S2E19 – Allen Lloyd, Boyd Search, & Chris Jenkins | Roundtable Discussion: The Future of the Associations, Technology, & Fellowship

Happy New Year, everyone! As I thought about 2019, I wanted to get off on the right foot – and I wanted to try something a little different. So today, I interview three wonderful guests at the same time. And you know what? It was a blast!

 

Our guests are Allen Lloyd, CEO of the Montana Society of CPAs; Boyd Search, CEO of the Georgia Society of CPAs; and Chris Jenkins, CEO of the South Carolina Association of CPAs. All three are CEOs who used to work for the Ohio Society and are now running other state societies, so naturally, our discussion centers around the state of the CPA associations and the issues that members are facing in the accounting profession, both current and in the future.

 

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why this isn’t a one-on-one conversation. These three highlight that each association needs the ability to recognize the idiosyncrasies or uniqueness of their membership and try to tailor their offerings to meet the membership’s needs.

 

For example, Chris Jenkins and the South Carolina Association of CPAs recently overhauled their membership model to create something completely new: an all-inclusive membership. And this was a pretty radical move!

 

“It’s about bringing the association back to what it originally was, and the association was a community,” Chris says. “We spend a lot of time talking about CPE, and we spend a lot of time marketing CPE, but there are a lot of CPE vendors out there. What we were trying to do is deliver the maximum value for the minimum price. So, we wanted to roll CPE in as a member benefit.”

 

That’s right – SCACPA isn’t trying to upsell their members to purchase additional CPE credits anymore! The conversation around CPE is so often competence versus compliance, and when you take the price point out of the CPE, it becomes more of a competency-based system.

 

The world is changing rapidly, and as the world changes, associations need to change too.

 

Allen Lloyd and the Montana Association face a very different problem than our other two guests: they’re a state with just a million people that’s three-and-a-half times the size of Ohio. CPE is difficult for them because it’s difficult to get everyone together – then, even when you accomplish that, none of the cities in Montana are that big, and they’re spread out so far from one another, making it difficult to get teaching talent to come.

 

So the MSCPA got rid of their eight-hour seminars and switched to cluster events. Instead of getting people together for an afternoon, everyone gets together for two or three days. None of the classes are longer than four hours and members can pick and choose what they want to do.

 

Georgia, on the other hand, is a much more populated state. There are over 21,000 CPAs licensed in the state, and 85% of their members are actually in Metro Atlanta. This creates both opportunity and challenges because, while they are compressed in this space, traffic is terrible and it’s not going to get any better.

 

So Boyd and the GSCPA have made significant investments in their live stream technology, and they’re doing it all themselves. “We have our own equipment, our own staff, and we do it for ourselves,” Boyd says. “And in an age when a lot of people are partnering with outside companies, or with other states, or whatever, we have moved in the opposite direction where we are entirely reliant on ourselves.”

 

So the society owns the process, owns the technology, and hires the people beginning to end – and that has paid huge dividends for them financially. Although they have not experienced tremendous growth in their margins, they have offset losses that you can see in other states and other providers.

 

Change is scary. Change is necessary.

 

People in associations have a fear, and not an entirely irrational fear, that if they create too much change, the people who have supported the associations for the last 30+ years won’t like them anymore.

“But we also have to recognize that if we don’t change, if we don’t do something different, the people who are going to support us for the next 30 years are not going to find us relevant. They’re not going to find value in us,” Chris says.

 

So, each association, and really each firm, has to have a method of controlled change, in which you try to balance the needs of both without making either one 100% happy… and no matter what you do, you’re never going to make everyone happy.

 

But if people can find the value, they will want to be part of your association or work with your firm.

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Chris Jenkins: [00:00:00] You can have everything in the world, but if people don’t feel like they belong or that they want to belong, they’re not going to be a member. And it’s really about that camaraderie, that fellowship being something larger than yourself and building on that that moves us forward. And you’ve got to have the students engaged, you’ve got to have the older folks engaged, and you just got to deal with the fact not everybody is going to be happy. Everybody is going to find value.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:32] Welcome to Change your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:53] 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: [00:01:20] Welcome to Episode 19. And before we get to our guests, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a safe and festive holiday season. As I thought about 2019, I wanted to get off on the right foot, as well as I wanted to try something different.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:40] And today, my guests are Allen Lloyd who’s the CEO of the Montana Society of CPAs, Boyd Search who’s the CEO of the Georgia Society of CPAs, and Chris Jenkins who’s the CEO of the South Carolina Association of CPAs. I wanted to interview three people at one time. And I’d tell you what, this was a blast because I’ve known all three of them for many years because they all used to work for the Ohio Society of CPAs. And our discussion centers around the state of the CPA associations and the issues that members are facing in the accounting profession both current and in the future.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:17] Before we get to the interview, I want to share that my book, Taking the Numb Out of Numbers, was ranked number 12 of the Best Books in 2018 for Speakers as ranked by speakershub.com. That blew me away. I was so excited about that rating. And the review they gave the book goes like this, “Peter does an outstanding job demonstrating how to present numbers to a non-number audience. It is useful information that can be used in any presentation. It can help make the presenter a rock star. I highly recommend this book for anyone who presents financial data and wants to make it interesting and relative to their audience, whoever they may be. I’ve already used many of the suggestions in his book.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:01] Thank you very much Speakers Hub for that review and being ranked as one of the 12 Best Books for Speakers in 2018. And Taking the Numb Out of Numbers will transform your ability to communicate technical financial information in greater context through analogies, metaphors, and storytelling. Put another way, translate complex financial information into plain English, so your audience will gain a deeper understanding.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:30] The book is available on Amazon.com, and paperback, and in Kindle. So, buy it as a New Year’s present to yourself. If you like to purchase 10 or more copies, please contact me at Peter@PeterMargaritis.com for bulk discounts. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Allen, Boyd, and Chris.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:54] Hey, welcome back everybody. Boy, are you in for a treat this week. Actually, this will be the very first episode of 2019. So, I thought I’d kick it off and try something completely different. I’m with three very special guests: Chris Jenkins, the CEO of the South Carolina Association of CPAs; Allen Lloyd, the CEO of the Montana Society of CPAs; and last but certainly not least, Boyd Search is the CEO of the Georgia Society of CPAs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:26] We have all CEOs who originated out of Ohio who are now running the other states. And I thought we could have a conversation on what they’re seeing going on in the profession and give us some of their insights. So, each one of you, we’ll start with Chris. Give everybody a hello, a little bit about yourself, and then we’ll move to Allen, and Boyd will come up in the rear.

Chris Jenkins: [00:04:50] Chris Jenkins here from South Carolina, CEO. I came from Ohio. I was there for 16 years as the CIO. So, my background is primarily technology. Looking forward to talking with everybody today and discussing what’s going on with the profession, want to see what the other smart guys in the room have to say, and we’ll go on from there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:08] Okay. Allen, you’re up, bud.

Allen Lloyd: [00:05:08] Yes. So, I am Allen Lloyd from the wonderful state of Montana. Much like Chris, I’m looking forward to hear what others have to say, and I can’t wait to share. This has been kind of a couple of weeks where I’ve been dealing a lot with our students and looking forward to sharing some of the cool things that are happening at Montana schools.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:30] Great. Boyd.

Boyd Search: [00:05:31] Boyd Search, CEO of the Georgia Society of CPAs. I have known all three of you guys for longer than I probably deserve to. They’re both right, and there is entirely too much noise in the system. And so, my conversations with you guys always actually help bring clarity to that. I know we’ll laugh and make fun of each other a little bit today, but in all sincerity, that’s, I think, not only me but hopefully other people get some of that clarity out of this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:01] Yeah. I think before we start, we should probably give a big shout out to Clark, who all three of you guys have had worked with over the years, and I’ve interviewed a number of times on this podcast. And I think a big thank you goes out to him for all of his leadership that he has given all of us over time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:20] So, we’ll start with Chris. So, what do you see in South Carolina? I know that you’ve gone through a big overhaul, per se, in your membership model, and you’ve created something completely new and different from the other states. Maybe you could fill us in on how that’s working.

Chris Jenkins: [00:06:38] Well, the model’s about all-inclusive membership, and it’s about bringing the association back to what it originally was. And the association was a community, and the idea of the profession coming together and having that camaraderie. We spend a lot of time talking about CPE, and we spend a lot of time marketing CPE, but there are a lot of CPE vendors out there. What we were trying to do is deliver the maximum value for the minimum price. So, we wanted to roll CPE in as a member benefit.

Chris Jenkins: [00:07:06] And when you look at all of the talks that we’ve had about CPE over the years and what CPE actually is, it’s that competence versus compliance. When you take the price point out of the CPE, it becomes more of a competency-based system. So, what we do in South Carolina, any of our live streams or any of those things, you can take those for free. The only time that you’re going to use any of your bank hours, and those come with membership, is when you’re going to get credit. So, we have a lot of people taking a lot more CPE, and it’s more competency-based, and not worried about the compliance part because they know they’re going to be able to fill that in, but the competency comes at no cost.

Chris Jenkins: [00:07:45] And I think that’s important as we go forward. The world is changing very rapidly. And as that world changes, we want to make sure that we’re delivering everything that we can. But most importantly from our association standpoint, it’s really about delivering that community environment and working for the profession, advocating for the profession, and, again, removing the CPE component, not making that a sales pitch but making it just another member benefit shows our members everything that we do. And we’ve been able to communicate the advocacy, the student pipeline, the communications tools that we have. And CPE kind of fell down on our member value structure. It’s something that CPAs have to have, and we hope that we deliver it well. But it’s by far not the most important thing we do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:30] And this was a radical move. And I know because I was down there for a bit while you were going through this process. This took I can’t even imagine how many hours and nights of lost sleep that you went through in order to get this thing rolled out. And I congratulate you on taking that risk and doing something different. And on the surface right now, I know you’re still kind of new with it, but on the surface, it seems like it’s going to be successful and will be sustainable.

Chris Jenkins: [00:09:02] It does look successful. I’m not to the point yet where I want to go, “Yeah, it’s a wild success.” With a change of this magnitude, you’re going to get people who push back, and that actually makes the program better. So, we listen to those people. We made it better. I think some of the proudest moments this year were when the people who were really not happy with the change came back to us said, “You know what, I didn’t like it. I’ve experienced it now, and you’ve actually brought the association back to what it’s meant to be.” And that is community and camaraderie. That’s something that makes me really proud.

Chris Jenkins: [00:09:31] Our conference this year have been higher attendance than we’ve had in the history of SCACPA. And it’s not like record numbers like you might see in a big state. When we get 400 people to an event or 500 people to an event, that’s over 10% of our membership, which means — And they’re working with their peers now, and that interaction is what we drive. That’s the value of the association. It’s member-to-member interaction.

Chris Jenkins: [00:09:55] And I’m proud of where we’re at. Does it mean that it’s perfect? No, it’s not perfect, and it will evolve over time. Does it mean it would work for everybody? Absolutely not. This program was specifically designed around the requirements in South Carolina, and that’s why it works. It’s specifically designed around what South Carolina CPAs need. We’re not the AICPA. We’re not these other organizations. We don’t try to be that. We’re here for South Carolina CPAs. That’s all we focused on. That’s all we did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:24] And that’s great in how you’ve been able to get that message out. And we had talked on an earlier podcast about this topic, and the word that you said that really stuck with me, because you summed it up in one word, fellowship. And that’s what you’ve created down in South Carolina. And I think hats off to you, for myself as well, as your other colleagues who were on this podcast with us.

Allen Lloyd: [00:10:47] What Chris has done is really cool. And, I think, when you look at his timeline, being the rookie here in the group, this isn’t something that Chris jumped in, and year two, was doing. He took the time to listen to his members, figure out what the needs were there. And then, this was the answer to those issues.

Allen Lloyd: [00:11:08] Here in Montana, one of the problems we have is we’re a state of a million people that’s three-and-a-half times the size of the State of Ohio. And so, CPE is difficult for us because it’s hard to get here. And then, even once you’re here, our cities, none of them are that big, and they’re spread out so far from one another that it makes it difficult for us to get that teaching talent here.

Allen Lloyd: [00:11:34] And last year, one of the things we changed was we got rid of all of our eight-hour seminars. We switched to these cluster events. So, there are two or three days, and there are no classes longer than four hours, and you get to pick and choose. But what that allowed us to do is bring in a teacher who was teaching a broad topic, and we’d get enough people from that broad topic, but then to have that person there for the afternoon where they could do a deep dive. And then, in the past those deep dives just weren’t happening because we never got enough people here to do it.

Allen Lloyd: [00:12:06] And so, looking at that situation and figuring out what works best for us, it’s not going to work for anybody else. And figuring out those things, I think that’s one of the things that I learned from Clark. Clark always had his thumb on what the members in Ohio needed and how we could provide that to them. And I think that’s one of the biggest strengths that we probably all took away from working with him is understanding that we’re membership organizations. We need to be aware of what our membership needs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:35] And each membership has different demographics, and different logistics, and everything to pull. Speaking of logistics, Boyd.

Boyd Search: [00:12:39] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:44] I mean, Georgia is not a small state, and you get a lot of stuff in Atlanta, but I know CPE is delivered throughout the State of Georgia.

Boyd Search: [00:12:51] When you listen to Chris and Allen, I think their stories and differences articulate well some of the challenges we face in the profession and how different our members operate, their varied needs and things, and you see these different ways of trying to adapt and adjust to those needs.

Boyd Search: [00:13:12] We are in Georgia. It’s a larger state. I mean, it’s fairly big geographically. We have a good membership size, over 21,000 CPAs in the state, licensed in the state, but there is an advantage for us in that 85% of our members are in Metro Atlanta. And that creates opportunity and challenges because while we are compressed in this space, traffic is terrible. It’s not going to get any better. The joke is if you want to go anywhere in Atlanta, whether it’s a half a mile down the road or 10 miles down the road, it’s going to take at least a half an hour to just get started.

Boyd Search: [00:13:52] And so, we have made significant investments, as we’ve talked about before, in our live stream technology, and we’re doing it all ourselves. And we have partners on the software side of things, but we have our own equipment, our own staff, and we do it for ourselves. And in an age when a lot of people are partnering with outside companies, or with other states, or whatever, we have moved in the opposite direction where we are entirely reliant on ourselves.

Boyd Search: [00:14:23] And so, we own the process, and own the technology, and hire the people beginning to end. And that has paid huge dividends for us both financially. We have not experienced tremendous growth in our margins, but we have offset losses that we see other states and other providers are having. And it’s created a unique product for us in Georgia where we have firms, and companies, and people utilizing it in different ways. Everything from firms putting all their people in a conference room, and watching a live stream, and they discuss the issues as they’re being talked about. As the presenter brings up an issue, they can talk about client A, B, C and how that impacts them too.

Boyd Search: [00:15:03] The for-hire controller, and I know of this person who works out of her home, and probably I’m not going to say her name because she works at the same time the CPE class is happening. And that’s, to Chris’ point, about competency versus compliance. We’ve found a way to to help you meet those needs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:22] Interesting. And what I hear from all three of you is the ability to recognize the idiosyncrasies or the uniqueness of your membership and try to tailor something to meet their needs. The one thing that Chris and I were talking before you guys joined us, he was telling me the uniqueness in South Carolina where — Now, Chris, correct me if I’m wrong — South Carolina Board of Accountancy only will allow or recognize only eight hours of professional development, like leadership, to be counted as CPE.

Chris Jenkins: [00:15:56] That is correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:56] Yeah. And while I was talking about, I researched one time the State of Kentucky because going up there, I’d always want to take — I’d love to teach there, but I found that they don’t allow any personal development to be part of CPE, leadership types of courses.

Chris Jenkins: [00:16:12] That can be good and bad if you think about it, right. You’re already fighting this battle of competency versus compliance. There’s a bad taste in people’s mouth over CPE because people have to do it. And what we see in students or what we hear from the firms is we need our new CPAs to have better writing skills, business development skills, communication skills. So, if you look at that, that’s all personal and professional development.

Chris Jenkins: [00:16:41] One of the best courses I took as a young professional, and it sounds really strange, was Dine Like a Diplomat. I’d never been to a business there. So, I actually took a course through my association, and they taught me that you pull the bread, you don’t bite it. And those tips and tricks in what you do with your sugar packet is you put it under the plate, you don’t leave it laying on the table.

Chris Jenkins: [00:17:02] But it’s easy for us as seasons professionals to think everybody knows this stuff. Everybody knows how to draft a business letter. Everybody knows how to make a sale, how to do business development. These, to me, are very important skills, and people won’t send their staff to CPE because they can’t use that credit.

Chris Jenkins: [00:17:22] So, what if we took it another direction and say this is just part of lifelong learning outside of compliance to try to get people to come to that? And this is where we have to be unique in South Carolina because our firms need their new CPAs know how to do this. We have to find a way to provide it outside of the scope of CPE because of the limitation.

Chris Jenkins: [00:17:41] Another limitation is self-study. In South Carolina, you can only do 20 hours of self-study, and it will carry over from year to year. So, you’ve got that limitation. Again, some of the best CPE is the CPE that you need just in time, right. Oh, I picked up a new timber client. There’s not a lot of timber CPE out there, right?

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

Chris Jenkins: [00:18:00] So, again, from my perspective, that limitation actually limits the CPA’s ability to be competent in that area because they’re not taking that CPE, they’re not going to get that, but when they need it, it’s really important. And that’s where, as an association, because I don’t sell CPE, I don’t have to apply credit to everything. and it makes it better. But we have to fundamentally change how we think about education, how we think about professional learning because the world around us is changing so fast, there’s no way to keep up.

Chris Jenkins: [00:18:31] And we value everything by the hour. So, we bill by the hour, we trace by the hour. It’s the most ridiculous, outdated concept that I can imagine for tracking anything of value. Value has its own measure. Time is not the measurement of value.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:51] I’m going to give you a big amen on that because I fully agree with that, and the ability to check the box. But CPE, we teach CPE the same way we did 30 years ago. Not much has changed except maybe the delivery of it.

Chris Jenkins: [00:19:07] It’s actually gotten worse. So, I started doing CPE courses 20 years ago, and I was a discussion leader. My job was to walk in a room, and facilitate a discussion, and to be a topic expert in technology. People would come in the room, they would talk about what they were doing and what their problems were, and I would facilitate the discussion to get to a solution. Now, it’s all lecture, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Now, I’m a presenter. And that’s a problem because you learn more from experiences than I could ever prepare in a lecture.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:37] Right, exactly.

Allen Lloyd: [00:19:39] And, I think, one of the things that we’re doing right now is our president, my current president is very interested in engaging our young professionals. And so, we are taking our young professionals and having them go through some process to discuss the major topics that we’re facing, the impact of technology, demographic changes. And then, here in Montana, we’ve got a large issue with rural CPAs who are retiring and leaving a void.

Allen Lloyd: [00:20:08] Part of that process, we’re asking this group not only to come together and talk about the issue, but then, at the end of the day, they’re going to be giving presentations at our annual conference next year on what they come up with. And a big part of the reason we did this was to give those people an opportunity to be presenting in front of a group of people, which is something, at their stage in their career, they might not necessarily get a lot of opportunities to do that.

Allen Lloyd: [00:20:33] When we initially started this, it was just a new task force that we were going to put in place. And then, luckily, one of these young professionals asked us, “Hey, are you going to use CPE for this?” And we looked at him, and we’re like, “Oh, that’s what allows technical committees to obtain CPE for their work. This is a technical committee researching technical issues.”

Allen Lloyd: [00:20:52] And so, we’re thinking about how do we leverage this in the future as we learn how the folks in this process are learning. They’re learning technical issues, but they’re also learning some of these soft skills at the same time. How can we do more of that?

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:08] Right. That’s a wonderful idea to have them come and present at your annual meeting. There’ll be some nerves, but they’ll get a ton out of that. They’ll have a lot to walk away with it. That’s great.

Chris Jenkins: [00:21:21] Can I do a pitch here?

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:23] Sure, yeah.

Chris Jenkins: [00:21:24] So, I know this guy. His name is Pete, Pete Margaritis. And he worked with us this year to build a speaker’s training, and we’ve run it twice, and it’s been wildly successful. So, what we’ve done is we brought our members in, and we gave them those tools and that comfort to be able to create materials, how to present, tell stories, actually get in front of a crowd. And again, that was two to two and a half days of CPE, but what we were able to do is build a speaker pool of 15 experts that are now comfortable in speaking as well.

Chris Jenkins: [00:21:53] So, I think there’s a lot to be said about moving away from the status quo, and bringing in those new faces, and actually building the local speakers, the younger speakers, and bringing it back to that discussion.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:08] Thank you for that. But that, to his point, it was a lot of fun to do it, but they walked away learning a lot of things that they never would have even thought about. And I think the one thing they kept saying is, “It’s not about me. I learned it’s not about me, it’s about the audience. And I have to tailor my conversation to the audience, not just my myself.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:28] And to the point, we really do need the younger CPAs in the discussion leader pool because we’re going to wake up here soon, and all the — As Joan of the AICPA said, a lot of male, pale, and stale will be gone, and we’ve got to be able to backfill that. What about you Boyd in Georgia? As you’re laughing there after my heartfelt comment.

Boyd Search: [00:22:54] I’m trying to figure out what the question is.

Chris Jenkins: [00:23:02] Because there are no questions, only solutions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:04] It’s only solutions, yeah. It started as idiosyncrasies within our state. You can only have eight hours of personal development count as credit in South Carolina. What about Georgia? Do you have ethics requirements? Do you have a reduction of things, of topics that you can use and can’t use?

Boyd Search: [00:23:27] Yeah. I mean, we do not have an ethics requirement; although, they’re getting ready to pass one. So, that’s coming. We’re one of, basically, four states that doesn’t have one. And so, we’re behind, I think, on that in terms of public perception. We have a 16-hour requirement for A&A. So, we report every two years. It’s 80 hours. You have to have, at least, 20 hours in each year. 16 of those 80 hours to be an A&A.

Boyd Search: [00:23:53] You can argue about foundation, and core of being a CPA, and things, but the reality is we have people that are running concrete companies, and they have to take 16 hours of A&A, and it’s of no value to them from a professional development perspective. And so, Chris is absolutely right about what we should value versus what we do value in terms of time and those things.

Boyd Search: [00:24:21] It’s an easy conversation to have or an easy thing to say that. It’s another to be able to find a way that proves out to the public or somebody that understands that you are, as a profession, adhering to a standard that maintains you, that keeps you as a competent professional. I get that the public perception and the reality of things are vastly different, but that’s really, I think, the single greatest hurdle to getting agreement on how can we transform CPE to be something different from a regulatory perspective.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:01] Right. And I know in Indiana, they begun to move to more of a competency-based model, and they started with ethics, and they were able to get their Board of Accountancy to accept. They still had to have credit. And you have to ask Jennifer Briggs about this, the details of it. But they’ve worked with the Accountancy Board to recognize that some of this stuff is going to competency-based. You got to take a test, pass it in order to say you can move on, but that does qualify for credit. But there’s some fuzziness in that that is escaping me right now, but we tend to be moving in the right direction slowly, but that’s what our profession is very slow. Allen?

Allen Lloyd: [00:25:45] The weird thing in Indiana is that it still converts back to hours.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:48] Yeah. And I don’t know how it converts though.

Allen Lloyd: [00:25:50] The hours and the explanation I was given is for a new person, it might take them five hours to take this class, but the class is only worth one hour; whereas, you’ve got this person that’s already master to the subject, they can do it in 15-20 minutes, and they still get an hour. But it’s that you’ve proved that you know this thing, and knowledge of that thing is worth X number of hours. So, that’s one where I really like that they’re trying something different, but I’d love to see a lot more of that, so we can figure out what works a little faster.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:23] Well, I will contact because we’ll probably come up on a year anniversary since I did interview Jennifer on that. I thought I was going to come back in and see where they are. So, I’ll see if I can get her on the podcast to explain what’s happened over the past year.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:39] But if it takes somebody five hours, I guess, the end result is we are more competent at what we’re doing because we’ve passed it versus I’ve sat there and, now, I can just check a box. So, what do you guys — Allen was talking earlier about the young CPAs. Are you guys engaging any your CPAs in leadership and volunteerism with the organizations?

Boyd Search: [00:27:04] So, we opened the door to that this year. It seems like really late in the day to say you can be a student member, and actually be on a committee, and lead the organization, but it’s something we just hadn’t thought of. And if you want to grow your business in the future, it’s something that’s kind of self-evident, right. You’re building an association for the future, you want to talk to the future professionals are going to be and figure out what they’re going to want as they move forward.

Boyd Search: [00:27:31] One of the most frustrating things for me is I get calls all the time, “I want a three to five-year experienced CPA.” All of the time. And I’m like, “Well, I’ve got a whole bunch of CPAs who are looking to get to three years of experience because they don’t have that. They’ve got two years or a year of experience that was needed to get licensed. Are you willing to look at any of that?” “No, I want three to five years.”.

Boyd Search: [00:27:55] And I get it from a business standpoint, but you’re never going to get three to five-year candidates unless you’re willing to start hiring some. The race for talent, the fight for talent has kind of started to reverse, right. So, now, you see the big firms, the largest of the firms started to come downstream and take employees from the regional firms because we need employees.

Boyd Search: [00:28:18] So, where we used to say, “Oh, the regional firms will get their experienced employees out of the large firms,” that’s going away as more people move to the gig economy. And, again, three to five years experience, how do you calculate that if you have people who are working in this gig economy who are doing random work for different firms?

Boyd Search: [00:28:36] So, if I look at from the student perspective when I go talk to students, I love to tell them about the flexibility of the profession. That, to me, is the big selling point. You can go and do anything as a CPA. At the same time, I do want to get their feedback, and I want their ideas about how they’re going to work, so I could start addressing this at the firm level and say, “Okay. How are we going to change the mentality of the firms who are hiring to say, ‘You can get someone who maybe hasn’t done the traditional three years of experience at the big four, and there’s still quality candidates’?”

Boyd Search: [00:29:08] So, I think, it’s important to bring those students in, start collecting that data now. And I’m actually kind of embarrassed that we were so late to bring them into the fold and say, “Volunteer with us, get some experience here, and tell us what we need to do to move forward.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:23] Yeah. Somebody recently said that, “I’m looking for a 30-year-old tax manager.” Well, they’re kind of hard to find. Do you know how long it takes to get a 30-year-old tax manager? 30 years and 9 months.

Boyd Search: [00:29:36] That’s the right answer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:37] That’s the right answer, exactly. And the gig economy, soon as you said that, it popped to mind, one of your members, Sean Kenny, who I interviewed who’s building a platform to change public accounting basically find CPAs from around the country that specialize in the areas, and if the firm doesn’t have that talent, they can go to his platform, find that talent, hook themselves up, and the work gets done.

Chris Jenkins: [00:30:03] Right. So, PrepLink.io, another pitch there. The website is preplink.io. And it was built by a CPA, four CPAs. First, they get a subscription and find the talent that they need, and individual CPAs can, of course, put their experience up there and look for jobs. So, it is more about that gig economy. When you look at gen-Z and you look at the millennials, this is how they’re working. I mean, this is their expectation.

Chris Jenkins: [00:30:28] Now, again, even on PrepLink, people are looking for people with experience, but they have to get that experience somehow, and this introduces them to different kinds of teams, different kinds of engagements, and build a very wide range of experience, and in a shorter period of time.

Chris Jenkins: [00:30:44] So, I think that that’s going to be something that’s great. We do see, with gen-Z especially, they want to work in an office, they want to have that stability, they want to be part of that team, but they’re also struggling to get there. So, that gig economy is helping them gain those different types of experience, so that when they interview, they can talk about what they’ve learned.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:03] Boyd, what do you what are you guys doing in Georgia with young CPAs?

Boyd Search: [00:31:07] So, let me start at a more macro level with just the issue of what are you doing with this particular set of people to try and get them engaged, or diversity and inclusion, or young people joining the association and being in leadership. I am right, wrong, or indifferent when we start to talk about, Well, we’re going to put together a young CPA Committee. We’re going to put together our D&I task force or whatever.”

Boyd Search: [00:31:37] I have enough experience and cynicism that I tend to — Unfortunately, my starting place is an eye roll because, largely, what comes of those things is activity that allows us to say we’re doing things that makes us sound smart and makes us be able to make it sound like to other people that we’re doing something that matters and makes progress, when, by and large, we rarely ever are.

Boyd Search: [00:32:03] And so, I think you have to do those things because they create conversations. But beyond that, it requires the leadership from Chris, from Allen, from me, from you as a past chair of the board of the Ohio Society, to function with great intention on things. And I don’t mean quotas for young CPAs or others, but, certainly, in developing your own personal network of people that you know and talking about opportunities to be engaged, or leadership, or whatever.

Boyd Search: [00:32:41] Because if I’m doing that, if Chris is doing that, if my board members are doing that, you tend to see a lot swifter and more productive progress, if you will, than you do by sitting people in a room, and talking about the issue, and saying, “Well, we’re going to budget $2000 next year for our young CPA board, so they can have a beer and broth night at the local ballpark,” which are cool, but it doesn’t put somebody on the board. It doesn’t put them in a position where they suddenly realize, “Holy crap. My opinion matters. And the work I do and the attention I pay matters.”

Boyd Search: [00:33:19] And so, we’ve done many of those things that everybody talks about. But the thing I’m most proud of is that we’ve had leadership that has recognized on all of those fronts. And I’ll say diversity because diversity is not just an ethnic or racial thing. It could be young, generational, or whatever. They have an openness and a willingness to function intentionally when it comes to those things.

Boyd Search: [00:33:48] And as a result, we have a fairly deep bench of diversified talent across. We’ve got roughly what we say about 400 members that are actively engaged. And so, that means they are serving in some form of leadership role, task force committee, counsel, or whatever. And the bench is not as deep as I would like, but from a diversity perspective, again, diversity being all kinds of things, it’s robust, and I’m quite proud of that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:21] I hear you, and I have lived through a lot of that frustration as well, but as you were describing this, the thing, we keep talking about leadership within, we need more leadership CPE, we would go soft skills. But a great place to develop all of those soft skills are volunteering and being part of a task force, part of a committee, getting involved. We’re not seeing as much involvement from older, younger, middle of the road, whatever generation, into the association as we once did. And is it because we’re just too busy or is it something else? I don’t know.

Boyd Search: [00:35:02] I think the definition of involved or engaged is what you have to worry about. If you are 65 years old, your definition of engagement is far different than if you’re 25.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:13] Right.

Boyd Search: [00:35:13] And if you have an expectation, and I’m way over generalizing, but a 25-year-old is going to join the local chapter, serve on a chapter committee, decide to be a chapter officer, be the secretary, be the treasurer, be the vice president, be the social chair, be the president, and then maybe get the chance to share a lot of state committee where they’ve done — And 30 years later, they get to bang the gavel as the chair of the board. That is not — It’s not how it works anymore.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:47] Right.

Boyd Search: [00:35:48] We have focused on the idea of engagement, making it what the individual wants. And so, you’ll have an individual of two different people, let’s say, I’m making it up, sitting on the same task force that we’ll have. And they will both have vastly different experiences in terms of the time they commit, the depth of their intellectual commitment, but both of them can walk away satisfied because of the way we structure it and the way we have a broader array of expectations or acceptable outcomes for individual volunteers. And that’s hard because, particularly, if people have been around a long time, their expectations for what should be are way different.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:33] Way different. What do you think about that, Allen?

Allen Lloyd: [00:36:35] As Boyd was talking, one of the things that struck me is on our board, we have two seats that are reserved, one’s for a student, and one’s for a young professional. So, every year, we’ve got one student that sits on our board and one young professional that is there. And that is part of their capacity of being on the board.

Allen Lloyd: [00:36:56] And one of the things that I’ve been really proud of is our group does a great job of making sure that those people are included in every conversation. We don’t ask our students just to talk and be engaged when we’re talking about student issues. We want them talking and engaged on all the issues that the profession and the society is dealing with.

Allen Lloyd: [00:37:21] And that’s where — So many great ideas come from that and questions because the younger folks don’t have all that history. And so, they’re not following this track where they’re like, “Oh, yeah. We’ve seen this problem before. We’ll just do X, Y, and Z.” They come out with a different angle, and it’s amazing what it does to that board dynamic to have those folks in the room engaged and involved in the conversations.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:45] Yeah, they haven’t developed false biases out there. Actually, I was — Do you have-

Boyd Search: [00:37:49] The kind I’m voted with.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:51] This guy was saying that he was looking for it. And he went into the open rate. He want to have 100% open rate on this campaign that he was doing. And he had his group together and asked them all, “Well, what should we do?” And this intern goes, “Well, we’ll have this event at the ballpark. Why don’t you get a box, and put a baseball in it, and send it to all the people that you want to invite.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:21] And nobody else came up with that idea. And actually, he ended up having about 100% open rate because when you get a box with something, what do you do? You open it. And then, the baseball and the invitation. So, yeah, that’s a great idea. Back to you, Chris, what do you think?

Chris Jenkins: [00:38:38] So, I will say that Allen’s idea of having reserved seats, I do like that. The concept that you’re aware, and you need to have that representation on the board at that level, and you don’t end up with the path that Boyd pointed out, which is 30 years. And I agree with Boyd. Involvement, the definition of involvement depends on the person, and it depends on their passion. And when you have a volunteer, I think the most important thing that you need to do is you need to understand what they’re passionate about. You just can’t assume that somebody wants to be in a specific group.

Chris Jenkins: [00:39:14] So, we don’t have what you would call a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, right. Diversity and inclusion is in everything that we do. We want to include everybody. We want to make sure that we have the proper thing. So, that’s a charge of everything that we do. Young, startups, candidates, and students, and young professionals should be part of everything that we do. And the more that we realize that, I think the better off we’re going to be.

Chris Jenkins: [00:39:37] And Boyd is absolutely right. Members can be very, very passionate about something, but they have a full-time job. If you really want traction, if you want to move, it’s going to have to be somebody on staff, and they’ve got to go get it. So, I’m out. I go to all the universities. I’m the one that’s leading the student charge, and it’s very successful.

Chris Jenkins: [00:39:57] The other thing is I used to lead it, and I would take digital assets, and be like, “Hey, all of you, students, here are all these cool web assets and things that you can go to, and it works on your phone.” What I found is they’re overlooked. The way that I’ve been able to get the most traction is I take paper applications, and have them fill them out while I’m there.

Chris Jenkins: [00:40:16] So, I think that there’s a lot going on there. I also see that we are starting to get more of the younger generation involved, but it has to do with change. We have a fear, as associations, as we should, that if we create too much change, the people who have supported us for the last 30, 40, 50 years won’t like us anymore. We don’t have that. It was just the change, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:43] Right.

Chris Jenkins: [00:40:43] But we also have to recognize that if we don’t change, if we don’t do something different, the people who are going to support us for the next 30 years are not going to find us relevant. They’re not going to find value in us. So, there has to be this method of controlled change where you try to balance the needs of both without making either one 100% happy.

Chris Jenkins: [00:41:02] And one of the things I was told when I took this job, no matter what you do, somebody is going to be mad at you. If you want everybody to be happy, go sell ice cream. I’m not selling ice cream, right. And even with ice cream, it’s going to melt. At least, my products not melt. But I think it’s really important to, number one, understand your audience, understand you can’t make everybody happy, get everybody to the table, and you’re not going to get consensus. Now, you’re not going to get a unanimous, “Yeah, this is perfect,” but you’re going to get, “This is what it takes to deliver value to me.”

Chris Jenkins: [00:41:36] And if people can find the value, they will want to be part of the association. And that’s because, again, for fellowship, to reinforce that they’re part of something larger than themselves. Boyd and I talked about this. You can have everything in the world, but if people don’t feel like they belong, or that they want to belong, they’re not going to be a member.

Chris Jenkins: [00:41:54] And it’s really about that camaraderie, that fellowship, being something larger than yourself, and building on that. That moves us forward. And you’ve got to have the students engaged. You’ve got to have the older folks engaged. And you’ve just got to deal with the fact not everybody is going to be happy, everybody is going to find value.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:13] Well put. I mean, we never can make everybody happy. And I guess, it’s important. As long as you’ve got a majority of consensus to what is happening, then you’re moving in the right direction. I guess, when your popularity goes down to below 50, and you have more people against you than with you, that creates the issue, one of the issues.

Chris Jenkins: [00:42:36] I would like to stay at 80/20. That 60/40 is not where I want to be.

Boyd Search: [00:42:42] Did we just start talking about politics or?

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:44] Using that as a metaphor. Yeah, I would assume that 80/20 or 85/15 is the preferred, but where does it get to the point that it becomes concern? At what number?

Chris Jenkins: [00:43:00] A concern for myself, or concern for the association, or concern for the profession?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:08] The first two, for yourself and for the association.

Chris Jenkins: [00:43:11] I have no idea about for myself, and I hope I’d never find out. And not to mean that we won’t lead and make tough decisions on those things, but I don’t have any perspective on when it would be a danger zone for me personally. I think for an organization, I don’t know that there’s a danger zone in terms of, “Gosh, 70%, 80% disagree with the direction we’re going,” because dissent or agreement implies some measure of engagement, and concern, and/or we’d say awareness. And that’s not always — Usually, for me, that’s a good thing.

Chris Jenkins: [00:43:53] Apathy, I think, if you could measure apathy, that would be the one to measure for me that would give me concern if it reached a certain number. And I think some of the areas where we see that, and this is not a popular thing to say, CPE is an area, and you can talk about why, or who’s to blame, or what’s to blame, the CPE is an area where there is a tremendous amount of apathy, and that can be very dangerous. So, that’s where I would go with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:24] I think I’m going to make that into a bumper sticker because in all honesty, you’re right about the apathy in the CPE world. What do you think, Allen?

Allen Lloyd: [00:44:34] I’m going to go to the opposite side of this issue because when I started, one of the things that I knew was going to be an issue is this whole idea of technology is coming to disrupt us all and-

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:46] Yeah.

Boyd Search: [00:44:48] And kill us, isn’t it?

Allen Lloyd: [00:44:50] It’s coming, right. I mean, things are changing. But at the same point, I knew coming in that I didn’t need to make all my members blockchain experts within a month. But I think coming in, there was clear heads in the sand, and I would say it’s probably 80/20. 80% of people were just ignoring this issue. And I think anytime you’ve got something where people ignore or are dismissing something that we, as a profession and associations, find important that’s something where I go against that.

Allen Lloyd: [00:45:25] And I’ve heard from members that have told me that, “Stop mentioning this damn thing. I’m going to retire before it really impacts me anyway.” and I’m like, “Well, are you retiring tomorrow? Because this is something that even today we’re hearing from other members, members in industry that are actually using this stuff.” And they’re disappointed because the firms that they’re working with don’t understand it enough yet.

Allen Lloyd: [00:45:51] And so, I think, it depends on this issue. If it was something political, and I didn’t have at least, I would say, 70% of my members on board, it’s not something I would go chasing and advocate for the statehouse. But on some of these other fuzzier issues, I think I’m comfortable wherever it happens to be as long as I’m making progress in the right direction.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:17] Do you remember, IFRS? The IFRS. And I would say I was very involved with it back then. And the acronym we used to say is it’s incentive for retirement soon because I would hear a lot of the same thing. I’m not worried about this because I hope I’m retired by the time it comes into place. And we’re going to-

Boyd Search: [00:46:37] We’re going to look dead.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:38] Yeah. And then, I look at it. I will go say to that same group and go, “We may not have adopted or converged with it, but if you look at the standards, how fast we have been putting it up for the last two years with redbrick, leasing, elimination of extraordinary items, changing inventory measurement from lower cost to net realizable value.” That was all IFRS-based. That was all IFRS.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:02] So, when someone says, “I’m glad we didn’t converge because I was going to retire,” well, you should have gone ahead and retired because it’s really here, which you get a lot of that pushback. And with blockchain, I thought it was an intestinal disorder when I first heard of it, but I’ve come to find out that it still is with a lot of people in our profession because it’s hard to get around, put your mind around the process, and it’s upsetting some people in the abdomen area, I believe.

Boyd Search: [00:47:33] I don’t think I want to know what you thought bitcoin was.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:38] Well, I’ll let that one past for now.

Allen Lloyd: [00:47:45] I think, we joke about blockchain, but I think if you take the time to learn it at a little bit at depth, you start to realize that there’s a lot of opportunity in that for accountants and CPAs. One of the things I brought up with folks is you hear it’s secure because it’s distributed, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:02] Right.

Allen Lloyd: [00:48:02] The same things on a thousand computers. You got to fit. You’ve got to get 501 of them in order to commit fraud. That sounds great. You hear that and you’re like, “This, I can trust this.” Well, what if 700 of those computers are all from the same business and the same IT guy can manipulate them all at the same time? It’s not so secure anymore. And so, that, to me, is one of these places where we might have a role. Maybe part of our role with a blockchain is verifying that it’s legitimately decentralized and is, in fact, protecting the way it says it is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:37] Don’t give Jenkins any ideas here, okay? Being the former IT guy that he is, now, he’s going to go basically take control. Well, being the former IT guy, you want to chime in, Chris?

Chris Jenkins: [00:48:49] I would look at artificial intelligence before I look at blockchain. So, robotic process automation and how that’s impacting firms and changing the dynamics of the firm model is far more of a threat than blockchain is right now. Large scale blockchain is not reasonable in the short term. The power consumption that’s required, the fact that everybody is building their own, and they’re not going to integrate well with one another.

Chris Jenkins: [00:49:18] I mean, we see this with iPhone and Android, I mean, on a small scale. Now, try to do a global transactional system and try to get them to play nice with one another. Not to mention the amount of power required to do the encryption and the timestamp on these types of transactions, I mean, we’d have to have another sun to make it work on a large scale. It doesn’t mean the blockchain is dead. No. For small scale implementations, it makes a lot of sense, but it’s not decentralized. And that means it’s less secure.

Chris Jenkins: [00:49:48] So, the first thing that I can tell you about any technology solution is when somebody comes to you and says, “I’ve got a completely secure solution,” they’re lying. Just saying that makes me go, “No, you don’t,” because it’s built by humans. And if it’s built by humans, it’s fallible.

Chris Jenkins: [00:50:06] I look at over two-thirds of my membership, small practitioners, five or fewer firm partners maybe, something like that, they’re working with Main Street businesses. Nobody is going to be implementing this in the next decade. Do I think that our larger industries will? Absolutely. For internal controls, it makes a lot of sense, but wide scale adoption, it’s just not for me.

Chris Jenkins: [00:50:30] Now, on the other side of that, robotic process automation and those types of things, I think there’s a lot of value in firms. I think there’s a lot of value in the audit. When you look at those types of tools in AI, I think that’s really what’s going to make the biggest change in the profession over the next 5 to 10 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:47] I would tend to agree with you there. RPAs, McCormick has two RPAs. McCormick, the spice company. One is called Old Bay. One is called Pepper. And they do vendor reconciliations. Now, some of the people in AP did lose their jobs over, but they’re able to go through and do the reconciliation. You need to look in this area here, and these over here look like to be fine. You might want to sample them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:14] And then, there’s another. From artificial intelligence, there’s a company called MindBridge based out of Canada who has taken a Watson type of environment and made it affordable for smaller firms to do audits with it. Download information into their AI, and it goes to a search through, and says, “Okay, here’s some high risk areas based on some parameters that’s out there that firms are using today.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:41] And with the RPAs companies are using today, I think to your point Chris, I think that will continue to grow in the short term with blockchain being underneath that. But I think you’re right about that blockchain, it’s out there, maybe another 5, 10, 15 years.

Chris Jenkins: [00:52:02] But you got to look at the threat that RPA actually has. And I don’t want people to be scared of technologies, but it shows that there is a disruptive force in the profession because if you’re doing billable hours, and everything that you do takes less and less time, and you’re not billing on value, everything gets cheaper. And you’re actually delivering greater value.

Chris Jenkins: [00:52:22] That’s not how products work. That’s not how you build a healthy bottom line. We’ve got to find a way around this billable hour. We have to, again, focus on the value of what we’re doing. When you’re looking at 100% of data rather than sampling, that’s the more valuable audit, and it should be priced accordingly.

Chris Jenkins: [00:52:42] And I think that that’s the threat I see. And then, you look at the HR threats, right. How do you train humans to work with machines and how do you gauge their performance when the machines are doing the work? And from the CPA perspective, robotic process automation is really cool because who audits that the robots are working properly, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. I don’t know about you, but my technology tends to fail right when I need it most. And I’ve got the feeling that somebody-

Boyd Search: [00:53:13] When you’re in charge.

Chris Jenkins: [00:53:15] Yeah, when I’m in charge of it. That’s the last one. Thank you, Boyd. But somebody had to be overseeing those types of issues and making sure that year over year, transaction after transaction that these machines that are now becoming self-aware or auto-learning, as you might say, aren’t learning the wrong things and actually themselves committing fraud.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:39] That’s a good point. That’s an excellent point. I want to change the conversation just a bit because we are touching on it. I want to know, of your members, what is the greatest pain point? What keeps them up at night in their world? And we’ll start with-

Boyd Search: [00:53:58] That is unique.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:58] Well, we’re going to start with Allen first. Well, him first, and then move from there.

Allen Lloyd: [00:54:03] I think across the board, what we hear from everybody is “I’m too busy. I got too much to do.” We had a small firm roundtable. I think there are 15 people in the room. Of the 15, all 15 were looking to lose clients this year because they didn’t have the capacity to do the work.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:22] Wow.

Allen Lloyd: [00:54:23] And when we talk about robots and all these things helping us with part of the work, of those 15 people, one was using the function in their tax software that would auto-populate after scanning. And so, to me, there’s this huge disconnect with these folks. I’ve got way too much to do. And they’re hearing, “Oh, hey. Here’s this tool that can help you get more done.” And they’re like, “I really don’t want to learn what that tool can help me do.” And that, to me, is a big frustration points. Hearing folks that have have a problem and a solution that’s right there, it’s right in front of them, but they dismiss it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:07] Or they dismiss them because they don’t have time to learn it. So, we know there’s a learning curve when you adopt anything new. And is that the issue?

Allen Lloyd: [00:55:17] This is the crazy thing because the one person that is doing it, and the past two years, the same person has been in our roundtable and made the same comment, it’s as easy as making a phone call. All of the tax software providers have this functionality. They charge you for it. I mean you got to pay a little bit of money for it, but it’s not something that you don’t necessarily have to learn anything. You just have to tell somebody to turn it on. And that’s to be a — Opportunity is right there in your face. Take advantage of it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:49] So, is it fear?

Allen Lloyd: [00:55:51] I think it is stuck in the muddedness.

Peter Margaritis: [00:55:54] Stuck in the muddedness.

Allen Lloyd: [00:55:58] I’ve done it this way forever. Why would I change? And if it were working, and they were taking on more business and doing more, I would completely agree. I’d be like, “Yeah, what you’re doing works. But clearly, it’s not working. And when something’s not working, I think you have to open your eyes to different opportunities.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:20] Oh. So, now, we’re dealing with word change. And we know that, historically, CPAs aren’t really great at changing or wanting to change.

Allen Lloyd: [00:56:31] And I think from our perspective, one of the side impacts of this is that for the past 10-15 years, we keep hearing how busy everybody is, and that’s led us as associations to professionalize everything. We’re like, “Our members are too busy to do these things. We’ll go ahead and do it for the members. We’ll take them. We’ll get rid of that committee that’s done this work for 20 years because they’re too busy to do this anymore. So, we’ll just do it ourselves.” And what we miss there is that deeper knowledge of the profession that we would have had in the past but, now, is kind of missing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:11] Interesting. Chris, do you have your hand up or do you just have an itch over there?

Chris Jenkins: [00:57:15] I was itching, but I’m meant to speak too. So, I’m thinking of everything, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:22] Chris, what’s keeping your members up at night? What’s a big pain point?

Chris Jenkins: [00:57:26] I’m not going to give you another pain point. I’m going to say the same thing. I think one of the things that’s most interesting to me, it’s always a staffing challenge. right. Everybody is busy. But if you move away from the people you would normally ask, which are the partners, and you start going down the line, and you get it to the younger staff, one of the biggest complaints is, “Well, nobody up the chain wants to change. And I’m, now, a young partner in this firm.”.

Chris Jenkins: [00:57:50] And they’ll say, “Well, I’m going to retire. It’s working good enough. Why would I change? Why would I go through that hassle, that work to learn something new?” when the younger partners are going, “Hey, I have an investment in this now, and this has to go beyond your retirement. We need to change.” So, that rift between the current status, the status quo, and the people who are in the position who need to change the business, I think that’s something that is significant.

Chris Jenkins: [00:58:23] And I think it’s actually turning people away from the firm. So, I think that’s why you’re seeing more people go out on their own because they’re recognizing the need for change. So, they’re going to go out and create their own firm where they control their own destiny because it’s become too difficult to control their destiny inside the firm.

Chris Jenkins: [00:58:39] It’s true. I mean, I can understand both sides of it. Working at the position I’m in, it’s really easy to go, “You know what? This has worked for 100 years. Let’s ride this train,” but also recognizing that if something doesn’t change, eventually, the trains coming off the tracks. I think that’s difficult, especially as the firms grow in size, the more difficult it becomes because you have so many people at different levels in that they want to take advantage of change and full-fighting not to take advantage or change.

Chris Jenkins: [00:59:09] So, again, it comes back to we know we have a staffing problem, we know that we’re busy. I still don’t understand the concept of “I’m really, really busy, but I’m billing by the hour because there’s only 24 hours in the day. If we’re building by value, you will then be able to afford more staff and do more clients.” But that rift between young and old really does worry me, and I’m sure it worries a number of people who have just signed up to be equity partners in firms.

Peter Margaritis: [00:59:39] Yeah I’ve heard that a lot over the last year. So, that same argument, “I’m a young partner. They’re waiting for retirement. We need to change now.” But there is one thing I will correct you on. There are more than 24 hours in a day in a billing process because when I worked at Pricewaterhouse in Cleveland, we had a gentleman. His first name was Joe, I won’t say his last name, who did try to bill a client 25 hours of the 24-hour workday. So, apparently, it can almost be done. It must be-

Chris Jenkins: [01:00:09] How did that work out?

Boyd Search: [01:00:11] It wasn’t Tom Cruise?

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:12] No, no, it was not. Actually, the tax partner said, “We’re not charging 25 hours in a 24 hour day.” That’s the math, whatever, but every time I hear that, I think of my friend, Joe, and trying to do that way back in the day. How about you, Boyd? What keep your members up at night?

Boyd Search: [01:00:33] Similar themes, people and time are the first two that you hear from everybody. Don’t have enough people, don’t have the right people, don’t have enough time to do any and all this stuff. Anecdotally, a theme I am I’m hearing, and I don’t think it’s something that on a survey, people would go check it off and be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s one of my concerns.”

Boyd Search: [01:01:02] But whether you — And this isn’t about politics but whether you want to blame the Trump effect, or other things, or a combination of things, the things we are willing to accept now from leaders that we would not accept years ago, and that’s not just political or government leaders, but any type of leadership position seems to be weighing on people’s minds a little bit. And I don’t mean Steve Jobs wearing jeans and a mock turtleneck. I don’t mean that kind of stuff.

Boyd Search: [01:01:33] I mean, this sort of adherence to crazy in a lot of ways, and our general willingness to just sort of accept crazy when 10 years ago, what defined crazy in our willingness to accept it was nowhere even close to the round that we see now. And so, all of that creates a measure of, I think, uncertainty or instability in people’s lives because they’re just not sure about things anymore. They’re not sure about the markets. They’re not sure about the government. They’re not sure about our international relationships. They’re not sure about it just any of this stuff because so much of it’s just so crazy right now that that occupies more conversations than anything else. But, again, I don’t know that it’s something people would check off on a survey, and say, “Yeah, that’s what’s keeping me up.”

Peter Margaritis: [01:02:27] Maybe we should add it to a survey because I don’t think I’ve seen a survey out there, what’s keeping you up at night, having that as one of the issues of crazy or, I guess, the lack of civility at times, the lack of respect that out there that whether it’s face to face, or through social media, or whatever, there’s so much noise out there that it’s just mind boggling. It kind of becomes overwhelming at times.

Peter Margaritis: [01:02:57] And I guess, if I had owned an organization, had a firm, and I’d be concerned about that as well on my people. What are their perceptions? What do they feel? They’ll bring that into the office. And it would show up in the productivity. Is it becoming overwhelming for them? I tell people you don’t know crazy until crazy shows up. And when crazy shows up, you got to call HR and call the cops because it’s not going to be pretty at that point.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:30] We’ve been at this now for about an hour. And one, I thank you all for staying awake, being attentive, and being-.

Boyd Search: [01:03:37] We’re not ending, are we? I’ve got all afternoon.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:41] We can keep going.

Chris Jenkins: [01:03:43] I’m tired of hearing Boyd.

Boyd Search: [01:03:46] Yeah, because I’ve dominated.

Chris Jenkins: [01:03:49] Well, speak up.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:49] I love it when the family gets together, and it feels like we’re at Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner. The brother-

Chris Jenkins: [01:03:57] How are you not going to talk about the new path the CPA? Come on.

Boyd Search: [01:04:05] I was kind of thinking the same thing.

Chris Jenkins: [01:04:07] How are we not talking about it?

Allen Lloyd: [01:04:09] The evolution. It’s not a pathway anymore. They changed the word. It’s completely different now.

Chris Jenkins: [01:04:15] Cognator.

Boyd Search: [01:04:15] For the record, that was Chris Jenkins. For the record.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:23] For the record, that was Chris.

Chris Jenkins: [01:04:25] I’m assuming some of that will be edited out.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:29] I may have to listen to this before it goes out or send it to you guys. No. Let’s talk about the path to the CPA. What is that path? Since you guys want to hang out for a while.

Chris Jenkins: [01:04:44] Well. since I’ve dominated, I would like to defer to one of my counterparts to begin this discussion on the evolution of the CPA.

Allen Lloyd: [01:04:53] I will go first because I can point to something that’s not mine that I really like. And so, we had some students at the University of Montana, and they do a capstone project as grad students. At the end of that, they give a presentation on the topic. But luckily, last year, their professor was my board chair. So, this year, they went out, and they looked at this alternative pathway. We’re lucky here in Montana, I have an AICPA board member and a MSCPA board member who are both here in Montana. For a state this small, that’s really strange.

Peter Margaritis: [01:05:33] Very cool.

Allen Lloyd: [01:05:34] Something we’ve worked hard on, and something that I’m riding coattails on that at this point, and hope to continue in the future. But this group looked at it, and these are students. So, these are people that are actually, they’re going to be more impacted by this than anybody. The rest of us are going to be retired, and they’re still going to be going.

Allen Lloyd: [01:05:54] And what they identified was the fact that we’ve got some new things that are impacting the profession. We need to find a way to make sure that people have the appropriate level of knowledge of that. But at the same time, we don’t have 25 hours in the day. And so, how do we fit this new thing into the existing framework? And something I think that we we all need to start thinking about is, what are those things that have been on the exam forever that maybe have lost some relevance?

Allen Lloyd: [01:06:33] Maybe some of these things that we’ve been teaching and having the students do for decades is not as relevant anymore. And this new technology it’s impacting or new methodologies for doing the work is impacting. How do we make a change so that we can swap those things out?

Allen Lloyd: [01:06:53] And then my other big concern is, what about all these CPAs that are already out there? How do we make sure that as this profession is evolving that the — We started talking about CPE. How do we make sure that that CPE is having the impact that it needs to have, so that everybody, not just the new students coming out, have this knowledge?

Peter Margaritis: [01:07:18] Should there be more than one type of CPA exam tailored to whatever specialty that I want to-

Allen Lloyd: [01:07:30] See, I have — Initially, I really liked that idea of having CPA tax, CPA audit, right. But realistically, CPA, we only have one thing that we’re the only people that — They only have one thing that they’re the only people they can do, that’s attestation. And so, to have it for tax, well, technically, Chris Boyd and I could go open a tax shop today, and there’s nothing to prevent that. So, that, to me, it becomes that regulatory part, where by state regulation, we can do one thing. If we’re going to make that credential, then specialize in something else.

Peter Margaritis: [01:08:13] So, I’m a CPA, and I’ve done a test, and I don’t do taxes, but I still have to do other things to maintain my license that has nothing to do with what I currently do, even though I’m on the other side trying to teach. And then, you look at the tax person in Michigan, you had to get like 15 hours or 8 hours of tax. And I taught a couple of classes up there. I do an A&A stuff, and I was getting like blank stares and stuff. I go, “What’s going on?” And they go, “We’re all tax people. We’re just here just to set because the state requires us to do that to get 8 hours when maybe there’s something more specialized they should be doing. So what kind of discussions are they having at the national level about this?

Allen Lloyd: [01:09:06] I guess, I’m going to chime in. Well, I’m going to start this one too with one more pet peeve. And I’ll stop being the Chris Jenkins. There’s currently a group of 10, okay. You can see 10 people talking about this, okay?

Peter Margaritis: [01:09:21] Yeah.

Allen Lloyd: [01:09:21] That subcommittee is a group of 10 people. None of those 10 people is under the age of 40. None those 10 people work in industry. None of those 10 people work on the consumer side of financial statements. To me, that is a huge issue with that group.

Peter Margaritis: [01:09:46] Well, you don’t have the right group together to do it. I’d say we’re going to have diversity but I just got a bunch of older white guys to talk about it.

Allen Lloyd: [01:09:55] Mmhmm (affirmative).

Peter Margaritis: [01:09:56] Yeah, okay. So, Boyd, you’re up, bud.

Boyd Search: [01:09:57] I am confused by a whole lot of things when we talk about CPA evolution because like the I checked, this profession’s over 100 years old, and it has evolved in all kinds of ways and has been able to do it without fracturing itself at its core or its foundation. And so, it is completely beyond me why the conversation can’t be, “Let’s assess what being a CPA is today, assess what we think it’s going to be tomorrow, and you can measure tomorrow in whatever span of time you want to. And then, talk about the work that has to be done to freaking exam to adapt to those things.” I don’t understand why that’s not the conversation.

Boyd Search: [01:10:53] And one of the responses is that, “Well, it takes five years to change the exam.” So, you’re telling me it’s going to take less than five years to do this fractured other path or this other thing that’s somehow, then, going to have a foundation that can withstand the next hundred years like the current one? None of it makes any sense to me. It’s all in a mad rush. I don’t understand that. And it’s like, “Well, our hair’s on fire, and we’re all going to die, and we have to do it now.” And I don’t buy any of that.

Boyd Search: [01:11:20] I think, are we behind? Yes. Are firms operating, hiring, and practicing in a way that’s different than what the exam largely test to in certain areas of the business? Yes. Okay. Well, then, let’s start changing the exam to address those things. If we want to have a wider pipeline of people into it, then let’s change the requirements that qualify you to sit for the exam.

Boyd Search: [01:11:48] I mean, largely, they’re arbitrary. If you can pass the test, why can’t you be a CPA? I get the whole education thing. I’m good with having to have a degree or 150 hours, which is an entirely different conversation. But if you have a college degree or a master’s degree, and you can pass that exam, tell me why you don’t belong, whether your degrees in tiddlywinks or brain surgery. None of it makes any sense to me. We’re spending so much time on this nonsensical stuff, which let’s have a conversation about changing the exam to meet today’s and tomorrow’s standards. Why is it harder than this? I’m sorry.

Peter Margaritis: [01:12:27] No, no. I’m glad you’re not passionate about this at all.

Boyd Search: [01:12:32] Who’s the Chris Jenkins now?

Peter Margaritis: [01:12:32] So, boy, I’ll ask all three of this question, and then I’ll get Chris, but there was a gentleman here in Ohio who didn’t have an accounting degree, and passed the CPA exam because he met some requirement out there. I don’t — Do you remember the guy’s name?

Chris Jenkins: [01:12:52] I don’t remember the name, but I know that you can. In Ohio, you can get a CPA without having an accounting degree. There’s a backdoor.

Allen Lloyd: [01:12:58] You’ve got to have so many hours in accounting.

Chris Jenkins: [01:13:02] Right.

Allen Lloyd: [01:13:04] You don’t have to have an accounting degree.

Peter Margaritis: [01:13:06] Right, but you have to have so many hours. There was a backdoor for this guy. He’s one of the few in the state to do it through the back door. Chris, your thoughts?

Chris Jenkins: [01:13:14] CPA is the gold standard among financial professionals. It’s a brand. It’s a known brand. There’s a lot of trust around that brand. The concept, like Boyd said, that there needs to be some other thing that happens for the profession to evolve, I have a hard time coming to grips with that simply because I’ve been to a lot of firms, and I don’t see too many advocacies laying around anymore.

Chris Jenkins: [01:13:38] My experience with CPA is when technology is going to make business better, they use it. They’re the trusted business advisors. They normally work well outside of the scope of finance to ensure that they’re advising their clients on the right tools to use to complete the job. It’s most of the time in specific industries, which I think is an incredible asset to the profession.

Chris Jenkins: [01:13:59] Is it true that the world is changing? Absolutely. Does that mean that there has to be a different path? I’ve had a hard time with it. The original proposal where we were going to get technology folks to switch over and get their CPA, as a technology professional, I have a number of credentials. I’m very proud of them. I worked hard to get them. Straight out of college with an IT degree, firms are going to have to really up their pay scale if they think that they’re going to transition somebody from an IT degree to a finance degree. It’s the nature of the beast, right.

Chris Jenkins: [01:14:34] The problem that I have with education, and when we say, “Well, we’ll have a different path of education, and we’ll do something different here,” technology education, it’s not real. What you’re learning at a university is already outdated by the time that you graduate. It changes too quickly. So, to, again, say, “Well, we’ll load it up with education,” that’s silly. It’s cost prohibitive. It makes people not want to go and get the CPA. Technology courses are outdated by the time that you get out.

Chris Jenkins: [01:15:04] So, again, this is where experience comes in, right. It is a three-legged stool: exam, experience, and education. With today’s environment with colleges and with college courses, it’s overly expensive to get to 150 hours. If you’re going to take 150 hours, you want to take it in things that are going to pay you back.

Chris Jenkins: [01:15:21] I think that there has to be a lot of consideration given to that type of roadblock. And is it actually beneficial to a CPA? Are there other ways to achieve that through experience? Is there a bridge, for example, where instead of 150 and a year of experience, can you do two years of experience and 120, and actually gain the skills through doing things?

Chris Jenkins: [01:15:42] There’s got to be a more flexible way, but the idea that we would take the CPA and try to transition it into something that it’s not to devalue that trusted professional, to devalue the gold standard, I think it’s harmful to the profession overall. Do I think that we have to learn new skills, just like Boyd said? Absolutely. Do I think there’s a better way? Absolutely. And I think it starts with the exam. If items on the exam aren’t relevant, change into something that is.

Chris Jenkins: [01:16:12] And if you change the exam, guess what the university is going to do? It’s going to change what they’re teaching. So, you’re going get the education. And then, when you get in the firm, you’re actually going to be prepared to do the work that’s necessary.

Chris Jenkins: [01:16:24] What firms are upset about is they’re getting CPA candidates in, they can’t do the work because they’ve been taught something from 10 years ago. Change the exam, the educators will follow, which will give you the experience that you need, and you’re going to have highly qualified financial professionals, which is what a CPA is, that understand the technology around them just like we’ve had for the past hundred years.

Boyd Search: [01:16:43] I will add to what Chris said a little bit in that, one, anecdotally, we have a few firms, managing partners that kind of rail on this issue is that this notion that when we implemented 150-hour requirement in Georgia, as an example, we actually reduced the experience requirement to then become licensed. And they were against that when it happened, not necessarily against 150 hours, but against the reduction experience requirement.

Boyd Search: [01:17:13] And basically what they said is, “Look, what we’ve done is we have advocated our responsibility to have some type of apprenticeship in here, in this profession to universities, but they’re not actually getting any skills that you develop through an apprenticeship.” And so, there is there is some frustration over that whole concept.

Peter Margaritis: [01:17:35] Well, I will say this about one while you’re a chair in Ohio, one of the things I was trying to tackle is if we’re going to have 150 hours, put some meat on the damn bone. In Ohio, there was no meat on the bone. You could take anything. You can underwater bone pottery. As long as you got college credit for something that went to the 150 hours, which I thought that was a waste.

Peter Margaritis: [01:17:57] And my whole notch is, I think 120, get the accounting degree up to experience level, they still have to take CPE, they still have to do that other stuff, probably create a better CPA than make them take an additional 30 hours in something that’s not relevant, or they’re just trying to get the hours, just so they can sit for the exam. I just think that’s been crazy.

Peter Margaritis: [01:18:21] And from what I understand, a lot of states haven’t put any meat on that bone to say, “You need to take X, Y, and Z because that will make you a better CPA, pass exam.” No. And what they typically test on the exam is what you took in your college-

Allen Lloyd: [01:18:38] Undergrad.

Peter Margaritis: [01:18:38] Undergrad, thank you. You just completed me. Thank you.

Boyd Search: [01:18:43] I also noticed, if you guys noticed, I did join the Glasses Brigade. You were all you’re all there, so I felt the need to-

Chris Jenkins: [01:18:50] You still don’t look smart.

Boyd Search: [01:18:51] When you’re not, it’s kind of hard sometimes.

Peter Margaritis: [01:18:58] Hey, why are you guys all looking to me? Hey, stop that.

Chris Jenkins: [01:19:03] I really question the cost of the education at this point. And I think that’s the difference in the ’90s when it was implemented versus today, and the fact that we are grasping for straws to now say what the education should be, and you have students who are just trying, especially first generation college students, to reduce their costs, to find non-traditional education, to meet a requirement. It is completely arbitrary.

Chris Jenkins: [01:19:28] And if you want to if you want to increase the number of people willing to take the exam, you really do need to look at the cost of that education versus the value it delivers. This was an apprenticeship profession when it began. And I think there’s a lot to be said for the apprenticeship and the experience that comes with that.

Peter Margaritis: [01:19:48] I agree. I agree. Anything else you guys wanna talk about?

Chris Jenkins: [01:19:52] We can talk about why Clark is so great.

Boyd Search: [01:19:56] There is a coaching tree legacy or whatever that’s out there. And I think you recognize the three of us as a part of it at the beginning. But Pete, there’s no question, you’re a part of that as well having served in leadership with him and stuff. And we would be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to tell him that we love him, and he’s a brilliant leader, but he’s also totally full of crap.

Peter Margaritis: [01:20:19] So, Clark, you recognize that voice. That was Allen. Yeah, I think you spoke for all of us very well there, Boyd, about our feelings for Clark, and what he has done, and what he has taught all of us, and continues to teach us because I know you guys get together in Tennessee with him at times and I can just — I’d love to be a fly on that wall just to hear what you guys are talking about, what you’re hearing. Being retired, but he’s still connected to what’s going on in the profession very much so. So, a big shout out to-

Boyd Search: [01:21:00] That would be a lovely podcast.

Peter Margaritis: [01:21:06] Thank you, but that’s okay. We do just that one little nugget. Just that one little nugget that you’d be able to pull out and be able to use. Gentlemen, I greatly appreciate you taking time to do this. Always fun to get the three of us, four of us together. Unfortunately-

Chris Jenkins: [01:21:24] [crosstalk].

Peter Margaritis: [01:21:25] Yeah, I can’t. I’m the Accidental Accountant. And I haven’t even started drinking yet. But, unfortunately, we had to get together via Zoom. But, hopefully, all of our paths will be in the same spot at one point in time. And I know how this can happen since I think Boyd could appoint me an at-large member, or Chris, or Allen to the accountancy board. And then, at least twice a year — I mean, to the AICPA Council. And twice a year, we could, at least, get together, and all of us at one spot.

Peter Margaritis: [01:21:58] I’m just throwing out ideas, but I do greatly appreciate you guys taking time to do this. I think your insights and your knowledge is well worth people’s time to sit, and listen to, and formulate opinions, and see how this profession will continue to move forward, and what changes will need to be made.

Peter Margaritis: [01:22:18] So, I will leave you with this. Happy New Year. Tons of prosperity. You guys have done great. And your roles as CEO, you’re making mass changes, and you make great things for this profession into the area that you — to your community. I’m just proud to know the three of you guys.

Chris Jenkins: [01:22:35] Right back at you.

Boyd Search: [01:22:36] Yeah, I’m shaking my head. They can’t hear that, can they? Only Boyd can.

Peter Margaritis: [01:22:39] Only Boyd can do it.

Allen Lloyd: [01:22:43] It’s funny that you say that. We’re talking about Clark. We’re talking about the four of us getting together. I think one of those things that’s always amazed me about Clark and seeing this now, it props me up, but he really did a great job of finding people that he could mold. And I think that looking at all of us, we learned a great deal from him, but that’s because he saw something in us. I’m proud of that as a person that Clark saw something in me and was able to build me into what I am today.

Chris Jenkins: [01:23:17] Some of us, we did challenge him more than others.

Peter Margaritis: [01:23:22] Yeah. Some of them challenge him more than others?

Chris Jenkins: [01:23:24] Yes. I absolutely love Clark Price, and I would not be where I’m at today if he weren’t there guiding me and pushing me. And I could say the same thing about Boyd. I would not be sitting where I’m sitting today because I didn’t always make the best decisions or control my emotions to the best of my ability, but I’ve grown a little bit, just a little bit, but I will always cherish that time.

Chris Jenkins: [01:23:46] And I’ll be honest, in the last month, there’s been a couple of tough spots I’ve been in where I needed to vent, I needed to get some advice, and he always takes my calls, and talks me through it, and tells me when I’m stupid, which is in his own Clark Price kind of way of telling you you’re stupid or giving you that advice on how to move forward. I wouldn’t trade anything for the time that I had with him in Ohio.

Peter Margaritis: [01:24:11] Yeah, those were-

Chris Jenkins: [01:24:13] Now, you Pete, on the other hand, I give that up in a heartbeat.

Peter Margaritis: [01:24:19] Back at you.

Boyd Search: [01:24:20] And yet another reason Pete’s a member in Georgia and not South Carolina, right.

Peter Margaritis: [01:24:30] Oh, god, this one has been way too much fun. So, I do think the next thing that — We should do this again but do it after 5:00. That should produce some additional fodder as well.

Chris Jenkins: [01:24:40] I think we should do the video. I think we should do it video, and weekly, and live broadcast it, and we all have to be drinking while we do it.

Peter Margaritis: [01:24:49] I’m in.

Chris Jenkins: [01:24:50] I might be able to get permission from my board to agree to not fire me over anything I might say in that.

Peter Margaritis: [01:24:58] You know, you might be on to something. Maybe even — I’m not sure how we could do that live, but I’ll look into that. Maybe we’ll do a session live, and see how many people will be in the audience listening to us.

Boyd Search: [01:25:12] I’ll be there for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [01:25:13] And happily as well.

Allen Lloyd: [01:25:16] We need really good bouncers, somebody to control the door, make sure the right people are in there.

Peter Margaritis: [01:25:24] Yeah. And I think Clark might be in the front row. So, guys, I do appreciate you guys a lot. I am privileged to have you guys as colleagues, as friends. And I look forward to, hopefully, spending some time face to face with you guys all in 2019, preferably someplace warm.

Chris Jenkins: [01:25:48] Charleston.

Peter Margaritis: [01:25:48] Works for me.

Chris Jenkins: [01:25:50] Convention is in Charleston and 2019, maybe all of us can get there.

Peter Margaritis: [01:25:56] Hey, I’ll crash it. I’ll crash the party. I’ll crash that day. Oh, that’s your annual convention. I still crash it.

Chris Jenkins: [01:26:06] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [01:26:07] Exactly. Cool. Great talk. Great talk for us. And we’ll talk to you in ’19. You guys have a happy holidays and look forward to chatting soon.

Peter Margaritis: [01:26:21] I want to thank Allen, Boyd, and Chris for taking time out of their schedules to be a guests on my podcast. It was so much fun interviewing these guys as you can tell by the laughter during the interview. I’m greatly indebted to all three of them, and I wish all three of them a very prosperous and Happy New Year.

Peter Margaritis: [01:26:38] In Episode 20, which airs on January 21st, I interviewed Jennifer Briggs, who’s the CEO of the Indiana CPA Society. I interviewed Jennifer back in October of 2017, and our discussion centered around competency-based CPE, and how the Indiana CPA Society was utilizing this with their members. Well, it’s been over a year, and I wanted to see how competency-based CPE was evolving in their state. So, thank you again for listening. Happy New Year, and share this episode with a friend.

 

Resources:

S2E18 – Karl Ahlrichs | Multitasking is a Myth

We, as humans, are not wired to multitask – but we’re also addicted to it! So today, we’re going to learn about why multitasking doesn’t work and then some strategies we can use to be more productive. I thought this would be a perfect episode to end the year, as the accounting community’s busy season is lingering on the horizon.

 

We’re joined by third-time guest Karl Ahlrichs, a human capitalist consultant who knows a thing or two about how individuals and teams really get things done.

 

Why can’t we multitask?

 

You can think of multitasking as either the ability to perform multiple tasks at one time or switching back and forth from one thing to another – but neither is an effective way to do… well, just about anything.

 

If you think you can effectively perform multiple tasks at once, I’d like to present exhibit A: “If you’ve eaten at a quick service restaurant like Kentucky Fried Chicken, they will hand you a multitasking eating implement that is with a spoon and a fork – the spork. It fails at both tasks! It’s basically a spoon that can hurt you.”

 

And if you’re switching between tasks, that has its own costs. There is up to a 40% reduction in productivity from this, when compared to focusing on a task and completing it then turning to another task and completing it. Decision fatigue also sets in, as Karl calls it, and you become less effective as you think.

 

For example, imagine you’re balancing a spreadsheet and writing a document. If you were to split your brain power between those two, it is not a simple 50/50 split. There is a loss of time to task switching, and every flip takes about 20% of the brain’s total processing power, leaving 80% for the task at hand, not 100%. So, instead of a 50/50 split, it’s a 40/40 split with 20% wasted.

 

But this isn’t just lowering your productivity. It basically lowers your IQ by about 15 points – the equivalent of staying up all night – and it lowers brain density in areas of the cortex that are responsible for empathy, cognitive, and emotional control.

 

“So, over time, if you do a bunch of multitasking that is paying off in these short-term ding ding dings, it makes you less cognitive and have poorer emotional control.”

 

Still don’t believe us? Try it for yourself!

 

Karl walks us through a simple exercise to demonstrate the impact of multitasking and task switching:

 

  • Take out a sheet of paper, a writing implement, and something to time yourself with.
  • Write “A B C D E F G H I” on one line and then, underneath it, write “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.” Time yourself.
  • Now do it again, but don’t write the two lines sequentially. Instead, alternate between letters and numbers (A, 1, B, 2, and so on). Time yourself.

 

How long did it take you? The first time it took me 11 seconds, but the second time it took me 15 (and I might have messed up once).

 

How to Put an End to Multitasking

 

The overall process is pretty simple: identify the tasks at hand, identify and focus on the workflow process that you want to use, decide what needs your full attention, triage, prioritize, reduce distractions, and then just pay attention to one thing at a time.

 

To make this easier on yourself, do less! Delegate, hand things off to colleagues, or hand things off to technology. Remove the stuff that someone else can do from your plate “so that your precious brain power can be used for the good stuff, for the creative moments.”

 

If you need some help creating a more effective workflow, Karl suggests trying out the Kanban method. It’s pretty simple: create a to-do list, a doing list, and a complete list on a whiteboard (or something similar), then write all of your tasks onto sticky notes. There shouldn’t be more than a couple things in your “doing” list at any given time, and writing them all out will both help you prioritize and figure out what can be delegated.

 

If you want to learn more about Kanban, head over to www.personalkanban.com.

 

Another thing that makes a big difference is aerobic exercise. “Overall physical fitness appears to improve the outcome of all tasks, and it improves cognition.”

 

I hope that gives you some ideas for taking on tax season. If you are looking for some more ideas, feel free to reach out to Karl or myself.

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:00:00] The specifics can be debated, but, overall, it’s irrefutable: The human brain is not designed to multitask, and with rare exceptions, gaining efficiency through multitasking is an illusion.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:21] 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: [00:00:42] 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: [00:01:08] Happy Holidays. And welcome to Episode 18, the last episode for 2018. And my guest is Karl Ahlrichs, who is now the founding member of the Three Timer Club on Change Your Mindset Podcast. Karl always comes with a wealth of valuable information to help the audience become better and more productive at what they do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:32] Today’s topic of discussion is that we, as humans, are not wired to multitask. And Karl gives us some great advice on how to be more productive while not multitasking because multitasking is really a myth. And Karl ties this all together by talking about how our brains are wired and why we can’t multitask.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:59] You see, I thought this would be a perfect episode to end the year on as the accounting community is moving into the busy time of the year starting in January, and there are a ton of nuggets he leaves behind that you can begin to implement ASAP, so you can become more productive during this time of year.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:19] Before we get to the interview, I wanted to share that my book, Taking the Numb out of Numbers, was ranked number 12 of the best books in 2018 for speakers, as ranked by speakershub.com, which means you don’t have to be a professional speaker to get value of this book. As long as you present information to non-financial professionals, there is a benefit in reading my book.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:49] Here’s the review they gave the book. Peter does an outstanding job demonstrating how to present numbers to a non-number audience. It is useful information that can be used in any presentation. It can help make a presenter a rock star. I highly recommend this book for anyone who presents financial data and wants to make it interesting and relative to their audience, whoever they may be. I have already used many of the suggestions in his book.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:18] Thank you very much for the ranking. And thank you very much for applying some of my concepts to become a better presenter. Taking the Numb Out of Numbers will help you transform your ability to communicate technical knowledge in greater contexts through analogies, metaphors, and storytelling. Putting it another way, translate complex financial information into plain English, so your audience will gain a deeper understanding.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:46] The book is available at Amazon.com, in paperback, and on Kindle. So, go out and buy it today. If you’d like to purchase 10 or more copies, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com for bulk discounts. So, without further ado, let’s get to their view with Karl Ahlrichs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:08] Hey, welcome back, everybody. Today, we’re having a first on the podcast. Today, is a first.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:04:14] No, it’s not. It’s a third.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:17] It’s the first time I had one person on for three times. And if you recognize the voice in the background, that is the Karl Ahlrichs, extraordinaire. And we were talking the other day on the phone. Actually, I think it was yesterday, we had this conversation. And you said, you had just delivered a presentation titled-

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:04:37] Multitasking: Myth or Reality.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:40] And as we were talking, you said, “This would make a really good podcast.” I went, “Exactly,” especially this would be the last podcast for 2018. As we move into 2019, maybe after listening to the wisdom that you professed on everybody that they will take this on as a resolution for 2019 and eliminate multitasking.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:05:07] Now, let’s spin it more positively that you’ll get better quality work done more efficiently, as opposed to negatives because I’m a positive guy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:21] And I try to be positive.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:05:25] Well, and the interesting thing is everybody has thought that everybody will raise their hand and say they’re good at multitasking.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:33] Exactly.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:05:34] And it’s a myth. And it’s, medically, a myth. What made this interesting and the reason I wanted to share it was I uncovered some of the medical reasons. The brain wiring, brain chemistry reasons that it fails, as opposed to just I don’t think it works.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:53] Right. And when I was researching and writing the book, Numb for Numbers, I read this book Brain Rules by John Medina. And this guy is a neuroscience researcher who wrote this book about the brain and put it in a language that we all could understand. And one of the things he talks about is what you’re going to talk about now is our brain can’t multitask.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:06:13] It technically can’t multitask. And the interesting thing is we can define it a couple of different ways, the ability to perform multiple tasks at one time, or switching back and forth from one thing to another, or a number of tasks in rapid succession, which is different actually. But let’s let’s go to the top of multiple tasks at one time. If you’ve eaten at a quick service restaurant like Kentucky Fried Chicken, they will hand you a multitasking eating implement that is with a spoon and a fork.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:56] The spork.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:06:59] The spork. It fails at both tasks. It’s basically a spoon that can hurt you. And it’s not good at stamping stuff, and it’s not good at scooping stuff. So, just stop it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:14] I’m going to go on KFC, just so I can get a handful of sporks.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:07:19] So, there’s a wonderful poster that has — So, this is a visual part of today’s podcast. Imagine a poster labeled “Multitasking” featuring a Giant spork, and the caption is, “The art of doing twice as much as you should, half as well as you could.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:45] Is that visual actually out there?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:07:47] Yeah, it’s out there. I can look for it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:48] Okay. Because I think, if not, then we should create that visual.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:07:53] No, no. It’s copyrighted.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:54] Okay.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:07:54] Anyway, but with email, with texting, with phones, just the fact that I’m sitting here with a phone next to me makes me less efficient because my attention is drawn to it, and I’ll switch over and check for messages, and then switch back to our conversation thinking there’s no damage. And, actually, there is damage done. Oh my gosh. Hang on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:23] Seriously.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:08:23] I’ve told you not to call me here. That was Peter Margaritis. Wait a minute. I see what you did. You clever. Anyway, great example. Being bored in a meeting, posting on Facebook, drifting in a conversation, and checking email. I saw a wonderful note from my — My son taught English, and he had a note that, “I know you’re multitasking in my class. Nobody ever looks at their crotch and smiles.”

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:08:58] But answering email, texting, writing a report, trying to complete a spreadsheet, it’s kind of interesting. I’ll bet your listeners are attempting to multitask by doing something while they listen to this podcast. And if I am so gripping, so engaging, so amazingly interesting that they run into a light post while they’re jogging, then I would have proven my point.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:29] Or they’re listening while they’re walking somewhere, and they run into a light post.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:09:33] There, that’s better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:34] Or run over somebody. Yes, yes.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:09:36] So, if you’re listening to this, it’s about multitasking. While you’re multitasking, you’re busted. So, let’s go to the summary. Let’s go to the fun fact. The human brain cannot multitask, fact.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:48] Correct.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:09:50] So-called multitaskers are just rapidly switching from one activity to another. In fact, there is psychological harm. There is an inability to concentrate and focus on the good stuff. And there is up to a 40% reduction in productivity from this as opposed to focusing on a task and completing it, then turning to another task and completing it. And also, there’s, I would call it decision fatigue sets in. You become less effective as you think.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:27] Is the original multitask, because we talked about multitasking, with cell phones and all the other aspect, but was the original multitask sitting in the classroom, taking notes while the instructor speaks?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:10:41] No, because you are learning better by processing what the professor speaks and logging it in written form. It actually increases learning. Multitasking is actually a computer term out of the 1960s, and a multimedia term from the 1990s. It comes from having a single processor and a computer that can, then, when a disk drive is reading something, and it takes time for the disk drive to do its function, the main CPU can cycle over, and maybe run some logarithmic tables out of its memory, and then check. And when the disk drive is done, it can park that, and go back to its original task.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:11:27] So, the main individual, singular CPU can be busy all the time, but it parses different tasks as it switches from one, to the other, to the other. And this frequent switching is the problem that we have. It’s not a simple split of the difference. Let’s say you have 100% of processing power.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:11:50] Right now, I am focused 100% on interacting with Peter Margaritis on his fancy computer box thingy where he’s recording me. Okay, great. You can’t split the difference. A 100% to Peter versus, let’s say, I’ve got two tasks, balancing a spreadsheet and writing a document. If I were to split my brainpower between those two, it is not a 50/50 split. There is a loss of time to task switching as the brain flips from one to the other, and then has to get kind of settled on what the other is, and get processing on that. And the numbers I have seen, every flip takes about 20% of the brain’s processing power, leaving 80% for the processing, not a hundred. So, instead of a 50/50 split, it’s a 40/40 split with 20 wasted.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:52] Interesting.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:12:52] So, therefore, if — Now, you’re saying, “Wait a minute. Karl. I know people, like, say, a musician who can play music and juggle. Well, if you’ve got muscle memory, and you’ve done it a whole bunch, and you’re very familiar, and you’re not critically learning new material or really having to focus on crafting a paragraph, that’s fine. I mean, if you’re basically reciting a nursery rhyme while you flip pancakes with a skillet, okay, you can get away with that because that’s a lot of familiar territory.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:13:26] I’m not talking about that. If you’re familiar plus familiar behavior, you’re okay. If it’s a focused thing, and you’re focused on one thing, it’s okay. But if you’ve got familiar in the background, and you’re trying to focus, then it can quickly become not okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:42] That’s why we shouldn’t text and drive.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:13:44] Exactly. Everybody can tell stories about what happens when you get distracted when you shouldn’t be. So, let’s agree there’s two piles of things. There’s the automatic things that are familiar, and simple, and trained. And there’s controlled things where your brain has to control it, where it’s unfamiliar, where it’s complex, where it’s untrained, where it’s high level.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:14:05] I don’t want the surgeon doing my knee replacement to have Pink Floyd on his headset and be dreaming of his Italian vacation. No, I want him focused on my knee. Hello, I want you here. How are we doing so far?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:23] We’re doing good. So, what is it about the brain? What is it that does not allow this parsing? We lose this information.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:14:33] Well, I’m going to talk to two things. One is outlook. Let me jump to that. First, let’s agree that the brain is a computer, and it’s a computer that, medically, is wired to do processing, but you have a single brain. You don’t have a four-core brain. You have a single brain. It, basically, has your consciousness. Your awareness is a single. There’s people who claim to have multiple personalities, but that’s not today’s topic.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:15:08] Let’s agree the average American, the average human. I shouldn’t say average American. Listen to outside the United States through the interwebs. The average human has a processing chip that has a single main core. And it has a lot of support brain parts that can shift things in and out of that core. I’m going to talk a little bit about some brain chemistry here.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:15:39] Okay.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:15:39] Have you ever heard of the fight or flight reaction of, “Boo. There’s a bear.” And this adrenaline and a stress hormone called cortisol is dumped into the bloodstream. It causes mental fog and scrambled thinking. It also enables you to pick up one corner of your car and lift it out of the ditch. A lot happens in that one thing.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:16:12] Well, it also creates a dopamine addiction feedback loop by rewarding the brain for losing focus. And then, you’re constantly searching for external stimulation. This is what drives addiction to video games. This is what drives addiction to Facebook, “Oh, how many likes did I get? How many likes did I get? How many likes did I get?”

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:16:42] So, there is a chemical addiction happening with the switching function within the brain. So, the brain wants to switch, and I’m asking you not to. We also have in the prefrontal cortex, novelty bias. It wants something new. It gets hijacked by something new and shiny.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:17:07] And so, marketers and software programmers know to tweak that novelty-seeking, reward-seeking brain center by offering. You heard my phone ring. The little blue box at the corner of your outlook that, dong, it says new message, email ping, texting ping. It’s a novelty-seeking, reward-seeking. And, now, I’m going to use some big words here. It causes a burst in the genus opioids. This is truly an addicting chemical in your brain.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:17:47] Think about it. The noise of a slot machine paying off, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. That is triggering a chemical reaction in the gambler’s brain that they will do anything to get another one of those. Well, if that’s running while you’re trying to balance your spreadsheet or write your article, you’re going to lose focus and get off task. The brain is wanting to get another hit, and wants you to get off target, and go find something fun, instead of this boring spreadsheet.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:18:32] So, within the brain, we’ve got the nucleus accumbens. It’s a small structure in the limbic system. It regulates dopamine production. It’s the region that lights up when gamblers win a bet. And email and Facebook reward that dumb novelty seeking portion of the brain driving the limb, and it creates this feeling of pleasure, and it says, “Oh my gosh. I want that.” This is not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centers in the prefrontal cortex. This is lizard brain level stuff. That’s the part that’s causing us problems.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:19:08] How is it causing us problems? What’s the outcome in all of this? If I talk about reducing efficiency and performance, there’s medical data that shows that it basically lowers IQ by about 15 points. It’s the equivalent of staying up all night. And it lowers brain density in areas of the cortex that are responsible for empathy, and cognitive, and emotional control.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:19:34] So, over time, if you do a bunch of multitasking that is paying off in these short term ding, ding, dings, it makes you less cognitive and have poorer emotional control, which actually may explain some people in my family, but it really affects the impact. It impacts learning. Learning information while multitasking fails.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:20:02] In the brain, there’s basically two memory buckets, long term and short term. There’s the striatum, the brain region that specializes storing new procedures and skills. And there’s the hippocampus, the brain region that specialized for organizing and categorizing facts easier to retrieve. Basically, when you’re multitasking, information is just sent to the short-term bucket, not the long-term bucket. So, it’s just like trying to cram for a test when you haven’t slept, you’re not getting a good take on the world when you’re multitasking.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:47] So, how do we break this addiction? As you’re talking, I am listening, but I’m-

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:20:55] You’re also distracted by your phone and thinking about the chips and dip up on the counter. I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:59] No. I was thinking about my son, and the way he studies, and the way his friends study. They had to have some other distraction going on when they’re studying.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:21:10] Well, that’s a different topic. There is some logic to having some audio wallpaper going in the background when you’re trying to focus. For instance, if you have traveled as much as you and I have, you know that occasionally we will get somebody in the next hotel room who’s keeping us awake with erratic noises.

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

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:21:39] Do you know the bedside radio static trick, the white noise trick?

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:45] About playing white noise?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:21:48] Yeah. If you turn a radio to a between-station static, that’s pure white noise. Turn that white noise up, and the white noise masks the sounds in the background. Pretty quickly, your brain tunes out the white noise allowing you to sleep. So, that’s not really today’s topic, but the brain can adapt to constant background noises.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:22:19] If, indeed, they’re focused on their studying, and they’re focused on their material, and in the background is a YouTube video of stupid pet tricks, they’re really not paying attention to the stupid pet tricks. They’re going to be paying attention to one thing at once.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:36] Because I’ve accused them of trying to multitask while he studies. but, apparently, I am wrong with that accusation to him.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:22:44] That’s right because if he is — Well, let me step back a second. In general, you’re right, and he shouldn’t have as many stimuli going at once. They had an experiment where they had somebody you’re forced, you’re asked to read a book, and sitting right next to them is a television with a program on, fairly loud.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:23:12] And after a certain period of time, let’s say, 10 minutes, the subject — So, it’s an observed experiment. The subject is asked how many times did they switch their attention between the book and the television. And the subject, let’s say, the median, they said six times. The research would show that, actually, they had switched 35 times, that you’re not as conscious of it as you are.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:23:44] To me, from a learning standpoint, this is huge. As a facilitator of a training session, I’ll be pretty firm with my audience that, no, they don’t need to just silence their phones in their pocket, they need to put their phones in their pocket on silent upside down, face down on the table, or they’re not going to feel them vibrate and get distracted. I want you disconnected for the next hour, unless you have someone in your family that’s in surgery, or someone in your family who’s fixing to give birth. The distracted people don’t learn. And with all of our bait out there, the brain distracts very easily.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] So, some have said they use Twitter to take notes, and post them to have a string of information that I can refer back to. Is that technically taking notes, or is that just another distraction masked as taking notes?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:24:46] No, I think that, actually, it requires — Short answer, I don’t know. That’s splitting hairs. Half of me says, “Yeah, they are taking notes, so that would embed some of the learning.” The other half of me says, “Man, to post to Twitter, you have to be cognitively focused on your @ sign, user name, hashtag. That’s clever, post a post,” as opposed to the tactile having a Dixon number two pencil and a pad of paper where it’s more visceral and less cluttered. I would say physically taking notes is far more effective than a Twitter feed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:28] Okay. I’m thinking about what we’ve been told. Let them have their phones, let them tweet. And that’s what the younger generation-

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:25:39] Yeah, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:40] And I have always kind of been, “Uh, not quite.”

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:25:42] Yeah. I vote no on that. Well, and it’s personal experience. I have gone to presentations where I tweeted. And at the end, I was disappointed that I really didn’t get as much out of the presentation because I was living in two worlds: the world of the presenter and the world of Twitter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:04] Yeah. And there’s other ways of being engaged in the classroom to help with the memory and help with the engagement of keeping their attention versus the electronic distraction.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:26:17] That’s right. But, again, what did we learn? We’ve learned that the brain is wired to be addicted to the switching, and it’s difficult to break that. I’m here to tell you it’s medical. There’s a brain chemistry reason that we are drawn to this. It’s not that we want to watch a bunch of clever videos of cats doing cute things, it’s that our brain wants us to switch, and it gets a reward for doing that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:47] And that’s the dopamine. And there’s the issue. And it’s really like an alcoholic and obsessive gambler, it’s that trigger, and I want that. I guess the only way to break it is go cold turkey.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:27:07] Yeah, just like any other addiction. And it can be harmful. I don’t know about the Department of Traffic Safety, and I forget what it’s called, MTA. The — I forget.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:19] NTSB?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:27:19] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:21] You’re welcome.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:27:22] Distracted drivers, four times more likely to have an accident while — four times more likely to have an accident while talking on a cell phone. Oh, texting, 23 times more likely. It’s real.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:38] I’m laughing, but I’m not really laughing. As I was coming to the house, my wife and I go around 270, and we saw, seriously, almost three accidents. And it had to do with the phone, either talking on the phone or-

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:27:54] Good news. We do have autonomous driving on the horizon and that will help. It will save us from ourselves, in spite of ourselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:04] Yeah. But we could do something in the end. Something has got to be done in the outcome. It’s dangerous out there.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:28:10] It is. All right. Let’s start moving towards the fixing of this. I want to offer a basic strategy, and then a specific thing you can do in your work space.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:23] Okay.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:28:24] Clearly, it’s a focus on the task at hand, identify and focus on the process that you want to have done, decide what needs your full attention, triage, prioritize, and then just pay attention, reduce distraction. I have learned that my office could have no windows and no clue about the outside world. I live and work in a bunker. Excuse me. I work in a bunker when I need to focus, so that I truly am not distracted by birds, and trees, and fluffy clouds.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:29:02] Second, do less, delegate, hand off to colleagues, hand off to technology. Figure out the stuff that can be handed off, so that your precious brain power can be used for the good stuff, for the creative moments. If there’s rote behaviors, if there’s anything we can automate, as artificial intelligence arrives in our lives, we’ll be able to have the sorting and balancing of a spreadsheet done automatically, and we can think great thoughts for the world instead. So, we can delegate and do less.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:29:40] Next, one thing at a time. One at a time is more efficient. Focus and prioritize first, then do one thing at a time. One bite at a time. Here’s a great exercise. You happened to have a piece of paper and a pencil?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:55] Somewhere around here.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:29:57] Find it. I want you to do something.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:59] I didn’t know this was going to be a quiz.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:30:03] I’m going to have write. And everybody in radio land, if you’re not driving, if you’re sitting there with a piece of paper and a pencil, in one line across, write the first nine letters of the alphabet A B C D E F G H I. Okay, that goes across. Right underneath that, let’s write 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:33] All right.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:30:35] Do that? All right. I’m going to time you on this, Peter. You’re going to tell me when you start and stop. I want you to write that again in the same way that you wrote it when I say go, I want you to start writing A B C D E F G H. when you get to the end of the line, go underneath it, and go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:58] Okay.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:30:58] Do you understand the task?

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:59] I believe I do.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:31:01] All right, three, two, one, start.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:05] Done.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:31:15] Okay. 10.5 seconds. Okay. Now, I want you to do this Again, but I want you to not write them sequentially. I want you to alternate between A, 1, B, 2, C, 3, and so on where you’re all alternating between the lines. You are multitasking. You understand that task?

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:36] And I’m going in the same direction?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:31:39] Correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:39] Okay,

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:31:40] It’s going to end up looking the same. You’re just going to do it splitting your attention between the two. Ready? Tell me, are you ready?

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:48] Ready.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:31:49] Three, two, one, go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:51] Darn it. Okay.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:05] 15 seconds. You see, how did that feel?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:11] It wasn’t fun.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:15] And, probably, the quality of the work dropped. I heard a curse word.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:20] Yeah, yeah. I screwed up.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:24] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:24] Yeah.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:26] Do you see my point?

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:27] I got your point.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:27] Okay. Other things you can do, control your environment. I got rid of my windows, just because it’s me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:39] Now, when you say control your environment, something I’ve been doing lately to increase my level of focus is I’ll read email for 10 minutes. When I start my day, I shut email down. I’ll look at it again at noon, shut it down. Look at again later in the afternoon, shut it down. So, I remove that distraction. Is that what you’re talking about?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:32:57] You are a wise grasshopper.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:01] Thank you.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:33:01] Also, by grouping things together, so that you have everything needed for the job means that you can start, finish, and complete a chunk without having to get up from your chair. You can assemble things. It becomes more automatic if everything you need — You cook dinner, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:24] Yes, sir.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:33:26] Before you start the stove and get the pan hot, right there on the counter, what do you have?

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:34] A glass of bourbon.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:33:37] Maybe I should ask my question.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:40] Yeah, I have got a-

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:33:41] The answer I was hoping for was that you would have all the ingredients assembled and ready to go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:46] I do, and a glass bourbon.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:33:47] And a glass of bourbon. Unless you’re cooking with the bourbon, in which case you have to glasses. Another thing that makes a big difference is aerobic exercise. Overall physical fitness appears to improve the outcome of all tasks, and it improves cognition.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:08] You know why?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:34:10] No.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:11] Because it’s doing something with those stress hormone, the cortisol.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:34:17] Interesting. Okay, that makes sense.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:18] It’s like you’re flushing toxins out of your body. By exercise, it flushes those stress hormones out of your body versus without exercise, it continued to build up in your system.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:34:32] Yeah. But you’re exercising your heart. I want you to exercise your brain. You will, by this, become a more balanced human being.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:45] Yes.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:34:46] And that will make all the difference. That’s kind of my point in all of this. I mean, the specifics can be debated but, overall, it’s irrefutable. The human brain is not designed to multitask. And with rare exceptions, gaining efficiency through multitasking is an illusion.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:05] Exactly, it is. And one of the chapters in Brain Rules talks about exercise, how to boost brain power as well.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:35:13] Yeah. And I saw a coffee cup that said, “Multitasking: the single best way to screw up both jobs.” Let me give you a final tip on fixing it. I work somewhat in lean theory and tactile thinking. And in the work done on factory floors, and in hospitals, et cetera, imagine three columns on a sheet of paper. The first column is labeled to do, middle column is labeled doing, that’s work in progress, and the third column is done.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:36:00] If you were to have a whiteboard near your work space, a pack of the three-by-three yellow stickies and a sharpie marker in the color of your choice, you could jot a word or two about every to do, and put them in the to-do column. You are only allowed to work on what’s in the doing column that you prioritize. And the doing column should only have a couple three items in it. Too few items in the doing column

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:36:37] And you may not be purely efficient because there’ll be times you hit a stopping point. Somebody has to bring you a report or something. You can, then, pivot and focus on a second topic. That’s different thanq multitask. And then, once things are completed they move into the done pile and can be delivered. And then, by doing that, you free up space for something else to be prioritized in the to-do column, come on over. This simple process, it’s called a Kanban board.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:09] Kanban board.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:37:09] Kanban, K-A-N-B-A-N. It’s a Japanese manufacturing term. It’s part of Lean Theory and it’s focused on getting waste, as part of Lean, which is focused on getting waste out of a process, or life, or as far as you doing things. And they have a lot of different things that they do. What I have simply lifted, this one simple planning structure out of the middle of a very complex Lean Theory lecture.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:40] That makes sense. I mean, it’s a Japanese way, especially Just in Time inventory system.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:37:47] Or the Almost in Time inventory system.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:49] Yeah, the almost in time inventory system. It’s prioritization on — what was it I recently heard? Is it urgency and important?

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:37:59] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:59] And the difference between the two. Something maybe urgent but maybe not as important as the important things that we need to get done.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:38:09] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:10] It’s funny that you talked about multitasking stuff because I’m going through a process right now of trying to refocus again, and employing some things that fell off the wagon, and bringing it back into place. And this shutting the email, and becoming more focused, and prioritizing, putting things in place. And Greg Conderacci, you know our good friend, Greg Condracci.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:38:32] I do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:33] He also prescribes about the best time to use your energy is — Some people are more energized later in the day. Some are more energized earlier in the day. If you get your energy and most creativity in the morning shut, everything down, but use that time to be creative. Eliminate all distractions. And that’s one of the strategies I use to get the book done. So, I write in the morning, first thing, get it out of the way, get it done, most creative, and then move on. Versus if I wait until the afternoon, not getting done. It gets pushed away.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:39:05] If anyone would like additional resources on the kanban, there’s a website out there www.personalkanban.com. There’s plenty there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:19] So, you know my audience. You speak to my audience a lot.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:39:22] I am your audience. You’ve only got two of us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:24] Well, my audience who’s listening, our audience that we speak too, the finance and accounting professionals. And we all know, this is the last podcast of the year. We know that once the calendar flips, the worlds flip. And then, as we get closer into February, it becomes faster. More workers being pressed on us. The more opportunity to be distracted and attempt to multitask.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:39:53] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:54] You’ve given your tips, but what’s your advice in making that achievement? Especially in March when we’re in the throes of everything. Especially end of February, early part of March, whether you’re in public or you’re in industry, we’re in the throes of it. And it’s easier to go back to what we’ve always done before.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:40:21] That’s a good point. This is a question of workflows. We get used to how things should work. We’ve got a little bit of time here to practice a better way of working. And I just want to challenge people to reflect on what I said, figure out what parts of it — First off, I wanted to scare everybody that it really is medically true. And then, give a couple tools that people might customize into their worlds, so that they get a little more control, and they are doing what they choose in the proper orders.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:41:05] Just as you have turned off the email ding, and focus on emails in windows, that kind of thinking, I don’t want to lecture on how they should do it. Today’s purpose was just to wave the flag that they ought to consider looking at their workflows and working at their priorities, so that they have a more balanced, fundamentally sound life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:33] And being the HR professional that you are.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:41:38] Yes, I am.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:39] That is advice that should be written down. I guess, my point is they should make some visual reminder to them.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:41:48] Yeah, that’s what I like. Well, that’s why I personally like the Kanban board. But you got a to-do list that works. Just a reminder, use it. Prioritize things and only work on a couple things at once. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t fool yourself that you can chip away 10 things at once on the to-do list.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:08] Well, Karl, you always bring great advice, great knowledge to the podcast. I think this is perfect timing with the new year coming up.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:42:16] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:16] And I challenge everybody who’s listening, all three of you, to the audience to consciously write something down in your desk, whatever, to remind yourself to stay focused. And I love the Kanban thing. And if you have it in your planner, use the moleskin or whatever. We’ll put that visual reminder out there, so you continue to do it, and you’ll find yourself becoming much more productive.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:42:47] You just focus better. You just focus better. I want to close with everybody does this. Here’s the situation. You’re driving, you’ve got the radio on, you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you’re moving, it’s dark, and your GPS just doesn’t make sense. What do you turn off to get rid of the multitasking?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:08] The radio.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:43:08] And then, pull over and throw it in park. And then, focus and figure it out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:17] Yeah, exactly.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:43:18] With that, may everybody have a pleasant productive 2019. I wish you all the best.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:24] And we wish you all the best as well. Always great to spend time with you, buddy. I look forward to when our paths cross again. And thanks for taking the time to share this with the audience.

Karl Ahlrichs: [00:43:36] Thanks for having me. Good luck, everybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:40] I can’t thank Karl enough for taking time, for explaining to us why multitasking is a myth, and giving us some real strategies, so we can be more productive.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:51] In Episode 19 which airs on January 7th, I interview three CEOs of state CPA associations. And they are Allen Lloyd from Montana, Boyd Search from Georgia, and Chris Jenkins from South Carolina. All three used to work at the Ohio Society of CPAs and are great friends. We discuss a lot about State CPA Associations and the issues that members are facing in the accounting profession. And we have a blast doing the interview.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:20] So I’d like to, one, wish everybody a happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. I look forward to listening to the podcast in 2019. And thank you for taking time to listen. And please share this episode with a friend.

 

Resources:

S2E17 – Stephanie Feger | Color Today Pretty

Stephanie Feger is a passionate communicator who believes that a shift in perspective can help people live truly fulfilling lives.

 

After working in the public relations and marketing industry for over 15 years, she realized that happiness isn’t found in what society deems important and felt a calling to help others reach their fullest potential while embracing all that life has to offer. Now an author, professional speaker, motivational blogger, book publicist, and home decor business owner, Stephanie connects her passion for embracing creativity with her dedication to helping others live life in perspective.

 

In her recently published book, Color Today Pretty: An Inspirational Guide to Living a Life in Perspective, Stephanie invites others to change their lives by finding perspective from within.

 

She has a wonderful message to share with all of us as we begin to move into 2019, and for those in the accounting profession, as we move into that busy season (although I prefer to call it the opportunity season).

 

What Does it Mean to Color Today Pretty?

 

The idea of “Color Today Pretty” came to Stephanie in a dream, and it’s since become her life purpose and, really, a movement.

 

In the dream, Stephanie played the role of a female Simon Cowell on America’s Got Talent – essentially, the person that stands between someone’s dreams and their reality.

 

A contestant walked up and started painting, and it was just awful. She told the young boy to give up and get a job, but he didn’t react by getting sad or angry like most people on the show. “Instead, he took his canvas, he brought it over to me, and he gifted me with a smile, and he said, ‘That’s okay. I just want you to go color something pretty today.’”

 

“I realized that he had a choice. You know, there’s a lot of ways to get from point A to point B in life. And I was sitting here thinking that I stood in between his ability to have this dream make it a reality, but this young kid taught me something different,” Stephanie says.

 

“What I realized at that moment is he couldn’t control my reaction. He couldn’t control if I was going to help him reach his dream, but he could control his reactions and his responses to what happened in life to him. He decided to color that day pretty, to take that moment and make it purposeful and meaningful. And he wasn’t going to let me stop him.”

 

From that moment, Stephanie shifted her lens on life and learned to find beauty in the mundane – and she believes that if you can embrace this mentality, too, you can do anything.

 

One of the things I enjoy about the book is that it’s not coming from the perspective of “You know, I’ve got life figured out and here’s how you do it.” Instead, it’s more of a journey through what Stephanie has experienced, showing how shifting her perspective has allowed her to take some of the most difficult moments in her life and use them to grow instead of hinder her growth.

 

“There is a way for people to focus on the things that matter. But, sometimes, we have to go through an acceptance process to get there, to be able to see through the right lens, to be able to focus our spectacles, per se, and really see that, at the end of the day, the only thing we can control in life is ourselves.”

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Stephanie Feger: [00:00:00] Being vulnerable and sharing elements of who you are in ways that other people are kind of scared to, it allows you to realize how interconnected we are and how important your mindset shift is to help you find fulfillment in life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:23] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:43] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, and he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:11] Happy Holidays, and welcome to Episode 17. And my guest today is Stephanie Feger, who is a passionate communicator who believes that a shift in perspective can help people live truly fulfilling lives. After working in the public relations and marketing industry for over 15 years, she learned that happiness isn’t found on what society deems important and felt a calling to help others reach their fullest potential while embracing all that life has to offer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:42] In her recently published book, Color Today Pretty: An Inspirational Guide to Living a Life in Perspective, Stephanie invites others to change their lives by using her guide to finding perspective from within. Now, an author, professional speaker, motivational blogger, book publicist, and home decor business owner, Stephanie connects her passion for embracing creativity with her dedication to helping others live life in perspective.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:14] She’s a Louisville native, and lives with her husband, Cory, and their three kids, Eli, Lyndi, and Luke. To learn more about Stephanie, go to www.ColorTodayPretty.com. She has a wonderful message to share with all of us as we begin to move into 2019, and for those in the accounting profession as we move into that busy time of year, a busy season. But I like to prefer to call it, you know, that opportunity season that awaits us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:43] Before we get to the interview, I received an Amazon book review from Douglas Warren, who is the CEO of Warren Jackson CPAs in Sweetwater, Tennessee. He writes, “Peter does an outstanding job demonstrating how to present numbers to a non-number audience. It is useful information that can be used in any presentation. It can help make the presenter look like a rock star. I highly recommend this book for anyone who presents financial data and wants to make it interesting and relative to their audience, whomever they may be. I’ve already used many of the insights in his book.” Doug, thank you so very much for the book review, and I’m glad that you found some tips and techniques to make the numbers interesting; as well as your purchase of 10 additional copies for your team and for some of your clients. Thank you again, Doug.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:37] Taking the Numb Out of Numbers will transform your ability to communicate technical financial information in greater contexts through analogies, metaphors, and storytelling. Put another way, translate complex financial information into plain English, so your audience will gain a deeper understanding. The book is available on Amazon.com, in paperback, and in Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing, immediately stop right now, and go buy it today. If you’d like to purchase 10 or more copies, please contact me at Peter@PeterMargaritis.com for bulk discounts. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Stephanie Feger.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:21] Everybody, I’m with Stephanie Feger, a fellow Kentuckian, better yet a fellow UK fan. So, we’ve spent, I don’t know, about 10 minutes even before we started the podcast talking about, “Oh, that was Duke game…” So, let’s just move forward past that.

Stephanie Feger: [00:04:41] Yeah, we ignore that one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:42] Yeah, yeah. Let’s just kind of ignore it. So, that’s a learning curve. That’s a learning curve.

Stephanie Feger: [00:04:47] Totally.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:48] Stephanie, I thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be on my podcast. We’ve had a couple of health issues between the two of us, had to postpone this. But, finally, we’re together. Looking forward to our conversation. Welcome.

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:01] Thank you so much. And, hey, I’d love to be with another Kentuckian The problem is you don’t have the accent, and I’m stuck with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:08] No, I have the accent, but since I’ve been in Ohio, it takes just a sip of bourbon. And I’ll tell you what, it’ll come right out.

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:16] Oh, I see.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:17] Yeah, I know I-

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:18] We should have this all prepped with some bourbon next time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:22] Next time. Next time, maybe so. But every now and then, it will slip out even without the enhancement of some bourbon. But I do know how to say the city that you live in, Louisville.

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:36] Good. Yes, I always say you got to a — I make a joke. I’m like, “We don’t have a lot of money here. We just slur words because every word costs more. So, we just, “Louisville,” just roll it together.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:46] Louisville. Somebody said, just throw a bunch of marbles in your mouth and say Louisville. That’s that.

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:50] That’s perfect.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:50] That’s perfect. Stephanie, give the audience a little bit of an idea of your background.

Stephanie Feger: [00:05:56] Sure, sure. So, I, actually, have about 15 plus years of experience in marketing and communications. And I’ve absolutely loved that profession; although, I was telling you a little bit earlier that my dream was always to go into theater. So, it’s been interesting because I feel like I have the opportunity to kind of merge that, and doing PR marketing has a little theatrical elements too, but I did that for about 15 years.

Stephanie Feger: [00:06:21] But something within me didn’t feel like settled. There was something more I was supposed to do. I think many of us go through that in our life where you think you’ve hit your — you know, where your success track is taking; and you feel all great; and you know if you keep going, you’re going to reach where you want to go. And I was there, but there was something within saying, “Stephanie, nope, you’re not doing what I need you to do. There’s more to do.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:06:45] And at that point, I started to really listen to where I needed to go, and I found myself shifting a bit. And I’ve started to realize that I needed to put my perspective lens on to see that. And it’s just interesting how that evolved because it turned into me actually writing a book, and it’s been published here in the past few months. And, now, I’m doing professional speaking and marketing communications consulting. And Peter, I would never have thought I’d be here. So, you call yourself The Accidental Accountant. I’m the Accidental Author. It’s been an amazing journey.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:19] Yeah. And the first time I met Stephanie, we had the same book coach. And her book was getting ready to come out, and she did this marketing presentation on a webcast that Cathy Fyock, our book coach, was having, and I’m going, “Oh my god.” And I screenshot a bunch of your slides.

Stephanie Feger: [00:07:38] I love your heart. I could have just emailed them to you, my friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:41] I know. I know, but, literally, I screenshot them because they were so good. And this is my second go round with the book. So, I knew some stuff, but some of the stuff that you’re bringing to the table, oh, this is really, really good. So, yeah, I would screenshot. I screenshot it and just use it.

Stephanie Feger: [00:07:59] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:00] Yeah. I thought I’d say that. I just remembered that this morning. I said, “I think I should probably let you know that.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:08:04] That’s really awesome. That’s really awesome. It just goes to show that we never know the impact or what we can do to help other people. And so, you should always put yourself out there because you have the potential to continue to help other people in ways you would never have dreamed possible. So, that’s awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:20] You’re welcome. And you just said something, put yourself out there. That’s not easy to do.

Stephanie Feger: [00:08:26] No. It’s actually very scary. Very scary. But here I was, you know, working in a corporate world, and doing everything you’re supposed to, but something within me felt like I needed to be putting myself out there and be vulnerable. And I found that in being vulnerable and sharing elements of who you are in ways that other people are kind of scared to, it allows you to realize how interconnected we are and how important your mindset shift is to help you find fulfillment in life. Not to talk too much in the clouds but you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:58] Yeah. It’s really scary for some. I think, it’s just the pure fear of failure that if I am vulnerable, they’ll see my weaknesses. But, you know, I was talking to a friend of mine, Merle Heckman, who I’ve interviewed before on this podcast, and he goes, “Pete, I love to listen to people when they tell me their faults, when they tell me they’re failures, when they tell me their losses because you learn so much more by learning that than ones who never share that information at all because they’re afraid to share that.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:09:37] You know, it’s funny you say that. I wrote a blog recently on how to manage panic, you know. What are things in life that you could do to kind of help you take a look at the scary things and manage it? And one of the things, and you just touched on it, that I use is kind of what I call my tried and true. Stephanie’s Tried and True Panic Tips.

Stephanie Feger: [00:09:57] One of them is actually totally against what most people who know me would think I would be. So, I’m a very positive person, very much an optimist, but one thing I do when I get in a panic situation, or I feel vulnerable, or I get nervous, or things are scary is I like to look at the worst-case scenario first. I actually believe that for me, and I’m thinking about this when you’re talking about it being terrifying to put yourself out there, I like to, when I come up to a situation that makes me extremely nervous or panicky, think what’s the worst thing that could happen.

Stephanie Feger: [00:10:28] So, what’s the worst thing about putting yourself out there? Okay, failing. Well, let’s be real. Many times, when we fail, we learn from that, and we actually grow and soar in ways we never could have if we hadn’t failed in the first place. Or, for me, you know, what’s the worst thing if you stand up for something you believe in, or if you say something to your boss, or, you know, you make a financial decision that is a big one, right? What are some of the worst things that could happen?

Stephanie Feger: [00:10:55] And I find, for me, that the things that I think are really, really bad, when I acknowledge and own them, they are really not so bad after all. And, actually, many times, I’m like, “Okay. Well, if that’s what happens, I can pick up and move on from it.” So, I believe in kind of accepting that worst-case scenario and running with it. And I feel that way in putting yourself out there. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone thinks you’re crazy, or someone thinks you’re different, or you fail in front of someone. And I really don’t think that’s all that bad a thing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:22] It’s not. It’s funny you should mention that blog because that was one of the questions that I had in my head that I was going to ask because I read it, and it just came out it. I’m like-

Stephanie Feger: [00:11:32] That’s awesome, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:32] I read it two days ago, and I love what you had to say, but I’m going to word this a little bit differently.

Stephanie Feger: [00:11:37] Sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:39] Because of your background in theater, and you said that you’ve done improv, this whole, you know, what’s the worst thing that could happen, it’s that leaning into the fear. It’s taking on that risk to know that everything is going to be okay when it comes, too, at the other end, and I will have learned a lot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:57] I equate that to the things I’ve learned through improv because, yeah, you just lean into it. You go, and you go right through it. They also use that as a brainstorming tool. If you’re trying to figure out how do we grow sales, well, how could I kill sales? What’s the worst idea ever that I could use to kill my sales? And you’ll end up finding ways to grow sales quicker than-

Stephanie Feger: [00:12:24] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:25] Yeah, cool.

Stephanie Feger: [00:12:27] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:28] Let’s talk about this book.

Stephanie Feger: [00:12:31] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:31] Color Today Pretty. How did you come up with the title?

Stephanie Feger: [00:12:35] Oh my gosh. Well, that is a story that I must share because I believe that the best things for me, when I get like those brilliant moments in life, it happens in like one of three ways. I’m either in the shower, I’m driving down the road, or I’m sleeping. It’s the weirdest thing. Like no joke, when I have an idea about a blog, it comes I’m one of those ways.

Stephanie Feger: [00:12:55] Well, for this instance, it’s probably six years ago or so, I had a dream, and it was one that when I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t shake off. But in that dream, my husband and I must have been watching way too much America’s Got Talent because I was Simon Cowell in female form. I know, right? What an image.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:16] Yeah.

Stephanie Feger: [00:13:16] And if you know me, you know, and you and I have had many interactions, like his essence is not at my core. I am way too nice, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:25] Right.

Stephanie Feger: [00:13:25] I’ve got a different perspective than he does. But here I was, the person that stood between someone’s dreams and their reality. And it’s a lot easier to judge these people who come on America’s Got Talent when you’re watching them on TV, but I was a nervous wreck here having to make these decisions.

Stephanie Feger: [00:13:41] Well, this young boy walked in. I remember him like it was yesterday. This scrawny kid with blond hair, they walked in with a canvas and his creative utensils. And his talent was going to be some form of artistry. I can tell you, from the moment he started to paint or draw, it was horrific. I mean, I had to tell him, “Dude, you gotta get a job. This is not going to be, you know, your claim to fame.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:14:05] So, when I shared this news to him, I was expecting how most people react when you watch the show. They either are extremely sad and in tears, or they’re so mad that they use a lot of expletives. There’s usually not many in between. He didn’t do any of that. Instead, he took his canvas, he brought it over to me, and he gifted me with a smile, and he said, “That’s okay. I just want you to go color something pretty today.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:14:32] So, I woke up in this dream of this kid who told me to go color something pretty today. And I swear, my friends, and my family, and co-workers probably wanted to admit me into a mental institute because all day, I was analyzing this dream. It was crazy. I kept focusing on what was I trying to be the judge at in life. You know, why was I Simon Cowell? Why was I so miserable? Just a mean human being.

Stephanie Feger: [00:14:54] And about halfway through the day, I realized that that dream wasn’t about me, it was about this little boy, and how this little boy acted and interacted with me. You see, I realized that he had a choice. He didn’t — You know, there’s a lot of ways to get from point A to point B in life. And I was sitting here thinking that I stood in between his ability to have this dream make it a reality, but this young kid taught me something different. He was like, “Yeah, you think that’s a straight line from point A to point B, but there’s lots of ways, and you’re just one way.”.

Stephanie Feger: [00:15:24] So, he — What I realized at that moment is he couldn’t control my reaction. He couldn’t control if I was going to help him reach his dream, but he could control his reactions and his responses to what happened in life to him. He decided to color that day pretty, to take that moment and make it purposeful and meaningful. And he wasn’t going to let me stop him.

Stephanie Feger: [00:15:47] I felt like in that dream, it wasn’t so much, “Look at me as a young kid.” This young kid, “Look at me. I was able to do it,” but he charged me by gifting me with this painting and said pretty much, “”Hey, Stephanie, it’s your turn to go color something pretty today.” So, that began a new shift in my life to stop looking at life from a certain lens and shift my lens to see the beauty in the mundane.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:08] Like my jaw came unhinged. It’s like, “Wow.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:16:15] I know. Cool dream, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:17] Yeah. God, yeah. That was really. No, I get great ideas in the shower, never in a dream. Sometimes in a car, but not to that degree. So, I take the title came to you in a dream.

Stephanie Feger: [00:16:31] You got it. And, actually, a few years before that, I’d been feeling this need to write. So, I would get up in the middle of the night when I had insomnia, and I would just write about something that was heavy on my heart, or that I was trying to think about, and I needed to process it. And then, I got that that dream, and I remember waking up. And after I figured it out, I called my husband. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. My book is Color Today Pretty, and I know what I’m doing now.” And it became my life purpose. And it, actually, has now become a movement. I mean, I really believe in my heart that if you can embrace this mentality, you can do anything.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:07] So, I’m extremely jealous for a couple of reasons. One, you live in Louisville.

Stephanie Feger: [00:17:11] Well, yeah. I mean, Louisville.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:11] Two, that your title came to you in a dream, and you wrote it from that point versus I wrote my book, and ask Kathy, it was excruciating to try to come up with a title. I mean, failure, failure. It was just terrible. And then, I was at an NSA meeting and somebody said, “How’s your book coming?” I said, “I’m struggling with the title.” They said, “Give me the backdrop on it.” I did, and they were like, “Hey, how about Take the Numb Out of Numbers?” That quickly.

Stephanie Feger: [00:17:46] It’s brilliant. I love your title. It is brilliant.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:48] And Maureen Zappala, I give her all the credit for it, but it was just one of those things like, “Boom.” People have different superpowers, and that’s not one of mine. So, your book came to you in a dream, and I have looked through. Basically, you’re an open book.

Stephanie Feger: [00:18:11] It’s funny you say that. I usually tell people I’m an open book. And, now, there’s literally a book that you can open, and you get every single thing about me, the good, the bad, the ugly. And there’s nothing in it that is like, “You know, I’ve got life figured out, guys. Like, this is how I’m doing.” And instead, it’s more of a journey that I’ve experienced to help me look at some really tough things that have happened in life, and find the purpose, and help me to take that moment, and allow it to help me grow instead of hinder my growth. But it’s an open book, you’re right. I talk about some pretty heavy and some pretty light things.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:45] So, these are little vignettes. These chapters are little vignettes about stories of your life.

Stephanie Feger: [00:18:52] It is, it is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:55] Wow.

Stephanie Feger: [00:18:55] And this is what’s also really beautiful is there were elements of my life that I’d never talked about. There’s actually an entire chapter that had been secret until my book came out. And there are things that I wasn’t sure of the right timing. And as I started to write, I started to realize that not only was I gifted with the title of my book in a dream, which is pretty cool, and I’m waiting for the next dream, so I’d get my next book out.

Stephanie Feger: [00:19:22] But I’ve realized as I took what I was writing that I had actually figured out a path on how to find perspective. And it breaks it into seven sections that was so organic, and it’s helped me realize that there is a way for people to focus on the things that matter. But, sometimes, we have to go through an acceptance process to get there, to be able to see through the right lens, to be able to focus, you know, our spectacles per se, and really see that at the end of the day, the only thing we can control in life is ourselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:56] Well, there’s a lot of synergy between this interview and the one that’s before you. I interviewed Carrie Sechel. She is a former partner in an accounting firm who left and started her own business. But the themes that you are talking about, in some ways, are pretty much the same themes that she was talking about. And you guys have never met, which, now, this is just us-

Stephanie Feger: [00:20:22] You need to introduce us.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:23] Yeah, I’m definitely going to do that. But it’s an interesting perspective because I’ve never — And I’m almost — What was the one chapter that you kept secret, or can you say it or keep it a secret?

Stephanie Feger: [00:20:38] No, I can tell. I can totally tell. So, when I was — It’s a little heavy, so bear with me. But when I was 16, I was sexually harassed by my driver’s ed instructor.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:50] I get it, okay.

Stephanie Feger: [00:20:50] It was a situation that was pretty horrific, one that — You know, now, so, that was 20 years ago, give or take. And back in that day, it had no cell phones, and there was no way to document any of this. So, when we called the police after I’d been threatened that if I did, I would be found, and he would — you know, he would find me and my family, the police didn’t believe me. They believed him. And the police actually told me when I was 16 that if I ever spoke about that that I would go to jail for slander, not him for what he did.

Stephanie Feger: [00:21:23] So, for 20 years, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t say anything. I went to an all-girls school. I so badly I just wanted to get up in front of my sisters and share these stories, not so much to defame somebody, but more to empower people to say, “Hey, this could happen, and here are some things that you need to be aware of and ways to put yourself in different situations.” And I was never able to do that.

Stephanie Feger: [00:21:44] And when I started to write this book, I knew that there was a chapter, I knew that I needed to acknowledge this. and it was a piece of who I was, a piece of my journey, and a piece of — a part of finding perspective was for me to own this situation, and figure out how I can take a piece of me that was very broken, and piece it back together, and realize that even though — Kind of like a hotplate or the stained glass, right, sometimes, you have to break things apart to put it back together to make you a little bit more beautiful. So, I used that as a way for me to realize.

Stephanie Feger: [00:22:17] And as I was writing it — See, a lot of my writings were my way of working through this. So, every chapter, it felt like I started to — Kind of like that dream, it’s not like I started the chapter knowing what the outcome would be, but I knew it was something I needed to work through. And when I finished the last word on that chapter, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I literally felt like with every word I wrote, I was like adding a feather to a set of wings that allowed me to feel free.

Stephanie Feger: [00:22:41] And here was this thing that had kept so silent for so long that, now, I’m free from. And I talk about it now very openly. I’ve not –You know, and it’s all good. Our culture is a much different culture now, but it is something that was so important to help me figure out perspective, because I could have looked at that and seen myself as a victim.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:59] Right.

Stephanie Feger: [00:22:59] But instead, I’m allowing it to help me be victorious and to move past it. It’s not about what happened, it’s about what I’ve done from it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:06] And it’s Chapter 15: Broke and Beautiful.

Stephanie Feger: [00:23:09] You got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:09] As you were describing it, I was looking through the table of contents. I said, “I think it’s probably this one here.” Now, courage is not the right word to use. I don’t even know what the right word to use is. It’s to be able to sit down, and write that, and share it with the world. Courage is not strong enough. It’s not a strong enough word. I applaud you for doing that. And, you know, we all have stuff. I’m going to leave it at stuff.

Stephanie Feger: [00:23:38] We do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:40] We all have stuff. And a lot of times, we don’t own it. We bury it, we suppress it, but it never goes away. Do you confront it face-to-face?

Stephanie Feger: [00:23:52] I’d like to — And thank you for your really kind words. I don’t know if it’s courageous, or it was just time, or it was just I had to do it, but it was one of those things where it was totally worth it. But as I was writing it, I realized I kind of used an analogy of like my life and all of our lives as the growth of a tree. So, bear with me with that because I think you’ll understand it. But, you know, I feel like in life, we all, you know, are planted. We’re here as a seed, and we go through good and bad to grow. right. It takes the rain to help us grow, and it takes the sun as well.

Stephanie Feger: [00:24:23] And as we grow, we go through these experiences, and our root systems start to kind of break out. And sometimes, we have a wonderful root systems, great family, great experiences. And other parts of our root system, we would love to just chop off and throw away. The problem is if you chop off a part of the root system of a tree, when the tree finally makes it through the ground and gets a trunk, it’s not nearly as stable as if it had its entire root system. And I truly believe we’re all meant to kind of be like the essence of a tree and the fact that we pollinate others. You know, we go through this process of really creating beauty in the world.

Stephanie Feger: [00:24:55] I share that because I think that it would be really, really easy for me or others to deny situations in their life much like this one that I just shared, and I almost cut off that root system. In doing so, what it would have done, it would never have given me a strong enough trunk to withstand any other hurricanes or tornadic situations that came. I needed that experience to give me the strength to be able to manage what will happen next in my life.

Stephanie Feger: [00:25:24] And I think it’s in owning that and realizing that I can’t control this man, I can’t control what the police said, I can’t control how other people think about it. There’s nothing I can control, but I can control me, and how I’ve allowed that to impact my life, and to make me stronger for it because I’m here because I’ve got to do something to help make the world a better place and to help other people be able to see the beauty in everything. So, I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m going to let it propel me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:47] That’s awesome. I love that recognizing these things that are within my control, and there’s things outside of my control. And a lot of times, whether in life, or at work, or in corporate America, whatever, we tend to focus all of our energies on things that we have absolutely no control over, and it just spins us out of control versus focusing only on the other things that we have control of.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:15] I can’t fix congress. I don’t worry about that. What I can control is writing, voting, writing to them, voting, that’s about it, or getting more involved. But if I — I’ve got a lot of friends who are so fixated that it begins to take over their lives and takes over their personal and business life, it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, focus on what you can control and work on that.” And yeah, that was well said by you.

Stephanie Feger: [00:26:47] Thank you. Well, I’ve really started to realize that, and I kind of did a introspective search in my life. And I’m like, “Okay, I’m 5 feet 2. I live in a family of 6-foot-plus people. I can’t control that, right. I can get high heels. I can try to be taller and shorter, right. I can’t control that, at the end of the day, I’m short. I can straighten my hair every day. I like straight hair. I have curly hair. My hair is naturally curly. I go outside, and it rains, it goes curly. So, I can’t even control that, right.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:27:12] So, all of these things in life we think we control, not only from us personally, but you think you can control that promotion in life. You think you can prep for the future, you know, financially. You think that you can raise your kids perfectly. There’s all these things you think you can control, but at the core of it, you cannot control any of it. You can influence that, and you can do beautiful things with it, and you could try. But the only thing you can control is your reactions and responses to life. You can shift, does life happen to you or for you? And I really believe that that’s important.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:46] Yeah, yeah, exactly. It really just comes down to, at the end of the day, your attitude towards everything.

Stephanie Feger: [00:27:54] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:55] And if you — Yeah, I see it so much in the world of corporate America. I see it a lot in the profession of accounting of trying to control. I’m trying to control the other person’s response, or this, or that one. We can’t control that. We have to listen to what’s happening and make assumptions, or conversations, or something based upon that, but I can’t control what they do and what they say, but we’re going to try to control because if you leave this office two minutes early, you will be fired.

Stephanie Feger: [00:28:31] Right, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:33] I had to fire someone at a corporate job because the associate couldn’t get there on time. It was a culture thing. It wasn’t a personal thing, but it was within their culture, they were always late. And because they couldn’t adhere, or we couldn’t control them, I was told to let this person go.

Stephanie Feger: [00:28:52] Oh my goodness gracious.

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

Stephanie Feger: [00:28:54] Those types of things because, at the end of the day, then we start to see that we’re letting our world, our culture, other people’s expectations of us dictate us, and we’re letting them control us. And at our core and our essence, if you really want to live a happy life, a fulfilled life, I really don’t believe that that’s the way to do it, you know. It’s not about, are you the person that shows up on time? I mean, I know you need to do that, and there are things in life that need to happen, but goodness gracious, there’s so much more depth to who we are and what we bring to the world, you know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:30] Right, exactly. Looking through the table contents, the one chapter I wanted to ask about was in the Live Life Childlike. You write about the present.

Stephanie Feger: [00:29:42] Yes. And isn’t that beautiful for this time of year?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:47] That’s my question. Are we talking the present of a gift? Are we talking the present or being present?

Stephanie Feger: [00:29:55] Let me tell you a little bit about that. When I have taken a look at the trajectory of how to live in life in perspective, I realized one of the elements is taking a look at the people in our life that are the least calloused. And, to me, those are my kiddos. Those are the young ones. Those, you know, one, two, three-year-olds, and not when they’re throwing temper tantrums, but outside of that.

Stephanie Feger: [00:30:23] And I know some people who don’t have kids. I’m like, you can even see this in our animals, right. The essence of at our purest form, how are we supposed to be? We’re supposed to be humble, honest, quirky, you know, confident, risk-taker, we don’t stress about the what-ifs and the could-haves, right.

Stephanie Feger: [00:30:41] So, the Live Life Childlike section of the book is really focused on getting to the essence of what our children can teach us. So, the present is actually a chapter about my daughter. And so, I’ve got three kiddos, two boys and a girl. My daughter’s the middle one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:59] Ages? Ages please?

Stephanie Feger: [00:31:02] So, my youngest — It’s three, four, and six right now. I know. And in December, the older to go up a year, but about two years apart. I’m crazy. Crazy. But my daughter is — They’re all special, but she’s really special in a sense that until she turned two, she didn’t speak. She was a very happy kid, and the muscles in her face, because she smiled so much, never were able to be formed to help make certain words. So, she never spoke.

Stephanie Feger: [00:31:32] And so, at about two, we started speech therapy, and we went through this whole journey. And so, that was about the time I was in the essence and the heart of writing this book. And I wrote. It was actually this time of the year, right before I put up the Christmas tree, and we started to get stuff in the mail, and her birthday is right around Christmas.

Stephanie Feger: [00:31:50] So, the whole chapter is about here we are, putting up this Christmas tree together, and we are living in the moment, and she is thanking me every second of the way, “Mama, thank you for this ornament. Mama, thank you for this beautiful tree. Mama, thank you for our time together.” And you have to know, and I do have a chapter on her with her speech delay, but you have to know her talking to me was a beautiful thing because for so long, I never thought that would happen.

Stephanie Feger: [00:32:17] But her heart, the purity of her heart in thanking me for the things that so many of us oversee and overlook proved to me just how beautiful the moments are that we have been given and the little things in our life, the beautiful and the mundane. So, the present is all about we not only should be living in the present, but we can be a present to another person. And if we live in the present, that actually might be the best present we could give somebody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:44] Wow. As soon as you said that, my face is going, “Wow.” Yeah, I love that. Simon Sinek, he’s got a quote out there that is kind of along this line. It’s about leadership because leadership has nothing to lose your title. True leadership is the positive effect that you have on another individual. And as soon as you said the present, give a present to somebody, that quote jumped into my head, and it’s a positive effect we have on other people, period.

Stephanie Feger: [00:33:24] Period. If I were to question or to do a survey, “And so, what’s everybody’s purpose in life?” right. And then, we sift away the outliers, and we talk about, you know, really, at the core, our purpose is to make a difference and influence the life of another. I truly believe that. And I don’t think that that can be done if we’re always behind our phones, if we’re always on the computer, if we’re always looking for the next best thing, if during this season of giving we’re focused on giving tangible items, instead literally giving of ourselves and being present in the moment.

Stephanie Feger: [00:33:55] I think it’s a beautiful thing for anybody but, especially, for a leader to do within his group, especially for a supervisor to do it within their staff, especially for co-workers to do it amongst one another and family. You know, there’s so many. It’s so critical. And I truly believe that that is the best gift. Don’t worry about buying wine or, you know, a UK t-shirt. Just kidding.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:17] Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Slow down there. Slow down there. Don’t go off the rails on me now.

Stephanie Feger: [00:34:23] I’m not, I’m not. But at the core, those things go bad. You know, you’ll drink the wine. It will go away. Your shirt will disintegrate because you wear it at every game. I’m just kidding. But the gift of you, that’s something that will be forever cherished.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:36] Yes, it is. And that gift can be given in so many different ways. I share a story that after I heard that quote from Sinek, it really resonated with me. And I was flying through DC at Reagan, I don’t know, like a 10:00 flight. Go to the men’s room. It’s hustle and bustle. The bathroom attendant was there. And he looked like he had a hard day, hard week, hard month. And he’s just trying to keep up. That place is spotless, and nobody even paid attention to him.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:08] So, I kind of mentioned. I said, “Excuse me, sir. I was a thank you for the hard work that you’re doing here today. I mean, I can’t imagine how busy this place gets, but you’ve kept it absolutely spotless. I just wanna say thank you.” And that guy kind of raised up, straightened up, looked at me, he says, “Nobody ever talks to me. You’re the first person that want to talk to me. Two, the first person say thank you. My bosses didn’t say thank you.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:36] The look in that guy’s face, well, it was just — And I went, “Oh my god. Sinek’s right. That’s leadership right there, the positive effect.” Dear Washington DC, the positive effect that you have on other people, not the negative effect, the positive effect.

Stephanie Feger: [00:35:54] I have to say, I had a similar experience. It was just beautiful. I was actually traveling to a speakers’ conference, and I had taken a couple copies of my books because you never know when somebody needs that in their life. But on the way home, my luggage, it made my luggage too heavy. And I’m like, “I can’t, you know, spend an extra one hundred dollars to check my bag.” So, I took the fat books out, and I was carrying them around. I had like two or three hours before my flight. And I kept thinking, “What am I supposed to do?”

Stephanie Feger: [00:36:23] See, now, that I’ve found perspective, and I live this way, I find that everything in life is very purposeful. So, to me, I’m like, “Okay, I am carrying around five books for a reason.” So, I started to sit back and watch. And the people that looked underappreciated, I walked up to them. I did the same thing. I said, “I just want you to know, I don’t know why I’m supposed to do this for you, but I feel like I need to give you this book, and I need to thank you for what you’re doing.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:36:45] And I did it to my waiter who — I mean, it was amazing. He’s actually an author. There were two men that we were all waiting. Our flight got delayed. We were all miserable. And yet, through it all, they were so positive. And I gave all five copies of my book away. And it was, literally, one of the most magical days of my life because, exactly, what you said, here I was having the opportunity to thank people for something that is such so thankless and are overlooked in our lives.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:14] Exactly. I think — Was this conference, Influence?

Stephanie Feger: [00:37:17] Yes, it was.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:20] Because I remember, you did share that story with me because when you say that, I think I’ve heard this before. But yeah, that is so cool. And welcome to the world of being an author and a speaker because, now, you have to check more luggage. It weighs a lot more because you carry them.

Stephanie Feger: [00:37:35] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:35] But the flight back is usually lighter.

Stephanie Feger: [00:37:39] Right, right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:39] Usually.

Stephanie Feger: [00:37:39] It was purposeful. I know. So, I was very excited. I was not meant to come home with those books, and who knows how the power of perspective impacted their lives, and kind of did a pay-it-forward initiative. I believe in that, and I believe that your mindset has the power to change so much in your life. And I just want more people to be able to open their eyes to see the world. Lately, I’ve kind of felt like the essence of what I believe is if you can see the good, then you can be that good. And I truly, at my core, believe that and think we are all capable of being able to see the good.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:16] Yes, we are. Sometimes, we just have to take the blinders off, or better yet, sometimes, just need to stop and just look around. But we get — I know this is the pot calling the kettle black here, but we get so wrapped up in our lives and our business that we forget. And transparency, I’ve been on the other side. And recently, I’ve said, “You know what, we’re missing too much stuff.” So, I’m, for the most part, stopping working on the weekends, and spending time with-

Stephanie Feger: [00:38:48] Good.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:48] … with the family, and stuff, and doing stuff. So, yeah. And you do see a lot more. You do experience a lot more.

Stephanie Feger: [00:38:54] But, you know, that’s not easy. And I have to say, that’s why Color Today Pretty works for me because I am not like a good weight-watchers person. I cannot follow a diet. For the life of me, I try to exercise every year, and I fall off the rail. At the end of the day, if there’s something that I’m supposed to be doing, and I miss one day, I think, “Oh my gosh, I’m a failure.” And I just can’t get myself motivated.

Stephanie Feger: [00:39:16] Color Today Pretty isn’t about that. I actually believe it’s about life as a collection of moments, and you get to choose every moment. So, right this second, we get to decide if we want to have a good day, have a good moment. And in 10 minutes, when we get in the car, and someone cuts us off on the road, and we have road rage, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, I just did not have a good moment. That’s okay. I can have a good moment now.”

Stephanie Feger: [00:39:36] It’s a mindset shift that doesn’t have to happen all the time because life is — I mean, life happens. It’s real. We make mistakes. We have challenges. We have struggles. We’ve got to own that stuff. We’re not perfect. There’s actually a whole section called Perfect Imperfection. And we’ve got to accept the fact that we will never be perfect. That’s okay, but it’s not like a diet. This is a lifestyle shift that can happen at any time of your life.

Stephanie Feger: [00:40:01] And because of that, it’s something that resonates with me and works for me, and it works with for so many other people because mistakes happen, things kind of push us off, right. We, sometimes, start working on the weekends. So, you can pick it up here any second and decide, “I want to make good in the world.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:17] Yeah. You don’t become a leader if you just attend a leadership seminar. It’s the everyday stuff that you do in real life that, “Okay, I may forget. I mean, I do something this one day, but the more I can do it, it creates that habit.” From Seinfeld, from when he started doing stand-up and writing, he would write something every single day. And people who know him that I know have said that he has maintained that. He has not broken that chain at all. And this is how many years later, but it’s just taking those little steps. And those little steps, how can people find you and find your book?

Stephanie Feger: [00:40:59] Easy. We’ve been talking about Color Today Pretty. Go to ColorTodayPretty.com. You can find me there and a link to my book. It’s also on Amazon if that’s easier for you to go look there. But if you go to ColorTodayPretty, I actually do a regular blog, and that gives you ongoing inspiration. The book gets you started. It gets your head in the right direction. If you just need that kind of fuel for the week, ColorTodayPretty.com, we’ll get it for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:27] Great. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m serious, we could probably talk for about four hours.

Stephanie Feger: [00:41:33] Yeah, we could.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:35] Yeah. We will have to follow up again. But any last words for the audience?

Stephanie Feger: [00:41:41] I just really believe, at our core, we have the ability to make a difference, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others. And I truly believe it all starts with stopping and realizing what we can’t control, and that’s you. So, I just hope every moment when you get the opportunity to make a choice on how you’re going to color that day that we all choose to color it pretty.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:01] Wow. I can’t thank you enough for taking time. It’s a pleasure. I look forward to our paths crossing again soon. Take care of those three little ones of yours because they’ll grow up. My son used to be that age. He’s now 18.

Stephanie Feger: [00:42:16] Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been so much fun. I always love talking to another UK fan.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:26] I’d like to thank Stephanie for, literally, being an open book and sharing her thoughts on how we can change our mindset to gain a better perspective. She has a wonderful message, and I love this book that she’s written. Since the interview, I have purchased it, and I have read it, and it is truly a book that’s worth everybody’s time to read. Thank you, Stephanie.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:52] In Episode 18 which airs on December 24th, I will take this time to reflect back on the Change Your Mindset Podcast interviews, and share with you bits and pieces from each episode that I want you, my audience, to remember and apply, so you can become more future-ready. So without further ado, I want to thank you all for listening. I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. And remember, share this episode with a friend.

 

Resources:

S2E16 – Carrie Sechel | You Have the Power to Pivot & Permission to Love

Carrie Sechel is an entrepreneurial business consultant, speaker, and the bestselling author of BASE Jump: Finding Yourself in an Unfulfilling Professional World. Before creating her business, Carrie spent 18 years in public accounting, including seven years as a partner with Deloitte.

 

Carrie always knew she wanted to start a business at some point, but she struggled, and her fear of leaving Deloitte was so great that she nearly broke down before finally deciding to move on. It was hard work to break away from the vision of success that she had been raised to believe.

 

How did Carrie redefine success for herself, build a thriving entrepreneurial consulting business, and write a bestselling book within two years of leaving Deloitte? She connected her knowledge and experiences to her passion to create the life that she wanted to live and aligned her business vision with her life vision. Now, she is driven to help others to do the same.

 

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur

 

Carrie fell into public accounting because she liked working with a variety of clients, learning about many different business issues, understanding how tax impacted those businesses, coaching her clients, and coaching her people.

 

But after being in public accounting for 18 years, she needed to look at really where things were going. She asked herself, “What am I creating here at Deloitte? What does that look like? And is that what I’m here to create?” She came to the conclusion that she wasn’t going to find that thing in the various potential partner paths in public accounting.

 

“I knew that I wanted to create a business of my own.”

 

I know many of you have had that same thought, but a lot of people don’t really realize the barriers that one goes through when going from employee to entrepreneur.

 

“I had been modeling a version of success that I had seen throughout my life and I was living this version of success that I had been raised to believe,” Carrie says. “I needed to redefine what success meant to me and find success in a way that meant I would have to humble myself for a while. I would have to take a pay cut for a while. I would have to create something of my own that, at that point, I didn’t know what it was. And those were huge mental barriers to break through.”

 

“Your business is always a reflection of you. Your business is you and you’re selling you, and you’re defining what you’re creating yourself – and all those things are infinitely exciting, and infinitely terrifying, and humbling.”

 

As an entrepreneur, Carrie is able to guide people and help them make this transition a little more easily. There are still big barriers, but with a little help and a plan, they’re a little less daunting.

 

This takes the form of Power to Pivot, Carrie’s system to take people through those initial steps to go from this chaotic not knowing feeling to just knowing.

 

“I see so many people going out and buying a franchise, or buying a shop, or a business that already exists. And several years later, they’re just as miserable. And, actually, sometimes, more because they never honored what it is that they are truly meant to create. It’s finding that, creating that big vision, and then planning for it.

 

You can learn more about Carrie’s system in her free on-demand training session called Authentic Ambition: How to Create a Post-Corporate Life You Love Full of Abundance, Creativity, and Joy. She goes through the system in detail and offers some very specific items to think about, so you can start exploring your options right now.

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Carrie Sechel: [00:00:00] No matter how successful you are in the corporate world, going out and doing something on your own, that your business is always a reflection of you. Your business is you. And you’re selling you. And you’re defining what you’re creating yourself. And all those things are infinitely exciting and infinitely terrifying.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:38] 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: [00:00:59] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:26] Welcome to Episode 16. And my guest today is Carrie Sechel. And she is an entrepreneurial business consultant, speaker, and bestselling author of the book, BASE Jump: Finding Yourself in an Unfulfilling Professional World. Before creating her business, Carrie spent the first 18 years in public accounting. Now, during this time, she mentored and consulted with hundreds of professionals and businesses. And for the last seven of those 18, she was a partner with the accounting firm, Deloitte.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:58] Carrie always knew she wanted to start a business at some point, but she struggled, and her fear of leaving Deloitte was so great that she nearly broke down before finally deciding to move on. It was hard work to break away from the vision of success that she had been raised to believe.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:17] How did Carrie redefine success for herself, and built a thriving entrepreneurial consulting business, and write a bestselling book within two years of leaving Deloitte? She connected her knowledge and experiences to her passion to create the life that she wanted to live and aligned her business vision with her life vision. Now, she is driven to help others to do the same. Listen to her story and see if it resonates with you. I bet it will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:46] In November, I spoke to the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals Association in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The topic of my presentation was my book Taking the Numb Out of Numbers. They loved it. And Lydia Frank sent me this testimonial, “Peter’s presentation was enjoyable and solicit good questions by the group. I mean, we all have to give presentations from time to time. Peter’s ability to make a dull subject interesting is his true gift. And I would recommend him highly to bring a different perspective to annual conventions, regional meetings, or executive retreats. I would also recommend his latest book, Taking the Numb out of Numbers, as a learning tool for financial management trainees.” Excellent. Thank you, Lydia, for that testimonial. Greatly appreciate it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:34] And Taking the Numb out of Numbers will transform your ability to communicate technical financial information in a greater context through analogies, metaphors, and storytelling. Put another way, translate complex financial information into plain English, so your audience will gain a deeper understanding. The book is available on Amazon, in paperback, and in Kindle. So, stop what you’re doing, and buy it today, and begin taking the numb out of numbers, or as Ryan Parker, CEO of Endicott Clay Products, said, “Taking the ick out of the brick.” So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Carrie.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:21] Welcome back, everybody. I have Carrie Sechel with me today. I’m really excited about this interview because I think you’re going to get blown away. I’m going to let Carrie tell you about her background. But, I think, her background, in essence, of being in the big four, and in what she’s doing now, and how she got there is really going to resonate with a lot of you out there in my audience. So, first and foremost, Carrie, thank you for taking time, as an entrepreneur, out of your very busy day to spend some time with me, and welcome to the podcast.

Carrie Sechel: [00:04:50] Thank you so much, Peter. It is awesome to be here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:54] And just so everybody knows, we met, we go back maybe six months.

Carrie Sechel: [00:04:59] Yeah, about that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:00] It might have been about that. Carrie wandered her way into an NSA Ohio Chapter meeting. And I don’t think we were sitting next to each other, but somebody called me over. It was Jack Park who called over. He’s all excited, “Another CPA, another CPA.”.

Carrie Sechel: [00:05:11] We tend to congregate together, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:19] Yeah, exactly. And when we started talking, you’re telling me your story, I said, “Oh my god. This would make such a great podcast.” So, give everybody an essence of your background.

Carrie Sechel: [00:05:30] Sure. So, I always like to start this with a little funny tidbit. When I was 7 years old, my parents took me to the beautician, and the lady asked me, “Carrie, how do you want your haircut?” And I said, “Like Tom Brokaw.” And that’s really funny because I have really big curly hair now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:51] Yes, you do.

Carrie Sechel: [00:05:52] So, thinking back to that, it was really funny. And then, I begged my parents to buy me this little suit dress because when I was seven, I had this picture in my mind of what it was that success was. And I was absolutely convinced I was going to do something amazing with my life. And I figured my hair, like the guy on TV that I saw every night talked about the news, and a suit dress, like the people I saw with briefcases going into buildings looking like they were doing important things, that was going to set me off on the right track.

Carrie Sechel: [00:06:25] So, I told people that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I always just had this thing inside of me that said, “I just want to live this life and do something really awesome.” And I, also, was looking around and looking for definitions of success that I could, in my life, use all models and model after to find this awesome thing that I just knew in my heart I had, and I didn’t know what that was.

Carrie Sechel: [00:07:05] And I went to school. School was hard for me in some ways when I was younger, but I looked around and found that working really hard and getting things done was a way that I was able to, no matter how hard things were, what challenges I had, I was always able to rise to the top and make things happen. And when I went to college, I wasn’t really sure, honestly, what I was going to do.

Carrie Sechel: [00:07:35] And there were — Back then, I was in college in the early ’90s, and there was no internet. It was the menu choice of 10 different things: doctor, lawyer, accountant, teacher, nurse, engineer. Those were the things that that were “successful careers.” And I chose accounting. I didn’t like auditing at all. I thought, “Gosh, this just doesn’t seem like me.” I want to be with people. I want to help people with their businesses.

Carrie Sechel: [00:08:15] And I decided to go to law school because I just really didn’t know how I could be happy in accounting. And in law school, I met this awesome, awesome friend. She’s an awesome attorney and loves being an attorney, but she was a CPA. And I was just telling her after about the first month of law school or first semester of law school, I didn’t want to be a “lawyer.” I didn’t like litigation and fighting. I just didn’t feel like me. I just said, I was like, “Nicole, what am I going to do? I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She said “Go to a tax class with me. Go to the tax class.”

Carrie Sechel: [00:08:57] And I was at the University of Akron School of Law. They had a Masters in Tax Joint Program. She said, “Go check that out. I think, you might actually like tax.” So, I went, and I took a few tax classes, and I had some really good professors that focused on planning, and the different things, mergers and acquisitions, and things you can do with clients to help their businesses. And I thought, “Wow. I could do this. I could really get excited about doing this.”

Carrie Sechel: [00:09:22] That was the answer. So, I said, “Okay. Well, I can go to one of those big accounting firms. I know I can get a job there because I understand the cultures. I know people there. I got this tax thing. I like it. I can feel passionate about it. So, I know my path. So, that was how it started. And when I was at the end of Law School, because I did finish Law School and my Master’s in Tax, I just interviewed with accounting firms, and I started my career with Arthur Andersen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:56] Oh, there you go.

Carrie Sechel: [00:09:59] That was really an interesting character-building experience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:04] Yeah. I would say it’s probably a very well put, but you’re another one of those Andersen people that I have met that have — When we say Arthur Andersen, most people have this opinion, which is not the greatest. But that was just a few people within the firm. There are so many other people that are just awesome, like yourself, to be around, and to get to know, and stuff. So, please.

Carrie Sechel: [00:10:28] Yes. So, one of the things people ask me, “What was it like to go through?” Because I was there until the end. And I always tell people that all of my years of business, what I saw at the end of Arthur Andersen were some of the best reflections of people that I can remember in all the years I did business and public accounting in really large companies and consulting firms. When you go through something like that, you see people’s true colors come out. And I have to say that I saw really good colors.

Carrie Sechel: [00:11:02] And that’s something that so many of the people, the partners, the people who are employed there, just people looked at it like, “Oh, you’ve got to all be a bunch of crooks or something.” And we just saw people being really good to each other, and helping each other, and making decisions based on something other than power, money, making decisions based on what was right for their families, helping people make decisions that were right for them and not for anybody else. And that was really spectacular.

Carrie Sechel: [00:11:39] Like I said, it was a great character-building experience. I was early in my career. I didn’t have any capital payouts that I loaned that I needed to repay or anything. And I ended up, after that, going to Deloitte. And that was also a fantastic move for me. And I ended up, I was at Deloitte then for 14 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:04] So, in total, how long were you in the accounting profession?

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:05] For 18 years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:07] Okay, for 18 years. And at Deloitte, you were a partner for how many years?

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:13] Seven years, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:14] Seven years.

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:14] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:14] And what office of Deloitte? Was it Cleveland? Was it Akron?

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:19] I was in the Cleveland office.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:20] Cleveland office.

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:21] Yeah, but I traveled. I was based in the Cleveland office. But I’d say, the last seven years, I was in different areas. I was in India for two years. I ran a practice that was based primarily out of Chicago for several years.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:39] Okay. So, you were traveling a lot. You’re on a variety of different places. Yes.

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:44] Indeed, indeed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:44] But then, something happened because you’re not there anymore. You’re out on your own. You’re a true entrepreneur.

Carrie Sechel: [00:12:54] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:55] What was this turning point that you decided, “I got to do something completely different”?

Carrie Sechel: [00:13:04] Yeah. So, I never loved doing tax returns. So, confession here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:13] I’m laughing because I was in tax as well. And the story you said about doing the — They let me do one audit, and they never let me come back. I think I did it on purpose, so I wouldn’t have to go back to auditing, but I never really do like it. Yes. That’s why I’m laughing. I’m reflecting.

Carrie Sechel: [00:13:28] Yes. I never really loved tax returns. And what I did love in public accounting was working with lots of different clients, understanding lots of different business issues, understanding how tax impacted those, coaching my clients, coaching my people. I did some very different things in the firm. I was the chief of staff for the partner who was in charge of the real estate practice for the entire US firm for both tax audit, consulting, financial advisory services for the whole thing.

Carrie Sechel: [00:14:02] I got to go to India for two years. And when I was in India, I helped run the offshore practice for the US tax practice that was, at that point, very small when I went over there, and it grew tremendously during that time. And that was a fantastic experience. So, I got to do all these different things that weren’t really tax.

Carrie Sechel: [00:14:28] And there were a few points in there when the little seven-year-old girl came back and said, “Carrie, is this really that awesome thing because I’m not sure that it really is? There’s something else. You’re supposed to create something yourself.” And every time that came back, there was something huge that happened. And it was obvious that it wasn’t time yet. There were some other really impactful experiences I was meant to have in public accounting.

Carrie Sechel: [00:15:00] One was the chief of staff, while another was going to India. Each time that happened, I said, “No, this isn’t the time.” And then, the last time it happened, I had been a partner for six years, and I was leading a massive, massive outsourcing engagement. I was leading a practice that I helped build from nothing. People would look at it and say, “Wow.” Like, “She’s like she’s got this amazing amount of potential in the firm,” because of what the opportunity that I had there and what it could build into.

Carrie Sechel: [00:15:39] I was looking at it saying, “This is great.” And I’ve met so many amazing people. And I’ve coached and mentored so many awesome people who are doing just so well. I worked with so many businesses. And I need to look at really where this is going because as a partner, you go in various directions. What am I creating here at Deloitte? What does that look like? And is that what I’m here to create? And I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to find that thing in the various potential partner paths in public accounting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:21] So, as you’re coming to this conclusion, were you thinking about looking for another employer, or did you know that you want to go out on your own?

Carrie Sechel: [00:16:33] I knew that I wanted to create a business of my own.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:38] Okay. So, you’re going from a very stable cash flow, personal cash flow with benefits and the thing called health insurance, which is a great big barrier to entry into entrepreneurialism with risk but not the same amount of risk that you’re about to take on.

Carrie Sechel: [00:16:58] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:00] How many times did you go, “Well, maybe I should do the risk adverse thing,” or did you just know that, “I got to go. I got to go create this thing”?

Carrie Sechel: [00:17:16] It took me a while. And my husband is also self-employed. And at that point, I was really the sole breadwinner in the house. And it took a huge amount of turmoil for me to get to the point where I just realized I had to do this. I got near to a breakdown, frankly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:38] Wow.

Carrie Sechel: [00:17:39] The bigger challenge, and this is why I tell the story about the seven-year-old Carrie who wanted the haircut and the suit dress, because I had been modeling a version of success that I had seen throughout my life. And I was living this version of success that I had been raised to believe, and I needed to redefine what success meant to me and find success in a way that meant I would have to humble myself for a while. I would have to take a pay cut for a while. I would have to create something of my own that, at that point, I didn’t know what it was. And those were huge mental barriers to break through.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:39] I think a lot of people don’t really realize those barriers that one goes through from going from employee to entrepreneur.

Carrie Sechel: [00:18:46] Oh, yeah. Going from the corporate world, the employed world, to entrepreneurship is, no matter how successful you are in the corporate world, going out and doing something on your own that your business is always a reflection of you. Your business is you. And you’re selling you. And you’re defining what you’re creating yourself. And all those things are infinitely exciting, and infinitely terrifying, and humbling.

Carrie Sechel: [00:19:29] When I left Deloitte, I did not know what I was going to do. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to create. I had ideas. And in many ways, my business it, the seed was there, and it’s not very different than what I imagined, but it’s far better defined. And you go out. One day, you’ve got this business card on LinkedIn, you’re a Deloitte tax partner. And the next, you don’t really know. You had that dreadful title of “in transition” in which everybody thinks means you got fired.

Carrie Sechel: [00:20:04] So, it feels really, really naked, and raw, and vulnerable. And that was terrifying. But I got to the point where I’ll never forget this, I was out at a client of mine and a client that I loved, a client I served for many, many, many years. And in all the years I’ve served clients, I can tell you the spectrum of stories from the best companies to companies that really, really did not reflect the values that I have. And this company is just off-the-charts awesome. Executive team, great people, great values, everything.

Carrie Sechel: [00:20:48] And I was sitting there with my client for very many years. And I couldn’t get my head clear. And I’m thinking if I can’t feel good here with people that I really believe in, and a company that I’ve helped, and just feel so great about being part of their team, this just can’t go on. And I stopped the meeting, and I said, “I just don’t feel well.”.

Carrie Sechel: [00:21:16] And I packed my things up, and I drove home, and I walked in the house, and I told my husband, “I can’t do it anymore,” and I have to leave at the end of the fiscal year, which, at that point, was 10 months away. And I said, “I can make it that long, but I can’t do it anymore. I have to do this. I have to go and create this thing that I don’t know what it is.”.

Carrie Sechel: [00:21:40] And I’ll never forget my husband. I think a lot of overachievers imagine that part of the reason people love them and care for them is because of their achievement. And we tell ourselves these stories. My husband said, “Carrie, you’ve been so successful doing things that you don’t really love doing for so long. Imagine how successful you’re going to be when you’re doing what’s really in your heart, and you’re meant to do.” And that was like if words could be perfect in that moment, my husband really won the award that day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:21] And still continues to win that award.

Carrie Sechel: [00:22:24] Yeah. Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:26] Yeah, exactly. So, let’s let the cat out of the bag. What are you creating?

Carrie Sechel: [00:22:33] Yes. So, I work with people who are in the corporate world or employed world and have in their heart this deep desire and deep need to create a business of their own, and I help them successfully do that. And it is awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:59] Okay. I can just push you to this person, and they’re not liking their job, they want to do something else, but they might be trapped in a way. I’m assuming you have a lot of folks who — And I use the word trapped, where you are making a salary that is substantial. That pay cut would be huge. The benefits aspect of it, may have children, may have a mortgage, all of that rolled up into one big ball of fear or one big ball and chain. And you’re able to get them-.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:31] Because when they come to you, their ultimate goal is to get to that point that, “Yes, I can go. I can create. I can do. You’re going to teach me how you did it, and I’m going to make it my own.” I mean, that’s got to be extremely terrifying for them, but then extremely exciting as well. And when you get them across that finish line — I mean, folks, you can’t see this, but as soon as I said, “once I came across the finish line,” Carrie just had this huge smile on her face and her eyes are sparkly. And I went, “That’s passion right there,” because she sees what she’s creating is actually working.

Carrie Sechel: [00:24:13] Yeah, it’s amazing. What I have in my heart is there are so many people in our world with an impact to make. So many people with a purpose that is being unanswered, and they feel it every single day. And it gnaws, and it gnaws, and it finds itself in lots of different places in not feeling great physically, in not sleeping, in relationships suffering, in mental turmoil constantly. And not only are they depriving themselves of this life that they can live but the world needs them. There is some impact that they are meant to make, and we need them.

Carrie Sechel: [00:25:06] And when I look at my background, what I’m passionate about, my knowledge, my skills, when I can combine that all to help a person bring that out and understand to not only bring it out and define what that is because many times — and I went through this myself — we don’t know. You feel it, it’s there and you’re thinking, “I don’t even know what this thing is.” It is maddening.

Carrie Sechel: [00:25:37] So, bringing that out, and defining it, and actually planning for it, knowing what you need to do, and when, and being able to block out the noise of all this other stuff out there because the entrepreneur world is huge right now. There is no shortage of people that are going to give a person who wants to create a business of their own advice and tell them what to do, and how to market, and all these different things. And many of those messages are totally appropriate at the right time.

Carrie Sechel: [00:26:14] But what I find is people who are starting businesses, they listen to those messages far too early and spend lots, and lots, and lots of time, and soemtimes financial resources, investing in programs, and this, and that, instead of investing in where they are right now, defining what they’re doing, and in taking the proper small steps to scale in a way that builds a sustainable, thriving, and scalable business. And to be able to work with people to create that, and to see the vision of where they can take their businesses and their impact in the short term, but also 5, 10, 15 years out, what they are going to create is amazing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:07] That is. I think a lot of those folks that you’re describing, “I’m tired of this job. Take this job. Put it someplace. I’m just going to go out and start a business tomorrow. I’ve saved up money. I’m going to go do this without, as you said, going through the process of understanding what it is I’m trying to do.” And I will also say, be careful what you wish for because it actually might come true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:36] I still remember the day, I was teaching at Ohio Dominican, and I was talking to one of my professor buddies down. I said, “You know what, someday, I want to be on an airplane traveling the country, interacting with CPAs, and folks of like, and working with them to become better communicators, and not being, at the time, a babysitter.” And about a year later, that’s exactly what happened. So, I always say be careful what you wish for, or if that’s what you really want to wish for, wish for it and make sure somebody hears you because it will come true, but there’s a lot of-

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:11] And I think that’s why you’re as successful as you are because, one, you’ve worked with a lot of businesses. You have an accountant, lawyer type of thought process that walks people through those steps that they’re not thinking about at the time that you do inherently knew that you needed to do because even the seven-year-old inherently knew what probably she needed to do, but she learned over time what to do, and putting them down that right path. And I can’t find it in my notes right now. I’m actually looking for it. But you’ve created a system.

Carrie Sechel: [00:28:48] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:50] And remind me what the name is. Pivot, there’s a pivot word in it, correct?

Carrie Sechel: [00:28:53] Power to Pivot.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:55] Power to Pivot. I think I was partially right.

Carrie Sechel: [00:28:57] Yes, you got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:57] Power to Pivot. What’s Power to Pivot?

Carrie Sechel: [00:29:02] Power to Pivot is my system to take people through those initial steps to go from this chaotic not knowing feeling but just knowing. They know they need to take action, they need to do something. But taking them through to create a vision, a concept, what they really are looking to do, something that truly honors what’s bubbling up inside of them.

Carrie Sechel: [00:29:29] I see so many people going out and buying a franchise, or buying a shop, or a business that already exists. And several years later, they’re just as miserable. And, actually, sometimes, more because they never honored what it is that they are truly meant to create. It’s finding that, creating that big vision, and then planning for it.

Carrie Sechel: [00:29:55] So, whittling it down to, “What are we going to do today? How do we take the right steps right now? How do you take those steps to get to that vision? How do you include your financials? We do financial assessments in here. What can you really do?” This isn’t about the Tarzan rope. This is about creating the plan for your life’s work, which means that, sometimes, I have a client that needed to do some work in this bridge period, but her corporate job would not. That wasn’t going to fit. And so, she’s doing some other freelance work while she builds her business. It’s about doing what makes sense to reach the goal instead of constantly sitting in life in the hamster wheel of feeling like you can’t get out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:53] So, as you’re describing this, I get like a business strategy approach. And what you just described is a system. It’s called backcasting. And what it is, is that vision. What is your vision? What is it? Identify that vision. What do you see? And back up to today. And go, “How do you define success today? What would make you successful? What do I need to do? And then, go, “What am I not doing?” And I think that’s what you described. What am I not doing? And being able to drill down and figure out, “If this is my vision, what am I doing today to help me get to it? What am I not doing? I need to add those pieces in, in order to get to that vision at some point in time.”

Carrie Sechel: [00:31:44] Exactly. And what is it that I’m constantly worrying about, and I’m allowing my mental energy to be focused on or thinking about that is not a problem of today. It’s not an issue for today. So, when I talk to entrepreneurs who have been in, I would say, struggling mode for a period of time, and there’s lots and lots people out there who took the leap and just can’t get their feet under them. I see a few different issues.

Carrie Sechel: [00:32:23] But a couple of the biggest issues are, number one, they really don’t have a vision, and they don’t feel personally connected to what it is they’re trying to build in that purpose piece, that mission that takes you out of yourself and makes you feel responsible and accountable to the people you’re serving, that fuels you even when it when things are tough, it’s not there.

Carrie Sechel: [00:32:51] Number two, the plan is totally out of sequence. They’re focused on really advanced marketing techniques that could be applicable in three or four years when they have an email list of 50,000 people. But right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s saying, “Okay, let’s be real realistic about where we are today.”

Carrie Sechel: [00:33:15] And I love what you just described here, Peter, of the backtracking because it’s like, “Okay, I want to be out here, but I’m not there, and I don’t have a jet pack on me.” So, I’m here. And that can be a really humbling pill to swallow. But you got to swallow it because you’re never going to get there on cue unless you just focus on right now. And as you grow and evolve that, your vision expands, and it becomes richer, and you’re capable of so much more.

Carrie Sechel: [00:33:48] But today, what do you need to do today that you aren’t doing? What do you not need to do today, you need to dump, and free yourself up to focus on what is really going to move you forward. This is all about taking action and making it happen.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:09] Would you agree with this statement, which most people think they can, but when they actually have to do it, they’re uncomfortable with selling themselves.

Carrie Sechel: [00:34:22] Oh, yes. Hugely vulnerable. And one of the things that we — Any kind of shift from the employee world to entrepreneurship, besides the blocking and tackling of the things that you need to do to make it happen, there’s a huge inner game that goes on of believing in yourself and getting over the fact that you are going to feel really vulnerable and naked at times. But how do you trick yourself into feeling like you have to clothes on, and really go out there, and make things happen?

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:06] Right. And I think a lot of people, we were just having this discussion yesterday at our NSA meeting with Eddie Turner. Somebody asked a question, “What’s the difference between confidence and cocky?” because that’s a very thin line. Those who can be loving themselves so much, and there are those who understand themselves, but they have that passion. It’s, really, they may be talking about themselves, but they’re really talking about how they can — I love the word — serve the person who are out there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:38] And that’s a, I think, very fine line because self-promotion, and I’m doing this full-time now for eight years, going on nine, there’s times that you walk away, you go — Because I’ve never been one of those guys that’s, “Me, me, me.” I’m losing it. But we all have that a little bit, that “Me, me,” but not to tend to love myself overly too much. But when I start doing it, I felt like it’s not me. But to the passion point and understanding what I’m trying to do is, “Well, no. This is what I do. I’m really good at what I do, and I can help you.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:15] That’s a big switch. It took a while for me to really pick that switch. And, sometimes, it goes back up and come back down in order to maintain that ability to convince people that what I have will make a difference in their lives.

Carrie Sechel: [00:36:35] Well, Peter, let’s chew on that for a minute because a lot of times, it goes back to motivation. If a person is truly motivated out of love, and looking at another person’s situation, and saying, “I know I can fix that, and I am the best person to do that, and the reason I’m driven to do that isn’t just because it’s going to make me look good, or it’s going to fill my bank account, but it’s because I deeply care for that person, and it’s my responsibility to help them.” That’s a much different place than being motivated out of ego.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:20] And motivated by money.

Carrie Sechel: [00:37:22] And money and ego.

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

Carrie Sechel: [00:37:25] And that’s where we all have to check ourselves. Why do each of us make decisions? And hey, we’ve all got egos. And making a great living is fabulous. I love money, but what is the deepest motivator? And if the motivator of love, and compassion, and empathy aren’t there, you have to really examine it.

Carrie Sechel: [00:37:52] And I use love a lot. And I think love in business is one of the biggest things people miss. and one of the most powerful, powerful business tools. I mean, it’s a tool, but I feel like it’s part of the business equation that we’re missing. And it’s hurting businesses because they’re missing that part or that piece that’s driven by something else.

Carrie Sechel: [00:38:25] And, particularly, for people who are creating a business of their own, having love to be part of that equation is one of those powerful, powerful tools that overcomes a vulnerability, that naked feeling, not feeling like you can’t sell yourself because when you’re doing it because love others, and you care so much about helping them solve their problem, it changes the game completely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] It really does. And as you say, this is funny because this exercise we were doing yesterday asked what do we want to get out of that session, and a lot of people, it was related to, “How can I monetize this? How do you monetize this?” And I wrote down, “I want to become a better facilitator, so I can help increase one’s retention.” There’s no money.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:30] And as we’re sitting there and talking, I realized, “I need to write the word ‘money’ down.” And so many yesterday had money. That was the top reason, which I’m probably reading way too much into that, but that, now, it is. It’s about love. Do you love what you do? Do you love the people you serve? And that’s the word. It’s we’re there to serve.

Carrie Sechel: [00:39:56] And, also, do you love yourself?

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:02] Yeah, yeah.

Carrie Sechel: [00:40:03] And that’s a biggie for any entrepreneur in being able to truly love yourself and believe that you’re worthy of being compensated for your services. I talk about love a lot with my clients because it’s something that’s so foreign in the corporate world, and it’s so important as an entrepreneur.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:31] Yes. You can’t be an entrepreneur. You can take all the great stuff that you’ve learned in the corporate world, but you got to have love. You’ve got to understand to feel. You really have to have a really strong emotional intelligence on yourself and on others to be successful.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:50] And so, a lot of that is missing. In a lot of corporate America, it’s driven by the bottom lines of my shareholders. It’s driven by the “Me, me” factor versus “How can we help someone?” And I think that’s why I gravitated so much towards NSA and from a chapter because it’s all about helping the other person. We may be in the same business, but I’ll give you all the tools and techniques I used to become successful, and I can help you become successful. It just keeps expounding from that from that aspect.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:23] And I share this with other organizations. I go, “Really? Aren’t you worried about competitions?” That never even comes into play. There’s a lot of room out there. This is great big world, but if we can help others seek their best, that is part of our mission.

Carrie Sechel: [00:41:40] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:42] So, you worked a lot of hours when you were at Deloitte.

Carrie Sechel: [00:41:48] Yes, I did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:50] Are you working more hours now than you did at Deloitte

Carrie Sechel: [00:41:55] Oh, wow. Well, I am really good at working a lot of hours, which is something that’s a challenge for me. So, I have to, and I’m so thrilled with what I’m doing that I could fall into working constantly if I didn’t have other things in my life that are really important to me and so important to me that I make sure that they are equally honored. My family, my health, my spirituality, or experiences that I desire.

Carrie Sechel: [00:42:34] But I I’m sure that I work a little bit less, but I have flexibility. And many times, when I’m doing work, it doesn’t seem like work because it’s my life’s work. It’s everything. It all sort of mashes together, and it’s great.

Carrie Sechel: [00:42:59] For example, I have a client right now who has a very, very demanding position. And we do our calls on the weekends. Doing a weekend call before would have seemed — And I did lots and lots of weekend calls, and they were just not — I mean it’s horrible. Doing a call with an amazing person who is building a business and helping her move that forward, it’s like fine. I just coordinate it with all my other personal things, and we pick a time every weekend that works for both of us, and it’s great. It’s just it doesn’t seem like — It’s different. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:50] It is. It’s just funny because people ask me, I go, “When I went full-time, I have not worked a day since.”.

Carrie Sechel: [00:43:56] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:57] Ask my wife, I’m working 24/7.

Carrie Sechel: [00:44:01] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:02] But that’s also part of entrepreneurship that a lot of people don’t realize. There is a dark side to it. And being obsessed and caught up, what’s the worst, you can lose friends because you’re not so much in touch with them anymore. It can wear on your health. And there’s a lot of dark sides to entrepreneurialism. So, anybody who gets into it really need to understand those. I didn’t quite understand them initially. Then, I did. And I worked very hard to when I have to turn it off. Yeah, I could shut it down.

Carrie Sechel: [00:44:37] Learning to set your own boundaries. And people hear about the four-hour work week, and they see a lot of the messages you see on the internet of, “Oh, you’re going to be doing work from the beach, and never going to work another day, and money is just going to fall out of your computer,” or something.

Carrie Sechel: [00:44:57] I mean, you can find a story and an example for everything, but when you’re driven by something that’s greater than just the paycheck, it’s a life’s work. And you may do work from the beach, and maybe you can have flexibility, so you can be at the beach and doing work, but you’re still doing work. It just feels so much different. Just, it feels right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:35] I find it’s the hardest thing to describe, but it’s such the greatest feeling. It’s so hard to describe. It’s so hard. It’s like you’re looking at a picture going, “Oh, yeah.” But if you were to see this, it would look a lot bigger. It’s how I feel when I try to describe that that you can’t, but you know when you have it.

Carrie Sechel: [00:45:54] Right. It’s wonderful.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:56] And you know how it fuels you, and you just recognize it, bottle it, and keep moving forward with it. So, honestly, I think I should pay you for allowing me to interview you because I got a little therapy today. I greatly appreciate the therapy. I got to reflect back and go, “Hmm, maybe.” But, no, I love this conversation. Actually, I could probably talk to you for hours on it, but I don’t want to mess up your long enough work there as it is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:24] Before we end, how can people, the people who may listen — By the way, if you’re listening to this, and you have that that feeling, pull over if you’re listening to this in your car. Pull up aside, stop the car, and then just step out, just scream it out loud and whatever. But how can folks find you?

Carrie Sechel: [00:46:43] Yeah, absolutely. So, there’s a few ways you can find me. One is I have a free on-demand training. You can do it any time that fits your schedule. It’s called Authentic Ambition: How to Create a Post-Corporate Life You Love Full of Abundance, Creativity, and Joy. And Peter is going to provide the link. You can go to that. It’s totally free. It’s on-demand whenever you want to take it. It’s 45 minutes. So, you can fit it into your day. That is a great first step. I go through my system in a bit more detail. And not only that, give you some very specific items to think about, so you can start exploring right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:32] I will have — I’m sorry, go ahead.

Carrie Sechel: [00:47:35] What’s that thing in you that is pushing you to pull over at the side of the road, like Peter said, get it out and say, “Okay, I’m remembering this moment because I’m being honest with myself right now. It’s time. It is time. And I can get over the fears. And they might be hard. And it might take some time, but I can do it because I know, I know I need to do this. It’s time to take action.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:08] And I will put that link in the show notes as well.

Carrie Sechel: [00:48:14] Yeah. And you can also get a hold of me. My email is super easy. It’s Carrie@CarrieSechel.com. So, you’re welcome to e-mail me. You can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also check out my website, which is CarrieSechel.com. And yeah, I’d love to hear from you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:37] And that’s Carrie with a C-A-R-R-I-E.

Carrie Sechel: [00:48:39] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:39] Yes. As you said though, I know a K-A-R-I. So, I want to make sure everybody gets it right, Carrie, the spelling there for you.

Carrie Sechel: [00:48:50] Absolutely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:50] And if you’re so inclined, one, go to the show notes, grab that link, download it, watch it. Actually, I think I’m going to too, but I’m also going to take it a step further. I know about three or four people I’m going to send it to.

Carrie Sechel: [00:49:03] That’s great. Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:04] And do contact her. I’m sure she’d be willing to just have a brief conversation to find out what your goals are, what your ambitions are, and reach out to her. And Carrie, thank you again for taking time. Hopefully, our paths will cross here soon. You’ll come down to Columbus for maybe the November or January NSA meeting because I’d love to catch up some more. Contact me anytime if I can help you with anything. And it’s been a pleasure to get to know you. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you. And I wish you all the best. I don’t think I have to wish that. I just know that’s going to happen just based off of who you are. And congratulations on what you have built.

Carrie Sechel: [00:49:49] Thank you. You, as well, Peter, thank you. This has been awesome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:54] Thanks a lot. I want to thank Carrie for sharing with us that people can create the business they feel bubbling inside of them. And remember to watch her free training link at bit.ly/authenticambition, all one word. That’s bit.ly/authenticambition.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:13] In Episode 17, my guest is Stephanie Feger, who’s the author of the recently published book Color Today Pretty. She has a wonderful message to share as we begin to move into 2019 and into busy season, or as I prefer to call it, opportunity season.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:34] Thank you for listening, and begin the process of changing your mindset, and getting out of your comfort zone, and developing new skills to become more future-ready. Your call to action, again, is to take one hour a week to think about what you need to do to become future-ready, what new skills do you need to begin to learn, so you can begin to transform your career and be future-ready.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:58] Remember being part of future-ready is being an improviser, and being an improviser is someone who’s willing to take risks in order to grow. Thank you very much for listening, and please share this episode with a friend.

 

Resources:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Kenny: [00:39:30] It’s so hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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