S2E28 – Amy Franko | Cultivating The Modern Seller Mindset & Skill Set

My guest today is Amy Franko, who is a strategic sales expert, author, and keynote speaker. Amy had a successful business-to-business sales career with global technology companies like IBM and Lenovo before, in 2007, she pivoted into entrepreneurship and launched the training firm Impact Instruction Group. Now, Amy works with professional service firms, helping them grow business development results and build firm leaders.

 

Amy also recently released a book, The Modern Seller, which is not a book about prospecting or negotiating skills. It’s a book that explores the five skill sets that individuals and organizations need in order to become successful. In this episode, Amy explains each one of these skill sets in great detail, focusing on how they apply to the financial service industry. However, no matter what industry you’re in, the ability for you to develop these five skill sets is crucial in the disruptive business environment that we are operating in today.

 

So, let’s dig into the five skill sets of The Modern Seller….

 

A modern seller is agile.

 

Until the last decade or so, “agility” was something that you heard about in sports and athletic training, not a business concept.

 

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, which does research on the top skills that organizations are looking to hire for and build, agility really popped onto the radar about 10 years ago. And they think that, by 2022, things like adaptability and versatility are going to be in the top five skills that organizations are looking to hire for.

 

Amy says that they are also skills that we need to be thinking about when it comes to business development and growth – because our clients are expecting that of us! They’re expecting us to show agility as professional organizations, and in order to do that, we have to be developing agility in ourselves.

 

A modern seller is entrepreneurial.

 

Whether you’re a manager, a senior manager, or someone at the highest level in your organization, look at yourself and look at the people in your firm. Do they see themselves as employees, or do they see themselves as the founder and the CEO, maybe the chief bootstrapper, in their own book of business?

 

Because there’s a big difference there. When an employee thinks of their book of business or their team’s book of business as a business itself, they make different decisions. They look at the top line and the bottom line, and they look for the best opportunities.

 

So, we want to have people in our organization that are thinking entrepreneurially because that’s what’s going to help us grow.

 

A modern seller is holistic.

 

Amy says a modern seller is holistic, in two ways.

 

The first part of being holistic is the idea that, on any given day, we have a finite amount of resources when it comes to our time, our energy, our motivation, and our discipline. The way in which we choose to invest those resources on any given day directly impacts the results we get, and it’s the sum of those daily investments that determine whether or not we achieve those long-term goals or even those short-term goals. So, we need to be looking at how we invest our time and energy on a holistic level.

 

But we also need to be holistic when it comes to working with our clients and our prospective clients. Are we looking at the way we’re building a relationship with them? Are we looking at the entire ecosystem of our partners, internal or external, to help them reach their goals?

 

So, both the modern seller and the modern business needs to be more holistic.

 

A modern seller is social.

 

Amy defines social capital as, “The collective value that our networks are able to build.” So, if we are combining our networks together in the service of a greater goal, we are creating social capital because our two networks, combined, are more powerful than us just as individuals.

 

Social capital has probably never been a line item on a P&L, and it probably never will be, but the organizations that really understand social capital, that understand the power of strategic relationships and investing intentionally in the right relationships, are going to achieve their business development goals, and any other goals, more quickly.

 

A modern seller is an ambassador.

 

The ambassador skill set, in many ways, ties together being agile, entrepreneurial, holistic, and social. Because, if we think about it in a global sense, an ambassador is someone who is a bridge between countries and cultures. We are ambassadors in much the same way. We’re ambassadors from our organizations to our clients and prospects; we are a bridge into the greater community, into our industries, and into our associations.

 

So, when we start to think of ourselves as a bridge in that way, our job becomes building those relationships and opportunities.

 

Now that you know what a modern seller is, are you ready to become one?

 

Then you’re going to need to take some action.

 

So, what’s the next step in the pursuit of becoming a modern seller for you? Which of these five skill sets have you best developed? Which of the five skill sets is your weakest? Will you build on a strategy of strengthening your weakest and leveraging your strongest?

 

Devise a strategy and work on it every single day, even if it’s just for 30 to 60 minutes. It takes baby steps in order to change a habit.

 

“You can go to a training, you can read a book, but the switch has to be in the application; applying things, trying them, failing at them, and moving forward. That’s the only way that we learn.”

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Amy Franko: [00:00:00] We have to change the mindset or the language around business development and sales, so that we can create a culture that we want to create.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:07] Welcome to Change your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:37] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. the Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:05] Welcome to Episode 28. And my guest today is Amy Franko, who is a strategic sales expert, and author, and a keynote speaker. Amy built a successful business-to-business sales career with global technology companies like IBM and Lenovo.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:21] In 2007, she took a pivot into entrepreneurship and launched a training firm, Impact Instruction Group. She has successfully built a book of business that includes some of the world’s most recognized brands, such as IBM, Deloitte, and BKD CPAs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:40] Amy, now, works with professional service firms, helping them grow their business development results and build firm leaders. In Amy’s new book, The Modern Seller, it’s an Amazon best seller and also named 2018 Top Sales Book by Top Sales World. The Modern Seller is not a book about prospecting or negotiating skills, it’s a book that explores the five skill sets that individuals and organizations need in order to become successful. These five skill sets are: agile, entrepreneurial, holistic, social, and ambassadors.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:19] In the interview, Amy explains each one of these skill sets in greater detail and focus her thoughts towards the financial service industry. However, no matter what industry you’re in, the ability for you to develop these five necessary skill sets is crucial in your career development in today’s disruptive business environment that we’re operating in today.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:43] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. And you can find Change Your Mindset, as well as many other outstanding business podcasts, on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

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

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:05] And, now, a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:03:09] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:57] Now, let’s get to the interview with Amy Franko.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:06] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’m excited today because I got a fellow NSA Ohio, O-H-I-O, speaker with me. Welcome, Amy Franko. And thank you for taking time out on this dreary, dull, rainy Columbus Day.

Amy Franko: [00:04:23] Thank you so much for having me. And O-H.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:28] And Amy has just published a book back in October called The Modern Seller. And that’s going to be the basis of our conversation today. But before we do that, if you can give the audience a little taste of your background, how you got to this point that you’re a well-known, highly-published author.

Amy Franko: [00:04:49] Sure. So, the cliff notes’ version of that, if you will, is that the first 10 years of my career, I spent in technology and in sales. So, I’d call it a traditional B2B selling environment. I worked for IBM and for Lenovo. And then, for the past 12 years, I took a pivot into entrepreneurship.

Amy Franko: [00:05:10] 12 years ago, I founded a learning and development company, which that’s a whole other conversation in and of itself. But for the past 12 years, I’ve been in the learning and development field. And over the past five years, really niched down and got back to my roots in sales.

Amy Franko: [00:05:27] So, what that looks like today is I work primarily in professional services and work with organizations on business development and sales training. And then, also, keynote speaking, which is how you and I crossed paths at NSA Ohio.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:41] Exactly. So, great sales background, great companies you’ve worked for. What was it about? And so, how you came with, “I need to write this book. I need to get this out of here and onto paper”? Was there a moment, that aha moment?

Amy Franko: [00:05:55] Yeah. Yeah. You know what, I’ve always loved to write ever since I was a kid. So, I think, reading, writing, those were things I absolutely loved to do. I was the kid who spent my days simultaneously at the pool, and then I would go to the library. So, I loved reading. I loved writing. So, I think that’s always been a part of me. And I enjoy writing. I’ve always enjoyed blogging and writing short-form posts. And so, that just kind of turned into a passion or a spark of an idea of wanting to to write this book. So, I kind of say that the book was, sort of, a 20-year dream and a 20-month project.

Amy Franko: [00:06:35] The catalyst for the book though, and maybe for someone who is in the midst of they’re evolving their career or maybe changing their career, the catalyst for the book came at the time when I started to really niche down into sales and wanting to create something to build additional credibility, additional visibility in that field. So, that was part of it. Timing was a catalyst.

Amy Franko: [00:07:00] And then, as far as the material for the book, as I was doing more work with clients and sales, I was seeing this need for these skills behind the skills. So, it’s not a book about prospecting, or presenting, negotiating, closing. Lots of great resources out there, and those are still much needed skills, But I wanted to dig into the skills behind the skills.

Amy Franko: [00:07:23] So, the book gets into five skill sets or capabilities that I see individuals and organizations needing to build. So, the catalyst was part-timing, and part content, and seeing what was happening in my own clients.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:36] What are the five that you just referenced?

Amy Franko: [00:07:39] Yeah, yeah. So, a modern seller or a modern business developer, whatever you happen to do in your firm, they are agile, they’re entrepreneurial, they’re holistic, social, and ambassadors. So, the book digs into those five, and what does it look like in your firm or with your clients. And, most importantly, I like to think of it as a field guide. How do you actually build those in yourself, or if you’re a partner, a leader, how do you build them in your team and across your organization? So, looking at it from a couple of different angles.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:14] So, agile. When I think of that, I think of adaptability. I think of moving and grooving.

Amy Franko: [00:08:21] Definitely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:23] And being out there, along with entrepreneurial. And when I think entrepreneurial, I think of fear because I don’t think there’s a lot of entrepreneurs out there that doesn’t live with it, but that’s motivating kind of fear.

Amy Franko: [00:08:35] Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:37] How do you explain this to, let’s say, the accounting profession?

Amy Franko: [00:08:42] Yeah. So, if I were to dig into it agile, it’s a place to start. Agility is something that wasn’t even really on the radar up until maybe about 10-15 years ago. It’s something that you heard about on the sports field, agility drills, but you really didn’t hear about it in a business sense.

Amy Franko: [00:09:02] Center for Creative Leadership has done research, and they’ve continued to do research on the top skills that organizations are looking to hire for and build. And agility really popped onto the radar maybe about 10 years ago. And by 2022, what they’re saying is agility, adaptability, versatility, those are going to be top five skills that organizations are looking to hire for.

Amy Franko: [00:09:29] And I would also suggest, they are top five skills that we need to be thinking about in business development and building because our clients are expecting that of us. They’re expecting us to show agility. And so, in order to do that, we have to be building that in ourselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:45] What are some of these drills that you would suggest Because one of my favorite quotes from Simon Sinek says like, “Just because you went to a leadership seminar doesn’t make you a leader.”.

Amy Franko: [00:09:57] I know, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:59] Yeah. You got to put in the work each and every day. It’s those drills. So, what do those drills look like? What does one need to do?

Amy Franko: [00:10:06] Yeah, yeah. And if I could come back to that Simon Sinek point for just a moment. When we were talking a little bit before we get on the podcast, this idea that you can go to a training, you can read a book, but the switch has to be in the application, and applying things, and trying them, and failing at them, and moving forward in them. That’s the only way that we learn. Leadership, business development, whatever that is.

Amy Franko: [00:10:35] So, for those who might be in a manager or a senior manager role, and you’re looking to grow to a partner level, growing to partner comes through a book of business, and making sure that we’re building a book of business.

Amy Franko: [00:10:49] So, back to your question about how do you actually build agility. So, a couple of things. One is building strategic speed. And yes, a strategic speed, I cannot take credit for that phrase. I first came across it from the Forum Corporation in some research that they’ve done, but strategic speed is the ability to work simultaneously toward the long-term and, also, creating momentum in the short-term.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:16] Okay.

Amy Franko: [00:11:16] So, how do we build agility? Strategic speed is one of the ways that we can build agility. And I can’t take credit for that phrase. I first came across that from the Forum Corporation. And building strategic speed is simultaneously being able to work toward a long-term goal. Like, say, you’re looking at some kind of strategic initiative in the firm. Maybe it’s adding a new service line. Maybe it’s growing into a different geography vertical. That’s a long-term goal. That’s 12 plus months.

Amy Franko: [00:11:47] So, you’ve set something like that, but you also have to be able to create short-term wins, or quarterly wins, wins every six months to help you continue to build momentum toward the goal. So, it’s simultaneous. It’s almost looking in two directions: long term and short term. So, that’s one way we can build agility.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:05] And you said a word. And it’s a four-letter F word, fail.

Amy Franko: [00:12:12] Yeah, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:15] And nobody likes to fail, nobody, but that’s the only way we learn. And kind of like an DNA of a CPA and an accountant is failure is not an option.

Amy Franko: [00:12:27] No.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:28] But that’s what changing their mindset is it’s okay to fail. It hurts, it doesn’t feel comfortable, but remember what you did, and try not to do that again, or try to look at it from a different angle, but the key is don’t give up.

Amy Franko: [00:12:48] Yeah. And I didn’t specifically say this when you asked me to share about my background but as people probably picked up on, I don’t have a CPA, accounting, finance background, whatsoever. So, even coming into this type of environment and building a book of business and professional services, there is a fair amount of failure that goes along with that.

Amy Franko: [00:13:13] And one of the things that I’ve picked up in my conversations with CPA firms is the idea that, sometimes, failure can be seen as, “If I make a mistake here, I may not be the trusted advisor in my clients’ and my prospective clients’ eyes, and we’re trusted to get everything right.” And so, if something doesn’t go according to plan, maybe you’re out there growing that new geography, growing that new vertical. If something doesn’t go according to plan, then we can internalize it, and we take it as a huge failure, but we’re not willing to take the risk again. And we have to be able to get past that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:51] Yeah. You got to get back on the horse if you get thrown off. And it hurts. I mean, we all know how it feels, but it feels so much better when we do succeed and, actually, see it through than given up at that point and walking away.

Amy Franko: [00:14:08] Yeah. So, sometimes, the things that don’t go right, the failures — and failure is not — nothing’s ever an absolute success or an absolute failure. There are things that go well and don’t go well about everything that we try. But part of agility is being able to pull the lessons out of that, and then you keep those lessons, and kind of let the other stuff go, and those lessons start to become your experience for the next time you’re faced with a situation that is completely unrelated. So, being able to apply our experiences to a new situation and figuring out what to do, that’s also agility.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:45] Okay. So, talk about entrepreneur.

Amy Franko: [00:14:48] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, the idea behind a modern seller being an entrepreneur, being entrepreneurial is if you are — so, whether you’re manager, senior manager, you’re someone partner level, at the highest level in your firm, look at yourself or look at the people in your firm. Do they see themselves as employees, or do they see themselves as the founder and the CEO, maybe the chief bootstrapper, in their own book of business? Because that’s a real different way of thinking.

Amy Franko: [00:15:21] When you think of your book of business or your team’s book of business as a business, you make different decisions. You’re looking at the top line, you’re looking at the bottom line, you’re looking at your best opportunities. You’re not just looking in what’s right in front of you. You’re looking at the much bigger picture, and you make your decisions differently. So, we want to have people in our organization that are thinking entrepreneurially because that’s what’s going to help us grow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:48] I’ve always said to partners and firms, when you have a new hire, and they come in, their cubicles, their area that’s their shop. And the more that you can get them to realize that the revenue and the cost associated with that, by the time they get to the manager, they’ll be further ahead than where we are now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:09] But part of the reluctance of doing that is I’ve heard from other parties, “But we don’t want to tell them everything.” You don’t have to tell them everything, but taking time enough to get started, and as they move up that line, the thought process of an owner, the thought process of an entrepreneur makes you more vested in what you’re doing than just, “I’m here just to collect a check.”

Amy Franko: [00:16:34] Yeah, yeah. And the more — so, to that point, the earlier on in their time with you that they can be involved in opportunities, go on business development calls, be a part of RFPs and pursuits if that’s something that’s part of what you do, the earlier they get involved in that, the more exposure they get to the business as a whole, and they see that business as a whole, and they start to be given that opportunity to start thinking like that owner.

Amy Franko: [00:17:06] The other piece on that transparency part, I can understand reluctance to, sometimes, share everything that goes on behind the scenes, warts and all, right. But part of engagement and part of retaining that top talent is having a level of transparency that they really understand all the good, maybe some of the things that aren’t working so well in the business because they may have your next awesome idea that’s going to fix that problem or catapult the business forward. And we need to give them the opportunity to develop those skills.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:42] Exactly. And if they take the mindset of, “I’m investing into my people,” versus “What’s this training going to cost?” as well as — I still think — and I think you’d agree with me that when you think of business, when we go, and speak, and do workshops and stuff, that’s an event for us. We’re there, we’re gone. Now, it’s the responsibility of the organization to see it through and not revert. It’s so easy to revert back to the rut that we’ve been in because this is new, and hard, and different. Senior management, partners, whomever, have to be accountable to keep the message moving forward in order for it to be a success.

Amy Franko: [00:18:24] Right. That’s the reinforcement piece. And every time I am doing a speaking engagement, a keynote, or any kind of maybe longer-term learning initiative, it’s figuring out the most important ways to help them retain and reinforce, so that they can take it beyond that day. And I’m helping them to make sure that it’s getting embedded into their culture.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:48] Yeah, exactly. I believe the third one you mentioned was holistic.

Amy Franko: [00:18:53] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:54] Holistic.

Amy Franko: [00:18:55] Yeah. There is one thing that you said that I wanted to come back to and make a point on. And this is something I’ve started to do for myself. It’s the language between cost and investment. And I’ve started to think for myself, instead of using the word cost for something, “This costs X number of dollars. This costs x amount of time,” it’s thinking about it in terms of an investment. I mean, “I’m choosing to invest this amount of time. I’m choosing to invest this financially.”

Amy Franko: [00:19:28] And that flip of the switch has helped me to think a little differently about the decisions that I’m making about where I’m investing my time and where I’m investing my financial resources. And I would encourage anyone in any role in a CPA firm to start thinking about these types of skills as investments versus costs and seeing if that language change helps propel you forward.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:54] Oh, it will. It will. And I remember who introduced that concept to me, Steve Gilliland. And it served me well. And I share that with other CPAs about get rid of the word cost. It’s negative. It’s the investment. I believe the third one of the five is holistic, which I’m still trying to get my mind about what you mean by that, holistic.

Amy Franko: [00:20:22] Yeah. So, it really takes — I look at it two ways in this particular capability. So, the first part of holistic is this idea that, in any given day, we have a finite amount of resources when it comes to our time, our energy, our motivation, and our discipline. The way in which we choose to invest those resources on any given day directly impacts our business development results, whatever results it is that we happen to be going for, business development or otherwise. And it’s the sum of those daily investments that determine whether or not we get those long-term goals or even those short-term goals. So, that’s the one way that I look at holistic in the book.

Amy Franko: [00:21:11] The other way is holistic when it comes to working with our clients and our prospective clients. And are we looking at the way we’re building a relationship with them? Holistic, are we looking at it holistically in the sense of mapping their buying expectations to the way that we happen to develop business? Are we looking at the entire ecosystem of our partners’ internal or external to help them reach their goals? So, it’s a personal look and a business look.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:43] Okay, got it. You keeping saying the word “business development.”.

Amy Franko: [00:21:45] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:47] And I was a banker at one point in my life, and that was my favorite part of the job was the actual business development, but it also scares people because, now, oh God, that’s networking.

Amy Franko: [00:22:01] It’s sales.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:01] It’s sales and networking, and those words that we really like. And I ask them about networking, and do they like networking, most people don’t. And I look them square in the eyes and say, “I blame your mother.” And they look at me like, “What?” “So, what did your mother always tell you? Never talk to-”

Amy Franko: [00:22:21] Strangers.

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

Amy Franko: [00:22:23] Right, that’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:24] But there’s no such thing as a stranger in a business environment. They’re just potential opportunities.

Amy Franko: [00:22:32] Yep. And I like to think of business developments, sales, whatever we happen to call it, we have to build cultures, a sales culture, a business development culture in our firms if we’re going to continue to be successful today and into the future. And I like to think of business development as creating the right relationships. So, to your point, networking.

Amy Franko: [00:22:56] And, also, looking at it as I am helping my professional services clients solve some of their biggest challenges. I’m a problem solver and a trusted advisor, I’m someone who’s strategic to their business. And what I bring is valuable. And we’re creating a mutually valuable relationship. We have to change that mindset or the language around business development and sales, so that we can create the culture that we want to create.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:22] And the only way we can become better at business development, better at sales is do it every single day. This is the-

Amy Franko: [00:23:28] I love it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:28] This is the pot calling the kettle black. I will be transparent. It is. This is something that I’m working on every single day as an entrepreneur. I should be working on content. When I’m working on content, I should be able to do marketing. It’s-

Amy Franko: [00:23:42] I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:42] But without the marketing, you’ll have the opportunities, so I won’t need the content. And it’s a key challenge to change that mindset but do it in small baby steps.

Amy Franko: [00:23:54] And to that point, one of the things that’s helped me is, now, I have CRM tools. I am actually looking at my desk. I have a good, old, handwritten notepad here with my prospecting list on it. And if we can invest as little as 30 to 60 minutes a day, if you have more, great, but to your point of baby steps, if we can block out 30 to 60 minutes a day of true focus on business development, we’re going to make progress. If we can block two hours a day on business development, we’ll make even more progress.

Amy Franko: [00:24:32] The idea – and this is around the holistic of where we’re investing our time, energy, discipline, motivation – is finding where we have the most energy in a given day and blocking our most important activities for those times of the day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:48] Exactly. And I’m doing a better job at it, and we all should do a better job at where do we invest that time, and what are we most productive. I feel, when I was writing the book, most productive comes first thing in the morning. So, that’s when I would write. I’m still doing some writing but, now, that first part of the morning, I invest in, okay, my marketing efforts, and what do I need to be doing because, then, I have the energy. Then, in the afternoon, I’ll do the other boring, tedious stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:14] Now, I was able to download a chapter from your book, and it was this fourth one on social. And I will say when I saw the word social, “Is she going down the social media path?” I’m going. But as I was reading through, you are not go down the social media path. So, it was very interesting. So, talk about social.

Amy Franko: [00:25:35] I get that reaction a lot is, “Oh, I’m ready for a whole section on social selling or social media.” And one of the things I really tried to steer clear of in the book was too much technology talk. Technology tools are enablers in a good way, I should say. They are enablers. And when we know the goals that we’re looking to accomplish, the relationships that we’re looking to build, the tools are out there to help us reach those goals. But I purposefully tried to steer clear of specific technology and tools for that reason because the tools always change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:14] Right.

Amy Franko: [00:26:14] The idea behind the social capability or the social dimension of the Modern Seller is social capital is never going to have a line item on a P&L. I don’t think it will anyway. I’ve never seen it. But the idea behind it is that individuals and organizations that really understand social capital – and I’ll give it a definition here in a moment – they really understand social capital, they understand the power of strategic relationships and investing intentionally in the right relationships because that’s going to help them accelerate their business development goals, any other goals. And you do it in a much more rewarding, impactful way when you approach a relationship-building with intention, and you’re very strategic about it.

Amy Franko: [00:27:02] And if I could give it a working definition to social capital, I see social capital as the collective value that our networks are able to build. So, I have a network. You, Peter, have a network. If we are combining our networks together in the service of a greater goal, we are creating social capital because our two networks are combined, are more powerful than us just as individuals.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:31] Exactly. And so, how do you do that? Because I always look at you want to put the right people in your network. There is always somebody who I wanted to meet that I hadn’t met. So, I was always having to try to find someone for the introduction, or if I happened to be in an event that they were there, I would walk up, introduce myself, and try to start up a little bit of a conversation, and then follow up, and continue that have a drip, drip, drip campaign to build that relationship, to build that trust within the relationship. But once again, there’s no [indiscernible]. It just takes time. And a lot of times, we don’t have time.

Amy Franko: [00:28:09] Right, or we see that it takes time, and then we make a choice about whether or not we want to continue making that time investment. We have the time. It’s just choosing where we invest the time. But, yes, for really strong relationships, I would say that you can create good value in a short amount of time if you have the right intention and you know what’s important to them. And sure, we have to build that that longer-term trust over time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:45] Yes. And I want to go down a little different path with this because-

Amy Franko: [00:28:49] Yeah, sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:51] … when we said invest, that’s part of the holistic aspect. So, I see how this is all tied in together. But getting the attention of folks who are protective prospects within business, and sometimes it’s hard to get past that gatekeeper. I’ve been challenging a lot of folks these days to when’s the last time they wrote an article on their expertise and had it published in some journal, some accounting journal, or in a newsletter within your organization to highlight yourself?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:24] I had a former student of mine who has worked for Deloitte. She was on the tax side. When she got a new job, and she was writing, it was getting published in Business First. I’m like, “Holy cow.”

Amy Franko: [00:29:31] Great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:33] And then, we reconnected.

Amy Franko: [00:29:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:35] So, that’s another way. And to the point of I wanted to try to find somebody, there was a partner, and there was a firm called WithumSmith+Brown, and I wanted to meet somebody in that firm. I don’t know anybody in the firm, but I saw that one of the parties writes an article for Accounting Today. So, I got to them, I sent them e-mails, and I read, and just trying to get that door open, and it worked.

Amy Franko: [00:30:01] Yeah. And know, those are great door openers. I’m thinking of a prospect meeting that I have later this week that I was introduced to through Association for Accounting Marketing because I’ve done quite a bit of work for that association. I’ve done webinars, I’ve published articles, I’ve spoken at their conferences. So, I have, hopefully, proven my value by being part of that association. And then, an introduction was made for me by that association to this firm. And I would have never been able to open a door that quickly on my own, but that door was opened for me through a trusted relationship.

Amy Franko: [00:30:45] Now, that does not mean we’re going to necessarily do business together. It is simply an introduction for a conversation to understand more about what is it that they’re looking to accomplish. Could I be the right person? If so, great. Let’s continue the conversation. If not, maybe there’s someone in my network I can introduce them to. And that right there, if having your network and being willing to leverage your network in the service of others, that will keep the door open — that will open a door and keep it open every time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:15] Exactly. And I try to do that as well. If I’m not the right fit, do I know somebody who could be? Let me give you a referral.

Amy Franko: [00:31:22] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:24] So, last but not least is of the five?

Amy Franko: [00:31:27] Ambassador.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:29] Ambassador. So, is this the one that’s going to tie all the other four together in, or is this just a thread that runs through all?

Amy Franko: [00:31:39] I think it’s a little bit of the “Yes and.” There is a — I love that [indiscernible].

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:46] Yeah, I love it. Yeah.

Amy Franko: [00:31:46] So, this one, it absolutely stands independently, but there is a thread. I would say that ambassador, in many ways, ties together agile, entrepreneurial, holistic, and social. Someone who is an ambassador, if we think about an ambassador in a global sense, an ambassador is someone who is a bridge between countries and cultures. We are ambassadors in much the same way. We’re ambassadors from our organizations to our clients and prospects. We are a bridge into the greater community, into our industries, into our associations.

Amy Franko: [00:32:30] So, when we start to think of ourselves as a bridge in that way, our job is to build those relationships, build those opportunities. Something that an ambassador is really, really good at, they are really great at being able to embody the values of their firm, but they also stand really uniquely tall in their own expertise, their own brand, something that makes them unique and stand out. They do not fall into the world of sameness. They absolutely stand out, but they embody the values of their firm too. And it makes them so valuable to the firm, to their prospects and clients, to the industry, et cetera.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:14] So, thinking about the ambassador and how you describe it, it’s that visibility aspect. And I think a great way that’s underutilized about this ambassadorship is called volunteering or being part of a not-for-profit board, or volunteering at your state CPA society or association. And meeting everybody, but then building your brand, building that ambassadorship and thought leadership to a whole new level.

Amy Franko: [00:33:50] Absolutely. So, finding those organizations where you can stand out, and you can contribute. And I always try to challenge myself, for any organization that I want to contribute more to, what’s the highest profile, most impactful committee that I can find? And can I become a part of that? So, that’s absolutely one way that I look to grow my brand, and it’s through that association involvement.

Amy Franko: [00:34:18] And there’s a kind of a fine line. There’s so many associations that we can become a part of. And so, I kind of segment mine. I think about the ones where I am joining because it’s for my professional development. And then, I look at the ones, yeah, they’re still going to have a professional development piece to it, but I look at the ones that I can also say, “All right. Can this association, if I really provide value, can I become more visible to organizations that I’d like to do business with? Can I leverage it for business development?”

Amy Franko: [00:34:57] So, when I segment my organizations in that way, that helps me make better decisions about where I’m going to invest extra time to volunteer. If it gets back to being holistic, we have a finite amount of resources in a given day, and we have to be selective about where we’re investing those resources.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:16] So, let me just sum up what I heard. Amy Franko is going to be the new president of the National Speakers Association Ohio chapter in the future.

Amy Franko: [00:35:26] Is that what you heard?

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:28] That’s exactly what I heard.

Amy Franko: [00:35:30] Did you all hear that if you’re listening? Did you hear anything?

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:32] I’m going to make sure that everybody at the chapter hears this.

Amy Franko: [00:35:39] I love it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:40] You would be an excellent, excellent president.

Amy Franko: [00:35:43] Thank you. I appreciate that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:47] Gosh. I’ve just — I mean — but you are investing. When you said professional development, you are investing that time into the organization, into the association, and to always continue to hone our skills. And I’ll tell you what, there’s no better place, If you ever do anything like we do – keynotes, training, or whatever – National Speakers Association around the country is a great place to invest your time into because that return on that investment is huge.

Amy Franko: [00:36:19] It’s such a high-caliber organization. I totally agree. And your last point about the return on investment, taking some time to think about what would you like that return on your investment to be for yourself, so that you can make choices about how to best invest your time.

Amy Franko: [00:36:38] I’ll use a quick example of something that has really helped me to develop business over time. And I think it falls well into the ambassador capability. I was part of the Association for Talent Development for a number of years. I still am. But at one time, I was very heavily invested locally, and I had created a couple of leadership forums.

Amy Franko: [00:37:00] And I ran these forums quarterly for a number of years, and I would use it as an opportunity to invite decision makers and leaders in my given spaces to come together as a networking opportunity and an educational opportunity for them. It was invitation-only, they had to be of a certain level in their organization, and there was no selling involved whatsoever. This is an idea anybody could adapt no matter what industry you’re in.

Amy Franko: [00:37:27] And I would bring these people together once a quarter over lunch. I would bring topics of interest to them. I would pull them, and I’d bring topics of interest to them. And that’s what we spent the time doing for 90 minutes once a quarter. Not once did I ever pitch my services or myself, but I can’t tell you how valuable it was for relationship-building, allowing these people to create their own networks with one another, and problem-solve with one another.

Amy Franko: [00:37:54] And it came back to me in spades in so many ways. Relationships, it did come back to me in terms of business development, business opportunities. So, that kind of winds a number of those dimensions together. It’s just one idea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:10] Yes, it does. You’ve just described something that’s been in the back of my head for a year.

Amy Franko: [00:38:15] Yeah?

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:16] Yeah. And, actually, I have thought about doing something very similar to that, to getting a group of partners and firms, and then also CFOs on meeting quarterly, but not as partners, and then the CFOs, and the partners, and the CFOs. And I’ve actually explored that idea. And I appreciate you bringing it up because I’d like to do a list again. It’s just that investment of time. But I will have to ask your advice on that when we’re done.

Amy Franko: [00:38:50] Yes, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:51] And what I was trying to accomplish. So, as we begin to wrap up, how do you put a nice bow on top of your book?

Amy Franko: [00:39:00] Yeah. So, how do I put a bow on it? So, one of the things, as I was writing the book and doing the research for the book, and this is very much a learning and development principle, we tend to learn in — I call it modular. We tend to learn in a way that’s modular, and we want things to build off of one another. So, anything that you learn, and then you pick up a new skill, you want those things to connect together.

Amy Franko: [00:39:24] So, the way that I wrote the book is that it’s in these five unique sections or dimensions. And as you were thinking about this conversation today, which one of those five really stands out to you the most? So, if you’re listening in to this, which one of those five caught your attention the most? That’s where I always recommend to start because when you start there, you’ll start to see other — you’ll start to see improvements in some of the other dimensions as well, So, that’s how I like to put the bow on it in terms of learning and development.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:00] So, the one that stuck out to me, and I’ll resonate on as well is the holistic side because that was probably the big surprise at how you described it. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’m a big believer in that investment and that time. So, where can they find the book, The Modern Seller?

Amy Franko: [00:40:22] Yeah. So, if you go to amyfranko.com, you can find everything that you need about the book. You can download a free chapter. And it’s also available on Amazon hardcover, Kindle, and in about 60 days, audible.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:37] So, let me just say it, Amy Franko, and it’s F-R-A-N-K-O, just to make sure everybody gets that, dot com. And I’m looking forward to seeing it come out in audible. And so, did you read it?

Amy Franko: [00:40:52] I did, yeah. I was the narrator. And after talking to a number of authors who had maybe they narrated it themselves or they outsourced the narration to a person, they all said, “Make sure to narrate your own book as the author. It’s your connection to your audience.” So, the narration out there is me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:14] Yeah, I narrated my book a couple of years ago, but I never uploaded to audible. It was shown up on my website, but I’ve decided the book has been out there so long, I’m going to launch it in audible, but I think I got it planned by June, the first book.

Amy Franko: [00:41:29] Okay, that’s exciting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:30] Well, congratulations on that. Thank you so very much, Amy.

Amy Franko: [00:41:33] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:34] I’m really excited about this book. I’d like to say, if you want to to get a hold of Amy, go to her website, amyfranko.com, everything you need. You can e-mail her. And I wish you all the best of luck and, hopefully, see you at a future NSA Ohio meeting.

Amy Franko: [00:41:49] Thank you, Peter. I appreciate it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:55] Now, that you listened to this episode, what are your next steps in the pursuit of becoming a modern seller? What are the five skill sets have you fully developed? Which of the five skill sets is your weakest? Will you build a strategy in strengthening your weakest and leveraging your strongest? Well, now is the time for action. Devise a strategy and work on it every single day. It takes baby steps in order to change a habit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:26] So, thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their network.

Announcer: [00:42:49] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E27 – Samantha Bowling | MindBridge: Making AI Accessible to Small Accounting Firms

My guest today is Samantha Bowling, who’s an Audit Partner at the accounting firm of Garbelman Winslow in Maryland and the current Chair of the Executive Board of the Maryland Association of CPAs.

 

This episode is focused on public accounting, but it also has great implications to business and industry accounting professionals. So, I encourage anyone in accounting – or just interested in how AI is going to change the nature of work – to listen to the interview and decide how these technologies might affect your organization.

 

Now, in March of 2016, artificial intelligence was introduced to the accounting profession when IBM and KPMG signed an agreement to bring Watson into KPMG’s audit practice. At the time (and still, really), many of the small- to middle-sized firms speculated that this technology was too expensive for their practices.

 

Samantha, however, saw an opportunity. She felt that if the larger firms had this advantage, how long would it be until they started taking clients? She turned that question into action, and 18 months after IBM and KPMG’s announcement, Samantha was able to bring artificial intelligence into her audit practice at an affordable price.

 

In fact, Samantha was awarded the Innovative Practitioner Award 2018 from CPA.com for her efforts – and it was well deserved!

 

Now, if you’re still a little skeptical or just curious, then start listening or keep reading and you’ll learn how she did it.

 

Small Firm, Big Technology

 

For context, Samantha’s firm only has about 15 employees, depending on the time of year. They do mostly everything that small firms do, except for government contracting, and she happens to be the audit partner at this firm.

 

So when Samantha heard about KPMG introducing AI into their audit practice three years ago, she thought she was probably going to lose a lot of revenue if the large firms have Watson and her firm doesn’t have anything.

 

“I’m not going to be able to do auditing anymore,” Samantha though. “[But] I really don’t like tax. So, I have to find a solution.”

 

Samantha started by talking to her software providers, asking how they were implementing AI into her platform… and they said they weren’t. They were only going to look into AI for the large firm platforms. She was a little discouraged, but she didn’t stop searching. Instead, she did what most of us do when we have a question: she Googled it.

 

She just happened to come across a company called MindBridge, a Canadian startup company that was willing to work with her and let her try it out. Still, she was skeptical. She thought she can’t afford the software, it’s probably not going to do what it says it’s going to do; was she setting herself up for disappointment?

 

Of course, by now, you know that it didn’t disappoint. “I was really just blown away by how it’s going to transform the auditing world, and I’m really happy that it’s accessible to everyone.”

 

How does MindBridge work?

 

if you’re familiar with auditing, you know it all starts with a risk assessment. Then, you figure out your testing based on what your risk is. “And, really, to be honest, in the past, we were kind of guessing about risk… never ever [did] we have access to the risk at the transaction level, and that’s where all the fraud occurs.”

 

But MindBridge allows you to link your general ledger package directly to their platform, and then it analyzes every transaction that hits the general ledger, whether it’s a disbursement deposit, credit card, etc. But on top of that, the platform has machine learning built in. So, as the machine looks at all of the data you give it over a period of time, it learns what does and doesn’t make sense. This allows you to target your testing, or your sampling, based on the highest risk transactions, and then work your way down.

 

“It’s not doing the work for you. It’s telling you where to start and using your professional skepticism to figure out what’s your next move… We’re just, actually, for once, looking in the right direction.”

 

So, the good news: AI probably won’t take your job!

 

But, the bad news: either you’re going to adapt to technology, or you’re going to be outpaced by big firms and innovative practitioners like Samantha.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Samantha Bowling: [00:00:00] When people take on new technology projects, or they’re going to innovate something, they don’t know where their place is after the technology is innovated. They think they’re being replaced by technology. But if you just explain to them how they’re working with that technology to make their lives better, and the job better, and that they’re not being replaced, it’s elevating them to the next level, then, they’re less resistant.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:30] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:51] 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 27. And my guest today is Samantha Bowling, who’s an Audit Partner at the accounting firm of Garbelman Winslow in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Also, Samantha is the current Chair of the Executive Board of the Maryland Association of CPAs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:35] Now, this episode is focused on public accounting, but it also has great implications to the business and industry accounting professionals. So, please listen to the entire interview and decide on how it affects your organization.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:47] Now, in March of 2016, artificial intelligence was introduced to the accounting profession when IBM and KPMG signed an agreement to bring Watson into KPMG’s audit practice. Many of the small- to middle-sized firms speculated that this technology was too expensive for their practices.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:07] Samantha looked at it just a little bit different. She felt that if the larger firms had this advantage, how long would it be until they would start taking some of the small to middle-sized firm’s clients? She turned that question into action, and 18 months after IBM and KPMG’s announcement, Samantha was able to bring artificial intelligence into her audit practice at an affordable price.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:34] Now, if you’re little skeptical or just mostly curious, then keep listening, and you’ll learn how she did it. It is absolutely fascinating.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:43] I’m coming up on three years hosting this podcast, and a couple really cool things have occurred that I like to share with you. In May of 2017, I was speaking at a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and one of the attendees, Stephanie Gates, mentioned that she and her boss listen to my podcast. I believe my jaw hit the floor. After I reinstalled my jaw, I gave Stephanie a copy of my book, Improv is No Joke, and thanked her for being a faithful listener.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:12] In December of 2018, I was an attendee at an Artificial Intelligence Conference in Tulsa, Maryland. During the session I asked a question. When the course is over, a gentleman walked over to me and asked me if I was Peter Margaritis. I hesitated. I wanted to say it depends, but I went, “Yes, I am.” He said that he knew it was me because he recognized my voice. He gave me his business card, but, somehow, I have misplaced it. If you are listening to this podcast, please send me an email with your name and address, and I’m going to send you a copy of my new book, Taking the Numb Out of Numbers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:50] And in March of 2019, I was teaching an Ethics class at the Maryland Association of CPAs. When the class ended one of the attendees, John Littleton, came up to me and said that he listens to my podcast. Now, I didn’t have a book on me, and I think I’m pretty sure I can get his address. So, I’m planning on sending him a copy of Taking the Numb Out of Numbers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:09] So, if anybody is listening to this podcast, sees me at a conference, a workshop, in an airport, or wherever, stop, and say hello, and let me know that you listen to the podcast. I will give or send you a copy of my latest book. This is a version of networking taken to a whole new level. I look forward to meeting you all. And, now, a quick word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:04:34] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritas LLC a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com, and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:22] Before we get to the interview, I want to share with you that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio, all one word .com.

Announcer: [00:05:42] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network. Turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:47] Now, let’s get to the interview with Samantha Bowling.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:01] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’m with my very special guest, Samantha Bowling, who is a partner in an accounting firm in Maryland. And we’re recording this on March 15th. So, first and foremost, Samantha, thank you for taking time out of your incredibly hectic busy schedule to spend time talking with me today.

Samantha Bowling: [00:06:22] You’re very welcome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:24] So, you’ve been busy lately or just kind of kickbacking bonbons and watching Ellen?

Samantha Bowling: [00:06:28] Just kicking back. No new tax laws, just hanging out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:33] I love the sarcasm. Very busy at this time of the year. And Samantha, if you could give everybody just a little bit of your background, so they can get to know you a little bit better.

Samantha Bowling: [00:06:45] Sure. I am a partner at a very small public accounting firm. This firm only has about 15 employees, depending on the time of year. And we really just, I guess, we do everything small firms do, except for government contracting. I am the audit partner at my firm. So, I’m in charge of auditing, but I also do individual corporate business, everything else. So, I’ve been here for 25 years. Start off as staff accountant and worked my way into a partner. This firm has been around for 75 years, and I hope it’s going to be around for another 75 more years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:17] And the name of the firm is Garbelman Winslow and is located in?

Samantha Bowling: [00:07:22] Prince George’s County, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:24] Prince George’s County, Upper Marlboro, Maryland. It’s a small firm, but I will have to say you are very humble. Samantha, you left something out of your bio that is — I mean, she knows what I’m going to say because she’s got this grin on her face, this big wide smile. So, let everybody know this little bit of information that you left out of your bio?

Samantha Bowling: [00:07:49] Yes. So, I was nominated. First was I was nominated for Innovative Practitioner of the — gosh, Innovative Practitioner of the Year, not of the world, of the year. It feels like the world, of the year in 2018 by cpa.com. And, really, that was for my experience in using AI in my audit practice that I started, basically, two years ago.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:13] And you were nominated.

Samantha Bowling: [00:08:14] And then, I won. Oh yeah, I forgot. The big surprise, I won. Imagine that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:20] Yeah, imagine that. She was the winner of the Innovative Practitioner Award 2018. So, if you think about what you’ve done — was that 18 months, 24 months ago, or something? — where KPMG came out and said they’ve got an agreement with IBM to bring Watson to the audit practice. And everybody thinks, “Watson-KPMG. It must take a train full of money just to get that going.” And you’ve said that you’ve got a small firm of only 15 people in Southern Maryland, and you won this award because you were able to bring artificial intelligence into the practice and make your auditing practice much more stronger.

Samantha Bowling: [00:09:04] Yeah, it’s very exciting and fascinating because being a member of council for AICPA, I heard the speech three years ago about KPMG. And I thought, as an audit partner, I’m going to probably lose a lot of revenue because if the large firms have Watson and I don’t have anything, I’m not going to be able to do auditing anymore. And then, I thought, “Well, what am I going to do? I really don’t like tax. So, I have to find a solution.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:09:28] So, I didn’t think it would be really fair for the monopoly to be a large firm and doing auditing. So, I came back to my office, and started talking to my software providers, and asked them first how they’re implementing AI in my platform. And they said they weren’t. They were only going to look into it for the large platform, large firm platforms. Again, large firm a lot of money, willing to pay for it. And I’m like, “Oh, well, maybe I really won’t be doing auditing.”.

Samantha Bowling: [00:09:56] So, then, I just did what everybody else does. I started Googling for an answer, for AI, affordable AI. And then, I just happened to come across a company called MindBridge. And I looked at their platform, and they said they were willing, as a startup company, willing to work with me and let me try it out to see if it really works. Because it was a Canadian company, they didn’t really know how to get into the US markets. And I thought I can’t afford this software. It’s probably not going to do what it says it’s going to do. And salespeople tell you it’s going to give you the world, and it does nothing. And then, you’re just frustrated because it doesn’t do anything you want it to do.

Samantha Bowling: [00:10:27] And I asked my managing partner if it was okay if I did this software. And he’s like, “I don’t think we’re ready to go to AI yet. I mean, really, is that really here?” I’m like, “Oh, it’s here. We’re going to go.” He’s like, “If you want to try it, go ahead.” And then, I did. And I was really just blown away of how it’s going to transform the auditing world. And I’m really happy that it’s accessible to everyone.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:51] So, I have seen a demonstration. I was speaking in LA at an accounting conference, and one of their salespeople were speaking just before me. So, I get a chance to sit and ask him a lot of questions and learn about it. I’ve seen the demo. It’s quite fascinating. Can you describe this process that you go through with your clients and basically just have an artificial intelligence?

Samantha Bowling: [00:11:16] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:17] It points you in the direction that you need to look.

Samantha Bowling: [00:11:20] Well, the most fascinating thing is if you’re familiar with auditing, it’s all based on risk. It’s a risk assessment in the beginning. And then, you figure out your testing based on what your risk is. And, really, to be honest, in the past, we were kind of guessing about risk. Especially if didn’t know anything about the client, we, kind of, were just like trying to get information, trying this assess risk, but never ever do we have access to the risk at the transaction level, and that’s where all the fraud occurs is at the transaction level.

Samantha Bowling: [00:11:48] So, what this software does is allows you to link your general ledger package directly to their platform. It analyzes every transaction that hits the general ledger, whether it’s a disbursement deposit, credit card, anything. And it says, based on those control points that are already built in the software, like normal accounting control points, and then it has the machine learning built in on top of it.

Samantha Bowling: [00:12:11] So, it’s that extra machine learning where it says, “Okay, I have a bunch of transactions. I learn a lot by having data. And then, what doesn’t make sense based on what this data has told me over this time period?” And then, it takes the transactions and puts them into buckets – the high risk, medium risk, low risk buckets. So, you can target your testing, or your sampling, based on the highest risk transactions, and then work your way down.

Samantha Bowling: [00:12:36] So, if you don’t have a lot of high risk, you move to medium risk, and then you move to low risk. And then, actually, in the low risk, you’re doing — The risk gets to the lowest transaction. So, it gives you a starting point. And I’m actually using it for risk assessment in the beginning of the audit to know how much risk is in this audit in the first place before I even either bid on the audit or even start working on it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:57] Interesting. So, you’ve got a bucket of high risk out there. So, naturally, you’re going to look at all of those transactions in that bucket.

Samantha Bowling: [00:13:06] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:06] Your medium risk, do you look at price points, or what’s the driver in that? Is that somewhat what you’d do with the low risk looking at those dollar amounts?

Samantha Bowling: [00:13:15] So, if you tell it you want your sample size to be 60 transactions, it automatically say, “Okay. We’re going to pull all the high risks, then the next medium risk, and then the rest are going to come from the low risk.” So, it will automatically do that for you. You don’t even really have to do anything except for tell it how many transactions you want to look at.

Samantha Bowling: [00:13:33] Now, you can go through the sample and say, “Okay. This is not a high-risk transaction because I know this was a unique thing that happened this year in that entity. And you can discount it. So, then I’ll remove it from this sample.” So, it’s not doing the work for you. It’s telling you where to start and using your professional skepticism to figure out what’s your next move.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:54] It’s doing the work for you.

Samantha Bowling: [00:13:57] It’s not doing it. Well, it’s really not. It’s doing the searching for you, like the risk analysis for you, but it’s not doing the audit for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:06] Right. But it’s helping you to get there faster.

Samantha Bowling: [00:14:11] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:12] So, there’s all these children who are coming into our profession who will miss the experience of being locked in a conference room somewhere and digging through the bowels of a company through their files, looking for invoices, looking for source documents. They’ll never experience that.

Samantha Bowling: [00:14:33] I’m so happy for them. I mean-

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:34] There’s a rite of passage out there.

Samantha Bowling: [00:14:39] No. We’re supposed to make it better for the people behind us, not harder. They’re not supposed to suffer like we did. And, actually, I found by using the software that my audit team is actually learning as to why a transaction is high risk. They’re actually learning for picking their sample as opposed to before, they hated looking at samples and didn’t understand what they were doing, but they’re actually learning from what the software is teaching them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:07] Wow. Okay. Well, I was going to go on a tangent and say, “At least, you get CPE for that,” but I’ll save that for later conversation.

Samantha Bowling: [00:15:15] Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:15] So, when you’re younger, well, obviously, you’re at the staff level. I would say a traditional age. So, they’re loving the fact that they get get this technology, they’re learning more about the profession, but they still have work that they have to do.

Samantha Bowling: [00:15:29] Of course.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:29] And getting the audit together.

Samantha Bowling: [00:15:32] Yeah. And we’re still looking at the documents that support the high-risk transactions, to make sure they really are substantiated, or we have documentation for it. So, we’re still doing the work. We’re just, actually, for once, looking in the right direction before we would guess. You haphazard sample and pray to God you get something that’s wrong. And in the past, you just never, never knew. So, now, you’re actually targeting your audit based on where all the risk is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:57] And within the program, is there a materiality factor in there?

Samantha Bowling: [00:16:03] I’m so glad you asked that because there actually is, but I have not been using it. I’ve said no materiality level. I want to see where all the risk is, and I don’t care what the dollar amount is because our clients don’t care. They don’t care about materiality. They don’t care about the fact that you’re not looking at trends. Materiality before was to limit your size of the transactions you’re looking at. That’s all it was for because you didn’t want to have a million transactions. Look, I had nothing to do with risk. But, now, that you’re looking at the riskiest transactions, I don’t think you should be using materiality.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:35] Oh, I love it. I love it. Getting rid of the concept of materiality and being able to basically do 100% audit.

Samantha Bowling: [00:16:44] 100% risk-based audit, which is what we’re supposed to be doing in the first place, if you think about it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:49] Well, that’s the public perception. That’s what we’ve been doing for years and years but, in reality, it hasn’t been until now.

Samantha Bowling: [00:16:57] Right, right. Not until now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:00] That just makes the profession so much stronger.

Samantha Bowling: [00:17:03] I agree. I totally agree.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:05] Yeah. So, is AI fraud-proof?

Samantha Bowling: [00:17:12] I would say nothing is fraud-proof because there’s always manipulation of data. Like if somebody figures out this system, there’s always going to be a manipulation of something in the data. So, if somebody, I think, eventually wants all of the systems start talking together. So, once you pull in like the AP and the AR ledgers, and match them to the general ledger, and then match them to the bank accounts, which was where we’re going, we have all this corroborating information in one place. Right now, we’re just doing the general ledger and some AR and AP. So, there’s that crossover, but until we actually get a crossover with the bank side or the outside vendor side, maybe until that happens, I don’t think it will be 100% fraud-proof.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:56] So, are you describing just now blockchain, in essence?

Samantha Bowling: [00:17:59] Yes, I am.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:02] And that’s still down the road.

Samantha Bowling: [00:18:04] Yeah. I haven’t gotten to that yet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:07] But there is a process right now that is in place, RPA, robotic process automation. Did I say that right?

Samantha Bowling: [00:18:12] Yes, you did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:13] Where these bots, per se, are doing the reconciliations of AR and AP in the same manner that you’re doing the reconciliation, looking at the general ledger, looking for those high risk, importing the people in the direction of where they need to investigate.

Samantha Bowling: [00:18:31] Right. And we’re actually going towards bots for bookkeeping in this summer. This summer, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:39] Okay. So, you’re looking at going to bots this summer.

Samantha Bowling: [00:18:42] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:44] And for bookkeeping, for some of the smaller clients who may not be on a sophisticated GL system?

Samantha Bowling: [00:18:49] Yeah, who using like Quickbooks Online, or Xero, or things like that, or just desktop Quickbooks. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:56] Okay. So, I use Quickbooks Online. So, this bot could reconcile all of my accounts that are in Quickbooks, like my credit card, my bank statements, so on, and so forth.

Samantha Bowling: [00:19:06] Yeah. And it can send you a little e-mail that says, “We don’t know where to code these transactions” because it doesn’t have any learning. It doesn’t have any history. So, if there’s a new transaction I may not know where to code it. So, it will send you this little email that says, “We don’t know where these things are supposed to go. Could you help us out?” And then, once you tell it, it will remember, and it won’t ask you again.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:24] Well, I think my Quickbooks does a little bit of machine learning because after certain transactions, in a while, it will automatically start put in some of those little bells and whistles.

Samantha Bowling: [00:19:32] No, that is not machine learning.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:34] All right. Okay. Thank you for correcting me.

Samantha Bowling: [00:19:38] Well, I was corrected on it because I really always thought Quickbooks Online had some kind of AI. But no, that’s just rules-based. It’s rules-based. So, it sets up a rule. Once you tell it a transaction, it sets a rule. So, whenever it sees that rule at transaction, it knows we had this rule in place, it’s always going to go there; as opposed to AI knowing that if you go to the grocery store, Safeway, it’s usually groceries. If you go to a gas station and knows any gas station – Exxon, Shell, whatever – it knows it’s gas. So, that’s kind of the difference.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:08] Okay. I got it, and it continues to. That was one thing when we’re talking of AI, and I was listening to Amy Vetter do a presentation at a conference, and trying to go, “Wait, machines can learn?”

Samantha Bowling: [00:20:20] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:21] But that concept was rally foreign to me, but after listening to her, and then hearing, I understand how the machine begins to learn. And, actually, I’m a Type 1 diabetic and the insulin pump that I have basically is a mini AI because it learns based off of algorithms and stuff on what my blood potentially can do based on this and that. And it’s actually amazing. It’s almost like having a real-life pancreas that I just wear my belt.

Samantha Bowling: [00:20:52] That’s true. So, true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:55] So, you’re going into bots because I see bots being a big asset in an organization. Now, what about your clients? So, that first client that you went up to said, “You know what, this year, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We want to download your GL into this artificial intelligence.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:21:12] Well, so, and I was going to charge him for it. So, I wasn’t going to eat the costs of the software because I saw the value in it. So, I went to my audit clients, and I said, “We had this engagement letter. This was the original fee for the engagement letter, I’m going to do a change order on this audit because I have a new staff on board and it’s AI. Let me explain what this AI does.”.

Samantha Bowling: [00:21:37] And I said, “This is how we used to do an audit. We used to guess, look at your sample.” And we tell them that every year when an audit is. “But this year I’m going to look at all the transactions. I’m going to base my sample on risks, so that you’ll have a better feeling about what I’m actually looking at and what the audit is. I’m going to charge you a software charge for my AI helper. And then, next year, if you opt out…” I’m giving them a chance to opt out of AI. Then, my original thing is if you opt out of AI, it’s going to cost you more because I risk your audit for me. But now, I’m to the point, if you’re not going to use that, I’m not going to do your audit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:13] Oh, okay.

Samantha Bowling: [00:22:15] And I’m standing strong to that. So, I have had some new proposals for audits, and I’d say, “Well, before I even do your audit or even make a proposal, I’d have to put your ledger into my AI platform and figure out what the risk is. So, I can make an educated guess about the fee. So, nobody’s surprised. I want to know at the beginning what I’m getting into. And then, you should now in the beginning how much it’s going to cost you.” And I’ve had two say, “No problem.” And I’ve had one say, “No way.” And I’m like, “Okay. Well, find another auditor. Just not going to do it.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:43] Wow. I mean, that’s a great pricing tool.

Samantha Bowling: [00:22:47] Yeah. And then, just think about all those things that you did in the past that you wish you would have billed more for because you knew what you’re getting into. And auditing is the worst place to get into that because you just really have no idea what you’re getting into.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:00] Yeah, especially with a brand-new client.

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:02] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:02] And why did you leave your other CPA? And there’s not the full transparency of truth but-

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:09] Of course.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] … being able to take that GL and dump it in, but, “Oh okay.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:13] Now, I know why. Now, I know why you left your other CPA.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:18] And now, do we, as a firm, want to take this client on because of the risks? There is a risk reward pricing component.

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:25] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:25] But I would assume, at some point, if you get something that’s extremely risky, it’s “No way Jose.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:32] Yeah, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:33] How else are you using this?

Samantha Bowling: [00:23:35] So, the only two ways that we’ve been using it is for a risk assessment, new audits, and then our sampling, our audit sampling. We want to start using it for like outsourced CFO, for internal audit departments to say, “Hey, where’s your risk? Don’t you want to know what your risk is before your auditor comes in?” Because this would be a great tool for controllers because they don’t have time to look at everything that their staff do, and they just don’t have time. So, if they could actually just look at the riskiest things, wouldn’t that be great for them?

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:03] Yeah, it would be.

Samantha Bowling: [00:24:06] Yeah. So, we haven’t done anything with it, to be honest, except for the auditing side. But there is so much potential for this software that, I think, it can be used in our review engagements that we have. Just to look at them just to say, like another service like, “Where’s the risk in your general ledger? Do you know what your bookkeepers doing, or do you not know what this person’s doing, or are there really risky transactions in there that you should be aware of?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:32] You could use that just with non-for-profits. In the news, there’s some lady that had been embezzling for years from some not and finally got caught 10 years later.

Samantha Bowling: [00:24:42] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:43] AI would have caught her.

Samantha Bowling: [00:24:43] That year that it happened because if you have — I’ll give you a perfect example. So, I had a nonprofit. This is a real example. I had a nonprofit who was paying rents, normal rent. Their rent does not fluctuate every month. For some reason, one month, they paid like, I don’t know, let’s say $4000 more than they would normally pay for rent. So, MindBridge automatically said, “Well, this is a high risk because it doesn’t match what I’ve learned every month of what their rent would be for this organization. So, I’m going to say it’s high risk.” So, it automatically pulled that transaction as high.

Samantha Bowling: [00:25:18] And then, the one time, they paid the wrong vendor is because somebody was in — the new person at their accounting department paid somebody else’s bill a total accident. But it flagged the transaction because it knows when you pay your rent, it’s always this person. The fact that you paid somebody different is a red flag, and you should really look at that transaction. So, that one got caught. I knew what fraud you’re talking about. That would have caught that because all these people kept changing vendors for the same classification of expenses.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:46] Interesting. So, are you using this on all of your auditing clients, AI?

Samantha Bowling: [00:25:54] Yeah. And I do nonprofits. Those are my audits, which is a lot of risk because you have a bunch of people that change over, there’s different board of directors. And so, when I didn’t turn on the materiality, the funniest thing, you’ll will love this, I got one transaction that was, I don’t even know, like $87. I’m like, “Who cares? It’s $87.” I’m like, “Whatever. It’s in high risk. I’m going to look at it.” So, I asked for documentation on the $87, and they’re like, “Oh well, this was a personal charge from an officer on the nonprofit’s credit card.” I’m like, “Oh really?” I’m like. “Why did it pick this?”

Samantha Bowling: [00:26:30] Because the AI learned all the credit card transactions never was this vendor ever charged on a credit card. And, obviously, it was a personal expense. So, what did I do? pulled all the credit card statements from this officer to find out how many personal expenses, and there were a ton of them on this person. It’s very easy to do. I’m not saying it was intentional because you pulled up wrong credit card when you’re somewhere or whatever.

Samantha Bowling: [00:26:54] But just think if that wasn’t caught, how long that would have gone on? And then, what would have that led to because they would have thought, “Well, it’s not material because they’re looking at the stuff that’s under — I don’t know, Over $50,000 which…” they know know that there’s a materiality amount. So, they know that. People know that there’s a materiality now. So, they know you’re not looking at the stuff that’s below that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:13] Oh my God. Just think about the expense report fraud that could be uncovered.

Samantha Bowling: [00:27:17] Yes. Like the duplicate of reimbursements. Exactly, yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:22] Yeah. I’m going to submit my receipt. Here’s a copy for you guys to submit. And it’s the same thing. Yeah. That would almost just vanish. That would be a fun summer project to do is to do AI. And I would think that these large organizations are doing that right now.

Samantha Bowling: [00:27:41] I would hope so because it’s definitely an amazing tool. And the money they would invest in the software would save them money probably in the fraud that was covered.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:51] Now, within your firm, only your clients are being used for AI with MindBridge. What about the other partners in the firm?

Samantha Bowling: [00:28:01] Well, none of my other partners do audits. They like to stay away. They don’t want anything to do with auditing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:05] So, those are the tax guys?

Samantha Bowling: [00:28:09] Yes. So, they’re all doing tax. And some of them do some bookkeeping work and compilations, but most of them are doing tax work.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:17] Okay. So, let’s just say you take this, and AI will never come into the tax world at all?

Samantha Bowling: [00:28:22] No, I didn’t say that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:23] No. That was sarcasm on my part.

Samantha Bowling: [00:28:27] Oh yeah, okay. I told them, “Eventually, you might want to find some other career because that’s going to be automated.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:31] At least, from the W2, the individual personal returns, those are going to be — And I would love it because I still haven’t got my tax stuff together. And I know my CPA started to scream at me versus just having it all go into some place, and I don’t have-

Samantha Bowling: [00:28:52] So, what really happened is the IRS will send you a bill, and say, “This is your tax bill. Do you agree or don’t you agree?” And if you don’t agree, go see a CPA to fix it. It’s where I think it’s going to end up because they’re-

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:02] Interesting.

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:03] Because they’re already getting the documents electronically. They are. It’s just a matter — they don’t have, I don’t think, the sophisticated systems to compile all that information actually.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:14] Yeah, like a Schedule C.

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:15] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:16] Yeah.

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:16] But that will be later. But with the W2s and the basic returns, that definitely could be all done by the IRS.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:23] Yeah. And I believe that’s sooner than later that that-

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:28] That will be in my career, I guarantee it within the next 5-8 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:33] I was going to say three to five.

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:35] That would be awesome. I hope so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:38] So, here’s a question because when you think of CPA, and thinking of what we do, and you think about artificial intelligence, will we still have the need for Excel?

Samantha Bowling: [00:29:50] That’s a good question. I guess, it depends. I would say yes until — if you look at a lot of our clients, they are using these legacy platforms. Even larger clients are using legacy platforms. So, in order to get their information into these AI platforms, they have to go to Excel first because their systems are so antiquated, they can’t get it to the AI platform. So, we’re going to still need Excel.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:16] Okay, for a little bit longer.

Samantha Bowling: [00:30:19] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:19] Okay. All right.

Samantha Bowling: [00:30:21] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:21] So, let’s change gears for a moment. You are currently the Chair of the Executive Board for the Maryland Association of CPAs.

Samantha Bowling: [00:30:27] I am. A huge honor.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:28] Technically — Tom Hood, I hope you’re listening. Technically, you’re Tom Hood’s boss.

Samantha Bowling: [00:30:35] I can’t even fathom that. I feel like he’s definitely my boss. I worship and honor him, yeah. So, I follow him. I will follow him wherever he goes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:43] And it doesn’t surprise me that somebody who’s been on the board and has been around Tom for such a long time saw this opportunity and jumped on AI because Tom’s been preaching about it, talking about it way before the AICPA even put it on the agenda. He’s one of those rare visionaries out there that has done wonders for the profession.

Samantha Bowling: [00:31:09] Yes, he has.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:10] So, as being chair, and you’ve mentioned you’re part of AICPA Council, what’s accountants talking about these days? What’s out in our future? What’s keeping AICPA awake at night?

Samantha Bowling: [00:31:23] I think they’re their biggest concern was, will small firms be able to adapt? Well, I mean, because Tom’s been preaching for 20 years that you need to innovate, you need to use technology. And a lot of small firms, kind of, ignored that.

Samantha Bowling: [00:31:39] So, I think their biggest concern is small firms and will they remain relevant, because they don’t really want all the large firms doing all the work either. They want small firms that have the same opportunities. And I think they were really surprised that the AI platform was available to me at this early stage. So, I think that’s keeping them up at night because a large number of their membership is sole proprietors and small firms, believe it or not. That’s what makes up the accounting profession, the public accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:10] So, I can lay this in one or two ways. Either they’re going to adapt to technology-

Samantha Bowling: [00:32:15] Or they’re going to close our doors.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:18] Or — well, firms like yourself take a strategy and say, “Maybe we can grow and start buying other firms.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:32:30] I did that once. I’ll never do that again.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:33] She wasn’t adamant about that at all. I’m going to have to go get my hearing fixed here in a second.

Samantha Bowling: [00:32:41] I will not even venture. They’re not paperless. Like if there’s a firm out there, a small firm that has paper and file cabinets, their firm is not worth anything. And I’m not putting the work into it to convert them to where they should be. I did it once, and it was a lot of work. And I don’t know if the benefit was really there and the clients that we retained from that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:03] So, growth from a small firm like yourself is just word of mouth, and bringing in more clients, and growing organically, per se, and hiring more folks.

Samantha Bowling: [00:33:16] Yes, that’s true. Most of our work is from referrals, word of mouth.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:20] Okay. So, how has AI changed the way your staff have to integrate. There is less bean counting, per se, number crunching, and there’s more communication.

Samantha Bowling: [00:33:37] The problem is our clients are not where they should be either. So, we’re trying to move with them, like kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. So, as you can imagine, our firm that’s been around for 75 years, has clients that have done paper, who have handwritten journals, who still handwrite checks that refuse to move into the 21st Century.

Samantha Bowling: [00:33:57] So, now, our responsibility is to get all of our clients, since we’re where we should be, I feel, for now anyway, for today, of course, it can change tomorrow, is getting our clients to where they should be, and being innovative, and not being afraid to grab on to technology, and realize how really good it is for them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:15] Why is everybody so fearful? I mean, I think — I’ll use my wife as an example. She’s a general manager for Macy’s for 25 years at the huge store here in the Columbus area. She’s more fearful of technology. Actually, so much so that her boss once called her technically Amish.

Samantha Bowling: [00:34:38] That’s great. I’ve never heard that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:40] Technologically Amish. But if you don’t adapt to — we’re never going to go back. We’re not going to go back to the flip phone.

Samantha Bowling: [00:34:52] I think the problem is when people take on new technology projects, or they’re going to innovate something, they don’t know where their place is after the technology is innovated. They think they’re being replaced by technology. But if you just explain to them how they’re working with that technology to make their lives better, the job better, and that they’re not being replaced, it’s elevating them to the next level, then they’re less resistant. I think they’re afraid of being replaced by the terminator or something. I think what’s happening.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:21] Right. And it, also, could go to the culture of the organization as well.

Samantha Bowling: [00:35:27] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:27] There was a firm here in Ohio that they gave training because they wanted to automate. This was some years ago. Instead of getting a report, typed it into Excel, to upload it into Excel. The workforce was heavily baby boomer and heavily millennial. And few of the baby boomers think they had training but were fearful of saying, “I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand.” And they went back to what they were doing before. And, ultimately, they were fired. So, I think I also go to within how much the C Suite, per se, has embraced that technology.

Samantha Bowling: [00:36:03] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:04] And communicated the benefits.

Samantha Bowling: [00:36:06] And I also think — so, let’s say somebody is intimidated by technology. Maybe they’re not the ones manipulating the data in the technology. They’re using the higher-level staff that’s doing the analytical from the reports that was done. So, these millennials can whip, snap, whatever, generate anything in the report. And they run circles around me. So, they can do 10 times faster than I can. So, figure out what people’s strengths are. Let them do that part. And then, maybe the more resistant people just analyze the results and don’t have to be involved with getting the technology to work.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:39] But it’s getting them to — it’s really getting them to understand that they are not — We can’t say that all the time they’re not going to be replaced because I think some folks will be replaced.

Samantha Bowling: [00:36:53] Bookkeepers will be replaced, for sure, but I have bookkeepers in my office. So, the stuff that they will be replaced, they don’t want to do anyway. They don’t want to be coding checks. They don’t want to be doing any of that crap. So, the fact that the bots are going to take that over for them, they’re a thrill because they know they’re going to learn more by actually looking at the reports, looking at the transactions, and figuring out what a financial statement means. So, they’re happy about it. They don’t want to be doing all that manual work. They really don’t.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:19] And the ability to use bots in a bookkeeping firm, it’s pretty much here.

Samantha Bowling: [00:37:26] Yeah. Oh, it’s here. Oh, it’s here. Oh, it’s here. It’s totally here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:29] Yeah, yeah. She just laughs at the old time, Jody Padar.

Samantha Bowling: [00:37:35] Yeah, she’s my friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:37] Yes, Jody. And I interviewed her a couple of years ago, and she’s talking about bots and stuff, I’m like, “Huh? I don’t get it,” And then, I saw her at the dinner that night, before the summit, and she is partnering with Botkeeper.

Samantha Bowling: [00:37:54] Yes, she is. That’s an amazing thing. So, I’m really excited for her. I mean, we’ve probably met when she first took over her dad’s firm and was trying to get everything paperless. And I had told her that’s when I first went into the cloud platform of accounting software a long, long time ago. That’s a whole another story. But she’s like, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Because I had a client that went to jail, and I had to be able to do their stuff for them while they were gone. So, I wanted to be [inaudible] as to everything.” But she’s like, “What? Are you talking about…” “Yeah, yeah.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:38:26] So, technology’s always been my friend, always. It’s given me the advantage. It’s giving me opportunities. It’s never — I mean, I’ve picked bad offers in the past, but you fail fast. If it’s not working the way you think it’s working, and then move on, find the next one that’s going to work for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:45] And I know you have a real close relationship with MindBridge because they ask you a lot of questions on how they can improve their software, which has got to be — and do you go out and speak on their behalf at times?

Samantha Bowling: [00:38:58] Sometimes. I’ve gone to that, I got invited to the Canadian Embassy this past year just to listen. They wanted some people locally that were using this offer to come because they’re kind of doing their software pitch. I wasn’t supposed to speak, but when I got there, I guess there were some reporters there that were saying, “You’re salespeople. We don’t really understand what you’re talking about. We need to talk to your customer, one of your customers.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:39:21] And, of course, I happened to be there. Like, “Oh, we have one here. Would you like to talk to her?” So, I have volunteered to speak but not really. And I do blogs for them, just so other people know how I’m using the software because I think a lot of small firms think that they don’t have access to the technology. So, I want to make sure that they do have access and kind of explain in auditing terms what it’s going to do for them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:44] So, by doing this, and people hearing about you, did you email blow up? Is your phone ringing off the hook? Are you the go-to person for small businesses at AI?

Samantha Bowling: [00:39:56] Pretty much. Yeah, I can always tell when Tom Hood is traveling because the next day, I’ll get like — I don’t even know — 40 emails or something about, “I heard Tom Hood is speaking or whatever. And I heard you’re using AI,” and da, da, da, da, whatever. Yeah. So, I’m more than happy to talk to anybody about it because I feel like the more we talk about it, the more small firms get involved with it, and the better we are as a profession.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:21] And full transparency, that presentation I did out in LA, Tom was already booked. So, they asked if I would go do this. And I said, “Yes, I would.” And I’m reading this, going through the stuff, and seeing this firm, Garbelman Winslow, and trying to put — what? Trying to get my head wrapped around it. I got it wrapped around enough.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:41] And then, I put it all the other way. “Wait, you’re the person at the firm with the AI and the MindBridge.” And then, it all came into fruition. And hearing them speak then, hearing them and you speak at the AI Conference in Maryland in December really helped me understand more about how AI will help a firm or help my company, and a lot of times, will not replace, but they’re there to help us do our jobs better.

Samantha Bowling: [00:41:14] Exactly. It’s helping us do what we should have been doing all along.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:18] But we just didn’t have the technology.

Samantha Bowling: [00:41:19] We didn’t have the technology to do it, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:21] Moore’s Law hadn’t quite caught up to where we are today. And so, how do you see this five years from now? I mean, I remember Jody saying, “We’ll have bots on our desks soon.” And I just kind of laughed at her. And I think she said I have to be careful who’s in the room because like, “Do you have Alexa?” on my desk. I said yes. “That’s basically a bot.”

Samantha Bowling: [00:41:48] I have. I’m showing you my — it’s my Alexa.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:48] Hi, Alexa. I’m getting that. I’m playing with that and Google Home trying to figure out which is the best one. And, actually, from the speaker’s perspective, Amazon, just Amazon blueprint, well, you can go out and program your own Alexa. And I’m in the process of doing that because I want my Alexa to do my introductions from now on.

Samantha Bowling: [00:42:12] Sweet. That’s exciting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:13] Yeah. There’s some neat stuff that’s going on out there, but as it relates to the accounting world, what’s next? Is it blockchain? Is that what’s, ultimately, the missing component that ties everything together?

Samantha Bowling: [00:42:26] I think so, especially with more of the currency, electronic currency, they’re going to have to use blockchain to validate all this stuff. And that’s definitely going to be in our future. Now, small firms might not see that right away because we don’t have as many international companies that were auditing, but it’s definitely the next thing.

Samantha Bowling: [00:42:43] But I am curious to see where the line is going to go between fraud audits and regular audits because I’m really worried about, what if I do this audit, and I find fraud or frauds, like serious fraud? Because I’m not doing fraud audits. I’m doing gap audit. So, if I came across something that I thought was a fraudulent transaction, in the past, I would have my client hire a forensic auditor because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it.

Samantha Bowling: [00:43:09] But is the AI going to be my forensic auditor, or is there going to be no lie now between gap and forensic auditing? Is it just going to be auditing? I don’t know. I don’t know where that’s going. So, I’m kind of curious to see where that’s going. And I’m anxious for our standards to catch up to where we need to be, so that I don’t have to keep looking at all these facts when, really, it’s just to be based on risk.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:33] Right. And that’s interesting. So, what fraud oddity. Forensic accounting just be accounting.

Samantha Bowling: [00:43:42] Yeah, just be auditing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:43] Just be auditing. Just [crosstalk].

Samantha Bowling: [00:43:43] It’s part of the audit. It’s just of the audit.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:48] That is interesting insight. How will that transpire?

Samantha Bowling: [00:43:53] I don’t know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:54] Huh. Anybody at AICPA made any comments about that?

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:00] Not that I’m aware of, no, not yet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:01] Not yet. Not yet.

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:01] No. I’m going to New York actually on Monday. So, I’ll bring it up. I have a council meeting in March in New York.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:14] Yeah. In Ohio, we will either go to Chicago or to New York. And a couple of times, we went to New York. I like New York better. Yeah, it’s-

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:23] It’s a nice change of scenery.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:25] Yeah. You should you ask Barry.

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:28] Yeah, I have to ask him.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:28] “What do you think about this?” It’d be interesting to get his perception on it. I haven’t thought about that. Now, I get something to ponder over the weekend and explore a little. How that transpire? Is there anything that you — I have to ask this question. You’re very busy. You’re a very busy lady. I mean, all the stuff that you do, you have a family at home.

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:54] I have a husband and a dog.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:58] A husband and dog.

Samantha Bowling: [00:44:58] Yeah. And a ton of nieces and nephews. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:02] So, I always ask whole piece. So, I interviewed the episode before this one, Kimberly Ellison-Taylor.

Samantha Bowling: [00:45:10] Kimberly, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:11] Ellison-Taylor. And she’s got three kids, and a husband, and she’s all over the place. And even just having a relationship and in this profession, it’s challenging for what you do. So, I don’t know. I never met your husband. I don’t know his name, but I want to give a big shout out to him.

Samantha Bowling: [00:45:28] His name is David. And you should because he’s sacrificed a lot, and he is a great support. I could not have done everything that I’ve done without his support.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:38] So, David, congratulations and keep up the good work. I mean, your wife is doing some fabulous stuff here. And you get to tell me the name of the dog.

Samantha Bowling: [00:45:48] Cooper.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:49] And what kind of dog is Cooper?

Samantha Bowling: [00:45:52] He’s a Yellow Lab.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:54] Oh.

Samantha Bowling: [00:45:54] So sweet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:56] My wife cannot listen to this episode because we have a black and a chocolate Lab.

Samantha Bowling: [00:46:01] They’re the sweetest dogs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:02] She’s always a blonde Lab.

Samantha Bowling: [00:46:04] She can borrow mine anytime.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:08] Yeah, they are. They’re great dogs. They’re excited to see every time you come home, and they’ll almost eat anything in sight.

Samantha Bowling: [00:46:14] Yes, they will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:16] Well, Samantha, thank you so very much. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I applaud everything that you’re doing, and bringing smaller firms into the 21st Century, and hopefully beyond. If I could ever help you with anything, please don’t let me do your taxes or anything like that, but if I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And I wish you all the best luck. And you still have — It’s like 3:14 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. She still has a more hours of work to do today.

Samantha Bowling: [00:46:43] If I’m lucky, it’s only eight.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:48] Thank you very much.

Samantha Bowling: [00:46:49] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:56] Now that you listened to this episode, what are your next steps in the pursuit of new technology into your organization? Will you take CP and focus on the latest technology? If so, then, look for courses being taught by Amy Vetter. Amy is an expert in this field, and I interviewed her on my very first episode of Change Your Mindset Podcast, which was formerly known as Improv is No Joke.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:20] Or will it be to learn more about how AI can assist you in your business? If I may suggest, go visit MindBridge’s website at mindbridge.ai. Full transparency, I’m not being paid or receiving any compensation for this suggestion. I’ve seen the demonstration, and I attended the AI Conference that they spoke about this technology, and it was fascinating.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:50] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com and listen to many of the excellent business podcast that they have in their network. Thank you.

Announcer: [00:48:11] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E26 – Kimberly Ellison-Taylor | Community, Mentorship, & Adaptability: The Ingredients for a Better Future

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, a powerhouse in the accounting profession whose drive, energy, and passion is unparallelled. Kimberly is currently a Global Strategy Leader at Oracle, and she has held positions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Motorola, KPMG, as well as having a role in government in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

 

On top of that, from 2016 to 2018, Kimberly served as 104th Chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, where she received numerous awards and recognition. Notably, she was the youngest person, the fifth woman, and first person of color to serve as chairman in the AICPA’s 130-year history. Kimberly was also the second Chairman for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, an organization founded in 2017 that has 667,000 members in 184 countries.

 

Kimberly has been able to walk the fine line between technology and accounting throughout her career, but she’s been able to leverage her accounting and finance acumen in every role she’s had. Even working at NASA Goddard, Motorola, and now Oracle, she’s always recognized that there were both technology and finance implications of every business decision (as well as people and process implications). “And I’ve been able to leverage both of those on top of the foundation that my parents set for me when they said very early, ‘don’t be afraid, and you need to pay your dues, and work hard to get ahead.’”

 

Kimberly also learned from her parents and the church that she needs to give back – and she really took it to heart! She’s held executive roles, chair roles, and leadership, and she’s a passionate advocate for state CPA societies.

 

So why does she do it?

 

It all comes back to servant leadership, and recognizing that other people inspired and helped her when she was younger. Some people may just need a little bit of help. Other people may need role models. Other people may need to hear that you made it through some tough times to get where you are. It’s about helping people who might just need a small helping hand or inspiration, especially other people from socioeconomic backgrounds that are less common in the accounting and technology fields.

 

“It’s important to lift as we climb,” Kimberly says. “And I think it is important because the more of us that can give visibility to the options that are available, the more of us that will be attracted to the profession, that will stay in the profession, will be advanced and promoted to the highest levels of the profession. And I think that if not me, who? If not now when? And we all have individual accountability and responsibility to do our part and to pay forward.”

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:00:00] We all can grow, we all can change, we all can evolve, and we all can accept what’s around the corner because the generations that have come before us gave us a great foundation, and we have a responsibility to make it better for the next generation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:26] 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: [00:00:47] 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: [00:01:13] Welcome to Episode 26. And my very special guest today is Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, who is one remarkable woman. Kimberly is currently a Global Strategy Leader at Oracle. She has held positions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Motorola, KPMG and a role in government at Prince George’s County in Maryland.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:32] Now, from 2016 to 2018, Kimberly served as 104th Chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, where she received numerous awards and recognition. Notably, she was the youngest person, the fifth woman, and first person of color to serve as chairman in the AICPA’s 130-year history. Kimberly was the second Chairman for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, an organization founded in 2017 that has 667,000 members in 184 countries. She’s been recognized by Accounting Today as one of the Top People in Public Accounting 2018 and by CPA Practice Advisor as one of the 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:22] Her drive, energy, and passion can be traced back to where she was growing up in inner city Baltimore. I’m going to keep it a secret for now, but she will let you know at what age she knew that she’d want to become an accountant. She has traveled the world representing the accounting profession and away from her family. Her success is equally attributed due to the support of her husband, Darius, and her two boys, Darius and Dominic. She is one remarkable woman who I admire and thankful that we’re both colleagues and friends.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:54] Before we get to the interview, I want to share with you that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C Suite Radio. You can f Change Your mindset, as well as many other outstanding business podcasts on C Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com, all one word.

Announcer: [00:03:12] This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:19] And, now, a quick word from our sponsor.

Announcer: [00:03:22] This episode is sponsored by Peter A Margaritas LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients, actually, made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:09] Now, let’s get to the interview with Kimberly Ellison-Taylor.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:18] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I’ve interviewed a lot of rock stars in the accounting profession, but in my music world, Bruce Springsteen is the biggest rock star. I’m about to interview in the accounting space, my Bruce Springsteen, Kimberly Ellison-Taylor. Thank you so very much for taking time out of your hectic, busy, crazy schedule to spend some time with me.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:04:43] Well, I can’t thank you enough for that amazing introduction. It’s a shame we don’t hear the crowd screaming for me like they do for Bruce. But I’m still delighted to be the rock star on your podcast, at least, for right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:01] Well, I have been in the audience a number of times when you have spoke, and they give you a thunderous applause at the beginning, and even a louder one at the end. So, you do hear those crowds.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:05:15] I appreciate my colleagues a lot. So, thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:19] So, Kimberly, if you could, in a nutshell, I’d know I’ve done a little bit of the introduction, but could you give people a sense of who you are and the accomplishments that you have achieved in your professional life and in your personal life too?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:05:34] Wow. So, bring it to a Reader’s Digest version. And that’s how I’m dating myself. So, I’d start out and would say I am a Gen-Xer, presumer. I was born in 1970. So, we’ll let all of our accountants do the math. And so, that means that, yes, I can see that you’re thinking about what that means. So, yes, I’ll be 49 in two months. That’s only two months. And so, in my years, I’ve had just the excitement of having people around me that give me inspiration, that motivate me, that say, “Kimberly, you can do it.” And that started with my parents who really believe that hard work, perseverance, education would pay off.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:06:19] And so, I’ve kind of taken those core values with me throughout my entire career, very fortunate to know that I wanted to be a CPA in the third grade. And I think that when you’re in third grade, and you say something that big, Everyone says, “Oh, sure, honey. Sure, honey.” I don’t know if they realized that I would stick to my knitting.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:06:40] And so, everything I did after that kind of was right focused on that objective. And I’ve even had people say were, “Well, Kimberly, how do you know?” And I know because when I went from – now, this was really dating myself, but I’ll say it – from the eighth grade, which was junior high school, to the ninth grade, which was the new junior high school, I picked a school on purpose that had a business curriculum. I wanted to be in a business curriculum in high school on purpose. My high school yearbook says that I wanted to be an accountant.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:07:16] So, I’ve been very serious about my goals and objectives. And I took accounting in high school, which I think is very, very important to create preference and awareness as early as we can for our profession or for other things and industries, kind of, could take center stage in our minds. I think, we have to talk about the options that are available. And then when I went to UMBC, go UMBC, I made-

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:40] Yay.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:07:41] Yay, yay, UMBC. I majored in Information Systems. And so, although I majored in Information Systems, Peter, I still wanted to be a CPA. And so, I got an MBA from Loyola. I said, “You know what, I need to do this.” I went to school at night. I was working full-time during the day at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. And I went to a community college for two years at night, two classes a week, which I know everyone who has ever taken a summer class or a three-hour accounting class will know how difficult that was, but that’s how focused and determined I was.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:08:17] And so, I’ve been able to walk the fine line between technology and accounting. I’ve been able to walk a fine line of leveraging my accounting and finance acumen in every role I’ve had. And so, working at NASA Goddard, working at Motorola, certainly working KPMG, being a CIO, and now having been at Oracle for almost 15 years, every step of the way, I’ve always recognized that there were technology implications and always understood that there were finance implications. People, process, technology, and the financial resources. And I’ve been able to leverage both of those on top of the foundation that my parents set for me when they said very early that don’t be afraid, and you need to pay your dues, and work hard to get ahead.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:06] Wow. That’s an incredible story. There are some things in there that I have not heard from the past. And I think you grew up in a very tough part of Baltimore. You grew up in the inner city of Baltimore. And the insight and foresight that your parents had, and the determination, and the perseverance had also come out of growing up in that part of Baltimore.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:09:36] That is correct. I mean, I grew up in the inner city of Baltimore and my mom. And so, whenever I had the chance to speak, I always give shutouts to women who make really tough decisions in their career, choices that help anchor and be the anchor for their families. And my mom did that.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:09:53] I mean, she probably could have done anything, but she said, “Listen, I cannot work while I have three girls that I’m trying to raise in the inner city of Baltimore.” I have a sister that is four years older, a sister that is four years younger. So, I am slammed dab in the middle.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:10:10] And she was pretty fierce. She was serious about good character, being someone of good moral fiber, making sure that we would be women that could hold our heads up, take care of ourselves, be independent. And so, she was like, “I need to be there to do that.” So, we got out of school at 2:30. At 2:45, I can tell you, my mom threatened us so many days that if we weren’t home at 2:45, she would be in curlers, hair curlers at the school. And that fear of either set us on strap because we did not want to be embarrassed. So, embarrassment is a great motivator. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:53] Yeah, there’s a lot of truth in that. Embarrassment is a great motivator.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:10:57] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:58] So, great business career, but you’re such a volunteer. You volunteer your time. You’ve held roles as the Chair of the Maryland Association of CPAs. You’ve held roles at the AICPA. You’ve held roles, executive roles, chair roles, leadership roles at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. And you love state CPA societies, I do know that about you. You absolutely-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:11:27] Yes, I do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:28] Where did that desire to volunteer to give back, what fuels that?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:11:35] And that’s a great question. And, actually, no one’s ever asked me that question. And I think, Peter, it’s because I recognize it. I think it comes from having such a strong faith background. So, I grew up God-fearing, for sure. Understanding that it’s about servant leadership. It’s about helping people who might just need a little hand up. It may also come from my walk growing up in inner city. So, different socioeconomic background as a black female. So, different race from the environment that I’m operating in for the most part, and different gender from some of the executive positions that I’ve been in.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:12:14] And so, I think, with each one of those, it made me realize that other people may just need a little bit of help. Other people may need role models. Other people may need a courage to say that they can do it when they hear your story that I haven’t shied away from a tough story, which there’s a — sometimes, we move toward the best stories, the success stories. What we don’t see is the iceberg – all of the determination, the sacrifice, the hard work, the disappointments that are underneath the water. We only see the success. So, it feels like a 48-year success overnight, but they don’t really realize all of the things that go into it.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:12:57] And so, for me, I think to whom much is given, much is required. And I think it’s also important to lift as we climb. And that’s what the NABA community says, and I believe that is true. And so, I have adopted an elementary school, and I try to go and give school supplies, or go and participate in the programs during the holiday time. I participate in a Susan G. Komen Walks. I participate in a St. Jude Bid Program with our military and for our military, laying wreaths on the grave. And, also, as key to this discussion, working with the profession.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:13:35] And I think it is important because the more of us that can give visibility to the options that are available, the more of us that will be attracted to the profession, that will stay in the profession, will be advanced and promoted to the highest levels of the profession. And I think that if not me, who? If not now when? And we all have individual accountability and responsibility to do our part and to pay forward.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:14:03] And so, it’s just a part of who I am. And in every instance, I think, that’s why I’ve grown. I believe in karma. I believe you certainly reap what you sow. And I have received way more than I have ever given. And each one of those instances, it put me in contact with people that I would have never met. They gave me exposure to things and experiences I would have never had.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:14:28] And so, I always recommend state society volunteerism because it’s on-the-ground training in a safe environment where you can learn more than you would learn in any other place. And so, I’m just a fan, as you said, and it’s true of, especially, the Maryland Society of CPAs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:46] Yes, very much so. And for those of you who are listening to this, you probably thinking the exact same thing that I am right now. And you want me to ask Kimberly this question. Do you sleep at all?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:15:02] I don’t sleep a lot. That’s true. That is good. And that’s a question that lit up your phone bank? Everyone wants to know. So, this is it, Peter. This is it. I only really need about — and no one’s ever asked me this either. So, you’re getting new information. 5.5 hours and I’m good. So, I probably — And you tell me what that calculation is. If I go to bed about 1:00-1:30 a.m., and because my kids, although they have alarm clocks, sometimes, I feel like I’m the alarm clock. So, I’ll get up at 6:30 to make sure that they are up, and they’re getting through.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:15:42] And the times when I said, “I’ll really not do it,” because I’m going to see if they’ll get up on their own, it doesn’t work. Although the clock is blaring, they set the snooze 10 times, and I’d have to call them in the morning from wherever I am. I call them every morning at about 6:30. And so, it just means that I don’t need that much sleep. But every four days or so, it catches up, and you have to sleep. And so, it just works. And I’m a night owl. So, for me, which is unfortunate, I’m at my peak energy level at like 10:00 at night.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:16] Wow. Okay, look-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:16:19] So, that is like, “What in the world am I going to do?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:21] At your peak at 10:00 at night. I’ve been interacting with you for a number of years, and I’m going, “Oh my god. What is it like at 10:00 at night?” Because I’ve seen through the day and you’re like the Energizer Bunny on steroids flying through everything.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:16:36] That is true. What I prefer — I know people who get up at 5:00 in the morning. And I could stay up till 5:00 in the morning, but there is no way I could get up at 5:00 in the morning just because. I get up that time because I’m usually going to the airport. I mean, that’s how I do my work, family-life integration. I’ll tend to go stay the night with the kids and my husband. And then, get up first thing in the morning some time. And so, just work. But that’s not what I prefer to do. My preferred best hours, Peter, would be something like 9:00 to 7:00 or something.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:13] Okay.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:14] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:15] So, before we move further, we have to give a shout out to your husband and to your kids.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:21] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:21] Your husband’s name is?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:22] Darius Taylor.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:24] And how long have you guys been married?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:27] We’ve been married, it’ll be 22 years on July 4th.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:31] Oh, wow. And-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:34] Yeah. But I met him as a sophomore. So, we’ve known each other 29 years, but we have been married 22 years in July.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:44] Wow, congratulations. And your children?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:17:48] They are — So, it’s Dominic and Darius II. And they are 14 and 16.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:54] So, your role as the chair of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and your role of Chair of the Association for International Certified Professional Accountants took you around the world.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:18:10] It did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:11] It took you away from home a lot.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:18:11] It did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:11] And managing a family, and being away, and having those boys at that age makes you even much more of a special person because I have not met them, but you’ve talked a lot about them. And from what — and I don’t think you’re just being a proud mother, I just think you’d be a very honest, very good boys.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:18:35] Yes, I would never say that to them, but I’m going to pat them on the back, but they can’t hear it because they know that I’m kind of “Education is serious. Don’t take it for granted. Work hard. Pay your dues. Don’t feel entitled. Don’t think that you’re picking up that trophy if you were 10th place. If you’re not for a second or third, try harder next time.” So, I’m that mom.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:58] And I love that because my son was on the dive team, and he’s now 18. So, this was when he was a lot younger. And they were giving out ribbons. And then, my wife told me to leave because he got a 10th place ribbon, and I kind of said some words a little bit too loud, louder than I should have.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:19:27] It sounds like my husband.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:30] Yeah. And I’m going, “Why get? No, it’s first, second, third, and then try harder.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:19:36] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:36] I had that same-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:19:37] That is exactly what I think. And I say that to them to say I refuse to diminish the hard work and sacrifice of the people who were in the first place. And I think the trophy should be different. First place should get the big trophy. Second place should get a smaller one. Third place should get a smaller. Do silver, bronze, gold. Do something. But don’t make it seem as if everyone’s effort was the same because it’s not. And everyone else can get a certificate, but everyone else should not get trophies. I mean, there are different ways to motivate people. But I bought my son a shirt that said, “If winning wasn’t important, why did they keep score?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:14] That’s true. That’s true. Just ask your alma mater’s basketball team last year in the NCAA tournament.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:20:21] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:21] The first team to ever beat a number one seed.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:20:30] And let me tell you, I was so proud and back there [inaudible]. He’s done such an amazing job here on BC. My husband and I both wonder if we could have gotten in there today. It’s amazing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:42] I feel the same way about my alma mater, University of Kentucky. I don’t think I’d be able to get in in today’s world as I watch my son who is getting ready to start his college career this upcoming fall, which makes me really feel old right now, but-.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:20:57] Oh, my gosh. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:59] Moving past that, so I was Chair of the Ohio Society of CPAs. And then, I was on council for three years, and on the Ohio Society board first. That was my first taste of the accounting profession is much more than debits, and credits, and spreadsheets, and calculators, and anything along those lines. It was such a broader view of what the accounting profession is all about. So, your years at the AICPA — well, before we do that, because I want to know what you were seeing at the time that you were chair of the AICPA, what was evolving in the years that that was happening?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:21:39] Oh, my gosh. It was such an amazing opportunity to see all of the segments of our profession. And you’re right, when you’re the chair of a state society, and when you get involved in the state society, your view expands because, then, you realize that, yes, it’s about public practice, but we also have members that have needs and requirements from their business community that are in business and industry, that are in consulting, that are in government, not-for-profit, and that are also in the academic and education environment. And so, then, you understand the importance of advocacy.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:22:17] And so, when you move to the national and international level, you get to see all of those on a bigger scale because all of those areas have more cynical, more requirements, the complexity grows, the scope grows, there’s more at stake, and you’re trying to balance every single thing. And it’s flying the plane, serving the coffee, and checking in all at the same time while remembering that we’re here to support and protect the public interest, that, yes, we all are trying to grow in our business communities to thrive, but what about Mr. and Mrs. Main Street investor? What about the people whose pensions or retirement funds are tied up into various environments? Are they safe? Are they reasonable? Is it a reasonable risk?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:23:08] And so, I think it becomes much more, I would say, daunting in a way, but it’s exciting and exhilarating because, then, you realize that you’re adding your lens, your view to a broader perspective across the profession.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:23:26] And so, things that were really top of mind for me were next generation leadership and technology. And then, of course, our integration with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. So, for me, those three things, among all of the other things, the peer review, looking at small firms and helping them, looking at tax reform, looking at things we’re doing any advisory space, all of those things are still important. They were important then. They’re obviously important. But for me, in particular, there was a laser focus on the three things I just mentioned.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:00] So, before you go down that path, just so the audience has the understanding, can you tell us, describe to us the difference between the AICPA and the Association for International Professional Certified Accountants. I have to pause every time because I still can’t. I’m trying to get the words in-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:24:18] I know. We have to get it out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:18] Yeah, trying to get the words in the right order.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:24:24] It’s a mouthful. So, I say that every organization has different points where you do a SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And, I think, if we look across our membership to reflect on what we could do to be more advocates of our members and helping them through their careers, and their personal career journeys, and providing the competency and learning that they needed, our assessments showed that members who were anything other than in public practice was, at least, 50%. And if not 50%, directionally, between 48% and 50% of our profession. And yet, we had not in-housed all of the resources that they would need that would give them the value proposition that they felt would have brought them back full time, active, renewing their CPA licenses, or things that they could use inside their function in business and industry, for instance.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:25:25] And so, as we look around, you couldn’t decide if people make these decisions all the time. Do you make or do you acquire these types of skills? For us, if there was a partner already doing it, already a leader, already well-respected, well-branded, and would not provide competition with our auditing colleagues, why wouldn’t we go forward with such an integration or a joint venture?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:25:55] And for us, that was the Institute of Chartered Management Accountants who are based in the UK. And they were in over 130 different countries already with their members, well-known in the management accounting space with resources, podcast, logs, and resources that were just already available, and great success stories of leaders in 350 companies who house what they learn in the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants as being key to how they progressed through their careers.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:26:27] It was just, kind of, of a great opportunity for us to bring to our membership and ask for their consideration. We had to show the value proposition, the why, the who, the when, the how much. All of those, our members are tasked because they’re accountant. So, they ask really tough questions about why this would be a benefit to them.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:26:46] And after we did all of the due diligence, working with the state societies who were especially key in communicating the value proposition to their respective members, the firms of all sizes, educational institutions, and certainly the not-for-profit space and education, but we went out and did this grassroots kind of making sure everyone would be bought into it, especially the business and industry community that had been sitting inside AICPA for quite some time, but maybe not feeling that they were getting all of the assistance that they could have gotten.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:27:21] And so, once we fortunately got a successful pass vote from our members, we then became the Association of Certified International Professional Accountants. And that meant that AICPA and CIMA, which is the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, became the legacy founding bodies that stayed in place. We each have mission. We each have responsibilities to our members and core value. However, under the umbrella of the association, we became a stronger, more vibrant entity with a bigger voice that gave us more resources and the ability to service both of our membership more effectively than we could have individually.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:08] I couldn’t put that any better. That was outstanding. Actually, I’ve asked folks over time to kind of explain it to me, and nobody has done the job quite like what you just described because, now, I — and, hopefully, the audience has a better understanding of those two organizations.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:23] And you’re right, we haven’t, in the past, really treated the B&I and the other aspects with the same reverence that we did with the firms. I remember – so, this was way back – I went to pay for something on the Ohio Society website, and it clicked for a credit card, is it firm or personal? And I went, “What?” So, something as simple as that.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:28:51] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:51] Well, I’m not in a pharma. I’m in the company. But from the company’s perspective, also, actually, when I went to go to work for Victoria’s Secret Catalog – and I’ve told you, not as a model, but thank you for thinking about that – I asked about it. I said, “Would I be able to continue my license and get CP?” And they said, “Of course, we’d give you time. You have two weeks’ vacation, correct?” And I was in the finance role at the time. I was kind of shocked that they weren’t going to support my CPA. And in all honesty and transparency, I let it lapse.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:30] And I know that there are, still today, some organizations that, internally, don’t support the people who have passed the exam and maintained their license to continue to maintain their license. There’s that misconception of value. And I think that’s a stigma or something to help that 50% to be larger.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:56] So, we could tell the story a little bit differently in business, especially in today’s environment. We’re going to talk about the technology aspect, but in today’s environment, it’s even much more important that they maintain that skill set in order to help organizations continue to grow versus, “I don’t have to learn now. And if I don’t have to do my 40 hours, I’m not going to do my 40 hours. But I’m not going to also take initiative and do the L cube – lifelong learning.” Something stops there.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:30:23] It’s interesting because for many of our members, the — and back to your first point, and then I’ll go to the second point. So, firms don’t always see the value proposition. And we have to be so valuable to a member that, first off, when I had to pay on my own — I mean, so, when I became a CPA, I was at KPMG. KPMG was very committed to the profession. So, it was no-brainer. And KPMG pays. It’s a 1% firm, just like a lot of the firms in the top 100 and T400. A lot of firms are committed. And I should just say firms of all sizes are committed when they’re able to.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:31:07] And so, for me, it was like, “Ah, this is what you do. When you become a CPA, you pay to be in your state society. You pay to be in the national organization,” which is they are AICPA. We, hopefully, would have value that members would be willing to pay even if they had to pay for themselves. And that’s what we were faced with when we were trying to make the decision of, do you make it on your own or do you acquire the resources that you need?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:31:36] But you’re right, the B&I community did not feel that that value proposition was there. And I’ve had colleagues, certainly, at Oracle all who would say to me, “Kimberly, I left the profession.” Now, my colleagues are amazing. They’re developing. They’ve developed cloud software solutions for enterprise resource planning. They’re doing human capital management, development. They’re doing marketing. They’re doing sales. They’re doing account functions. So, they are accountants. They trained as accountants. And yet, because they only saw one focus area, they perceived that when they left that world, they left the profession.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:32:17] And so, the value and commitment for lifelong learning is something that we have to make sure that all employers are well aware of, the benefits of why financial skills are important. We just did a report between Oracle and the association that talked about the adoption of emerging technologies. And we found that more and more companies, instead of being ahead and abreast of these technologies that are in the marketplace – like AI, blockchain, machine learning, big data, cybersecurity – that financial leaders are reporting that they feel even farther apart than they did a few years ago.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:32:55] Now, that’s not the time to get hesitant. It’s not the time to stand still and wait and see what’s going to happen or put our hand in the sand and hope that this, too, will pass. We have to put our foot on the pedal, be willing to be uncomfortable. And so, I’m hopeful that employers will get the value proposition message. And that even if that doesn’t happen, that first is when I went to the government, and they didn’t pay, I paid for myself.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:33:21] And then, when I came to Oracle, Oracle has paid my state and local Maryland Association of CPA due. They paid the NABA dues. They paid the AICPA dues. They supported me through all of my volunteerism and, certainly, supported me through being chairman of the board for both the association and AICPA because we also have a commitment for lifelong learning at work.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:33:46] Now, Oracle say it that way, but when you’re in an organization where adding value is a part of your core mission and what you do for mission-critical organizations, there is the expectation that you will continue to grow. There is an expectation that you’re not going to sit back on your laurels, that we’re going to be current. And so, that kind of dovetails nicely with my desire to make sure that I’m maintaining my competencies and commitment to lifelong learning.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:13] Exactly. And I think in today’s day and age more than ever, that — I guess, the aspect is that we have to earn these hours to maintain our licensure is that part of that motivation to keep us learning, but I don’t believe in 40 hours. I believe in just learning. And it could be 70, or 18 hours, whatever, and not having that knowledge that is critical for the future of this profession and future of the organization, letting it pass by.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:34:45] Correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:46] It’s just — You mentioned AI, you mentioned blockchain, you mentioned all these technologies. I will tell you, the first time I heard blockchain, I thought it was an intestinal disorder.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:34:58] You’ve got a blockage.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:00] Yeah, it’s like a blockage. And, apparently, I think there is some intestinal disorders when we start thinking about blockchain because how it works, and the complexities of it, and the three-dimensional aspect of it. But I think you mentioned something that as a profession, we’re kind of waiting and seeing if something happens. Like when FAS would come out with the standard or will adopt international financial reporting standards. I just got to wait till it happens. Technology, it’s not going to wait for us. We can predict. I’m not going to go out tomorrow as the anticipatory organization process. I’m not going to go out tomorrow and buy a dumber phone.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:35:42] Correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:42] I’m going to continue to evolve with technology, and that doesn’t stop where the standards might. And I think it’s a change in mindset that we need to grasp that we have to get on the train, we have to get on board, we have to get up to speed as quickly as possible, or technology, we’re going to be so far behind. We’re going to be antiquated.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:36:06] That is absolutely true. And I say this pretty frequently, standstill isn’t an option. Our lives have evolved because there are things, just like you mentioned, in our personal lives that if we did not have the technology option, it would be unacceptable. So, for many of us, we like mobile check-in. For many of us, we like to do our own travel. Many of us, we were seeking to digital engagement, we can go to LinkedIn and talk to our colleagues and people we don’t even know. There is no going back.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:36:36] And most of the people who are maybe not as comfortable with technology would not even go back in their own personal lives. And so, what I say, especially across the membership, if you’re not asking questions about technology, you have risk in your environment because you’re not asking the question that could be the difference between a company that you’re auditing, or you don’t have before being here one year and not being here the next.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:37:05] And so, we don’t have a choice. We have to ask the questions about technology policies, technology compliance, procedures, cybersecurity, what’s next from a strategic competitive value proposition. And technology is fueling transformation and disruption. So, if they want their clients to be competitive in the marketplace, or if they need to report to the audit committee that with a fast movement of technology that the traffic are on, we need to send a warning sign, that’s not going to happen if we’re not considering, not only the community that we’re in, but the global community fueling the pace of change at an unprecedented, unparalleled pace. And, again, standing still is totally not an option.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:53] It’s not. And speaking of technology, so, right now, we’re using Zoom. Prior to Zoom, it was Skype. But prior to that, we would physically have to be at a location to do this. And we have agreed that the next time our paths cross, we are going to do this at a physical location. But just from this aspect of technology and the ability to collaborate and communicate, I’m embracing it. And I’m excited to see what’s next down the road as we communicate and collaborate, and the tools that will be available for us.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:38:29] Well, I’m excited about it too because I’m thinking that the technologies that are available but are cost-prohibitive today, like holographic images. I’m expecting that we’ll be in a conference room, and a holographic image of everyone from China, to the UK, to somewhere in Brazil, to somewhere in Canada, it could be in Ohio and Kentucky, we’ll all be sitting around the digital virtual 3D images while someone is in the room talking. And that will be like the next evolution of being able to be there when you can’t be there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:07] But when you said the holographic images, 2014, I believe it was, National Speakers Association Annual Convention, one of the hall-of-fame speakers by name of Mike Rayburn was on stage playing his guitar next to a holographic image of Mike Rayburn playing the guitar.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:39:25] Wow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:27] It was that. And-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:39:27] Wow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:27] The whole crowd, we were in such, but it might be a little bit closer than we think. And having that capability of being somewhere but-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:39:43] I think it’s here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:43] … not having to be there.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:39:45] I think it’s here. I just think it’s cost-prohibitive. So, you’re right, it is here. I just think that the costs have to come down to a more reasonable level, so that when kids go off to college — Now, the kids probably won’t hear this, but instead of mom worrying, mom gets to say, “Come see me right now,” and then you just pop in the living room, and they’re like, “Oh great,” because it’s the same way that we’re using checkboxes and voice-activated assistance, we’ll be able to use those holographic images. And that technology is not that far from being available. And, certainly, it’s only mostly probably because of the cost to bring it on a wide scale and to be pervasive.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:30] So, what skills do you see that CPAs need to be prepared for the future, to be prepared for this technological change? We talked about blockchain, we talked about artificial intelligence, we talk about robotic process automation, where we’re not having to do the crunching of the numbers, but we’re there to analyze the information and communicate it throughout the organization or to our clients or to whomever.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:41:01] Well, I mean, Peter, I think it’s about what you talk about. I think it’s taking the numb out of the number in your book. I think your book is insightful because it does talk about skills that we need to have. And you’ve also done sessions, in general, on storytelling, which is the work that people are using today. And I think that is the skill.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:41:22] The skill is the AI will be able to provide us back the transaction, and based on what we feed in, make a recommendation. The machine learning will say, “You’ve made the decision, the same decision 10 other times using these factors.” Because machine learning, what it learned, how you thought, what made you choose, what you show, but, that, the machine did that.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:41:49] We can’t take those numbers into our internal customers or to the public and say, “Here are the numbers.” We have to explain the full length. We have to tie it to the mission, purpose, and values. We have to bring and illustrate it to life, so that we are providing, I would say, astute recommendations that matter to their core interests, and they’re not what I would just want to report because if they just wanted a report, then they will have a checkbox or a robot.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:42:17] The difference is the human element, the gut check, the, “Hey, guys, let’s think about the environment that we’re sitting in.” Yes, you could close this plant, but what about the fact that 20,000 people would be out of work if you do. It’s the people who work here, the businesses that rely on you, the airport that would close because, now, you’re not here. There are so many non-balance sheet type of decision points that companies have to make. And there is qualitative. And maybe it’s things that maybe we haven’t considered before.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:42:52] But in today’s environment, I would say problem solving, critical thinking, creative thinking, good judgment, people, management, all of those are things that we’re going to have to factor in and recognizing that all decisions aren’t economic. And as tough as it is to say because as CPAs, we want to – or as accountants – solve them. We want to say the numbers are the numbers, that’s it. The numbers are the numbers. Well, as leaders, we know that there are so many other data elements and considerations that have to be taken into account.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:26] So, there’s times that when I’m speaking at the conference, I’ll ask the audience, what business are you in? And I’ll hear, “Consulting.” “No.” “Auditing.” “No, that’s a byproduct.” “I do taxes. I have clients.” I say, “No, that’s a byproduct.” And I get them a little bit uncomfortable. Just before they look like they’re ready to get up and hit me or walk out, and I go, “What business you’re in, you’re in the people business, first and foremost, because without people you have no business.”.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:43:54] That’s correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:57] You have no clients. You have no customers. So, the better we take care of our people, the better we look at them as an asset, and grow those folks because if they don’t like the environment, they’re going to leave. And it takes twice as much time to replace them. Some folks, if they don’t get on the trade, or they’re not good for the organization, that’s a bad hire, and we need to figure out how to hire better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:24] But once they’re in, and they’re productive, we have to keep them motivated. We have to — that emotional intelligence aspect within leadership has a trickle its way down because if somebody leaves — what did Tom Hood say once? Either Tom or Rebecca. Firms are out there looking for a 35-year-old tax manager. You know how long it takes to find a 35-year-old tax manager? 35 years and nine months.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:44:53] I love that. I love that, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:57] So, I have to take the Southwest approach. Herb Kelleher built this wonderful airline, and he recognized, “People are my greatest asset.” And they never had layoffs at Southwest, just natural attrition, but realized, “I need to keep my people, and we can cut other costs, maintain profitability. But when profitability is down, the first thing we look at is our largest line item on that income statement, people, payroll, and we begin cutting.” And I think that’s a big detriment to organizations these days.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:45:34] That is true. And I have always thought it was about the people, because your input, your customers will never love the company until your employees do. And I read that somewhere, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is absolutely true.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:45:50] And so, I think people are your greatest asset because it takes so long, to your point, of teaching them how they should operate, what the functions are, and then letting them thrive. And I think I heard another leader say, why would we hire you the best and the brightest, and then tell you exactly what to do? No, we want to give you a parameter. We want to tell you the outcome. And then, we want you to go and make it better because you’re going to think about stuff that I didn’t think about.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:46:23] So, if I tell you how to do it, I am, then, really putting myself at a detriment, because, then, you’re already limiting your thinking. No, we want you. I’m going to tell you the outcome of where I want to go. And then, I want you to ask me why because you’re going to see the things I didn’t see. And until we’re comfortable without our checklist, and until we’re comfortable with a clean sheet of paper, we’re going to be behind. And our organizations that rely on us are going to be behind. We have to be able to see what’s not there. Look around corners. Anticipate the future.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:47:00] Maryland Association of CPA talks a lot about the Anticipatory Organization with Dan Burrus, and it couldn’t be more true because we know that change is happening. There’s no way to fully anticipate all of the changes. But you know it’s going to change. And so, you have an environment that is really agile, innovative, and flexible enough to change, to accept that there are new ways of doing things.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:47:27] And it’s not the three-year strategic plan that you put on your shelf. It’s an ongoing, in real time, crowdsource, where you think we should be kind of operating model that says that the best idea can come from the person sweeping the floor, to the person greeting people at the desk, to the CEO, and in sensing people to be not afraid to speak up, giving them the environment to make risky — What would be risky in other organizations, risky suggestions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:00] I’ve heard this quote, I don’t know who said it, but the collective knowledge outside of your office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside pf your office.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:48:13] I can see that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:14] And that goes to collaboration. And you were talking about next gen leadership. Now, I’m a baby boomer. I’m 10 years older than you are. So, the accountants can do the math real quick.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:48:24] I’m 48 guys, if you needed to refresh it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:31] Yeah. And I had to actually write it down on a medical form the other day. I said, “How did I get to be 58 all of a sudden. Where did that come?” But there are going to be some folks who’s listening to this who will be upset about it, but that old-style, baby-boomer leadership model, I’m telling you what to do, do it this way, this is not the environment anymore. Unless you’ve really worked back then, but it doesn’t work today. And the ability to collaborate with everybody in the office, to give them that room. I was in the banking business at one time. And my boss told me, “Pete, I’m going to give you some rope. You’re going to do one or two things with this rope. You’re either going to build a bridge or you’re going to hang yourself.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:49:13] Oh, wow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:14] One of the two things. And he was right. But the thing was when I made a mistake, when I hung myself, he didn’t beat me up over it. He would say, “What did you learn from this, so you don’t hang yourself again?” And I still have those rope burns. I still have that from those mistakes I made. But that’s what makes me better today than I was then. If we look at those mistakes as — well, someone said use the acronym of FAIL, first attempt in learning.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:49:48] Oh, I like it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:49] But the old baby boomer kind of leadership was we weren’t allowed to make mistakes. Mistakes were bad. Mistakes were not looked at. Now, if you make the same mistake over, and over, and over, and over again, okay, but not the first time. What did you learn? What are you going to do differently? How is it going to affect you? How is it going to affect the organization? And the more that we fail early on, the better we’ll be later in life. Bringing it back full circle to what you were talking about at the very beginning of this conversation.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:50:20] Absolutely. And so, with great power comes great responsibility. And I say that about technology because it means that the generation today has access to knowledge and information that we didn’t have. We had to learn through brute force, through repetition, through someone who was in the accounting department for 30 years who the leaders probably prayed every night that she wouldn’t wake up the next day and say, “I’m not coming in.” And probably that’s how we learned.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:50:53] And in today’s environment, I mean, in Maryland, you can get nanolearning, 10-minute increments of learning. And I know other states are thinking about it if they haven’t done it already. Using the [inaudible] online, you can go to a university. I mean, there are so many opportunities to learn and get new skills set. And technology can be overwhelming. And so, we have new challenges, but we also have new opportunities because of technology. And we have got to get up to speed.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:51:22] And so, it means that our young people know they have options because — and I say this, I was influenced by baby boomers who grew up in the Motown generation era, who were serious about, “Pay your dues. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Your time will come. We’ll let you know when it’s time. And then, you can move forward.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:51:43] In today’s environment, what I said to our leaders across the organization, you, almost, in your onboarding, need to say for any of you who aspire to be a CEO, your partner, to be a managing director, to be a manager, these are the skills that we’re looking for. You can’t say it’s five years because soon as you say 5, or 10, or 15 years, they’re thinking, “Well, suppose I learn it faster.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:52:09] So, if I learn faster, Peter, if I learn everything that you tell me I need to know, are you going to arbitrarily keep me in this place because I have not stayed in the role as long as you did in your career? That is not the work for today’s generation. So, that’s why I talk about multi generations working in the work environment. And it’s across the board. It’s around the country. The same thing that we see, some of the characteristics, across the millennials and Zs, we see no matter where we are. Everyone that are Xs, and boomers, and traditionalists are saying the same thing.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:52:46] And so, it just tells me that technology is probably the equalizer because how would a kid in the UK has similar characteristics as a kid in Singapore, as a kid who’s in Mexico, as a kid that’s sitting in Victoria, and somewhere across the United States and Canada, Maryland, California, Florida, how would they all have similar characteristics? The equalizer is their access to technology, which then changes how they think, what they expect, and what they are going to demand when they come to work inside our organizations.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:26] Wow. That’s a steep learning curve for some out there to change their mindset to realize that. And for those who have, I mean, they’re ahead of the game. And one of my favorite firms, actually, is in Maryland. And they won the First to Do the Anticipatory Organization last year, last business season. And to begin the busy season, they made some changes. One change they made that there are no mandatory weekends. What? No mandatory weekends.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:54:00] What?

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:00] And then, they went ahead and said, “By the way, we’re going to charge of vacation policy to unlimited PTO.” Unlimited PTO.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:54:07] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:08] Wait a minute. That means you trust your people. Then, they went on to one additional thing is they did do market surveys. At the time, they had two locations in the Baltimore area, in the DC Baltimore area, and they had a group of employees drive them from Frederick. And driving into the DC area, which means traffic, and jam, and a lot of time in the car that they opened an office in Frederick for the people to work versus do it in-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:54:45] Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I can’t believe it. That’s amazing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:49] They’re one of the case studies in my book, DeLeon & Stang.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:55:00] You know I love them. Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:03] They get it. And when I share that with audiences of CPAs, I get the head, the Scooby Doo kind of “Aru, what?” But they have low turnover. They get people working for them that it’s like the Richard Branson approach because Branson says, “I don’t worry about my customers. I worry about my people. If I put the right people in place, they will take care of my customers.”

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:55:31] Absolutely. And it goes back to your customers will never love you if your employees don’t. That’s true.

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

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:55:37] And which is why I said technology and next generation leadership. But in next generation leadership, it really applies to all generations. But it was awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:48] So, as we said before, so we could probably talk for two or three hours.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:55:55] We do, we do, we do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:57] So, we’ll begin to wrap this up. The one question I’ve always want to ask you, and it goes back to your time as chair of the executive board of — Would you say the institute and the association? In all your travels, what was the one thing in your travels that — what was the most enjoyable part of this process? Do you have one story that you can share?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:56:21] It is — well, I have a lot of stories because they’re all around people. But I think that it’s — now, I know this is going to be counter to what I just said about next generation leadership, but, I think, a couple of the stories that I’ve cherished have been around our more seasoned members. Members who have walked up to me and they said, “I’ve been a member for 50 years,” and they’ve got — at this point, they don’t pay dues anymore for their state society. They don’t pay dues for the association. I mean, why should they if you ask me today.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:56:58] And I was concerned that being a minority female would be so daunting to our members. I wasn’t sure what the reception would be, but our members — and I have to credit this maybe to us being CPAs, and they know that if you pass exam, you pass exam. And hey, welcome to the club. And so, it doesn’t matter if you’re blue. If you pass the exam, welcome to the club.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:57:25] And so, I wasn’t sure because our profession is working on being more inclusive, but it’s not now. It wasn’t then, but we’re getting better. And so, to have members who were 50 years in, and they would tell me, “Hey, I’m 74. I’m 75.” We got some members who are 80. And they walked up to me and they said, “You know what, young lady,” and I would smile because, “Hey, 46 is the young lady when you’re 35,” I’m thinking. And they said, “It’s about time. We’re glad to see here.”.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:58:01] And I’m telling you, if I didn’t hold myself together, I probably would have burst into fear because they would have come through the profession during a time where black people couldn’t even take the exam. They would have come through the profession where women were not even expected to go to college, let alone go on and be executives.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:58:24] And so, for them to have evolved, and changed, and stuck it through, and was willing to change their mindset that if they had it ever to do that, and to be in the here and now tells me we all can grow, we all can change, we all can evolve, and we all can accept, you know, what’s around the corner because the generations that have come before us gave us a great foundation, and we have a responsibility to make it better for the next generation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:58:58] Wow. What a way to end up this conversation. That was pretty powerful. And for those in the audience who don’t know, when Kimberly refers to NAB, it’ is the National Association of Black Accountants. And I’ve had the honor and privilege of speaking at that conference. I think, I’m going on my fifth or sixth year and is by far — and I’m sure this was, by far, my favorite conference to attend, to be a part of it, to speak at. There’s so much energy that it’s just such a great conference. And I’m looking for — I always block it out. As soon as I know the dates, and I call Maryland, okay, I block out these dates. Get me back in.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:59:38] It’s always a great time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:59:39] Yeah.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [00:59:39] It’s always a great conference, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:59:39] It is. And once again, I can’t thank you enough for taking time. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I look forward to when our paths cross again, hopefully sooner than later. I admire everything about you. You are, by far — maybe Tom Hood might be your biggest fan, but I’m 1A-

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [01:00:03] I love Tom Hood. I love him.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:05] … or 1B, and you’ve had a dazzling career, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor: [01:00:16] Thank you, Peter. Thank you to the audience for listening. I look forward to seeing you guys out at our conferences and, certainly, as our paths are crossed. Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:29] Now, that you’ve listened to this episode, what are your next steps in preparing for the future? Is it changing your mindset and recognize that those soft skills are mandatory in order to become future-proof? Is it learning more about artificial intelligence or RPAs? Whatever it is, just do it, and work on your new skill every single day.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:53] One of my favorite quotes comes from Simon Sinek where he said, “Just because you take a leadership class doesn’t make you a leader. You must work on those skills every single day. So, get to work.”

Peter Margaritis: [01:01:04] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the outstanding podcasts they have in their network.

Announcer: [01:01:24] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E25 – Cara North | Networking & Opportunity: Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Cara North is a learning experience designer at THE Ohio State University and the President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. However, I did not invite her to be a guest on this podcast because of her day job. I invited her to be a guest because, as she says, “I love connecting others to people and opportunities.”

 

She loves networking, making connections, and creating opportunities – and I know that is a big fear for a lot of people, but it’s also a necessary part of being a lifelong learning and, increasingly, growing your career.

 

As Cara says, “If you work with me, you don’t just get me – you get my network.” That’s an extremely valuable thing you can offer employers and clients, and it’s a resource that will only get more valuable over time. “We’re all in this together, we all want to do better, everybody wants to feel valued, everybody wants to be respected, and I feel like collaboration is the best way to do that.”

 

So, why do so many people hate the word networking?

 

I blame it on most people’s mothers, and then most people laugh at me. But what did your mother always tell you? Never talk to strangers! And when most of us think about networking, we think of talking to a group of strangers. But a stranger is somebody with a bottle of Mogen David at the Ohio Stadium looking at a lamp post going, “Oh, you’re awfully tall.” That’s a stranger. But in a business environment, people that we don’t know are opportunities.

 

You don’t even have to get face-to-face with real people to get started! One of Cara’s mentors, Mike Taylor, once said during a presentation that Twitter is the number one professional development tool.

 

She signed up for Twitter during his presentation and, fast forward to 2019, she uses Twitter daily to talk to people all across the world that do the work and have the same challenges that she does.

 

“And I feel like, especially since I’ve been more networked, that my depth of knowledge has expanded more than somebody that has been doing the same old thing for five years or ten years because it’s so important to me, and so important for your growth, to constantly be getting feedback.”

 

People that embrace that growth mindset won’t just have a better network – they’ll be better positioned over the next 10 to 15 years, as our workplaces evolve. “You’re going to have to have a growth mindset to stay malleable and employable,” and that’s true in pretty much every industry, but it is especially true for CPAs. As we’ve mentioned before, CPAs will need more than just technical skills to thrive in the coming years.

 

So what are your next steps in becoming a better networker? Is it changing your mindset? Is it not sitting or standing with your office friends and meeting new people? Is it breaking through your shyness and comfort zone to explore possibilities? What do you need to do? And where could you get out of your comfort zone?

 

I challenge you to start by just taking 10 minutes, writing down some ideas – But the key here is follow through. Whatever you come up with, just do it!

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Cara North: [00:00:00] My depth of knowledge has expanded more than somebody that has been doing the same old thing for five years or ten years because, Peter, it’s so important for your growth to constantly be getting feedback.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:14] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:45] 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 25. And my guest today is Cara North, who’s a learning experience designer at THE Ohio State University. She’s also the President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. Now, I did not invite her to be a guest on this podcast because of her day job. I invited her to be a guest because, as she says, “I love connecting others to people and opportunities.” She loves networking, making connections, and creating opportunities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:41] Now, I know a lot of you hate networking, and Cara will help to change your mindset. When people tell me that they hate networking, I tell them I blame their mothers. They get this really weird look on their face. Then, I say, “What did your mother always tell you? Never talk to strangers.” Well, there are no strangers in business gatherings. There’s only opportunities. Cara shares a number of tips and techniques on how to approach networking with a positive mindset.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:13] So, before we get to the interview, I want to share with you, if you haven’t heard already before the previous other episodes, that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

Announcer: [00:02:34] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network. Turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:39] Other than being the host of this podcast, I’m an author, a public speaking coach, and a professional speaker. My clients consist of accounting firms, finance and accounting departments, associations and Fortune 500 companies. I’ve worked with Sales Team, C suite teams, engineers, and accounting and finance teams.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:59] If you’ve been listening this podcast for a while and think that I could add value as a speaker to an upcoming conference, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com and put it in the subject line, CYM Speaking Opportunity. Now, let’s get to the interview with Cara North.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:25] Hey, welcome everybody. I got a very special guest today, my dear friend that we go back a whole, maybe three, four, five months something like that. Please welcome Cara North. And thank you so very much for being a guest on my podcast today.

Cara North: [00:03:43] Oh, it’s a pleasure, Peter. Thanks for having me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:46] I’ve been looking forward to this. Cara and I met through a mutual friend and we have to give a big shout out to Eddie Turner. So, Eddie, I hope you’re listening because your magic of networking is as strong as ever because we’ve actually kept in touch. We’ve met — as I said in the bio, Cara is the president of the — is it Central Ohio or Columbus Chapter of ATD?

Cara North: [00:04:14] It’s Central Ohio, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:15] That’s right because just Columbus itself is not big enough. We will get to stretch it out to the Greater Columbus area. And ATD, for my audience who may not know, what does ATD stand for?

Cara North: [00:04:31] It’s the Association for Talent and Development. You may know this, they actually used to be a – I think, I want to say 5-6 years ago – ASTD. But for obvious reasons, they dropped the S.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:44] Yes. It felt like you need to get a shot of some kind to attend to meeting for them, yes. And you met Eddie at the National Conference in October I believe?

Cara North: [00:04:58] Yeah. I was in Washington DC, and it was for all ATD chapter leaders. And I’ve been following Eddie on LinkedIn for a little while. He used to be President of one of the biggest chapters and the gold star of chapters NATD. And when I saw him walk by, I was like, “It’s Eddie.” And so, I went up to introduce myself to him, and I’m really glad that I did, and that kind of sparked our friendship. And then, he invited me to come to the NSA conference that you guys had. And that’s how I met you, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:31] Exactly. And coming to find out we have a lot more in common than just Eddie. We’re both from the great State of Kentucky.

Cara North: [00:05:38] Yes. Kentucky Wildcats.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:41] Exactly, that’s right, and graduated from UK. And it’s been a pleasure to get to know you. You’re very fascinating because — and I’ll have people, I’ll ask you to give your background, but you’ve got so many different facets to what you like to do. And if anybody wants to know, what I mean is go to Cara – and that’s C-A-R-A – North’s LinkedIn page and read her introduction, and you’ll go, “Oh, yeah, this is kind of cool.” I’m not going to read it for them. I’m going to let them go and do that themselves. And, hopefully, the people, your views, you’ll get a report saying you got 250 new views this week. That’s just for me because I’ve done it a couple of times, reread it, and stuff but. So, give the audience a little bit about your background.

Cara North: [00:06:33] Sure. I grew up in eastern Kentucky. So, I’m very proud of where I grew up, and my family still lives there. And I was one of those kids, I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do. At one point, I wanted to actually be a neurologist or neurosurgeon because I had a pretty significant horse accident when I was younger. And after that, I thought that that would be a great way to kind of give back after I recovered from this horse accident. But long story short, I found out there’s this thing called chemistry you need to go through. Actually, another little side note is I have an eye phobia. I’m afraid of eyeballs. So, I figured that probably wouldn’t be good for me to become a doctor.

Cara North: [00:07:16] And so, before I went to college, I kind of had – I want to call it a pre-quarter life crisis as a teenager trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And I really thought about it, and I said, “I really like creative outlets. I like storytelling. I like writing. So, what can I do with that?” And then, that’s how I decided to go to the University of Kentucky and get a degree in Journalism.

Cara North: [00:07:43] And after I graduated undergrad, this amazing thing called the recession happened. Yeah, not the best time to graduate undergrad. And I’m the first person in my family to go to college and graduate. So, my family was very supportive and proud of me. And I was really embarrassed because I couldn’t find a job, and I thought there was something wrong with me.

Cara North: [00:08:05] So, I ended up moving back home to Eastern Kentucky, to live with my parents. I haven’t been there more than like a week, two weeks, something like that. And my parents actually got a newspaper subscription. Yes, old school newspaper.

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

Cara North: [00:08:19] And it had a help wanted ad saying that there were open interviews at a call center in Huntington, West Virginia, which was pretty close to where my parents live, on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia there. And I’m a firm believer that anything beats zero dollars an hour. So, I went to the unemployment office, and I had my open interview, and I walked out of there with a job.

Cara North: [00:08:42] So, I started working at a call center in Huntington, West Virginia. And I learned a lot working in a call center. It’s a very interesting environment. A lot of call centers are because there’s a lot of turnover, a lot of, again, interesting people that work at call centers. But after I was there for about two to three months, they said, “You look like you are professional. You come to work on time, and you can fog a mirror. Would you like to be promoted?” It wasn’t quite like that, but I mean, I’m a little bit [crosstalk] that that. But I really was my second guess was, “You want to promote me, but okay.”

Cara North: [00:09:22] So, this role they promoted me to was a call center quality analyst. And in this role, what I would do is I would coach people on the phones about scripts and different standards of the company. And long story short, one little tiny, tiny, tiny element of that was I got to train the new hires on the procedures. I was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.”.

Cara North: [00:09:45] And I’ll never forget, and this is 100% true story, the first time after I delivered my first training — well, first of all, I didn’t know what I was doing. I mean, straight up, I didn’t know. Second, when I asked about it they said, “Oh, you have kind of creative range to figure out how you want to share this information.” After I did it the first time, I’m sure it was absolutely horrible, I walked away and I said, “That’s what I want to do the rest of my life. I love that. I love that.” Not necessarily at that place but I knew I like training.

Cara North: [00:10:17] So, I stayed there for about another year. And as I stayed at the center, a lot of people were leaving that center to go work at another call center that they had just built right across the mountain for amazon.com. And they said, “Cara, you need to come over here. This is great. We keep talking about how great of a trainer you are and how good you are.” And long story short, I got an offer to come over to Amazon.

Cara North: [00:10:45] So, I started working at Amazon in the Kindle department. And at that time, it was just the second generation Kindle moving into the third generation Kindle. So, it was still kind of a newer product. It was still pretty expensive at that point for that particular product, and I really liked working there.

Cara North: [00:11:03] And one day, I asked my manager who makes the training material because the training material was not fitting the needs of the new people coming in. We were seeing a shift in more of providing product support to actually like more kind of holistic support. And that happened when the Kindle went from having built-in data capabilities to WiFi only. And so, people just saw that the price went down by 100 bucks.

Cara North: [00:11:31] And so, then the people that already own Kindles were buying them for their parents, or their grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousin, et cetera. And so, what happened was we had this mass exodus of customers opening up these Kindles, and they couldn’t get them to work. And they were calling the person that bought them, “Hey, don’t you have a Kindle? Don’t you like it?” “Yeah, it’s no problem, just turn it on, put in your Amazon account, and then it works.”

Cara North: [00:11:55] So, we got flooded with calls for people who want to know what the password was. What are you talking about password? That’s your Amazon account password. No, they didn’t know what the WiFi password was to get onto the network to connect it. And I’ll never forget-

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:12] Oh, wow.

Cara North: [00:12:12] … I listened to a call. And, again, coming again from that customer service training that I had, this guy calls in, and he said, “My Kindle is broken. I think there’s something wrong with it.” He just got it two days before. And I said, “Well, sir, what’s wrong with it?” He said, “Well, my WiFi is not working.” And I immediately went into the response of empathy on, “I’m so sorry to hear that your wife is out of work.” “Oh, my old lady has been dead for years, I’m talking about this Kindle.” “Oh okay, sir. I’m sorry.”

Cara North: [00:12:44] So, long story short I understood that “wifey” was actually WiFi. But anyway, I promise this is coming around to a story, to a point. But I asked my manager I said, “Who makes this training material because we really need to get ahead of this WiFi issue. There’s a lot of issues that’s coming in. I don’t see training that I think is fitting the needs of people here on the floor.” And he said, “It’s the instructional design team. And, yeah, you’re probably pretty good at it, and I heard they’re going to make an opening. Is that something you’d be interested in?” And I said, “Sure,” and I got the job. And so, that’s how I become an instructional designer at Amazon. Curiosity opens a lot of doors, friends. So, yeah. So, that’s how-

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:28] Yes, it does.

Cara North: [00:13:29] That’s how I got my job at Amazon as an instructional designer. And that’s where I got my formative experience in learning training and I loved it. I really had a great time in that job. But the one thing that I miss the most was I was behind a computer all the time building stuff. I didn’t have that human interaction anymore, and I miss that. So, I ended up starting to work at an adult education center in Huntington, West Virginia as well to help adults that were looking to get back into the workforce, get computer skills, help them get back on their feet. And I loved that job. I absolutely loved it.

Cara North: [00:14:02] So, here, I was doing Amazon. And then, I did the workforce development center. In about 2013, I fell in love with a guy in Ohio, and I had a decision of what I wanted to do, and I ended up moving to the Columbus area, and I got a job here at the Ohio State University. Then, in June I’ll be here for six years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:22] Wow.

Cara North: [00:14:24] Yeah. So, I’ve been working at Ohio State for six years now. And one thing I love about Ohio State is, spoiler alert, you get free tuition when you work here. And that was definitely a selling point for me because I fell into this profession that I love so much, I wanted to go in and backfill my credentials. So, in 2015, I earned my Master’s here in Workforce Development, and I’m on track to earn my PhD in Learning Technologies in the next couple of years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:51] Yay for you. So then, I’ll have to call you Doctor.

Cara North: [00:14:55] No, I’m just Cara.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:56] Yeah, Dr. Cara.

Cara North: [00:14:56] No, just Cara. Just Cara.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:56] Just Cara. And isn’t it — it’s not the Ohio State University. It’s The Ohio State University.

Cara North: [00:15:03] The.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:03] You got to put that little bit of a pause in there, The Ohio State University.

Cara North: [00:15:07] It’s funny you say that. When I was interviewed here, that was actually one of my questions because it was asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” I said, “Why is it called The Ohio State University?” And the person on my panel said it stands for tradition, history, and excellence. And I don’t know if there’s any truth, but that’s what I was told.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:28] Oh, that’s — my Ohio State fans, if you’re listening to this, send me an e-mail. Let me know if Cara just uncovered something that none of us knew about. And I assume it’s true. That’s pretty cool. So, the thing about you, and you’ve said it already, is your curiosity. A lot of people, curiosity will stop them from doing something. It’s that fear of failure. You embraced curiosity in a different way of it’s just you never know what’s going to happen, you never know what door this is going to open.

Cara North: [00:16:07] Yeah, absolutely. And I love that you brought up the fear of failure. I am the opposite of that. I embrace failure. I want to fail. I want to fall on my face. I want to get feedback. “Hey, Cara, that was horrible,” because I’m going to have a pen and a paper, and be like, “Okay, what can I do to improve it? What can I do to improve it?” Because in this profession that I’m in, I take learning very seriously because when I ask for somebody’s time to learn something, and I haven’t been keeping up with kind of learning and growing myself, I find that highly hypocritical.

Cara North: [00:16:44] And honestly, I feel like it’s my job to be a lifelong learner and actually embrace that. And I work at a university. I have no excuse in my mind to continue to grow, and learn, and innovate. So, I’m really, like I said, fortunate to work here at the University. They’ve been very, very good to me, very supportive of me in my career. And, again, when I’m done with my doctorate, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not knowing right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:13] The ability to embrace failure is very unique in so many ways because most people — and I was raised by — my father did not like mistakes. He didn’t like failure. But as you well know, and we all well know that the only way to learn is to fail. And I’ve said this a number of times on the podcast. I may have even mentioned it to you when we had lunch that day. I don’t remember who it was that said, “If you look at the word fail, and make it an acronym, it stands for first attempt in learning.”.

Cara North: [00:17:46] I love that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:48] And I’ve got an 18-year-old son, and I said, “Steven, I want you to fail, not your classes, not your classes, but when you do fail, if you keep forgetting a homework or something like that, I’m not going to be mad at you unless you do it all the time. I’ll just ask you, ‘What did you learn? How are you going to change this?'”

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:10] And I think that if we took this mantra and brought it into corporate America on a daily basis, we would be much more innovative. We’d be much more freer to share ideas. Unfortunately, in a lot of organizations, it’s more they point fingers versus put their arm around to say, “It’s okay. What did you learn?”

Cara North: [00:18:31] Yeah, absolutely. And I think you hit on a lot of important points there. For me, especially, I want to be around people that are smarter than me. That is why I strive for in my network. That’s what I strive for in my work life. It’s what I strive for just for me to grow because, again, I’m 100% okay, no ego saying, “I don’t know everything.” That’s fine. I don’t pretend to know everything. In the profession I’m in, there’s no way you can be an expert, in my opinion, in everything. But I know if I get a question about X, I have someone in my network that can help me understand it. I can contact a mentor of mine, et cetera.

Cara North: [00:19:14] So, for me, it’s not about just like only my brain, but it’s like if you work with me, you don’t just get me, but you get my network. And I think that’s so much more powerful to an employer. I think it’s so much more powerful to the individual because, again, it’s all about a high tide raises all boats. We’re all in this together. We all want to do better. Everybody wants to feel valued. Everybody wants to be respected. And I feel like collaboration is the best way to do that a lot of times.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:46] So, why do so many people hate the word networking? I know, I hate network. I like to network. And I come, I blame it on their mother, and they laugh at me, “What do you mean blame it on my mother?” I said, “Well, your mother always told you, never talk to strangers.” And when we think about networking, there’s a bunch of people, “I don’t know. They’re strangers.” No, a stranger somebody down at Ohio State with a bottle of Logan David at the Ohio Stadium looking at a lamp post going, “Oh, you’re awfully tall.” That’s a stranger. But in a business environment, people that we don’t know, that’s an opportunity.

Cara North: [00:20:26] Absolutely, yeah. And for me especially, I think networking really kind of became important to me when I actually moved to Columbus. When I worked at Amazon, I was very well supported, and I didn’t realize how good I had it until I left. That’s not to say that I haven’t stayed in contact with the people that I worked with, but it’s not like I could just send instant message to somebody to ask their opinion or whatever.

Cara North: [00:20:54] And I really struggled, probably, my first two years when I moved to Columbus. You can ask my husband. I just really — I just wasn’t myself. I really struggled with my identity, and who am I, and everything. And then, I just decided one day, I said, “This is ridiculous. You have a lot to offer. This is something that you can get better at.”.

Cara North: [00:21:16] And so, that’s how I got involved with Central Ohio ATD. I actually saw an event posting where I had followed that person that was speaking. His name is Mike Taylor, who happens to be a mentor of mine. And at that session, he was sitting there. And this was in March of 2016, I remember it. I went, and he made a comment saying that Twitter was the number one professional development tool. And I sat there, and I was like, “Boy.” I was like, “Who cares? Who cares about Twitter?” But the more he talked about it, and he showed relationships that he had built with people, and how these people that were writing all these really thought-provoking things about the profession that I’m in, how he can just send them a tweet, and they would respond back. I was really kind of intrigued by that.

Cara North: [00:22:06] So, finally, toward the end of his presentation, I was sitting there. And I signed up for Twitter in his presentation. Afterwards, I told him, “Hey, I just want you to know I believe in what you’re saying. And I just signed up for Twitter, and I want to learn more about your process.” And he taught me his process. And fast forward to 2019, I use Twitter daily to talk to people all across the world that do the work that I do, have the same challenges that I do.

Cara North: [00:22:37] And I feel like, especially since I’ve been more networked, that my depth of knowledge has expanded more than somebody that has been doing the same old thing for five years or ten years because, Peter, it’s so important to me and so important for your growth to constantly be getting feedback. I cannot stand it when somebody says. “Well, I’ve always done it that way for 10 years, and that’s just the way I’m going to.” Okay. Well, what kind of evaluation are you getting on that? What is guiding that? Are you talking to those same person for 10 years? How’s your audience change?” “Oh, well, I do it that way because I’m a master of this and I am known for this.” “But, again, are you getting evaluated? Are you growing?” “No, I know everything.” “Yeah. Well, that’s the problem.”

Cara North: [00:23:25] You say that, you really limit your opportunities, again, to grow. And if you want to learn, you have to kind of challenge your own boundaries, and make yourself feel a little bit uncomfortable to grow. And people that have that mindset, I don’t think that they’re going to be well positioned in the next, especially, 10 to 15 years in the workplace because I think there’s big, big changes coming soon that I think will impact that deep level expertise. You’re going to have to have a growth mindset to stay malleable and employable. At least, that’s my prediction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:01] Yeah. I saw a meme once that said, “Your comfort zone is where all your dreams go to die. Get it outside your comfort zones. That’s where all your dreams come true.” But we’re so fearful. It goes back to risk. It goes back the fear. It goes back to fear of failure on why we don’t stretch ourselves at times, and when we stay in that comfort zone, and we don’t try to get out of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:25] And networking is one of those things that people don’t like to do. And I’ve taught folks for years that go, “What do I say?” “Hello, my name’s Pete. And your name is?” And they go, “But I’m so nervous with stuff.” Well, just do this. Introduce yourself. Have the other person introduce. Then, before they can say anything to you, say, “Tell me about yourself.”

Cara North: [00:24:48] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:49] I don’t know too many people who at any type of opportunity you have to network that don’t like to talk about themselves and-

Cara North: [00:24:56] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:58] Yeah. Somebody asks me, I like to talk about myself. But there’s times that I go, and I go, “Tell me about you.” And just let them talk. And then, I can gather all this information and figure out what I’m going to say when it comes my turn, and I don’t have to lead that conversation. And so, you’ve talked about networking through Twitter, you network through LinkedIn, you network face to face. You’re doing all of that. And it grows your career at a much quicker rate than doing it by yourself. And when you look at the President of Ohio State, you look at the governor, you look at the president, you look at CEOs of major organizations, they didn’t get there without a network of people.

Cara North: [00:25:42] True, absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:45] So, the more people that you know. So, we’ll go back to Eddie. I’ll come back to Eddie here in a second, which made me think about — well, Eddie, he introduced us and said, “You guys-” We came to the meeting, we talked for stuff, we said that we’re going to connect. There’s another gentleman. His name was Merle Heckman. Merle is out of out of Northern Kentucky. He’s an organizational development guy. He’s a member of the National Speakers Association.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:12] And recently, he said, “Pete, there’s a couple people I think that you would like to meet.” One guy who’s in Cincinnati and another guy who is in St. Louis. And two Sundays ago, I was up in Cincinnati. I met up with the one guy. And then, this past week, I was in St. Louis and met this other guy for breakfast. Great guys. I would have never have known them for what the — had a facilitator who’s doing that. And as I love both those meetings, I went, “I need to start introducing more people that I know to people that might be able to help them along the way as well.”

Cara North: [00:26:46] Yeah. And the term mentoring and the way you make connections with people. One thing that I’ve heard many people say that I don’t necessarily agree with is a mentor should be like senior to you or have like whatever. I think mentoring should be a mutually beneficial relationship. So, even if somebody has a little bit more experience, why can’t you learn from that person you’re junior on how to approach a certain problem, or how to use a new technology, or how to do whatever.

Cara North: [00:27:18] And I think that by having these kind of informal chats over breakfast or having somebody introduce yourself, it really, also, kind of keeps, I think, the egos in check a little bit. So, it’s not that somebody is bringing their title to that conversation. It’s more, “Oh, you know X. Because you know X, then I trust X’s opinion of you.” So, it’s like you don’t have to have that clash and battle of the titans that I think a lot of people kind of get caught up in sometimes. And again, “Oh, I’m going to call you Dr. North or Dr. Cara,” it’ like, “No, I’m just Cara.” I’m doing it because I love to learn, and I love knowledge. I’m not doing it for any other reason except that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:03] Yeah, yeah. And you said the magic word, “ego.” And ego gets in the way a lot of times when you’re networking because, “I’m so important. I know this much and that much.” It’s like you do, but you’re also a human being. And we all put out our pants and put on our skirts in the same way. So, why can’t we drop the ego and say, “What can I learn from this individual?” We’re not going to connect with everybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:28] There are some people that I’ve met that I have a hard time maintaining a conversation with. But then, there’s some people, like yourself, that we will get to meet like 30 minutes for lunch, and it was like an hour and a half later, and you got to get back to work.” And I went, “I’m self-employed, so I can be able to goof off for the rest of the day,” but it was just great conversation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:50] And same thing the first time I met Eddie. A mutual friend, Bob Dean, had mentioned, “You really need to meet this guy,” and connected us through social media. But we finally had a chance to meet, and another great guy. It’s just the power of networking, if people want to understand, there is a lot of power in the people that you know that can get you to where you need to go, and you have a resource, especially if something shows up, and you lose your job.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:19] I had a gentleman come up to me. He was a CFO of a company, been at it for 30 years, and there was a merger, and he was let go. He goes, “Pete, I have not worked on my network for 30 years. I don’t know what to do. What advice do you give me?” I said, “Go home, get a legal pad of paper, and just start writing down all the people you know, and then contact them.”

Cara North: [00:29:43] Yeah. And I think that’s really solid advice. And it’s not — Unfortunately, I feel like in this day and age, it’s not if but when. I mean, everybody, unfortunately, we are replaceable. And being able to make sure that your resume is up to date, that you’re up to date in the skills and whatever your profession are. I mean, it’s absolutely critical because you just never know. I mean, you just never know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:11] You mean, instead a résumé, keep your LinkedIn profile up to date?

Cara North: [00:30:15] Oh, yeah, of course.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:18] Yeah. So, as I share with you, I don’t have the exact stats on this, but I think that vast majority of my audience are CPAs. And this time of year, they’re busy. And they don’t have time to work on the network. However, come April 15th when the CPA sees its shadow, busy season’s over because you actually see sunlight again, they need to start working on that network almost, to some degree, on a daily basis. And networking is also networking within your organization too.

Cara North: [00:30:56] Sure. And maybe one thing that they could potentially do is even though your client is not a fellow CPA, your client can help bring you more business more than likely. So, I mean, just even something like after the end of the season, just sending a quick note, a message, whatever through either Twitter or LinkedIn, however you’re connected with your client saying, “Hey, well, we made it. Thanks for choosing me. Would you recommend me to somebody else? Is there anything else I can do?”.

Cara North: [00:31:24] And, again, constantly getting feedback on your services, the way you present yourself. People, a lot of times, if you ask for candid feedback, they’ll give it to you. And you have to be ready to take it. But with that being said, if somebody thinks that about you, they’re probably not the only person that does. So, if you need something like that, think about maybe what it might mean in the bigger scale of things.

Cara North: [00:31:51] Because for me, I have gotten feedback a lot of times that I am way too hyperactive and energetic in whatever it is that I’m doing like if I’m doing a presentation. And I know this, and I try to keep it in check a lot of times, but I love what I do. I genuinely love what I do. And it comes across, a lot of times, as just being hyper. But I promise, I think, it’s passion most of the time. But knowing that about myself, I’ve had to be a little bit more careful in the way that I present myself at industry events and that kind of thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:29] I’ve always thought since I’ve known you that you really kind of a mellow, kind of laissez faire type of individual. Yeah, that’s sarcasm.

Cara North: [00:32:38] I have to say, what?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:38] Yes. But, yes, you do have a lot of passion, but you’re willing to take that feedback. A lot of people — and I watch this. I think we’re all guilty of this to some degree. We’re getting feedback from somebody, and then we get defensive, and we start kind of making excuses why or giving rationale why when that’s really not what we should be doing. We should just be taking it in and nothing personal, especially if you solicited it, and just park it, and figure out, “What? Okay. So, okay.” And like you said, maybe if one person says it, there’s probably going to be a few more. Ask.

Cara North: [00:33:19] And one thing that I do because, again, I’m telling you this, but it’s easier said than done a lot of times, I certainly had my feelings hurt, and I’ve been defensive a lot of times about some of the feedback that I’ve gotten. But luckily, for me, I have two people, in particular, in my network. One that’s known me for about three years, and one that actually worked with me at Amazon. And both of them are just very objective people. They have the gift of seeing more than one side, and they never take sides on things.

Cara North: [00:33:52] And so, when I get stuff like that, I’m calling both of them up and saying, “Hey, guys, I got this feedback. Can you help me unpack it and make sense of it to me?” And every single time, they say, “Well, they probably meant this. And when you did this, it was received as this. And have you thought about this?” They helped me see that vision that I don’t see because we’re human. And a lot of times, especially when it’s something about ourselves, we do take it personally, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:21] Right. And you mentioned something. What is our blind spot? What is it that we don’t know? A gentleman in our chapter, Brian Wagner, was talking about Kobayashi. I have to find it. But, basically, figuring it out what do other people know about you that you don’t know about you. So, what is that blind spot in your leadership style? What’s that blind spot in your daily interaction that other people are seeing, and we aren’t seeing? And go out and ask people for that feedback. And then, look at it, “Okay. How can I fix it?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:58] And I love what you just said. You’ve got people that you can turn to and say, “Help me with this. What do I do with this? How do I unpackage it, and then package it back together again?”

Cara North: [00:35:09] And it took me a while to get there. Again, this is something that just didn’t happen. It took me a long time to get there because, immediately, I would have that defensive reaction to it like, “Well, who are you? Who are you telling me this? What are you doing?” But then, I realized that my plan and where I’d like to go, I love meeting people in this profession. I love continually presenting and talking about things from our practice perspective. And I knew I was going to go nowhere fast if I had thin skin. I had to toughen myself up. And by doing that, and by identifying, again, values that I have in my network that I certainly don’t have, and lean on them for support, it’s really helped me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:58] Yeah, it does. And very lucky to have that. As you were saying, I was trying to think of the people who I would turn to in a situation like that. And so, I think, after this podcast, I need to sit. Other than my wife, sit down and go, “Who could help me unpack and pack some feedback that I get from others and help me understand it a lot better than maybe that initial like, ‘Oh my God. Really?'” That’s good advice is to find those people around you that you can turn to. And, also, find those people that when you feel that fear, that could just push you a little bit to put you in that uncomfortable zone because that’s where the magic is.

Cara North: [00:36:43] And I will add a third element to that. I think it’s super important to have your cheerleading squad with you too. So, yesterday is a great example. I did a presentation here at Ohio State. And I live streamed it on top of presenting it here. So, I was a one-woman show. I was presenting in front of a crowd here at the college. And then, I was also on my computer trying to simultaneously livestream it, share my screen, so the people on the livestream could see it, the people could see it in the room with the different projectors going on.

Cara North: [00:37:17] And there were things, looking back now, that I’m like, “Man, I should have done that differently. And I wish I would have done it and maybe set it up this way.” But the fact that I had people that I call my cheer squad that support me ferociously no matter what, and it’s reciprocated any time they do anything. I’m in there cheering them on. I share the things that they do on Twitter and LinkedIn. It really kind of helped me feel a little bit better about it.

Cara North: [00:37:48] And for the people that didn’t know that, they’re like, “Man, Cara, look at you. All these people are really into it.” And I said, “Yeah, but, I mean, they did like it too.” But I mean, it also kind of gave a persona or feel that there was this really big kind of crowd behind me. And, again, while I did have people cheering for me, and I appreciate all the support of people that I get, I definitely reciprocate that because we’ve all been there where we feel a little bit awkward in something that we’re doing, and just want a friendly face or somebody that’s not going to make fun of us or give us a hard time if we goof.

Cara North: [00:38:29] Because, to me, I think that’s the most endearing thing about presentations and talking. It’s about the authenticity of being human. I think a lot of times, people are very scared of that, especially people that I think get nervous about talking to people. They’re like, “Oh well. What if I make a fool of myself?” Guarantee, the only person that thinks that you’re a fool is probably yourself. That person probably doesn’t think anything about that because they have a hundred other things probably on their mind as they’re talking to you. So, don’t be afraid of that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] Yes. Somebody asked me, “What if I say something stupid when I’m out networking?” I went, “If I had a dollar for every time I said something stupid, I’d have $500 or something like that.”

Cara North: [00:39:09] Really, for me, I would never work another day of my life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:14] Yeah. It’s something. We do kind of say because there’s a little bit the nerves and stuff when you first meet somebody. And yeah, you do say. And if something does bug you, I don’t remember what it was, but if I did, I don’t think I’d share my podcast, but I said something really stupid, and I just realized it was really stupid, and I just went, “It’s time for me to leave.” And I just walked away from everybody. Yeah, I know they were making fun of me, and they were talking about me, but I probably deserved it,” and just went, “Okay, that’s something I’ll never do again.”

Cara North: [00:39:44] Yeah. And one thing that when I talk to people, especially people that I encourage to get on social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, they say, “Well, I don’t know. (1), I don’t think I have anything to share; and (2), I don’t want everyone all up in my business if I’m on Twitter or LinkedIn.” And I always try to tell them that, in my mind, there’s a difference between authenticity and transparency.

Cara North: [00:40:09] So, for authenticity, it is about that human element, what makes you you, like that deep hale. What’s your secret sauce? What makes you you? But with transparency, it is the degree of which you share something. So, great example, Pete, we have a pretty decent relationship. I mean, we haven’t known each other for a very long time. So, I may not tell you something about if my cat got sick or something like that, but I would definitely tell a friend of mine that’s had interactions with my cat. Now, does that mean I’m not authentic with you if I don’t tell you that? No. It just means that we have a different level of our relationship with a different transparency level in that.

Cara North: [00:40:51] The exact same, I feel like, when it comes to Twitter and LinkedIn, you don’t have to share personal details of your kids, or what you are today, or anything of that, but then share your perspectives of the profession that you’re in. And it’s super easy to get started. Everyone is reading Harvard Business Review and all of these things that people share on a day-to-day basis. Feel free to reshare that and put your insights in there. That’s a great way to get started. “This is what this looks like at my company,” or “I haven’t experienced this myself, but I’m curious if other people have experienced it.” Some of my biggest posts on LinkedIn, I had one two weeks ago that reached 100,000 views, which blew my mind-

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:37] What?

Cara North: [00:41:37] Yeah, 100,000 views. And it was just I had a picture of an e-learning module that had something on it about forced navigation, like a forced navigation tutorial showing you where all the buttons is. And my question was, “Why are we still doing this? Is this still needed in today’s e-learning?” It started this big conversation. Certain people were like, “Yes, they’re still needed for accessibility,” but yes. So, it really started this big robust conversation about it. And legitimately, I was just asking a question.

Cara North: [00:42:08] So, don’t be afraid to get in there. And I feel like, especially for Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s a great way to start building your brand. Well, that’s the first thing somebody’s going to do after they meet you is they’re going to Google you, and you have control of that conversation. What you put out there, you can control the narrative of what they see. So, why would you not want to control that?

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:30] Right. And the other thing I like about LinkedIn is you can actually post articles. You can write an article, you can post an article. In full transparency, when I was writing my book, I did not do as much posting on LinkedIn and stuff because I was putting this book together. So, today, for the first time, I put an article out there on LinkedIn, and I realized it’s been about two years since I had posted anything.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:55] And immediately, I got about six or seven people liking the article. And, obviously, I’ll be able to go back and look at the stats on the post, and see who liked it, and get some information on it. But that’s something that I’m starting to do, wanting to do it, at least, once a week, post an article in LinkedIn. And I think, it was only 300 words. It wasn’t anything. It wasn’t a page. And it was barely three-quarters of a page, but just enough to start getting back and helping to grow that network because there’s a lot of people on LinkedIn that read these articles.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:31] And the biggest one that I ever had was I wrote something about my son being a type 1 diabetic about the signs of it. And I posted it on LinkedIn. And I don’t remember how many views that it had, but it was over a thousand, at least, at the time. And that’s another way of getting that exposure out there.

Cara North: [00:43:55] And, again, going back to the kind of conversation about authenticity and transparency, you felt comfortable enough to share that information because you thought there might be other people that would like to know about it. But it screams, “Hey, this guy is not just some robot with a picture with a tie on. This is a real human being that is dealing with a lot of different things in their life.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:17] A robot with a tie on. I like that.

Cara North: [00:44:21] [Inaudible] has their nice little headshot with their fancy tie.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:29] Yeah.

Cara North: [00:44:30] Yeah. Even beyond that, you need to actually get to know the person, I feel like.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:33] Exactly. So, what I want everybody to do is one, go out and look at Cara’s LinkedIn page. And I’ll let her give you the answer to this question because she has that on her LinkedIn page. Cara, what is your superpower?

Cara North: [00:44:49] Connecting people to possibilities.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:55] So, if you would like to connect with Cara, you can find her on LinkedIn. And it’s C-A-R-A. And then, the last name, North.

Cara North: [00:45:03] The number 11, like a 11. 11 or 1 something finally.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:09] And. your Twitter handle is?

Cara North: [00:45:13] @caranorth11. Same.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:16] @caranorth11, okay. What are the social networks? Are you on Facebook?

Cara North: [00:45:22] Yeah, Facebook’s more for sharing pictures of my cat and same with Instagram.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:26] Okay.

Cara North: [00:45:28] But I mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn. I actually do Facebook sabbaticals during the school year because I just don’t have time to keep up with everything. So, I say, “Hey, guys. I’m gone for a few months. I’ll be back in May,” so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:41] Okay, cool. So, reach out to Cara. And think about this as you as you’re listening to this, whether you’re working out or on your drive to and from work, how can you begin to start growing your network? What do you need to do? And where could you get out of your comfort zone? And the challenge of this is, one, to find some quiet time at your kitchen table, and just take 10 minutes, and write some ideas down. But the key here is follow through. Follow through and make sure you do it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:15] Cara, I can’t thank you enough for spending time with me this afternoon. It’s great. I love our conversations. I’m looking forward to more of them in the near future. And especially, I want to hear that day when you can say that, “I’ve got my doctoral degree, and you don’t have to call me Doctor. But just one time, you can call me Doctor.”.

Cara North: [00:46:35] Okay, fair enough. Deal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:40] So, thank you very much. Loved having you. And it’s been a great conversation. You gave us a lot of great nuggets. I hope my audience takes these things, and runs with them, and can improve their networking abilities far beyond their wildest beliefs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:58] Now, that you’ve listened to this episode, what are your next steps in becoming a better networker? Is it changing your mindset? Is it not sitting or standing with your office friends and meeting new people? Is it breaking through your shyness and comfort zone to explore possibilities? Whatever it is, just do it. The one thing I do know about networking, if you want to grow your career or your business, you need others to help. And this is the part of the power of having a good professional network. So, get out there, network, and grow your career, and grow your business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:36] Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this, podcast please subscribe and share this episode was a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com, and listen to the many of the outstanding podcasts that they have in their network. Bye now.

Announcer: [00:47:59] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suitradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E24 – Lucy Hayhurst | How to Avoid the Busy Season 10 (Pounds)

I’ve been out of public accounting for a number of years, but one thing I remember vividly was the busy season 10: the additional 10 pounds I gained because of all the pizza, the fast food, and the lack of exercise. So today, I asked licensed and registered dietitian and nutritionist Lucy Hayhurst to be our guest and provide us with some strategic tips on how to avoid the busy season 10.

 

Lucy is co-founder of Well Balanced Nutrition, where their goal is to help people worry less, love what they eat, and live their best life.

 

Now, you don’t have to be a CPA or an accountant to learn from this episode because all professionals, at some time during their work year, will have to put in the extra hours over an extended period of time. When this happens, most of us revert to fast food and no exercise to get through this high-stress timeframe.

 

Often, when we talk about nutrition and wellness, people fall into the trap of thinking that they’re doing everything wrong, or that there’s too much they need to change to even bother – but thinking like that is the fastest way to fail.

 

So, instead, Lucy encourages people to raise their awareness, then decide on just ONE thing that they can do better.

 

You know that old adage, “Everything’s good in moderation?” Lucy tells us it’s total crap. You have to know thyself and recognize what your trigger foods are. She mentions the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which talks about the differences between moderation and abstinence. Some people can have just a few cookies or chips and be fine, but some people can’t have the package in the house without devouring it all – so it just takes a little awareness about what will hurt and help your wellness journey.

 

After you remove any obstacles to your health, pick just ONE thing to work on during this busy season; one bad habit you can make a good habit, which will in turn change your mindset around your health. Baby steps – that is the answer.

 

Then maybe you can add on another healthy habit when you’re less stressed this Summer, or during the next busy season.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:00:00] Often, when we talk about nutrition and wellness, people are like, “I’m doing everything wrong. I have to change it all.” And that’s the fastest way to fail. So, instead, we talk to people. Once you raise your awareness, then step two is deciding on just one thing that you can do better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:25] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:46] 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: [00:01:13] Welcome to Episode 24, everyone. And today, my guest is Lucy Hayhurst, who’s a license and registered dietitian and nutritionist based in South Durham, North Carolina. Lucy and our business partner, Kristen Norton, founded Well Balanced Nutrition. And the website is www.wellbalancednutrition.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:34] Although I’ve been out of public accounting for a number of years, the one thing I do remember vividly was the busy season 10: the additional 10 pounds I gained because of all the pizza, the fast food, and the lack of exercise. I asked Lucy to be the guest and to provide you with some strategic tips on how to avoid the busy season 10.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:59] Now, you don’t have to be a CPA or an accountant to listen to this episode because all professionals, at some time during their work year, will have to put in the extra hours over an extended period of time. When this happens, most of us revert to fast food and no exercise to get through this high-stress timeframe. Well, by the end of this episode, Lucy will give you some practical tips to help avoid the additional weight, as well as being more strategic in your food choices during stressful periods of time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:35] Now, before we get their view, I want to share with you that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

Announcer: [00:02:54] This podcast is part of the C Suite Radio Network, turning the volume off on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:59] And, now, for a quick shameless plug. Other than being the host of this podcast, I’m an author, a public speaking coach, and a professional speaker. I’ve worked for sales teams, C suite teams, engineers, and accounting, and finance teams. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while and think that I could add value as a speaker to an upcoming conference, please contact me at Peter@PeterMargaritis.com and put it in the subject line CYM Speaking Opportunity. I would greatly appreciate it. So, now, let’s get to the interview with Lucy Hayhurst.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:41] Hey, welcome back, everybody. We’ll do something that we haven’t done in a while, and we’re talking to Lucy Hayhurst, and she’s going to talk to us about how we can become healthier eaters and to get that motivation going to get help with the stress and just be healthier in our business lives. Lucy, thank you for taking time out, I can only imagine your hectic schedule, to spend some time with me on my podcast today.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:04:11] It’s my pleasure, Peter. Thank you. And before you all tune out, we promise, this is going to be more fun than just talking about all those silly fruits and vegetables.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:19] That’s right because she’s already shared some stories with me. I’m going to let her tell you those. But if you could, Lucy, could you give the audience just a little bit of a background and maybe a funny story or two that– how did you got into this business?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:04:33] Oh my gosh, Peter. So, I was really, really surprised when I got to the University of Dayton. That’s where I did my undergraduate studies. And I had always enjoyed food. My mom said I was unique because I would take Subway as my fast food choice instead of burgers and fries. I also walked out the door every morning with a pop tart on my way to high school. So, don’t let that fool you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:00] Balance. You’re balancing it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:05:02] Balance, that’s right. A balanced nutrition. So, when I got to University of Dayton and found out that there was a whole career path that lets you talk about food and exercise everyday, I’m not kidding, I thought everybody was going to be knocking on the door begging for this job. I’ve since learned I’m a little unique. Not everybody is excited about that, which might be a surprise for you all out there. And maybe not everyone’s as excited about your spreadsheets with all those numbers. I am excited. I’m excited for you guys. But, really, that was just it. I just knew from the moment I found out that this was a thing, being a dietitian was definitely for me.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:05:47] What’s really great fun story, I went into the director’s office. Her name’s Patricia Dolan. And she sat me down and asked me some hard questions. And I said, “I really don’t know. Do I want to be a dietitian, or do I want to be a nutritionist?” And she gave me the look. You know, the look. And that until you know the difference, you have no business being in my office. I didn’t know that being a dietitian was a four-year undergraduate with about a year, a thousand-plus hour internship, and a very serious registration exam versus a nutritionist, which is not as heavily regulated in some states. And you can just go online and do a six-week course. And, now, I’m Lucy, the nutritionist or Peter, the nutritionist.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:39] So, she gave you that look and made you go research the difference between the two of them?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:06:44] Yes, exactly. So, now, I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:47] So, now, you are. And you’ve got this — We all have a love for food. What’s your tagline? I remember you shared something about it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:06:55] Well, my original personal tagline is “I’m on Earth spreading the good news of fruits and vegetables.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:01] Okay.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:03] But for Well-Balanced Nutrition, what we really do is help you worry less, love what you eat, and live your best life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:12] And that’s wellbalancednutrition-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:14] Dot com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:15] … dot com, all one word. We just got to make sure we get to plug in. And, actually, go to the website. It is pretty cool. They’ve got one of the dropdown boxes for meal plans, and they’ve got a pretty cool planner that’s online, digital that you can — I was watching the video that you can put your meal in, and how many servings, and it keeps track of all the nutritional data for that meal, as well as for the day, for the week, which is really cool. I’m going to have to try that out when we’re done with this interview and try it for the 28-day refresh and see how that works. I thought that was pretty cool product that you’ve got there.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:55] Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. We can also get people signed up for a three-day free trial if you’re not ready to commit to the whole 28 days.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:04] Okay. I think I’m ready to commit for 28 days. I’m not afraid of it too much.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:11] You’re ready .

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:12] So, you’ve got this love of food. And one of the stories that your mother shared, Lucy’s mom is Cathy Paessun, who’s the Executive Director for the Central Ohio Diabetes Association. And she shared a story that you just relocated to Raleigh, Durham, and didn’t have a job aligned, and want to kill your mom now, aren’t you?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:37] Yeah, no, it’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:38] So, you go ahead and finish the story.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:41] When you’re 22, 23, and the world is your oyster, I had just gotten my fancy letters “RD” after my name, and decided, “Of course, I can now get a job anywhere.” So, I uprooted my life and moved to Durham, North Carolina because I have a sister here. And I thought, “Who’s not going to want to hire me? I’m Lucy RD.” Lots of people didn’t want to hire me. I didn’t really know anything or anyone because we know networking is pretty important, but I’m not the kind of person that’s just going to let that hold me down. So, I wrote to a bunch of local gyms and said, “Hey, do you need a dietitian on staff?” And one wrote back and said, “No, but you’re welcome to come hang your shingle here. And you have full access to all of our members for your nutrition services.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:37] Nice.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:09:38] It sounds pretty spectacular. What we learned is when people are paying $50 a month for a gym membership, you’re not excited to pay another $50 -$100 to see the nutritionist. That’s where insurance comes in handy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:56] Yes. And you’ve also been known to, early on, and probably still do to some degree, walk through at a grocery store, stop a stranger, and say, “Can I help you with your shopping?”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:10:11] That’s not untrue. If you’re looking baffled or you have questions, I am there to help. A lot of times, people avoid the produce section because they don’t know, “I don’t even know what a scallion looks like,” and that scares them. And so, they just stay away from it. And I make it my mission to, if somebody’s got that question look on their face, I’m totally down to help them to find what they’re looking for.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:39] Well, I needed some help because I thought a shallot and a scallion were pretty much the same thing, but you just use the green part versus the white part. I thought that was the difference between the two. And I’ve learned that’s completely wrong.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:10:52] Right, right. Shallot is the fastest way to make any meals seem restaurant fancy. A little butter and, finally, diced shallot with your eggs in the morning, you’re officially feeling all kinds of fancy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:08] So, you said a little butter. My inner Bill Clinton is coming out now. I’m going to ask you something. What’s your definition of a little butter?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:16] That’s a good question. Well, so, here’s the good thing to know. Fat is our friend. So, all that stuff that you grew up with in the ’80s and ’90s, hearing how fat is evil, thank God, we have thrown that away. And that’s our friend. So, when I talk about a little butter, I want you to hold out your thumb, and bend it the knuckle, and that top part, that’s how much butter I want you to use at each meal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:46] Not that much. I got my index finger sticking out. And just a little bit of butter. Excuse me. This is a French version of just a little bit of butter.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:56] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:56] The whole index finger. You got it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:59] Sometimes, a little bit more. But a lot of times, I find people are terrified when I start asking them to add peanut butter, or regular butter, olive oil, mayonnaise. Yeah. But I’ll tell you what, if you want a way to cut your cravings, add fat. It is your friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:21] Now, add fat, but there’s got to be that a little bit of fat. And from a gram’s perspective, how many grams of fat should we add to our diet?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:12:34] I should have known the CPA was going to want to talk about numbers. At Well-Balanced Nutrition, we don’t actually get caught up in the counting of calories and grams of fat because, well, first and foremost, as humans, no matter how precise you think you’re being, you’re really stuck at it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:57] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:59] So, unless you are that human that is literally weighing in and portioning out every morsel that goes into your mouth, in which case, we’ve got other things to talk about. But really, it’s about tuning back into your body and learning to listen. And when I have mayonnaise and sardines that both have fat in my bodies, it’s like, “Oh, that was too much,” or if I have one of those salads, and I’m like, “I’m just going to use a little dressing, and have some lean chicken,” then, two hours later, my body says, “Wow. I’m starving. You probably should have had a little bit more to eat at lunchtime.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:40] Two years ago, I had my gallbladder removed, and I had sludged, and I couldn’t eat. I was on extreme low-fat diet just to get to the point of the surgery. And then, they said, “Give it six more weeks. Don’t add any major fat back in.” And they said, “Some people, it’ll take even longer.” And for me it was about a year and a half until I could eat really any amount of fat back into my diet. So, I think, all the time that I didn’t have fat in the last six months, I’ve compensated for what I’ve missed, plus. And I’ve got to go back to not adding as much fat back into my diet because I can tell a big difference when I put too much fat that it does affect your drive. It does affect your motivation. You feel a lot more sluggish.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:14:34] Interesting. And I think what’s really important to note is just how much it varies person to person. And so, yeah, definitely listening to how it makes you feel. And it’s like your body’s saying, “Hey, if I have too much of this stuff, I feel terrible.” And some people get that. They’re eating what they think are really healthy like, “I’m eating broccoli, and roasted chickpeas.”.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:15:00] This literally happened to this week. And when we think that we’re doing something really great, but then she’s coming in and saying, “Look at my perfect healthy diet. I’m eating salads and, almond butter, and broccoli, and whatever else.” And yet, not to get too graphic, “but my bowels are telling me that every time I go, it’s urgent and quite formed.” And that’s her body saying, “Hey, guess what, even though you think this is healthy food, it’s not actually healthy for you.”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:15:31] That’s the biggest misconception or misnomer when it comes to nutrition and wellness, in my opinion. All of us should be following the same rules. And frankly, that’s not it. We can’t follow the same rules. If that was the case, then all of us would be healthy because there would be just one perfect diet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:52] Interesting. So, we’re all different, and we need to listen to our bodies to tell us what’s good and what’s not. Add a little fat to your diet because that makes me think of even from a leadership perspective, the old leadership style is, “I’m going to manage everybody the same way.” Back the baby boomers. Today, it’s well, Pete is a lot different than Lucy, and what motivates Ken over there is not to same that motivates Jennifer over here. So, we’ve got to modify that style. And even with that, we have to modify the way we consume.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:32] But I would say, I remember my days when I was a Pricewaterhouse during tax season, and I’m up to my eyeballs, and in files and stuff, and the pizza was — It felt like I was there every night, but there will be some type of fast food dinner every evening that they would bring in first to eat and very little salad or anything. Now, I know that that has changed. But to some degree, it still exists when we’re talking about those, the busy, whether it’s a finance professional or any type of business professional, when they’re in that stressed time of year, diet goes, or nutrition just goes right out the window.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:17:13] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:14] What advice would you give someone who’s going through that to don’t throw it out the window, look at it from a different perspective, or change their mindset to think about things differently?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:17:28] Well, I think you just hit the nail on the head right there with changing your mindset. And what I’ve come to figure out a lot of what happens is when people are off in the real world, then you’re focused on the things that are important or urgent to you. So, for a lot of people listening, you’re really concerned with making sure that you get on top of all the paperwork, and juggling all of these clients’ requests, and spreadsheets, and forms, and all of that. And so, not surprisingly, figuring out what you’re going to eat has gone all the way to the backburner if it hasn’t completely fall off the stove. And, instead, food just becomes this thing that you have to do instead of something that you’re maybe thinking about and making mindful decision of.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:18:18] So, step one is raising your awareness around what choices are you making. And then, how does that make you feel? It’s like if you’re eating two or three pieces of pizza at night because you haven’t eaten all day, and you’re just starving, does that help you sleep well through the night and feel well rested when you wake up the morning to have a fresh start for a new day, or does that make you feel sluggish and kind of crappy? And recognizing, “Okay. So, now that I’ve raised my awareness, step one, what’s one small change?”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:18:55] Often, when we talk about nutrition and wellness, people are like, “I’m doing everything wrong. I have to change it all.” And that’s the fastest way to fail. So, instead, we talk to people, “Once you raise your awareness, then step two is deciding on just one thing that you can do better.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:13] So, you’re saying baby steps.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:19:15] I’m saying baby steps.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:17] So, it’s not a New Year’s resolution because I’m may eat and drink everything I can for April — excuse me, December 31st. And beginning January 1, I’m cutting it all out. And that’s why we fail in our New Year’s resolutions. So, it’s one thing to change that you feel like you’re doing wrong, figure out how to make it right, and see that through. Now, I’ve been told that it takes like 21 days to start a habit because that’s what that on the internet and interwebs, But I’ve learned that it’s wrong because researchers actually show it’s 66 days to start a habit. It’s a lifetime to maintain that habit. So, do that for 66 plus days, and then pick something else. And then, by the end of the year, you have made some changes.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:20:12] Exactly. And I think it’s good to note that 66 days is that average. I will tell you when I started adding a 10:00 p.m. snack into my life, my brain only took about three days to start that habit because that was very rewarding. And so, habits can happen really quickly. It doesn’t have to take 66 days. Sometimes, habits are a little harder. Like for some people, exercise is something that even if you do it solid for two months, it’s still like, “I’m dragging myself out the door to go to the gym,” because maybe it’s not that magic 66 days. So, I just like to say that, so that people don’t get completely attached to like, “Well, I have to do it this way,” because it might not take that long. It might take less time, or it might take more time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:06] More time. And then, when you describe that, your 10:00 p.m. snack, you said a magic word. It was a reward.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:21:11] Reward, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:14] So, it was a reward, which sent the dopamine in your brain going, “Yeah, I got a reward,” which now creates that habit a lot quicker versus, “Oh my god. I’m going to the gym again,” or “I got to climb on that elliptical again. I don’t want to get on the elliptical today. I just want to-” So, yeah, it’s also a different mindset. If you look at the exercise as a reward, then maybe it all takes 66 days. But yeah, it’s also the way we look at things and making that change can help us accelerate that habit versus the dread, the anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:50] But in your business, I know you work with individuals, and you work with companies, and you devise a nutrition plan. Do you also go down the path, with the nutrition, how much exercise you should include into your daily life? And what’s your definition of exercise?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:22:11] Well, I try to stay in my wheelhouse. So, while we do talk about exercise, it’s more a matter of finding that joyful movement because for a lot of people, exercise is a four-letter word, and they’re like, “Ew, gross, I hate exercise,” or “I hate the gym,” or whatever story you’re telling yourself of why you’re not doing this thing. And then, also, the shoulds of like, “I know I should blah, blah, blah,” and really helping my clients recognize what’s the speed bumps that’s stopping them from doing more physical activity. And together, we work through those speed bumps, so it’s less like, “You need to be on the elliptical three days a week for 30 minutes.” I have only used elliptical twice in the last month because it’s just it’s over done for me. So, now, thank goodness, down here, maybe I should talk about the weather, but North Carolina, it’s been moderately okay to just go outside and take a walk. So, that’s what I do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:16] I love the term joyful movement. What is a joyful movement? And there’s movement, take the stairs, do some things, but those speed bumps, what are some of those speed bumps that get in the way? Like I used to love to run, and I was training for a marathon. My speed bump now are my knees. They can’t take the pounding. So, I’ve had to quit running. And, now, I bike. Elliptical, things like that, they’re easier on the knees. So, the knees are a speed bump.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:23:47] Yes, right. And that’s where it comes back to mindset. So, when we have insert problem, my body says it doesn’t really want to run anymore, we can go on that route of, “Well, I guess, I am just going to have to go sit down for the rest of my life,” or more along what Peter’s done with, “Now, I am not running, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a bump on a log. So, I’m thinking in solution mindset. Now, I can bike more. I can swim. I can do other forms of activity that are going to be easier or just feel better in my body,” which I don’t know if I answered your question, but-

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] No, it does. It does. I mean, there are a lot of different speed bumps out there that keep us from exercising. And it’s like there’s got to be another way to do that, whether it’s walking, whether it’s something. My wife just had total knee replacement, and the doc said, “Don’t even think about running. Don’t even think about running, but you need to do something. You need to-” And she’s going to get back up on the elliptical. She’s going to start biking, something to take it, so there’s not that pounding on the knees.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:03] I think, knees and backs are probably the two big speed bumps out there that keep people from exercising. And to recognize that and get help for those speed bumps but try to find a way to have some type of activity in your life because the diet and the exercise, we hear it all the time, but we need to kind of live for that, which is going to take me down a path that I had mentioned I’m a Type 1 diabetic. We get type 1 who are insulin-dependent, and type 2 who are insulin-resistant. Do you help type 1 and type 2 diabetics with their nutrition plan in order to be able to manage their diabetes better?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:25:46] Yes and yes. I’m hesitant because Well-Balanced Nutrition, we don’t specialize in diabetes counseling. We specialize in helping busy professionals and motivated individuals that don’t want to be on a diet roller coaster anymore get off the diet rollercoaster and live well-balanced. So, there are diabetics that I see that have wanted and needed to change that relationship with food and really change their behavior patterns, which is what we specialize in, because we don’t give prescribed diets. And that’s not to say that it’s not a good tool to have. That’s why we have that tool on our website because some people do just need a kickstart, and they need the structure, “Tell me what to eat.” And I get that, but meal plans and diets are a dime a dozen. You can go online and type in, “Give me diabetic meal plan,” and you’ll come up with hundreds.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:55] Right.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:26:56] Free. You don’t need to see a dietitian for that because it’s out there, it’s online. What typically people need a dietitian or a coach for is actually making the behavior changes become a lifestyle change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:11] So, the aspect of you and your business partner are probably, first and foremost, coaches to help people change that mindset, to live that well-balanced nutrition life. And hearing you, there’s really no foods that are off limits per se, which was when my son was diagnosed as a type 1, in the back of my mind, when the nutritionist came in at Children’s Hospital, was talking to us, you’re going to get the riot act now. They’re going to tee up. And she said, “You can have anything that you want in moderation. The only thing I suggest that you do not have, and you get rid of are sugary soft drinks, period.” Outside of that — And my jaw hit the ground. And you’re telling, at that time, a 15-year-old boy that he can eat everything, but he doesn’t hear moderation. “Well, they said I can eat almost anything I wanted,” but just trying to also help with that relationship of what it’s doing to his body and his blood sugar was still to this day is a challenge.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:28:25] Right, yeah. So, when it comes to diabetics versus the rest of the population, when it comes to what we do, when it comes to diabetes versus the rest of the population, I don’t know if this advice is exactly the same, but what I really want people to hear is that old adage of everything’s good in moderation is total crap.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:00] I wasn’t ready for that. Okay. I heard you loud and clear. Now, if you’re out there and you just heard this, hopefully, you weren’t driving, and you just went off the road. So-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:29:16] So-

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:16] Go on, please.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:29:17] I want everybody out there listening to think about the last time you opened your favorite crinkly package whether that was Oreos, chips, pork rinds, I’m throwing it all out there. Some people, it’s even something healthy like that dry roasted almonds. But last time you opened that crinkly package of your favorite food and the serving says, like, for instance, Oreos, it’s two cookies. I want everybody to take a moment and think about last time you ate two Oreo cookies. Uh-huh. I’m waiting. I haven’t heard anybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:01] Yeah, or 13 chips is one serving.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:05] Yes.

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

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:07] 13. And as a dietitian, I literally count out 13 chips. But I know, again, I’m weird, and the vast majority of people are not quite so diligent.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:22] So, if moderation, how do you define it, or how do you put it? Now, if they moderation because nobody’s really good at moderating themselves or monitoring themselves, so what’s the alternative solution there?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:36] Recognizing what your trigger foods are. And in the book, Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, she talks about this idea of moderation and abstinence. And I think of it as very much a spectrum because I’m a gray zone kind of person. And some things — I mean, for me, dry roasted almonds are very easy to eat in moderation. I can have seven and be totally fine. You put those covered with dark chocolate, forget about it. It’s like, “Oh, I just want to keep eating, and eating, and eating.” So, I know that it’s a bit of a trigger.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:31:17] Luckily, I figured out if I hide them from myself in the cupboard, and I pull out just that little dish on Friday night, and count out my seven chocolate almonds, then I can put them back in hiding, and that’s fine. Like I don’t get triggered to go back for more. That’s not true for everybody. Some people are like, “Yeah. If there’s a container of ice cream in my freezer, that’s going to be gone by the end of the night.” Know thyself is step one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:50] Yeah. Ice cream, that’s one of my Achilles heel. And I don’t know if they still have it, but they used to make these things called Dibs, little vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate. You just pop them.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:32:05] Oh yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:05] Either I tried the whole moderation. You only have this many. And then, next thing you know, the whole thing is gone in one evening. I just don’t buy. For me, I can’t buy them anymore. I don’t even go down the ice cream aisle. I haven’t had ice cream in forever because that’s one of my addicting foods. And the only way that I know that if I want to stop it, I just can’t even have it in the house, period, versus there’s a few things in the house. Like I just have — I’ll count them out, and I’ll hide them, but I know the hiding spot. An hour or so later, I’m back in there getting it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:48] So, I know what my triggers are for something that I don’t want, shouldn’t have. I haven’t had chicken wings in almost two and a half years. I know in one of your blogs, you were talking about chicken wings and stuff. Oh, having that. But I had to go back to the whole thing with the gallbladder and the high fat. And that’s still one thing because I used to eat chicken wings like crazy. I have completely cut them out. I haven’t had one, not even grilled, just — yeah, because it would trigger that dopamine in my mind and my brain, and I’d be like, “Yeah, exactly.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:26] So, you work with individuals, you work with corporations, and you’re also also out there, to some degree, on the speaking circuit because you are a professional speaker.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:33:39] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:40] And what type of conferences, what type of venues do you seek to come in and present your information?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:33:49] Well, I think, my most favorite right now is I do small group sessions for some of our corporate relationships here in Durham. And I love that because, then, it’s this opportunity for the same group of people to get together, and be vulnerable, and open with each other talking through all the things that we’ve been talking about right here where people have these ideas about nutrition and think others should be so easy, but it’s not. So, getting people together and having that group experience, which is also the other thing that we’re doing, which is meal prep workshops, or, as I’m calling them, well-balanced meal prep parties.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:30] Well-balanced meal prep parties.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:34:34] Yes because people think — I mean, meal prep and party don’t typically go together in somebody’s mind. We have five or six of your dear friends or favorite co-workers, plus a bottle of wine, and you got yourself a party, while you’re also preparing meals, so that you don’t have to do it during the workweek.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:58] Well, my wife’s very interested because you include wine, but yeah. So, I think a meal prep and party, that’s like fusion. It’s like a meal prep party fusion kind of thing where you get two separate things. So, you’re planning out your meals, you’re cooking your meals for the week, you got friends over, you’re having a good time.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:35:19] Yeah. We don’t actually do the cooking. You’re doing that prep part. So, it’s like having your own sous chef. You do the chopping. One of our favorite things at one of our dietitian fast food meals that we talk to people about is getting cheap pan dishes together where you just take whatever vegetables, we’ll say like our favorite right now is butternut squash, onion, Brussel sprouts. And then, you combine this yummy maple Dejan sauce together, pour it over the Brussels sprouts, and then you throw in maybe some turkey sausage or some chicken tenders. Throw that all in the oven at 400 for about 25 minutes, and, bam, you got dinner on one beautiful plate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:04] Wow. Now, the butternut squash and the Brussels sprouts don’t excite me. So, I assume I could substitute something for that. Do you have that recipe on your blog?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:36:18] Well, not yet, but we do have our other recipe, which you saw, which is the citrus salad. So, that’s really great, especially as we’re getting closer to springtime. So, citrus is really in season right now. But the salad is that like, “Oh, spring is coming.” And it’s nice because, again, this is something you build at the beginning of the week. And then, you can put that in a mason jar, airtight, throw it in the fridge, and that sucker is still going to be good three days later.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] Got it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:36:52] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:52] Yeah, yes. This is exciting. This is all good stuff. I love what you’re doing. And you did tell me when we started that you’re primarily keeping your business in the Raleigh, Durham area and the North Carolina area. But I would assume if somebody has questions from, let’s say, I don’t know, State of Ohio or I do know that a large part of my audience is located out in California.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:37:21] Got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:21] So, if they went to your website, wellbalancednutrition.com, and say, “You know what, I’d like to talk to Lucy about this,” you would take that phone call, wouldn’t you?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:37:32] Definitely. Yes, definitely. We have capabilities to do virtual calls. And in California, that’s actually covered by insurance, which is pretty rad. So, we are fully capable and ready to help anybody across the country. It just happens to be that we live in Durham, North Carolina.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:54] And so, if you could do me a favor, and provide your nutrition plan, but just the opposite of it to the Duke Basketball in North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball Team, make them gain a little weight, become a little bit more sluggish now that we are into March, yeah, that would sue this Kentucky Wildcats fan a whole lot.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:38:16] I’ll see what I can do. I think I got a couple of friends on the inside.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:23] That’s cool. Well, I applaud you for what you’re doing. You’ve got a lot of passion you. And your mom shared with me that you are a very driven, very passionate as it comes to food, and you tell that great advice. I’m going to put your website in the show notes. How can people find you? How do people reach you? What’s your email address if you don’t mind giving that up.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:38:47] That’s fine, yeah. It’s lucy@wellbalancednutrition.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:55] Great. And we’ll put that out there as well, and if you need some advice. And there’s a great thing about technology. So, you can do virtual call. So, you can still stay in Raleigh, but your business can grow outside the borders, and you can help people with the meal plan and stuff. And I hope that everybody who’s listening to this will go out and visit her website. Tour around it a bit. You’ll learn a lot. It’s really interesting. They get great videos. And make sure you click the meal plans section and look at the video on — What is it called? It just slipped-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:39:28] The Living Plates or the Refresh Challenge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:32] Yes, the Living Plates and Refresh Challenge. It would be worth a few moments of your time. And we all can do a better job in our nutrition become a little bit more healthier because when we are, we’re much more driven, happy, and motivated.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:39:49] Exactly. And yeah, we are living better and helping those that we want to help better when we help ourselves first.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:57] Exactly. So, Lucy, thank you so very much for your time. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. Hopefully, some time, I do get out to the Raleigh, Durham area that our paths will cross. Maybe we can go out to dinner, you, and your business partner, and I. And maybe now, I’ll start to see what I eat, and know you shouldn’t be eating that. I’ll tell you the result.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:40:15] Start listing down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:15] I’ll tell you the result. But it’s been a pleasure. I can’t wait until our paths cross and meet face to face.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:40:25] Wonderful. Same. Likewise.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:28] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:34] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what are your next steps in becoming more balanced in your nutrition? Remember what Lucy said, pick one thing, and work on it to change the bad habit, and to change your mindset. Baby steps, that is the answer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:53] If you’d like to contact Lucy, her email address is lucy@wellbalancednutrition.com. Thank you for listening. And if you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and show this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www,c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the outstanding podcasts that they have in their network. Have a great day.

Announcer: [00:41:28] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

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