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.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So why does she do it?

 

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

 

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

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Resources:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

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

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

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:45] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant, and he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:11] Welcome to Episode 25. And my guest today is Cara North, who’s a learning experience designer at THE Ohio State University. She’s also the President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. Now, I did not invite her to be a guest on this podcast because of her day job. I invited her to be a guest because, as she says, “I love connecting others to people and opportunities.” She loves networking, making connections, and creating opportunities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cara North: [00:24:56] That’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Resources:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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