, it’s taking hold, and thousands of Japanese are literally killing themselves. The government has gotten involved. And I was there at the beginning of it, and burnout is a real issue in our workplace today. Now, in Japan, you can’t leave a job as easy as you can in the States. So, how it’s showing up in the States it’s showing up as churn, as attrition. Somebody begins to feel burnout and they leave.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:12:32] And just like in Japan, but we aren’t as intense as the Japanese in this way, people don’t want to admit that they can’t take on more of the workloads too much. You know, they want to honor their obligations to their boss, to their teams, to their companies. You know, I believe people really want to do a good job at work, and they’re killing themselves in Japan to do that.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:12:53] And it’s going to come here. I think, it might come more slowly, it might take a different form, but we are turning into a culture that is work-obsessed. Well, we’ve been there for a while. The workweek is 47 hours now. That’s like the real average workweek. And interesting statistic, from 2000 to 2014, the increase in productivity at work is 21.6%. The increase in remuneration is 1.8%. And you just can’t continue to do that to people.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:13:29] You know, I’m a career strategist. I talk to a lot of people about their careers, and they say, “You know, I’m getting more work, but I’m not getting anything else. I’m not getting more recognition. I’m not getting more remuneration. I’m not getting more authority.” And 15 years ago, when I was my generation’s version of a millennial, I wouldn’t have known what to do with this information. I didn’t, but I can put it together now because I have the benefit of that experience.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:13:56] And when I first put this together, I thought, you know, does anybody want to hear this? Because when you’re in that work mode, it’s like take one for the team, you know, pull an all-nighter, do you have to do, but that’s what put Japan in the place it is now. And that’s why they have this issue, you know, with karoshi. And the government has gotten involved, and is talking to companies, and saying, “You know, make your employees take their vacation, and be sensitive to this.” And they have a real problem. It is not uncommon for people in their 30s in Japan to have a heart attack.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:28] Wow.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:14:28] That’s just not right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:30] Yeah. I did. When I was Victoria’s Secret, we went to Japan, and I got to witness this firsthand, and we were there for a week. And what you described about the inefficient work style, it’s true. I mean, what time is it? Why do you want to know? I just want to know. They worked 12 hours a day-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:14:47] At least.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:48] But this whole thing about saving face, not make a mistake is real. And, now, we bring it to us. We have that same thing when you’re coming — You know, I call it that stage one competency. I don’t know what I don’t know, you know.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:15:01] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:02] But I don’t want to ask the question because I’m afraid to ask because everybody thinks I’m smarter than I probably am. And recently, someone gave me the acronym for the word FAIL, first attempt in learning.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:15:15] I love that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:17] I love it too, and I use it more and more. And it’s good. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make a mistake because you’re human.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:15:27] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:27] But when you make a mistake, come with the solution. And I don’t know if managers, partners, CFOs, controllers are teaching their people about it’s okay to make a mistake, but figure out the solution before you bring it to me.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:15:43] I don’t — You know, I think the dialogue in every company is different. I would like to point out that while they’ve given a word to death by work in Japan, they do not have a word for work-life balance, which I thought was kind of scary and interesting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:57] Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:15:59] Yeah, no kidding. Well, here, you know, at least, we’re talking about it. And I heard this other great term, which is work-life integration. I thought that was kind of interesting. You know, old thing, new name.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:08] Right, right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:16:08] Just like I said, old thing, new name. But all of this, and this really is what the talk was about this morning, all of these pivots on one thing, and that’s humanity. Businesses are driven by profit. They’re driven by success. They’re driven by the Japanese not wanting to bring shame on themselves. And over here, it’s another version of, “I don’t want to lose face.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:30] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:16:30] And, you know, we abandon our humanity, and we’re working people to the point where they can’t take it anymore, and they leave. And I think when we, you know, make millennial a pejorative term, we’re kind of doing the same thing. You know, we’re not being compassionate. And that is not cool to say in the office. In the office, it’s, “Buck up. You got to be tough.”. You know, in my generation, it’s this old, “I walked uphill to school in the snow both ways.”

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

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:17:01] And people need to be called out on it because it doesn’t serve the people who are at that, you know, in the beginning and end of those transitions. Like these universal continuums are from curious to in the know, from alone to connected, and from insecure to empowered.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:17:17] So, this is you in the first grade, not knowing anything or anybody, and feeling insecure. And then, you work, and you get to know the system, and you go from curious to in the know, and you go from alone to having friends, and connections, and a network, and being power. And that makes you feel, you know, less insecure and more empowered.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:17:36] And that’s what we all go through continually in our lives. And it’s tough at work, again, because we really stigmatize mistakes. And at school, it’s kind of objective. You’re here to make mistakes to learn. But by the time you get to work, okay, we need you to be perfect now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:53] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:17:53] So, mistakes are stigmatized. And if we invite people into the workforce or people come into our workforce, they arrive at the threshold of your firm or your company, and they’re not supported through that transition. Nobody wins. And we are all constantly making that transition, you know, from one end of those continuums to the other.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:18:13] So, it really behooves us all. It’s like let’s all cut each other some slack, and let’s add a little humanity to the equation. And that’s really what the talk was kind of saying. Like, if you look at all the situations and all the changes that are going on, in all beginnings and endings, speak up for humanity. You know, speak up and say, “Yeah, this is right, and it’s profitable, and we’ll get the result we want, but is this the humane thing to do?”.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:18:35] Because that’s really what I saw an absence of when I was working in that environment. And I was too inexperienced and too unknowing really to speak up. I thought it, and I talked about it with my colleagues, but it’s really the responsibility of people to kind of say, “This actually is not the direction we should be going in. This isn’t right. This isn’t humane.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:57] It’s funny you should say that because over the last six months, there’s a theme that’s been rolling through Harvard Business Review articles, and that theme is human leadership. That theme is empathy.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:19:10] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:10] That theme is being present. Wait, I’m talking improv again, but in essence-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:19:15] You got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:15] And it is. It’s about, you know, we might be an asset to a firm, but we’re people because we’re in the people business. And the more that we can engage our people, the more our business will grow versus the more we try to control them, it’s not going to grow. But I think this has always been the case, but maybe it’s this younger generation that’s finally making us realize, you know, there’s another side to this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:39] I’m a person. I’m a human being. You know, I’ve got a family. I’m growing, and I don’t know what I don’t know. That’s when you graduate from college, and you start your, you know, accounting career, and you go, “I know how to audit.” “No, you don’t. You don’t know how it is to sit for the CPA exam.” “I can do taxes.” “No, you don’t. You’re not ready for the CPA exam, but you-”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:19:59] Like you said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:01] No, but we got to get them to that phase of asking questions, learning to fail, so they can, “I don’t know. but I want to learn.”

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:20:08] And, I think, people get to that phase faster. Just as you said, you create that environment where you say, “Ask. We don’t expect you to know everything.” And I saw that. You know, I’ve been out of the corporate world for six years now. And I will say, I did see that right before I left. Like, “It’s okay to ask. We don’t expect you to know everything.” So, I think there’s some of it emerging.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:20:33] And, you know, I just want to give it a voice because if you put up with things that you know aren’t working, and you participate in them just because you think it’s the right thing to do, and you’re afraid to question, not just, you know, ask questions about, “Hey, what you don’t know with respect to audit or a tax form?” but, you know, are we really doing the right thing here?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:20:54] You know, that needs to be heard because this new generation is bringing in, you know, some new ideas. They’re the most well-educated group, you know, to enter the workforce. They started interning and taking advanced classes sooner. Now, I’m speaking about Gen-Z. So, they are turning 22 this year. They’re entering the workforce. These are kids who have been going to summer school to get college credit, have been doing free, you know, unpaid internships. So, by the time they get, you know, or trying to get into college, or are trying to get a job, I mean, they’ve been doing internships, some of them since high school. They’re not slackers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:36] No, they’re not.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:21:36] They felt pressure and worked to deliver from a younger age than any previous generation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:43] You know, my son’s in a Gen Z, Z, Z, Z, Z generation. It’s like he snoozes all the time. But to the fact, there — You said internship. So, I looked at the internship programs right now while you’re in college to be a waste of their time. Especially the way technology is changing, they’re not going to have to do the number crunching, per se. We’re going to have artificial intelligence and block chain to do that, but they’re going to need to know how to communicate and interact with people.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:22:15] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:16] My son was a thumbs-only kind of guy.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:22:19] I got it, yup, very true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:20] And then, he turned 16. And then, he got a job in a restaurant as a busboy. He’s been there two years. The kid can hold a conversation. We saw this almost automatically.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:22:30] That’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:32] And this is what we need our workforce to be like. The Gen Z, to be able to communicate, don’t put them in an accounting firm, make them go to work in a restaurant. Make them go to work in food service or retail where they got to deal with the public. There’s a benefit.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:22:44] I completely agree. And I think that Gen Z actually will welcome that. I think they’ll really welcome it. There’s a perfect example of the human touch versus this artificial intelligence because everybody is talking about artificial intelligence, block chain, “Oh my god, is it going to take my job?” It’s a great example. So, we’re here in Atlanta, Georgia, which is where Chick-fil-A was found.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:07] Yes, love Chick-fil-A.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:23:08] Oh, me too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:08] I love Chick-fil-A.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:23:08] I’ve been talking about chick fly all day. So, this is the really interesting thing that Chick-fil-A has done. Chick-fil-A, and you know this if you are a Chick-fil-A fan, and you have been to their drive through, has put people out in their parking lots, and you don’t talk to a box and a speaker, you talk to someone who says, “Hey, how’s your day going?” And they smile at you, and they say thank you, and they show human warmth. You have a human connection. They put your order on a tablet.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:23:38] Now, here’s what’s interesting. Chick-fil-A, the revenue of their restaurants is $4.4 million. That’s the average. Their closest chicken competitor is KFC, right, $1.1 million. Now, at the average fast food restaurant, 60% to 70% of their revenue comes from the drive-through. And you go to a drive-through because you want best service, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:00] Right, yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:24:01] That’s what you think. But Chick-fil-A, while they get great ratings on accuracy of their orders and the human experience that people are polite, they are 30 seconds slower than the average, than the average fast food restaurant, but they’re still blowing their competition away because people value that human experience.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:24:22] And I think we’re going to see more of this because at the exact same time, McDonald’s, if you’ve been into McDonald’s recently — I know this makes me sound like all I do is eat fast food, but I swear I don’t. You go into McDonald’s, and there’s a kiosk. So, they’ve removed the human element, McDonald’s restaurants — And, of course, we’re comparing apples to oranges a little bit, McDonald’s restaurants, their average revenue in a year is two $2.5 million.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:24:47] So, everybody’s like, “Oh, we have to automate. And the more we automate, the more money we’ll make.” But Chick-fil-A pulled back and said, “No, let’s-” Part of their value system is to have a positive influence on every one that comes into their store.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:03] Wow, what a concept.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:25:05] I mean, it’s really-

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:06] It’s a novel concept. That was in Vogue in the ’70s and ’80s.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:25:10] It’s really more.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:10] And I think flashback, as it relates to that, needs to happen.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:25:12] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:13] And, actually, I was in Greenville, South Carolina last week, and they brought — You know, Chick-fil-A, they brought it in for the meal at the company I was with, and they told me the exact same story.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:25:23] Really?

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:23] In Columbus, Ohio, there’s one Chick-fil-A, and I’m not usually on that side of town, so I haven’t been there in a while. And I said, “When I’m over there, there’s always a line.” They get people now. What? And then, I hear, “All at the line please. Closer to one.” No, there’s a person that’s taking your order and moving you through the system versus “Now what?” They get it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:47] And that podcast I was telling you about, Building the StoryBrand with Don Miller, he interviewed the CEO of Chick-fil-A. And he came out with a book two years ago. I think, it’s called Relevance.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:26:00] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:00] And if you get a chance, it’s an excellent interview. But that culture there will survive.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:26:06] Yes, it will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:07] How do you translate that culture into our profession?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:26:10] So, here’s some of the things they did to do that, and it goes deep. It’s not just superficial. It’s not just training people. The first thing is it costs by comparison. If you want to open a McDonald’s franchise, you have to ante up $750,000. That’s a serious barrier.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:30] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:26:31] You want to open up a Chick-fil-A franchise, the buy-in is $10,000, and they pay the physical building startup costs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:41] Okay, okay.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:26:41] $10,000, I mean, that’s nothing. It’s nothing certainly nothing compared to $750,000, which means they’re lowering barriers because their real criteria is, does this person embody the values, and will they run this operation embodying the values of Chick-fil-A? So, right out of the gate, they said values over money.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:00] Right. It’s interesting because we talked about this in Greenville. And you only get one store.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:27:07] You can only have one store.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:08] One store.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:27:09] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:09] And you’re an owner/operator.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:27:11] Absolutely. You can’t just disappear. You have to have a relationship, not only with your team, but you have to have a relationship. They expect you to have a relationship with other store owners. And, in fact, that’s how the in-person order taking, which just becomes — So, you know, what you see at all Chick-fil-As now, that started in Houston. And one store owner had the idea. And, of course, they’re not competing, they’re collaborating. So, now, it’s spread to other stores, and it’s become one of their hallmarks.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:27:38] So, they lowered the barriers, and they said, “Let’s not in-fight. Let’s not compete. Let’s be involved in our stores,” which means it’s like a small community business. It’s a small business in small communities, and they engage. The owner is in the store, and they’re talking to people in other stores. And, sometimes, they’ll even, like, do cooperative promotions with other store owners. But instead of more like the person down the — you know, the person in the next town is your competition, it’s “What can I give them, and what can they give me?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:08] It’s a more collaborative approach.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:09] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:09] So, in the accounting profession, whether you’re in public accounting, or in B&I, or whatever, how can we be more collaborative? How can we get more the best practices when we’re in competition, but it should be a friendly competition?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:23] You know who you should ask?

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:25] Who?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:25] The people who are coming into your firms, your youngest, your newest hires. Now, they won’t always be right, but they’ll tell you what they need.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:34] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:34] And if you think about it, the ones who are most going to benefit from collaboration are the people who come in and don’t know that much, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:41] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:41] When I think about when I started as a project manager and I didn’t know anything, and there are people who will attest to this, what would have helped me more than anything is not carrot and stick, but real collaboration.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:53] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:28:53] And I lived in fear of getting it wrong, which I often did, and I figured it out. But I would have given anything to be asked rather than had assumptions made about what was the best way to get this information to me. Invariably, if you are a leader or a manager, and you’ve got people working on your teams, I think that’s a first step. It doesn’t mean you have to do everything they suggest, but it will really open your eyes, and they really do have the most benefit, I think. It certainly can accelerate their learning a lot if you have collaboration.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:26] I’ve said this many times before, the collective knowledge outside your office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside your office.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:29:34] That’s great. It’s a great saying.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:36] So, you know, just because they’re new doesn’t mean that they they don’t know — They don’t know everything, we’ve already established that, but they know stuff that you don’t know. So, there’s the collaborative aspect. And someone told me, if you want to know what people are thinking, go on Twitter, and follow the people that they follow.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:29:54] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:54] That gives you an idea into their insight and what they’re seeing.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:29:58] It’s a great idea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:58] So, basically, you’re telling a firm to be more collaborative, or a CFO, or a finance department go to the collaboration aspect of it, and dropping barriers, dropping barriers to work, getting rid of the negativity, and more empathy and embracing?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:30:17] Imagine that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:18] So, I want to know, when you were kind of laying this out for this audience, did you get the stink eye at times?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:30:25] I will be honest with you, when I started writing this talk, when I talked with Jen here at the Georgia Society of CPAs, and she’s been a guest in your podcast, Jen Oleksa.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:37] Yes, yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:30:37] I talked with her and she said, “You know, show them what the future. We want you to show them what the future is going to look like.” And I’ve been to a lot of conferences. We’ve all been through a lot of conferences. And I knew that I could talk about artificial intelligence and robots, but I just wanted to go a little bit deeper.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:30:59] And I have to admit, I was a little self-conscious. I thought, you know, if I start talking about karoshi, and if I start talking about, you know, taking a different approach with people who are coming into our firms and pointing out that for 2000 years, we’ve been picking on the younger generation, and we might want to stop.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:14] Right, right, right, right, right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:31:16] You know, is this is this going to fly? But a lot of people have come up to me since I gave the talk and thanked me for bringing it up because I know from my own experience that this is what you talk about when your boss leaves, you know. And you’re young. So, you think, “Well, this is how the older, more experienced people are doing it. So, it must be right.”.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:31:37] So, I was concerned, but I thought, you know, I don’t care. I really don’t care and here’s why. The last thing that I talked about in today’s talk was this Japanese — you know, the strong part of the Japanese culture, which is not to bring shame on yourself and to protect your honor. And I really thought, you know, I’m honor-bound to talk about this. You know, if they’re going to give me the stage and say, you know, share your point of view, then you have to be honest about it, and you can’t, you know, curtail what you say because some people are still, you know, embracing that, you know, “I walked to school uphill both ways, you know, in a rainstorm or in the snow.” And that doesn’t serve anybody.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:32:22] So, that’s why I kind of held to it. And I really did — I often felt like people who are really wanting to do right, and do good, and deliver good work in work environments were treated — And this is a strong word, but they were treated inhumanely because we’re in a system. You know, it’s bureaucracy. And I saw that a lot. And I’m on stage talking about, you know, death by work and karoshi, and these are heavy topics, but they deserve attention.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:52] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:32:52] They really deserve attention. So, that’s why — You know, and when you’re as a speaker, you scan the crowd. And people don’t always give up what they’re saying, and especially if they thought you weren’t thinking. At a professional conference, you know, your boss could be sitting next you. I can tell you, I was at a conference a few weeks ago, somebody handed me a note and said, “My boss is in the room, so I can’t ask this question,” this is what the note said, “but I need to talk to you.” So, there’s that, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:18] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:33:18] So, I just kind of thought, “You know what, this needs to be said.” And I can tell by the response that I got today that people are glad it was said. You know, that, if you think about that statistic of productivity increasing almost 22% and compensation increasing 2%, you know, people feel this. This is showing up in people’s everyday lives. And we need to get a — I really do feel like we need to acknowledge this. I said in the talk today, I said if our workforce was a state, it would be California on fire. I mean, right? But it’s true me. I mean, nobody wants to say, “I can’t take any more work.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:55] Oh my god.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:33:58] It’s true. It’s true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:01] So, as you’re describing this-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:34:03] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:04] … it makes you think of a firm I just worked with. And, actually, I’ve included them in my book. And it’s a firm in Maryland called Deleon & Stang. Now, the two partners who started this didn’t grow up in public accounting. And that was the key because they’ve been around for, I think, 25-30 years, and they just want through — At the beginning of the year, they went through kind of a rebranding. Their mission statement, always put clients before people.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:34:29] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:30] They redid that. Now, it’s people before clients. If we treat our people well — It’s almost a Richard Branson thing. I don’t worry about my clients. I worry about my people. If I get the right people, treat them right, they’ll take care of my customers, my clients.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:34:43] They will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:44] So, they also rolled out two new policy changes. During business season, there were no mandatory Saturdays and Sundays.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:34:53] Nice.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:56] Awoo!

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:34:57] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:57] But it gets better. They also rolled out unlimited PTO time.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:03] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:04] And I said — The light bulb went off in my head. I said, “Wow. A firm, an organization that trusts their people.” And that’s where it kind of boiled down to. There’s a lack of trust. And that’s why we get 2%.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:19] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:20] That’s why we’re — But when you trust your people — And research has showed they won’t take the whole of the PTO. They’d probably take less than they did before.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:28] That’s what studies of this are showing that they end up taking less than before sometimes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:32] But you are empowering them.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:33] Yes, you are. And, now, I think there’s going to be an adjustment period for that. Like how do we behave with this new freedom? And I honestly think that’s normal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:42] I agree.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:42] It’s worth tracking.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:44] And they’re tracking last conversations I had. I mean, they were a little nervous about.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:35:51] Yeah, I’ll bet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:51] But they’re seeing the benefits. And, you know, I interviewed them for this podcast that aired about a couple months ago, and they talked about this whole culture, what they did, and they were afraid of it, but they’re seeing the benefits of it.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:36:06] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:07] Attrition will go down, and that’s key because if I don’t have my people, I have nobody working. And if I’m beating them up, and they’re leaving, or if I’m not investing into them-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:36:18] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:18] … what if I train them, and they leave? What if I don’t train them — No. What if I train them, and they leave? And you go, “Well, if you don’t train them, what happens if they stay?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:36:30] They stay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:30] Yeah. And it’s — I think it boils down to the way we trust people.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:36:33] Yeah. It’s kind of a fearlessness because, you know, a lot of these things aren’t new.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:39] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:36:39] It’s just, do you have the guts to do it, or are you managing from a position of faith and intuition by trusting yourself because that’s the person you have to trust first and say, “Because evidence that this works, it’s everywhere, it’s abundant, but do you have the guts to do it?” because that’s — I really think it takes guts because it doesn’t take any guts to leave from fear. And I think there’s a lot of fear-based leadership.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:04] Yes. And I will truly — Yes. But I’ve been part of some fear-based leadership, and I witnessed fear-based leadership, and nothing good comes from fear-based.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:11] It’s hard on people. It really is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:14] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:14] And it’s even hard on those leaders because they have to live in that environment too. You know, it’s not easy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:20] I call that ego leadership.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:22] Yeah, that’s a great way to put it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:24] Yeah. And that doesn’t work, especially in today’s workforce. It’s got to be more of a collaborative. It’s got to be more of an empowering and embracing. You’ll get bigger rewards, not as much of an investment as you do with ego leadership, and people leaving, and having to continually reinvest.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:43] Well, the baby boomers are leaving the workforce, and I think this is through — I mean, this is going to go on for several more years at a rate of 10,000 a day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:53] Yeah, there you go.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:53] They are rolling out the door.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:55] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:37:56] Now, some are saying they can’t afford to retire for various reasons. Some are staying longer, but, you know, the millennials are going to take the helm, and then, you know, the generation behind them, and that’s a whole new ballgame. There is a lot of change between Gen X, and the millennials, and then now, the Gen Z. There was a big, big change, not the typical kind of, “We’re learning and changing at the same pace.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:21] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:38:21] There is a big jump. And I think we’re going to start seeing, once the boomers are gone, I think, more and more, it’s going to it’s going to show up. Like what is the real impact of this?

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:33] Hey, easy on the boomers being gone now. I warned of them. Even though as some people described I’m a cusper, you know-

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:38:39] Don’t go anywhere. Don’t go anywhere.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:40] I had, you know — Because I’m a baby boomer, but my time, I had a bottle in my mouth, not a marijuana cigarette. Who takes marijuana cigarettes?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:38:50] Yeah, that’s what you say now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:52] Yeah, yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:38:52] That’s what you say now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:52] Yeah, but — So, imparting words.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:38:56] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:57] What would you tell my audience to begin to do today?

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:39:01] Give humanity a seat at the table. Don’t see something that you know is stupid — And that’s the war with, “This is stupid. Why are they making us do this?” You know, think about the numbers that you’ve heard today. And I’ll give you just one or two more to close with. 23% of the workforce, this is a recent Gallup poll, says they feel burned out all or most of the time. Doctors’ offices are overwhelmed with people coming in with these non-specific ailments. That’s stress.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:31] Yeah.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:39:31] HR professionals, as many as 50% think a large amount of the attrition and turnover is from people who are burned out. And we see this. This isn’t a secret. This is just something we’re not talking about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:43] Right.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:39:44] Give humanity a seat at the table. And don’t just ask, “Will it work? Is it profitable? Is it right?” but “Is it humane?” It’s really simple. Just bring some humanity into the boardroom, into the conference room, into your meeting, and into how you manage your people, and how you interact with your people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:02] Man, what a way to end. Give humanity a seat at the table. And that will be the title for this podcast episode.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:40:09] Okay, I love it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:10] And I love that our paths crosses. It’s been way too long.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:40:15] It has been.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:15] We did a couple interviews via Zoom, but it’s great seeing you. You did a wonderful job today. I wish you all the best. I look forward to our paths crossing again soon.

Courtney Kirschbaum: [00:40:23] I do too. Thank you, Peter. I love collaborating with you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:28] I want to thank Courtney, once again, for taking her time with me in Atlanta to sit down and share her keynote with this audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:36] In Episode 13, my guests are Kristen Rampe, Founder of Slide Deck Improv, Jason Lieu who is one of her improv instructors, and one of her other improv instructors who will remain secret for now. But, by the way, all three of them are also CPAs. Thank you for listening, and begin the process of changing your mindset, and getting out of your comfort zone, and developing new skill set to become more future-ready.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:08] Your call to action is to read the article that I discussed earlier and apply those principles when you’re in any type of negotiation. Remember, a part of being future-ready is being an improviser. Being an improviser is someone who is willing to take risks in order to grow.



S2E11 – Kate Colbert | Think Like a Marketer

My guest today is Kate Colbert, the Founder & President of Silver Tree Communications and Silver Tree Publishing and the author of the newly released book Think Like a Marketer: How a Shift in Mindset Can Change Everything for Your Business. Kate provides great marketing advice for people in any kind of business, and she tailored this conversation for the financial professional.


Now, this isn’t about converting accounting and finance professionals into marketers – It’s about helping people like accountants make better decisions about their accounting practice by thinking like a marketer.


In Think Like a Marketer, Kate discusses the five principles that will help you make this mindset shift and change everything for your business:


  1. Communicate for connection and meaning, not just to transact sales. (For a little bonus reading on this subject, check out this article in the Journal of Accountancy: “Networking Tips for Quiet People: A Little Preparation Can Take the Fear Out of Networking”)
  2. You live and die by your customers’ insights. You may think accounting professionals are a group of subject matter experts who are all about the data and numbers, right? But thinking like a marketer requires looking at numbers that most professionals just aren’t. For example, when is the last time you did a client satisfaction survey?
  3. Market yourself in a way that’s strategy religious and tactic agnostic. This is not about where you go to church – If that you have a marketing strategy that you’re confident in, you need to be sticking religiously to that strategy. But in terms of the tactics you apply and the activities you do in marketing, you need to be really open-minded and agnostic.
  4. Create cultures and processes that align with your brand. What are you willing to do differently in your day-to-day processes, up to and including the way the building is laid out, in order to really deliver on the story that you’re telling to the marketplace about what makes you a better accounting firm than the accounting firm down the street?
  5. Do everything in service of maintaining a virtuous cycle of creating value for the customer while capturing value for you.


I am confident if you execute to these five principles, you’ll begin to see signs that your marketing is resonating with your audience and having an impact.


“It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey. Whether we’re talking about a book that you just wrote, or if we’re talking about a business that you founded, or a business that you work in, the perfect time to start thinking like a marketer is now.”


Download this Episode MP3.



Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Kate Colbert: [00:00:00] My book is not about turning accountants into marketers. It’s about helping people like accountants make better decisions about their accounting practice by thinking like a marketer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:19] 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: [00:00:39] 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 to show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:04] Welcome to Episode 11. And my guest today is Kate Colbert, who’s the author of the newly released book, Think Like a Marketer: How a Shift in Mindset Can Change Everything for Your Business. She’s an author and owner of Silver Tree Publishing. And they were the ones who published my new book. Kate provides great marketing advice for anyone in business and has tailored our conversation to the financial professional.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:31] In Think Like a Marketer, Kate discusses the five principles to guide you to shift your mindset and change everything for your business. Those five principles are communicate for connection and meaning, not just to transact sales. Live and die by your customers’ insights. Market in a way that’s strategy religious and tactic agnostic. Create cultures and processes that align with your brand. And do everything in service of maintaining a virtuous cycle of creating value for the customer while capturing value for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:09] Now, Kate will discuss in greater detail each of these five principles. And I am confident if you execute to these five principles, you’ll begin to see signs that your marketing is resonating with your audience and having an impact.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:24] There was an article in The Journal of Accountancy entitled Networking Tips for Quiet People: A Little Preparation Can Take the Fear Out of Networking. After reading this article, it ties nicely with Kate’s first principle: Communicate for connection and meaning, not just to transact sales. First, networking is a necessity in the business world. If you don’t like networking, I blame your mother. That’s right. I blame your mother because your mother always told you never talk to strangers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:59] In the business environment, think of networking as the pursuit of opportunities to grow your career, your business, and your influence. And it’s not talking to strangers. Nobody in that room is a stranger. A stranger is sitting somewhere with a ball of Mogen David and trying to talk to a telephone pole. Those are strangers. In a business environment, there’s no such thing as a stranger.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:25] The article gives seven approaches to help you become a better and stronger networker. And they are, number one, practice, self-explanatory. Attend more than one networking event. Work on this constantly in your free time. The only way that you can get better is by practice. And also, number two, realize that others are nervous about it as well as you are. So, everybody has a little bit of nerve when they meet new people. That’s fine. And then, probably, say follow the fear. Lean into those nerves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:00] And always have go-to questions. When I network, one thing I like to do is ask the person to tell me about them and their business. And I listen to what they say because I’ve never met one entrepreneur that won’t stop and tell you everything they know about their business before talking about you or asking about yourself. Listen and ask questions. This also helps increase your confidence level. Always, always, always avoid sensitive topics. I rarely talk about, if ever, talk about religion, politics, or anything along those lines.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:31] Another tip is arrive early because, at times, when you walk in, and the event has already started, there’s a lot of people already networking, and it can be intimidating. If you’re early, you get a jump on everybody. You can start networking and start with that practicing a lot earlier than showing up later.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:50] Know when to end it. And stopping is always a tough thing. We’re there to meet as many people as we can, and have some small conversation, and move to the next. And you can politely say, “I appreciate meeting you. Thank you very much. We’ll exchange some business cards. And I need to run to the restroom real quick,” or “I need to go freshen my drink,” or “I need to go shampoo my hair,” whatever but don’t spend all night with one individual. Networking requires us to spend a short amount of time with as many people as possible.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:22] And follow up, I think, is the key. Usually, at an event, I will gather a fair amount of business cards, and I’ll go through that evening on which individuals I want to follow up with that we have some synergies I can tell from the conversation to explore it even more.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:39] The article is dated on June 11, 2018. And my guest on a former podcast episode, Kristen Rampe is quoted in this article. Now, I know Kristen, and we met through someone who thought we would be a good connection for each other. Well, you know what, they were right because Kristen has launched Slide Deck Improv, and I’ve joined her to be one of her facilitators. This is the true product of networking. Remember networking is all about relationships, so is your marketing. It’s all about relationships.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:14] So, before we get to the interview, let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you want to present financial information with confidence and clarity? Do you want to turn boring numbers into a compelling story that describes your business better? If so, read my new book, Taking the Number Out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity, and let it be the guide in your transformation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:38] When you take the numb out of numbers, it leaves you with -ers, ERS, which stands for effective relatable stories. Isn’t that the goal of every financial presentation? Hayden Williams, who’s a CFO at the Washington Society of CPAs, is quoted saying, “This book is a must read for any financial professional.” The book is available now on Amazon, and Paperback, and on Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing and buy it today. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Kate Colbert.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:17] Kate, I have been so looking forward to this conversation with you. First and foremost, I know your schedule. I know how busy you are. I know — I don’t think you sleep at all because during the time we were working on my book, I think you were up 24/7. So, thank you so very much for finding some time to let me talk to you and interview you about your upcoming book.

Kate Colbert: [00:07:40] Thank you. Oh no, there’s always more time in the day. I’ve found that it’s really just a matter of perspective.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:46] I’ve always heard that too, but, apparently, I don’t have that group of perspectives sometimes. I need to find more time in my day. Kate, can you give everybody just kind of a little bit of background, so they get to know you just a little bit?

Kate Colbert: [00:07:59] Sure. So, I am a writer by trade. Sort of a brand storyteller is how I am known to clients and in the industry. I’ve spent the bulk of my career working as a marketer for companies of various sizes. They do all business-to-business type of work. I started out as an English professor, which is kind of interesting. So-

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

Kate Colbert: [00:08:19] Yeah. So, I have a background in the literary world. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature. So, I have a library in my house. That doesn’t surprise people who know me really well. So, books are sort of my life. And I was one of those few people, I think, who decided to go the writer’s path, who really understood pretty early on that there’s a really good way to make money as a writer, and it’s not about short stories or poetry necessarily, but it’s about telling stories for companies. It’s about connecting brands, and services, and products to customers that are waiting to make use of them.

Kate Colbert: [00:08:56] So, that’s really how I’ve made my career. I own two companies. The parent company, which I started about 16 years ago, is called Silver Tree Communications, and we’re a full-service marketing company. We do a lot of storytelling and writing for various industries, primarily higher education and healthcare but also professional services. We have a fair number of clients in the financial services industry. And I also own a company called Silver Tree Publishing, which is home to several book imprints, but we’re most known in the non-business or sort of the nonfiction book business space.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:32] And once again, I don’t know how you do it. That’s a lot. And by the way, you’re really good at what you do. I heard that a lot when we were at NSA, National Speakers Association Annual Convention. I saw those who you have published, they were all raving about you and about the quality. I am still raving about the quality of books. When I got mine, literally, I was speechless. My wife had hit me in the back of the head to get loose. It was one of those big wows. And a big public thank you for that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:09] But we’re not here to talk about mine. We’re here to talk about yours. And I find that I kind of wish I waited a little bit of time, and then had you publish your book first, so I could read it while my other one was getting done because I am a CPA who’s not a very good one, but I love want communication. I have a passion for the profession.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:31] True story, the first book, when they had 200 copies delivered to my house, people asked me, “Weren’t you so excited?” I went, “No.” They go, “Why?” And so, I looked down, and I went, “Now, what the heck do I do?” And, literally, I had absolutely no clue. So, I’m interested, just as much as my audience is, help us think like a marketer.

Kate Colbert: [00:10:55] Yeah. And the exciting thing is that it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey, whether we’re talking about a book that you just wrote, or if we’re talking about a business that you founded, or a business that you work in, the perfect time to start thinking like a marketer is now. It’s not about worrying about what you could have done if you’d known.

Kate Colbert: [00:11:12] So, you know, I will say to you about your book what I say to all authors, a book is not a piece of fresh fruit that is going to spoil. So, your book is still very, very new. But even if it was a year old or three years old, the lessons in your book are really pretty timeless. And it’s a brand-new book for the people who have not heard about it and not read it yet. And so, it’s never too late to be promoting it really well.

Kate Colbert: [00:11:35] And for those of you who are listening who own accounting practices, or work in accounting practices, or run financial services, it’s never too late to be thinking about, how do I understand my customer better? How do I connect to him or her more meaningfully? How do I get more insights from them? How do I tell my story differently? How do I compete differently? And how do I stop wasting my time on some things that I think are vital marketing activities that I should be doing, and maybe focus my attention on things that will net me a better return in terms of capturing value back to the bottom line?

Kate Colbert: [00:12:08] And that’s what my book is all about is helping business leaders and business owners just be sharper by shifting the way they think about a lot of the day-to-day decisions they’re making. And so, my book is not about turning accountants into marketers. It’s about helping people like accountants make better decisions about their accounting practice by thinking like a marketer. And it’s a pretty, I think, clean sort of formulaic way to teach them how to do that. So, I’m just really excited to bring this book to market.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:37] I think the principles that are in your book, those five pillars, I believe, they will apply to whether somebody is in public accounting, or somebody who works in a finance department for a major corporation, academics who teach in the field, and even governmental accountants because most — And when I ask audiences, “How many of you are marketing people?” guess how many hands go up? Zero, exactly. And I’m going, “But how did you get to-” In a lot of cases, they always come back to the R word, referrals. But now, we’re realizing or I’m realizing that that’s just not enough.

Kate Colbert: [00:13:19] Well, it is not. Not only is it not enough. It’s often the wrong referrals. And so, I think that’s the thing that folks forget about when they think about marketing. They say, “Well, but I’m so busy, right. Like I don’t have time to sleep.” You talked a lot about being busy, and a lot of people who run thriving practices are so busy, they think, “I don’t have to market.” And there’s actually some arrogance, I think, from a lot of business owners around, “I don’t have to market. I’m so busy. I have all these clients.” But are they the right clients, or should you be going upstream? Should you be getting different kinds of clients? But you’re too busy handling the ones that are coming in. And are you getting-

Kate Colbert: [00:13:52] So, a great example of that for me, and I think this will resonate with your listeners. So, I do a lot of communications. I also do crisis communications. So, when someone — And this has been an interesting endurance for this me-too era. So, when somebody gets ousted from a job, or they’re accused of something, or something goes horribly wrong at your company, right, and often by no fault of your own. Your business burns down, there’s a scandal, your CEO is involved in some sort of scandal, my company does a lot of work to help people figure out, how do we message around that? What do we say to the media? What do we put on our website?

Kate Colbert: [00:14:27] You know, I live in the sort of Chicago Milwaukee area, and there’s a large megachurch near us, and they just went through this massive scandal where their entire board was asked to step down. And, you know, I was not involved in helping them, but I did sort of post some things on social media about how they handled it, and the messaging, and they handled it really as well as they possibly could have so that, you know.

Kate Colbert: [00:14:49] But the point is that if you think, “Well, people know me, and they refer to me, and that’s all we need to do. I don’t need to market,” you really need to be asking yourself though, do they know the right things about you? So, for example, if my most happy clients were — Let’s say my happiest clients are the people whose reputations I’ve saved because I’ve handled their media crisis and the people whose books I’ve published because they’re pretty happy, right? Interestingly, those are the two smallest areas of my business, and they’re among the lowest margin areas of my business.

Kate Colbert: [00:15:22] So, if I relied on referrals to keep my business growing, all I would do is handle people’s crisis, and they would be calling me at 3:00 a.m., “Oh my god, Kate. I just got a Google alert. My name just showed up in this horrible article. What do I do? My wife is crying,” and I would be getting tons and tons of book manuscripts, which we already do, and I would never ever catch up, and I would never get to work on the projects that are really what I’m super passionate about, which is brand storytelling and major market research projects.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:52] So, if you count on your clients to go tell your story for you to the marketplace, they might be telling the wrong story. They might be telling people that you’re a great tax accountant when what you really want to be is sort of the day-to-day strategic accounting advisor for business owners. If your clients are telling the wrong story for you, you will continue to get the wrong referrals.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:13] Wow, that was spot on because most accountants that I know or those in financials that they don’t want to be doing the front tax professional accounting. They want to be the strategy. The strategery, as Formal President Bush would say.

Kate Colbert: [00:16:29] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:30] And the strategic thinking, being at the table with everybody else, but they spend a lot of time doing their one-on-one professional accounting, nuts and bolts. Well, I will say they should be more thankful about technology because technology is going to take that away. And, now, they’re being forced by the marketplace to be more of a future thinker, more of an adviser than somebody who sits in a cubicle or sits in office, and it’s a 10-key all day. And, again, I still think there’s a support group for you people who are still using this 10-key. So, let’s talk about the book. You’ve got these five pillars. So, what are the five pillars?

Kate Colbert: [00:17:12] Yes. So, thinking like a marketer, the concept is something I’ve developed over the years based on what I’ve seen work for my business, as well as for the many, many clients that I serve. And there’s sort of these five principles of thinking like a marketer. Principle number one is communicate for connection and meaning, not just to transact sales. And I’ll give you some thoughts around that but let me sort of walk you through them.

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

Kate Colbert: [00:17:34] Principle number two is live and die by your customer insights. So, you’ve got to be listening. What are they telling? Number three is really about what I call market in a way that is strategy religious and tactic agnostic. And no, this has nothing to do with like who you pray to, but it’s about being open to a different marketing tactics.

Kate Colbert: [00:17:53] Then, principle number four is about creating processes and cultures at your organization that align with the brand and the story that you’re telling to the marketplace. And the fifth principle is one that sort of touches everything that you should be doing in your company, but it’s about doing everything in service to what I think of as sort of a virtuous cycle of creating value for the customer, and then capturing it back for you, and how do you always make sure you’re creating enough value and capturing enough value because a lot of folks, they’re a little bit lopsided.

Kate Colbert: [00:18:21] So, let me give you examples of how-

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:25] Okay.

Kate Colbert: [00:18:25] … how the listeners of your podcast can apply these principles. So, principle one is really all about taking the time to communicate with the customers to connect with them, and to create meaning, not just to transact some sort of sales. I would say that in recent years, I’ve been very impressed by professionals in the financial services industries who are starting to communicate more for meaning.

Kate Colbert: [00:18:49] So, they’re starting to tell more stories, they’re starting to share more insights, things that are not just about, “Don’t forget to make your appointment, you know, to file your taxes.” So, they’re blogging. They’re doing a lot of the work that you’re doing in terms of podcasts. They’re writing books. They’re putting out some newsletters. Those things are great.

Kate Colbert: [00:19:05] What I would love to see accountants and financial professionals do more of is find better ways to create one-to-one communications with their clients, with their prospective clients that are not about selling them something, and it’s not about reporting. So, you know, if you ask the average American, how often do you hear from your accountant, or your financial planner, or what have you, and it’s not them trying to get you to do something, and it’s not your annual sort of performance meeting, and it’s not a reporting, right?

Kate Colbert: [00:19:36] So, I happen to love my accounting firm, but right before we got on this call today, I was scanning an invoice from them, right. They were sending the quarterly payroll filings, right. So, the payroll returns. And what does it look like if you can find ways to have conversations not just with the masses, not just the newsletter to your entire database, but what does it look like to bake it into the way you do business to be regularly communicating with your clients and your prospective clients about different things like, “Hey, Peter, I was just reading this interesting article,” or “There’s a change that’s been made for the tax code that reminded me about the structure of your business that I wanted to make sure that you’re kind of up to speed on this. Can we have a cup of coffee?” And what does that look like to be having those conversations when it’s not all about closing a deal or opening a door.

Kate Colbert: [00:20:29] The firms and the professionals who are finding ways to create meaning and connection in the way they communicate beyond just the stuff that’s on their to-do list are the ones that are creating really sustainable businesses for the long haul and, by the way, are capturing a lot more value to the bottom line because they can raise their prices because they’re more meaningful.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:50] You just described your advisory role, in my mind, in listening to that. And the other thing before we move on, the one thing I find out with most people who are not like you, who are not writers, they don’t think they’re professional writers. But I ask them, “You write at work?” “Yes, we do.” “Do you get paid? Yes, you do. You’re a professional writer.”

Kate Colbert: [00:21:12] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:13] But it’s not until Cathy Fyock, and you know Cathy. When she spoke at our NSA chapter, she wrote the book, Blog2Book. She’s a business book coach. When she started her seminar, she goes, “I hate to write that,” and she wrote a book in, what was it, seven weeks or something like that.

Kate Colbert: [00:21:33] Yeah, yeah. Several of her books, I think, she’s written in less than three weeks. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:37] And that caught my attention because I don’t like to write, but if she could do it. And I’ve been trying to pass that message on to this audience is writing is messy.

Kate Colbert: [00:21:49] It is. And it’s an imperative. So, if you choose to have a job where you have customers, even if they’re internal customers, right, you work in a large corporation where you work an accounting function, and you have all these internal departments that run their paperwork through you, you have customers. No matter what you do, you have customers. And if you do work where you have customers, you have to communicate. And whether it’s hallway conversations or bazillions of e-mails that are gobbling up the hours in your day, you have to be an effective communicator.

Kate Colbert: [00:22:21] And, interestingly, sort of around that, a lot of organizations are not getting the training they need. And that’s one of the things that a lot of people call me for. And that’s actually — So, I do a lot of communications training with really technical experts. So, not too long ago, I did some training at a major pharmaceutical company whose drugs you would know. And they called me up and said, “Hey, we’ve got all these people,” and sort of the folks who write applications to the FDA, and they said, “We need to figure out how to be more effective around that.”

Kate Colbert: [00:22:51] And so we spent a lot of time teaching them, not just how to get the grammar right, but we did that. I spent a lot of time with them helping them understand a formula for how to write more persuasively because they’re trying to get FDA approval for their drugs. And so, being more persuasive is vital in many, many roles, including very technical roles. So, those are the kinds of things that I think people are forgetting about is that you have an imperative to communicate, and you have an opportunity, and you have customers.

Kate Colbert: [00:23:21] If you have somebody who’s writing you a check on a regular basis, whether it’s for, you know, advisory services or for, you know, filing your payroll taxes, those people do want to hear from you and they do want to know you. And I would say 9 out of 10 business owners and professionals are coming up a little bit short in that area of communicating appropriately.

Kate Colbert: [00:23:42] And it’s not about communicating often. So, a lot of people will say, “Well, we put out a newsletter every month. They spend all this time.” First of all, I would be curious to know if people are actually reading the newsletter, you know. And most people aren’t. I don’t. Almost every professional I get a newsletter from, I don’t read it. It’s got to be the right headline to catch my attention. I rarely see that, you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:04] So, how do people do better? So, the good news is that, I think, professionals in the financial space can absolutely do better to be connecting more meaningfully. And it does tie back, of course. If you spend a lot of time communicating in a way that’s not salesy, it will make your cash register ring. You just have to understand sort of how there’s a line of sight to revenue. And that is not to say that I think you should be giving away everything for free. And we can talk about that today too if you want to talk a little bit about sampling that kind of stuff. Yeah, you got to start with an imperative to communicate beyond just the transaction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:38] Cool. Thank you for addressing that. And I wholeheartedly believe that as well.

Kate Colbert: [00:24:43] So, principal number two, live and die by your customer insights. What’s interesting to me about financial professionals is that, you know, here’s a group of subject matter experts who are all about the data, right. They could care about the numbers, right? All about the numbers, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:58] Yeah.

Kate Colbert: [00:24:58] Except I would argue that thinking like a marketer requires that you’d be looking at some other numbers that you’re not looking at. So, we have a fair number of clients in the financial planning space who have been running successful businesses. And when I sit down with them, and I say, “When is the last time you did a client satisfaction survey?” and they usually say, “We’ve never done one.” And they say, “Well, our clients are really happy. Like, we have no turnover. They stick around.” “Okay. Well, what are they happy about?” They’re not sure. They think they know.

Kate Colbert: [00:25:28] So, your customer insights really are about reaching out and finding out. So, here’s a couple of things that we’ve found out for clients in the financial spaces when we’ve done market research with their clients. And, one, I should start with a caveat, I understand that the listeners to your podcast work in regulated industries, right. And it’s very, very easy for people who work in regulated industries to say, “I can’t do this kind of stuff because I can’t get people to respond to my online survey because I can’t do what your other clients do, Kate, and incentivize, and say someone’s going to win a $250 Amazon gift card.” I get that, right. I understand that. But, interestingly, we do get statistically relevant data back. And if you’re running a pretty solid company, as it is, people love you, they will respond to your survey. It’s just about how we ask them to do so.

Kate Colbert: [00:26:18] The things that we’re finding out for a financial services firms when we do the research and look for the insights are things that are game changing. So, we, often, will find out we had a client who really specialized in working with independent women. So, either single women, or women who were divorced, or women who own their own businesses. And that’s really the bread and butter in terms of her clientele. And she was about ready to put a stake in the ground to actually change her brand story, her tagline, everything, her website to really hone in on that, and almost put a hand up to new male clients.

Kate Colbert: [00:26:55] And we did the research. We found out some interesting things. Her most loyal and appreciative clients were male. Now, her female clients are very, very happy. But when we looked to the numbers, statistically speaking, the men are overwhelmingly appreciative of the work she does.

Kate Colbert: [00:27:10] Interestingly, as well, the educational offerings that she was offering, whether it was seminars on Medicare, and continuing care communities for people who are coming up on retirement, or if it’s events at the beginning of the year that’s a more social event that everyone’s getting together to do some vision board, so they can think about, “Do I want to take a trip to Alaska this year? And then, how do I save money for that,” she thought these types of events, especially the social events and the things that are really sort of more community-based, she thought were women, only women want it, that’s a women’s event. Significantly, if you’ll look at the numbers, men are actually clamoring more for that than the women are. And it was really interesting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:48] What?

Kate Colbert: [00:27:48] Yeah, we were surprised. So, I was surprised too. I usually, like, place some bets on what I think we’ll find out in the research, and I was dead wrong on that one. And the numbers were just unequivocal. But it was interesting for us to find out that in the financial space, and we’ve seen this for other clients as well, the emotions, and the aspirations, and the ego, and all of the things that are tied to money for individual consumers and clients, women are sometimes more likely to be forthcoming about that as a client in the meetings.

Kate Colbert: [00:28:20] But men, sometimes, have a pent-up need to express that and to talk about what they care about for their family, what their goals are, whether they want to be able to, you know, help their in-laws you know when things get tough or when they get older. All those things that they may not be expressing, oh my gosh, if you go do the research, you can find out. Especially if you do anonymous research, men will tell you some interesting things. And if they tell it to you in those, it can help trigger some major changes to the kinds of service offerings that you’re making, the way you communicate about them, the way you price them, everything in that regard.

Kate Colbert: [00:28:58] So, again, I think, that it’s vital that you get beyond just the data in terms of, you know, how is someone’s portfolio doing or whatever numbers you’re looking at every day to figure out what do the insights from the customers say about how happy they are. What’s your net promoter score? So, how likely are they to recommend you? So, back to this whole idea of everyone says, “Well, I live and die by my referrals.” That’s great. Is your net promoter score higher this year than it was last year? Because if you know how it’s trending, you’ll know whether or not your company is going to grow next year or is going to fall off. You can be prepared for that.

Kate Colbert: [00:29:33] So, there is research you can do that will give you leading indicators for the health of your company if you would only sort of think like a marketer to go get that information. And it’s pretty easy, you know. So, I suggest this, wherever you work, whatever you do, start out a sentence, and put an ellipsis in the middle, you know. We would have more money than we would know to do with, or we would be so successful, or we would be able to retire early or sell this company, or whatever your goal is. “We would be able to do X, Y, and Z if only we knew … about our clients.” What’s your ellipsis? “So, if only we knew …”

Kate Colbert: [00:30:08] It is my experience as a market researcher that 95% of the things that people are struggling and guessing at when they’re marketing and guessing at like, “Well, I think, our clients are happy about this,” or “I think, our clients are willing to spend this much,” or what have you, 95% of what people are putting in the ellipsis, “if I only knew …”, are things we can actually find out. And all we have to do is go ask.

Kate Colbert: [00:30:31] So, I encourage folks in professional services space to be doing that exercise. And if you have colleagues and staff, sit around a table and do that exercise. Get out a flip chart and make some wish lists. Here’s what we think we know about our clients. Here’s what we wish we knew about our clients. Here’s what we’re concerned about in terms of whether we’re really hitting the mark with our clients and figure out how do you go fill in those gaps. Almost all of those gaps can be answered and filled by doing the right research. Once you have those customer insights, you know what pivots to make in your company to be able to grow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:06] Thank you for that advice. I’m actually going to take you up on that one.

Kate Colbert: [00:31:10] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:10] I’m holding my feet to the fire because I never thought about that. Again, that’s good stuff.

Kate Colbert: [00:31:16] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:17] That’s great advice. Thank you so very much for sharing that.

Kate Colbert: [00:31:20] So, let’s talk about-

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:22] You’re on roll.

Kate Colbert: [00:31:22] Yeah, I want to roll. I’m giving you the book for free, which, by the way, there’s a whole section of my book called Give It Away. It’s about sampling strategies. So, I’m giving away a lot. My book gives away a lot. But I trust if you think it’s useful, you’ll call me, right.

Kate Colbert: [00:31:36] So, principle number three is really around this idea of what I talked about market in a way that’s strategy religious and tactic agnostic. And no, this is not about where you go to church. This is about, “If your strategy from a marketing standpoint is …” So, let’s say, for example, you say, “I want to focus my marketing strategy this year or for the next several years is going to be on doing a lot of one-to-one time-consuming, but high value, high-touch marketing and communication with the people who spend more than 30% of the average client spend with us.” Okay. So, if the average client is spending, whatever, $10,000 with you, the people who are, you know, well above that, those are the people.

Kate Colbert: [00:32:16] If your strategy says, “We’re going to have cocktail parties for them. We’re going to do a lot of stuff for those people,” the people who sort of just fit into that average and below average, we’ll communicate with them regularly, but they’re going to get the mass market stuff. They’re going to get the newsletters. They’re going to log into the podcast. They’re going to get the basics, but not the stuff that’s really time-consuming for you as a leader or business owner. If that is your strategy, you need to be religious to that strategy if you believe that that is the right way to go.

Kate Colbert: [00:32:42] But in terms of the tactics you apply and the stuff, the activities you do in marketing, you need to be really open minded and very agnostic about it. So, the right way to communicate might be things that scare you, right. So, it might be producing the right video series and workshop series when you don’t like the way you look on camera and don’t like listening to your own voice, but that may be the right tactic because it’s the strategy. It might be about doing more direct mail. It might be about hosting more events. You might need a television commercial or whatever.

Kate Colbert: [00:33:14] Take a look at the tactics. And it’s not, by the way, always about the tactic of the moment. So, clients say to me all the time, and not so much now as they did like five or eight years ago, “Kate, we need an app.” And I would say, “Okay. Okay, great.” “So, what will the app do? Like, what are the functions of the app?” “I don’t know.” “What problems are your customers or clients having that you would like to solve with the app?” “I don’t know.” “Do you have any evidence that people would download an app sponsored by your company or brand?” “No, I don’t know, but everyone has one, and my competitor has one.” Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:47] Oh yeah.

Kate Colbert: [00:33:47] Right? Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:48] Yeah.

Kate Colbert: [00:33:48] So, this is people who are being religious to a tactic saying, “Oh my god, everybody has an app. So, we have to have one.” If your strategy is all about creating convenience and sort of the pocket, right. So, it made sense that Amazon has an app, right, because it could be ubiquitous that people can shop anywhere, one click. They have one-clickified the world. That makes sense. No one has really one-clickified financial services. And, quite frankly, I don’t want my wealth management information available on my phone anyway. I just don’t. I don’t want, from a hacking standpoint or what have you, I don’t want that there.

Kate Colbert: [00:34:22] So, it’s really about thinking about sort of what are the tactics that are available to you, and choosing, and trying them out, and, also, again not being religious. So, if you try something out, and six months later or nine months later, you have some way on your website that you can figure out, you know, you’ve been blogging.

Kate Colbert: [00:34:42] Let’s say your blogging like a theme. That’s your new tactic this year. And you’re posting these blogs on LinkedIn Pulse and various other places. And that should be driving people back to your website to transact a lot of form, you know, schedule a consultation, et cetera. If the data in your Google Analytics shows that no one from who’s reading those blogs is turning into a client, you need to ask yourself, is it working, or should I put less energy into this tactic? And should I go ahead put that on the chopping block and look at something else? And so, it’s about being willing to try new things, and then walk away from new things.

Kate Colbert: [00:35:19] Also remember, too, that if you’re not communicating, again, it’s about connection, there are a lot of a lot of financial services firms that are doing one thing. You talked about advisory services. So, maybe I use my accountant to file my taxes, but maybe I don’t realize that she has these five other services that I could be using her for. If she’s not communicating that to me clearly, I don’t know. And she has to try different marketing tactics to get my attention. We just talked about we’re all getting too much email. So, it’s about understanding what’s your strategy, and then trying out some new tactics.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:53] And to that point, two things. If anybody is out there thinking that they want to start a podcast, I highly recommend you get a great reach. However, you have to give it two years and more-

Kate Colbert: [00:36:07] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:07] … on a consistent basis because at one-year mark, I was frustrated. A year and a half mark, that’s branded.

Kate Colbert: [00:36:13] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:13] But then, I talked to other podcasters, I’ve talked to others who are doing it, and they said, “This is something that will eventually take off, but it just takes a lot. It has a longer timeline.”

Kate Colbert: [00:36:26] A longer lead time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:27] Yeah, than maybe blogging.

Kate Colbert: [00:36:29] And that’s good advice. And it’s about — right. So, you were strategy religious, right. I’m sure a ton of thought went into, “Do I want to do what it takes to start this podcast and maintain it?” It’s a ton of work, right. But you have this interesting brand. I was actually — I was doing a Facebook live earlier today to my book launch team, and I was talking about the fact that I’d be having this conversation with you. And here’s how I described you. I said this, “He’s a really great guy. He’s known in the marketplace as the Accidental Accountant. He teaches people how to take the numb out of numbers.” I talked a little bit about your book, I talked about what you do, and I talked about your podcast, and about how it’s about changing your mindset.

Kate Colbert: [00:37:06] And in my mind, your podcast is a really important part of your story. It’s an important part of who you are even though it took a while to really gain that traction. So, you know, you stayed religious to it because you knew that it sped the strategy. And then, now, it’s really paying off for you, which is great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:22] And I think I heard you create a new word. Did you create the word clickified?

Kate Colbert: [00:37:29] Oh, I don’t know. I’m not — You know, I may have stolen that from someone, but I’m not sure. But, yeah, always, I’m telling my clients about, you know, how do you make things easier for your clients and customers? And so, the goal is what Amazon has done. How do you one-clickify really? Like, you know, buy with one click, one-clickify, right. It’s a verb now. I’m pretty sure it’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but just give it time. I mean, selfie is in the Oxford English Dictionary. So, give it time, but it really is about-

Kate Colbert: [00:37:57] But that comes back to this principle five, creating value and capturing value. Anything you can do to make things easier for your clients, your customers is about creating value. It might be hard work for you upfront. It’s not easy to start a podcast, for example, or it’s not easy to set up all the technologies of that with one click.

Kate Colbert: [00:38:17] So, from my financial services, for example, I have one click, and I can see sort of a whole wealth management view. I can see all of our investments, and our bank accounts, and all in sort of one place. And that has sort of one-clickified my net worth management. I have no idea what that costs the firm we work with, and I honestly don’t care. It set the bar, right. So, if I were to ever have to switch financial planners, that’s the bar I would be looking for. I’d be like, “Well, I want to be able to log in and see it all at once.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:45] So, I know what I’m getting you for Christmas this year, a t-shirt that says clickified.

Kate Colbert: [00:38:51] Yeah, it’s a clicker. Yeah. I know I’m all about — We got to get — I have an easy button on my desk. You press it and it says-

Male: [00:38:55] That was easy.

Kate Colbert: [00:38:55] Yeah. So, we need to want to one-clickify, you know. And then, you know, the other piece that I would say that’s interesting for your listeners is, you know, so principle number four of thinking like a marketer is really about creating processes and cultures that align to the brand.

Kate Colbert: [00:39:14] So, for example, if you are an accounting firm that prides yourself on no surprise invoices, that you never have a client who says, “What is this?” right, then, you’ve got to be thinking about how do you create processes and cultures where you’re continually adding value, but you’re not feeling short-changed.

Kate Colbert: [00:39:30] So, whether that has some sort of retainer in relationship or that your pricing is structured such a way that there is always a little bit of cushion, so that if people are calling and asking for extra advice, you don’t feel like you’re giving it away for free. So, how do you think about what your brand is, and then create cultures and processes that align to it?

Kate Colbert: [00:39:49] A good example outside of the financial space that I think everyone can relate to is Southwest Airlines, right. So, you and I were recently at NSA, and we heard Gary Kelly, who is the CEO and Chairman of Southwest, talk about sort of their brand. And I love the way he describes this brand. He says that, “We’re all about good old-fashioned stability.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:11] Yes.

Kate Colbert: [00:40:11] Now, first of all, there’s no one who uses any phrasing like that at all in the industry, in the airline industry. So, what does it look like to have processes and cultures that are around delivering good old-fashioned civility? Well, they’re all about their planes being on time. And they do that because everybody who works on the plane, when we all get off, they’re picking up. They all clean. It doesn’t matter who you are. You know, it’s not just the cleaning crew. The flight attendants, everyone is picking up stuff, and getting things moving around because they’re trying to create a process that feeds the brand. It’s about nobody having so much arrogance to say, “It’s not my job to clean this plane.” They’re all about making things really easy, and comfortable, and not about nickel-and-diming the client.

Kate Colbert: [00:40:54] So, the customer doesn’t want to have to pay to check bags. So, they don’t check bags. Now, they have gotten a ton of pushback. You know, there have been a lot of articles written about it over the years, and I know that even people on the board at Southwest have said, “When are we going to start doing tiered pricing, so that people can pay for like first class seats? When are we going to start assigning seats? And when are we going to start charging for bags?”

Kate Colbert: [00:41:17] And folks like Gary Kelly keep saying, “We’re not going to. Like that is not on the table,” because he’s one of those people, he’s a business owner who understands, a business leader who understands that your processes and your culture have to align to the brand. And there’s a reason that they, you know, continue to be the leading airline in the industry, and that they’re, I think, the only airline that’s never had a layoff; and yet, their prices are lower than almost everyone’s, right. And so, they get it, right.

Kate Colbert: [00:41:44] They, also, are listening to the customers. They understand the bags flying free matter. So, I was in Florida not too long ago. I was headed out on a cruise. And this side of the parking structures was like, you know, four stories tall, this huge piece of concrete. And it was painted as a giant billboard with the Southwest logo, what have you. And it said something to the effect of, “You look fabulous in all of those outfits. Go ahead and pack them all. Bags fly free, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:10] Nice.

Kate Colbert: [00:42:10] Right. And I burst out laughing. I’m like, “That’s totally me.” Like I’m the girl who takes eight suitcases on a cruise because I want to wear it all. I took 15 pair of shoes on my last cruise, and I did wear them all. I know, I know, I know, I know. I’m impossible, right. But this is about them having processes that align with what the customers care about and that align with the brand.

Kate Colbert: [00:42:31] And so, you can do that. And if you’re on an accounting firm or a financial firm, you can be thinking about, what do we do, right. Like I know a financial firm that does a really cool thing that their building that they own literally has like a ballroom, like event space, in the middle. The largest part of their building is not offices for the executives. It’s this huge space with round tables, and a stage, and the whole because they’re constantly bringing in speakers and having events. And they’re all about creating value. They’re about communicating for connection and meaning with their clients because they want to create real relationships. So, they literally had an architectural sort of space planning planned that aligned to what makes them meaningfully different.

Kate Colbert: [00:43:16] And so, we need to be thinking about that as business leaders. What are we willing to do differently in our day-to-day processes, up to and including the way the building is laid out, in order to really deliver on the story that we’re telling to the marketplace about what makes you a better accounting firm than the accounting firm down the street?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:36] So, let me ask you this question as you were talking about Southwest Airlines. And this may go into number five or maybe part of number four. So, that’s my question. I won’t give it away, but the way he ended his presentation, is that a number four or is that a number five?

Kate Colbert: [00:43:52] Yeah, no. And so — Okay. So, the way he ended his presentation, and I cannot stop talking about it, right. So, here is a man who stood up in front of about 1500 professional speakers of various levels of fame and talent. And he gets up there, and he’s kind of this really casual guy who didn’t have like a really fancy script. And he’s like, “I’m not one of you. I’m not a professional speaker.” He was very humble. And he gave this really amazing speech about what they do, and what makes them different, and why he believes in what they do. And he ended it by giving a gift to everyone in the audience.

Kate Colbert: [00:44:24] What I loved is that the moderators for the conference come up onto the stage, and they do this whole sort of like, you know, inner calm voice, you know, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats for the safety of yourself and other passengers while the flight attendants come up aisle.” And all 1500 of us all turn around and start looking at it. And we’re like, “What do you mean the flight attendants coming up the aisle?” And here come all these flight attendants from Southwest Airlines, not just to hand out pretzels, but to give every single one of us in the audience a $100 gift card.

Kate Colbert: [00:44:52] I happen to have mine sitting right here on my desk, okay. And I just used it. So, I just hired some consultants to help do some brand work for me. And I have to go to Nashville in a couple of months. And so, I just used this $100, and I was thrilled, and I have tweeted about it, and I’ve talked about it on Facebook, and I took my picture with a flight attendant while I was there, right, and thanked her.

Kate Colbert: [00:45:17] So, this is about — And, now, think about this. On one hand, we’re like, “This is so generous,” right. It cost them $1500. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a television commercial. It’s cheaper than a direct mail campaign in an audience of their size. It’s a pretty affordable tactic, but it aligned to their strategy, right. It comes back to the whole strategy religious tactic agnostic as well, and that they thought, “Oh my gosh, 1500 people are going to be feeling this sort of sense of endearment for Gary Kelly who was just on the stage at their event feeling like one of them, right. And he’s going to give real money away.” And then, we’re going to ask them, “If you’re kind of excited about this, could you go throw a hashtag and talk about this on social media?” and a lot of us did.

Kate Colbert: [00:45:59] It created — Southwest Airlines created value, and excitement, and a memory, which is way more important than the $100 to each of us, but it also took some pressure off of us, all of us who had just that money to be at a conference and might have been bemoaning that. Those of us who own our own firms are like, “Crap, I’d have to pay for that,” right. And here is this free $100. He created value for 1500 people in the audience, and he captured value back.

Kate Colbert: [00:46:22] Do you know how many times — I’ve always been a fan, but you know how many times in the last month I have told that story and told people, “If you do not fly Southwest Airlines, you are insane,” right. Talk about referrals. And because I was finishing my book just as that happened, that story actually made it into my book. So, you know, if the book is a big bestseller, lots and lots of people are going to read that story as well. So, it absolutely is.

Kate Colbert: [00:46:48] So, principle five is about sort of maintaining this continuous sort of cycle of creating value and capturing value back. And creating value means, sometimes, you’re going to give stuff away for free. Maybe you’re going to invite people into your audience for a perspective — into your office for prospective clients, and you’re going to meet with them and their spouse, and you’re going to do like kind of a whole road mapping thing about their financial goals, and you’re going to give them — maybe you’re going to build a plan, and maybe you’re going to take some risks. So, you’re going to sample out. You’re going to let them sort of see your thinking. And if they love you, they’re going to sign up for thousands of dollars’ worth of financial planning, you know.

Kate Colbert: [00:47:22] So, it’s about can you create value for people, not just upfront when you’re trying to win them, but continuously, how do you keep creating value? But how do you capture it back? So, at the end of the day, we’re all in business to stay in business. So, it’s not about giving it all away or selling it for too cheap. It’s really about figuring out how do you make sure that you’re pricing yourself right.

Kate Colbert: [00:47:42] I would venture to say that a lot of people who own their own firms are giving away too much, or they’re just pricing their services too low. And that’s really, I think — And, again, we come back to this whole, are your current clients referring the wrong kind of clients to you? Like, could they be referring bigger clients, corporate clients, deeper pockets clients? What does that look like? So, you know, if you’re doing too many touch base mediums that you allow your clients to call you 27 times a year with no fees associated with additional mediums beyond two per year or what have you, you need to be thinking about that.

Kate Colbert: [00:48:15] And you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. We all went into business to be able to do something sustainable. You cannot get back to the top of that cycle. You cannot create more value for your current clients, or your future clients, or internal customers, or whoever you serve if you’re not capturing money back to the bottom line. And, again, accountants get this more than anybody, right. You know, it has — It’s like, what is that balance sheet look like for you, you know, in terms of the value you’re creating, the value you’re capturing back. If you’re constantly working on that, your business is going to be around as long as you want it to be. And then, you can retire and go buy a yacht.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:49] Exactly. And as you were sort of describing that, I’m going, “Well, one, I’ve got my selfless card, yeah.” And two, you said this, and I think that add-on, are they talking about you? Are they telling your story to somebody else? Are they telling that magical story as — You know, how is that sticking? I mean, you’re right. I’ve been talking. I’ve played selfless a lot these days, and I just ratcheted up after I have not. Then, I told my wife, she goes, “You got to be kidding me.”

Kate Colbert: [00:49:22] I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:23] And I’ve been a fan of Southwest from day one. They do get it. There’s one other airline I won’t mention that gets it but that’s what really gets it.

Kate Colbert: [00:49:34] But it’s about delighting. And I think those of us who provide professional services, again, sometimes, we forget about the emotional component of our client. So, yes. You know, when I hired an accounting firm, was I hiring them to help manage the books for my two businesses, and to take a lot of that work off my to-do list, and help me figure out should I be, you know, 1099 or should be an employee, and what does that look like? There were a lot of things, tactical things that I was hiring them to do.

Kate Colbert: [00:50:01] But at the end of the day, I was hiring them to delight me. I was hiring them to take pressure off to make me feel confident, to make me trust them, to make me feel safe, to make me excited every year when we filed taxes about how much money is left over. So, Kate is getting new floors right now actually. So, I’m always spending money on exciting things. Usually, travel or home improvement. But what does that look like? Yeah.

Kate Colbert: [00:50:23] Yeah. So, I mean, I think that it really is. And you talk about the story. What story are people telling you about you? And I think that’s an important thing for folks to remember is that even if you are nailing the story that you’re telling about your own firm or your own company, and what makes you different, you need to be listening to find out what are people saying about you. What story do they tell about you? And is it the story you want them to tell about you? Is it the real story, right?

Kate Colbert: [00:50:47] Again, so, you know, I would be in a bad place if what everyone’s saying to the marketplace is, “Oh, she’s the fixer, you know. If you get in trouble, you behave your way into something, you know, she’ll help you communicate your way out.” That’s not true. That’s just not true, right. Ethically, that’s just not who I am.

Kate Colbert: [00:51:04] And I like to sleep every now and then. And so, client communication is exhausting. Like I have had cameras shoved in my face, and, you know, “Kate, I heard your employer, you know, just did this thing, and 30 cancer patients are all going to die, and it’s your fault. What do you have to say about that?”, right. So, that’s the kind of work that if I wasn’t listening to see what people were telling about me, and then correcting them.

Kate Colbert: [00:51:26] I had a client, for example, who used to introduce me. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, very famous man, very wealthy man. He used to tell everyone that I was his PR person. And public relations is a tiny bit of what I do. And a lot of people don’t know the difference between public relations and marketing. And I thought, I need to sit down with him.

Kate Colbert: [00:51:44] And so, I had dinner with him, and explained to him the difference between public relations and marketing, and why I need him to tell a different story about my company because he was telling the wrong story, he was driving the wrong clients to us, and he’s a goodhearted man. He thought he was helping me, and he was actually sending us the wrong clients.

Kate Colbert: [00:52:00] And so, be listening. Again, this comes back to, you know, live and die by your customer insights. What are they saying about you? If you don’t know because you can’t monitor what they’re saying on social media because they’re not being public about what they’re saying, go ask them. Do a survey, have a focus group, put a bunch of them in a room, feed them some pizza, give them some money. In a regulated industry, you can’t give them some money but find out, you know. Find out what people are saying about you and make sure that story aligns with where your business is today and where it’s headed tomorrow. And if it’s not, figure out how to fix that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:30] Kate, you had given my audience a Southwest gift card, and they don’t even realize it. God, how can people find you? How can people find you and your book? Your book is out there now. It’s live just a little maybe under a month or something like that.

Kate Colbert: [00:52:45] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:45] So, how can they get the book?

Kate Colbert: [00:52:47] Right. So, you can learn about the book if you want to know a little bit more about me or the book at ThinkLikeAMarketerTheBook.com, or you can go ahead and just go over to Amazon. One-clickify it. If you have a-

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:00] [Laughs].

Kate Colbert: [00:53:00] If you have a prime membership, which who in America doesn’t, the book ships free with prime. So, buy a book. Have it about four days later. If you love it, please write a review and let me know. There is a community on Facebook. So, there is a group, a public group on Facebook, Think Like a Marketer group. If you read the book, and you start applying some of these insights, or even just based on a conversation today, if you get some ideas, and you try to go try something new at your company based on these insights, I would love to hear how it goes.

Kate Colbert: [00:53:30] Go to that group. Please join the group. Tell us how it’s going. It’s a great place to meet other business professionals in various professions and functional areas. Bounce some ideas off of each other. Get some free consulting out of each other. So, please do that. And, obviously, you’re welcome to reach out to me directly. All my contact information is on the book site. It’s also available at SilverTreeCommunications.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:50] Kate, I’m actually going to post something on the Think Like a Marketer Facebook group today before the end of the day talking about this. I will post the podcast there. You did great work. I can’t wait to get the book and read it. I can’t begin to thank you so much, one, for taking the time. And so, secondly, the amount of time you put in to ensure that my book came out looking like a diamond. Most I’ve been told, I’m a diamond in the rough. You made it look like a diamond. So, thank you very much. I appreciate you. I’ve got some more work for you coming up here real soon.

Kate Colbert: [00:54:28] There you go. Right back at that lens. It’s such a pleasure. Thank you for letting me come on, and thank you for letting me talk about the book, and thank you for letting me give a little bit of love to the folks out there who might need to think like a marketer and didn’t even know it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:40] Thanks, Kate.

Kate Colbert: [00:54:41] Take care.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:43] I want to thank Kate for taking her time to help us change our mindset and become a better marketer, so we can grow our business. I’d like to personally thank Kate for putting out one heck of a product in publishing my book. I’m still so overwhelmed by it, and the feedback that I’ve received has just been fantastic. Thank you very much, Kate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:03] In Episode 11, my guest is Courtney Kirschbaum, who’s been on my podcast before. She was the opening keynote speaker at the Georgia Society of CPAs Southeastern Accounting Show. And we talked about her presentation titled The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning. Tune in. It’s a fascinating conversation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:24] Thank you for listening, and begin the process of changing your mindset, and getting out of your comfort zone, and develop new skill sets to become more future ready. Your call to action is to begin to apply the five principles outlined in Kate’s interview and start measuring the results. Also, get out there and become a better networker. Remember, a part of being future-ready is being an improviser. Being an improviser is someone who is willing to take risks in order to grow. Thank you for listening.