The Change Your Mindset Podcast

Welcome to the Change Your Mindset podcast, hosted by Peter Margaritis, CPA, AKA The Accidental Accountant. Peter is a speaker, expert in applied improvisation and author of the book 'Improv Is No Joke, Using Improvization to Create Positive Results in Leadership and Life'. Peter's new book, Taking the Numb Our of Numbers: Explaining & Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity will be published in June 2018.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

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

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

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:46] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers; all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:39] So, she gave you that look and made you go research the difference between the two of them?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:06:44] Yes, exactly. So, now, I know.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:47] So, now, you are. And you’ve got this — We all have a love for food. What’s your tagline? I remember you shared something about it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:06:55] Well, my original personal tagline is “I’m on Earth spreading the good news of fruits and vegetables.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:01] Okay.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:03] But for Well-Balanced Nutrition, what we really do is help you worry less, love what you eat, and live your best life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:12] And that’s wellbalancednutrition-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:14] Dot com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:15] … dot com, all one word. We just got to make sure we get to plug in. And, actually, go to the website. It is pretty cool. They’ve got one of the dropdown boxes for meal plans, and they’ve got a pretty cool planner that’s online, digital that you can — I was watching the video that you can put your meal in, and how many servings, and it keeps track of all the nutritional data for that meal, as well as for the day, for the week, which is really cool. I’m going to have to try that out when we’re done with this interview and try it for the 28-day refresh and see how that works. I thought that was pretty cool product that you’ve got there.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:07:55] Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. We can also get people signed up for a three-day free trial if you’re not ready to commit to the whole 28 days.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:04] Okay. I think I’m ready to commit for 28 days. I’m not afraid of it too much.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:11] You’re ready .

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:12] So, you’ve got this love of food. And one of the stories that your mother shared, Lucy’s mom is Cathy Paessun, who’s the Executive Director for the Central Ohio Diabetes Association. And she shared a story that you just relocated to Raleigh, Durham, and didn’t have a job aligned, and want to kill your mom now, aren’t you?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:37] Yeah, no, it’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:38] So, you go ahead and finish the story.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:08:41] When you’re 22, 23, and the world is your oyster, I had just gotten my fancy letters “RD” after my name, and decided, “Of course, I can now get a job anywhere.” So, I uprooted my life and moved to Durham, North Carolina because I have a sister here. And I thought, “Who’s not going to want to hire me? I’m Lucy RD.” Lots of people didn’t want to hire me. I didn’t really know anything or anyone because we know networking is pretty important, but I’m not the kind of person that’s just going to let that hold me down. So, I wrote to a bunch of local gyms and said, “Hey, do you need a dietitian on staff?” And one wrote back and said, “No, but you’re welcome to come hang your shingle here. And you have full access to all of our members for your nutrition services.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:37] Nice.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:09:38] It sounds pretty spectacular. What we learned is when people are paying $50 a month for a gym membership, you’re not excited to pay another $50 -$100 to see the nutritionist. That’s where insurance comes in handy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:56] Yes. And you’ve also been known to, early on, and probably still do to some degree, walk through at a grocery store, stop a stranger, and say, “Can I help you with your shopping?”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:10:11] That’s not untrue. If you’re looking baffled or you have questions, I am there to help. A lot of times, people avoid the produce section because they don’t know, “I don’t even know what a scallion looks like,” and that scares them. And so, they just stay away from it. And I make it my mission to, if somebody’s got that question look on their face, I’m totally down to help them to find what they’re looking for.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:39] Well, I needed some help because I thought a shallot and a scallion were pretty much the same thing, but you just use the green part versus the white part. I thought that was the difference between the two. And I’ve learned that’s completely wrong.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:10:52] Right, right. Shallot is the fastest way to make any meals seem restaurant fancy. A little butter and, finally, diced shallot with your eggs in the morning, you’re officially feeling all kinds of fancy.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:08] So, you said a little butter. My inner Bill Clinton is coming out now. I’m going to ask you something. What’s your definition of a little butter?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:16] That’s a good question. Well, so, here’s the good thing to know. Fat is our friend. So, all that stuff that you grew up with in the ’80s and ’90s, hearing how fat is evil, thank God, we have thrown that away. And that’s our friend. So, when I talk about a little butter, I want you to hold out your thumb, and bend it the knuckle, and that top part, that’s how much butter I want you to use at each meal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:46] Not that much. I got my index finger sticking out. And just a little bit of butter. Excuse me. This is a French version of just a little bit of butter.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:56] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:56] The whole index finger. You got it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:11:59] Sometimes, a little bit more. But a lot of times, I find people are terrified when I start asking them to add peanut butter, or regular butter, olive oil, mayonnaise. Yeah. But I’ll tell you what, if you want a way to cut your cravings, add fat. It is your friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:21] Now, add fat, but there’s got to be that a little bit of fat. And from a gram’s perspective, how many grams of fat should we add to our diet?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:12:34] I should have known the CPA was going to want to talk about numbers. At Well-Balanced Nutrition, we don’t actually get caught up in the counting of calories and grams of fat because, well, first and foremost, as humans, no matter how precise you think you’re being, you’re really stuck at it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:57] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:59] So, unless you are that human that is literally weighing in and portioning out every morsel that goes into your mouth, in which case, we’ve got other things to talk about. But really, it’s about tuning back into your body and learning to listen. And when I have mayonnaise and sardines that both have fat in my bodies, it’s like, “Oh, that was too much,” or if I have one of those salads, and I’m like, “I’m just going to use a little dressing, and have some lean chicken,” then, two hours later, my body says, “Wow. I’m starving. You probably should have had a little bit more to eat at lunchtime.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:40] Two years ago, I had my gallbladder removed, and I had sludged, and I couldn’t eat. I was on extreme low-fat diet just to get to the point of the surgery. And then, they said, “Give it six more weeks. Don’t add any major fat back in.” And they said, “Some people, it’ll take even longer.” And for me it was about a year and a half until I could eat really any amount of fat back into my diet. So, I think, all the time that I didn’t have fat in the last six months, I’ve compensated for what I’ve missed, plus. And I’ve got to go back to not adding as much fat back into my diet because I can tell a big difference when I put too much fat that it does affect your drive. It does affect your motivation. You feel a lot more sluggish.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:14:34] Interesting. And I think what’s really important to note is just how much it varies person to person. And so, yeah, definitely listening to how it makes you feel. And it’s like your body’s saying, “Hey, if I have too much of this stuff, I feel terrible.” And some people get that. They’re eating what they think are really healthy like, “I’m eating broccoli, and roasted chickpeas.”.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:15:00] This literally happened to this week. And when we think that we’re doing something really great, but then she’s coming in and saying, “Look at my perfect healthy diet. I’m eating salads and, almond butter, and broccoli, and whatever else.” And yet, not to get too graphic, “but my bowels are telling me that every time I go, it’s urgent and quite formed.” And that’s her body saying, “Hey, guess what, even though you think this is healthy food, it’s not actually healthy for you.”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:15:31] That’s the biggest misconception or misnomer when it comes to nutrition and wellness, in my opinion. All of us should be following the same rules. And frankly, that’s not it. We can’t follow the same rules. If that was the case, then all of us would be healthy because there would be just one perfect diet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:52] Interesting. So, we’re all different, and we need to listen to our bodies to tell us what’s good and what’s not. Add a little fat to your diet because that makes me think of even from a leadership perspective, the old leadership style is, “I’m going to manage everybody the same way.” Back the baby boomers. Today, it’s well, Pete is a lot different than Lucy, and what motivates Ken over there is not to same that motivates Jennifer over here. So, we’ve got to modify that style. And even with that, we have to modify the way we consume.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:32] But I would say, I remember my days when I was a Pricewaterhouse during tax season, and I’m up to my eyeballs, and in files and stuff, and the pizza was — It felt like I was there every night, but there will be some type of fast food dinner every evening that they would bring in first to eat and very little salad or anything. Now, I know that that has changed. But to some degree, it still exists when we’re talking about those, the busy, whether it’s a finance professional or any type of business professional, when they’re in that stressed time of year, diet goes, or nutrition just goes right out the window.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:17:13] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:14] What advice would you give someone who’s going through that to don’t throw it out the window, look at it from a different perspective, or change their mindset to think about things differently?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:17:28] Well, I think you just hit the nail on the head right there with changing your mindset. And what I’ve come to figure out a lot of what happens is when people are off in the real world, then you’re focused on the things that are important or urgent to you. So, for a lot of people listening, you’re really concerned with making sure that you get on top of all the paperwork, and juggling all of these clients’ requests, and spreadsheets, and forms, and all of that. And so, not surprisingly, figuring out what you’re going to eat has gone all the way to the backburner if it hasn’t completely fall off the stove. And, instead, food just becomes this thing that you have to do instead of something that you’re maybe thinking about and making mindful decision of.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:18:18] So, step one is raising your awareness around what choices are you making. And then, how does that make you feel? It’s like if you’re eating two or three pieces of pizza at night because you haven’t eaten all day, and you’re just starving, does that help you sleep well through the night and feel well rested when you wake up the morning to have a fresh start for a new day, or does that make you feel sluggish and kind of crappy? And recognizing, “Okay. So, now that I’ve raised my awareness, step one, what’s one small change?”

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:18:55] Often, when we talk about nutrition and wellness, people are like, “I’m doing everything wrong. I have to change it all.” And that’s the fastest way to fail. So, instead, we talk to people, “Once you raise your awareness, then step two is deciding on just one thing that you can do better.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:13] So, you’re saying baby steps.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:19:15] I’m saying baby steps.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:17] So, it’s not a New Year’s resolution because I’m may eat and drink everything I can for April — excuse me, December 31st. And beginning January 1, I’m cutting it all out. And that’s why we fail in our New Year’s resolutions. So, it’s one thing to change that you feel like you’re doing wrong, figure out how to make it right, and see that through. Now, I’ve been told that it takes like 21 days to start a habit because that’s what that on the internet and interwebs, But I’ve learned that it’s wrong because researchers actually show it’s 66 days to start a habit. It’s a lifetime to maintain that habit. So, do that for 66 plus days, and then pick something else. And then, by the end of the year, you have made some changes.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:20:12] Exactly. And I think it’s good to note that 66 days is that average. I will tell you when I started adding a 10:00 p.m. snack into my life, my brain only took about three days to start that habit because that was very rewarding. And so, habits can happen really quickly. It doesn’t have to take 66 days. Sometimes, habits are a little harder. Like for some people, exercise is something that even if you do it solid for two months, it’s still like, “I’m dragging myself out the door to go to the gym,” because maybe it’s not that magic 66 days. So, I just like to say that, so that people don’t get completely attached to like, “Well, I have to do it this way,” because it might not take that long. It might take less time, or it might take more time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:06] More time. And then, when you describe that, your 10:00 p.m. snack, you said a magic word. It was a reward.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:21:11] Reward, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:14] So, it was a reward, which sent the dopamine in your brain going, “Yeah, I got a reward,” which now creates that habit a lot quicker versus, “Oh my god. I’m going to the gym again,” or “I got to climb on that elliptical again. I don’t want to get on the elliptical today. I just want to-” So, yeah, it’s also a different mindset. If you look at the exercise as a reward, then maybe it all takes 66 days. But yeah, it’s also the way we look at things and making that change can help us accelerate that habit versus the dread, the anxiety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:50] But in your business, I know you work with individuals, and you work with companies, and you devise a nutrition plan. Do you also go down the path, with the nutrition, how much exercise you should include into your daily life? And what’s your definition of exercise?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:22:11] Well, I try to stay in my wheelhouse. So, while we do talk about exercise, it’s more a matter of finding that joyful movement because for a lot of people, exercise is a four-letter word, and they’re like, “Ew, gross, I hate exercise,” or “I hate the gym,” or whatever story you’re telling yourself of why you’re not doing this thing. And then, also, the shoulds of like, “I know I should blah, blah, blah,” and really helping my clients recognize what’s the speed bumps that’s stopping them from doing more physical activity. And together, we work through those speed bumps, so it’s less like, “You need to be on the elliptical three days a week for 30 minutes.” I have only used elliptical twice in the last month because it’s just it’s over done for me. So, now, thank goodness, down here, maybe I should talk about the weather, but North Carolina, it’s been moderately okay to just go outside and take a walk. So, that’s what I do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:16] I love the term joyful movement. What is a joyful movement? And there’s movement, take the stairs, do some things, but those speed bumps, what are some of those speed bumps that get in the way? Like I used to love to run, and I was training for a marathon. My speed bump now are my knees. They can’t take the pounding. So, I’ve had to quit running. And, now, I bike. Elliptical, things like that, they’re easier on the knees. So, the knees are a speed bump.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:23:47] Yes, right. And that’s where it comes back to mindset. So, when we have insert problem, my body says it doesn’t really want to run anymore, we can go on that route of, “Well, I guess, I am just going to have to go sit down for the rest of my life,” or more along what Peter’s done with, “Now, I am not running, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a bump on a log. So, I’m thinking in solution mindset. Now, I can bike more. I can swim. I can do other forms of activity that are going to be easier or just feel better in my body,” which I don’t know if I answered your question, but-

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] No, it does. It does. I mean, there are a lot of different speed bumps out there that keep us from exercising. And it’s like there’s got to be another way to do that, whether it’s walking, whether it’s something. My wife just had total knee replacement, and the doc said, “Don’t even think about running. Don’t even think about running, but you need to do something. You need to-” And she’s going to get back up on the elliptical. She’s going to start biking, something to take it, so there’s not that pounding on the knees.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:03] I think, knees and backs are probably the two big speed bumps out there that keep people from exercising. And to recognize that and get help for those speed bumps but try to find a way to have some type of activity in your life because the diet and the exercise, we hear it all the time, but we need to kind of live for that, which is going to take me down a path that I had mentioned I’m a Type 1 diabetic. We get type 1 who are insulin-dependent, and type 2 who are insulin-resistant. Do you help type 1 and type 2 diabetics with their nutrition plan in order to be able to manage their diabetes better?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:25:46] Yes and yes. I’m hesitant because Well-Balanced Nutrition, we don’t specialize in diabetes counseling. We specialize in helping busy professionals and motivated individuals that don’t want to be on a diet roller coaster anymore get off the diet rollercoaster and live well-balanced. So, there are diabetics that I see that have wanted and needed to change that relationship with food and really change their behavior patterns, which is what we specialize in, because we don’t give prescribed diets. And that’s not to say that it’s not a good tool to have. That’s why we have that tool on our website because some people do just need a kickstart, and they need the structure, “Tell me what to eat.” And I get that, but meal plans and diets are a dime a dozen. You can go online and type in, “Give me diabetic meal plan,” and you’ll come up with hundreds.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:55] Right.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:26:56] Free. You don’t need to see a dietitian for that because it’s out there, it’s online. What typically people need a dietitian or a coach for is actually making the behavior changes become a lifestyle change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:11] So, the aspect of you and your business partner are probably, first and foremost, coaches to help people change that mindset, to live that well-balanced nutrition life. And hearing you, there’s really no foods that are off limits per se, which was when my son was diagnosed as a type 1, in the back of my mind, when the nutritionist came in at Children’s Hospital, was talking to us, you’re going to get the riot act now. They’re going to tee up. And she said, “You can have anything that you want in moderation. The only thing I suggest that you do not have, and you get rid of are sugary soft drinks, period.” Outside of that — And my jaw hit the ground. And you’re telling, at that time, a 15-year-old boy that he can eat everything, but he doesn’t hear moderation. “Well, they said I can eat almost anything I wanted,” but just trying to also help with that relationship of what it’s doing to his body and his blood sugar was still to this day is a challenge.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:28:25] Right, yeah. So, when it comes to diabetics versus the rest of the population, when it comes to what we do, when it comes to diabetes versus the rest of the population, I don’t know if this advice is exactly the same, but what I really want people to hear is that old adage of everything’s good in moderation is total crap.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:00] I wasn’t ready for that. Okay. I heard you loud and clear. Now, if you’re out there and you just heard this, hopefully, you weren’t driving, and you just went off the road. So-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:29:16] So-

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:16] Go on, please.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:29:17] I want everybody out there listening to think about the last time you opened your favorite crinkly package whether that was Oreos, chips, pork rinds, I’m throwing it all out there. Some people, it’s even something healthy like that dry roasted almonds. But last time you opened that crinkly package of your favorite food and the serving says, like, for instance, Oreos, it’s two cookies. I want everybody to take a moment and think about last time you ate two Oreo cookies. Uh-huh. I’m waiting. I haven’t heard anybody.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:01] Yeah, or 13 chips is one serving.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:05] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:06] Yeah, right.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:07] 13. And as a dietitian, I literally count out 13 chips. But I know, again, I’m weird, and the vast majority of people are not quite so diligent.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:22] So, if moderation, how do you define it, or how do you put it? Now, if they moderation because nobody’s really good at moderating themselves or monitoring themselves, so what’s the alternative solution there?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:30:36] Recognizing what your trigger foods are. And in the book, Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, she talks about this idea of moderation and abstinence. And I think of it as very much a spectrum because I’m a gray zone kind of person. And some things — I mean, for me, dry roasted almonds are very easy to eat in moderation. I can have seven and be totally fine. You put those covered with dark chocolate, forget about it. It’s like, “Oh, I just want to keep eating, and eating, and eating.” So, I know that it’s a bit of a trigger.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:31:17] Luckily, I figured out if I hide them from myself in the cupboard, and I pull out just that little dish on Friday night, and count out my seven chocolate almonds, then I can put them back in hiding, and that’s fine. Like I don’t get triggered to go back for more. That’s not true for everybody. Some people are like, “Yeah. If there’s a container of ice cream in my freezer, that’s going to be gone by the end of the night.” Know thyself is step one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:50] Yeah. Ice cream, that’s one of my Achilles heel. And I don’t know if they still have it, but they used to make these things called Dibs, little vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate. You just pop them.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:32:05] Oh yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:05] Either I tried the whole moderation. You only have this many. And then, next thing you know, the whole thing is gone in one evening. I just don’t buy. For me, I can’t buy them anymore. I don’t even go down the ice cream aisle. I haven’t had ice cream in forever because that’s one of my addicting foods. And the only way that I know that if I want to stop it, I just can’t even have it in the house, period, versus there’s a few things in the house. Like I just have — I’ll count them out, and I’ll hide them, but I know the hiding spot. An hour or so later, I’m back in there getting it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:48] So, I know what my triggers are for something that I don’t want, shouldn’t have. I haven’t had chicken wings in almost two and a half years. I know in one of your blogs, you were talking about chicken wings and stuff. Oh, having that. But I had to go back to the whole thing with the gallbladder and the high fat. And that’s still one thing because I used to eat chicken wings like crazy. I have completely cut them out. I haven’t had one, not even grilled, just — yeah, because it would trigger that dopamine in my mind and my brain, and I’d be like, “Yeah, exactly.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:26] So, you work with individuals, you work with corporations, and you’re also also out there, to some degree, on the speaking circuit because you are a professional speaker.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:33:39] That’s right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:40] And what type of conferences, what type of venues do you seek to come in and present your information?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:33:49] Well, I think, my most favorite right now is I do small group sessions for some of our corporate relationships here in Durham. And I love that because, then, it’s this opportunity for the same group of people to get together, and be vulnerable, and open with each other talking through all the things that we’ve been talking about right here where people have these ideas about nutrition and think others should be so easy, but it’s not. So, getting people together and having that group experience, which is also the other thing that we’re doing, which is meal prep workshops, or, as I’m calling them, well-balanced meal prep parties.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:30] Well-balanced meal prep parties.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:34:34] Yes because people think — I mean, meal prep and party don’t typically go together in somebody’s mind. We have five or six of your dear friends or favorite co-workers, plus a bottle of wine, and you got yourself a party, while you’re also preparing meals, so that you don’t have to do it during the workweek.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:58] Well, my wife’s very interested because you include wine, but yeah. So, I think a meal prep and party, that’s like fusion. It’s like a meal prep party fusion kind of thing where you get two separate things. So, you’re planning out your meals, you’re cooking your meals for the week, you got friends over, you’re having a good time.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:35:19] Yeah. We don’t actually do the cooking. You’re doing that prep part. So, it’s like having your own sous chef. You do the chopping. One of our favorite things at one of our dietitian fast food meals that we talk to people about is getting cheap pan dishes together where you just take whatever vegetables, we’ll say like our favorite right now is butternut squash, onion, Brussel sprouts. And then, you combine this yummy maple Dejan sauce together, pour it over the Brussels sprouts, and then you throw in maybe some turkey sausage or some chicken tenders. Throw that all in the oven at 400 for about 25 minutes, and, bam, you got dinner on one beautiful plate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:04] Wow. Now, the butternut squash and the Brussels sprouts don’t excite me. So, I assume I could substitute something for that. Do you have that recipe on your blog?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:36:18] Well, not yet, but we do have our other recipe, which you saw, which is the citrus salad. So, that’s really great, especially as we’re getting closer to springtime. So, citrus is really in season right now. But the salad is that like, “Oh, spring is coming.” And it’s nice because, again, this is something you build at the beginning of the week. And then, you can put that in a mason jar, airtight, throw it in the fridge, and that sucker is still going to be good three days later.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] Got it.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:36:52] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:52] Yeah, yes. This is exciting. This is all good stuff. I love what you’re doing. And you did tell me when we started that you’re primarily keeping your business in the Raleigh, Durham area and the North Carolina area. But I would assume if somebody has questions from, let’s say, I don’t know, State of Ohio or I do know that a large part of my audience is located out in California.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:37:21] Got it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:21] So, if they went to your website, wellbalancednutrition.com, and say, “You know what, I’d like to talk to Lucy about this,” you would take that phone call, wouldn’t you?

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:37:32] Definitely. Yes, definitely. We have capabilities to do virtual calls. And in California, that’s actually covered by insurance, which is pretty rad. So, we are fully capable and ready to help anybody across the country. It just happens to be that we live in Durham, North Carolina.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:54] And so, if you could do me a favor, and provide your nutrition plan, but just the opposite of it to the Duke Basketball in North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball Team, make them gain a little weight, become a little bit more sluggish now that we are into March, yeah, that would sue this Kentucky Wildcats fan a whole lot.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:38:16] I’ll see what I can do. I think I got a couple of friends on the inside.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:23] That’s cool. Well, I applaud you for what you’re doing. You’ve got a lot of passion you. And your mom shared with me that you are a very driven, very passionate as it comes to food, and you tell that great advice. I’m going to put your website in the show notes. How can people find you? How do people reach you? What’s your email address if you don’t mind giving that up.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:38:47] That’s fine, yeah. It’s lucy@wellbalancednutrition.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:55] Great. And we’ll put that out there as well, and if you need some advice. And there’s a great thing about technology. So, you can do virtual call. So, you can still stay in Raleigh, but your business can grow outside the borders, and you can help people with the meal plan and stuff. And I hope that everybody who’s listening to this will go out and visit her website. Tour around it a bit. You’ll learn a lot. It’s really interesting. They get great videos. And make sure you click the meal plans section and look at the video on — What is it called? It just slipped-

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:39:28] The Living Plates or the Refresh Challenge.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:32] Yes, the Living Plates and Refresh Challenge. It would be worth a few moments of your time. And we all can do a better job in our nutrition become a little bit more healthier because when we are, we’re much more driven, happy, and motivated.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:39:49] Exactly. And yeah, we are living better and helping those that we want to help better when we help ourselves first.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:57] Exactly. So, Lucy, thank you so very much for your time. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. Hopefully, some time, I do get out to the Raleigh, Durham area that our paths will cross. Maybe we can go out to dinner, you, and your business partner, and I. And maybe now, I’ll start to see what I eat, and know you shouldn’t be eating that. I’ll tell you the result.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:40:15] Start listing down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:15] I’ll tell you the result. But it’s been a pleasure. I can’t wait until our paths cross and meet face to face.

Lucy Hayhurst: [00:40:25] Wonderful. Same. Likewise.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:28] Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:34] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what are your next steps in becoming more balanced in your nutrition? Remember what Lucy said, pick one thing, and work on it to change the bad habit, and to change your mindset. Baby steps, that is the answer.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:53] If you’d like to contact Lucy, her email address is lucy@wellbalancednutrition.com. Thank you for listening. And if you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe and show this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www,c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the outstanding podcasts that they have in their network. Have a great day.

Announcer: [00:41:28] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E23 – Jennifer Elder | What, So What, Now What: How Accountants of the (Near) Future Will Add Value

Jennifer Elder works with financial leaders to become more strategic, stay ahead of the competition, and be more successful. As a consultant and keynote speaker, Jennifer is known for being energetic and enthusiastic, and she has the natural talent for taking complicated topics and making them simple, practical, and immediately implementable.

 

CPA Practice Advisor named Jennifer one of the Top 25 Women in Accounting in 2018. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants named her a Woman to Watch in 2015. She has been awarded Outstanding Educator by the American Institute of CPAs five times. And in 2018, Jennifer earned the designation of Certified Speaking Professional, making her one of only 10 people worldwide who hold both the CPA and CSP designations (but maybe I can push that number from 10 to 11 in 2019).

 

Jennifer often speaks about the CFO role and how the CFO role will change as technology becomes more prevalent in the workplace. Today, she gives us some background on how that role will begin to change. If you’re a controller or aspiring to be a CFO, then this episode is really important for you. Listen carefully because you’re going to need to change that mindset and apply some of the insights that Jennifer bestows on us in this episode.

 

Becoming a Future-Ready CFO & Accountant

 

It’s important to note that the CFO role has already started to change. In the past, the role of the CFO was historian, record keeper, and the “CF No.” It was all about command and control, and that’s great if you are in a very stable environment, but the rate of change is never going to be any slower than it is right now – and it’s really hard to keep up as it is! So, that command and control doesn’t work anymore.

 

Jennifer likens this change to driving a vehicle. When you’re behind the wheel, you have your windshield and you have your rear-view mirror. The rear-view mirror is small and it gives you a little bit of information, but really, you need to be looking forward through that big windshield to get the whole view of what’s happening.

 

And in the past, the role of the CFO was primarily looking in the rear-view mirror at the historical financial statements and reporting it to the other people in the car. This tells you where you have been, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you where you’re going. “And there’s too much change, too much risk out there. The CFO now has to shift that perspective and look forward. They have to start to be able to look into the crystal ball, see what’s coming down the pike.”

 

Future-ready CFOs, and future-ready accountants in general, have to think about what’s going on in the world and how it might affect your organization, which means you want to be looking at trends. What are the trends in the world at large? What are the trends in your industry?

 

In the accounting and finance world right now, the trend everybody’s looking at and talking about is technology. How are things like artificial intelligence going to change everything?

 

Now, I don’t think that a large number of accountants are going to lose their jobs due to advancing technology – but you might lose your job if you resist the change it necessitates. Because, as we’ve mentioned on the show in the past, technology is going to assist us in doing our work faster. We will, then, need to be able to synthesize the information we glean from bots and artificial intelligence and use it to solve problems, or avoid problems. And to do that successfully, you need to be able to translate the finances into plain English, which means focusing on communication over technical skills.

 

Jennifer says you can think of this transition as going from data, to information, to insight. “So, we prepare reports, that’s data. Information is when you tell me it’s important. And insight is, now, when it informs my decision making.”

 

When Jennifer teaches classes on the skills of the future and presentation skills, she breaks it down into five words you need to focus on to really add value to your organization: what, so what, and now what.

 

The what is data. The so what is why should they care? If we’re talking about the what, we’re just presenting the data that we think somebody needs to get, but we have to think about it from our client’s perspective. “Step out of your own head, get into the head of your audience, and think about what’s important to them.”

 

Now what, then, is the action that’s going to help your client move forward.

 

Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Jennifer Elder: [00:00:00] The really cool thing about finance is we are the keepers of the kingdom. We know everything. We have access to all the data. So, if we can understand what the challenges are in one department, we can start pulling information for them in a way they can understand it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:27] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:47] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:15] Welcome to Episode 23. And my guest today is my good friend and colleague, Jennifer Elder, who’s a CPA. Now, Jennifer works with financial leaders to become more strategic, stay ahead of the competition, and be more successful. As a consultant and keynote speaker, Jennifer is known for being energetic and enthusiastic. She has the natural talent for taking complicated topics and making them simple, practical, and immediately implementable.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:47] CPA Practice Advisor named Jennifer one of the Top 25 Women in Accounting in 2018. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants named her a Woman to Watch in 2015. She has been awarded Outstanding Educator by the American Institute of CPAs five times. In 2018, Jennifer earned the designation of Certified Speaking Professional. She is one of only 10 people worldwide who hold both the CPA and CSP designations. And Jennifer, I know you’re listening to this. Let’s just hope that maybe I can join that, and we can push that number from 10 to 11 in 2019.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:37] Before we get to the interview. I wanted to share with you that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio, all one word .com.

Announcer: [00:02:59] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network. Turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:04] If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, and you think that I could add value as a speaker to an upcoming conference, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com and put in the subject line, CYM Speaking Opportunity. Well, now, that’s all out of the way, let’s get to the interview with Jennifer Elder

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:34] It’s been way too long since I’ve had my very close, good friend, Jennifer Elder, on my podcast. And she’s up in New Hampshire looking out her window at all the beautiful snow and skiing that she’s going to do when she’s done with today’s episode. So, Jennifer, thank you very much for taking time out to be on the podcast.

Jennifer Elder: [00:03:52] Thank you very much, Peter. It is a pleasure to be here.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:56] And I’m looking forward to our conversation because Jennifer does speak about the CFO role and how the CFO role will change as technology becomes more prevalent in the workplace. So, I wanted her to give us that background on how that role will begin to change, let’s just say, from CF No to something more strategic.

Jennifer Elder: [00:04:20] Exactly. That’s exactly how I describe it is the past — The role has already started to change that. In the past, the role of the CFO was historian, record keeper, and the CF No. Their mission in life was to say no to everything because, “No, it’s not in the budget. No, no, no, no. We can’t do that. You’re not following the policy and procedure. There’s no exception.” And it was all about command and control. And that’s great if you are in a very stable environment, but the rate of change is never going to be any slower than it is right now. And it’s really hard to keep up as it is. So, that command and control doesn’t work anymore.

Jennifer Elder: [00:05:08] I’m likening it, and some people may have already heard this reference, but when you’re driving your car, you have your windshield, you have your rear-view mirror. The rear-view mirror is small because it gives you a little bit of information but not enough. Really, you need to be looking forward through that big windshield. And the typical in the past, the role of the CFO was looking at the historical financial statements, which is looking behind them in the rear-view mirror. It tells you where the ship has been. It doesn’t necessarily tell you where it’s going. And there’s too much, too much change, too much risk out there that the CFO now has to shift that perspective and look forward. They have to start to be able to look into the crystal ball, see what’s coming down the pike.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:02] Whoa. Well, then, this is a perfect topic for my podcast, Change Your Mindset, because it sounds like the CFO needs to change their mindset into something completely different than they’ve been doing in the past.

Jennifer Elder: [00:06:13] Yes. Again, it’s no longer but, “What did we do?” It’s, “What are we going to do? And how do we protect ourselves? How do we position ourselves, to take advantage of what’s coming down in the future?” And if you’re not thinking ahead of what you’re going to do, you’re already behind. When you’re surfing, you have to look ahead and be ready to catch the next wave. If you try and catch it when it’s here, you miss it completely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:44] Yeah. So, if you’re a controller or aspiring to be a CFO, then this episode is really important to you. And listen carefully because you’re going to need to change that mindset and apply some of the nuggets that Jennifer’s going to bestow on us. Things that we need to do to become that CFO of the future.

Jennifer Elder: [00:07:01] Yeah. So, the things to do to become the CFO of the future are really to look ahead. Think about what’s going on in the world and how that might affect your organization. So, you want to be looking at trends. What are the trends in the world? It could be, if you are operating globally, what’s going on in the countries that you operate in? If you’re national, what’s going on in your country? Regionally, same thing.

Jennifer Elder: [00:07:35] You also need to look at your industry. What’s going on in that industry? What are the trends that are affecting it? Is there something that’s causing the industry to constrict? Is there something that’s causing the industry to expand? Now, in the accounting and finance role, right now, the trend everybody’s looking and talking about, as you mentioned, is technology. How is that going to change everything? And, sadly, some book somewhere gave the number that 94% of all accountants will lose their jobs due to technology.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:14] Now, wait a minute. We know 73% of all statistics are made up.

Jennifer Elder: [00:08:17] Exactly. And some of us have been around since the dinosaurs were roaming the earth, and we saw the switch from — No. Using tax preparers to TurboTax. And when TurboTax came out, everybody said, “That’s it. The sky is falling. There will be no more tax preparers.” And that’s not the case. The role shifted. But if the tax preparers that didn’t shift, yes, they got left behind.

Jennifer Elder: [00:08:46] And the same thing with corporate finance is that they have to be prepared for this shift because AI will affect what we do. So, we need to change how we do it. So, AI will start to impact how you do your accounting. And there are lots of software programs now that integrate between buyers and sellers. So, you don’t have P clerks entering data. We have expense reporting software that will do things automatically for us. And, ultimately, years down the road when we get into a blockchain, we may not need AR or AP clerks, but we’re still going to need the people to give advice. And that’s the real shift.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:33] So, the gentleman’s name is escapes me. He is the former chair of the MACPA, Maryland Association of CPAs, who is the CFO at McCormick.

Jennifer Elder: [00:09:45] Ken.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:46] Yeah, Ken.

Jennifer Elder: [00:09:46] Ken Kelly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:47] It could be him. We’ll just call him Ken because that’s — At least, we got his first name. But, I guess, you shared with folks, with Tom Hood and the folks at the Maryland Association that he’s put in RPAs, robotic process automation, where they’ve got these two bots. And since it’s McCormick, they named one Pepper and one obey. And these bots go in and reconcile almost everything or anything that needs to be reconciled, but they reconciled it within a matter of seconds versus a matter of hours.

Jennifer Elder: [00:10:25] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:25] And they have lost some staff over it because they didn’t need that that work. The automation took care of that. But what they needed, to your point, was they needed somebody to go, “Okay, let me look at this report. Let me see where those areas are that’s telling me that I need to go look at. Let me go find the answer, and then communicate it upward.”

Jennifer Elder: [00:10:47] Yes. So, bots will do some of the work, but they’re still going to — you’re still going to need somebody to review the work that the bots did and look at what they’re reporting. So, a bot can come in there, and look, and say, “Here are the transactions that don’t make sense.” But somebody has to come in and say, “Do they really make sense?” And if they don’t, who’s going to do the research to figure out what really should have happened?

Jennifer Elder: [00:11:18] So, the bots will look and find transactions that are not within normal standard deviations, but somebody has to interpret things and figure them out. So, problem solving skills will be another skill for the future. You can get these reports, but who’s going to tell you what to do with them? So, a couple of the mindsets that have to change are (1), is thinking towards the future; (2), is problem solving; and (3), would be how do you communicate that information throughout your organization in a way that people hear it and understand it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:01] And I’ve said this for a long time, accounting is a foreign language. And we, as CPAs, need to become better translators for that foreign language into plain English.

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:08] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:09] Is that what you’re saying? We need to speak in plain English versus jargon.

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:14] Yes, it’s jargon. And it’s also going from data, to information, to insight. And as accountants, we tend to love to produce data reports.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:27] Yes.

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:27] Oh boy. And that’s wonderful. I love crunching the numbers too, but a report is only useful if the reader can do something with it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:38] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:12:38] So, we prepare reports, that’s data. Information is when you tell me it’s important. And insight is, now, when it informs my decision making. So, when I teach classes on the skills of the future and presentation skills, I break it down into five words, to really add value to your organization. When you’re preparing a report you have to get to the what, the so what, and most importantly the now what.

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

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:16] So, what is data. So what is why should I care?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:22] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:13:22] Now, I remember, giving a presentation at Tech Data, and I mentioned this, and the CFO went, “Thank you because I’m the CFO of a $15 billion company. I don’t care about $15,000 variance. I don’t need to know that. It’s not in my world. That’s not important. Is it important to somebody? Yes, but it’s not. At my level, no.” So, we have to take the data we prepare, that’s the what, put it in context, so that we know whether we should care about it. And then, now what is, what do I do with that information? How does it inform my decision making? What direction should I go as a result?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:12] You just said something really important in that statement that, in essence, when we get the report together, we need to understand what audience this report is going to. I don’t need to take that $15,000 variance to the CFO. He’ll throw me out, or her, throw me out of the office. I need to bring in the big things. Now, maybe to my manager or somebody else within the organization that’s important. But I think that as CPAs, we want to give them everything that we’ve done, and we’re not thinking about the audience of what they need. I’m just telling you what I think I should give you.

Jennifer Elder: [00:14:48] Right, right. If we’re doing the what, we’re just presenting the data that we think somebody needs to get, but you have to think about it from their perspective. So, I try and explain to people that you really got to think about your audience. What matters to them? And I often say, what is it that they’re afraid of? The information that protects them is something that they will be most concerned with.

Jennifer Elder: [00:15:20] The other thing to think about when you’re presenting information to non-financial people is to think about the difference between what they want to hear versus what they need to hear. And sometimes, we will jump in with what we think someone needs to hear. And they’ll just be rolling their eyes, and drumming their fingers, and like, “I don’t really care about this. You need to get to the number I want to hear.” So, they tune out everything else.

Jennifer Elder: [00:15:53] So, one of the things to think about is the difference between what somebody needs to hear and what somebody wants to hear. And if you start with what somebody needs to hear first, you’ll come across like Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Wa, wa, wa, wa.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:10] “Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa.”

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:10] They don’t really care. They’re just waiting to hear the number that it is important to them. So, they tune out everything else. Think about when you have to do a performance review with somebody. What are they waiting for? What’s the one thing they really want to know when you do a performance review?

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:29] Am I getting more money?

Jennifer Elder: [00:16:30] Exactly. So, until you tell them that, all they hear is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” So, if you tell them that first, now, they’ll pay attention. So, you really got to get inside your audience’s head. Another shift in mindset, step out of your own head, get into the head of your audience, and think about what’s important to them. Give them something they want to hear first. Then, they’ll pay attention to what they need to hear.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:02] I still can remember when I was at Victoria’s Secret catalog, not as a model, but thank you for thinking about that. And it was my first day working with the CFO. And he said, “I got a project for you to do, and give it to me the next day.” Then, I researched this thing. I had a five-page, and I thought I was just done. I thought I just nailed this thing. I took it to him the next day, and he looked at it, counted the pages, and threw it in the trash can. He said, “You’ve got one hour to produced one page with bullet points, and the most important thing in here because I don’t have the time to read the five pages. Get out of my office.”

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:45] Yeah, tuck your tail and run.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:48] Yeah. And that was critical in the learning process because he actually told me what I had done wrong, and go back, and think about it. I never made that mistake again.

Jennifer Elder: [00:17:58] The people who are further up the food chain than we are, they have less time than we do. So, they want the Reader’s Digest summary, the Cliffnotes version.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:08] Yeah. I know you do some communicating in the workplace, a version of the Myers Briggs. But if we think about bringing that into this, CPAs are in that room that we love data. We like to produce a lot of information. But there comes a point like when you’re in that dominant quadrant, the CEO, the CFO, the drivers of the business, they don’t have the time to look at everything.

Jennifer Elder: [00:18:34] Right. They want a summary. They call it the executive summary for a reason.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:40] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:18:40] They will assume that you have done a good job. If they’ve asked you to report to them on something, they trust you, they believe in you, they assume you’ve done your homework. They just want you to cut to the chase. What? So, what? Now what?

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:58] Right. So, the other question I have is — I mean, when I talked to audiences, I ask how many CFOs I have in the room. There’s a lot of hands that go up. So, how many of you were in charge and have human resources report in here? Most of the hands up stay up. How about IT? Most of the hands up stay up. How about marketing? No hands go up, which is good I guess but that’s — But what type of hats do CFOs need to begin to wear as they transition into this role and as the landscape changes?

Jennifer Elder: [00:19:31] The CFO typically does cover HR. If you’re lucky, you have a manager of HR, you might have a Chief HR officer, but they still tend to report to the CFO. IT, same thing because IT is related to data. So, that’s often under the CFOs role. And that’s getting more challenging because the technology is getting more and more complicated. But as the CFO, you don’t need to know the IT structure in detail, but you have to understand what your goals are. And IT is changing so rapidly that you can’t think about keeping your IT structure up to date. You have to think about how you’re going to get it ready for 5 years, 10 years from now.

Jennifer Elder: [00:20:23] So, you may not — I talk to a lot of companies, and I ask, “Do you have a server, your own servers?” And they’ll say, “Yes.” I said, “How often do you replace them?” “Somewhere between every three to five years.” And my question for them is, “Do you really want to replace it again?” Maybe it’s time to start thinking about going to the cloud because you’re throwing good money after bad. That’s where we’re going.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:49] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:20:49] So, CFOs have to become a little — It’s another shift in mindset. It’s becoming a little bit more comfortable with risk, but as Eisenhower would say, you take a calculated risk. It’s not jumping off a cliff, but it’s taking that calculated risk. You mentioned that CFOs never have responsibility for marketing, but they actually start to do some marketing of themselves.

Peter Margaritis: [00:21:20] Yes.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:20] Because we have a bad rep. We’re accountants. The first word that comes to mind when you ask somebody on the street, “What do you think of when you think of accountant?” “Boring,” or ” Taxes,” or “You’re good at math,” which is a joke because I don’t know any CPA who does math without using a calculator or excel. But that’s really how number-phobic the rest of the world is. So, we have a bad rep to begin with.

Jennifer Elder: [00:21:56] Then, the history is that a lot of people in your organizations, the only experience they’ve had with the finance department is the CF-No. “I’m not going to prove your expense report,” or “You violated procedure,” or “You exceeded your budget.” It’s all bad. They don’t see how we can help them. So, the CFO, or comptroller, or really anybody in finance needs to start thinking about themselves as their own personal brand. And you have to work hard to get over the assumptions that people have about us. So, one of the things I suggest that people do is go out and visit. Go see people in your organization.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:46] But when the accountant shows up for the first time, they go into, let’s say, the sales department to talk to somebody over sales, the salespeople freak out.

Jennifer Elder: [00:22:54] Yes, they will.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:57] I did an opinion piece at Accounting Today published a couple of years ago that’s about standing out from behind our desk, to that point. And it’s a critical piece that, as accountants, CPAs, CFOs, we need to network our way around the building because it’s all about relationships.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:16] Yes, it is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:17] And when I came in to — When I went to Victoria’s Secret, I got into the accounting profession late in life, and I knew there’s that stereotype. And I knew that if I didn’t get to know people in the organization one-on-one and in a personal way, I could never get information from them because they’re defensive when the CPA shows up. But, if I can get them to look at me, “Oh, it’s Pete. Yeah. Have a seat. What do you need?”, that information comes a lot easier.

Jennifer Elder: [00:23:45] One of the things I did when I joined a homebuilder as their CFO down at Florida, and the prior CFO was a bit of a nightmare. Nobody liked him. So, I’ve got that baggage for me. So, I would go and see people, and they’re like, “Jen’s coming. This is not going to end well.” So, after the first two times of that, I said, “Yeah, something’s got to change here.” So, I started going to different departments, and I would just drop off chocolate. Drop off chocolate, or flowers, or just something, and they’d look at me and go, “Oh. What’s going on here?” I said, “Nothing. This is just to help make your day a little bit brighter.” And I wouldn’t ask any questions. I would just leave.

Jennifer Elder: [00:24:39] And then maybe a week or two later, I’d go by, and I’d say, “Hi. How you’re doing?” And they remember, I brought them something. So, now they say hi, and I can have a conversation with them. And as you get to know them, you can start asking the key questions of, “What are your biggest challenges? What do you struggle with?” And then, we can start thinking about, “How can we help?” Because the really cool thing about finance is we are the keepers of the kingdom. We know everything. We have access to all the data. So, if we can understand what the challenges are in one department, we can start pulling information for them in a way they can understand it.

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:25] So, one example I can give you is with another company I worked for, bottled water manufacturer and distributor. I’m talking with the production guy, and he said, “One of my biggest challenges is I never know what’s coming down the pike. What big accounts have we landed that I need to adjust our inventory for.” And I kind of had stop myself from rolling my eyes because he actually had that information. He just didn’t know he had it.

Jennifer Elder: [00:25:59] So, he was getting a report. He just didn’t know how to read it. So, instead of pulling out the report, and handing him, and saying, “Hey, you get this every week. So, apparently, you have not been reading it,” which would embarrass him and, again, really make me look bad, I just said, “Tell me what it is you really want to know.” And I wrote down his words.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:27] There you go.

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:27] And then, just produce the same report, and I changed the titles. So-

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:33] To his words? To his words?

Jennifer Elder: [00:26:34] To his words. It was the exact same report, changed the titles to his words, I sent it to him, and I said, “Well, let me know if this will help.” He came running back to my office saying, “Oh my god, thank you so much. This is fabulous.” He just couldn’t read the report using accounting words, not sales words.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:58] Yeah. That’s an interesting concept because I take a bigger picture with this because I remember back in the day, if I missed an episode of Gilligan’s Island, I wouldn’t see that episode until maybe a year later, or during the reruns, or whatever. But, now, today, we’ve got almost like this ala carte menu. So, when we’re thinking about an organization, the salespeople talk differently than the IT people talk differently than customer service. We have to tailor those reports, I love these words, to their words, so they can understand it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:28] As a profession, how can we, as CFOs, as leaders within an organization, begin to think about we speak a foreign language to everybody else within the organization? How can we take our report and tailor them to the language of the user, not the language of the preparer? I think, that will be huge.

Jennifer Elder: [00:27:46] It is huge. And I can share one story, and then I’ve got a hint. One story is I work for a company that was owned by a venture capital group, and we were part of a six-company consortium. And every month, we had a conference call about earnings. And on that call were six CEOs, six CFOs, and then I don’t know how many venture capital people on the call. And we all went through the same two slides. And I’ve been doing this for about six months. It was always the CEOs that spoke. The CFOs were just there in case there was a question.

Jennifer Elder: [00:28:28] So, this particular month, my CEO had laryngitis. So, I had to give the presentation. And I got through, and I said, “Here’s our revenue, and these are expenses, and here are our EBITDA, which is earnings before interest taxes depreciation amortization.” And then, I heard this, “That’s what that means.” And who would have thought that in that group, somebody had no idea what it meant.

Jennifer Elder: [00:28:59] And we all have people like that in our organizations who may either have just started, or they’ve been there a while, but we use jargon. They don’t want to raise their hand and say, “Excuse me. I’m clueless. I don’t know what this means.” So, they suffer in silence to try and figure it out. And in the meantime, you’ve gone on with your presentation, and they’re still struggling trying to figure out some of the words. So, I encourage people to share what their jargon is.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:32] And at a presentation, at a Fortune 500, I won’t share the name because, for them, it might be a little embarrassing, they did have an acronym that they used to measure revenue. They called it RevPar.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:46] RevPar.

Jennifer Elder: [00:29:47] RevPar. And I had to ask them, I said, “I’m not in your industry. Can you help me out and tell me what it means?” And three other people in the room said, “Yeah, I could use with understanding what that means to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:01] Yeah. That’s a pet peeve of mine, acronyms. I just did something for a very large retail organization located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And in preparation for my presentation, I asked them, “I need to understand your language.” And this was the construction division, and they sent me eight pages of acronyms. Eight.

Jennifer Elder: [00:30:22] Wow. Ouch

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:24] 413 acronyms just within the department. And some of them were overlapping, and I was looking through these, and I saw STD. But that stood for season to date. Yeah. And it doesn’t matter what profession we’re in or what organization, when we’re inside that organization, we talk in acronyms, but the salespeople don’t understand it. I tell folks, especially when you’re doing a presentation, and if you’re using PowerPoint, if you’re using an acronym, write it out sort of by knows what it is, and then show what the acronym is, and then move on because-

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:08] Exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:08] … you should not — The deer-in-the-headlights look should go away, but we make assumptions.

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:16] Now, the other hint I would give people to find out whether their reports are connecting with people would be if you prepare a report weekly, monthly, prepare it, and don’t send it, and see who notices. The people who notice and call you are the ones who find value in your report. The others, not so much.

Jennifer Elder: [00:31:45] Now, I know myself, when I worked in corporate I used to get all kinds of reports that I don’t know how I got on the distribution list, but I didn’t need them, but somebody decided I needed them. And that happens to a lot of people. A prior person in that role, the role has changed, but nobody will ever call someone and say, “Hey, stop sending that report,” because they’re worried they might be missing the point. But if you don’t send it, and somebody doesn’t notice, now you have an opportunity to make a connection with them and go talk to them.

Jennifer Elder: [00:32:27] If they’re within your building, go talk to them. If they’re in another state, pick up the phone, or do a Zoom or Skype call, and just say — this is where you going to be really tentative because you don’t want to kind of come across like you’re attacking somebody. But I would call and say, “Hey, I screwed up.” So, it’s all about me right up front. It’s my problem. “I screwed up. I forgot to send that report. But here’s the thing, you didn’t email me or call me to let me know you didn’t get that report. So, I’m thinking,” and, again, I do, I get very tentative, “I’m thinking that maybe you don’t need to get this report or it’s not giving you the information you need. What else can I do for you instead?”

Jennifer Elder: [00:33:17] And that gives me a chance to have a conversation. Sometimes, the answer is, yeah, there on the distribution list and they don’t need to be there. Number two, maybe I need to change some of the words on the report, so that they can understand it. Or number three, I just need to tailor the report and give them slightly different information. But having that conversation allows me to connect with them and figure out what it is I need to give them, so that they can do their job better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:48] Right. It’s funny as you’re describing that, we have a mutual client in the Baltimore area that will be nameless, but I was in a session, and I was talking. They said about the reporting of the stack, “That goes the package.” The package for the meeting. The package for the meeting was five inches or six inches thick. And they go, “We know they’re not reading it. We know they’re not reading it at all, but this is-” I got these words, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:19] We’ve done it, oh.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:21] And I said the same thing to them, “Pull something out that you don’t think that they’re reading. If they call you, then, just fall on the sword, “My fault. I apologize. It won’t happen again.” But I would bet 99.99% of the time, nobody’s calling because nobody’s even reading it.

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:38] Exactly. And I can’t say I’ve ever come across somebody recently that said, “Oh yeah. I’ve got plenty of time to do my job.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:51] That would be nice.

Jennifer Elder: [00:34:52] So, having to read reports that aren’t summarized don’t give you something useful, something actionable. We don’t need statistics. We don’t need background. We need actionable information. And we do it with reports, and we do it with meetings. That’s another one of my pet peeves. And I think it’s probably everybody’s pet peeve is meetings.

Jennifer Elder: [00:35:16] So, maybe one more tip about changing your mindset is to stop doing meetings for everything. Again, sometimes, we get added to the invitation list for a meeting because we needed to present some information once. And, now, we’ve been invited every single month. And we don’t need to be there, but there are people there who, possibly, have an effect on your career, so we go, bored to tears, we keep the cellphone underneath the table, and we do the cell phone prayer the whole time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:53] Exactly.

Jennifer Elder: [00:35:56] So, if you’re being asked to attend meetings that you really don’t see the value to, you really should call the meeting planner and say, “Is it important that I come? Do you see the value in my attendance?” It’s up to them. If they say yes, then I’m sorry, you still have to go. But most times, if you don’t see the value, they won’t see it either.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:21] My brother’s a VP of a large fashion retailer in the Columbus area, and we were driving out to Bowling Green for memorial service, and he’s on this phone call, and he goes, he puts it on me, he goes, “I don’t know why I’m listening to this. I’m in this meeting. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know how I got put onto this thing, and I need to be off this meeting because this is just wasting my time.”

Jennifer Elder: [00:36:47] Yes, exactly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] Obviously, we know that there’s a lot of people, after listening to this podcast, are actually driving down the road or in the gym nodding their head up and down, going, “Yeah, exactly.”.

Jennifer Elder: [00:36:58] I don’t have time. I got other stuff I should be doing. Yeah. So, the reality is there should only be two reasons for a meeting. Number one is to have a discussion, to get people into a room to have a conversation, to do some brainstorming, to think about pros and cons, risks and rewards, should we, should we not. You need the people in the room for that.

Jennifer Elder: [00:37:25] The second reason to have a meeting would be to make a decision. Beyond that, they’re a waste of time. We don’t need status updates because people can write a status update. And guess what, everybody else can read it. Unless there’s something that is a problem that needs to be discussed, you don’t need a weekly update meeting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:50] That’s what video is for, right? Use your cell phone, give the updates, send it out to everybody that needs it, so you’re saving everybody’s time, so they can be more efficient, and they get to see you, and they get the information without having to sit in the conference room.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:05] Actually I work for an employer, remain nameless, that we had a meeting to discuss how to have a meeting. And I just went, “That’s the most redundant thing I think I’ve ever heard of. Look up the word redundant. Goes to a meeting to talk about how to have a meeting.” And that’s when I knew that I was in Lala Land. I mean, how do you? Who actually could do that and think that would be an effective use of time?

Jennifer Elder: [00:38:32] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:32] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:38:34] Although, on the other hand, there are a fair number of organizations that need to have that meeting because they do their meeting so badly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:41] Right, right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:38:41] And so, I think that’s another change in mindset that people have to understand or start thinking about is we’re all too busy. So, what is it that we are doing or asking people to do that really is not efficient? And in the finance department, we’re responsible for process and procedure. And we may think we have a good idea on process and procedure, but, sometimes, we really need to talk to the people doing the process and procedure to see if it makes sense.

Jennifer Elder: [00:39:20] I was on a cruise last year, and I would go up to the bar in the afternoon, and here’s where it got weird. If you asked for a vodka and tonic, they would pour you a drink and the tonic would come out of the gun. If you just ask them for a club soda, and I brought an insulated cup that would generally take about two cans of soda, they wouldn’t fill it from the gun. They had to open up a can of club soda, pour it into the cup. I had to step away from the bar, turn around, and come back to get a second can to fill my cup.

Jennifer Elder: [00:40:18] On what planet does this make any sense? And, just, I’m thinking to myself, “That’s cost accounting gone wrong where somebody has a brilliant idea that this would be a way to keep track of costs,” but when I start thinking about that the time and effort of stocking the bar with these cans of club soda, the weight of the cans versus using the gun-

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:47] The cannister.

Jennifer Elder: [00:40:49] And they have to dispose of the trash. The cost of that far outweighs the benefit of the cost accounting. So, we have to stop saying that we know better than everybody else. We have to put ourselves in their shoes. And the people that work for us have fabulous ideas on how to do things better, faster, more efficiently, if only we would listen. And, sadly, again, I’ll go back to the fact that people have been the CF-No. So, too many employees will go, “Yeah, I have a great idea but no. I’m not going down to finance.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:26] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:41:27] That’s Dilbert. It shows the finance accounting department is in the basement staffed by trolls.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:34] Exactly. That’s an interesting visual you just gave me, but we do know that those who are not in our world tend to think of us, that’s how we live in the world. And, yeah. it goes back to really, how do we create a relationship within the organization that we are asked for permission versus forgiveness? And it just goes with kind of stepping away from our titles, remembering we’re all people, and just getting to know other folks, and having a conversation, communicating, and we all have needs, we all have wants, and we all make mistakes, and just accept that, and move forward, and you will learn a lot more information from people when we build that relationship versus not having that relationship at all.

Jennifer Elder: [00:42:28] Exactly. Now, you mentioned making mistakes. Here’s another change in mindset because one of the big buzz words in the industry is all about innovation. Got to change. Got to innovate. Well, change is incremental. Innovation is a huge big step in a new direction. If you’re going to try and innovate, we’re going to screw it up sometimes. But if people get punished for trying something new, nobody is going to innovate.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:02] Right.

Jennifer Elder: [00:43:02] So, one of the things I suggest to people is we’ve got to think about, what’s our innovation budget? What are people allowed to lose? How much can they screw up, and they won’t lose their job? I heard an example once of a gentleman. There was an accountant, a guy in the finance department. And he came up to me one day after doing a presentation, and he said, “I’m that guy.” He said he came up with an idea that he thought would be fabulous for his organization, and he got the CEO to buy in. And this was a global company. In six months, he lost $3 million, and they got nothing.

Jennifer Elder: [00:43:47] So, he walked into the CEO’s office and he said, “Here’s my letter of resignation. Before you fire me, I screwed up. I am so sorry. I really thought this would work, and it didn’t. So, here’s my letter of resignation.” And the CEO looked at him, and he said, “What?” he said, “No.” He tore up the letter of resignation, and he said, “Why would I fire you?” He said, “I just invested $3 million in your education. I need some ROI on that.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:23] Nice.

Jennifer Elder: [00:44:27] He said, “Tell me what you learned.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:28] Yeah.

Jennifer Elder: [00:44:30] So, we have to leave room for failure. And in the finance department, we tend not to. It’s, “You’re over budget. You screwed up. You’re out.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:41] So, someone once told me an acronym, FAIL stands for first attempt in learning. And I say-

Jennifer Elder: [00:44:50] I’ll own that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:51] I know. And I’ve been using it with my son, “What have you failed at today, except for your classes?” Even at that, I mean, what did you fail at? And then, what did you learn, so you don’t do it again?” Now, if you continue to fail at the same thing over and over again, that’s a problem. But as long as we’re not doing it, as long as we learn from it, I mean, that’s how we learn and grow is by failure.

Jennifer Elder: [00:45:16] Yes, yes. That’s where the greatest learning is, is when you fail. If you keep doing the same thing the same way, there’s no growth there at all.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:26] No, that’s a bad hire, basically, is the way I say it.

Jennifer Elder: [00:45:26] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:26] So, any last parting thoughts before we call this podcast to an end, my friend?

Jennifer Elder: [00:45:37] I think one of the biggest shifts in mindset that the CFO, the finance department is that we’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can’t do the same thing the same way. There’s going to be constant change, whether it’s technology, whether it’s your industry, whether it’s your market, whether it’s your customer base. So, we have to learn to get comfortable with skating on thin ice and be ready to adapt. As things change, we have to adapt. So, anytime you hear that phrase, “This is the way we’ve always done it,” you need to turn around and say, “Then, I have a problem.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:22] Yeah. So, Jennifer, I can’t thank you enough. And I’m going to give a little plug here that you don’t know about, But, folks, Jennifer, this past year, she’s a member of the National Speakers Association, and she was awarded the highest earned credential within the Association of Certified Speaking Professional. Once again, Jennifer, congratulations on that milestone. And I can’t wait till our paths cross very, very soon.

Jennifer Elder: [00:46:46] Thank you, Pete. Always a pleasure. And look forward to seeing you on the road.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:56] I would like to thank Jennifer for taking time out of her busy schedule to sit down and have this conversation with me. And now that you’ve listened to this episode, what are your next steps to beginning the transformation into the CFO in the future? Is it just a change in mindset? Is it learning new skills to prepare you for your new role? Is it building relationships throughout the organization? What will it be? I hope you take time, and reflect on this conversation, and begin to plan your next steps.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:27] If I can be of assistance to you please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com, and put in the subject line CFO Transformation. You can also reach Jennifer Elder at jennifer@sustainablecfo.com. Thank you all for listening. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the outstanding podcasts they have in their network. Have a great day.

Announcer: [00:48:06] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E22 – Bill Sheridan | Becoming Future-Proof

Bill Sheridan is the Chief Communications Officer at the Maryland Association of CPAs and the host of Future-Proof, a podcast in which Bill has interviewed a wide variety of leading thought leaders in the accounting profession and in corporate America.

 

We discuss whether the profession is moving in the direction of becoming more future-proof, or future-ready, through the lens of the conversations he’s been having with his guests for nearly a year.

 

So, let’s get right to it: is the profession future-proof?

 

The short answer is no, we’re not future-proof or future-ready yet – but we’re getting there. However, we might be getting there a little slower than Bill and the other folks over at the MACPA hoped.

 

“It seems like they’re starting to realize that this stuff is real. It’s not going away. In fact, it’s starting to impact them right now, and they need to pay attention to it. So, that’s encouraging that they are starting to pay attention,” Bill says.

 

And in a way, this seeming reluctant to look forward makes sense for the accounting and finance profession. “When you think about the profession itself, accounting and finance will spend their entire careers looking behind them. By definition, they’re accounting for things that have happened in the past.

 

“So, turning around, and looking through the windshield, and noticing what’s coming at you, isn’t a muscle that they’ve spent a lot of time building. And so, they’re just starting to do that now. And the more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.” Becoming future-ready starts with being aware of what’s going on.

 

It comes back to the idea of the anticipatory organization, an idea championed by MACPA President and CEO Tom Hood. In this sense, anticipation a three-step process: aware, predict, and adapt.

 

So, first step, being aware of change. That involves asking questions and start to understanding it. Next is predicting what will happen. So, now that I’m aware of it, what kind of impact is this going to have on me and the people that I work with? And then, finally, adapting. What can we actually do about it?

 

For example, here’s a question for accounting and finance pros out there: how can you take advantage of 5G in a way that will benefit the people that you work with?

 

“That’s the muscle that we have to start building. We know this is coming, and in very short order. So, what are the opportunities embedded in something like that? And we need to start thinking about that now before it hits mainstream and evolves into something else.” So becoming anticipatory is the practice of building that muscle – because change is going to happen over and over.

 

“We need to be able to help walk our clients and customers into the future. In order to do that, we need to be there before them,” Bill says.

 

Now, my question to all of you: do you think you’re future-proof yet?

 

I’m guessing the answer is “probably not,” so take some time to plot out a path that will help you become ready for the future.

 

And start today, not tomorrow! You can find 10 minutes out of your busy, busy schedule. And take that time to reflect on what does it mean to be future-proof. And then, each day, take a little bit more time and consider, “How can I become better prepared for the future? What skills do I need to put in my tool box?”

 

Now, this is not going to happen overnight, but if you take 10 minutes, if you take these baby steps, you’ll end up reaching your goal a lot quicker than you thought – but you have to do it every single day.

 

Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Bill Sheridan: [00:00:00] Things have always changed, and we’ve always evolved. People talk about all the jobs that are going to be automated away, and there will be some, but they have those discussions without really realizing that all these new technologies are going to create as many or more jobs as the ones they destroy. And new technology does that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:26] Welcome to Change Your Mindset Podcast, formerly known as Improv is No Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building stronger communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:46] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:12] Welcome, everyone. My name is Peter Margaritis, and I’m your host. Today, my guest is Bill Sheridan, the Chief Communications Officer at the Maryland Association of CPAs and the host of the podcast, Future-Proof. The Maryland Association of CPAs started this podcast on — Wait for it, wait for it — April 15, 2018. And Bill has interviewed a wide variety of leading thought leaders in the accounting profession and in corporate America. I ask Bill to be a guest today and to share with you what he is hearing from those who have influence in our business world. And he’s got some really great stories.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:50] Just as a teaser, some of his guests that he’s had on his podcast consist of Barry Melanson, the CEO of the AICPA; Samantha Bowling, who’s currently the Chair of the Maryland Association CPAs Executive Board; Tom Hood, who is the CEO of the Maryland Association CPAs; Daniel Hood, who’s the Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Today just to name a few. So, our conversation is around, is the profession moving in the direction to becoming more future-proof, or another way of putting it, are we future-ready?

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:27] Now, I have been exploring that question on my podcast over the last 8, 10, 12 months, maybe even further back. And what Bill is sharing with me is that the conversation in the profession about being future-proof and/or future-ready is starting to move in the right direction but still just a little slower than we hoped. So, before we get to the interview, I want to share with you that Change Your Mindset is now being distributed on C-Suite Radio. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www,c-suiteradio.com.

Advertisement: [00:03:16] This podcast is partnered with C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:23] So, with that being said, let’s get to the interview with Bill Sheridan.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:30] Hey, welcome back, everybody. I am with my favorite Cincinnati Reds fan who lives near St. Louis but works in Maryland, Mr. Bill Sheridan. Welcome, Bill.

Bill Sheridan: [00:03:40] How are you doing, Peter?

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:42] I’m doing great. Like we were just talking before, eight days until Pitchers and Catchers Report.

Bill Sheridan: [00:03:47] Yeah, heaven on earth.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:47] For me, that was the best part of the Super Bowl. It was knowing that we were less than two weeks away from baseball season, so.

Bill Sheridan: [00:03:55] Yeah, I concur with that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:58] It’s right around the corner, and there’s nothing better than spring training because we’ve had kind of a weird winter here, and I’m just ready for it to be warm consistently.

Bill Sheridan: [00:04:08] Yeah. There’s a sense of optimism every spring for us Reds fans that lasts about six weeks, but that feeling, it’s spring training that, hey, we’ve got the same record as everybody else right now. So, I always enjoy that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:24] Yeah, we’re still in the running.

Bill Sheridan: [00:04:28] Definitely.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:28] Bill and the Maryland Association of CPAs, you guys started your podcast called Future-Proof on — go figure — April 15, 2018.

Bill Sheridan: [00:04:39] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:39] And I’m not-

Bill Sheridan: [00:04:40] We chose badly, poorly for a starting date when you’re talking about an accounting podcast. April 15th is probably not the best time to do it, but you can’t change it now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:53] No, but it’s kind of apropos. My first book when it was released, that was my goal to have a release on April 15th. Missed it by two days, but that’s just around rounding error. You’ve got 41 episodes. I’ve been an avid listener. Now, I haven’t listened to all of them, but I listened to a vast majority of them. And as I’ve told you, you’ve done a great job on this podcast.

Bill Sheridan: [00:05:16] Well, thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:16] I love the interviews and what you’re getting out of folks, but I want to interview you about your podcast. I want to know what your audience is telling you. What is the accounting profession telling you about, are we future-proof or we future-ready?

Bill Sheridan: [00:05:34] Right, right. A couple of different answers there. They’re telling me a lot, a lot of different things. And the short answer is, no, we’re not future-proof yet or future-ready, but we’re getting there. We’re, at least, starting to pay attention. So, for a long time, it seemed like Tom and I would be out there beating the drums about paying attention to the trends that were coming at us and things that we were seeing that we thought were important that accounting and finance pros need to be paying attention to. And it seemed, for a while, that the general reaction was, “Oh. Well, that’s interesting, and I’ll get to that when I can.”.

Bill Sheridan: [00:06:13] And, now, it seems like they’re starting to realize that this stuff is real. It’s not going away. In fact, it’s starting to impact them right now, and they need to pay attention to it. So, that’s encouraging that they are starting to pay attention. I mean, it’s — And it’s not surprising that they haven’t at this point. I mean, when you think about the profession itself, accounting and finance will spend their entire careers looking behind them, right? By definition, they’re accounting for things that have happened in the past.

Bill Sheridan: [00:06:47] So, turning around, and looking through the windshield, and noticing what’s coming at you isn’t a muscle that they’ve spent a lot of time building. And and so, they’re just starting to do that now. And the more they do it, the better they’ll get at it. So, that’s our hope is that we’re just presenting things that we think are important that we think they ought to be paying, at least, a little bit of attention to, and just making them aware. I mean, becoming future-ready, it starts with being aware of what’s going on. And so, that’s our goal is just to kind of share with them what we’re seeing in the hopes that it might spark an idea or two about what they can do to better prepare themselves and their clients.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:34] Well, off of that, I mean, the very first episode that you launched, I mean, you came in strong. You brought in Daniel Burrus, the Anticipatory Organization. Now, I will say that I’ve heard you and Tom talk about Anticipatory Organization, and I kind of had an idea about it, but I needed to pick up some CPE before year end, and I decided to take Anticipatory Online On-Demand Course through MACPA, and I was blown away. Actually, I’ve got all that information, all those materials, and I’m going to start applying that in my business this month and starting to try to trickle that in because it became very apparent to me these hard trends that Daniel talks about. I mean, they’re right in front of us, but we just don’t recognize it as a hard trend.

Bill Sheridan: [00:08:26] Yeah. And that’s the cool thing about what he’s done. So, Daniel Burrus, one of the top futurists in the world, and he’s built kind of this online learning system that he calls the Anticipatory Organization. And then, we, at the MACPA and BLI worked with him to kind of customize that for the accounting and finance world. And we call it Anticipatory Organization Accounting and Finance Edition or AOAF, kind of a mouthful, but we refer to it as AOAF.

Bill Sheridan: [00:08:54] But the cool thing about it is when you talk about that concept of anticipation, it sounds a little out there. It sounds not like — a little nebulous, soft around the edges, but it’s really not. And what he’s done, what Daniel Burrus has done is built this system that actually teaches you how to do it. It’s a skill you can learn. You can learn how to become more anticipatory. And not only that but to actually apply what you’ve learned to your specific job. So, that’s what’s really cool is that he’s got a number of lessons in there that make it really tangible and real world kind of skill that you can actually learn and apply.

Bill Sheridan: [00:09:41] And we’re seeing more of that too. More people are starting to offer the skills that we’ve been told time and time again that accounting and finance pros are going to need to remain relevant going forward, and they’re not the same skills that we’ve been using for generations. They’re — I hate to call soft skills, but that’s the term that everybody uses. They’re really actually hard skills. They’re things like critical thinking, and strategic thinking, and communication, and leadership, and all of that type of stuff. We’ve been told time and time again that’s the stuff that we’re going to need to know how to do in order to remain relevant going forward. And anticipation is one of those skills.

Bill Sheridan: [00:10:24] And so, Daniel Burrus is one of a number of people out there who are starting to offer those skills. So, again, that’s the other great thing is that we no longer are just talking about the skills we’re going to need, there are people out there actually providing them. And so, that’s another great step toward becoming more future-ready is being able to learn how to do the stuff that we know is going to be vitally important going forward.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:53] Yeah. I’ve always said they call it soft skills, but I might come back to them as, “But would you agree that they’re pretty hard to master?”

Bill Sheridan: [00:10:59] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:59] And get their head shaking, yeah.

Bill Sheridan: [00:11:01] Yeah, yeah. I mean, they sound kind of warm and fuzzy, but they’re critical. What’s interesting is that most of them are, as we we’re sitting here in this age where most people are talking about technology, automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, and all this other stuff that’s coming at us, and these high-tech concepts, and the skills that we’re seeing most people say we’re going to need to become a little bit more future ready are actually more human-related skills: collaboration, and leadership, and communication, and things like that. So, interesting that as technology continues to advance and make our lives more chaotic that the skills we’ll need going forward are skills that bring us a little bit closer to one another.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:53] And, as you were saying, one of those hard trends is technology. This year, I just got the iPhone X, X stuff, I believe.

Bill Sheridan: [00:12:05] X.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:05] Yeah, but I could’ve gone in and said, “Can I get a flip phone now?” No. And the point was we’re not going to go back to a dumber phone. I think, we use that term. No, technology is going to continue to grow. We can anticipate that. And why would I take this, as you mentioned, artificial intelligence and blockchain? Now, when I first heard of blockchain, I thought I was in Tesla disorder, but I found that there really is for some accountants. It can be. But it seems like AI is impacting the profession more so than blockchain. Blockchain may be three to five years away. But with artificial intelligence — And, I guess, my question is we know that large organizations — and I’ll use McCormick who are using these robotic process automation RPAs. Is that correct?

Bill Sheridan: [00:12:59] Mmhmm (affirmative).

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:59] To reconcile accounts where it would take — It is displacing jobs and-.

Bill Sheridan: [00:13:04] It is.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:05] It is, but it’s able to do something in such a — almost like a nanosecond. But then, it provides the data to a person and says, “You need to look in these areas and go search this out,” and then be able to communicate that up the line.

Bill Sheridan: [00:13:23] Right, right. So, yeah. I mean, it’s doing incredible things. And you’re right, it is — I mean, the accountants’ worst nightmares are coming true in a way. They said these technologies are going to displace some jobs, yes. But as Ed Kless from Sage says, I interviewed him and Ron Baker for the podcast at one point, and kind of humorously said, “Look, if your job can be automated, your job probably sucks.”

Bill Sheridan: [00:13:59] And so, here’s the point right. I mean, the machines are coming in, and they’re automating away the busy work, the grunt work, the number-crunching stuff that we spend a lot of time learning how to do and spend a lot of time — just, we do that over and over right. But they’re able to do it faster and more accurately than we ever will. So, let them do that, and that frees us up to learn some new skills and add higher-value type stuff. It’s not crunching the numbers anymore. It’s kind of telling the story behind the numbers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:35] There’s always a story behind the numbers.

Bill Sheridan: [00:14:38] Oh, yeah. As you know, yeah. But you’re right, it’s here, and it’s happening faster than ever. I mean, Watson, let’s use Watson, IBM Watson as an example. It got its start back in 1997, I think. It was called Deep Blue, at the time, this machine that IBM built, specifically, to see if they could build a machine that could beat a human being at chess, and it did. It beat Garry Kasparov at chess, the world grandmaster.

Bill Sheridan: [00:15:07] And then, you fast forward to 14 years later, 2011. So, Deep Blue had evolved into Watson, at that point. Watson was built specifically to see if they could build a machine to beat a human being at Jeopardy, the game show, Jeopardy, and it did. It beat the two gentlemen with the world record holders for highest winnings in jeopardy. This machine beat them in jeopardy.

Bill Sheridan: [00:15:35] And we all kind of look at those things and thought, “Wow, how cool. Look what the machine could do.” And then, we just kind of ignored it and went right back to doing what we always do. And then, I think, it was 2017 or ’16, I can’t remember which one, but just not too long ago, KPMG announced that they were applying Watson’s technology to its entire suite of professional services, including tax, and audit, and things like that. And, suddenly, it was real. It was impacting the profession. And yet, still, a lot of us weren’t really paying attention because, at that point, only the biggest companies with the deepest pockets could afford to play around with this stuff.

Bill Sheridan: [00:16:18] And then, just 18 months after KPMG announced that, you get something like this. One of my recent guests was Samantha Bowling. In the interest of transparency, she’s the Chair of the MACPA’s Board of Directors, but she is also a partner with a smallish CPA firm here in Maryland. And she started using an artificial intelligence solution called MindBridge.ai in her firm. And then, suddenly, you’re now talking about a small firm being able to afford to play with this technology. In just 18 months, we went from the biggest firms were the only ones being able to do this stuff; and, now, it’s available to everybody, and it’s giving small firms a key competitive advantage that they didn’t have before.

Bill Sheridan: [00:17:13] So, that’s kind of a long story to say that this stuff is moving faster than ever, and it’s becoming available to more people than ever, and we need to start figuring out how it’s going to benefit us, so that we can use it to benefit our clients and customers. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s going to be happening over, and over, and over again. You mentioned blockchain, and you’re right. There aren’t a whole lot of solid stories or examples that we can point to what blockchain is far as how it’s impacting the profession, but they’re coming. We will see them, and the profession is paying very close attention to it. And given the exponential rate that technology is advancing, it probably won’t be too long into the future before we start to see some really tangible examples of how blockchain is starting to impact the profession.

Bill Sheridan: [00:18:07] So, again, technology, it’s a hard trend, it’s not going anywhere, and this type of stuff is going to happen over, and over, and over again. And we just have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with new technology because it’s just this is the new normal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:24] With blockchain, I’ve heard people say, it’s great right now in supply chain. And looking at — I think it was what Walmart that had a mango issue. And they were able to use blockchain within a matter of seconds to figure out where the source of the bad mangoes were coming from versus the Romaine issue that we had this past year where it took maybe a couple of weeks since they figured it out it was somewhere in California. I want to get some from the supply chain management perspective but from a ledger, three-dimensional type of — I still have a hard time getting my mind around it, but we’ll eventually get there.

Bill Sheridan: [00:19:08] I mean, at some point, it’s going to have an impact on the profession. I mean, there are some wild guesses out there. There was a panel of educators at New York University not too long ago. One of them said he thinks that audit is going to be dead within 10 years, thanks to blockchain. Now, that’s a little out there. And I’m not quite sure that we’re going to get — I mean, blockchain right now, it’s really high on the hype cycle right now. And everyone’s talking about it, and everyone’s trying to figure out how it’s going to impact us. And it’s smart to be paying attention to it.

Bill Sheridan: [00:19:45] The AICPA is working with a number of different organizations to figure out how the profession might have to evolve because of this, and that’s really smart because it may very well have a huge impact on us. We need to start figuring it out now. The point is it’s not having that impact yet. We don’t know exactly what the impact is going to be, but the potential is there. And so, we need to be talking about it and paying attention.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:15] We both had on our podcast Amy Vetter, who does a lot of work with IT and has a very good understanding and deep knowledge of blockchain and artificial intelligence. And, I think, we’ll go back, and listen to her episode and, converse with her. I think what I’m hearing is, same thing you’re saying, we’re still a little bit out there with it to start to impact it, but we need to understand it now versus what we typically do. “I’m not going to worry about this new revenue recognition thing until it becomes-” And then, we’re still putting it out to, “Oh my god, let’s do now.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:51] And with this anticipatory type of being future-proof and future-ready, we need to start learning blockchain today. It may not impact us for about a year, or two, or three out to gain that knowledge base, so we can explain it to our clients. And I’ll use the term clients broadly in the sense of public accounting, business, and industry, our internal clients, our external clients, and to our community.

Bill Sheridan: [00:21:17] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, let me give you other examples of we talked about the concept of anticipation and getting ahead of this stuff. So, this whole idea of anticipation is kind of a three-step process. We call it aware, predict, and adapt. So, first step, being aware. What’s going on? Just understanding it. That’s the first step. Predicting is step number two. So, predicting, now that I’m aware of it, what kind of impact is this going to have on me and the people that I work with? And then, adapting, what he actually do about it?

Bill Sheridan: [00:21:50] So, we’ve got a couple of opportunities right now. One of my guests was Rick Richardson who’s a CPA and kind of a tech futurist. And I was just asking him, “What are the what are the big trends that you’re watching that you think are going to have the biggest impact in our lives in the very near future?” So, here’s a great example. One of them, he cited, was 5G. So, the next iteration of WiFi, which it’s not theory anymore. It’s coming. In some places, it’s actually here. And it’s going to allow us to do things. They’re saying the networks are likely going to be 10 times faster with 5G, kind of power everything from driverless cars to the internet of things.

Bill Sheridan: [00:22:32] So, here’s a question for accounting and finance pros out there, how can you take advantage of 5G in a way that will benefit your clients and customers, the people that you work with? That’s the muscle that we have to start building. We know this is coming and in very short order. So, what are the opportunities embedded in something like that? And we need to start thinking about that now before it hits mainstream and evolves into something else. So, that’s this idea of anticipation. It’s building that muscle, just spotting something that we know is going to happen and figuring out how it’s going to impact us and what we can do about it. And that’s going to happen over and over.

Bill Sheridan: [00:23:16] Voice search is another one. I mean, Alexa is not just this cool toy that we’re playing around with. Voice search is going to evolve and become more and more powerful. How can we take advantage of that? That the kind of discipline that we have to start building as we go forward because we’re just going to see more and more of this type of stuff as time goes on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:40] And I don’t remember if it was CBS Sunday Morning or 60 Minutes, but they did a piece on 5G to explain how that impact and how powerful it is because it doesn’t work from cell towers, it works from nodes. And there’s all these nodes. But what are the challenges with that is urban areas – St. Louis, Columbus, Baltimore – will have access to 5G, but those who are in the rural areas, it may not reach to them, and there’s going to be a big disparity in the ability to use the internet and cloud if you’re out in those roll areas. So, think about anticipating, if you’ve got clients in these areas, when you move to 5G, how is that going to impact those clients or your location maybe?

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:26] Last month, I was in Endicott, Nebraska, which is about an hour and a half southwest of Lincoln, 127 people in the whole city. There’s a manufacturing plant called Endicott Clay Products. They make brick. They make brick, but they make brick that they use at like Lucas Oil Stadium. And it’s really cool thin brick, but you can hardly get cell service out there, more or less internet service. I’m thinking, how are you guys going to be able to keep up because you’ve got a lot of clients around the country who will be on 5G? Have you guys thought about that? And their answer was, “We haven’t thought about that.” So, let’s start thinking about.

Bill Sheridan: [00:25:15] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And that’s not uncommon, especially in our profession, but you’re starting to see more and more people in our profession starting to pay attention to stuff like this. They’re starting to realize that it’s like this is just the way things are going to be from now on, and this new stuff is going to continue to have impacts. We need to start figuring out what we need to do about it. So, there’s still — It’s baby steps, but I think they’re starting to move in the right direction, which is encouraging.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:45] And you mentioned Alexa. So, I remember National Speakers Association. I will say that Daniel Burrus is also a member of the National Speakers Association. He is a certified speaking professional, and he’s in the Speaker Hall of Fame, which is pretty cool. He’s kind of one of those high-profile guys. But in this month’s magazine, they talked about, how can we use Alexa when we’re on stage? And I go, “Interesting.” But there’s a way that — And I actually tested this out. There’s a way that you can go in and, actually, program Alexa to respond to certain commands that you create, not that Amazon creates. And I went, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” So, I’m in the process now of trying to figure out how I can bring Alexa with me to interact with the audience in a way that, obviously, people stay away, but Alexis able to communicate.

Bill Sheridan: [00:26:42] That would be really cool. It would be cool.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:44] And so, if I get it done, I’ll have it recorded, but how can we, as accounting professionals, use Alexa in that manner? Let’s talk about Jody Padar. And she’s now — Is it a joint venture, partnership with?

Bill Sheridan: [00:27:03] Botkeeper, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:03] Botkeeper, yeah. And Botkeeper is — You can probably say it better than I can.

Bill Sheridan: [00:27:11] I’m still fuzzy on the whole bot type of thing, but it’s — Again, these kind of robotic assistants that do things for you. And, again, it’s just another example of technology that’s going to be impacting our profession and making things a little different, a little chaotic. And in typical fashion, Jody saying — She’s one of the outliers in our profession, always trying to figure this stuff out before anybody else. So, she sees something new that she thinks is going to have an impact, and she dives right in, and she’s done that time and time again. And this is just another example.

Bill Sheridan: [00:27:47] But she’s actually — I mean, yes, as you said, working closely with them. That’s how much potential she believes that the bots have. That’s how much impact she thinks they’re going to have on this profession. So, you wanted to be right there at the forefront of it. And it’s really going to be interesting to see how all that shakes out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:08] Yeah. I remember when I interviewed her about a year or so ago, she was talking about bots. And I pulled out the baby boomer card. I go, “What is that? What’s a bot?” And she pulled out the millennial cards and she started — And I still couldn’t get my mind around it. But, lately, I’ve been able to have a better understanding and even talking with her. She said, “We could create a bot that you could do all of your accounting within your business, have everything reconciled, done, tied up, and you just give the information out to your CPA to do the taxes versus I had them do my reconciliations and make sure that my checking accounts all-”

Bill Sheridan: [00:28:48] Sure, sure.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:48] Yeah. So, it’s-

Bill Sheridan: [00:28:48] Well, it’s a great — I mean, it’s a great service for small businesses, this whole idea of automated bookkeeping. And the story that she told me was the Botkeeper folks said that they were working with a small business in the area. They actually named their bots apparently, like human names. And there is one client who came in at one point and said, “You know what, I came in to-” I don’t know what name they have given him, but like let’s just call him Leon. “I came in to meet Leon.” And then, they had to explain to this guy that, “Leon’s not an actual person. He’s just the name that we give this machine over here.” But that’s kind of blurring the lines between people and machines. And that’s what technology is doing nowadays though. But interesting stuff. Yeah, we’re paying attention to how that’s moving as well where we’re real interested to see where for all that goes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:50] Let’s go to the top of the accounting profession. Back in August of last year, you released an episode where you interviewed Barry Melanson.

Bill Sheridan: [00:29:58] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:59] And it was titled, “We won’t Recognize the Accounting and Finance Profession in 10 Years.”

Bill Sheridan: [00:30:05] Yeah. Barry’s kind of famous for saying that, and he qualified. I heard him speak at a conference not too long ago, and he actually qualified that. He said, “I tend to say 10 years. It’s really more like five, but I just don’t want to scare people.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:23] So, I’m glad you said that because I’ve always felt it’s more five than 10.

Bill Sheridan: [00:30:27] Yeah, yeah, but yeah. I mean, that’s the type of impact that these trends are having. And it’s not just technology trends either. I mean, we talked about things like demographics, and the fact that baby boomers are going to continue to retire at a rate of about 10,000 a day. And who’s going to step in and fill that kind of experience gap? The next generation in line are my folks the Gen-Xers who there’s not nearly enough of us around to take over those, to fill that gap. It’s just a numbers game. I mean, that’s another hard trend. So, that’s having an impact as well on the whole demographic shakeup.

Bill Sheridan: [00:31:08] But, yeah, between technology, and demographics, and legislation, regulation, the profession is changing. So, going back to blockchain. I mean, one of the things that they’re looking at is — And as I said, the impact on audit and various working with a number of groups to say, “Okay. Well, if audit is evolving, how might auditors have to evolve as well? What’s the changing role for auditors going forward?” So, they’re looking at what the auditor of the future actually looks like, and they may end up doing very different things from what they’re doing today.

Bill Sheridan: [00:31:46] So, I think, that’s what he means in a certain sense. It is, it’s changing, but things have always changed. In a certain way, none of this is new. It’s just happening faster now than it ever has. And it’s kind of thrown us for a loop, but things have always changed, and we’ve always evolved. People talk about all the jobs that are going to be automated away, and there will be some, but they have those discussions without really realizing that all these new technologies are going to create as many or more jobs as the ones they destroy. And new technology does that. So, we will evolve as well. And it’s always been that way, and it always will be. We’re just going to have to learn how to do it faster now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:28] And I think I’ve heard it explained to me. It’s Tom, or Daniel Burrus, someone. When things changed, it’s kind of a slow kind of a change. And this has kind of crept up on us, and it’s happened. It’s not like a linear line. It’s like a hockey stick. The things that happened, we went from the LP, to the cassette, to the 8-track. And then, all of a sudden — But, obviously, it’s now a hockey stick. It gets to that exponential change. And, boom, it just shoots straight up.

Bill Sheridan: [00:33:01] That’s exponential growth in a nutshell. It’s gradual, almost to the point of you don’t notice it. And then, it’s sudden. Gradual, and then sudden. And we’re halfway up that hockey stick at this point. Things are just changing. We are now in that exponential phase, right. It’s just unbelievable, the things that are happening. And it’s really exciting in a way to be to be living in this time because, my gosh, think about the stuff that we’re going to see in very short order. It’s pretty mind blowing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:34] But the one thing, I’ll go old school. Somebody share this with me the other day. Do you remember the time when we had the cassette tape, and we kept it in that plastic container?

Bill Sheridan: [00:33:47] Of course.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:48] In the north, if you didn’t have a scraper, an ice scraper, that was your ice scraper. And you’ll never be able to experience using a cassette tape as an ice scraper. Go on.

Bill Sheridan: [00:34:00] And I was trying to explain to my daughter too this concept. So, she had just made a playlist on Spotify, and love Spotify, and she’d put together this playlist of some of her favorite songs for a friend. And I was trying to explain to her the concept of making a mixtape and how long that took back in the day. And if you screwed up, you had to go back and erase it. And it’s just a foreign concept to her in an age where you can just go in, and find all your songs, and put them in one spot, and there you go. But, yeah, it’s another example of how quickly things have changed.

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:36] The one thing that struck me in Barry’s conversation with you, he mentioned a story. And, obviously, that’s big on my radar all the time, but he talked a lot about, “We need to be better storytellers.” That’s how the profession is evolving, and that’s a skill that doesn’t develop overnight. It develops over time. But I was really happy that he mentioned that because I’ve been talking about that for a while. He goes back to those soft skills, the communication skills, but it’s not a data dump. Numbers don’t move themselves. People move the numbers. Something has to happen to transactions. Something has to happen from a human in order for numbers to move.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:22] So, our job is to get behind those numbers, find out what it is, and then be able to tell the story to those above. And it’s not a data dump, or it’s more there’s an emotional connection within those numbers. Something had to happen and just finding that. And he talked a little bit about that aspect on how the profession is changing.

Bill Sheridan: [00:35:46] Yeah, yeah. And you’re right. And you know this better than anybody. We have to become better storytellers. I mean, there was a study that came out two or three years ago now. It’s done by the Slate Group actually. They were trying to figure out, what are the top reasons why a client might leave their CPA? And the number one reason they found was that, in essence, my CPA wasn’t future-ready. I think the actual response was, “My CPA provides me with reactive services, instead of proactive advice.”.

Bill Sheridan: [00:36:22] They want us to be more future-ready and help them to become future-ready. And doing that means being able to tell those stories behind the numbers. They don’t just want you to crunch out another tax return forum. They want you to help them understand how their business is evolving and what they need to do about it. And that requires us to be better storytellers. So, yeah, that’s another skill that we need to learn.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:47] I wish my accountant would be more along those lines. I know I have some challenges in my business, also, small business owners do. But the ability for them to stop for a moment to say, “Hey, Pete, look at this. Have you ever thought about this, or maybe you need to do that, or maybe this would be a better product or line that could help you keep some.” But I don’t get that type of advice. But I think no matter how large or small you are, just by having that conversation also helps retain the business because I have a wandering eye now. My eyes wander. Maybe I need to find another CPA to help me in my business.

Bill Sheridan: [00:37:34] We work very closely with a firm in Maryland that kind of famously told a story one time not too long ago about they were talking with a potential client. And in the process of that kind of getting-to-know-you phase, the firm, the member of the firm, asked that the potential client, “Where do you want to take your business? I mean, what do you see when you look at the future of this business? Where do you eventually want to go with it?” And I think it took a few moments, but they said, the potential new client gave their business that day.

Bill Sheridan: [00:38:12] And they asked him — It was that quick, and the firm said, “Can I ask why?” And they said, “No one has ever asked me that question before. No one has ever asked me kind of a future-focused question about my business. And that tells me that you guys care about where I’m going and want to help me get there.” And those kind of conversations are going to be crucial going forward. I mean, we need to be able to help walk our clients and customers into the future. In order to do that, we need to be there before them. So, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:46] I think I may know the firm that you’re talking about. You said a Maryland-based, have about two or about three locations in Maryland.

Bill Sheridan: [00:38:54] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:56] Right, yeah. And they are very — In a lot of different ways, but they’re very much future-proof and future-ready.

Bill Sheridan: [00:39:02] Yeah. They’re one of the firms. They were one of the first to kind of embrace that Daniel Burrus’ notion of anticipation, and go through that AOAF program, and try to become a little bit more anticipatory themselves. So, they were they were walking the talk there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:16] Yeah, exactly. The one episode I do want to talk about because as I was going through, I missed this one, so I haven’t heard it, you interviewed Sally Hogshead.

Bill Sheridan: [00:39:28] Yeah. That was an interesting conversation. So, this was at the CCH User Conference back in October. She was the closing keynote speaker there. So, Sally is a marketing expert and just a terrific speaker. And I’m trying to dig up the actual — Bear with me while I look for it. She put on a great closing keynote at the CCH User Conference in which she talked about how to set yourself apart from the competition. the best way to do that was. And the phrase that she bantered about over and over again was that, “We’re at a point in time where different is better than better.” We have to focus on what makes us different and not necessarily why we might be better than somebody else because chances are we might be better, but when it comes to doing the stuff that we do, there are other people out there who can do what we do pretty well too. So, why we do it or what makes us different from them is really going to be the differentiator.

Bill Sheridan: [00:40:38] So, she’s actually come up with this kind of matrix of sorts that she calls the Fascination Advantage, where you can find your sweet spot and really get to the heart of what makes you different than everybody else out there. And it was a great conversation. That was fun conversation to have.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:55] She’s up in the Speaker Hall of Fame. I’ve heard her name ever since the day I walked in the National Speakers Association. I’ve never met her. So, I was scrolling through here, I went, “Wow.” And you were talking about that matrix. I think, I looked in your show notes. I think you can find it at www.howtofascinate.com.

Bill Sheridan: [00:41:19] That’s right. And she actually created a code that people who listen to the podcast can use to take the assessment for free at the website if they’re interested. It’s, again, howtofascinate.com/you. And if you go there, and you enter the code FutureProof, all one word, capital F, capital P, you’ll be able to take Sally’s assessment.

Bill Sheridan: [00:41:47] And, again, it’s just — She looks at seven characteristics. She calls them innovation, passion, power, prestige, trust, mystique, and alert. And somewhere in the intersection of those seven things is your sweet spot, what really defines you and makes you different from everybody else out there. And it sounds a little touchy-feely, but it’s not. I mean, she had everybody in the audience take the assessment before the keynote. And it’s pretty eye-opening stuff. So, I mean, yeah, I’d go there and just play around with it because it could help you find one or two things that you can focus on that sets you apart from everybody else out there.

Bill Sheridan: [00:42:29] I do a lot of work with EOS and helping folks implement this business operating system. And one of the things we talk about when we talk about marketing is your uniques, your three uniques. What sets you apart? And that becomes part of the message that you deliver to the world. So, it was a really powerful message that Sally offered. And she was very gracious to take the time and sit down with me after the keynote and, actually, have a one-on-one conversation. So, that was a fun interview to do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:01] So, if I ever meet her, I’m going to drop your name and say, “Bill interviewed you on his podcast. Can I get some time on my podcast and interview you?

Bill Sheridan: [00:43:12] There you go, yeah. She’s very gracious. And I have to thank the folks at CCH for setting that one up too. They’ve been really helpful over the years. That’s where I met Daniel Burrus for the first time, as matter of fact. He was a keynote speaker at the CCH User Conference four or five years ago. And I just asked the folks at CCH, would I be able to get five or 10 minutes with him either before or after his talk? And they said, “Sure, we’ll make that happen.” And it doesn’t hurt to ask. They can only say no. That’s the worst that can happen. And on the other side, if they say yes, you get to talk to some pretty cool people, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:51] Yeah. So, we’ll go full circle here with Daniel Burrus now. He is the co-chair for our Annual Convention for National Speakers Association. And the annual convention, the theme of it is Transformation.

Bill Sheridan: [00:44:08] There you go.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:09] And he talks a lot about but we’re past the time of change. We’re in that when the area of transformation. So, I’m looking forward to going to Denver and seeing what they lay out as it relates to transformation for our profession, and take some of that, and say, “Well, how does that also equate to the transformation of the accounting profession?”

Bill Sheridan: [00:44:30] Right, right. Yeah. No. And he’s kind of famous for saying, when it comes to transformation, I mean, there’s a couple of really powerful examples out there. I mean, Uber, for one. We always talk about Uber, but it’s a great example of a new service that came from outside the industry it was impacting, and completely turned it on its head. I mean, Airbnb is another one. So, you know. I mean, hotels probably weren’t really paying attention to what they were doing outside the profession not so long ago. But all of a sudden, in swoops Airbnb and completely turns it upside down.

Bill Sheridan: [00:45:09] So, that’s what worries me a little bit about our profession is that there’s somebody out there somewhere working on something that may very well end up transforming what we do. So, we need to learn how to start looking for stuff like that early. That’s what anticipation is all about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:32] And the key there, well, L has to be greater than C squared.

Bill Sheridan: [00:45:38] Yeah, that’s Tom Hood’s kind of personal formula for keeping yourself relevant. The L is the pace at which you learn. C squared is the pace of change and the pace at which your competition is changing. So, change in competition. So, it basically just means you got to continuously learn nowadays. Just always be learning new stuff, always be upskilling. That’s kind of the catch phrase of the day is continually making yourself better.

Bill Sheridan: [00:46:12] The quote I always love comes from Robert Safian, who’s the editor of Fast Company. A couple years ago, he wrote an article in which he said that we’re living in a time where the most important skill any of us can have is the ability to learn new skills, and that’s never going to change. Tom, again, is kind of famous for saying that things will never be as slow as they are right now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:35] Yeah, exactly.

Bill Sheridan: [00:46:36] They’re just going to continually speed up. And the only way we can hope to kind of write that out is just free ourselves up to become lifelong learners.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:43] And invest in yourself. Don’t look at it as a cost. Look at it as an investment. And this has nothing to do with compliance and our licensing. It’s way beyond that learning aspect.

Bill Sheridan: [00:46:54] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:54] So, before we wrap up, do you always — You’re an avid consumer of books. You read a lot of books. So, we’ve got some that similar. What’s the book that you’ve read recently that has just blown you away?

Bill Sheridan: [00:47:09] Oh my gosh, there’s been a number of them. The Culture Code is one. That was a good one. I want to look up the author to make sure that I get it right, but it was — Okay. So, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, and it’s by Daniel Coyle. That was a really great book.

Bill Sheridan: [00:47:30] Daniel Pink’s latest book, it’s not brand new, but it came out last year. It’s called When. And the whole premise was that, how you do what you do is important but equally important is when you do what you do. The Science of Secret of Perfect Timing, I think, was the subtitle. But he makes the point that when we decide to do something, often, has as much impact as how we do it, which was a really cool concept, but it was a great book.

Bill Sheridan: [00:47:58] Tom Peters’ latest book is fantastic. It’s called The Excellence Dividend. He’s always great, but those three really stick out among books that I read last year.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:09] What do you read now?

Bill Sheridan: [00:48:09] Right now, I am reading — Hold on. It’s right here. I’ve got three of them in order. There’s the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, which I haven’t read, but I’ve heard it’s great. It’s by Kenneth Blanchard. So, the monkey story kind of goes like this. It’s this idea of leadership and management. People come into your office with their problems, their issues. You look at those problems and issues as monkeys sitting on their shoulders. And what they what those people are trying to do is give you their monkey. Get this thing off my shoulder here. And at the end of the day, what happens is you’ve got an office full of monkeys, and you can’t get anything done. Your goal has to be to send them out with their monkey still attached to their shoulder. So, that’s kind of the concept. I’m really looking forward to reading that one.

Bill Sheridan: [00:49:10] The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. And I’ve heard a number of different people recommend this one. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it comes highly recommended by all the people that I turn to when I’m looking for new books to read. I say, “Okay, what are the best new books?” and this one was at the top of the list. So, The Art of Gathering that I’m looking forward to reading right now.

Bill Sheridan: [00:49:34] But the one that I’m reading right now is — Okay. So, it’s kind of weird. I have become certified as a personal trainer in my spare time.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:45] Wait, wait, wait, wait. You have spare time?

Bill Sheridan: [00:49:47] No, no, not really.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:48] Don’t say that out loud. Tom will put more stuff on your plate, man.

Bill Sheridan: [00:49:53] No, it’s my trip into the Bizarro world. Actually, find the time to do stuff like that. So, I got certified as a personal trainer. Personal trainers have a certain amount of continuing education every couple of years to keep their licenses. So, right now, I’m becoming specialized in fitness nutrition. So, I’m reading a nutrition textbook, a little dry. I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody, but it’s very interesting and eye opening in a lot of ways. I’ll let you know how that one comes out.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:25] That’s cool. Congratulations on being certified as a personal trainer. That’s awesome.

Bill Sheridan: [00:50:29] Yeah, thanks. I don’t know. It’s just something that — I mean, I spend a lot time in the gym, and I just enjoy it, and I just thought this might be a way that I can help people in my later years. So, we’ll see. It’s been a lot of fun though.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:43] Oh cool. Well, Bill, I can’t thank you enough for taking time. I always enjoy our conversations. Congratulations on the podcast. Keep doing you do it because, man, I love it. It’s strong, and it’s just not because it’s you and MACPA, but you really do a great job on, and I commend you for that. And thanks for all that you and MACPA is doing to help the accounting profession evolve.

Bill Sheridan: [00:51:06] My pleasure. Thanks for the kind words. Always, always fun to talk to you, Peter. Thank you for having me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:14] All right, bud.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:14] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, my question to you, are you future-proof? The answer is probably not. So, take some time, plot out a path to help you become ready for the future. By the way, start today, not tomorrow. Start today. You can find 10 minutes out of your busy, busy schedule. And take that time to reflect on what does it mean to be future-proof. And then, each day, add on another 10 minutes and say, “How can I become better prepared for the future? What skills do I need to put in my tool box?” Now, this is not going to happen overnight, but if you take 10 minutes, if you take these baby steps, you’ll end up breaching your goal a lot quicker than you thought, but you have to do it every single day.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:10] So, thank you for listening. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend.

Advertisement: [00:52:21] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E21 – Gary Zeune | The Pros & The Cons: Why White Collar Crime Happens (& How to Prevent It)

We would like your feedback on today’s podcast by answering this quick two-minute survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MS2T6P6. Thank you so much for your support.

 

My guest today is a gentleman who knows more about fraud than just about anyone else in the accounting and finance profession: Gary Zeune, CPA, Managing Director of The Pros & The Cons.

 

The Pros & The Cons is the only speaker bureau in the country specializing in white-collar criminals. His 40 plus ex-con speakers tell the stories of how and why they embezzled, took kickbacks, and cooked the books to the tune of up to $2.7 billion. His speakers include Mark Morse, a former CFO at ZZZZ Best; Paul Allen, an ex-bank CEO; and Dunlap Cannon, the largest real estate closing attorney in Memphis.

 

But regardless of what kind of entity they worked at, regardless of the dollar amount, there are several really common elements between everyone who commits fraud – the biggest one being that they don’t think they’re going to get caught. To put it simply, ego gets in the way.

 

So, why would someone be so stupid to think they aren’t going to get caught?

 

Well, consider this: have you ever broken the speed limit while driving? Everybody, including me and Gary, have done. It’s illegal, so why do we do it? We do it because we think we’re going to get away with it – just the same as somebody cheating on their expense report or cooking the books at the bank for $2.7 billion.

 

People say, “Well, I’d never let that happen to me.” Well, when you get in your car and you go on the freeway, most of us start going the speed limit. Then, you go two miles over. Then, you’re three miles over. Then, five. After you’re driving for an hour, you might be going 10, 15 miles over the speed limit. What happens is when your brain is bombarded by constant stimuli, the same stimuli, your brain becomes desensitized.

 

That’s why frauds always start little and get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

 

Most people think that there is a bright line on ethical behavior, but that’s not the way it works. Ethics is not absolute. Ethics is situational.

 

So you might think going just five or 10 miles over the speed limit isn’t so bad, but would you break the law by driving 30 or 40 miles over the speed limit? Most of us the answer is no, most of the time, but what about when you have a medical emergency and you’re taking your child to the hospital? Your child’s health and well-being is more important than you staying five miles over the speed limit, so you change your behavior and break the law even more because there’s something more important to you in this situation than the speed limit.

 

So, if you don’t do something about fraud, it’s just going to grow – which also means you need to know how fraud works so that you can identify it.

 

You may get an expense report for $1000, including a $12 fake cab. If you don’t bust someone over it, assuming you catch it, and then make the punishment worse than the crime, they’re going to do it again. “And it will get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. That’s where it always starts.”

 

Gary shares a number of great fraud stories in the episode, and you can learn even more by reading some of the following articles he wrote or contributed to:

 

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

Gary Zeune: [00:00:00] Every fraud that we talk about is a situation where really smart people to do really stupid stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:17] 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: [00:00:37] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:04] Welcome to Episode 21. My guest today is Gary Zeune, CPA. And his consulting practice provide CPAs, attorneys, and executives with hands-on experience in fraud, auditing, and corporate strategy performance improvement. Prior to forming his consulting practice, Gary was an Assistant Vice President of Corporate Finance at the Ohio Company, a Columbus, Ohio investment banking firm.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:30] He also spent more than five years in treasury and Finance at Wendy’s International where he was responsible for mergers and acquisitions, financial and SEC reporting, and corporate finance. Gary has the only speaker bureau in the country specializing in white-collar criminals, The Pros and The Cons. His 40 plus ex-con speakers tell their stories of how and why they embezzled, took kickbacks, and cooked the books to the tune of $2.7 billion. His speakers include Mark Morse who’s a former CFO at ZZZZ Best, Paul Allen who’s an ex-bank CEO, and Dunlap Cannon, who is the largest real estate closing attorney in Memphis just to name a few. Our conversation centers around fraud, and why people decide to cross the ethical line. As Gary points out, a large majority of fraud start out very very small but then spiral out of control.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:35] Before we get to the interview, I want to share with you some exciting news. In the coming weeks, this podcast will be part of the C-Suite Radio library. C-Suite Radio is the home of the top business podcasts for leaders in the C-Suite and those who aspire to be. C-Suite Radio is a library of weekly online radio shows that explore the challenges, successes, and failures of guests, who are successful entrepreneurs, C-Suite leaders, thought leaders, and innovators. I’m very excited to be part of the C-Suite library. We’ll let you know when the podcast can be found there. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Gary Zeune.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:22] Hey. Welcome back, everybody. Today, I’ve got the man, the myth, the legend. The gentleman who knows more about fraud than most people. I tell you who my guest is, Mr. Gary Zeune. And Gary, thank you so very much for taking time to be on my podcast today.

Gary Zeune: [00:03:40] Hey, Pete. It’s great to talk to you again. Looking forward to it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:44] Now, as you guys heard his voice, man, he’s got a radio voice. I need that voice, but he doesn’t do radio. He owns a company called Pros and Cons, and he talks about fraud, and he hires ex-cons to go out and teach fraud, teach ethics to the CPA community. Would that be a correct statement?

Gary Zeune: [00:04:06] That is right. And it’s a really interesting process. I’ve been doing this 25 years since 1995. And you’re right, one of our philosophies or one of our business model is if you don’t know how to commit fraud, how are you going to catch it? Because everybody I’ve ever talked to that’s gone to prison for fraud, they didn’t know how until they figured it out. So, it’s not like a magic skill that you’re born with. It’s a learned skill.

Gary Zeune: [00:04:43] And we very often — or not we because I’ve not done it. I haven’t gotten caught yet. It’s something that you just kind of — It starts small, and it gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger. In fact, I wrote an article for The New Jersey CPA Society a few years ago called Fraud and Theft Start Small. And if you look at the pattern because, most people, the only thing they ever see when they read about a fraud case or hear about it, “Oh, Bernie Madoff blew up $165 million” or “The bookkeeper stole $2 million.” Well, they never start at the amounts you read about in the paper. They always start small. And then, it gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

Gary Zeune: [00:05:25] Just like your 15-year-old, a curfew on Friday night is 11:00, and they come home at 11:30, and you don’t do anything about it. The following weekend, your 15-year-old is going to come home or the following Friday, your 15-year-old is going to come home at 12:00 because by coming home at 11:30, what they’re doing is they’re testing the control. What’s the control? You’re the parent, you’re the control. And employees, and clients, and staff, and bosses, do exactly the same thing. Why? Because it’s human nature.

Gary Zeune: [00:06:02] And so, you’re right that all of this stuff we’re going to talk about in the podcast, everybody has seen all of this stuff. So, basically, what we’re going to do, Pete, is we’re going to take the same information, and we’re going to re-frame it, so people can relate to it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:17] So, my big question, I don’t think I’ve ever asked this. I mean, I’ve known you for a number of years, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked this question. How did you get into this business? How did how did Pros and Cons start?

Gary Zeune: [00:06:28] I got lost on vacation.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:31] (Laughs).

Gary Zeune: [00:06:31] That’s everybody’s reaction. No, I did not say it. I don’t know if you ever seen the data, but 80% of all the most profitable products and services started by accident. And, usually, it’s when a customer figures out how to use the product or service for something that the company that sold it to him didn’t anticipate.

Gary Zeune: [00:06:58] So what happened was — And by the way, that’s a great profitability strategy is if you want to know how to make more money, talk to your customers and find out how they’re using your product or your service. And they’ll tell you what they’re doing, things you would never think of in a thousand years. It’s that very few things that are really profitable is somebody sitting in a corner thinking it up because you got to do it. You got use it to think of.

Gary Zeune: [00:07:24] So, what happened with me was by accident, which is also one of the primary ways the fraud gets caught. That’s how these two things are related. What happened was I was in Washington DC, I was teaching there, and my sister and his husband lived in DC at the time. So, I would always teach during the summer. I would take my daughter who, at this point, was 13 years old. And she was just starting to really get into clothes and things like that. So, she wanted to go down to the Potomac Mills outlet mall in Northern Virginia. And she’s always been a really frugal shopper like I am.

Gary Zeune: [00:08:02] Well, we’d flown over from Columbus, Ohio. And I borrowed my sister’s car. We’re going down I-95. And I can’t remember what exit the mall was on. I didn’t have enough sense to ask my sister. I thought, of course, being a guy, I knew where it was, so I didn’t have to. I couldn’t remember. It’s been years since I’ve been there. And so, I stopped at a gas station. I get off the freeway. I’m just pulling off on the first gas station off on the side street there, get the directions. I walked out, I looked across the street, and here’s an old Hechinger Hardware store.

Gary Zeune: [00:08:34] Now, Hechinger Clothes, oh, it’s got to be 20 or 25 years ago. And the easiest way to think about Hechinger is it was like a half-size Lowe’s. So, think of a typical Lowe’s store. And they’ve taken the sign up, the Hechinger sign off the front, and they put up a big banner that says, “Giant Book Sale.” I love to read. So, I pulled across, I get out of the car. The automatic doors opened up, and I walked in. And the only book standing up on edge on the — Now, imagine walking into a half-sized Lowe’s. Let me set the stage for you, the visual here. Imagine walking into a half-sized Lowe’s, all the floor-to-ceiling shelving is gone, and it’s full of folding tables with books, a foot or a foot and a half feet. So, it was like a sea of books.

Gary Zeune: [00:09:27] So, this is what’s called a remainder bookstore. What they do is they buy overstock and slightly damaged. And they don’t even know what they’re getting. They’re literally buying by the truck load, semi-truck load, and they’d buy by the pound, about 10 cents a pound. I didn’t know what they’re going to get. So, imagine a sea of books, and the only book standing up on the edge like this, so you could see it, on the very first table. So, automatic doors opened, imagine this. Automatic doors opened. First table right in front of me, the only book on that table standing up on edge, all the others were laid down flat like this.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:07] I got it. I got it.

Gary Zeune: [00:10:08] This will be on the edge was a book on fraud. I paid $2 for it, and that’s how the whole thing started. So, it took me about — Oh, the book was Faking It In America by a guy by the name of Daniel Akst, A-K-S-T. Akst was a reporter, business reporter at The LA Times back then. This is 1994. I’m sorry. It’s was ’87 when he was at the Times. So, he writes this book about this guy by the name of Barry Minkow. And Barry Minkow, M-I-N-K-O-W, committed probably the most outrageous fraud of the ’90s. I mean, it’s a classic story. This is so outrageous. The Security and Exchange Commission even changed the rules because of what this guy did. This happened in 1987.

Gary Zeune: [00:11:06] So, I paid $2 for the book. I take two or three nights to read through it. I realized when I get to the end, because he wrote it from a business reporter’s perspective, so I realized when I get through it, I need to write my own book for CPAs on fraud, and I’ll use this as a classic case. So, why use ZZZZ Best as a classic case? The answer is because Barry started the company when he was 16 years old, and he’d never gone to college. And by the time he was 21 years old, he’d stolen $100 million.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:41] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:11:41] And he had five auditors over — I’m sorry. He’s had three auditors over a five-year period of time. He fooled a sole practitioner for two years. He fooled a small Southern California firm for two years. And then, finally, they were going to take the company public. And, now, think about this, never been in college. He fools three accounting firms. So, if you remember the big junk bond investment banking firm, Drexel Burnham-

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:12] Yeah.

Gary Zeune: [00:12:12] … and Michael Milken created the entire junk bond market based on his Master’s thesis in college that if you made a wide enough dispersed investment in junk bonds, you’d end up with a premium yield without a lot of additional risk because you diversified. That’s how I tell Drexel Burnham got to be a world powerhouse investment banking firm, and steal Milken’s idea. And so, Milken was in Hollywood, at this point, by Beverly Hills at this point. And Milken and his team were getting ready to do a $600 million public offering for ZZZZ Best. And Milken said — I should say Drexel said, “We don’t do offerings on IPOs with anything other than Big 8 accounts, Big 8 firms.”

Gary Zeune: [00:13:08] And I used to be an investment banker and did IPOs in private places. And so, the issue from an investment banking perspective, it has nothing to do with [inaudible]. It’s a marketing issue because what happens is the way human brain works, among others, is that if we recognize what we’re looking at, we tend not to evaluate it. We assume the new information from that same well-known source has the same level of quality and credibility as what we’re used to. We don’t independently vouch it.

Gary Zeune: [00:13:44] So, the marketing issue is if an investor is going through a prospective, “No, I think I’ll buy $10 million.” You may see an accounting firm that says, “The financial statements are fairly stated blah, blah, blah. Signed Joe Snard & Associates. Well, who the hell is Joe Snard & Associates?” And so, it creates this little voice in the back of their mind, I wonder if I can rely on the financial statements versus if they see any big-name firm, “Oh, I know them,” and they’ll go right on by.

Gary Zeune: [00:14:10] So, the reason to require a Big 8 firm is to avoid the creation of doubt in the investor’s mind. So, at this point, Barry is using a local CPA firm in the Los Angeles area where the company was based. And here’s an interesting point, remember I said they fooled a sole practitioner for two years?

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:34] Right, right.

Gary Zeune: [00:14:37] The sole practitioner was in New Jersey. It’s a California firm. So, why? Because they’re not going get on a plane every time. Then, they’d look at an invoice and come out. It’s easier. So, Barry and his CFO, Mark Morse, who’s one of my top speakers, Mark was the CFO, they go out and interview all the Big 8 firms. Now, this is late ’84, early ’85. And so, we still had Big 8 at that point. They interviewed all the Big 8 firms, and they picked Ernst. It could have been anybody. I mean, it just happened to be Ernst. This is all public information. So, I’m not telling stories out of school here.

Gary Zeune: [00:15:21] So, the question is if they interviewed all the 8 firms, why did they take Ernst? And Barry and Mark had both said that, “The reason we picked Ernst was because Ernst had a small satellite office not far from ZZZZ Best. And if we went with Ernst, we would be audited out of that office, and we would be a big fish in a small pond; whereas, if we went with any of the other firms, they didn’t have a satellite office, we’d be audited out of the main office downtown, and we’d be a little fish in a great big pond, and we couldn’t push them around like we could somebody who’s local or a big part of their business.” So, that was one reason.

Gary Zeune: [00:16:04] The second reason they have both said — Well, I don’t know if this was true. I don’t know. It’s just what they’ve said. Of course, they’ve both been to prison, so they’re typically bad. And so, they have both said that the reason that they picked the Ernst folks is after interviewing all of the people that it was clear to Mark and Barry that the folks from Ernst in this old satellite office knew the least about the industry. And if you know the least about the industry, you’ll be the easiest to fool.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:40] So, before you go any further, what industry was this because I don’t think you clarified that?

Gary Zeune: [00:16:46] Right. And so, the name of the company, if you all look it up with four Zs, ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning Construction. So, Barry starts this carpet cleaning company when he’s 16 years old literally in his parents’ garage. And the reason he started carpet cleaning was his mother was a telemarketer for a Southern California carpet cleaning company, and Barry used to help her. And so, he knew some about the business.

Gary Zeune: [00:17:12] And he started the carpet cleaning company when he’s working out at the gym one day and he bumps into the guy on the treadmill next to him, who, by complete coincidence, happens to be a salesman for a carpet cleaning supply company. And so, he would sell the soap and shampoo, and would rent the self-steam cleaning machines, and things like that. But, of course, he’s 16 and didn’t have any money. And the guy takes a liking to him and agrees to lease Barry the machines. And that’s how he got started at the age of 16.

Gary Zeune: [00:17:51] Over the time Barry was 21, just to give you a frame reference, he had 1300 employees. Their advertisements and their TV ads were so good, and they are hysterical, by the way. There are a few of them. I’ve got a few of them posted on our website. The TV ads were so good they won Clio Awards.

Peter Margaritis: [00:18:11] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:18:10] Now, Clio are like the Oscars and the Academy Awards for TV advertising. They are absolutely hysterical. And you go on YouTube and just type in ZZZZ Best TV commercials, and you’ll get a whole bunch of it. And this is from 30 years ago. And, I mean, still today, you’ll laugh. So, Barry, being 16, he can’t get a checking account in California. You have to be 18. So, he would go clean somebody’s carpets, and he did mostly at homes and really small businesses. So, he’d clean somebody’s home carpets. Usually, it was a wife that was there. And so, she’d hand him a check. He doesn’t have a checking account, he can’t cash it.

Gary Zeune: [00:18:50] So, all the question that I always get is, “Well, how did the fraud start?” Well, Barry can’t cash his checks. So, Rick’s Liquor Store is two blocks away from his house or where his mom lived. He goes down to Rick’s Liquor Store, and he would endorse the checks that these customers had given for 75 bucks to clean the carpets. He endorsed the checks over to Rick. And then, give Rick his bills to pay the lease on the machines, and the soap bill, and things like that.

Gary Zeune: [00:19:20] Well, one day — And by the way, and Rick would then make up money orders for Barry. So, one day, Barry is there doing his money order thing, and Rick gets a telephone call, and goes in the back of the store, and take it. Well, Barry is short that week, so Barry just reaches into the back of the money order box, takes one out, puts it in the machine. Punch, punch, punch, ka-ching, the entire $100 million fraud started with a $200 store money order.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:50] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:19:51] Yeah. And then, five years later, ended up $100 million. So, more of the story is that just like when your teenager comes home half an hour late, and you don’t do anything about it, he goes, “It’s immaterial. It’s a small amount of being late,” then what’s going on? They’re testing the system. And so, frauds, if you don’t do something about fraud, or somebody just doing something like cheating on their expense. So, the expense report might be $1000, and it turned in $12 fake tab. If you don’t bust the over it, that’s assuming you catch it, you’re not going to catch all of this stuff, but when you do catch them, if you don’t do something about it, and make the punishment worse than the crime, they’re going to do it again. And it will get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. That’s where it always starts.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:39] So, again, your business gets started by buying a book in this bookstore about fraud, learned about ZZZZ Best, and you said that the CFO, Mark Morse, is one of your speakers who goes out. So, your business model is you hire ex-cons to go out and present, basically, what they’ve done to teach accountants the aspect of fraud, so they can be better at detecting it. We’re not teaching the accountants to conduct fraud. We’re teaching them how to look for it, correct?

Gary Zeune: [00:21:14] Correct. Well, people say — Well, in fact, I’ll give you an example. One day, there was a really interesting article. We’ve been profiled in The Wall Street Journal probably 4, or 5, or maybe 6 times, New York Times. And the first time, there was an article about a small California company. It’s a bit like in the late 1990s, didn’t have very much internet back then. And I went to contact this small California company, and I couldn’t find them. Brand new startup.

Gary Zeune: [00:21:43] So, I know a bunch of reporters at The Wall Street. So, called him up — His name was Joshua Harris Prager — and said, “Hi. My name’s Gary. And I really liked your article that you wrote yesterday. And could you give me — I’d like to talk to the folks at the company you wrote about yesterday.” So, he was really nice, and gave me a name and a phone number. And he says, “Well, Gary, what do you do for a living?” And I said, “I like to teach people how to commit fraud.” So, it was like getting tabs on the other end of the phone. And 10 seconds later, he says, “Isn’t that illegal?” This is before 911, and so you wouldn’t joke about this stuff. And I said, “No, it’s not illegal, It’s just like bombs. It’s not illegal to design a bomb. It’s only illegal to actually do it and explode it. But having the knowledge how to do it is perfectly legal.”.

Gary Zeune: [00:22:42] So, we used to get a lot — As we talked about earlier, we used to get a lot, but we used to get some push-back. You’re using ex-cons. And my response always is, “Well, if that weren’t okay or if it’s not okay, then why does the FBI do it?” Because the FBI has a lot of crooks come in and teach agents at Quantico. We taught at Quantico years ago. But if you don’t understand, why do you think the FBI has profiles? Why do you think they have crooks or, hopefully, former crooks teaching the agents? Because it’s a whole different mindset. And it’s like this, “Well, where’s the serial rapist or where’s the bank robber going to hit next?” because everybody has patterns and use those patterns as part of the control process.

Gary Zeune: [00:23:38] And so, we used to have a lot of pushback. And so, my response would always be, “Yeah. I understand why you don’t like it but let me ask you a question. If it’s not okay, why is the FBI doing it? And so, if the FBI can learn from people that have done wrong, why are we too good to learn? So, we used to get a fair amount of pushback 20 to 25 years ago. Rarely getting it nailed because it’s much more calm. Back when I first started 25 years ago, nobody ever brought an actual white-collar criminal at a class to teach. And so, I’m the buffer between my clients, and CPA societies, and banks, and et cetera, et cetera, and my ex-con. So, if anything ever goes wrong, then it’s on me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:30] So, can you, at least, name some of the ex-cons that you have in your stables that go out and teach for you?

Gary Zeune: [00:24:38] Yeah. Well, probably, my most requested speaker — Well, actually, I got two. One as Mark Mores, as I mentioned. And Mark was the Chief Financial Officer of ZZZZ Best. Mark did four and a half years in federal prison. And when I first started this up and created my speakers bureau for white-collar criminals, we have 45 speakers now, half are white-collar criminals, and they range from Teri Lyn Norwood, who was a bookkeeper, stole $18,000 to one of my newer speakers, Paul Allen, who had a PhD in Finance, was a finance professor, and long story short, did 44 months in Federal Prison for $2.7 billion with a B, $2.7 billion bank fraud and everything in between.

Gary Zeune: [00:25:31] And so, we’ve got theft. We’ve got cooking. By the way, never stole a dime. It’s all cooking the books, keep the bank afloat. That’s another hour-long story. But regardless of what kind of entity that they worked at, whether it was government, nonprofit, public company, private company, or the dollar amount, whether it was $18,000 or $2.7 billion, there are several really common elements. One is they don’t think they’re going to get caught.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:01] So, ego gets in the way.

Gary Zeune: [00:26:03] Ego gets in the way. And, well, I read about a case, and I won’t be that stupid. No, but you’ll do something else stupid that will get you caught. And they just don’t think about that. So, why would they be so stupid to think they aren’t going to get caught? Well, let me ask you a question. Anybody ever break the speed limit when you drive your car?

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:21] Everybody.

Gary Zeune: [00:26:21] Everybody, including me. And so, why do we do it, it’s illegal? Because we think we’re going to get away with it. Just the same as somebody cheating on their expense report or cooking the books at the bank for $2.7 billion. And so, one is Paul Allen and Mark Mores is probably one of my two most-requested speakers. The other most requested speaker is Sam Antar who committed the Crazy Eddie Fraud.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:52] I like that.

Gary Zeune: [00:26:55] Crazy Eddie, that was a retail electronics dealer in New York and had some stores in New Jersey, world famous case. And because both of those cases, by the way, are in every accounting textbook. And so, we do a lot of university presentations. And I, typically, will do it when I’m traveling and teaching. I’ll go to a local university of UNC or USC out in California. And then, I’ll Skype one of my speakers in. And the students and even the faculty, they’ve been teaching this stuff for years, they’ve never actually talked to a real white-collar criminal. So, it makes it real. And the student and the faculty just love it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:35] Oh, yeah. If I was a student or just even a CPA to hear from the one who perpetrated the fraud, and how they did it, that would be much more intriguing than — Don’t get me wrong, Gary — if you were up there basically telling their story, it’s not that authentic. But there is a question I have. And you had told me when you approached Mark or anybody, in order for them to be a speaker in your stable, they have to answer a question.

Gary Zeune: [00:28:08] Yeah. Not many people know this, but every federal prison subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, at least, the last time I checked a few years ago. And so, we’ve been profiled four or five times. So, every prison, the white-collar criminals tear those articles out and keep them. So, I get a lot, and they’re passed down from one generation of white-collar criminals to the next. And so, I get two or three letters a month that are handwritten saying, “Hi. My name is Joe Smith. And I’m going to be out of prison in six months. Can I be a speaker?” And the majority of them think I’m going to give them a platform to stand up and say, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” I’m sorry, that’s not the way it works. So, there are two questions and two things they have to do. The one requirement is they have to be out of prison. That always helps.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:05] Yeah, that always helps.

Gary Zeune: [00:29:06] That always helps. And the second is that they had to admit what they did, take responsibility for it, and they have to answer any question that somebody will put to them because it’s part of the crime. The only exception, we do a lot of media interviews, and so I’m always on the line moderating. And so, I tell the reporter, “You can ask him any question you want, except the only thing that’s off limits is their personal sex life unless it’s got something to do with the crime.” Like you stole money while having an extramarital affair, then it’s fair game because it’s part of the crime, but you’re not going to go down that trail just to be sensational. And I’m going to tell you right out, and if you won’t commit to not talking about that, we’re not going to do the interview. And if you commit to not talking about that, and you do it anyway, we’ll never talk to you again. So, you’re in charge of this interview.

Gary Zeune: [00:30:04] So, probably 9 out of 10 letters that I get from prison. They think they’re going to be able to stand up and say, “Hi. I didn’t do it.” Always, I tell everyone of my speaker, “If you ever do that, and you may well be innocent and didn’t do anything wrong, that’s not what the jury said.” So, we have to go with what the jury said. And so, if you stand up and protest, “I didn’t do anything wrong, I was wrongly convicted,” one, nobody is going to believe you. You will have a really bad hair day at work because you’ve got 600 people in the audience that don’t believe a thing you’re saying.

Gary Zeune: [00:30:38] I’ve only got one speaker where that actually fits and it’s the right thing. It was a guy I’ve known for 25 years who’s an attorney and was convicted of 107 counts of security fraud. And long story. Boy, well, I mean, that’s another hour story. And he spent his entire life savings, something like $6 or $7 million, brought it all the way to the State Supreme Court and got every single conviction overturned.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:09] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:31:10] Yeah. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:14] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:31:14] Only time I’ve ever seen it. So, those are — Mark and Sam are probably the two most-requested speakers. In fact, Sam is speaking at Auburn University this year. And the other speaker is Paul Allen, the bank CEO I mentioned. And then, we’ve got the four smaller entities. We’ve got some bookkeepers, we got some government folks, we got a couple of former CPA. Sam Antar from Crazy Eddie. As I said, famous case. Every student studies that case in college. And Sam was a CPA and lost his license. And he does a lot of presentations, a lot for law enforcement, FBI training, and local law enforcement.

Gary Zeune: [00:32:10] And so, it’s really — people, once they start to listen and say, “Oh my god, I didn’t know that’s the way they think.” And so, listening to white-collar criminals, what it does, it gives you the ability to pick up on very small, subtle, verbal variances and visuals like how people move their hands or how they sit in their chair, stuff that most people, it wouldn’t even occur to them that there is a nefarious reason that they changed how they cross their legs. And so, it’s like interviewing techniques but from the people who tried to make it work but failed because they ended up going to prison.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:59] So, there’s one I want to talk about. And actually this person is, I don’t believe is a part of your stable, but you interviewed him for CPE. I don’t know how long it was. It was a live interview with Scott London.

Gary Zeune: [00:33:18] Correct.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:20] And that was what, about 18 months ago?

Gary Zeune: [00:33:24] Oh, how time flies. Yeah. That was June 25th and 27th, 2014.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:34] ’14?

Gary Zeune: [00:33:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:35] Wow.

Gary Zeune: [00:33:36] Yeah, we did.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:37] So-

Gary Zeune: [00:33:38] Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:38] I’m going to say. So, Scott London was a former partner of-

Gary Zeune: [00:33:43] KPMG.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:44] KPMG out in LA.

Gary Zeune: [00:33:45] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:46] Share that story with the audience.

Gary Zeune: [00:33:49] Yeah, yeah. There’s a degree of, “How could you be so stupid?” with a degree of, “Geez, that’s really sad that you did that.” And just before people think I’m feeling sorry for them, I don’t feel sorry for them because they chose to do it. They got what they deserved. And kind of as a global comment, the people that this is the hardest on is the family because there’s a real famous saying in the criminal justice system or environment, “It’s not just the person that goes to jail that does time. The whole family does time,” because it changes entire family dynamic. People end up on welfare.

Gary Zeune: [00:34:35] So, that one occasion with Scott] by the way. So, Scott was — Just to give you a little background, so what he did will make some sense. And when we teach, it’s really helpful to give the lay of the land because you just say, “Well, I was a CPA, I was a CFO, whatever. I was a comptroller. I was a bookkeeper. Here’s what I did.” Everybody will say. “Well, that was really stupid. I’d never do that.” Oh, yes, you would. So, that’s where the background comes in because nobody just wakes up one day and says, “I think I’m going to commit fraud.” I mean, you get to the point almost.

Gary Zeune: [00:35:10] And so, there’s usually an environment where a growing sense of dread or something in their environment, like the children are sick, and you can’t afford the doctor, or one spouse lost their job, and the house was going into foreclosure. So, there’s always a back story. They’re all different, but the common element is there was always something going on that caused the change in behavior because we don’t do lifelong bank robbers. We do people — My speakers are people that were the typical honest — other breaking the speed limit when we drive — the typical honest business people of all different ethnicities, and backgrounds, and types of entities, and sizes of entities they worked at. And the common element, whether it was $18,000 or $2.7 billion, the common element is what was going on that caused them when they got to an ethical decision point to turn left instead of turning right.

Gary Zeune: [00:36:14] And so, just to give you a thumbnail sketch of Scott — And, again, every speaker has a story. They’re all different, but they all had these back stories. So, what was going on with Scott was that he was the regional audit partner for — And, again, this is all public information. Regional audit partner for KPMG in Los Angeles. He had 500 people reporting to him. There was 50 other partners, early mid 50, 53, 54, something like that. And it was during the recession, the mortgage meltdown, so ’08, ’09, ’10, that era. And so, he had a friend that, as I recall — And I’ll probably screw some of this up, so don’t hold me to 100% here, but the general will be okay.

Gary Zeune: [00:37:09] As I recall his story is that he had a friend that had really started from their country club. It really started when the wives met because, I think, their kids went to the same school, or in the same class, or something like that. So, Scott and this guy get to be friendly, and they play some golf or start playing golf. And this guy owned a wholesale, I think, wholesale jewelry store and were in the recession. Well, one of the easiest purchases to pull off when we were in a recession are discretionary items like jewelry.

Gary Zeune: [00:37:52] So, this guy was also a day trader. So, he starts asking Scott for information because he knows Scott’s an auditor, and he’s a regional partner, he’s got lots of clients, and both that he personally is an — He’s the engagement partner and also oversees as a regional partner of other engagement partners. And so, initially, Scott wouldn’t tell him anything, even information that was publicly available.

Gary Zeune: [00:38:28] And so, as things go on, this guy talks to Scott, and Scott letting. OK. So, it’s a two-way street here. This guy asked and Scott started telling this guy things about companies that was public information. Now, if it’s public information, even if you’re the auditor, it is not illegal securities law violation to share the information. It’s in the public domain already. The person you’re talking to may not have not known it, but it’s still publicly available information that’s available. So, that’s not a problem. So, the problem is that starts the slippery slope.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:09] Slope.

Gary Zeune: [00:39:10] Right. And people say, “Well, I’d never let that happen to me.” Yes, that’s why when you get in your car, and you go on the freeway, you up to the speed limit. Then, you go two miles over. Then, you’re three miles over. Then, you go five. You’re driving for an hour. And then, you’re going 10 miles over the speed limit. What happens is when your brain is bombarded by constant stimuli, the same stimuli, your brain desensitizes. So, that’s why you’d be going 85 miles an hour on the freeway of 80 and not even know it because as you drive for an hour, your brain becomes desensitized how fast the environment is going by.

Gary Zeune: [00:39:45] And same thing with fraud. That’s why frauds always start little and get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. So, then, that evolves into telling the guy that information that’s already public. Long story short, — This was a four-hour webinar, ethics webinar, so I’ll condense it here. And so, that, finally, evolved into Scott calling this guy, and reading him the quarterly and annual earnings press release 24 or 48 hours before it hit the wire service. So, this guy was able to trade on inside information. And what they did — Oh, yeah, it gets better.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:24] Yeah, yeah.

Gary Zeune: [00:40:24] So, what they didn’t know apparently was that the SEC has a fairly sophisticated algorithmic system like Google does, and they look not only at the dollar amount of trade, but they look for aberrant patterns in the trades. So, a real common one is whenever a major M&A deal is announced, they look for aberrant trading in the shares in the two, three, four, or five days before the announcement. And if there’s aberrant trading, there’s probably an information leak, and there’s a good chance somebody is trading illegally.

Gary Zeune: [00:41:02] And so, the FBI confronts this jeweler because he’s the one that’s trading. The SEC has access of all the trades. And they confront this guy. Long story short, they flipped him, and he wears a wire. And in the classes I teach that has that case in it, I have a picture that was on the front page of either the The Wall Street Journal, or The New York Times, or LA Times, or one of those three of Scott accepting a brown paper envelope with $10,000 in the parking lot. I think, it was outside the jewelry store. That picture was taken from the inside an FBI van with blacked out windows.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:45] Yeah, I’ve seen that picture. Yeah.

Gary Zeune: [00:41:46] Yeah. And so, I’ve got video clips that were on the Los Angeles TV stations. And so, every fraud that we talk about is a situation where really smart people do really stupid stuff.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:03] And that was my whole thing. I mean, he knows better. I think, he was making $800,000 in LA, which is about $25,000 here in Columbus, Ohio equated, and a family, and everything. And he felt bad for his friend, so much so that he went to jail.

Gary Zeune: [00:42:21] He didn’t go to jail for feeling bad for his friend. He went to jail for what he did, not that he felt bad for his friend. So, you can feel bad for your friend. So, you can’t control your emotions — You’re sad, you’re happy — but you can control your actions. That’s where people get into trouble. And one of the explanations you hear all the time when people are being sentenced or trying to explain themselves in court, “Well, I was trying to help Sally out.” Yeah, but you broke the law, and you knew better.

Gary Zeune: [00:42:51] And Scott talks in his presentation. Scott readily and willingly talks about, “I signed the firm’s ethics agreement for 30 years. I knew better, but it was-” And he talks about how he’s going through a lot of therapy to understand why being an ethical person, he did such an unethical thing. And so, moral of the story is that most people think that there is a bright line on ethical behavior. No, that’s not the way it works. Ethics is not absolute. Ethics is situational.

Gary Zeune: [00:43:33] And so, here’s a really easy way to understand it is we all — like you, and I, and everybody listening — we all drive five miles over the speed limit. Why? Because it’s socially acceptable. That’s our rationalization. Remember the triangle fraud?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:49] Right, exactly, rationalization.

Gary Zeune: [00:43:50] So, it’s rationalization. I’m just keeping up with the flow of traffic. That’s our rationalization. Well, it’s illegal. That doesn’t make it — Is there such a word as unillegal? It doesn’t make it legally okay, but it’s socially. And somebody will always say in class, they’ll say, “Well, if you’re only going five miles over the speed limit, the cops will pass you.” Well, they’re breaking the law too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:13] Right.

Gary Zeune: [00:44:16] But would we — Have you ever driven 40 miles over the speed limit?

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:20] No.

Gary Zeune: [00:44:20] I have. Fastest I’ve run when I’m on my motorcycle was 105. That was really stupid. So, it’s dangerous. So, I stopped that and started skydiving.

Peter Margaritis: [00:44:28] Yeah, much safer.

Gary Zeune: [00:44:30] Yes, it’s safer. Remember, it’s not the fall that kills. It’s the sudden stop. So, understand that behavior is not absolute. It’s relative, and it’s situational. So, when would you break the law driving 30 or 40 miles over the speed limit? When you have a medical emergency, and you’re taking your child to the hospital. So, your child, your child’s health and well-being is more important than you staying five miles over the speed limit. You change your behavior and break the law even more because there’s something more important to you in this situation than the speed limit.

Gary Zeune: [00:45:14] And that’s why bank CEOs cook the books for $2.7 billion. That’s why Scott gave this guy illegal inside information, got like $70,000. And Scott was making over mid-six figures, and he lost his CPA license over $70,000. So, let’s say he’s making 500 or 600 a year. You multiply that times 10, or 15, or 20 years, that’s a pretty good-sized number, and he lost it over $70,000. So, I thought $70,000 over $5 million was immaterial.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:52] Yeah. It’s a-

Gary Zeune: [00:45:54] It’s immaterial why did he lose his license.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:56] Right. I have read up on this. And the part that, I think, because we don’t think we’re going to get caught, but when we do — And please correct me if I’m wrong. And once it was known and he was — EY, at the time, put out an email to everybody in the company with the indictment, with that picture, and basically said, “Nobody should have contact again with Scott London.”

Gary Zeune: [00:46:25] Yeah. First of all, it was KPMG, not EY.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:26] Okay. thank you.

Gary Zeune: [00:46:28] I mean, if you want to talk about EY, I’ve got plenty of those cases too. Give me a big-name firm, and you got lots of people, you know what, it’s going to happen because it’s human behavior.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:37] Right.

Gary Zeune: [00:46:38] Yes, the firm did put out, in my recollection, so I can’t swear to this, but my recollection is — Because I look at so many of these cases, and they have a lot of common elements. It’s kind of like forgetting where you parked your car.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:50] Yeah, all the time.

Gary Zeune: [00:46:52] And, yes, my recollection is that the firm did put out an email. And I don’t remember all the content though to that level that you just mentioned but told staff. “We’re not going have any contact with Scott.” So, it’s kind of like being banished from the tribe, or the group, or something like that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:12] Yeah. And, I mean, literally, if you think that it happened, literally, overnight. So, he was fine one day. Next day, he’s in a worse situation, and the firm that he’s been with has completely cut him off. “You’re dead to me, Scott.” As the firm would say, “You’re dead to me.” And then, everything that happens with his family, everything leading up to this. And I read some stuff that he said is, “I never meant to hurt anybody.” All the kind of remorseful things that one would expect, but, still, why did you think about that? And you’ve talked about the behavioral aspects. We probably do, at some point, but it’s that slippery slope. It’s just I’m getting a little bit — I mean, that’s how Barry Madoff started small, right?

Gary Zeune: [00:47:57] Yeah. Barry Minkow?

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:59] No, Bernie Madoff. I’m sorry.

Gary Zeune: [00:48:02] Bernie, Bernie, yes. Madoff, which was absolutely astounding it went on. That Ponzi scheme went on for 30 years. I think, the average for Ponzi scheme just like the 18 months or two years. So, Madoff was just extraordinary. And, yes, they all start small. Now, small is relative. For example, I’ll give you a real example, WorldCom has the largest financial reporting fraud in the United States’ history, $11 billion. And the whole WorldCom fraud started with a $10 million journal entry and ended up with $11 billion. So, yeah. So, $10 million out of $11 billion would be like the bookkeeper in a little nonprofit stealing $5000 in a $5 million nonprofit. So, the number can be different in terms of that. So, $5000 versus $10 million, but, relatively speaking, they usually are about the same size.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:59] So. two comments there. One, shouldn’t we have known about Bernie just by his last name, “Made off”?

Gary Zeune: [00:49:03] I “made off” with the money?

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:06] “Made off” with the money. And two, I have 600 shares of WorldCom. Would you like to buy them from me? Yeah, because the auditor signed off on the financial statements. I’ve got 600 shares. I actually tried to get the certificates. I got to hang it in my office from WorldCom. So, as we begin to wrap up with this, can you give the audience — What advice do you give the audience when you talk about this to keep them from perpetrating fraud, or is there any advice?

Gary Zeune: [00:49:40] Well, yeah. There’s a couple of things to think about. And one is understand if the situation is right, if the stresses, whether it’s a sick child, or house payment, or a really in and private businesses is getting the bank loan renewed. And so, one of the things I always say, look at what the requirements are. And private businesses, it’s generally the bank loan will have covenants for working capital ratio, and debt ratio, and restrictions on dividends and blah, blah, blah. Every one of those is a fraud risk because if the company doesn’t meet those benchmarks, then that’s when you renegotiate the bank loan. The interest rate is going to go up, compensating balances go up, covenants get tougher.

Gary Zeune: [00:50:29] So, moral of the story is that every contract that the entity is — And I’ll just say company generically. It could be a nonprofit government entity but just company generically. Every contract, every legal obligation that requires something from the company, some level of performance, or some prohibition of activity is a fraud risk. Every one of them. And every one of those things better be in the audit program. And so, simply knowing what the tipping points — I steal that term from Malcolm Gladwell — knowing what the tipping point are.

Gary Zeune: [00:51:08] And so, think about this, the reason WorldCom made the $10 million journal entry — I mean, WorldCom, at the time, was a $30 billion company. So, why would they do a $10 million journal entry to cook the books? Because they needed to round up over half a penny, to round up to the next whole penny, to make the Wall Street consensus earnings per share rather than if they didn’t do the $10 million journal entry, it would round down, and they would miss the Wall Street expectations by a penny. So, it was like 75 cents or something. So, I thought if you move it from — if the journal entry moved from 74.4 to 74.6, so it would round up to 75, I thought two-tenths of a penny out of 75 was immaterial. Well, if it wasn’t material, they wouldn’t do it. By definition, when they cooked the books, regardless of the amount, when they cooked the books, or the most common one with most clients is a small business owner running personal expenses. If it weren’t material to them, they wouldn’t do it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:19] Yeah. I’ve got a story on that one myself.

Gary Zeune: [00:52:21] I’ve got 500 stories.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:23] Yeah, yeah.

Gary Zeune: [00:52:26] And doing what I do. And we can share all those in future podcasts, but the big picture is two things. One is understand materiality is not just about the size of the number. It’s the result of the size of a number because the audit standards say if a user would make a different decision, then the number is material. And here’s a way to think about that is there are over, on average, 112,000 commercial airline flights every day in the United States. So, if just one of them crashes, why is it on the news? It’s immaterial.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:12] Yeah.

Gary Zeune: [00:53:12] Right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:14] Right.

Gary Zeune: [00:53:14] Yeah. So, really simple examples that we all see in everyday life, if you use those to talk about what we do, it reframes what we think about materiality. If the two-tenths of a penny to round up to 75 instead of down to 74, if that wasn’t material, they wouldn’t have done it. Don’t ever believe that just because the number is small, it’s automatically immaterial. Just flat not true. So, that’s one thing is understanding materiality because, remember, why was two-tenths immaterial? Because it’s human behavior, because the market will react. If the market didn’t react, they wouldn’t have done the $10 million and moved it too again.

Gary Zeune: [00:53:57] So, the second thing is stop doing the same damn thing all time. That’s how we let people fool us. Whether you’re a controller, CFO, or an auditor, it’s not the work itself. It’s not checking the invoices and adding up the column numbers. It’s doing it the same way all the time because you just taught people where not to put the fraud because they know where you’re going to look.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:21] That’s great advice, and human behavior. So, why did they move? Why did WorldCom do that? Why did they book those expenses and capitalize on them? So, they increased the profitability. It goes to bonuses. It goes to the stock price. It goes to all of this stuff. Basically, an emotion is your wallet, and the size of the wallet can create a lot of emotion.

Gary Zeune: [00:54:43] Yeah. If that weren’t true, salespeople would be paid hourly.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:47] Exactly. And you’re right, Gary, we could talk hours on this. And maybe we do something and create a series of this because you are the fraud guy, I mean, not in that sense, but you know more about fraud than the most, especially in this profession, and can talk to real-world situations that have occurred to help us become better at detecting fraud. So, once again, I want to thank you for your time. This has been — We just touched the tip of the iceberg because there’s so many other ones that come to mind that I would love to learn more about because I didn’t realize was [inaudible], and London, and a few things that I didn’t know. But thank you again. Great guest, great information. Tell people how they can find you.

Gary Zeune: [00:55:39] If they simply Google my name, according to Google, I’m the only person in the world of my name, and you get three pages of hits. You’ll find the Wall Street Journal profiles and The New York Times. Just click any of those. They almost all contain our contact information, how to get me. And one of the things that will pop up, we’ve got 60 some articles on our website. Those will pop up. So, just Google my name. That’s the easiest way to find us. And when we do the — If we do the next one, then we can talk about my visit interview with Barry Minkow at Lompoc Federal Prison and how the whole thing started.

Gary Zeune: [00:56:20] So, what I’d like to know from the folks that are listening, if you like this, and you like to dig deeper into some of these cases — now, I’ve got over 5000 slides on fraud cases — click the like button, send us an email, and kind of tell us what you think. And if you would like to have some more, Pete and I will put the other for you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:41] Yeah, that’s a great idea. So, one thing, I will put a number of his articles in the show notes for everybody, as well as you’ll get to see Gary. And if this is something you think that you’d like to see more of, you can email me at peter@petermargaritis.com. You can go to any one of my social media sites and make a comment about, “Love the episode on fraud. I’d love to hear more about that.” Any feedback that you can give us, that would be great and greatly appreciated. So, for now, Gary, thank you very much again. Thanks a lot.

Gary Zeune: [00:57:15] Thanks for having me on. Hope to see you soon.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:20] I hope we’ll see each other as soon as well. So, thanks guys.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:27] I want to thank Gary for taking time out of his schedule to be a guest on my podcast. I have put links to a number of Gary’s articles in the show notes for your reading pleasure. In addition, we would like your feedback on today’s podcast by answering a quick two-minute survey that you can find the link in the show notes. We greatly appreciate your feedback.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:47] In Episode 22, which airs on February 18th, at the time of this recording, a guest has not been identified, but we’ll have one for that episode. So, thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend.

 

Resources:

S2E20 – Jennifer Briggs | Indiana’s Competency-Based CPA License Renewal Law, One Year Later

Jennifer Briggs is the CEO of the Indiana CPA Society, and we talked about a year ago about the State of Indiana’s House Bill 1467, which allows competency-based learning through professional development opportunities to qualify accountants for accountant certificate renewal.

 

Today, we follow up on that conversation to check in on the progress that they have made, learn about any unforeseen challenges that they may have faced, and how they handle these challenges.

 

To recap, in 2010, the Indiana Society created a board-level task force on knowledge management. Jennifer worked with the task force on competency to examine how things have changed in education and everything snowballed from there.

 

Then, on July 1, 2017, the State of Indiana signed House Bill 1467 into law.

 

Following that, the Indiana CPA society created an all-online ethics course. It’s interactive, and you have to actively participate in it by including comments or replying to other people’s comments. Initially, it did count for a waiver of four hours, but if you take that course now, the certificate says you meet the ethics requirement in Indiana.

 

There’s no test, but, “the part of it that makes it more interactive and kind of tests, if you will, the competency gained is the questions and commentary that the learners have to include.” For example, there might be a case study that you read, and then it would ask what the learner would have done in this particular part of the situation.

 

So, how’s it going so far?

 

“We find that it tends to be people just get it right away and really liked the idea, or really people struggle with anything that’s different, which I find so interesting because it has been around a long time,” Jennifer says. “We’re 104 years old, almost, as an organization, but CPE, the credit hours system, is only 40 something years old… Sometimes, I don’t understand that challenge to change.”

 

I’m so happy the folks in Indiana are working on this because we live in, to some degree, an la carte world. People learn in different ways, and being able to provide the opportunity to learn in the way that fits them best will only make them more successful.

 

Appropriately, the competency rule in Indiana is an option. It’s not mandatory.

 

Jennifer also shares a story about her son and his friend that really hits home with me, and explains why this approach will only be more important as our profession moves forward:

 

Jennifer’s friend visited, and both of their kids were running around the house like maniacs playing hide and seek. At one point, they sat down and Jennifer’s friend said, “Oh, I can count this for her PE class.”

 

Over the break, there was some incentive for students to be active for four hours per week. It didn’t have to involve going to the gym or working out, it just had to involve being active. “And I just thought, gosh, if we can do that for sixth grade PE, we should be able to figure it out.”

 

Download this Episode MP3.

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Jennifer Briggs: [00:00:00] Serving on a committee would not count toward your renewal. But, for example, if you serve on the Indiana CPA Society Ethics Committee, I guarantee you that you are getting a lot of education about ethics and the profession. That’s one that a lot of people really relate to.

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.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:51] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:19] Welcome to Episode 20. And my guest today is Jennifer Briggs, who’s the CEO of the Indiana CPA Society. This is a follow-up interview from our prior conversation on October 30, 2017 around competency-based CPE.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:34] It’s been a little over a year since our conversation, and I want to check in with Jennifer to see the progress that they have made, and learn about any unforeseen challenges that they may have faced, and how they handle these challenges. As a brief recap, here’s the show notes from that episode.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:51] On July 1, 2017, the State of Indiana signed House Bill 1467 into law, which allows competency-based learning through professional development opportunities to qualify accountants for accountant certificate renewal. This all began years ago around 2010, when the Indiana Society created a board-level task force on knowledge management. Jennifer worked with the task force on competency to examine how things have changed in education and everything snowballed from there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:24] Although the bill is passed, this is just the beginning. Jennifer is now working with a committee to create rules around the law. Nothing is finalized, but the idea is that this new system will be designed around those who actually want to learn, as opposed to those that sit in the back of the classroom just to collect their eight hours of CPE credit. Change is everywhere in our profession – technology, demographics, pricing models – so it’s imperative that education changes too.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:53] So, there’s a little bit of the background. You can find that episode on my website under Improv is No Joke Podcast or on iTunes if you want to listen to it in entirety.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:03] But before we get to the interview, I wanted to share with you that my book, Taking the Numb out of Numbers, was number 12 of the Best Books in 2018 for Speakers as ranked by speakershub.com. Now, you don’t have to be a professional speaker to gain value from this book. I’m currently working with sales teams, engineers, architects, and financial professionals to help to transform their presentations from data dumping, mind numbing during the headlights conversation, to engaging conversations that spur action.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:34] Here’s a recent Amazon review of my book by Rob Nance. Title: You Will Not Have a Deer-in-the-Headlights look. “Anyone who ever finds themselves needing to meaningfully engage with an audience, clients, prospects or students, should soak up this book. Gaining new skills and focused insight that will help you provide exceptional customer service is welcome at any time and at any level. And Taking the Numb Out of Numbers delivers on that promise. In an easy-to-read digestible, you will find it thought-provoking, fun, and very worthwhile.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:10] Rob, I greatly appreciate that review. The book is available on Amazon, in paperback, and in Kindle. So, go buy it today. Don’t hesitate, just go buy it. If you’d like to purchase 10 or more copies, please contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com for bulk discounts.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:29] So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Jennifer Briggs.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:37] Welcome back, everybody. Today, I’ve got Jennifer Briggs, who’s the CEO of the Indiana CPA Society with us. And this is a follow up from a conversation that we had back in October 30, 2017 where Indiana had been moving, taking – and she said at the time – baby steps towards competency-based learning within with the membership. And first and foremost, we’re recording this on January 2, 2019. So, Jennifer, welcome and Happy New Year.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:05:12] Thanks, Peter. Happy New Year to you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:15] It’s glad to have you back on. And if you could give the audience a little 10,000-15,000 view of this competency-based model, how it developed, I think, it was six to seven years ago, the idea, and how you and Gary Ballinger evolved this over time. And then, we’ll move into where you are today with a little over a year, year and a half later since our conversation.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:05:40] Sure, sure. So, we began talking about future issues for the profession, and what our members need to know, and how they need to define it way back in 2004 or ’05. And then, it evolved into 2009, looking more at kind of those future issues. In 2010, looking at the AICPA– CPA Horizon 2025 document.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:06:10] And so, using that as a basis, we took that core competencies embedded in that document, and worked around them, and came up with this concept that there’s a lot that CPAs need to know, and why are we still so stuck on the hours concept for continuing education, and how can we in this really changing world with all the technology and the ways people do things, how can we focus on competency versus hours, and how can we let our members “count” all the things they do that improve their professional success, that make them better CPAs

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:56] And from that, obviously, a lot of work with the accountancy board, with the membership. I believe in my notes that you guys put together a competency task force. I’m not sure if that’s the right terminology to use, but a committee together to help get this moving in the right direction.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:07:19] We did. We had a task force, the Future Competency Task Force, and wrote a white paper about it. And then, that was about the time we created the CPA Center of Excellence as the hub for these activities. And then, of course, that was in 2014. And then, from there, as you mentioned, in 2017, we were able to pass legislation that allow for competency-based education to renew a license in Indiana.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:56] And there are some tricky things about — S0, you got competency-based, but we’re still reporting in hours to the accountancy board. And I believe that you started with ethics. And in Indiana, is it four hours needed every three years on ethics or is it more than that?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:08:17] It’s four hours.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:18] It’s four hours. So, I could take it, and it could take me six hours to do it. You could take it, and it could take you two hours to do it, but we would get, I think, the turnout was a waiver that we completed the ethics course. And in that waiver, there is an hour component there of four?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:08:40] Yes. And, basically, and to clarify and address this correctly, it’s four hours every three years for every renewal. And we did. We created an ethics course. We created a number of courses on different topics like leadership and strategic thinking. And the ethics course was something everyone needs and was kind of easily accessible.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:09:03] And so, we created this course. It’s all online. It’s interactive. You have to actively participate in it by including comments or replying to other people’s comments. And, initially, it did count for a waiver of four hours. But, now, actually, what it says is that if you take that course that meets the ethics requirement in Indiana, if that makes sense.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:09:36] So, it’s moving even more for buying in to competency-based and that we don’t care how long it took you. You did this, and we know it’s relevant. And so, that meets the ethics requirement.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:50] Oh, okay. Yeah, it has evolved in that direction where no matter how long it takes you, you’ve completed it. And, now, you have met that requirement.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:10:03] Right. Now, our other courses are still on the waiver system. So, you complete a course that’s approximately eight hours. Again, it could take you more less, but you get a waiver of eight hours, and you have a renewal.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:19] Maybe I’ve asked this question in the past, but in these competency-based courses, well, we all know there’s some online courses that are out there that you can take the course, self-study online, take the course and find ways to have it completed in less time, and get the full credits for it. And not by completing all the information by taking shortcuts or whatever. In your courses in this competency-based model, have those shortcuts been, I don’t know if you could ever say completely eliminated, but much harder to get around?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:10:57] I would say they are practically completely eliminated in our courses, yes, because of the platform we use and the leveling system, you cannot get through it without completing. It will say, if you’re supposed to watch a video, let’s say, you can’t watch that faster than the length of the video. So, it recognizes all of that and has some times — I don’t know how you would say it, but some information about the timing of the whole thing that makes it very, very hard to move to the next part of the course without having completed it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:40] So, when you move to the next part of the course, is there a test involved?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:11:45] No, there’s no test.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:46] No, Okay.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:11:48] Only the part of it that makes it more interactive though and kind of test, if you will, the competency gained is the questions and commentary that the learners have to include. For example, there might be a case study that you read, and then it would ask how the learner would have — what they would have done in this particular part of the situation.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:12:21] And so, there’s a lot of commentary. And people take it very seriously because everyone else taking the course can see it. And so, you can’t just type a quick response without kind of thinking about it. Additionally, we do monitor the responses. I would say we don’t read every one, but we do have a quality control where someone is making sure that all the participants have put some thought into their answers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:53] Okay. So, that model, and this — What’s the word I’m looking for? These things, they’ll keep it from people moving ahead. All those bells and whistles are still in there today. Have you enhanced them since the original launch?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:13:12] No. I think, in fact, if anything, they worked too well. So, one thing we’re looking at is breaking the courses down into parts. And I’ll tell you what I mean by that. I think that we found the feedback we receive is that it takes almost everyone more time than the eight hours, let’s say, for the eight-hour class. And so, we are looking.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:13:41] And even though the classes are extra leisure, take them at your own pace, a lot of CPAs, and I’m going to generalize here for a minute, they like to complete something, like a deadline. So, we are finding that it was too long. They just felt like it was hovering over them. Somehow, if we could break them down into shorter parts, they could complete a part, still get some credit, if you will, waiver for that many hours, and then move on to the next part. So, that’s something we’re working on now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:25] As you’re saying that, I’m trying to put myself in the attendees’ shoes or in their seats, and if I’m doing eight hours of some type of leadership skill. And, I think, yeah, I could see where that would be a challenge. We want to get to the deadline. We love deadlines. We’re in the deadline business. Yeah. And I’ll do everything I can to get to that deadline, but oh my god, yeah. And so, you break them down into, let’s say, two-hour modules?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:14:53] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:56] Okay.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:14:56] Yeah. And the way we’re looking at it is so that they can be taken independently or as part of the whole. So, if you just do parts one, two and three, you still have a lot of learning there.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:11] Okay. So, I see you do get some waivers for completing portion of it. You don’t have to complete all of it to receive all that waiver. You could decide, “I don’t want to finish this, but I do have two hours from the module that I did complete.”

Jennifer Briggs: [00:15:27] Right. That’s what we’re looking at.

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:30] So, we talked last year, and I made a comment about you guys doing a great job with this. You didn’t like hit the gun go, and you go sprinting off like you’re in a race. You took baby steps over time, these little baby steps. And I guess my question is a year or so, have these steps grown up a little bit? Are we taking a little bit longer steps? Are we still going down the baby steps just to be sure?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:15:55] That’s a great question. We’re really evaluating everything around this right now, not the concept, not the idea of competency-based education, but I don’t even know whether we’re to teenage steps. I would say pre-teen, which it can sometimes be challenging. let’s say, if you’ve ever had a pre-teen in your house.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:20] Yes.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:16:22] And so, we have learned a lot along the way. We hear from members. We take that feedback. And frankly, the comfort level is something we did not really acknowledge or, perhaps, maybe it seemed like we weren’t moving that fast to us, but it seemed fast for a lot of our members.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:16:45] There’s something about a waiver of hours that did not feel comfortable to a lot of people. You know how it is. You want to be able to say, “I completed what I needed to complete.” So, that’s something we’ve had to look at, and just overall, what is providing the most value.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:17:03] We passed that legislation in 2017. But, right now, we’re still on the waiver system because it’s taken all of 2018 and more – we’re still working on it – to work on the administrative rules that actually allows CPAs to use this competency-based education. That process has been great and interesting, but also challenging.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:29] So, are you still working with a subset of the Accountancy Board with this language, and these rules, and stuff as you roll it out that you were doing the last time that we talked?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:17:42] We are. There have been some changes, new board members, and to then there are questions there. Additionally, it’s just challenging sometimes to get it on the agenda. Our board of accountancy, everybody is really busy, and they meet, and they have a lot to cover. So, even getting into this can be hard.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:18:06] And then, once you start talking about it, I mean, the members of the Board of Accountancy are all supportive of the concept, obviously, by allowing the waiver program. It is still a lot. There’s still regulators. And how can we be sure that we are protecting the public, that everyone is getting the education that they need?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:18:26] So, I would say we’ve had a few steps forward, maybe a couple of steps back, but everyone talking and working really hard on it. And I’m encouraged because you see things. I was just looking at an old [one spot] November of last year, our cherished memo from NASPA. And NASPA is talking about evaluating the need for hours, for the experience requirement for licensure, and considering other ways that candidates could meet those hours through internships or life experience. So, I mean, you’re hearing more and more about the idea that we learn in different ways, but actually putting that into practice is harder than we would like.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:18] Well, yeah. I mean, because we’ve been doing it this way for such a long period of time. Change is difficult. As you alluded in the first interview, we’re dealing with different systems. These systems have been built over time, and to make a change in a system takes integration with other systems, which doesn’t happen overnight.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:19:41] No, no. And, in fact, I am proud to say, honestly, that we have created an advisory board out for the CPA. The excellent side was six professionals from all across the country, well-versed in education, specifically competency-based education, and learning in general. And to a person, everyone tells us that we are way ahead of the game, that this is hard stuff, that we have made a lot of progress, but we just have to be patient.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:20:19] A lot of the advisory board members, they work in higher education. And that’s a huge challenge when you think about higher ed, and the credit system, credit-hour system is set to financial aid and that kind of thing, that we really use that as an example to us of how if higher ed is starting to experiment here, we can do it too because their barriers, I would say, are even higher when you’re talking about the whole financial aid system.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:55] There appears to be more layers within that higher education system, even to the faculty members who are on tenure, and getting buy-in from that group to agree to something such as a radical change of this competency-based learning. But not to say you guys and the accounting profession, between old school-thought that’s out there, and this is the way we’ve always done it, and kind of changing that all around. I would imagine — Well, let me say, I would imagine that some of the baby boomers are probably much more reluctant to this change versus some who are a lot younger than myself.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:21:39] I don’t know. I don’t have the actual statistics, but I feel like it’s more of personality over age, to be honest. It’s more based on just what you’re comfortable doing. If you just are one of those people, and you like to say, “On this date, there’s this class, and it lasts four hours. I’m going to sit there. I can check it off my list,” then, you’re going to be more comfortable in a traditional setting. So, we’ve had lots of people who really liked it, who, frankly, I would not have anticipated, I think, so.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:17] Well, yeah. As you were describing that personality type, I wonder if we think about a what a stereotypical accountant CPA, very linear, very precise, loves deadlines, and there’s a lot of them that I know, they go, “I can’t move off the fly. That’s when I go crazy when I don’t have that routine. I just don’t function very well.” And I’m thinking, “Okay. Well, competency-based learning is just the opposite of what that is.”

Jennifer Briggs: [00:22:47] I’m just going to say, we find that it tends to be people just get it right away and really liked the idea, or really people struggle with anything that’s different, which I find so interesting because it has been around a long time, the current system, but not forever. I mean, only half — We’re 104 years old almost an organization, but CPE, the credit hours system is only, I think, 40 something years old. So, I don’t know. Sometimes, I don’t understand that challenge to change.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:23:30] Having said that, you’re talking about CPA license, right. You’re talking about a livelihood. You’re talking about a profession and something that people work really hard for. I understand not wanting to rock the boat and just do what needs to be done. But I also know how our members are learning in so many different ways. And I just wish that could. We just want to move forward.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:23:59] And I think that we are. We’re trying to incorporate competency-based education into everything we’re doing. So, we’re looking at our traditional courses and sort of looking at how we incorporate some competency-based education into it, even though it’s still going to be hours-based, if that makes sense.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:24:22] We have completely changed our leadership program, particularly, for young members. And it now involves a book club where they do work, pre-work reading this book before the meetings. And then, between meetings there’s an online competency-based course. Additionally, we’re using an online tool to assess where they are in certain areas like communication or strategic thinking. So, I think we’re understanding some of the barriers a little bit more and still moving forward, but also trying to make it more palatable by feeding it into other things, if that makes sense.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:09] Yeah, it does. And as you were describing this, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had family for the holidays or whatever. And my wife says something, “I need to get the newspaper.” And my son was like, “Mom, why do you read a newspaper? Nobody does that anymore. Just read it on your iPad.” But it also goes different ways of learning.

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:34] And, right now, I’m glad you guys are attacking this because we live in, to some degree, somewhat of a la carte world versus order and just off the menu. And people learn in different ways and to be able to provide that opportunity that they can learn what fits them the best will only make them more successful.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:25:59] That’s what we think. That’s what we believe. So, just kind of… And one example I probably used when we talked before, but I think it’s such a good one, is something like in Indiana, and I think, it’s like this in most places. I mean, serving on a committee would not count toward your renewal. But, for example, if you serve on the Indiana CPA Society Ethics Committee, I guarantee you, you are getting a lot of education about ethics in the profession. That’s one that a lot of people really relate to.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:38] So, does Indiana now provide continued education for those who serve on a committee?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:26:45] Our committee, we are, yeah. I believe — Now, I’ll say this word catching me out of my lack of detail. So, I believe so. I believe that’s part of the new rule. Unfortunately, I’m not sure, but I think it’s also tied to the new legislation. I think it might be tied to the rules though as far as actually using it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:08] But what a great way. I mean, think about it. I remember how much I learned serving on the board in the Ohio Society of CPAs in the role of a chair. Never really thought about getting CPE for it but that would been great. Just from a selfish perspective of being, say, in your shoes as a CEO, what a great way to get membership involved.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:27:31] Right. And, again, yes, your experience in Ohio is a perfect example. You definitely learned along the way, and you spent a lot of hours, I’m guessing, doing it. Do you think that added to your experience as a professional?

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:51] Oh, by far. I walked away. I think Clarke Price, every time I see him, because I’ve never had that opportunity, I would have missed out on a ton.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:28:02] So, it just seems like we should be able to find a way, and that’s what we’re working on, to make that experience a part of your renewal process.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:14] That’s incredible. I love that idea. And I do wonder, I don’t know if we mentioned this earlier, but the competency rule in Indiana, it’s an option. It’s not mandatory.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:28:27] Thank you so much. Yes, yes. We try to stress that. It is just an option. We know there are people who will always be comfortable with these many hours, and they do those, and they move on. That’s fine. All we’re saying is that it should be an option for people who want to try something different.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:50] And do you have, now, the — I don’t know if it’s an option. So, you’ve got actually the size of the professional membership within Indiana. Is there percentage that you have of the membership that are attempting to try competency-based learning and has that grown over time?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:29:11] I don’t have the exact numbers here. I can tell you that it kind of has gone up and down, just to be honest. In one area, again, when you can make it very clear. So, our ethics competency-based course does very well. We just released a new course in 2018, and that did very well. It’s a big seller. But most of the other courses that are not as easy to quantify what you need, that didn’t do as well.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:29:40] But, again, that’s where I also try to focus. We have these competency-based courses, and I’m sure there are others out there, but it’s more important to us that everyone understands that this is about what experiences you have that add to your professional expertise and how you can “have those.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:30:08] Yeah. Yes. I’m thinking, are you still the only CPA association in the United States that have gone down this path or if other states began to move in the same direction?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:30:22] I know there are some other states doing some things. In particular, Wisconsin. They did not have a CPE requirement for a license renewal. They were the only state, I believe, that didn’t. And, now, as they have a rule now, they have a requirement now, they have been implementing that, allowing some competency-based education as part of that.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:30:49] I can’t say I’m fully versed on that, but I know our staff have been talking to them about what they’re doing. They’re waiving this to hours or, at least, I believe, credits, so that they can make them a little easier to understand, which is something we talked about as well. It’s just hard, I’m sure, I’m sure other states. I think, things like micro learning, probably, would count in this category to some extent. And I know a lot of people are doing that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:24] Yeah, we’re doing that. I know we have that here in Ohio and, I believe, also, in Maryland, but I haven’t heard much about micro learning. I think in the last couple of years, I remember, we’re on the Future of Learning Task Force? And I think it was around that time that I know Ohio had implemented, and I think that Maryland had too, but then there was a halt put on it, and they’re exploring something about it. But I know it’s still there, but I’m not sure if any other states have really jumped on that bandwagon.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:31:59] I’m not sure. That’s something that didn’t work or really interested in, to be honest, for a while. Now, we understand that’s part of it. If you want a 10-minute increment, and it contributed to your competency, by all means, let’s do it. I think we find, and I don’t know about other states, we find that it’s the same idea as our longer courses being kind of hanging over people’s heads. They don’t really like the concept of having to keep track of such small increments of time, even though, obviously, they did that in their day-to-day, a lot of them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:38] Yes. You would think they’d be able to track time, they could track CPE as well. But along those lines, but I also think it’s part of the mentality, and maybe it’s a generational one, but I wish I knew the statistics, but I know they weren’t that high. In Ohio, we have our our monthly magazine that you can read, fill in some dots, and then they get an hour’s worth of credit. I’m not sure. Like I said, I don’t know the status, but they weren’t really high on the number of members that attempted it.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:33:15] Really? That’s interesting. I think, what’s so fun about that is we’ve never done that here. I know quite a few states do that, but when I think about it, for us, that would be a great example of, let’s say, you kind of have a plan. Here are some things I want to know more about. And reading that magazine is part of that plan. Just keeping it. So, you count that time, even though you don’t have to submit a test, if you will, or kind of anything like that.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:33:51] And if I can, I’ll say it. I was just talking to a colleague the other day over break, and her daughter is in sixth grade. And she was, and her sister, and my son, were running around my house like maniacs and playing hide and seek. And at one point, sat down on the couch to take a break. And she said, “Oh, I can count this for her PE class.” Over the break, there was some incentive for them. They have to check that activity. And she was trying to get four hours a week. And it didn’t have to be go to the gym or do this many jumping jacks, if people still do jumping jacks, I don’t know. We both said, “Yeah, you’re sweating. You should get credit for this.” And I just thought, “Gosh, if we can do that for sixth grade PE, we should be able to figure it out.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:57] Yeah, you’re right. And actually, I had tested something with Maryland where we took the first five podcasts, and made them NASPA-compliant, and we offered it up for SCP. And my thought was, “Well, for those who commute, if you listen to an episode on a daily basis, by the end of the week, you’d get five. And just keep adding that up.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:18] And we tried to market it, and it’s still sitting out there. But I think over the last two years, we’ve sold three maybe. And the only thing that we’ve concluded is one, well, okay, a podcast is still new to a lot. And two, it’s only an hour or even a half of a credit. But is it worth that investment where I could use to go sit in for eight hours. Okay, I’ve got my eight hours. Let’s move to the next.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:48] I don’t know. I think it’s still part of that mentality. And maybe better understanding the product that’s out there or the opportunity that’s out there. But at the end of the day, it’s all about learning.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:35:59] It is. And I would say, we are in the same boat, honestly, with just people actually participating, again, aside from ethics. And I don’t know. I think it’s just about a comfort level and what’s easy. And I don’t blame anyone. Listen, I don’t want to add one more thing that I need to track. I’m one of those people, like I refuse to wear one at step tracker thing. Like, “No. I don’t need more pressure. I’m good.” But I just think there are just people who want to know how to do it and do it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:36] Yeah. I’m one of those who like, I guess. I don’t know if it’s the competition or what, but if I had 10,000 steps yesterday how could I do 10,000 again today to help build that habit up? Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The other aspect of it is, and I thought about this one day, whether you’re in business in the industry, whether you’re on public accounting, you really only have about eight months out of the 12 where you can fully learn or go through that learning process. During those peak times, you’re learning, but not in a CPE way. And then, when we’re done with being busy, then we’ve got this. There’s a lot of other plates.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:37:23] There’s a lot. There’s a lot. But again, if you think of it this way, and if you think about it, you’re an industry, and you want to take on a new project that’s something you’ve never done before, so you’re going to have to research it, and talk to people, and make a plan, and implement. I mean, all of that is education. And that’s what we’re talking about. But then, I’ll tell you, we have a lot of people say in response to that, they say, “Well, you should just be doing that anyway.” And CPE is on top of your regular job. So, it is ingrained. It’s ingrained.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:07] It’s ingrained since kindergarten, I believe. But, yeah, I love that idea. You give me something to do. I go research and work on it. I bring you a memo back. You go, “Okay. You look at this,” spend another couple of hours. We put it in place. And when we’re looking at, “Did we do it right? What did we do wrong,” that all is part of continuing professional education. It doesn’t have to be cheeks in the seat. It doesn’t have to be 50 people’s cheeks in the seat with the lecture person up there. And that’s another piece of that in class that we need to develop is the ability for the person who’s leading the class not to think that they have to lecture, but how do you have a discussion.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:38:53] I’m so glad you said that. That is something. We see a little bit more of that, and more of case study work, and that kind of thing. There needs to be a lot more. I mean, I don’t know. It’s very challenging. I can’t even imagine. I’m just going to be honest. So, I know, I need hours for my credential, but it’s not nearly as rigorous. And I go to conferences, and there’s a different topic every hour, and I still can hardly stand to sit for that long. So, I think about members on one topic for eight hours. That seems hard. But I understand because if you’re gonna take the day to do it, you want to get as many hours then as you can.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:47] Right, but is it you can’t sit that long because you just don’t like sitting that long, or I can’t sit this long because it’s not interesting or it’s not engaging?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:39:59] Yes, exactly. Yeah. I think that’s part of it. I think part of it is just my personal problem with sitting for a long periods of time, but I guess that is the point. I’m going to say something I maybe shouldn’t, but I really think that we, as state societies, are really dependent on our vendors for education. And, of course, we plan it, and we choose, and that kind of thing.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:40:28] But you know, as well as I, that there’s only so many places to go to find that education because your average CPA is not going to stop what they’re doing to create an eight-hour course, and then go deliver it to people. And so, we’re dependent on these vendors. And I feel like that it’s a slow process to update the education practices.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:00] It is. And Chris Jenkins in South Carolina tried something. He contracted myself and another gentleman to come and do a two-and-a-half-day workshop with some folks who are delivering tax and audit at conferences, and try to help them, or teach them how to be more engaging in that classroom. And we’ve done that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:25] So, I think we put through about 14 to 15 people. And the last time I had a conversation with him, he goes, “Their style has changed dramatically.” We’re getting more, not saying directly from this. He’s done a lot of other stuff. But, I think, a lot of more members attending conferences.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:41] I think, a part of that, to some degree, has to do with the ability to teach these folks how to become more engaging in that classroom, how to ask questions, how you get the audience involved because whether you’re sitting there for an hour or eight hours, our attention span, and something that’s as complex that we have to deal with, can’t last that long if it’s just all facts and figures the whole time. There’s just a lot of other things that you can do to make that classroom much more engaging. And I think that also goes in this model that you guys are working with is how do we make learning — A lot of people think about it, but how do you make learning fun?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:42:21] Yeah. I’m so glad you mentioned that South Carolina because I really want to follow up on that because if the presenters are are open to that concept, I think they will really enjoy it, and learn a lot, and make it even better for the participants.

Peter Margaritis: [00:42:40] Yeah. And what he did, he put myself and another gentleman, and our teaching styles are just polar opposites. And the attendees just loved the dichotomy there because, I guess, if you think about their work with a lot of bandwidth where they could figure out where do they fit in this line of this difference — Am I’m closer to his style, or his style, or I’m somewhere in the middle? So, what if I take this and this, and I could build my own style where I can be more engaging?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:43:17] That’s great. It’s a great idea.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:20] So, looking forward, you’ve taken baby steps, your ethics course is doing well, some of the other courses has still haven’t really gravitated to, but you’re still moving this forward. What do you think ’19’s coming up? If we got together January 2, 2020 – That just scares me – and we’re having this conversation, what’s the one big thing that you would say that you would want to say that this was our biggest success in ’19?

Jennifer Briggs: [00:43:57] Well, that’s a really great question. Well, number one, we want to get these rules done. We want to get them, at least, starting, get the rules written, and starting through the administrative process, which can take a while. And that’s one thing. Certainly, I would love to be able to report we’ve made a lot of progress on it.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:44:21] As for most of everything else, in all honesty, this is a year of review, I mean, internally and also with our board of directors at their retreat in November, and a lot of time talking about this journey that we’ve been on, and all of the different elements involved. You’re talking about the CPA learners themselves having to change and adjust to the concept. You’re talking about the regulatory journey. You’re talking about building the business of it because it costs money to do this stuff. And then, in addition just your basic change management ideas.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:45:04] So, I think we we did a really nice job. Jess Halverson Bowyer on our staff who runs the Center of Excellence did a wonderful job outlining the continuum of the work we’ve done and putting it out there, so we could see, “You know what? We’ve done a lot, but we are not where we thought we would be.” And at what point do you say, “Yeah, the plan is great, but the plan is maybe not working,” for lack of a better word to say it.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:45:42] So, parts of it are. Parts of it are, but where do we need to reboot and be willing to — Everybody — I think a lot of people and associations, in particular, really, any challenge you give them, they just want to work harder, do it better, do more of it, that kind of thing. And you get to the point where you’re like, “We are doing it all. Perhaps, the market is telling us something.” So, long, long answer to your question, but I think that I would love to know what I would say this time next year because I think we’re going to have a lot of deep thinking this year trying to figure out what’s next.

Peter Margaritis: [00:46:33] Yeah. The market will always tell you if you’re successful or not, or if you’re going down the right path, or it might be to the fact of a great idea. You might be ahead of yourself just a little bit. I don’t think you are, but I’m kind of bias with it because I love what you guys are doing.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:46:50] Well, thanks. I didn’t think we were at it. I mean, I’m the first to admit, when we get on board with an idea, we work hard on it, and you can have blinders on to some extent. And now, we’re just taking that step back to say, “Okay, what part?” One thing that came up quickly, and with our advisory board when we met with them — And just so you know, the advisory board includes people like Donny Shimamoto, and Kelly Richmond Pope, and then Tracy King, Jeff Evans who is an expert in this area at Purdue University, and Bernard Bull who I believe has a new position at the University recently but I don’t know.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:47:39] Long story short, when they first met, and were exposed to all that we had done, and were there to give us some feedback, one thing that came out of that, the most important thing that came out of it was the idea that we are trying to start a revolution. Maybe we could have done it more as an evolution.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:04] Oh.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:48:04] Yeah. And it doesn’t seem revolutionary because we haven’t maybe taken as many steps as we anticipated, but the point was well taken, and that we were asking for a lot of change, a lot of change overnight. We want you to understand competency-based. We want the regulators to understand it. We want you to try new things. We know it’s hard. All of this stuff. And perhaps the things we’re doing now, frankly, trying to tie in to other elements of what we do, the concepts of competency-based education is maybe something we should have spent a little more time on the front end. In hindsight, it’s 20/20, but I think we are trying to learn from that and say, “Where are we not being successful? Where are our challenges in the change management process?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:07] Yes. What you just said made me think of Tesla. The story I’m hearing around Tesla is when Elon Musk wanted to create this car company. He didn’t do it Ford and Chrysler that basically think what the customer wanted. He went out, and surveyed the customers, and see what they wanted, and then came back and built it. And maybe that was a little bit that was going on with the aspect of a revolution versus an evolution.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:39] In hindsight is 20/20, but you’ve learned a lot in that hindsight that moving forward, one, I wish you all the luck possible because I think you guys are really on to something. But I like the thought because I always thought of it as an evolution and a process. But then, hearing those conversations, coming at it as a revolution, yeah, I could see where maybe there had been some, “Oh, I didn’t think about it. Oh, yeah.” Kind of some unexpected — Unexpected situations coming up that we didn’t think that would happen, but you’re still moving in the right direction.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:50:20] I believe we are. And I think that I didn’t think of it as a revolution either, frankly, until they said this. But then, as I started thinking back on other conversations I’ve had over the years, and frankly, how much negativity we heard, maybe we should have an understanding of that.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:50:44] I know one thing. You mentioned the Future of Learning Task Force earlier, and Todd Shapiro, in Illinois, used to say to me when I would talk about this sort of thing during that time that he would say, “You can’t just keep saying the current system isn’t good. You have to acknowledge that it’s the system, and go from there.” And Todd appreciates. We give each other a hard time, but I will give him credit, but I was excited, and I was ready to move forward. And so, with all of our staff, and members , and great, beautiful members, but you have to take into account people’s comfort level and help them along.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:31] So well said. So well said. Well, Jennifer, thank you so very much. As I’ve said a number of times, I love what you guys are doing in Indiana. I applaud what you’re trying to do for the profession as a whole, and make it better, and leave it behind for those who come behind us in a much better shape than we ever found it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:54] I wish you guys all the best, and I will keep my eye on what’s going on in Indiana. And maybe I hope you don’t mind if I just pick up the phone and go, “So, how’s it going today?” And just check in because I am fascinated by this. And the journey that you guys are on, I applaud you. A lot of folks in the profession applaud you guys for what you’re doing. And once again, I wish you guys the best of luck.

Jennifer Briggs: [00:52:23] Thank you so much. You call anytime. I very much appreciate your interest and encouragement. Thank you.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:33] You’re welcome.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:36] I want to thank Jennifer for taking time out of her schedule to be a guest on my podcast again. I’ve made a note to check back with Jennifer around year end to get an update on their progress. Congratulations on the progress that you have made. And I wish you all the luck on the progress forthcoming in this current year 2019 and beyond.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:58] In Episode 21 which airs on February 4th, I interview Bryce Welker CPA, who is the founder of Crush the Exam, Crush Empire, and Crush Offers. You’ll know that Bryce will crush his interview. Thanks again for listening, and please share this episode with a friend.

 

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