S5E15: The Four L’s In Changing One’s Mindset with Robert Bendetti, Jr.

“There is a real direct application to being human with what you learn in theatre and Improv.” Robert Bendetti

Today, our guest is Robert Bendetti, Jr., CPA, who is the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Life Cycle Engineering. As CFO, he is responsible for all financial operations of the company and accounting contracts, purchasing, Process automation, and IT. Before Life Cycle Engineering, Robert served as VP of Finance at Galey and Lord and CFO of the Coastal Logistics Group and a financial management position within Lockheed Martin, Hormel Foods, and Hilton Hotels.

Robert is also president and founder of the Global CFO Council. The purpose of the global CFO counselors is to provide an educational and networking forum for senior financial executives to share the best practices, discuss current financial issues, and learn about current topics related to their job performance. There are 1500 members in 32 countries. Robert has a great sense of humor and embraces Improv due to his background in the performing arts.

There are four L’s that goes into changing your mindset. These include Learning, Leading, Listening, and Leaving. The first L is learning, which comes from podcasts, books, mentors, and networking, and it could be professional certifications, which is a great way to learn in whatever field you’re in.

The second L is leading, which includes serving and empowering others and volunteering wherever you’re. In the current environment, community, civic, and industry associations desperately need folks like us to volunteer at any phase of your career. There’s no greater way to learn and change your mindset than by embedding yourself with others and serving and empowering them.

The third L is listening, and a great way to grow is by being a mentor and having mentees and listening to them. Another way to do this is to listen to your customer, and the only way you can listen to the customer is if you’re out with the customer. It is also essential to listen to your team members and learn from them.

I am primarily an internal consultant to the CEO and the business operations leaders. But also, my customers include the end-user of the service and products and solutions that we sell, and then I have all the team members at the company. My job is to keep everybody happy, engaged, excited, and equipped to do their job.

The last L is Leaving, and sometimes to change your mindset, you got to change some things about your environment. You need to take out some things and leave like negative influences, some bad friends or some habits.

To affirm those that are listening and doubt themselves, you can learn enough so that you can have an enjoyable conversation and interact with people, or have the confidence to say something in a meeting or to your boss in the moment, instead of on the way home and have all the regret not doing it. Those are the kind of skills that you can learn by doing maybe a little reading or listening to a podcast or taking an Improv class.

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S5E12: IT Support is Critical For Your Business, especially for Solopreneurs with Chris Barber

“When it comes to cybersecurity, the effort level on the part of the bad guy is not any different, regardless of whether it is a large entity or small entity.” Chris Barber

My guest today is Chris Barber. Chris is the Chief Nerd at Cheaper Than A Geek IT service provider. They have demonstrated a history of providing award-winning support in the IT service industry. Cheaper Than A Geek helps small businesses save money with a smart managed IT service. As an industry leader Cheaper Than A Geek has pioneered providing cutting-edge information technology services for even the smallest companies. They have perfected the art of even one-person companies getting enterprise-grade IP support, like next-generation computer and network security, encrypted disaster recovery, and ensuring maximum uptime and efficiency. They are incredibly proud of the many customer service awards earned due to their commitment to client successes.

When it comes to cybersecurity, the effort level on the part of the bad guy is not any different, regardless of whether it is a large or small entity. There is a presumption among these bad guys that the smaller entities are less fortified, and therefore these small businesses are constantly under attack. Small companies need IT security, just as good and just as severely as big firms, but they don’t have the budget.

I have been advocating for over a decade before the pandemic that we should see more work-from-home behavior since the technology is undoubtedly present. Some of this work-from-home shift will be permanent and probably for the betterment of everybody. The security attacks are real, so we’re throwing most of our research and development behind it to stay ahead of these bad guys and keep everybody safe.

In IT and business, there are many ways to secure your environment, and a lot of it comes down to the IT provider’s philosophy. We’ve always subscribed to a school of thought that you should take security down to the computer level’s endpoint level. This turned out to be a good strategy because when everybody started working from home when the pandemic hit, they had their security in place.

Owning a business is not for the faint of heart, and I’ve always been very cautious and conservative. However, I think it was a little too careful, and if I could find a younger Chris, I’d tell him to take chances.

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Accounting Education: Why Power Skills Matter

If you’re looking to find an accounting job, you may have noticed that employers often list strong communication skills and sales/client management experience as requirements for their open positions. You might be wondering why these two items are needed if accounting isn’t typically seen as a people-focused industry. The truth is that understanding how to sell yourself– both in an educational setting and in the workplace – can help you succeed professionally in the accounting profession. Technical accounting skills are the foundation of accounting education. However, in today’s accounting profession, technical skills are not enough to grow your career by themselves. Your career growth comes from developing your power skills.  

What are power skills?

What exactly are power skills? The first time I heard the term power skills, I presented an improv workshop to the incoming Master of Science in Accounting students at Oklahoma State University. However, before I began my session, the chair of the accounting department, Dr. Audrey Gramling, addressed the importance of developing their power skills, aka soft skills. You see, this is the mission of Oklahoma State University School of Accounting, which is “to prepare people to make a difference in the world by teaching essential interpersonal skills alongside a high-quality accounting education backed by impactful research and outreach.” And to steal a phrase from Guy Fieri, they are “spot on.”

Power skills are helpful in just about any career and essential to communicating accounting complexities to those non-accounting business leaders. They include aspects like curiosity, self-awareness, empathy, and more. According to The Josh Bersin Company blog titled “Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills: They’re PowerSkills, states that, “the skills of the future are not technical; they’re behavioral. Yes, engineers, designers, and technical people need to know how to build and fix things.” The article goes on to state that IBM’s latest research lists the top 5 Power Skills that are most critical to the workforce today are:

1. “Willing to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change.”

2. “Time management skills and ability to prioritize.”

3. “Ability to work effectively in team environments.”

4. “Ability to communicate effectively in a business context.”

5. “Analytical skills and business acumen.”

Considering how important they are for success both in your professional life and personal development, it makes sense to begin the process of learning these power skills in the university classroom. Being a former university professor, I understand the politics that go into a well-rounded education, and making room for new courses is a challenge. However, if higher education would adopt the first power skill and “be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change,” a solution can be obtained.  

One potential solution is that if your state requires the 150-hour rule to be licensed in your state, then add these power skills courses into the Master of Accounting programs. However, the extra 30 hours, in many states like Ohio, do not have a mandate on the type of courses that qualify.   

Ability to communicate effectively in a business context

A few years ago, my doctor ordered some tests because I was not feeling well. A few days later, my doctor called me, not her assistant, and said she got the results back from the tests. Then she went into this tsunami of medical lingo and gibberish, and I had no clue what she was trying to tell me. So, I said to her, “Doctor, stop! I have no idea what you are trying to tell me. Can you tell me in plain English?” There was a pause, and then she said, “you may I cancer.” Wow. Thankfully, I did not have cancer. 

The experience with my doctor is the same experience accountants have when communicating with non-accountants. Accountants speak the foreign language of business – accounting, which is no different from speaking Spanish, Greek, or Chinese to someone who is not fluent in that language. We need to be cognizant of this fact and become better translators of technical accounting knowledge. We need to start taking the numb out of numbers

Translating technical accounting into plain English is not an easy task, and it takes time. Where should we start? I know, in a college classroom! The ability to develop this skill in the safety of the classroom is ideal. The classroom allows us to experiment, fail, hone, and gain confidence. Oh, you are stuck on the word fail. Then think of it as an acronym, First Attempt In Learning. Failure is part of the process when we view learning any new skill. For example, we don’t pick up a golf club for the first time and make solid contact or contact at all. Same with learning new skills. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

Change is necessary to be relevant. 

Higher education needs to change how accounting is taught and align it with the critical power skills required to succeed in today’s business climate. Technical knowledge is essential, and a lot of the technical – nuts, bolts, calculations – is done with artificial intelligence. We need to ensure that the calculations are accurate. However, our role as an accountant is evolving into a position of a business advisor and out of being thought of as a number cruncher. Let’s find a way to start this transformation of the accounting profession in the classroom instead of making it the employer’s responsibility. Let’s begin to embrace the term ‘Financial Leadership’ – and teach and prepare with excellence in technical accounting skills and power skills – a win/win for everyone!

If this article resonated with you and you would like to learn more, contact me at petr@petermargaritis.com

S5E11: An Accounting Firm that YOU Should Hire with Courtney DeRonde

“It’s really about understanding what is your way that you uniquely contribute to your business, and most of the time, it’s not going to be where you’re spending most of your time.” Courtney DeRonde

Today, my guest is Courtney DeRonde, a CPA and managing partner of TDT CPAs and Advisors— the boutique advisory and accounting firm for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The company helps overwhelmed, successful leaders, understand and maximize financial information to achieve better results and move the organizations to the next level.

As the owner of a firm and managing partner, she also has first-hand experience running and scaling a small business. Courtney understands the need to help and teach clients the importance of being more financially literate. When TDT takes on clients, they learn more about their business to become a better partner, not just for a transaction.

The first question that successful business owners ask is, “how does my business make money?” As businesses grow and scale, you get the increased activity that you’re not directly involved with anymore. Therefore, the mindset shift is looking at good information that tells you where your business is making money.

The second question is about cash flow, and it is a shift from how much I have to what is flowing in and out of business over the next few weeks. Continuously looking at that helps eliminate surprises because most financial surprises are not usually positive. This mind shift allows you to be prepared and take action if things don’t look good shortly and not just look at where you stand today.

Our approach with our clients is very much from an educational standpoint, and the goal is to empower them to understand and use the information that we give them to make decisions.

The third question is about determining the highest leverage of time and talents. It’s really about understanding how you uniquely contribute to your business is. Most of the time, it’s not going to be where you’re spending most of your time.

Your product needs to be profitable, but it doesn’t have to be the best. It would be best to focus on the mix of something that you can do profitably and something that people need. Once you get something out there, you can improve it and make it better.

Often, people don’t have accurate information in their heads about costs and overheads just because no one’s helping them understand how all of this information flows. Pricing is a big part of how we help clients with recognizing and getting information around margins.

There’re certain times when it might make sense to lower your margin on a particular bid because of the future opportunities that can come from it. The main thing is knowing your actual margin to avoid paying to do the job instead of getting paid to do it.

If the price is a very sensitive issue, you need to give clients a couple of options. This gives them the opportunity and the agency to decide what they want.

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S5E9: The Big Power of Tiny Connections with Jen Nash

“I truly believe that every person you meet has the power to change your life, and you have the power to change theirs.” Jen Nash

My guest today is Jen Nash, The Connector in Chief. Jen helps people add more meaning to their lives through connection. She’s a master facilitator, passionate about masterful storytelling, corporate training, and an author and sought-after executive coach. With over 20 years working as an entrepreneur building a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio, and offering consulting services to Fortune 100 former tech, health, and finance giants, Jen Nash now regularly inspires and supports leaders to deepen their connections of all the good things in life.

 Born in Canada and raised around the world, Jen is an IFC certified executive coach and a graduate of the coach of the Life program. She studied communication design at Parsons and the New York School of Social Research in New York City. When not traveling the globe learning new ways to say thank you in finding bright souls with whom to foster lifelong friendships, Jen Nash can be seen biking around New York City, Los Angeles, or striding around El Centro, Mexico.

People have this innate fear of talking and connecting with strangers, and it is human. In chapter two of my book, I ask the reader to scan the top eight excuses that come up to avoid connecting with people. I then ask them to pick the one that resonates with them, and I jump into it.

Networking to some degree sounds hard because there’s a net underneath; you’re working. I genuinely believe that if you want to stay employed for the rest of your life, you want a net around your work. But connecting is so much more because it is about infusing that little moment with intangible fun.

We really get hard on ourselves, and it’s like from the outside to the inside, humans second guess themselves. One of the things that I suggest in the book is if you’re feeling awkward, be honest, lean into that vulnerability and share that because all of a sudden, it just makes you human.

I think that in life, we have this misconception that there is such a thing as good and evil. Sometimes we all need to accept that we don’t always get the final say. Unfortunately, I believe that humans only grow when they’re in pain. One of the exciting things about the big power of tiny connections is these little sparks with other people that are not always pleasant.

When you look into the answer to what more you want out of life, you can understand where you might want to consider leaning in and connecting. I truly believe that every person you meet has the power to change your life, and you have the ability to change theirs.

There are a lot of people who are held back by fear. Only a courageous person can realize that they will never get more if they keep living precisely how they have been living. It is hard but sometimes, when you hold a spotlight at something scary, all of a sudden; it’s not so frightening because the spotlight is illuminating all the dark crevices, and you’re seeing it.

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