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.

S2E34 – Bill & Don Tomoff | From Compliance Learning to Lifelong Learning

My guests today are Bill and Don Tomoff, who are both CPAs who like to say they aren’t your typical accountants.

 

Bill Tomoff is currently a CFO for InstallNET International and a consultant with Invenio Advisors, focusing on training and professional development. Bill volunteers with and is on the board of directors of Special Love, an organization serving children and families fighting childhood cancer.

 

Don is the founder of Invenio Advisors LLC, a consulting firm specializing in information management, process improvement, reporting, and data analysis, as well as education and training. Since 2010, Don is focused on the identification of process improvement opportunities and leveraging readily available technology tools to drive that change. In addition to consulting, Don is an active instructor for the Maryland Association of CPA’s Business Learning Institute.

 

The accounting profession recognizes very much that it’s not just the accounting background that’s important anymore. They are hiring people straight out of college that have liberal arts degrees and computer science or management information systems degrees with no accounting experience because they want smart people who can dig into information, and learn, and adapt, and change quickly. It is truly a new day.

 

Bill’s background started in public accounting. He graduated in 1981 from Ohio University, where he went into public accounting. He did that for about four and a half years, then had the fortune of actually getting into the sports and entertainment business. Now he’s CFO of a small business in Bowie, Maryland. When he talks about “not your typical accountant”, he’s talking about the expertise of accountants and their skillsets. You have to be evolving. And he’s spent his entire career always seeing what’s next and moving into spaces where people won’t.

 

Don believes that it is such an interesting time for the accounting profession and the opportunities available there. Don, just like Bill, graduated from college in the early ’80s, then went into public accounting for big four for almost six years. The last time he was in the industry was at Jo-Ann Stores as the VP of Finance and treasurer. Then he got out of that and said, “What do I really want to do?” He did investor relations for a while, then went into a small public accounting firm to try and focus on business advisory because he saw tremendous opportunity for small accounting firms to branch out of the compliance or get into business advisory. Then, in about 2012, he went into my own business, Invenio Advisors. That business is about teaching and working with companies to make things better. Back in 2008 or ’09, it was a good time to rethink how accountants work and approach the business. And now, 11 years down the road, we’re dramatically, dramatically better.

 

Don and Bill are passionate about what’s changed and what’s coming. Always, always be learning. You’ve got to spend five extra hours of your own time every week learning, improving, and paying attention to what’s happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And not necessarily just five hours. You have got to be studying and learning. We do not get out of college set up for the rest of our career, and that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.

 

So how do you set yourself up for a successful career in accounting and beyond?

 

Take advantage of the opportunities. Take the road less traveled. There’s a lot of roads that people aren’t taking that are huge opportunities. You can take your career wherever you want to go.

 

Build your skill set. The opportunities are all around you. Take some ownership. And lastly, be good to people. Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Take care of people, help them learn and grow. Build those relationships. You put the two of those together, and you’ll be just fine.

 

 

Resources:

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Bill Tomoff: [00:00:00] Be improving and paying attention to what’s happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And it’s not five hours. It’s 10, 15, 20 hours a week. You have got to be studying and learning. And we no longer get out of college, and I’m set. And that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:30] Welcome to Change Your Mindset podcast, formerly known as Improv is no Joke, where it’s all about believing that strong communication skills are the best way in delivering your technical accounting knowledge and growing your business. An effective way of building strong communication skills is by embracing the principles of applied improvisation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:50] 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: [00:01:17] Welcome to Episode 34, and my guests today are Bill and Don Tomoff, who are both CPAs. And this episode is full of insights into the accounting profession with lots and lots of energy and laughter.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:33] Bill Tomoff is currently a CFO for InstallNET International and a consultant with Invenio Advisors, focusing on training and professional development. Previously, Bill has held various financial and accounting roles with a primary focus for over 20 years in the sports and entertainment industry. Bill earned his BSBA in Accounting from Ohio University and holds an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University. Bill is a CMA and CPA. Bill volunteers with and is on the board of directors of Special Love, an organization serving children and families fighting childhood cancer.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:15] Don is the founder of Invenio Advisors LLC, a consulting firm specializing in information management, process improvement, reporting, and data analysis, as well as education and training. Don’s experience includes big for public
accounting, senior level industry finance positions, and consulting. Since 2010, Don has focused his efforts with executives and companies on many digital process improvement, data analytics, and training initiatives, including developing and implementing mobile information strategies. His efforts are focused on the identification of process improvement opportunities and leveraging readily available technology tools to drive that change. In addition to consulting, Don is an active instructor for the Maryland Association of CPA’s Business Learning Institute.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:09] I know you guys are going to really enjoy this episode because there’s a lot of insight into becoming future-ready for accountants, as well as just they have such a refreshing view on our profession.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:22] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcast. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts, such as The Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.
Announcer: [00:03:52] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:00] And now, a word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:04:02] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:52] Now, let’s get to the interview with Bill and Don Tomoff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:59] Hey, welcome back, everybody. Man, do I have an episode for you guys today? You guys better buckle up, hold on tight because this thing will be fast and fierce. And we’re going to be moving in so many different directions. It’s going to be a ton of fun because with me today, I have two very special guests. I have Bill and Don Tomoff with me today. They are brothers. And I’ll let them do their introduction, tell you a little bit more about themselves. And I’ll start with the older brother who is exactly three minutes older than the younger brother. So, they, as you can guess, are twins. Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill Tomoff: [00:05:37] Thanks, Pete. Great to be here. We are not your typical accountants. My background started in public accounting way back. I graduated in 1981 from Ohio University. We went into public accounting. I was in there for about four and a half years, then got out, and did the traditional manufacturing type role, but had the fortune of actually getting into the sports and entertainment business. Got a real, real wonderful journey there. Moved to the Washington DC area. That’s where I am now. So, spent some time with the Wizards, the Capitals. Went to Cleveland for almost two years, worked with the Cavaliers. Now, I’m back working on the small business. So, CFO of a small business in Bowie, Maryland.
Bill Tomoff: [00:06:27] So it’s been quite a journey. When we talk about we’re not accountants, what my expertise is and what all of us as accounting folks do, our expertise, I can say have to be [inaudible]. We have to be evolving. And that’s what I’ve spent and done. We’ve spent our entire careers always seeing what’s next and moving into spaces where people won’t think about. And Don will talk a little bit about it. He spends a lot of time, data. And how we structure things is huge right now and massive opportunity in the accounting profession. That’s me in a nutshell.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:08] Okay. Don? By the way, before I forget, I need to look at Bill’s shirt again because he’s got a very unique shirt. Bill say something, just like get you back on the screen here.
Bill Tomoff: [00:07:19] Okay. Be yourself boldly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:21] Be yourself boldly. And behind him, he’s got a water bottle that says, “Be good to people.” Isn’t that great? I mean — and now, let’s segue into Don. And Don’s got a black t-shirt on with a white undershirt. He looks like a priest, and it says, “Be good to people.”
Don Tomoff: [00:07:43] Yeah. I think that I — Thanks, Pete. And pleasure being on the podcast. Really enjoy this. I think what Bill and I both believe, and it’s fascinating, is it’s such an interesting time for the profession and the opportunity. Myself, personally, just like Bill, I graduated from college in the early ’80s, went into public accounting for big four for almost six years. Then, went into industry and really did the senior industry person. I was at — the last time I was in the industry was a Jo-Ann Stores. I was there for eight years as the VP of Finance and treasurer. I really got to live a lot of retail, a lot of heavy duty, what I call public company stuff.
Don Tomoff: [00:08:31] Then, I got out of that. And, you know, as Bill was talking about more fun, I just said, “What do I really want to do?” I did investor relations for a while. I really enjoyed the communication side of working with companies. Then, I went into a small public accounting firm to try and focus on business advisory because, at that time, I saw tremendous opportunity for small accounting firms. This is back in 2008. Yeah, 2008-’09 where I really saw an opportunity for firms to branch out of the compliance or get into business advisory, which people that have been CFO level, senior finance folks in industry completely understand that. I think that knowledge is a little bit missing in the core public accounting.
Don Tomoff: [00:09:18] And then, in about 2012, I went into my own business, Invenio Advisors. And, really, that business is teaching and a lot of working with companies to make things better. And I said back in 2008 or ’09, it was a good time to rethink how accountants work and approach the business. Well, we’re 11 years down the road. Dramatically, dramatically better.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:46] Yeah. And so, just out of curiosity, both you guys have had the CFO role, the VP of Finance role. Do you guys still have a 10 key on your desk?
Don Tomoff: [00:09:56] No.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:58] No?
Bill Tomoff: [00:09:59] Haven’t used the ten key in 25 years and cannot believe that 10 keys with tape, paper tapes actually still exist. And that’s not a good time.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:13] That’s why you two are not stereotypical accountants because in audiences, I’ll ask, “How many of you have a 10 key?” And you wouldn’t believe the number of hands that go up. And I say, “Folks, there’s a support group for you. There’s this thing called Excel that we have now. You don’t need it.” And some will say, “I still use the tape.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. We need to transform into the tools that we use today and that technology that we use today.”
Don Tomoff: [00:10:43] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:10:44] And Pete, we’re talking about mindset, okay. And you have just nailed the crux of what we need to get past is there are — And Don and I spent a ton of time with this, but there are tools to where the costs of entry is either free or next to nothing. And I said next to nothing, 10 bucks, 5 bucks that can literally change the game, but people won’t embrace them. And we push a lot in our profession and just on social media, trying to make people aware on social media. We do this hashtag things that, “Hey, look at this in Excel,” or “Think about this. Be good to people. It might help you.” So, we’re always trying to stimulate thought. But a 10 key with a tape, you know the challenge we have.
Peter Margaritis: [00:11:37] Yeah, we really have a big challenge. And part of the culture in public accounting hasn’t changed since the ’70s. I was showing to these guys before we started that I was speaking to a person who got into public accounting about the same time you guys did. He said, first day at the job, the managing partner came in,
looked at staff, and basically said, “Staff is like toothpaste. We squeeze everything out of you, and we throw you away.” And after he told me that story, I said, “Oh, my God. That’s a company I want to work for.” And there’s still some of that. We’re still holding on to a lot of that past that we really need to let go of and transform with the technology, transform with a different leadership style in order to grow our organizations.
Don Tomoff: [00:12:30] Yeah. I think that, really, especially the last 10 years, the opportunity of where I think the profession has, really, I wouldn’t say fallen asleep, but they’re missing is there’s a whole different generation. And the kids that are going into public accounting today aren’t the guys we want.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:53] No.
Don Tomoff: [00:12:53] They don’t want to walk into a company and work with an organization that works like it’s 1985, 1990. It’s a really difficult situation. And you still — both Bill and I, our nephew is in public accounting and data analytics. Bill’s daughter is in KPMG and advisory. So, we have a little bit of a feel for what it’s still like. And to a large degree, it hasn’t changed from when we were in it, even though the world has changed dramatically.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:27] And today’s succession planning appears to be, “Buy me.” And they complaint about the younger staff, and they use the M word, but I don’t even like that word. And by way, that younger generation are in their mid-30s. They’re not just getting out of college.
Don Tomoff: [00:13:44] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:45] The ones getting out of college or going into college and getting out of college, I think they call them Generation Z.
Don Tomoff: [00:13:52] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:52] My son is part of Generation Z, but he’s probably generation Z, Z, Z, Z because the kid loves to sleep a lot. I’m not sure how he is going to survive in the world if they keep sleeping as much as it does. But they work differently. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually really good. It’s just different. Because when you guys went into public accounting, and the mantra back then was “Cheeks in your seat.” Be highly visible around the office. Make sure they see that you got there before your bosses, and you left after the bosses left.
Don Tomoff: [00:14:30] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:31] That doesn’t fly anymore. That mentality doesn’t attract talent to an organization.
Don Tomoff: [00:14:37] Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things we were talking about before the podcast there, Pete, was this idea that when we got into public, it was if you were good enough, you went into the big four. Now, it’s there’s a lot of other choices. And they can do a lot of other things besides finish up their fifth year, get a CPA, and go into public accounting. And if I could work in technology, or I could work in data analytics, or artificial intelligence, those are the kind of things that your really smart kids have an opportunity to go. And that’s a draw that the profession has to try and fight through because they want to get the best too, but if you don’t change, and don’t keep up, and provide that opportunity for them, it’s going to be difficult.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:26] Bill, what you got on this one?
Bill Tomoff: [00:15:27] Well, the profession, actually — and that hits a nerve. The profession notices, recognizes very much that it’s not just the accounting background anymore. It used to be all this compliance stuff. They are hiring people straight out of college that have liberal arts degrees. They’re hiring people that have computer science or management information systems degrees with no accounting because they want smart people who can dig into information, and learn, and adapt, and change quickly. It is truly a new day.
Bill Tomoff: [00:16:07] My daughter, and Don was talking about a nephew, my daughter, Olivia, when she went to college, get two degrees, get an accounting degree if she would want to be in business, but get a computer information system degree. Don’t go and get a fifth, your master’s in taxation and pass the CPA exam. That’s not what I need in business. And I’ll tell you, that’s not what the business world needs. And you can just see by what the profession is hiring.
Bill Tomoff: [00:16:35] Don talks all the time in the conferences. And when he speaks, here’s what your opportunity is in the profession. Most accounting professionals, and we talked earlier, buy me, there’s only compliance work. It’s not what people need. It’s not what they want. So, it’s changed dramatically.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:58] It has. And you said something there, because I have a masters in accountancy. And, today, I’m sort of thinking, if I was sitting in a masters of accountancy class or masters of taxation, I would be thinking I’m wasting my money and my time because that’s not what — I don’t need advance auditing. I don’t need an accounting theory, which I thought was an oxymoron. I don’t need some of the stuff that they were teaching me at that level. I needed some other stuff.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:30] And to the point of I know that we went to 150 hours, but most states didn’t put any meat on that bone. They wanted to take 30 more. You could take underwater bone pottery, underwater table tennis, and they would qualify part of 150 hours. And that’s just ludicrous. It’s stupid. It needs to go back to 120 hours, get your accounting degree, and then figure out the other more important pieces to add to your stable of knowledge in order to be successful.
Don Tomoff: [00:18:01] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:18:02] And Pete, you just hit on a key thing, okay. Boy, I’m glad you just went there. That is simply the start, okay. Don and I are passionate about what’s changed and what’s coming. Always, always be learning. Make it. He’s got this visual of the five-hour rule where you spend five extra hours of your own time every week and learn, learn, Excel, learn, read, but be improving and paying attention to what’s
happening in the world. This is more important than ever. And it’s not five hours. It’s 10, 15, 20 hours a week. You have got to be studying and learning. And we no longer get out of college, and I’m set. And that’s the mistake that too many professionals are making right now.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:56] I’m going to come back to that. But I want to hear Don’s thoughts on this as well.
Don Tomoff: [00:19:00] I think Bill brings up a good point about learning. And we are — Brian Solis, who is a guy that we follow, huge digital marketing guy made the comment. It’s one of Bill and I’s favorite. He says, “I’m not a guru. I’m too busy. I can’t be a guru. I’m too busy being a student.” And I said, “That’s really the way you got to look every day.” And I think this just comes with age. The older we get more, the more we realize we don’t know and realize that the opportunities.
Don Tomoff: [00:19:32] So, we start taking about opportunity, Pete. And I said, “It really is. Everybody’s worried about profession’s in trouble, and this, and that.” And when I talk to the younger professionals, I always say, “I would love to be 25, in your shoes, because you can make it whatever you want to make it. It’s just not what it used to be. And that opportunity is tremendous.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:57] It goes to the point of this 40 hours of compliance, “Check the box. I’ve got my hours. I can be licensed,” when 99% of the time, nobody’s really paying attention or even — so, I had a firm that I was doing an ethics course for. And I just want to make sure that we had the hours right. And part of this is, “Thanks. I appreciate that. I think my people are more concerned about the hours than ethics.” I was just floored.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:32] And we get into this compliance. “I need 40 hours.” No, no, no. 40 hours is a bare minimum that you need. And I know they’re having some conversation at the highest levels about this type of scenario. Don, you give Bill a project. Bill goes out, and does the research, puts the memorandum together, you review it. And I figure out that little brother, really big brother this time. And give me a
couple hours. Dig into this a little bit deeper. He digs into it. So, he’s got about 10 hours into this document you guys implemented and it works. Should Bill get CPE for what he just did? And people go, “No.” And I went, “But he learned more and that 10 hours than you have in 40 hours for the last three years.”
Don Tomoff: [00:21:22] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:21:22] That should — so, I’m putting myself out of business by saying this because I do provide CPE, but in all reality, that’s better learning than some of the courses because it’s real world. He is absolutely doing it. He’s got his hands on it. And this is a Tom Hood quote, “We have to learn at twice the speed of change.”
Bill Tomoff: [00:21:45] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:21:45] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:21:48] And for those in the profession, okay, you have a lot of accountants that might be listening in. Tom Hood, and you’ve probably mentioned it before, he is a must-follow on social media.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:00] Yeah. And then, here’s a little trick somebody taught me. And so, people like Tom Hood, Don Tomoff, Bill Tomoff, you go into Twitter, and you see who they are following, and you follow them, and you see who are following these guys, and you follow them. So, now, you’re creating a bigger social media network of like-minded thought process. So, even if it’s not so much like-minded, but these influencers, you’re following people who they follow. And it helps grow. But the only thing I have remembered about social media is how to make a — I do shared with you two guys.
Don Tomoff: [00:22:37] What Bill and I feel, everybody, we talk about getting engaged and engaging on social media. And one of the things Bill and I talk about is if you don’t go into it to make a brand, sell business, you go into it and just say, “How can I help
someone today?” So, if I post something on LinkedIn – and Bill and I do frequently – if somebody sends me a message and says, “Hey, that was really helpful,” that’s a win.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:23:11] That’s what it’s for. Okay. It isn’t to to drive business. You do it because you enjoy building those relationships and helping other people. And it’s really satisfying, but it takes effort, and it takes time.
Bill Tomoff: [00:23:25] Well, it’s incredibly satisfying. And Pete, we talked earlier before we started that I’m a huge fan of marketing. Accounting pays the bills. That’s my expertise. I love marketing. I love social media. You can talk to enough people, they’ll say social media is bad, It’s this. Well, it’s what you’re looking at. Okay. And some of the people that I’ve met, and Don and I have now met in real life, are the most incredible people. They’re providing content to their network that is just it’s making us all better professionals. And that’s the potential on steroids of what social media is now enabling people to do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:07] There is a huge learning component with social media. You do learn. And for those who want to help others who push content out to their followers, yes. And this is — people say, “Have you monetize your podcast? Have you done this, this, and this, and this?” I went, “You know what, that’s not why I started it.” Trust me, I’d love to, but that’s not why I started it because why I started this was to help my audience. Not to monetize this, but to help my ideas because I’m in the event business, and I want to create more of a process for my audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:24:47] So, if they happen to see me at a speaking engagement, they can come to the podcast, and the conversation still goes. It doesn’t end. As well as I want to help you two guys. I would help my guests to have a better presence out in the business world. If a business comes away, than absolutely fine. Just buy me a cocktail sometime. That’s about it.
Don Tomoff: [00:25:10] Well, it’s really interesting. And in the accounting profession, I think this is any business in general, most times, we go in, we put our head down, we get it up, we leave at the end of the day. And folks don’t know what they don’t know. And if your whole world is the accounting profession and the accountants – and I used to always say this about Big Four – and it’s easy to see this when you’re out, okay. When you’re in industry, you really get kind of a siloed view when you’re in public accounting, and everybody is a certain caliber, everybody is a certain motivation, everybody thinks the same way. That’s not the real world.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:53] No.
Don Tomoff: [00:25:54] Both Bill and I got our our MBAs, and the common question would be, what did your MBA do for you? Did it get your head your career? I go, “It gave me a perspective of a world I didn’t have it because I was living in accounting.” That’s value.
Bill Tomoff: [00:26:11] Yeah. Well, that and Don just hit it on the head. When we were — I was probably 10 to 12 years out of college and decided to go back for my MBA. And it was like I actually interviewed. And they said, “Well, why are you doing that? We don’t need someone with an MBA.” And I’m like, “Wow! I want to be the best professional I can be.” And it truly has, and it was a brutal two years. But I look back and the comment Don just made and I’ve made, it changed me as a professional. We are a foundation and a service to our customers, meaning the business. Let’s never lose sight of that. Okay. And building relationships, taking care of our external customers, that’s really our world. And anybody, that’s what you got to focus on.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:07] So, you just gave a great analogy to the difference between cost and investment. Because some folks say, “Well, how much did that MBA costs you? That’s a lot of money to spend on an MBA don’t you think? And what is the opportunity cost that you lost?” versus “How much is investment? How was this investment and where did it take you?”
Bill Tomoff: [00:27:30] Yeah. You want to be — and I’m talking to Pete, the three of us, we all agree on this. You want to be the best that you can possibly be, and it’s how do I help others? If you follow us on social media, a lot of our content is we’re trying to bring value. There is no, “It’s about me.” And I get that [inaudible] really, really — I mentioned earlier, Gary Vaynerchuk, you want to get your hair blown back, listen to some of his stuff. And he’s got the long game, and he’s got a lot of great things to say. And us in the business world could learn from that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:15] Exactly. I mean, I remember the first time I heard him, I go, “Whoa, hey. Hey, hey, there’s some salty language in it. I’m not offended, but, hey, how does this fly the business world? Well, there goes another bomb.” But he’s authentic. And it reminds me of the old SpongeBob Square Pants’ episode of the sentence enhancer. He strategically uses certain words in the sentence to enhance that effect to make that wow moment, to make it stick.
Don Tomoff: [00:28:49] Oh, he’s [crosstalk].
Bill Tomoff: [00:28:49] That’s exactly right.
Don Tomoff: [00:28:52] And I think, what Bill was saying, and he’s right, we talk about how to get better and spending time getting better. When I speak to accounting professionals, and I do quite a bit through BLI, just as you do, Pete, really, it’s all about spend the time — don’t wait for your organization to tell you to do something. See the opportunity and go figure it out because it will make you better.
Don Tomoff: [00:29:21] And easy bringing it right into focus for accountants is I’m shocked that, when you talk about Microsoft Office and Excel, how many firms are not under the current version, you know? Well, we’re using your Excel 2010, or we’re using 2013. And I will always tell them, I go, “If anybody is in an organization, and you’re not on the current version, go spend $100 a year of your own money, and put Office 365 on your laptop and start learning because you’re falling behind every day if you just live with what the organization gives you in that specific case.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:04] Exactly. Invest in your own technology and stay stay up to date with current versions. I’m somewhat guilty at that because I have a Mac, and I’m running parallel, so I can run windows. But you know what I just discovered? I don’t need it. I can go out and just grab the damn apps, and it still run through the subscription, and free up my hard drive. Whoa! That was just my big wow! I can do that?
Don Tomoff: [00:30:37] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:37] Yeah. I mean, there’s so much information coming at us every single day. And sometimes, that tsunami of information can be overwhelming. So, it’s almost like you need to pick a lane and try to get rid of the squirrels. Whoa, hey, shiny objects and stuff, and pick a specific lane. I was sharing this with an attendee from the NABA Conference last year. I was in Minnesota. We had lunch together. And she asked me, “What should I be focusing in on my CPE?” And I said, “Artificial intelligence. blockchain, robotic, process automation.” And she goes, “Thank you.” And the last time I talked to her, that’s, oh, that was the lane that she was going to play in.
Don Tomoff: [00:31:22] Yeah. And Pete, I’m glad you just brought that up, because this is one of the things that I get a lot because people say, “Well, data, RPA, artificial intelligence, blockchain.” Really, it’s about picking your lane. What are you good at? But it’s also being able to decipher. And I like to use IFRS as an example. For like a five-year period, we had to do everything to learn IFRS. That’s all the CPE, etc. And I go, “I can’t put all my energy into that when we have all this until I know it’s real.” Okay. So, for instance, I go, “I look at block chain. Yeah, blockchain is coming. Artificial intelligence is coming.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:09] It’s here.
Don Tomoff: [00:32:11] Yeah, it’s here. RPA is coming. Where does my effort need to go? Where do I get the biggest value? And I talk a lot about data analytics. I go, “If you’re in accounting, start with working with data.” That will be — there is the 80/20. 20% of your effort will deliver 80% of your results in the accounting profession. Okay.
Artificial intelligence, block chain, RPA. Be aware. And if there are opportunities to leverage it, absolutely, get on board and do it, but pick those areas that will give you the biggest value for what you do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:49] So, before Bill, I’m glad you mentioned that because one of my earlier businesses was IFRS education and training. I know you didn’t know that, but yeah. I invested all in. But you know what, at the time, I was at university trying to help my students to that next level. And even though we didn’t converge, I will say we’re pretty closer than we were before. But I guess I had to get a little bit out when you said that. I’m like, “Yeah.”
Bill Tomoff: [00:33:16] Pete, you needed to hear Paul and Paul, who used to show up at the Kent State IMA Conference. They would get up on stage. And this was two accounting professors who simply said, “IFRS is not going to happen.” One of the things Don and I – and we’re heading back out in August – we have been blessed to do is we’ve been out to the LA Kings to do some training on Office 365. They’re bringing us back in late August. And this time, they’re saying, “We’ll do some advanced Excel,” and Excel is a big hit anywhere, and it ought to be. But they also want to dig into One Note and Teams, which are part of the 365 platform.
Bill Tomoff: [00:34:06] But what’s important here and what we’re going to hit on is step back. When you think about Teams, let’s talk about collaboration tools that are now becoming the norm in the world – Slack, Teams, Flack, Google Key, Microsoft One Note. Okay. You need to leverage these tools, and you need to learn them. So, the Kings are saying, “We want our employees to understand this.” And it’s bigger than the application. It’s what’s happening, and it’s changing productivity and efficiency just exponentially.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:49] Hey, if you need someone carry your guys’ bags when you go out to LA to be with the Kings, I’d be happy to do that. I’ll even come and sit in the background, and hold your notebooks, or I could bring a camera and record you guys. That would be an awful lot of fun.
Bill Tomoff: [00:35:03] We do.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:05] [crosstalk].
Bill Tomoff: [00:35:05] We love trying to help others learn. And when we went in February, it was really invigorating because there were like 75-100 people that they were engaged with it. And you bring some real interesting material and an interesting style. I wish we could bring some of your style to what we do.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:24] We’ll find a way to get that. We’ll find a way to get that done.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:28] We’re accountants.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:29] We’re accountants. We’re the same. We’re not just stereotypical accountants. We see the world and from a completely different perspective. But I think this is very safe to say, and I think the audience has a feel for it, we love the profession.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:44] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:45] There is a deep love for this profession, and it’s just trying to help it find its way from a slightly different perspective.
Don Tomoff: [00:35:55] Yeah. Pete, I think, and I say this to Bill quite a bit, I said, the profession has been — we were fortunate to have been working and growing professionally for over 30 years, and it really has been very, very good to us. And I, honestly, look at the opportunity. And I said it earlier, man, if you’re a young kid, and you want to come into this profession, you got a gold mine of opportunity, but it’s not going to be doing the compliance that used to always be the bread and butter. Bill made the observation, Advisory, all the big four firms, the accounting firms, they’re bringing in that talent because they know that’s what their clients need. And the accountants might as well deliver it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:41] Exactly. And provide those opportunities for that learning for your younger staff. Let me put it, invest in your staff. so they can provide that service -excuse me – to their clients, to their customers. And when I use this, I also meant from a business, and industry, and from a public accounting perspective.
Bill Tomoff: [00:37:01] Hey, Pete, we’re in great danger. And you hit it earlier with talking to the managing partner who said, staff are like toothpaste. There are so many opportunities in this world in accounting and outside of accounting. People do not have to put up with this practically — obnoxious is a nice way to put it, and some way people are treated.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:29] Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it.
Bill Tomoff: [00:37:32] That has got to change. The profession is really — we don’t own this profession, okay. We have to adapt to what is more — read some Tom Peters, The Excellence Dividend. Every accounting professional should read that latest book by Tom Peters. It’ll rock your world. It all comes down to how we treat each other.
Don Tomoff: [00:37:59] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:38:00] Okay.
Don Tomoff: [00:38:01] And in fairness, I mean, Pete, the profession, we are shifting. Okay. They realize that this shift has to occur. Firms are adapting. It’s just probably fair to say, it’s not moving as quick as everyone thinks it should or could.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:22] Yeah. And that kind of goes to the fact — and we’ll even go back to the IFRS thing. I’m not going to pay attention until it’s real. But even if I take IFRS and say, “Okay, we didn’t converge,” that’s true. However, if you look at the new revenue recognition standard, that came out of the Convergence project. The releasing standard came out of the Convergence project. The elimination of extraordinary items came out of Convergence project. So, something that’s unusual and infrequent. The
only thing that I know in this world that’s unusual and infrequent is the Browns winning the Super Bowl.
Bill Tomoff: [00:38:56] That’s not infrequent.
Peter Margaritis: [00:39:02] So, we do evolve, and it’s how do we — here’s the question. How do we inspire those who might be on the fence or those maybe nonbelievers? How do we inspire them to change that mindset, to see the profession the way it’s evolving?
Don Tomoff: [00:39:26] Well, I personally think it’s going to happen. One of the big challenges for all organizations, but accounting especially, is people recruiting and people — retention. And if we don’t change, I mean, as soon as this starts hitting firms where it hurts, and they can’t get people, that will drive change.
Don Tomoff: [00:39:49] And unfortunately, most of us, if things are good, well, then I don’t really need to adapt. Okay. At some point, it’s got to be the burning platform syndrome where you say, “I got to adjust, or I’m going to be in trouble.” And I think we’re at that point. And we talked earlier about Tom Hood. Tom is a guy that’s out there passionate about driving the profession to a new place and doing a fabulous job. But it’s really getting those types of people out in front and helping them understand why it’s important to be changing this way.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:33] Yeah. What you got, Bill?
Bill Tomoff: [00:40:37] That’s really it. We have to expose ourselves to more outside the profession again. And I’m talking about my latest passions. But this is what, as professionals, we all need to do. And it’s at our fingertips now with social media. We don’t have to be in the same room. We can meet really genuine like-minded but in different professional paths that are just interested in helping.
Bill Tomoff: [00:41:07] Don and I have a joke. We’ve met with a few people. Johnny Andrews and Ted Rubin, if you’ve ever heard of either of those guys, they’re content
marketers. And we had lunch with them when they were driving through the area. We’ve met John, but we haven’t Ted. We had lunch, and we’re talking to these guys, and we said, “Hey, what advice would you give to the accounting professionals?”
Bill Tomoff: [00:41:32] Now, we haven’t posted that talk yet because it got a little shaky in over three minutes of me trying to hold the phone. But these guys, Don’t big joke is — and this is funny — two accountants and two content marketers walk into a bar. Okay. We were roaring for an hour and a half. And in the prior life, you would never have those paths crossed. And we’re learning from these people all the time. This is what we have to be doing as professionals.
Don Tomoff: [00:42:06] And by the way, Pete, we happened to meet these two people, two content guys on Snapchat in 2016. So, back then, it’s like, “Well, who would do Snapchat?” Why not? If it exposes me to different things, keeps me thinking, it’s a thing.
Peter Margaritis: [00:42:28] Yeah. I’m going to go back to something. You were talking about — we talked about the long term. Social media, it’s the long term and stuff. And we need to retain individuals. And that’s what keeps organization. So, I have two thoughts on that. One of them I already shared with you is I ask audiences, what business are they in? Accountant, CPAs, and I get a lot of these taxation, consulting. It’s their an industry. We sell X, Y and Z. And I always tell them that’s a byproduct because the true business they’re in is in the people business. First and foremost, everything else is a byproduct of that. You hire the right people, you have the right customers, you have the right clients, that’s how you grow your business. If you treat your people terrible, your clients great, that’s still going to drive your business down.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:17] And thinking along those lines, in that long term, so during the Great Recession, what did firms do when they were losing business? They got rid of people. They laid them off. Now, I’ve only had maybe a few people, CPAs, when I’ve asked this question, how many of started your career in public accounting? How many of you have left? And a lot of hands go down. How many of you would go back? Maybe one in a thousand would raise their hand.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:50] So, there’s a culture issue right there why they won’t go back, but, two, wouldn’t it be better for that long-term thought process is — you know, kind of like take the Southwest Airlines approach. We’re not going to lay off people because people are our greatest asset. The partnership is going to take less profit. We’re going to put more back into the business to maintain these folks and find stuff for them to do. And it may not be billable, but we’re going to continue to learn and grow this time, so when we — what goes down does come up. So, when it comes up — and Hood — Rebecca Brown said this video was watching. And I think I’ve heard Tom say that the same thing. You know how long it takes to find a 35-year-old tax manager? 35 and nine months. They just don’t grow on trees.
Don Tomoff: [00:44:45] Yeah, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:44:47] And it’s about be good to people. It’s all about people. And that is the change in the mindset. That’s what will change this profession. When we start recognizing that we’re in the people business first and foremost, everything else evolves out of that. And we want to be surrounded by good people, and we want to be good to people.
Don Tomoff: [00:45:07] Yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:45:08] It’s just what we have to do. Let’s take care of each other.
Don Tomoff: [00:45:11] Bill and I always talk about is as leaders in the organization, and I would always tell this to people when they were working for me, is my job is — we got to get our work done, but my job is to make you better going out of here then when you came in. Okay. It’s not just to crank out work every day. It’s to help us grow as individuals and as professionals.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:38] Yeah, I may have an uncle who’s a retired colonel from the Air Force. And I was talking to him about this mentality that we have. “Why should I train them? All they’re going to do is leave anyhow.” “Well, one, if we take that mentality, so when we replace them, I’m coming with someone who’s untrainable.” He took it to a
whole new level. He said “Pete, is bigger than that. What kind of corporate citizen will they be if we’re not constantly investing into their education throughout their business career? We’re not setting them up to be good citizens of this United States of America.” And I salute, That just blew me away.
Don Tomoff: [00:46:15] Yeah, yeah, I would agree.
Bill Tomoff: [00:46:15] I’m glad we just took that turn because I can say over my career, and I’m probably on my sixth job, and like I said, I had a 20-year career in sports entertainment, but things do end, and we change, okay. And I always say I don’t miss the work. I miss the relationships. And I have people that have kept in touch with me that it really was the relationships. And I was always interested in helping people grow and be better professionals, not for just here. We will benefit if you’re better now, or you’re improving, but you’re going to be better for whatever’s next. Let’s not kid ourselves and, okay, so, we — so, it is incumbent upon us to invest in each other and build those relationships.
Peter Margaritis: [00:47:08] It’s all about relationships. It’s all about bringing a level of trust with it because you don’t want to do business with people you don’t trust.
Don Tomoff: [00:47:16] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:47:17] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:47:18] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:47:18] And Bill and I, we talk about build the relationships on social media and stuff. And when we were younger, it was all about networking. If I was to look back on my career and go, when you’re in first 10 years of your career, you don’t take your networking as seriously as you probably should have. At least, I didn’t. And then, you realize, we really got into a situation now where it’s easier to build relationships. I mean, we literally – and Bill touched on this earlier – can build relationships with people outside our industry where when you do meet them, it’s literally a hug instead of a
handshake. They’re like friends before we ever meet them in real life. That’s the opportunity that exists at our fingertips. We just have to actively participate and engage.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:10] It’s funny you said that because one thing I was going to say about this is I used to read The Wall Street Journal. I don’t read it as much anymore. I read Harvard Business Review, but the leadership. And some years ago, there was an article that came out that was describing networking as it related to Paul Revere. And there was another writer that day. There were two writers that day. Do you know who the other writer was?
Don Tomoff: [00:48:31] Oh, but I know this. I know this, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:34] His name was Bill Dawes.
Don Tomoff: [00:48:37] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:48:37] And they equate it — because he’s not in the history books that much. And he wasn’t able to get that message out because his network was a clique network, it was within a few towns; where Revere’s was an entrepreneurial network. He knew people in different areas, different towns, different industries who helped get that word out to a mass group. That’s what you’re talking about right there. That’s what social media brings to that entrepreneurial network as opposed to — we tend to — I know a lot of CPAs, and I still want to know more because it’s not so much I really want to know them, but I also want to have access to who they know. It’s about relationships and creating relationships.
Bill Tomoff: [00:49:20] Pete, let me circle back to a comment you made earlier. You talked about why did you start the podcast? “Have you been able to monetize it?” people asking you. And you said, “I want to help my network. I want to help others,” not just your network. You want to help anybody who happens to come across you. And I love this. Don, we joke about this, but it is the truth, okay. There’s a guy on social media that we follow. His name’s Bruce Kasanoff, okay. And he says, “Here’s three words to
think every time you come in contact with somebody.” And he said, “Those three words are ‘help this person.'”
Bill Tomoff: [00:50:05] If you are dedicated to how can I bring value to others, and we’re not talking about being a doormat. Adam Grant’s Give and Take is a fabulous book every professional should read. But if you are bringing value to others, it will, in life, come back to you. It just simply will. That’s what too many people are missing.
Peter Margaritis: [00:50:31] Yeah, there is some karma out there that I do believe in, and it does come back in the most unique ways. So, I would teach networking to accountants and to others, and I tell them, I take the godfather approach in networking. I don’t meet somebody and go, “How can you help me?” I meet somebody and go, “Hey, how can I help you?” Because someday, I may come back and ask you for a favor, and you’re more inclined to help me if I’ve already helped you. The Godfather approach. And nobody has to die in the end.
Bill Tomoff: [00:51:09] It’s probably one of the key points that any professional on the accounting profession that we could come away with.
Don Tomoff: [00:51:19] Bill, I mean, we talk a lot about social media. It’s just basic networking. It’s just the way we do it. It’s a lot enable, a lot easier than it used to be. Nothing’s changed since the ’80s. It’s about your network, and who you know, and how you can help your network.
Peter Margaritis: [00:51:39] I love this. I love social media. And I think I can get an essence of a person’s being through reading their tweets, and their posts, and stuff. But I am still kind of old school. I love meeting face to face, so I can look them in the eye and go, “Oh, yeah. These two guys are really, really good guys,” versus, “Yeah, I’m not quite sure.” And just for full transparency, we’ve known each other — Hold on. We’ve known each other — what’s today’s date? Exactly one month.
Don Tomoff: [00:52:16] But we were following you before that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:19] Yeah. And I heard rumors about you two guys.
Bill Tomoff: [00:52:23] So, there was a little bit of a foundation of we knew each other, we hadn’t formally met, and then we did meet in person. And you are absolutely right, social media does not replace, but it certainly enhances the ability to meet people. But you’re right, person-to-person is the ultimate. And Don said, we can turn a handshake into a hug. Literally, that’s what it does.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:47] Oh, my God. And we were like — I thought we would get thrown out of the restaurant. We were laughing so hard. And Jennifer Stevens, I don’t think she even took a breath. I mean, she was laughing because the three of us were just playing off of each other, but talking about the profession, talking so passionately about it. It was — quite funny, guys, I was exhausted when we were done.
Bill Tomoff: [00:53:08] Yeah, I slept very good that night actually.
Peter Margaritis: [00:53:10] I did, too. Hey, as we start to wrap this up, what parting information would you give my audience about this conversation that we’re having? What’s the key piece that that you see that if they just walked away with one nugget, and it can’t be the same nugget from the two of you, one nugget, what would that nugget be?
Don Tomoff: [00:53:35] Okay, I’m going first, Bill. I would say take advantage of the opportunities. Take the road less traveled. And in our profession, I like to say, there’s a lot of roads that people aren’t taking that are huge opportunities. And pursue it. Make a difference. And what you’ll find is you can take your career wherever you want to go.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:02] Bill, did he just take what you were going to say?
Bill Tomoff: [00:54:04] Oh, I think this is amazing because it so absolutely puts how he and I, we believe in exactly what each other say. But what Don hit on is exactly what I would have expected. Build your skill set. The opportunities are all around you. Take some ownership. I would then say, and we spent a lot of time on this, be good to
people. Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Take care of people. Help people. Help them learn. Help them grow. Build those relationships. You put the two of those together, and you got Bill and Don, okay.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:44] So, I might-
Bill Tomoff: [00:54:48] It happens together.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:49] And you guys are spot on. As I’m saying, listening to this conversation, my mind flashed back to the ESPN commercial with Peyton and Eli Manning walking through the halls of ESPN and giving each other wet willies and kicking each other from behind. Do you guys do that when you’re together?
Don Tomoff: [00:55:07] We get crazy.
Bill Tomoff: [00:55:10] You think we’re not accountants. People who are around us regularly are like — I’m in the house talking to him. Don lives in Cleveland. I’m in DC area in Maryland now. And my wife will say, “Hey, can you quit talking so loud at 6:00 in the morning?”
Peter Margaritis: [00:55:32] Quit talking to Don.
Bill Tomoff: [00:55:35] Yeah.
Don Tomoff: [00:55:37] Well, we really do think there’s a ton of opportunity, and the message, and appreciate you having us on. It’s a great conversation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:55:45] This was a ton of fun as I knew it would be when you guys agreed to it. I can’t thank you guys enough for taking time out. And I’m looking forward to the next time our paths cross. And actually, I’m in the Maryland area, I think all of — Probably, it’s all of next week record ing at where you are right now, Don. Jennifer Elder and I are recording updating the MBA Express, but I’m back in the DC area. Just tell me, come up to Cleveland. I’ll come out and hang out a day with you.
Don Tomoff: [00:56:19] Yeah.
Bill Tomoff: [00:56:19] That would be great. I got to make a trip over to Cleveland. There you go. That’s-
Peter Margaritis: [00:56:26] There we go. Well, you know people in Cleveland, the Cavs, probably some Indians folks and stuff. That would be a good time.
Bill Tomoff: [00:56:34] Yeah. Pete, it’s been a real pleasure. And thank you for thinking of us. And this has been an awesome conversation. I think folks should pay attention to what you’re putting out there for the profession. It’s really good stuff. Don and I are learning, we’re living in the profession, so to speak. I am more than — Don is doing more training. I help a little bit with that. But I’m learning all the time. And you guys, everybody, you’re bringing great value. So, thank you and thanks for having us on.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:07] I appreciate it, Bill. Bill, you’re going to enjoy this. I forgot to mention to Don that when he was speaking in Ocean City, he spoke the day before I did. And Don was bribing the audience -sometimes, it’s hard to get people to chime – $5 Dunkin Donuts gif cards.
Bill Tomoff: [00:57:25] That’s the best decision he made.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:27] It was the best decision until he gave me the idea. And the next hour, they say, “Hey, that guy only gave me five bucks. I get 10 bucks Starbucks cards here.” Man, it just went nuts. I’m kidding. I didn’t do that.
Don Tomoff: [00:57:38] I know, Pete, when I saw you speak, I think, it was in December, you said engage your audience. That’s where it came from.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:46] I appreciate that, but I didn’t do that. But I remembered, I wanted to tell that little bit of a lie.
Don Tomoff: [00:57:52] It went well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:57:56] Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. And I look forward to our paths crossing very, very soon.
Don Tomoff: [00:58:02] Appreciate it.
Bill Tomoff: [00:58:03] Thanks, Pete. Have a great day.
Peter Margaritis: [00:58:10] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to make yourself future-ready in the accounting profession? Will you change your mindset from compliance learning to lifelong learning, which is an investment versus a cost? Personally, I hope you do, because that is the biggest step in your transformation.
Peter Margaritis: [00:58:33] Thank you all for listening. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit www.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent business podcasts they have their network. And in honor of both Bill and Don Tomoff, be kind to people. Be nice to people. Thank you.
Announcer: [00:59:08] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

S2E33 – Jay Sukow | Teaching Improv to Businesses, Actors, & Everyone Else

Jay Sukow believes that the world will be a better place if everyone takes just one improv class – and I agree! Jay is trying to make that world a reality as the founder of Today Improv, where he teaches improv to actors, businesses, and everyone else around the world. He is currently on faculty at The Second City Hollywood and former faculty member at The Second City Chicago. Some of those he has trained with include Stephen Colbert, Stephen Carell, Dave Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, and Del Close.

 

When Jay and his ensemble go to work with businesses, they don’t claim to be business experts, but they are experts in communication, working together, being part of an ensemble, focusing on the team first, and using information. His goal is to get others to implement those skills within their businesses or their lives and make it a habit. And one of the most valuable skills and habits that you might learn in one of these improv classes is “Yes, And.”

 

Because in your professional world and your personal world, you will have to say yes to things that you don’t want to do, or else you will lose something. So learning how to say yes in a constructive manner is a very valuable skill. Oftentimes, we are struggling because we aren’t accepting something or making excuses. 

 

When we use “Yes, And,” we aren’t trying to find a quick way out of a problem or an acceptable way to make an excuse. We are saying before I shoot this idea down, how could it work?

 

 

Resources:

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Jay Sukow: [00:00:00] How are you going to take this back and implement it? Because if you don’t and if it’s just a fun thing, then we haven’t done our job. It has to be something where it’s like, “What skill are you going to use moving forward?”

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

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

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:10] Welcome to episode 33. And today I’m going to do something that I have not done before, and that is to replay a prior episode. This episode was released on November 27, 2017, and the guest was Jay Sukow. Now, Jay believes that the world will be a better place if everyone took just one improv class. And I agree. Jay is trying to make that world a reality as the founder of Today Improv where he teaches impromptu two actors, businesses, and everyone else around the world.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:45] Jay is currently on faculty at The Second City Hollywood and former faculty member at The Second City Chicago. Some of those he has trained with include Stephen Colbert, Stephen Carell, Dave Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, and Del Close. In the ’80s and ’90s, there wasn’t a lot of understanding about what improv was. However, after years of people like Jay working on the public and businesses, people are starting to accept and understand why improv is so beneficial in both businesses and in life. This is recently seen in a Wall Street Journal article titled Oh my God, Where’s This Going? When Computer Science Majors Take Improv on May 14th of 2019. Go check out that article.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:33] When Jay and his ensemble go to work with businesses, they don’t claim to be business experts, but they are experts in communication, working together, being part of an ensemble, focusing on the team first, and using information. His goal is to get others to implement those skills within their businesses or their lives and make it a habit. And one of the most valuable skills and habits that you might learn in one of these improv classes is “yes and.” Because in your professional world and your personal world, you will have to say yes, and you will have to say yes to things that you don’t want to do, or else you will lose something. So, learning how to say yes in a constructive manner is a very valuable skill. Oftentimes, we are struggling because we aren’t accepting something or making excuses. When we use “yes and,” we aren’t trying to find a quick way out of a problem or an acceptable way to make an excuse. We are saying before I shoot this idea down, how could it work?

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:41] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite family radio of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be among some of the most popular business podcasts such as The Gero Gactor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio was Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

Announcer: [00:04:08] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume offline business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:16] And now, a quick word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:04:19] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high-content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:09] Now, let’s get to the interview with Jay Sukow.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:14] Jay, I have to admit, I am so very excited to have you on my podcast. And super busy. Thank yous go to you for taking time out of your day to be a guest and spend some time with myself and my audience. I greatly appreciate that.

Jay Sukow: [00:05:30] Peter, thank you. I’m very excited to be on it. And I think we have to give a shout out to the Conderaccis because I listened to your podcast with Annie, and that’s how it got into listening to your episode. And I thought it was just great. I think what you’re doing is fantastic. So, thank you for having me on.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:52] I greatly appreciate the kudos. And you’re right thanks to Greg Conderacci and Annie Conderacci because without either of this, this conversation wouldn’t be happening. And I owe a lot to them for supporting the podcast and supporting me, And Annie is such a delight. I mean, I had so much fun. You said you listened to the episode. I had so much fun talking with her. She’s just full of wonderful energy.

Jay Sukow: [00:06:18] Yeah, she’s great. And she is such a student of improv and has such integrity with performing it. And she sees how she benefits in her professional life, personal life, as well as artistic life. So, yes, we have conversations all the time, and it’s really great. It’s really great. I remember her from — I taught her in a class at Second City, and I’ll never forget this one move she made. The scene was about a class reunion, and she was off stage, and two people were in the scene, and she comes running onstage, and had such an energy about her that I never forgot it, and I’ll never forget it.

Peter Margaritis: [00:06:58] Wow. And when I was talking to her, I mean, all she raved about — and I know she’s giving you a quote on your website about what a wonderful teacher you are and how you gave her a life-changing experience through the introduction of improv. And that’s what we really want to talk about with you about is my big introduction with it was many years ago with George Caleodis when he introduced it to me, but when it got heightened to that next level and really looked at it from a personal and business perspective is when I was at Second City Chicago some years ago, and I had this instructor by the name of Brian Posen. And-

Jay Sukow: [00:07:43] Oh. yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:07:44] And, I mean, he just took it to a whole different level and really gave me focus on how to apply it in a daily life and in a business life because I think to many people, when you say, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think improv?” I’ll hear standup comedy, I’ll hear comedy, or I hear Drew Carey.

Jay Sukow: [00:08:04] Yeah. And to the benefit of that show, Whose Line Is It Anyway, which drew hosts, the American version, before that, people had no reference really about improv. Like I started in ’92, and people, it was very hard for them to understand the concept. And then when Whose Line Is It Anyway came along, it, at least, gave them a reference point. So, whether you did short form, or long form, or whatever kind of improv you did, you, at least, had like a base level. For most of the people you’re talking today had a base level of knowledge, and it was all thanks to that show.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:44] Yeah. But the one thing that always — I guess, since I look at it from a little bit different perspective is when Drew would say, “Where everything is made up and the points don’t count,” it’s not made up. And, actually, the points really do count. That’s the one thing, when I address that, I go, “It’s not so much made up because you’ve got to have some knowledge in order to-”

Jay Sukow: [00:09:10] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:09:10] “… to do a scene.” And George Caleodis, when he said, “I want you guys to go study the ’70s,” so this is about 97′-’98, “and come back the next week, and we will apply this to the workshop.” And those of us who did the homework, we were funny. Those who didn’t get sucked. They really sucked. And that was the big aha moment. It was like it’s not making stuff up. You’ve got to have the knowledge, experience, and education, or whatever in order to apply to that scene or to that issue at hand.

Jay Sukow: [00:09:49] Yeah. And not that they sucked but maybe it was that they didn’t quite get the full potential of what that scene could be.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:01] Yeah. It was kind of harsh on my part. I apologize, but I think-

Jay Sukow: [00:10:04] Well, also, because it’s like with each person, it’s like another thing. Maybe they did study, but maybe they’re just petrified or like, yeah, you’re right, like maybe they didn’t study. Then, they get up there, and they’re lost because you have all this knowledge and information. And then, I think what is the funniest and most effective in improv is when people go, “Oh, I know that. Like, I’m that person. You’re that person.” I think that’s what it boils down to. So, when you have something like a style or genre, and you just play those most obvious tropes of that, then it becomes so much more enjoyable.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:42] Got it. Yeah. And maybe it was a little harsh, but I can still hear these guys after class going, “Man, we really sucked.” And I think it was for the fact, if my memory serves me correct me, and my wife says I can’t remember a thing, I think they said they got so busy during the week that they didn’t do the homework.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:03] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:03] So, they had nothing.

Jay Sukow: [00:11:04] And then, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:05] Some type of basis. So, you’ve got a business. You perform, you teach actors, you do it in business, and you teach everybody. How did you fall into the teaching aspect of this from the performance side of it?

Jay Sukow: [00:11:23] A little background is my parents in 1991 gave me as a Christmas present a Second City improv class. And it wasn’t like I had — I’m from Chicago. I heard of Second City. I had a fleeting understanding, but I had no — at that point, I didn’t really think I wanted to perform at all, but I had been artistic, and I was in plays in high school, and I worked in video department at my school. So, I like being creative, and I said, “Okay, this sounds fun.” And so, I was driving up. It was like two or three hours to take a Saturday noon class, and it became the highlight of my week. And this is the last semester of my senior year in college, and this thing was like I couldn’t wait for it.

Jay Sukow: [00:12:16] And so, I went up. And at that point, part of the attraction of improv was it was a dead-end job. You weren’t going anywhere. There was no professional improbable league. I met these people that were smart like me that were kind of — we called it The Island of Misfit Toys. Like we all kind of didn’t fit in at places, but we found our tribe in this. And I still talk to four people from my very first improv level one class, which was started in January of ’92. So, we’re still friends. And I just performed on one of the guys a couple weeks ago, and it was 25 years had gone by. And we did a show, and it was like we hadn’t stopped.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:05] So, in October of ’93, I auditioned for a group called Comedy Sports. And when I took my first improv class of Second City, you went level one, two, three, four, and five. And there was a Second City in the suburbs of Chicago. That’s where I took it. It’s no longer there. So, level one, two, three were improv. And I started with Stephen Colbert, Dave Razowsky, and Steve Carell were my first three teachers.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:34] I’ve heard of those guys before.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:35] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:36] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:13:36] Yeah, I mean, they’re — I’m not sure what they’re doing now, And Razowsky is like traveling the world teaching. And the other two, I’ve lost track of. I’m not sure where they are. But in our level four, we started writing sketch and Second City Improvisation used to write sketch comedy. And it’s political and satirical in nature because when they would ask for suggestions in the ’50s when they were performing for University of Chicago students mainly, they would get political suggestions. And so, that’s how it became political and satirical is because of their audience.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:14] And so, then, we went from there. Our group from Second City performed two years on that stage, which was great. We did a student show that was extended for a year. Then, we did a best of Second City Northwest for a year, which was like I got to do parts from Stephen Colbert, and Carrel, and Nia Vardalos, and Dan Castellaneta Castle, who’s the voice of Homer Simpson. Like we got a really good education.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:39] Wow.

Jay Sukow: [00:14:40] Then, we went down to Chicago. We enrolled in the conservatory there and had a great time. And then, we heard about this guy, Del Close. And so, we took it. We started taking classes with him. And then, I auditioned for Comedy Sports, which is short-form improv. And it’s “competitive” short-form improv. Like there’s a referee and there are points given. But, really, you’re in this show, and there are two teams, and they’re servicing the show. So, it’s a really fun time.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:12] And I think about — it’s probably like in the following year, I want to say, that I did a workshop at a college, and the guy who was running the workshop was like, “Why don’t you teach the warm-ups?” I was like, “No. What? Teach them?” And he goes, “You have more experience than they do.” I’m like, “Okay.” So, I started teaching then. And then, I would gradually teach like exercises. And then, I would teach full-on workshops. And so, that’s kind of how my teaching started. It wasn’t necessarily by accident, but it was more like, “Okay, jump in. Jump in 100% and figure it out as you go.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:15:54] Oh, that sounds like improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:15:56] Yeah, for sure. And I was like, “Oh, I really love this aspect of it.” So, I really like teaching. I probably enjoy teaching more than performing, and I love performing.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:07] Wow. Because you know what they say about teachers. Those who teach can’t do. But that’s not true in improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:16:15] Well, it’s funny you say that because our faculty show at Second City in Chicago when I was there, I’m in LA now, but the Second City Chicago faculty show was called Those Who Can’t. And it’s like the most fun show because it was like all the people that played, we were so excited to play with each other, and we would play in front of students, and I would always teach that night because the show would be like a 10:00 or 10:30. And if I didn’t teach, I would never stay awake that long. But it is like, “Oh, I have to practice what I preach. I have to do what I talked about.” And then, in class, if I was working on space work or object work, I would do that in the show, or if I was focused on relationships, I would focus on that in the show like without even thinking about it. So, that was our faculty jam.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:03] Wow.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:05] Now, at Second City Hollywood, it’s called Hot for A Teacher. This is like, “All right, okay.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:18] Whatever.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:18] Yeah, right. All right. If you want to call it that. Okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:17:21] So, as a teacher of it, I’m curious about morphing in from an actor’s perspective into the business world, and what struggles, what challenges do you have when you’re with a group of actors, and then you’re in a corporate environment working with those within the organization? Yeah, with business.

Jay Sukow: [00:17:47] It’s evolved a lot. I remember one of my earliest corporate gigs, one of the people on our class showed up, and she had a jean jacket on that said, “Legalize pot.” And it was like our director went ballistic, and rightfully so. And that’s the thing. Even slightly through today, not that quote in the jacket, but the fact that I cannot bring improvisers into corporate settings, unless I know them, and I know they speak the language, and I know that they will not do these bits that you’re doing a bit in a breakout room before you’re going on, and somebody walks by. They don’t know what the reference, and they just hear you doing these bits. It’s not advantageous for that.

Jay Sukow: [00:18:36] So, one of the aspects of doing corporate improv workshops is knowing the people who are going there, they know how to present themselves in that setting. And it’s very, very difficult because it’s against the nature of improvisers because a lot of them are gregarious and really love doing bits, and callbacks, and things like that. And my wife said it great, and it sounds harsh, but she was really good at translating from business world to improv speak. And this was the way she put it to improvisers, “When you walk into a business to do a gig, you have to walk in like you’re miserable.” And she said that because, otherwise, there was no reference. She couldn’t say to one improviser, “Okay, you have to be quiet,” because that was like, “Okay, we’ll whisper our bits.” But she’s like, “For an improviser, put him in that context of walking in that way” made them understand what it was like.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:40] Wow.

Jay Sukow: [00:19:40] It made them understand this as a professional thing. And so, that’s one aspect of doing. That has to do with the facilitators and improvisers. And, also, as you know, a facilitator in a corporate setting, like Greg is a facilitator. An improv facilitator is not that same type of facilitator. It’s not the same. It’s more like you’re running the workshop. You’re not necessarily trained in being a facilitator. But that’s what we say, improv facilitator, but it’s a little bit of a different beast, I think, for the attendants and the participants in the workshop.

Jay Sukow: [00:20:21] And it’s gotten a lot easier with the age. And Second City offers classes for four-year-olds in improv, all the way up through people who have retired. They offer a workshop for everybody. They have workshops for social anxiety. They have workshops for people on the autism spectrum. They have military veterans. And so, people’s reference of improv is so much greater in their experience now. So, I do a lot of facilitation with Second City at Deloitte on their campus down in Dallas, and a lot of the sessions are like, “Hey, you’re transferring from intern to employee,” or “You’ve been working a couple of years now. You’re going to start transitioning into management.”

Jay Sukow: [00:21:13] And so, we’re using improv to help those transitions, and help with listening, and communication. And a lot of times now, I’ll see students I’ve had in Chicago in those classes or people who have been like, “Yeah, I’ve been on improv. I understand what improve is.” So, that has completely changed as far as going into a place. And before, it’d be like, “All right. Who knows what improv is?” and nobody would raise their hand. People are afraid. And this is not just in the corporate setting but in life. They’re afraid of they think they’re going to be made fun of, they think they’re going to be put on the spot, they think they’re going to be out there by themselves. And improv is the opposite of that.

Jay Sukow: [00:21:52] And they think it’s just like you’re going to go out there willy-nilly, and say whatever, and it’s whatever you say is right. And it’s like no, that’s not it. Improv is very hard, which sounds counter, but it is because you have these parameters. And you’re out there — Seinfeld said it, “People would rather be in the casket than give the eulogy.” So, you’re doing something that is addressing the fear of public speaking, addressing being in your head analyzing things because your brain wants to figure things out. Your brain wants steps. That’s why we love steps, and we love acronyms because it’s like, “Oh, here’s the thing we’re doing.” With improv, it’s, “We’re doing this thing together. We have to do it step by step together.” And to have that, where most of your life, you’re defensive, and you’re protecting yourself, and people are like, “Well, how do I get out of my head?” It’s like, “Well, sad news is you don’t.” But improv has skills to help you stay. You’re really talking about staying present.

Peter Margaritis: [00:22:59] Yes, yes.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:00] And say yes and staying in the moment to be open for anything that can happen. Now, people, and there are business books like Bob Colhan has a business book, and Second City has a business book, and David [Lazuski] down in San Diego, they all have books that apply to business. So, people now have — that’s giving it a sense of legitimacy. As you know, it’s like, “Oh, you’ve got a book. Well, you must be an expert because you have a book,” which is true.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:30] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:23:31] So, you go in there now, and it’s like that book has allowed people who are making decisions for these meetings to say, “Oh, we’re bringing in somebody. There’s going to be some takeaways. There are going to be some key takeaways that we can apply.” It’s not just this thing of like, “Oh, it’s going to be fun.” And so, you get in these situations, and my wife is a consultant, and the thing you struggle against is (1), people don’t want to look foolish; (2), they don’t want to participate. Like you know, you go to meetings, people think it’s time to — honestly, it’s a time to zone out, or just kind of not pay attention, or you do pay attention, but you don’t have to interact as much. My wife says she would rather not give an answer than give the wrong one because of how it’s going to reflect on her. And as an improviser, I’m like the opposite. I’m like, “I’m going to answer it. It might be wrong. That will be fun.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:28] Also, I think, within that, “I’d rather give the answer. I can just keep it to myself,” I think it also goes, “Who’s the power figure in the room?”

Jay Sukow: [00:24:39] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:24:39] Who’s the most senior in the room?

Jay Sukow: [00:24:42] Who’s the most senior person? And are they buying in? And if you go into a place, if you go into a session, and that person is like jumping in 100%, and they’re enjoying it, that’s the most fun easiest session because everyone defers to that senior person. And if they’re there, and they’ve got their arms crossed, and they are on their phone, or they walk out, or they are not even participating, then it’s like, “Okay.” It’s a little bit of a struggle to get them to buy in. And like a regular class that isn’t in the business setting, people are signed up because they’re there because they want to do something. They want to be a better person. They want to listen better. Heck, they might want to meet people. They might like improv.

Jay Sukow: [00:25:33] When you go in a business setting, sometimes, it’s, “Hey, surprise. Guess what you’re doing.” And they don’t want to be there all the time. They might get something out of it to the end, but not everybody is like, “Oh, I want to be here.” And so, that’s another thing that’s a challenge. And if you don’t have people who are the improv facilitators with experience in that arena, it’s hard to have them. It’s hard to set them up for success because you need people who can translate the language. You need people who can look in somebody’s eyes and say, “Okay, this person is is completely scared and nervous. I’m not going to ask them to answer questions or participate,” as far as I look to somebody else, and it’s like, “Oh, they’re willing to come out and be fearless.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:27] Yeah, you can tell by body language. I-

Jay Sukow: [00:26:30] You could tell by body language, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:32] I was doing something with a group of 400 accountants, and I asked for a volunteer, and it was quiet. And, finally, after a little bit of silence, this woman raised her hand. And she came up on stage, and she was great. We had a blast. And we’re making people laugh, and we get a whole thing about listening to stuff. And then, I asked her, “Was it that difficult?” She goes, “No. It’s actually fun. The difficult part was raising my hand and volunteering.”

Jay Sukow: [00:26:56] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:26:59] And I look at that leaning in, that fear, that inner critic that’s saying, “Don’t, don’t, you’re going to look stupid up there.” But to your point earlier, it’s a safe environment.

Jay Sukow: [00:27:07] That’s a huge part of it. It’s like you have to set the tone as a place that’s safe and a place that’s like you might think we’re doing all of this, but we’re not. We’re not going to pull you up. We’re not going to make fun of you. I don’t like — I don’t pull people up. I ask for volunteers. And the thing that’s scary for me is like asking for a volunteer, nobody raises their hand, and then just shutting myself up. Shut up, dude, and wait that extra second or two till somebody volunteers.

Jay Sukow: [00:27:40] And then, what we do is we start off with like doing this exercise of like, “Okay, they’re going to answer questions I ask them. You’re going to celebrate loudly with thunderous applause.” It’s like, “What’s your name.” “My name’s Peter.” And everyone claps, and they’re like, “Yeah.” So, then, it gets them in that space of like, “Oh, when I answer, I get applause.” And then, at the end, we’re like, “Okay, for those of you who are on the outside of the circle, but for anyone here, how excited were you that it wasn’t you up there?” And Peter went, and they’re like, “Yeah.” You’re like, “Great.” And you set the tone. It’s like, “This is going to be a safe. It’s going to be interactive. You’re going to be out of your comfort zone, but that’s where growth happens.”

Jay Sukow: [00:28:27] And so what we want is we’re not experts in your business, but we’re experts in what we do, which is communication, and working together, and being a part of an ensemble, and focusing on the team first, and using information. So, then, as we go, it’s like, “How are you going to take this back and implement it?” Because if you don’t and if it’s just a fun thing, then we haven’t done our job. It has to be something where it’s like, “What skill are you going to use moving forward?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:57] And creating the habit.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:01] And creating the habit, which, to me, the most effective thing is like you have to have us come in at regular times. If it’s a one off, you get really excited afterwards, and then things change.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:14] Things go back to normal.

Jay Sukow: [00:29:15] You go back to old habits, right. And you’re not accountable, so you don’t have that. I think the best part is having somebody who’s like an accountability buddy. I wouldn’t call it that, but that idea of like you hold each other accountable because that, also, is improv where you’re working together to set people up to succeed rather than cutting them down to save yourself.

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:38] That’s a good point. I haven’t — after I’m done, I say, “Okay, now, how are you going to hold yourself accountable and move forward?” I’ve never thought about the accountability buddy. I’ve used the piece of using index card. If yes and is what you want to begin to do more of, the writing on index card, write on post-it notes. Keep it around you. Be cognizant of it and begin that change. But I do like that idea of getting an accountability buddy, somebody within your office that is attending that you can hold each other accountable after the session is over in order to create that habit and to begin that change.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:20] Yeah, because I think we all need that. It’s very hard. And in your life, you don’t work by yourself. You might do parts of your job by yourself, but you need to rely on people. And if you have somebody holding you accountable, and you holding somebody else accountable, you’re going to do more.

Jay Sukow: [00:30:37] And I like your idea of writing stuff down too because, then, you see it, and you’re dealing with it. If you have — it’s like working out. If you work out by yourself, you might be able to do it. But if you have a trainer or a workout buddy, they’re going to also push you, and they’re going to help you, and it’s going to be a thing of like, “I don’t want to let them down.” I want, “They’re going to support me. They’re going to help me.” Because it’s like, oh, you work out by yourself, and you’re doing, I don’t know, sit-ups, and you’re like, “That’s good enough,” if you’re by yourself. But if you’re with somebody, they’re going to be like, “Come on. One more. One more,” and it’s going to push you that much farther.

Peter Margaritis: [00:31:18] Exactly. And I think the writing things down, what I’ve done is if I were to ask them to write something down, then I have to prove to them that I do the same thing. And a couple of ways I found to do that is I had a little bracelet made from Etsy that says, “Yes and,” I wear it all the time. Actually, it broke. I have to get another one. And the other thing that I do to walk that talk is, most of the time, when I’m doing anything in front of corporate America, I’m more in French cuffs shirts, not because I love French cuffs shirts because I love these cufflinks that I had made. One says yes, and the other says and.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:00] That’s great.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:02] And when I show that to them, it helps with that. I say, “I’ve been doing this for a while.” I go and apply it, but I fall off the wagon too. And I need to remember, especially when I’m traveling through the Philadelphia airport or something like that. When I get into those “no because” environments and “yes but,” I need to keep that in front of me. And I think that that does help make that connection that, “Well, if he’s doing it,” and I tell a story about how I’ve done it that maybe they will apply it the same way or do something along those lines.

Jay Sukow: [00:32:39] I have a tattoo on my forearm says, “yes and.”.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:43] Do you really?

Jay Sukow: [00:32:44] Yeah. And it came about because I have a son who’s 4 and a daughter who’s 2 and a half. And when my wife was pregnant, I was pushing nonstop for the name to be Yesandra. I’m not kidding. I’m like middle name, first name. And my wife is like, “That’s not my name.” And I said, “Laura, at one point in history, Laura was not a name, but somebody had to do it.” And she’s like, “No.” So, I negotiated a tattoo. I’m like, “Well, then, you go let me get a tattoo that says yes, and.” And she finally relented, which was a big yes and on her part. And so, what she did is she goes, “Well, if you’re going to get it, I want to be a part of it.” So, she wrote in sharpie yes and. And then, I went in to get it tattooed, and they just tattooed where the letters were. So, it’s my wife’s handwriting.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:42] Oh cool.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:44] And it says yes and. And I say, yeah, it’s a philosophy for me. It’s not necessarily the words yes and, but it’s the philosophy of-

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:54] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:33:54] And my wife said this best. She goes – and this has a big impact when I do these corporate sessions. She goes, “Yes and isn’t like, ‘All right. Yes, and your way out of problems. Yes, and your way to freedom.” She goes, “Yes and is before I shoot it down, how could it work?”

Peter Margaritis: [00:34:11] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:34:12] I mean, just take a moment, and if you look in your corporate world, or your professional world, or your personal world, you have to say yes. You have to. And you have to see us the things you don’t want to do, or you get fired. And so, a lot of times, when we’re struggling, it’s because we’re not accepting, and we’re not going with it. And we can make — humans make beautiful excuses. And that no because, wonderful. It gives my ego a sense of power because no is a power word. And so, it also makes me think because they say no to your idea, my suggestion is going to hold so much more weight or like, “I’m going to say no. I have no idea. I have no other options. I’m just going to shoot it down.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:05] Oh, man. I am speaking to the choir here. Yeah, I see a lot. 100% agree, everything that you said. I love how you laid this out, and the influence that your wife has had on you when it comes to corporate America. So, I’m going to take a real sidestep here for a moment because it begs me to ask this question, did you really kick her out of an improv workshop?

Jay Sukow: [00:35:34] Oh, it was a class, my friend.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:37] It was a class.

Jay Sukow: [00:35:38] And she was the only one that I’ve ever kicked out of class.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:43] Now, was this-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:44] The only one.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:45] Was this prior to being married or was this-

Jay Sukow: [00:35:48] Oh no. Oh no.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:50] Oh no?

Jay Sukow: [00:35:50] We were married. We were married. What had happened, the backstory is it was the first class I thought at Io in Chicago. Like I had done some workshops and things with them, but I hadn’t taught a session. I had gone to Io Chicago or Improv Olympic in the mid — like ’93-’94. I was there for a couple of years not teaching but just performing. And then, I came back, and this was like early 2000. And I said, “Come to my class, tell me if I’m talking too much. Give me some notes and some feedback,” because teachers, and like I’m doing on this podcast episode, love to talk. And I had a guy who was a coach of a team, and a show would be 22 minutes, he would talk for 45 after the show. Like come on, man.

Jay Sukow: [00:36:46] So, she was in the class. And I knew that people after that class would be like, “We’re all moving on, right?” And you move on together. But I knew she wasn’t going to because she didn’t want to. But the whole time in class, every class of the eight weeks, she would be on her phone, and I’d be like, “Can you put that away?” And so, because she has a short attention span and, sometimes, she gets bored, rightfully so watching improv, so, finally, the last week, I’m like, “Everybody’s moving on except Laura. You’ve been on your phone this whole time. You’re on your phone right now.” And a part of me was like, “Yeah,” but part of me was upset. I was like, “You can’t get off the phone?” like “Don’t you see the example it’s setting?” Like, “I’m glad you’re here, but get off the phone.”

Jay Sukow: [00:37:46] And now, when I teach, I direct a group here in Santa Monica, they’re called Air Force Fun, and they’re amazing. They’re really good. But I have them — at the start of rehearsal, I have them put their phones down on a ledge where we rehearse, so that they just don’t look at their phones because it becomes such a thing that we don’t even think about it. We go right to the phones, which goes to like that’s going against your active listening.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:13] Bingo.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:14] People think like — and they’re like, “Oh, I can multitask.” It’s like, “No.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:17] No.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:18] And I’ve worked with people that are high powered and think they can. It’s like, “No, you can’t.” Your focus is split. I mean, just based on the term “multitasking,” your focus is split. And improv is such an immediate — you have to be here now. It’s a shared experience. There are a lot of those moments that come up when you’re invested, but if you’re not invested, and if you’re a senior person, if you’re the most senior person in the room, and you’re on your phone, other people are going to think it’s okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:48] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:38:49] So, it’s like — and we say like, “Hey, if you’ve got to take a phone call,” that happens because everybody’s got 16 things happening at that time, “then, just step out in the hallway, and then come back.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:38:59] And come back in.

Jay Sukow: [00:39:00] Yeah, but don’t leave. It’ll hurt our feelings.

Peter Margaritis: [00:39:00] But the whole go. Thank you for the story about why you kicked her out. But as you came back into the corporate world, it really goes down to the culture that is set. And I’ve said that if the most senior person in the room, if they would just give the craziest answer, that would free everybody else up. You’ll love this story. I was doing a workshop for a company in Maryland, and they had a week-long leadership program, and they brought their emerging leaders from the US and Latin America in. And I got to teach a creativity piece. And it was half a day, and off the premise of yes and, and along those lines. And one of the things we were discussing is, how do we increase profitability in the company? “Raise, raise, cut costs.” “Okay, that’s easy. Come on, get out of your head. Give me some crazy ideas.” And this one gentleman from Latin America was, “I tell you what, my friends, here’s how we want to increase profitability in our company, we are going to kill all of our competition’s salespeople.”

Jay Sukow: [00:40:12] Yeah. Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:13] Right? Everybody broke up with laughter, and I panicked because I wasn’t (1), expecting it. The voice in my head said, “If you believe this, run with this. If not, this is going to fall right apart.” And I paused for a moment and said, “You know, let’s take murder off the table for now, because I don’t look good in orange. However, instead-”

Jay Sukow: [00:40:38] I like how you said for now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:39] For now.

Jay Sukow: [00:40:39] For now.

Peter Margaritis: [00:40:40] Yeah. However, instead of killing them, why do we identify the top salespeople in our competition and poach them? Let’s give them a $30,000 increase over salary and maybe $10,000 bonus. And I can turn that — and I got a lot. As I reflected back over that, I went, “Okay, (1), would we have gotten there had that gentleman not had the — who took me literally when I said, “You can say anything and you’re not going to be judged. It is not going to come back to bite you,” and he said that. But then, it also took me someplace else in thinking about corporate America, and thinking about I was looking for ideas, and kind of knew that people are safe, they’re not going to throw away, or they’re not going to say anything, or if they give an idea, and it’s not going to be too far off of being safe, but we can’t find good ideas with that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:41:33] When this guy gave us the crazy idea, it took us from safe to absolutely bizarre, that’s when we find the magic is when we can pull it back and find that middle. We’ve got more room to work with. And I think that’s what improv helps us do is find that additional space to work by saying yes and, agreement, pushing it out there, having that lack of fear, per se, knowing that you’ve got support from everybody, and then we can take crazy, and come up with creative and applicable.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:07] When you say like lack of fear and a way to put that also with improv is follow the fear. And that’s what you did, like follow the fear, and we want to shy away from it. It’s like no, you accept it, and you follow it because you go through it. And I think what you said is like, “Oh, it was said, and then I panicked,” which goes back to like my first instinct because I don’t know what it is because humans don’t like — your brain wants to know everything. So, your brain wants to know the steps before they go in. But because we don’t know, we’re going to immediately shut it down.

Jay Sukow: [00:42:41] But what I think is a lost point in improv is your idea is not the end idea. Your idea, your job is to put information out there as an idea, not expecting it to be the punchline to a joke, right, the closer. It’s the setup to get us somewhere. My information. the thing about the murder, if we don’t judge it, and especially if you’ve sold them, you could say anything, then to be like murder, and somebody goes, “No,” it’s like, “No, you’ve told them. You’ve set it up to like there are no wrong answers.” And if that’s the case, then you go, “Okay, murder. Well, what was he really trying to say?” Okay. And your idea came out of that. So, instead of saying no, which is a judgment, and we say like defer judgment. “Yes and” is deferred judgment, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:34] Right.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:34] So, instead of saying no, how could this work? You go, “Hmm, I’m not going to yes and the murder part,” and be like, “Yeah, and we can kidnap them. Yeah, and we can take them from their family,” right. That’s not the yes and we’re talking about.

Peter Margaritis: [00:43:48] Right, right, right.

Jay Sukow: [00:43:49] But the yes and is like, “Let me look at that idea without judging it because, obviously, that’s not going to happen.” But that makes me think of what is really the need or what is really what they’re talking about? Because, also, with improv in business and in life, it’s like breaking it down to like, what’s the human need. Like when I go into a workshop, and there’s a guy who’s too cool for school, right. I’m like, “What’s his need?” His need is to feel safe. And it’s almost always his. Not to be sexist, but it’s a lot of like too cool for school dudes because men are scared boys who want to win. That’s who we are.

Jay Sukow: [00:44:26] So, I go, “Okay, his human need is to feel safe or validated,” right? That’s it. And he needs to feel okay. Like that’s his defense. So, then, you go back to what we’re talking about of like that step was part of the journey to get us to the final result. And it’s amazing. And you’ve done these brainstorming sessions where it’s like, right away, you start off by knocking ideas and saying no; where, it’s just you’re generating ideas through brainstorming, but people will say no to them. They won’t even take a second to be like, “Wait a minute, before you shoot it down, before you even talk about something else, let’s focus on this one thing,” because, now, people are feeling heard, and that’s the big thing. They want to feel heard. They want to have people who understand them and value them.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:14] So, if you give a suggestion, that guy gives the suggestion of, “Let’s murder him,” and we don’t even hear him out, and we right away go, “No,” do you think he’s going to offer more suggestions as we go?

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:26] Not a chance.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:26] He’s going to shut down.

Peter Margaritis: [00:45:28] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:45:28] Not a chance. Now, if he keeps talking about murdering, and it’s like, “All right, dude.” I would be like, “Great. We talked all about that. You don’t have to do it anymore. That’s retired. That’s such a great suggestion. We’re going to retire that. We’re going to move on past that.” Like it’s in our hall of fame, but let’s put it in a graveyard. It’s in our improv graveyard where that’s been — that’s retired. Now, let’s move on to something else.”

Jay Sukow: [00:45:53] But if that kicks you off of your session, that’s the first thing said, and if you go no, then that’s setting the tone. And side note, I’m going to get on my soapbox for a second about improvisers and shows, I’ve seen far too many, and it makes me sad, somebody asks for a suggestion from the audience, they give a suggestion, and then the improviser goes, “No,” or they go, “We took that suggestion last week.” And I’m like, “Oh, she’s done everything about that suggestion,” or you’re upset that an audience member says pineapple again.

Jay Sukow: [00:46:26] They’ve never come to a show, and they want to see you take their suggestion, and turn it into something magical. And what you’re doing is you’re telling them, “No, we’re not going to do that.” So, you’ve already discounted their experience and their suggestion. You’ve already discounted it. So, now, not only do, I think, lost that person, you’ve lost other people in the audience because they’ll be like, “I’m not going to give you a suggestion.”

Jay Sukow: [00:46:46] And the same with the corporate setting. You have to make it safe. And sometimes, it’s like scared dogs. You have to slowly pull them out of that state where it’s like they’re very scared, they’re defensive. So, if you lay a little bit of food out, they’ll come out a little bit. If you lay a little more, they come out a little more. If you make it a safe place, then you have that person who’s bought into it. And so, kudos to you for doing that.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:15] Thank you. Looking back and listening to you, I just reacted in what I have learned through improv is not to shoot it down, not to shoot any idea down. Let’s play with it, but let’s qualify it by saying, “Okay, we’ll take murder off the table.” But it also goes back in the book from Second City Works, Yes And, bad ideas are just bridges to good ideas. No ideas lead us to nothing. And I believe that mantra. And I think in a lot of the workshops, we are brainstorming and getting ideas.

Peter Margaritis: [00:47:50] I look at the word innovation, and I think when we talk about innovation, there’s two points to it. An innovation is creativity and the application of it. And in a brainstorming, I want quantity not quality. And I work on the quality after the fact. So, when you come up with ideas, you can’t say, “Do we have the resources for that idea?” No, no. That’s later.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:15] And I think that’s the hardest part in teaching that aspect of it because we all want to maybe shoot an idea down, or we will have the people, we’ll have the money, or there’s always some excuse. But if we take that excuse off the table and just run with the ideas, we’re going to make something magical out of it. To your point, the idea is not the be all and end all, but it’s the start of a process.

Jay Sukow: [00:48:40] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [00:48:42] Start of an exploratory process to solve the problem that we have at hand. And if we’re muting ideas from our people, then it’s just going to be a lot harder to solve those problems.

Jay Sukow: [00:48:56] For sure. And again, you’re setting the tone. And the tone is this not a place to give suggestions. And the same thing with when you talk to people at work, you know those people that are like they have the yes and philosophy. They might be like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, Peter, but — I mean, we love it. Running out into traffic is not going to help us. But I hear your idea. I’m going to validate that.”

Jay Sukow: [00:49:20] You also know the people who come in, and they’re like, “No.” Like before you even open your mouth, you know it’s going to be a no, and you dread going to those people, or you know the people that are always going to counter with, “Yeah, but.”

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:32] Sadly.

Jay Sukow: [00:49:35] You know those people. And so, think about how you feel going to those people. And think about what kind of person — in improv, we say be the improviser you want to play with. So, it’s like be that person in your business that you want to work with. And who is that person? Be them.

Peter Margaritis: [00:49:55] Wow. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, but I love that. Be the improviser you want to be.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:00] Yeah, that you want to play with.

Peter Margaritis: [00:50:03] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:04] What improvisers do you want to play with? Do you want to play with somebody who yells at you? Okay, then yell. If you do want to be the person that places some of your goals before you can finish, they go, “Yeah, absolutely.” And they have this aggressive yes and where it’s like, “I’m agreed to before I even know what it is, but I value your information, and I value your moves.” And like that, to me, is the improviser’s job is like make them look good. And you do that by like if you’re ever stuck in an improv scene, shake your head yes. It’s hard to say no when you shake your head, when you’re like yes, it’s hard to say no to that.

Jay Sukow: [00:50:39] And with improv and business, it’s all in the eyes. Eye contact, you’ll be able to see in their eyes where they are and body language. We also we also say improvise the scene you’re in, not the one you want to be in. So, improvise that. Be in that meeting that you’re in, not the one that you wanted to be. And that goes for presenters as well. It’s like improv helps you read a room, and you go, “Well, this plan is not going to work. I have to adjust. I have to be agile and pivot in this moment.” And how many times has it been like, “That plan went off to a tee,” versus how many times have you heard, “Well, that plan didn’t work”?

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:21] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:22] That went off the rails.

Peter Margaritis: [00:51:23] Yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:23] So, improv helps you to adjust to be like, “Okay. Now, what do I do?” Like you did in that session where it’s like, “Okay, how do I adjust right now because that was not part of the plan?” And your brain is like freaking out. Your brain is like, “Plan awry, plan awry. Just go back and push it again. You go back and try to get through this presentation again.” Maybe just be louder. Maybe just reinforce it. It’s like, well, you’re not improvising the scene you’re in. You’re doing it into one you wanted to be.

Jay Sukow: [00:51:53] So, you accept the moment, accept what this is, and then trust that you’ve got the answers. Nobody wants to sit through a bad session. Nobody goes to a show, an improv show, or a learning session, and goes, “I hope this is terrible. I really hope it’s bad. I hope the presenter struggles. I hope I don’t get anything out of it.” They don’t go to it like that. They might go to a session like, “I’m not going to get anything out of this,” and their mind’s made up, but they really don’t go to a session, nobody goes in and thinks, “I want my time wasted.” And we forget that as presenters too, as facilitators.

Jay Sukow: [00:52:30] I do that where I go into a setting, a business setting, I’m like, “I’m nervous. They’re not going to like it.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. I’ve gotten through these sessions before. When some problem comes up, I’m able to address it in the moment, and I’m never going to have to do that session again. Good or bad, I never get to do it again. So, go into it.” I have a friend who says before a show, he’s like, “I can’t wait to see where we go and who we meet.” And I’m like, “That’s a really good attitude.” I can’t wait.

Peter Margaritis: [00:52:59] That is.

Jay Sukow: [00:52:59] I can’t wait.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:01] I can’t wait.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:01] I can’t wait to see where we’re going and who we’re going to meet.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:05] So, as you’re talking about presenters, when I do teach public speaking and presentation skills, I set the scene that you’re getting ready to deliver an hour conference session. You get there early enough, everything’s working fine, but just as you begin, your computer freezes up.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:21] Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:53:21] What do you do? And most people begin to, “I’m going to fix the computer.” Well, no, no, you’re supposed to be here to give this information whether your computer’s working or not. And they look at me, and I go, “Seriously.” This has happened to me two or three times. And the computer froze up or we don’t have the AV facility that we’re going to get, but we’re going to use this room that has no technology. “Okay, do we have that? Does that whiteboard have wheels on it? Sure, bring it over.” I’m going old school PowerPoint right now.

Jay Sukow: [00:53:55] And then, if you see that the audience laugh because they’re like, “Ah, that’s me. I’m that guy,” and they laugh at you acknowledging the obvious.

Peter Margaritis: [00:54:05] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [00:54:06] There’s an exercise I’ve done where it’s you’re outside to get people, you tell them they’re going to present this PowerPoint deck. They don’t know what it is, but you give them maybe a little overview. They come in. and you have a PowerPoint deck that doesn’t go well. Sometimes, it’s like, “Let’s go to the next slide,” and it’s a picture of a cat. It’s like, “Okay.” Or we’ve done it before where it’s like, “Let’s take a look at them first slide,” and it just comes up, and it , “Any questions?” So, then, you’re like, “How do you adjust in that moment?”

Jay Sukow: [00:54:44] And especially, you forget that if you’re co-facilitating or you’re with a group, you forget to rely on those people. So, you immediately go into the, “Oh, what am I going to do?” because we think about ourselves more than anybody. It’s a natural human thing. That’s why we’re in our head is we’re thinking about ourselves all the time. And that’s not a bad thing, but you go, “Okay, now, what do I do? How do I improvise? How do I work the scene I’m in right now versus the one I want to?” Are you just going to shut down, or are you going to use those skills to be like, “How can this work? And how can I look at mistakes as gifts? I might not know it at the time, but it’s like this PowerPoint going out, it’s happening for a reason, and it’s a gift,” instead of like looking at a mistake like failure. It’s like, “No, no, no, no.”

Jay Sukow: [00:55:30] And I say — my wife still doesn’t agree with this, I say, “Aim to fail.” Like give yourself that freedom to be like, “Okay, I’m not going to try and get this perfect,” because once you do that, all the chains of being perfect are lifted. All the chains of getting it right are lifted. And you forget like you’re all experts in this thing. That’s when you brain comes in handy is when it’s scrambling to survive. And if you add that element of yes and to it, then you’re very powerful and dynamic as a speaker, as a leader, as a team member, whatever it is. And then, you’ll see it trickle into your life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:56:13] I believe as you were talking about failure and stuff, I had a visual in my head of Annie saying the same thing and giving you — that was the thing that she got for me more than, I think, anything she said was accepting failure. And it’s hard for people to do. It’s hard for people to say it’s okay to make a mistake because we don’t want to make mistakes.

Jay Sukow: [00:56:36] And you’re penalized. You’re constantly penalized for mistakes. But if you look at companies like Google where they go, “You’re going to have a day to work on your project, and you’re a failure.” You look in history too. It’s like the guy who does Dyson vacuums. It’s like he went through how many designs. Hundreds and hundreds of failed designs till he got that right. The same with like cars. And yeah, it’s like you got to accept failure. And penicillin is a failure that became a gift. So, if you start looking into it like that, and you go, “Okay, let’s accept these failures,” but it’s accepted as collateral damage, but also let’s accept that like, “Peter, your failure is going to help us succeed in the long run.” But we are so focused on immediate results that we don’t allow ourselves that space.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:28] I couldn’t have said that any better. Wow, actually, I love that, the way you put that.

Jay Sukow: [00:57:37] Thank you. None of this is my original thought. None of these thoughts are like, “Jay came up with this.” It’s like, no, no, no, none of it, not a single one. They’re just things I’ve heard that resonate with me.

Peter Margaritis: [00:57:49] Right. That you’ve heard through your journey through the improv world.

Jay Sukow: [00:57:54] And life, for sure. And like I stopped drinking in 2008, and there are things that I’ve heard in recovery rooms, or with my friends who don’t drink, or a friend struggling, whatever, that I use as well. I’m like, “That’s really good information.” Like things will change. Accept the fact, things will change. I’m like, “Oh, that’s a really good philosophy.” So, you gather all this information from your life, and you look at things like inspiration. You, then, incorporate it into your lifestyle. And it’s very scary to make changes in that business world. Like we’ve been doing PowerPoint for how long?

Peter Margaritis: [00:58:36] Oh, yeah.

Jay Sukow: [00:58:36] And it’s like — my wife and I, we originally had a company back in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 that was called The Riot Act, and we used improv to drive behavior change. And so, we would go into because she had experience with meetings, and there were a lot of just live meetings, and it’s like, “You go into the meeting. And then, after the meeting, you have these discussions.” So, we tried to bring the discussions into the meeting to be like, “Let’s have them out here. Let’s make these discussions now. Let’s make it a safe place where you can be validated by that. And let’s try to bring that conversation in here that we’re all going to say,” which is like, “Well, I’m not engaged,” or “That was not good.” Like, “Let’s take that in here.” And that’s a way to drive the change is to acknowledge what it is.

Jay Sukow: [00:59:22] And so, we were really successful at what we did. And in 2008, it was like all of our clients said, “We’re not having any meetings.” And it was like, “Oh.” Like our first client was Indra Nooyi, who is the president and CEO of PepsiCo. And then, we worked with McDonald’s and Yahoo!. And like we had really great clients, and we worked in the C Suite arena. And then, what happened is, okay, we had to accept that, now, we are changing. Our business is — we are not able to sustain it. And that failure led us to realize, “Oh, I can still do this with the clients.” We were thinking about having kids now that will help us. My wife got a job at Ernst & Young or EY, which allowed us to have insurance, which allowed us to have kids. And so, that failure turned into something magical. Now, at the time, it didn’t feel good, but it turned into a wonderful gift for us. And I’m still able to work with a lot of those clients now. It’s just I had to wait for that bounce back.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:29] Right, right, right. Wow. That’s a great story. And yeah, 2008, set a lot of people back in the-

Jay Sukow: [01:00:35] Right.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:35] Yeah, I had to go back teaching hardcore technical accounting because nobody was paying for a communication type of courses, especially when there are equated to improv, and being silly, and funny.

Jay Sukow: [01:00:47] And you know it’s like, “Well, that’s the first thing that’s going to be cut.” Improv is seen as extra.

Peter Margaritis: [01:00:55] Exactly.

Jay Sukow: [01:00:55] And so, when you’re crunched, to me, when you need it the most, you cut it out because that’s seen as an extra expense. And it’s not that. It is such a necessary expense that you’re driving behavior change, and you’re changing cultures, and you’re retaining your employees because they feel validated, and they feel like this is a place I’m safe to make mistakes, and this is a place I’m going to grow, and this is a place that values my time in my opinion. And, now, especially with younger generations, they don’t sit at a company for a career and go, “Well, I’m going to work 30 years for IBM, and that’s it.” They will harp around because the money is not important.

Peter Margaritis: [01:01:38] Let me change one word, which you said, that I’ve used to help frame it in a different way. I learned this from somebody else. I don’t use the word cost anymore or expense. I look at it as an investment. You’re investing in your people. It’s not an expense in your people. You’re investing in your people because with an investment, you’ll say, “Where will this take me?” When somebody comes to me with an idea, where would this investment take us?” And I think when we look at from that perspective that maybe we’ll frame it in a different way that people might not, knee-jerk reaction, start cutting these “expenses” that ultimately are really just investments into the company’s future.

Jay Sukow: [01:02:26] Yeah, I love that. I love that positive spin on it. Like it’s the same idea, but you’re making it that positive spin. And that’s what, to me, the improviser is. And so, yeah, I love that change to be like it’s an investment. You are going to get something out of it rather than take something away from it.

Peter Margaritis: [01:02:48] Bingo. Bingo. And I’ve used that a ton of times. And most of my audience are CPAs and accountants, and they love the word cost. But when I frame it in that way, that’s Scooby Doo, “Awoo,” comes on their face, and the light bulb goes off and allow, “Yeah, that’s a better way of framing that comment or that sentence.”

Jay Sukow: [01:03:17] And it’s such a slight change, it’s such a huge change.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:20] Exactly. Jay, we could talk probably for five hours.

Jay Sukow: [01:03:26] Well, then, let’s say this is the first part of a five-part series.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:31] Five-part series. I want to respect your time. I-

Jay Sukow: [01:03:38] You did respect my time by having me on. It’s very respectful that we talk about improv. For sure.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:44] And the one thing I know about that, I’ve interviewed two other people about improv, we already talked about Annie and another woman named Allison Estep.

Jay Sukow: [01:03:55] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [01:03:56] You know Allison?

Jay Sukow: [01:03:58] She was a student of mine.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:00] Her too?

Jay Sukow: [01:04:00] I talked to her about this. Yeah, I talked to her. She’s living in London now. And I said, “Allison, are you the same Allison Estep that was on Peter’s podcast?” And she goes, “Yes.” You interviewed her a couple of years ago.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:16] It wasn’t that far back. It was maybe six months ago actually.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:21] Okay, a couple months ago. But, yeah, for sure, we talked about it.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:24] Yeah. And one thing that — and Allison used to work for the Indiana Society of CPAs as a marketing person.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:30] Yes, yes.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:32] She found out that I do Improv Second City, and we just merely — I don’t literally mean this, but we literally fell in love with each other just having that conversation, just having that energy. And I interviewed her. She’d left the United States and went to Dubai. She’s in Dubai for long. I guess, now, she’s in London or whatever, and-

Jay Sukow: [01:04:53] Yeah, yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:54] … yes-anding her way around the world.

Jay Sukow: [01:04:56] And so much happier now.

Peter Margaritis: [01:04:58] And so much happier. But I love talking about improv, and I love talking to people who understand it because you hear the passion, you hear the energy, you get the knowledge. And like I said, I could have — with you, with Annie, with Allison, love the conversations. We will have more. And I appreciate your time. I appreciate you sharing this with myself. I’m going to be selfish right now. Thank you for sharing this with me, my audience will get it as well, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned some new things. I’ve learned some different approaches just within this hour conversation. And I look forward to having a conversation with you again in the very, very near future.

Jay Sukow: [01:05:48] You’re welcome. And I’ve learned a lot as well. And I appreciate you. And, yeah, let’s talk more.

Peter Margaritis: [01:05:54] Perfect. And give your lovely wife my best. She doesn’t know me, but I figure she’s going to hear about me, and-

Jay Sukow: [01:06:03] She’s going to. I’m going to make her listen to this one, for sure.

Peter Margaritis: [01:06:10] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to make better connections with those around you? How will you become better at accepting and learning from your failure? Will you adopt a yes and mentality and bring it with you every single day? Remember, to enact change, you have to practice it every single day by taking baby steps.

Peter Margaritis: [01:06:37] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit wwww.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their network.

Announcer: [01:06:59] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio:turning the volume up on business.

S2E32 – Dr. Gleb Tsipursky | Never Go With Your Gut

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is a disaster avoidance expert with over 20 years of experience dramatically empowering leaders and organizations to avoid business disasters by addressing potential threats, maximizing unexpected opportunities, and resolving persistent personnel problems.

 

Gleb serves as the CEO of a boutique consulting and training firm, Disaster Avoidance Experts, whose clients range from Fortune 500 companies to mid-sized businesses and nonprofits. He’s also the author of a national bestseller on avoiding disasters in business, The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide, and an upcoming book, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters, which is coming out November 2019.

 

Why Do People Make Bad Decisions?

 

Dr. Tsipursky has always been fascinated with decision making, and he kept asking himself the same question: Why do people make such bad decisions?

 

He first saw in his parents. They yelled at each other, they fought a lot, and it was always over stupid things. Then he came of age around the same time as the dotcom boom and bust – and he saw a lot of bad decisions being made then.

 

He saw people are pouring enormous sums of money, many billions of dollars, into online venues that, to him, “seemed really sketchy,” and then most of them disappeared in the blink of an eye.

 

Then, even worse, you have the big three in accounting fraud: Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. These companies also suffered as part of a dot com bust, but they used fraudulent methods to try to cover up the fact that they lost a lot of money. And then, they had accounting fraud scandals that screwed a lot of investors out of a lot of money. Seeing the fallout of the dotcom bust was a turning point in Dr. Tsipursky’s life, and it pushed him to study decision making in business contexts.

 

Personally, my first reaction to accounting fraud is that it’s just greed – people want money so they lied to get it – but Dr. Tsipursky tells us it’s actually not that simple.

 

Because, when you look at the people at the top, they already had millions and millions of dollars, so gaining a few million more was actually pretty negligible. However, it could make a huge difference to their legacy if people knew. Of course, covering it up and going to jail probably hurt their legacies more – so why didn’t they anticipate that and, well, not commit fraud?

 

“And if you actually look in-depth at why they committed this fraud, they committed it because they went with their gut reactions, their intuitions, and they did it because of their emotions, based from their feelings… So, they tried to cover it up as much as they could because they felt very uncomfortable, and they felt very bad about being perceived as losers, about losing face.” 

 

And research shows that most of us do the same: about 80-90% of decisions are informed primarily by our feelings.

 

What’s Wrong With Going With Your Gut?

 

Our emotions are short-term oriented because they evolved from the ancestral Savannah. And it really helped us survive in the wild because we didn’t really have an opportunity to invest into the long term. We couldn’t build a bank account. We couldn’t build a house. We needed to get away from predators as quickly as possible while hunting our food as effectively as possible.

 

But as a result, “these gut reactions, they really misfire very often in the modern world and bring down high-flying careers and big companies.”

 

So, how can we avoid succumbing to human nature? Well, it’s right in the title of Dr. Tsipursky’s book: don’t go with your gut.

 

Our gut tends to make really bad choices in our modern business environment (and in modern life in general, really). So, it’s important to see what your gut is telling you, but then always check that with your head. And in the book, you will find specific, structured decision-making processes that you can use to check with your head.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:00:00] So, what usually happens with mergers and acquisitions, where they go wrong, is that business leaders look at the products, at the strategy, and they don’t look at the people.

Peter Margaritis: [00:00:19] 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: [00:00:39] 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.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:01:04] Welcome to Episode 32. And my guest today is the Disaster Avoidance Expert Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. Gleb has over 20 years of experience dramatically empowering leaders and organizations to avoid business disasters by addressing potential threats, maximizing unexpected opportunities, and resolving persistent personnel problems.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:01:26] Gleb serves as the CEO of a boutique consulting and training firm, Disaster Avoidance Experts, whose clients range from Fortune 500 companies to mid-sized businesses and nonprofits. He’s author of the national bestseller on avoiding disasters in business and other life areas, The Truth Seekers Handbook, a science-based guide. And his Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters is forthcoming with Career Press in November 2019.

Peter Margaritis: [00:01:56] Gleb’s cutting-edge thought leadership was featured over 400 articles he’s published, over 350 interviews he has gave to popular venues that include Fast Company. CBS News, Time Scientific American, Psychology Today. The Conversation, Business Insider, Government Executive, Inc. Magazine and many others. He also has a strong research and teaching background in Behavioral Economics and Neuroscience for over 15 years in academia, including seven years as a professor at the Ohio State University with dozens of peer reviews and academic publications.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:34] Our discussion today is about his new book Never Go With Gut. And you can learn more about Gleb by going to his website, disasteravoidanceexperts.com. And you can contact him through his email at gleb@disasteravoidanceexperts.com.

Peter Margaritis: [00:02:54] Now, before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts such as the Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.

Announcer: [00:03:22] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network: turning the volume up on business.

Peter Margaritis: [00:03:26] And, now, a word from our sponsor.

Sponsor: [00:03:32] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:21] Now, let’s get to the interview with Dr. Gleb Tsipursky.

Peter Margaritis: [00:04:29] Welcome back, everybody. Today, my guest is Gleb Tspirusky, who I’ve known now for a little bit over a year or so because he’s a member of the National Speakers Association. And more importantly, he’s a member of the Ohio Chapter of the National Speakers Association. And first and foremost, I want to welcome Gleb. Thank you so very much for being a guest on my podcast today. I appreciate you taking time out on this absolutely stunning beautiful afternoon here in Columbus, Ohio something that we haven’t seen in quite a while.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:04:58] Yeah. That’s so much. It’s a beautiful afternoon. It’s been a week of rain. So, it’s nice to have this difference. And thank you for having me on the podcast. I appreciate it, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:05:07] I’m looking forward to this conversation. But before we get into the crux of it, can you give my audience a little bit of your background?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:05:15] Sure, happy to. So, as you can hear from my accent, I wasn’t born here in the United States. I was born in Moldova, which is a country in Eastern Europe that is just to the east of Romania and southwest of Ukraine for those geography buffs who are listening in. And I came here when I was 10. My parents took me in 1991, just as the Soviet Union was about to collapse. The situation was bad. It became much more free to leave. The wall was falling down. And so, my parents left that part of the world to go somewhere where they have more freedom, independence, and opportunity for themselves and their kids.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:05:59] And we settled down on York City. And so, that’s where I grew up since I was 10 until I think — I lived there and tell my early, like 21. I went to New York University. Then, I was in Massachusetts. I got a Master’s in Harvard. And then, I got a job at UC Chapel Hill. And so, that’s kind of my educational background before I settled here in Columbus where I got a job at Ohio State University. And I stayed there for about seven years until leaving a year ago to do full-time speaking, consulting, and coaching. That’s kind of my travel background.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:06:33] Now, my professional background is that I was always fascinated in decision making. Why do people make such bad decisions? People make so many bad decisions. When I was a kid, I first saw this in my parents, to be honest. They yelled at each other, they fought a lot, and it was over stupid things, just kind of really random things. And I saw that, and I was like, “Why? Why are you doing this? This is not good for either of you. You live with each.” That wasn’t great.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:07:03] And then, I came of age. So, I kind of became an adult, and I started looking at my society during the dot com boom and bust. And so, when people are pouring enormous, enormous sums of money, many billions of dollars into online venues that really seems sketchy to me, and then they all disappeared in the blink of an eye, most of them. I think Webfan, Petfarm. I mean, so many of them disappeared. And then, even worse you have people from Enron, WorldCom and Tyco who suffered as part of a dot com boom and bust, but they used fraudulent methods to try to cover up their suffering, the fact that they lost a lot of money. And then, they had that accounting fraud scandals, and they screwed a lot of investors out of a lot of money.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:07:51] And that was just people suffered so much both because the dot com boom and bust and because of the fraudulent scandals. So, that’s really the turning point in my life, that period of time when I was becoming an adult pushed me to study decision making in business contexts and doing consulting, coaching, and training for business leaders on how to avoid the kind of disastrous decisions that lead to such harmful, harmful consequences. So, that’s a little bit of my professional journey outside of the academic realm. And academia, I studied the decision making. And then, I brought it out to the consulting, coaching, and speaking points that I train and help.

Peter Margaritis: [00:08:31] Yeah, bad decisions. And you mentioned the big three in the accounting profession around fraud. And we’ll start talking more about your book, Never Go With Your Gut. Excuse me, your new book, Never Go With Your Gut, that’s coming out in November. But my thought about the accounting fraud scandals are it’s just pure greed. And we may have, as you purposely said and very eloquently said, screwed up. But because of that greed and guilt, I want to keep things going. We perpetrated this ruse to try to cover it up. But as we’ve learned, and we’ll start with Nixon, but we learned coverups don’t work, and eventually will come out.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:09:13] I hear you, Peter. And as an accountant, I totally understand why you’ve got the greed question right away. But when you actually — I look at the scandals in depth. And what happens is that people at the top, they did not need more money. They had many, many, many, many millions of dollars in their bank accounts. So, the question is given that they have many, many, many billions or millions, a few more million dollars wouldn’t make a difference, really, to their bank accounts. And it could make a huge difference in their legacy and the fact that some of them went to jail for 10 years. So, why did they do it? Why did they commit this fraud?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:09:51] And if you actually look in-depth at why they committed this fraud, they committed it because they went with their gut reactions, their intuitions, and they did it because of their emotions, based from their feelings. They were afraid, Peter. They were afraid of being seen as losers. as losing face in front of other people who were their peers, in front of their families. They didn’t want to lose face. And so, they tried to cover it up as much as they could because they felt very uncomfortable, and they felt very bad about being perceived as losers, about losing face. And that’s the essence of what was happening there was driven by their emotions, by their intuitions, by their feelings, which research shows determine about 80% to 90% of what we do.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:35] So, Gleb, help me here. Much of a rational thought around this. If they didn’t want to be perceived as losers, but we make these bad decisions based on emotions to basically cover ourselves to or insulate ourselves, but, we’re ultimately caught.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:10:53] Yes.

Peter Margaritis: [00:10:53] We’re even bigger losers versus doing the right thing at the right moment. And we can go back in history. Even for the accounting professionals to go back in history and see, it continues to go. So, I think part of your conversation here, what about the ego? Does the ego just hijack everything?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:11:15] Yeah, the ego. This is the ego. You don’t want to be perceived as a loser. Now, here, so we need to think about the gut here, our intuitions, our emotions. They’re very short-term oriented. If they weren’t short-term oriented, all the students in all the classes would turn their papers on time, right, and there wouldn’t be a rush. You work a lot with accountants. You know what kind of rush there is before tax day, before April 15, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:11:42] Right?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:11:43] Well, things aren’t on time. People procrastinate because of their gut reactions, their intuitions, our emotions are very short-term oriented because they evolved from the ancestral Savannah. That’s what we evolve from. That’s what our gut functions as. It functions with tribalism. It functions with fight-or-flight response. So, it’s very short-term oriented. And it’s really helped us survive in the Savannah to be short-term oriented because we didn’t really have an opportunity to invest into the long term. We couldn’t build a bank account. We couldn’t build a house. We needed to get away from those saber tooth tigers as quickly as possible and to hunt down the deer, and bison, and whatnot. So, that’s where our lives are like in the Savannah. And the Savannah, that’s short-term orientation was great. You didn’t need to worry about cover-ups. You didn’t need to worry about journalists, and reporters, and bank accounts, and stuff like that. And so, these gut reactions, they really misfire very often in the modern world and bring down high-flying careers and big companies.

Peter Margaritis: [00:12:45] Wow, okay. I get that. And as soon as you’re talking of that, I get the aspect of why emotions drive decisions and the short-term nature of it. But in looking at your book, you cover all of this preface around emotions in the second chapter, like Who Wants to Be a Loser?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:13:07] Yes. So, that’s a question about losing. One of the aspects that really drives us is not wanting to lose. So, we did some research on this, on not wanting to lose. Apparently, people, if they have an option between losing and gaining, they’re twice as averse, they’re twice as reluctant to gain money as to lose money. So, if you go if you give somebody an example, if you tell somebody, “Hey, how about I give you $50 right now or $60 in a year?” now, what would you do, Peter?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:41] You’d probably take the $50 now.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:13:45] Why is that, Peter?

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:48] Short-term gratification. I have 50 in hand.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:13:50] Yeah. Well, let’s say that there’s a complete guarantee they place it in a trust for you, and in a year from now, $60.

Peter Margaritis: [00:13:59] So, I would go, “There’s no such thing as a guarantee.” I look at that as a pension. And I’d rather have the $50 now to spend versus waiting a year. Do they count the time, value of money, and stuff? I’ll take the $50 now. Then, I’ll give you my mailing address where you can send it to me.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:14:14] Sure, okay. Well, only if you send me $60 in a year, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:14:17] Let’s do that. You shoot me $50 now, and you’ll see if you get to $60 in a year.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:14:26] Right. So, people, unfortunately, they don’t tend to think about the fact that, essentially, savings accounts, and checking accounts, bonds, they increase at that rate of 1%, 2%. But we hold all our money in a bank. So, if I tell you,”Put it in a trust fund, put it in an account,” you can trust that money will be there. But we intuitively tend to go for the short-term gains because we’re afraid of losing the money that’s in the hand versus the longer term gains.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:14:57] Now, think about $60 compared to $50, that’s a 20% increase. Imagine if you can make an investment that can guarantee you a 20% increase in the year. That wouldn’t be a Ponzi scheme. It wouldn’t be Bernie Madoff. People would be all over it. This is a 20% increase of your money in a year; whereas, the average increase in the stock market is something like 5% to 7% with high probability of losses. So, that’s a great, great, great investment.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:15:26] If somebody offered me that deal, I would totally take it. $60 in a year, absolutely. Why is that? Because I know that my mind is screwed up as is everybody’s to be more oriented to want to avoid losses. And this desire to avoid losses really harms us because smart financial companies and schemers really keep people out of a lot of money who are not oriented toward the long term, who take the short-term gains over the much higher, much better long-term deal.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:15:57] And so, if you don’t want to be a loser, you want to think about the long term. You want to think about, “Okay. I don’t want to lose this money now, but how much more would I gain in the long term?” And so, that’s kind of balance we need to draw to avoid falling for the cognitive bias that’s called loss aversion. And people fall for it all the time. That’s why people stay so long in debt and jobs. I mean, I coach a number of business leaders who were really afraid, executives who were really afraid of jumping ship when they really should have. I mean, they were overqualified for their current jobs, but they were worried about switching jobs to a new company or trying to get a better job in their current company partially because of this loss aversion. They didn’t want to let go of what they had, and they made bad decisions. They didn’t want to let go of what they had. And so, they lost out a number of times. So, that’s one of the conversations that I frequently have with business leaders.

Peter Margaritis: [00:16:53] That’s interesting. I can relate to some of it. And, actually, some of the examples that you gave, I just read something very similar, the exact same example. I’m trying to remember the book I just read that in. I get it, yeah. We tend to have taken a short-term view overall in this country. We have quarterly analyst calls, and quarterly reporting, and so on, and so forth. So, we really should be thinking about the long-term investing. In your book, you have this chapter titled Who’s the Bad Guy? And so, I’m sitting here thinking, “If I’m making bad decisions, does that make me the bad guy?”

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:17:33] No, no, no. This chapter is about how we interpret others and how we interpret ourselves. Now, let’s say you’re driving on the road, and you see somebody cut you off like really bad. Then, you’re like, “Oh, that jerk. How can you cut me off? That’s terrible.” And then, you’re drive along, and then you switch lanes, and you just happened to not see somebody, and you cut them off, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just didn’t see that person, right. I’m not a jerk.” You don’t attribute jerkness to yourself. You tend to attribute jerkness to others. And that’s kind of the difference in what’s called the fundamental attribution error.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:18:07] Now, it happens all the time in business settings. When you go to a meeting, and you see somebody who is behaving in a somewhat problematic way. Let’s say they’re being shifty, or they’re being uncertain, or ambiguous, you tend to not trust them because you think, “Oh, they’re being shifty. They’re not trustworthy.” But when you’re having a stressful day, you just had a plumbing accident at home, and then you need to change your clothing, and run out to a business meeting you’re not going to be so great. You’re going to be like worried about what’s happened in your house, and what’s going on, and your wife or husband are taking care of it or not. So, you’re not going to be really focused, and you’re going to appear to be shifty. But, of course, you’re not going to be not trustworthy in that situation.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:18:53] And that’s a really frequent thing that happens where people interpret others, the behavior of others in the most negative way possible. It’s just the human nature to do so. That’s how we think, that’s how we roll, that’s how our brains work, that’s why we think that somebody who cuts us off is a jerk as opposed to thinking, “Oh, maybe that person didn’t see us,” or “Maybe that person is driving his pregnant wife to the hospital.” So, we don’t attribute more positive charitable motivations to others. And because of that, we tend to make a lot of mistakes. A lot of business deals don’t get closed because of these negative attributions. A lot of people who could be hired to a better position aren’t hired. And so, this is called the category of attribution errors where we attribute negative status to other people and, also, to groups of other people. We could talk about that. That gets into stereotyping. But I’ll stop now, so I don’t monologue.

Peter Margaritis: [00:19:48] So, okay. So, your analogy about the car. Two weeks ago I was driving from Atlantic City back down to Baltimore, and I swerved. I didn’t see the blind spot, and I almost hit the car. I came back, I’m very sorry, whatever. No kidding, 10 minutes later, somebody almost ran into me, and I didn’t calm him jerk, but I gave him another word. It wasn’t very nice. And I didn’t think twice about that. But then, I’m thinking now listening to you, like, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” And I don’t know why. There’s a joke that George Carlin used to say, when somebody flies by you, they’re speeding past you, “Look at that idiot,” or if someone is driving you off, “Well, what a moron,” you say.

Peter Margaritis: [00:20:38] But to your point, and I try to do more of this in my own personal life, when somebody speeds by me, I don’t know, they could be a jerk, but, really, they could be rushing to the hospital. Their parents might be sick, their kid might be sick, or they’re late for a very important meeting. But we make these assumptions, “Oh, look at that crazy guy. Look at the bad decisions that they’re making.” But you don’t know what’s going on in their head in their life at that time.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:21:04] Exactly, exactly. And that’s what we need to be really worried about and afraid of. And that’s why we need to go out of our way to be more charitable toward others because our intuitions, as you so rightly point out, Peter, are to be not charitable toward others, to assume hostile intent. And that goes back to the Savannah environment as I talk about in my book, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters, which is available from Amazon for preorder now in print, and e-book, and audio books formats.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:21:33] So, in the Savannah environment, in the ancestral Savannah environment, which is what our intuitions and gut reactions are adopted from, which is 80% to 90% of what we think and feel are driven by these gut intuitions, it was very good to assume hostile intent. If there was somebody else who was coming from another tribe or even from your own tribe who was kind of looking at you sideways, it was very good to assume hostile intent because it was so easy to die in the Savannah environment. We didn’t have modern medicine. People fought. People killed each other.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:22:06] Here, we write each other nasty emails or leave bad product reviews, right. Now, in that time, the conflicts were resolved by you beating each other into a bloody pulp. So, that’s the way that conflicts resolved back then. And you wanted to be extra, extra, extra careful to not be beaten into a bloody pulp. But even if you were cut when you were beating the other person to a bloody pulp, and you got a blood infection, you can’t heal it, so you died too. That’s bad. So, the only people who successfully survived and passed their genes forward are people who were very, very vigilant and strongly assumed hostile intent of other people and attributes.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:22:45] So, this is the fundamental attribution error where we attribute to other people, especially people who aren’t part of our tribe, who don’t look like us, who don’t talk like us, who don’t have our cultural background, we attribute to them negative hostile intent. And that’s what we have to fight with every day in order to be successful in business and in life.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:07] Gleb, if you could find the secret to accomplish that, because there’s so much that in today’s society here even or even globally, I think you would be a very, very, very wealthy man because, I mean, you sit there — so, I’m Greek American, and the Greeks and Turks have fought for years, and still to this day. And the old joke is, you know what a Greek has for Thanksgiving? Lamb, because there’s no way he’s going to put a turk on his table.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:23:43] Oh wow, okay.

Peter Margaritis: [00:23:46] Yeah. But it is because of that, “They’re not of my tribe,” and because of evil, some things have happened in the past, we still equate them to today to some degree. At some point, it becomes sad. It goes back it goes back to the point of showing gratitude. We’re all people. And thank God we all don’t look alike. Thank God we don’t all look alike. And thank God that we are all different, but there’s some people that just can’t accept that difference. Because, into your chapter 4, What Color Are Your Glasses? I think some people are wearing shades. They’re black. They can’t see past. So, when you’re talking about “What Color Are Your Glasses?” are you talk about those who see the world in rose-colored glasses?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:24:36] Indeed, indeed. That’s exactly right. And to answer your previous point, Peter, I think it’s very important for us to realize that we have these intuitions, which do cause other people who don’t look like us, especially those with whom we’ve had history of past, with whom our tribe has a history of past relations, like Turks and Greeks, and so on. There are many, many examples of that. So, that’s something that we need to be really afraid of, and worried about, and go against our intuitions, and be charitable toward others. More charitable than it feels like we should because it will never feel comfortable to do that because we’re going against our own intuitions. So, just on that point about how we use our gut.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:25:14] Now, the rose-colored glasses, yes, there is a cognitive bias. One of those dangerous judgment that that we tend to make called confirmation bias. We tend to look for information that confirms our beliefs, and we tend to ignore information that doesn’t come from our beliefs. So, let’s say we are looking for information that says that we want to make a merger, we want to acquire another company. We Google why acquisitions and mergers are good. Now, what kind of information would that search provide you? It would provide you with, “Great. Acquisitions and mergers are great. Hire a company to do your acquisition,” right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:25:52] Right.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:25:53] That’s the kind of information that would provide. Now, it won’t provide you the actual information that would be whether mergers and acquisitions create value or not create value. And, actually, research shows that about 80% of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value. They actually destroy value. So, it’s often a bad idea to try to acquire another company or merge with another company. But people who want to do the merger, to do the acquisition, they don’t think about that. They don’t look for that information. They look for information that only confirms their beliefs.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:26:29] Same thing on a smaller level. Let’s say you’re looking to hire an employee, and you like this guy who you had an interview with, and he was great. Now, you really joked, and you really clicked. You’re not going to look for negative information about this person, and you’re going to be very likely to hire this person. And it will turn out, quite often, that the person is good at clicking with you but not good at doing the job, and you didn’t find that out because you actually didn’t look at information to just confirm your initial idea that this person would be good. So, the same thing with mergers and acquisitions, with hires, and any other business decisions, or personal life decisions. Don’t tend to make a lot of bad decisions if you look for information that confirms your beliefs or ignore information that doesn’t.

Peter Margaritis: [00:27:12] So, bad decisions with these mergers and acquisitions. I’ll use this example: United Airlines and Continental. Their merger, you bring in two cultures in that were very different from each other. And, usually, when you do that, there’s always some turmoil, and it’s big. So, when we’re making this decision to have this merger, we’re thinking more in the long term, it’ll be great, but we forget to look at the short-term aspect of it, or is it the fact that we know that there’s going to be a culture clash, we’ll work our way through it, and in hopes of when we come out of it, we’re going to be a better company. And I’m not quite sure if that last one really works that way because you’ve, now, damaged your reputation by the way you treated your passengers during this turbulent time. And passengers have a lot of choices to make. So, how does it equate to something like this?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:28:11] So, what usually, happens with mergers and acquisitions, where they go wrong is that business leaders look at the products, at the strategy, and they don’t look at the people. They don’t look at how people will combine together. Like you said, culture clash is one of biggest reasons why mergers and acquisitions don’t work is culture clash. Number two biggest reasons is systems and processes that will-

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:36] [crosstalk].

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:28:37] That is absolutely true. You want to comment on that? I can go into that, but, yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

Peter Margaritis: [00:28:41] No, I am sorry I laughed. I’m thinking of a company who had a lot of acquisitions, and the morale within the organization is completely destroyed because of systems and applications. But when you said that, I wasn’t expecting it. That’s why. That’s why I laughed.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:29:00] The laugh means that you understand and you agree, right?

Peter Margaritis: [00:29:03] Yeah.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:29:04] So, the systems and processes. I mean, you gave an example of culture clash. Now, what tends to happen with culture clash is that because leaders don’t think for cultures and how they will combine, they just kind of go together randomly. They don’t have an single organized approach to what is going to be the culture of the new company, and the two cultures just end up clashing together, and not working together because each group wants to retain its own culture, what it’s comfortable with, it got used to it. That’s what their gut is about. They are comfortable with it.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:29:35] That’s one of the problems with our gut reactions. And that goes back to the tribal environment. We tend to not want to change because in the ancestral environment, change was bad. Change meant really bad things. It was really going to be dangerous because we were living on the edge of survival. There was no way to stockpile resources for the future, and any change was likely to be a bad one. And so, we were really not wanting any changes. And so, in the current environment, when you’re used to a certain way of doing things – which is what it is a culture, it’s a certain way of doing things – you don’t want to change that. And so, if you don’t have a plan for how to combine the two cultures, you’re really going to kind of end up with a screwed-up system, as you mentioned with United. That’s one aspect of things.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:30:23] The other aspect of things is systems and processes. And here’s the fascinating facts, one extensive, extensive research in behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience, which is my area of background, that’s the research that informs my work, shows that internal systems and processes are much more important than business leaders who, actually, lead these companies merging. Internal systems and processes are a great source of competitive advantage and difference between the way that different companies do things. And they are the reasons that some companies succeed and others fail, not because of the people at the top because we tend to give way too much credit to individuals, not nearly enough the systems and processes.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:31:07] So, if you don’t think through how the two systems and processes of your different companies will combine in a single system, a single process, you’ll end up, again, with two very different ways of doing things that people will bump into each other, they’ll clash, and they will not be able to figure things out. Now, the research shows that what you want to do with the systems and processes is to choose the one. It’s worse when you try to combine elements of both. You just want to choose one from one company or from the other and say, “We’re doing it this way from now on. We’re doing it this way from now on.”

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:31:41] Because the systems and processes, they’re are integrated together, and you, often, don’t see the ways that they integrate together, which is why you end up with bad consequences when you try to combine two different ones into a mishmash, a combined mishmash. So, that’s a bad idea. You want to choose one, and you want to say, “We’re going to go with that one, and we’re going to stick with it;” whereas, what most people tend to do when they merge companies is to try to do a mishmash of both systems and processes, and it just ends up being screwed up.

Peter Margaritis: [00:32:12] Exactly. So, for those of you who are listening and are in an accounting firm, as Gleb was speaking, it makes me think of current succession planning, and our profession is not growing the firm within. It’s buying other practices. So, think about this the next time that you’re considering buying a practice. Listen to his advice because it’s spot on about bringing two cultures that are already different, and trying to create a whole new culture, as well as the systems and processes. And if you’re CFO at an organization, and you’re going through a lot of mergers and acquisitions, make sure you use one system, not your system and let them have their systems, because there’s a few organizations that I know of that when that is done, the morale in the company, and especially in the accounting department, is just horrible. It’s not even bad. It’s just horrible.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:33:08] Yeah, I can totally understand why that would be.

Peter Margaritis: [00:33:11] So, as we begin to wrap up, because I don’t want to give away too much of the book. I want people make sure they go and pick it up. As we wrap up, what would be the one big piece of advice that you would give somebody in this audience as it relates to how to avoid making bad decisions and creating a disaster?

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:33:33] Oh, it’s the five words that make up the book title: never go with your gut. Just simple. It’s as simple as that. Never go with your gut. Why is that? It’s a strong statement, never go with your gut. The thing is our gut tends to make really bad choices in our modern business environment. So, it’s important to see what your gut is telling you, but then always check that with your head. Never something go with your gut, never go with your gut intuitions. Check with your head when that happens. And my book describes specific, structured decision-making processes that you can use to check with your head.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:34:09] Now, checking with your head, that’s a general piece of advice. It’s like a doctor telling you to lose weight, right. Not really going to be helpful if they don’t tell you how and here’s what you do to go for it. So, the book, that has extensive specific structured steps that you can go through, and that has everyday activity. So, things that take less than five minutes. Five questions that you could ask yourself when making a decision that helps you make a better decision. Then, a more complex eight-step model when you make a moderately important decision. So, say, which employee do you want to hire? And then, more complex, structured approach to major critical decisions that are embedded to the firm, like a merger and acquisition. You want to spend a lot of time deciding on that, like Peter said. So, that has a thorough approach and model. But the most general piece of advice is never go with your gut. Always check with your head.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:00] I like how you say check with your head. Your gut might be telling you something, and you can’t ignore your gut on a lot of this, but you have to make sure that the facts marry up with what your emotions are telling you to make sure they’re in line versus, “I’m going to go with my gut, that emotion, and I’m not going to look at the facts, and check with my head.” And a lot of that had to do with Enron. It was great story, great emotion. And recently, with Theranos, great story. I really buy into it. I love that. And my emotions hijack my logic because I didn’t check the numbers. I didn’t validate the data. The two of them have to work together to make better decisions.

Peter Margaritis: [00:35:44] And Gleb, I appreciate you taking time. I’m looking forward to when the book comes out in November. This is a must-read for every business leader out there, so we can understand how our head and our emotions, make sure they’re in proper balance when we make these decisions, and make sure that we don’t lead into some type of disaster.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:36:09] Absolutely, Peter. Yesm absolutely. I think that’s very wise. And thank you for suggesting that folks read my book. And those who want to learn more about me can check out Disaster Avoidance Experts, which is available, of course, on disasteravoidanceexperts.com. And my e-mail is there. It’s gleb@disasteravoidanceexpert.com. If you want to learn more about me, learn more about the book, talk about any of these topics that I brought up in the interview or others.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:37] Thanks, Gleb, And enjoy this, hopefully, beautiful we can we have here in Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky: [00:36:42] I hope it stays beautiful. Thanks, Peter.

Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to make better decisions and avoid disasters? Will you try to keep your emotions in check and validate them with reliable data? Whatever you decide to do, make it a daily habit. Baby steps. It’s all about baby steps.

Peter Margaritis: [00:37:15] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Also, please visit wwww.c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent business podcasts they have in their network. Have a great week.

Announcer: [00:37:43] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio: turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E31 – Brian Wagner | A Radical Vision: Eliminate Your Blind Spots to Gain Clarity

My guest today is Brian Wagner, Founder and CEO of A Radical Vision, an organization with a powerful mission statement:

 

“It took a crippling disease for us to understand that we have no vision. Losing our sight allowed us to gain vision. That was the greatest gift that’s ever been given. We can’t hide from our adversity. Our goal is to help others recognize their adversity, go blind, and gain vision. This happened to us. And now, we want to help others have that same focus.”

 

A Radical Vision

 

When Brian was 10, he started to develop some health problems due to a cavernous malformation, which is a malformed blood vessel that can form anywhere in your body. Brian’s just happened to have formed in his brain stem.

 

So, as a result, Brian dealt with a variety of different issues throughout his life. Then, at the age of 43, it started to bleed, and bleed, and bleed. And when it bled, it put pressure on the nerves that control his vision, and he started to go blind. So Brian had to undergo a brain surgery in order to remove the cavernous malformation from his brain stem.

 

Brian still can’t see out of both eyes, but in other ways, he has more perspective and vision than ever before in his life.

 

What is a Blind Spot?

 

If you have learned to drive, you’re probably familiar with the driver’s blind spots. But Brian shares an amusing example of a simple physical blind spot that tickled me: when somebody comes out of the bathroom with toilet paper on their heel, that’s a blind spot. The point being that there are things that other people see that you don’t, and especially in business, those things can prevent you from improving or moving forward.

 

When a blindspot has something to do with an individual’s performance at work or leadership skills, for example, you can’t just look over your shoulder or look in your side mirrors to check your blind spot. You have to have someone else look at your blind spots and provide feedback because, most likely, you’re not going to be able to identify your blind spots on your own.

 

The Johari Window

 

 

Brian uses The Johari Window to help explain this concept. If you look at a picture of The Johari Window, you can see it is a simple 2×2 grid. The X-axis is labeled with “Known to self” and “Not known to self” and the Y-axis is labeled with “Known to others” and “Not known to others.” The intersection of what is not known to you but is known to others is your blindspot.

 

The whole idea of using this tool is to build self-awareness so that you can minimize your blindspots and maximize what you know about yourself. When you are able to do that, and when you are able to help everyone you work with do that, then you’re going to have a much more cohesive, productive, and efficient team.

 

This requires some tough conversations – and, critically, this requires encouraging people to solicit feedback – but it can make a world of difference in not just your productivity but also your overall satisfaction and fulfillment.

 

And an important thing to note about feedback is that it’s not only who you ask and how you ask, but also how you receive it. So, when you receive feedback, you need to make sure that you receive it as a gift. And every time you receive a gift, what do you say?

 

Thank you.

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Brian Wagner: [00:00:00] And you really don’t know what you’re passionate about. You don’t know what you’re good at. And nobody else does either. So, how do you get to a point where you actually do know? For that, it’s going to be a lot of trial and error.
Peter Margaritis: [00:00:22] 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: [00:00:43] Your host is Peter Margaritis, CPA, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. And he will interview financial professionals and business leaders to find their secret in building stronger relationships with their clients, customers, associates, and peers, all the while growing their businesses. So, let’s start the show.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:10] Welcome to Episode 31. And my guest today is Brian Wagner, who’s the Founder and CEO of A Radical Vision. A Radical Vision’s mission statement is, “It took a crippling disease for us to understand that we have no vision. Losing our sight allowed us to gain vision. That was the greatest gift that’s ever been given. We can’t hide from our adversity. Our goal is to help others recognize their adversity, go blind, and gain vision. This happened to us. And now, we want to help others have that same focus.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:45] In this episode, you’ll learn how Brian overcame the adversity of losing his sight in his right eye, how he embraces his uniqueness, and how he is helping business professionals to become aware of their blind spots so they can become more effective leaders. This is a very inspirational interview, and I hope you begin to think about your blind spots and how you can eliminate them in order to gain clarity.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:12] Before we get to the interview. Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts, such as the Hero Factor with
Jeffrey Hazlitt, Amazing Business Radio was Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with my good friend, Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.
Announcer: [00:02:42] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network. Turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:47] And now, a quick word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:02:52] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop. Contact Peter at peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:39] Now, let’s get to the interview with Brian Wagner.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:49] Hey, everybody. Welcome back. I’m excited today to have my guest, fellow NSA Ohio member, and that’s the NSA that speaks, not the ones that listen, Brian Wagner. And Brian has such a unique story. And I’ve heard it, but I don’t know it all, and I’m looking forward to learning more. But first and foremost, Brian, thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule on this Friday afternoon at 11:00 a.m. Welcome, my friend.
Brian Wagner: [00:04:16] Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Peter.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:19] Brian, I can’t do justice on giving your background. Some folks I’ve had on the podcast, I’ve known that I could probably give a decent job on describing or telling us a little about the background, but I think you can only give your
background the best. So, could you give the audience a little bit about yourself and your uniqueness?
Brian Wagner: [00:04:39] My uniqueness. So, 10 years ago — well, actually, when I was 10 years old, and I’m 51, almost 52 now, I started to have some problems with my brain, and my drainage of fluid from my brain. And, really, there was a long history of different issues that went on over the course of my life. And at the age of 43, which would have been about eight years ago, I had a problem with my brain, and it’s a cavernous malformation. So, a cavernous malformation is a malformed blood vessel that can form anywhere in your body. Mine just happened to have formed in my brain stem.
Brian Wagner: [00:05:23] And I’ve known about it for a while, but it did, and it bled. And when it bled, it put pressure on the nerves that control my vision. And as a result of that, I had to have surgery -a brain surgery – in order to remove the cavernous malformation from my brain stem. So, they actually went in in the back of my neck, and with an MRI-guided tool, and they actually picked that out of my brain stem. So, this is something that they told me for a long time, “Don’t ever let someone operate on your brain stem,” but it got to a point where the problems were only going to become worse and more frequent. So, that was what happened.
Brian Wagner: [00:06:07] And before that, I had gone blind. That was why the problem’s growing, and it had become worse and more frequent. Well, that was one of the resulting factors is that I’d become blind. Both of my eyelids would not open unless I lift them with a finger. Both of my eyeballs don’t go together, and they still don’t go together to this day. So, my one eyelid is still down. And, actually, it’s not a bad thing because it helped me from seeing too much double. I still see a little double out of my right eye, but my left eye is open for the most part, not as open as most people’s, but it’s good enough for me to be able to drive.
Brian Wagner: [00:06:48] So, that was eight years ago. I had that surgery. I’ve had multiple other eye surgeries since then. And have just come to a point where about 2-1/2 – 3 three years ago, I knew that — well, I knew this six years ago that my reason
for going through this was not that I should just have this condition and deal with it, but if I could get through this eight years ago when I had surgery, if I can get through this, I want to be able to have the ability to help other people that are going through their struggles as well. So, that’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Peter Margaritis: [00:07:30] So, let’s back up just a little bit more. I know that before you got into the speaking business, and I assume that these issues you were having because you were an IT salesman for a while, weren’t you, my friend?
Brian Wagner: [00:07:44] I worked for IBM for about 10 years. And then, for a number of other years, selling IBM products. So, that was what I did. And, yeah, I loved doing it. I felt very good about it. And that was who I was. I mean, that was my identity.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:00] So, what was the point that you said — well, was it at the surgery or after the surgeries that you said, “That was my identity before, but I need to transform into this new identity, or embrace this new, or I want to go out, and that passion was so great that I want to go out and share this story to help other people”?
Brian Wagner: [00:08:22] Yeah. So, that took a long time. I mean, really, when I was going through the blindness, first six months, that’s when I knew that if I could get through this, I wanted to be able to help other people, but I really continued to drive because I wanted to have a source of income, which is important, I think.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:44] Or you’ll lose your wife.
Brian Wagner: [00:08:46] Yeah. So, going through that, I wanted to be able to provide the income, and I really was passionate about that, but it just didn’t seem to work out as well. So, I went from job, to job, job. And I had some other people that I was relying on for coaching, and they told me never to quit my day jobs. So, I didn’t quit my day job until that last one where my day job quit me. And then, I knew that it was my time just to be able to do this speaking business. So, that’s where I’ve been ever since is all about building my speaking business. Now, there have been some other people that have
come into my life that have helped me to give me a day job. So, I have a little — I have some good income from that, but that’s not in IT sales.
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:44] No, that’s not. But it’s an interesting path. And it’s funny that you said that you had this, but it took your company to quit you before you make that move versus when you would quit a company, which I had a media flashback to when I was downsized, right-sized, re-engineered, laid off, or fired – I’m not quite sure which one it was – with Victoria’s Secret catalog.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:07] I remember that feeling that I had. And I said, “You know what, someday, I’m not going let anybody have that opportunity to do that again,” because I’d never been fired before, but it left such a scar that it took a few years, maybe five years, after that until I went forth. It was actually 10 years after before I took the business full time, but that just resonated at the back of my head about that. And it’s like, “No, they don’t quit me. I’m not going to put myself in that risk position again for a longer period time.” And that’s how I took my part-time job took over my full-time job.
Brian Wagner: [00:10:45] Yes. Well, that’s awesome.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:45] So, you talk about we all have blind spots, those things that deal — little things that we can’t see that or were unaware of. And what’s — when you’re out to talk to the audience, I would assume they all recognize that they have these blind spots, or is it just an aha moment for them?
Brian Wagner: [00:11:09] Not all of it. Most people identify, and they agree. They shake their heads and say, “Yeah, we all have blindness. We all have blind spots.” But when you ask them to identify their own or to talk about their own, then it’s a different story. They’re more apt to understand and be able to relate to you when they talk about other people’s blind spots. So, that’s easier for them to have a conversation.
Brian Wagner: [00:11:36] So, we have that conversation. Talk about one of the — a simple blind spot be somebody that’s just come from the bathroom, and they’ve got toilet paper on their heel, and they’re walking down the hallway. It’s not a big deal. Well,
that’s a blind spot. I mean, that’s a different kind of blind. That’s a physical one, but that shows them. And so, there are things that other people see that they don’t. And that’s essentially your blind spot. Your blind spot is anything that’s preventing you from doing something better, different, or worse, preventing you from moving ahead.
Brian Wagner: [00:12:16] And in a physical sense, it could be your blind spot on your car is where you’re over your back right shoulder. You don’t see through those blind spots through your mirrors. You have to actually physically look back there. So, with your blind spot, from a mental perspective, you have to physically have someone else look at your blind spots and have someone else tell you what your blind spot are because you’re not going to be able to — most likely, you’re not going to be able to identify your own blind spot on your own, or they won’t be considered blind spots.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:49] Okay. So, remind me, we had this conversation a few months ago. And what was the principle? The Kobayashi? I know I’m butchering it but, hopefully, that juggles your memory.
Brian Wagner: [00:13:03] Oh, the Johari window.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:04] Yeah, yeah. Kobayashi, Johari, yeah.
Brian Wagner: [00:13:06] Yeah, [crosstalk].
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:06] Yeah.
Brian Wagner: [00:13:06] Yeah, I knew it. It took me a little while, but yeah. So, the Johari window. If you think of a window with four separate panes, four different quadrants, in the upper right-hand corner of that window — and so, if you were to think of it in this way, along the bottom of the window, you can write the words, “Things I don’t see,” and “Things I do see.” And then, along the right-hand part of the window, write, “Things that other people see,” and “Things that other people don’t see.”.
Brian Wagner: [00:13:46] So, the corresponding quadrants to those will be in your upper right-hand quadrant, it’s going to be things that you see and that other people see. So, when I say things, you could think of characteristics, you could think of incentives, you could think of emotions, you could think of other areas of your life where you are setting off, you’re creating this energy in the world. It’s this work force. It’s whatever energy is out there. So, that is what that upper right-hand quadrant is. And all the quadrants will have in them are these different characteristics. So, upper right-hand quadrant is things that you see and things that other people see as well. So, that’s upper right.
Brian Wagner: [00:14:36] If you go to the upper-left quadrant, you’re going to have things that you don’t see but other people do see. That’s your blind spot. So, again, same characteristics could apply to that from an energy perspective, emotions, what you’re what you’re putting out in the world.
Brian Wagner: [00:15:01] Then, in your lower right-hand quadrant, you’re going to have things that you see but other people don’t, or things that you know that other people don’t. So, for example, you may know that you have a degree in accounting, but no one else knows that, or you may know that you have certain things going on in your life with a parent that’s sick, and they’re not doing well. But from a team perspective, if other people on your team were to know that this was going on in your life, it would make that team be more cohesive. It would make that team have more empathy for what it is you’re going through. It just would make your life much easier as a leader and as a team member. So, that’s really the hidden area is that lower right-hand quadrant.
Brian Wagner: [00:15:51] And then, in the lower left-hand quadrant, it is the unknown area. It’s where you have things and — things. You could take different items that you know that — I’m sorry, that you don’t know and that other people don’t know. Things that you don’t know and other people don’t know. So, that could be something like you’re coming out of college or high school, and you really don’t know what you’re passionate about. You don’t know what you’re good at. And nobody else does either. So, how you get to a point where you actually do know? For that, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. You’ve got to be able to set yourself up in a position where you can do different
things in the world, and see how they go, and then pivot when they do or don’t work. So, that’s an important part to be able to make.
Brian Wagner: [00:16:45] The whole idea of the window, it’s to build self-awareness. And when you build self-awareness, you are going to make your open area bigger. That’s that upper right-hand quadrant that we talked about earlier where you have what you know and what other people know about you. So, the more they know and the more you know about you, the bigger your upper right-hand quadrant is going to be. That’s the open area. And you want to make your blind spot area, off to the left, you want to make that as small as possible. And then, of course, the same thing with the hidden area, down here on the bottom right.
Brian Wagner: [00:17:22] Once you do that, once you make your open area as large as possible, then you’re going to have a much more cohesive team, you’re going to have a much more productive team, and you’re going to have a much more efficient team. All those things are really going to add up to something that’s much more than what you have today.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:42] To me, when I hear what you just described, and then you said self-awareness, which makes me think of emotional intelligence, in order to get to that nirvana, we have to be vulnerable.
Brian Wagner: [00:17:56] Right. And that really, mostly, I mean, can apply to the other areas as well. But it mostly applies to how you can make your open area larger and make your hidden area smaller. So, that’s the one directly below it where you have things that you know but other people don’t know. So, how do you — and being vulnerable is one of those ways that you will be able to do that. You’ll be able to make that hidden area smaller. So, as you’re vulnerable, you’re going to be able to help them, share with them what’s going on. And it’s going to make that team work so much better, and the leaders are going to be much more a part of the team as opposed to the person that’s dragging the team.
Peter Margaritis: [00:18:42] But it’s still hard for people to do that. It’s so hard for them to say — one, some people just don’t like to share because the philosophy, leave your work life at home. This is business, business, business. But that’s kind of an old school mentality anymore. And it is different personalities that come into play. And that’s hard to get somebody just to be more open and more vulnerable when they’re not accustomed to it because, now, you get the whole risk factor and fear factor there.
Brian Wagner: [00:19:09] Yeah, yeah. And, really, from the perspective of the Johari window, it is exactly to do just that. It’s to create that self-awareness. So, it’s something that the person or the team can have and show them, “Okay, So, I’m looking at my vulnerability factor or my hidden area, and seeing how large it is, and I can compare that to Peter’s hidden area, and I see all Peter’s hidden area is so much smaller because his open area is so much larger than mine.” And I think of what that means to me. And in my head, that means that I need to do a better job. And it’s going to stick with me for the next six months to a year. And I’m going to be able to be more intentional about making that hidden area smaller.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:01] Yes. And when I think within a team, if the leader of the team doesn’t do it, and you try to share and become more vulnerable, they might shoot you down for that because that’s not in the wheelhouse, per se. And I think, the number of times that I’ve done the creativity workshop at a CPA firm, and I’ve asked the partner to say something, give an idea that’s just off the wall crazy, just bizarre, and they won’t do it because they don’t want to have that appearance of that. So, they don’t want to even show any vulnerability. And then, I usually ask them to leave because nobody else is going to do it if he won’t do it or she won’t do it. If the leader will do it, then I look for everybody else to follow them. So, I usually ask them to leave, and make sure the check still clears please.
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:59] I mean, that is — so, the blind spot. So, how do you — it sounds like if you want have a great team, we need to tell the other teammates where their blind spot or the blind spot that they don’t know, or they don’t see. That’s a tough conversation.
Brian Wagner: [00:21:18] That’s a tough conversation. It is. And so, when you do that, you need to solicit feedback, and you need to make sure that when you solicit feedback that you pick the appropriate person for the feedback. It’s probably not going to be your wife. It’s probably not going to be your son. It’s probably not going to be even your teammates. It’s going to be somebody outside of that but still someone that you would put in your trusted circle. And you want to make sure that you’re reaching out to those people for that feedback, and you’re pinpointing, “Here’s the kind of feedback that I’m looking for. Here’s the area that I want you to concentrate on. Here is what I want you to listen in for as you hear me speak and as you hear me work with other people in my team.”
Brian Wagner: [00:22:05] But what’s important about feedback is not only who you ask and how you ask, but it’s how you receive it. So, when you receive feedback, you need to make sure that you receive it as a gift. And every time you receive a gift, what do you say?
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:22] Thank you.
Brian Wagner: [00:22:23] Exactly. So, that’s how you need to receive feedback. That’s going to determine how you receive the feedback in the future and if you receive any.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:32] So, as I said thank you, I’ve thought of some people who receive a gift, who’d also want to see, “Do you have the receipt because I want to take this back?”
Brian Wagner: [00:22:39] There is another option.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:46] But when you say it’s a gift, and accept these gifts, I will bring it into the improv world, that’s a lot what the improv is about. What’s given to you, accept it as a gift, and you move forward with it. And a lot of people, when they ask for feedback, and when you give it to them, they can become defensive. Especially when you’re doing it right. Like you said, you make sure that you put parameters around that, but as you provide that feedback, they get extremely defensive. It’s like, “Wait. No,
you’ve asked for this feedback. This is time for you to not be defensive and just, ‘Okay, let me listen. Let me accept that. I don’t have to take it or not, but I’ve asked for it. So, just shut up and listen.'”
Brian Wagner: [00:23:28] Yeah, you’re right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:33] Don’t get in defensive.
Brian Wagner: [00:23:36] Yeah. And that’s, again, indicative of the leader you’re going to have. If they’re going to be defensive, well when they get feedback that they’ve specifically asked for, that’s unfortunate. And so, there’s other issues there at play that you need to work through or that leader needs to work through.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:56] So, how do you convince a leader that they need to embrace this type of leadership style? Somebody who’s been out, who’s been a leader, or I’ll just say an assumed leader because they have the title, and title doesn’t always mean leadership, that they need to change or begin to mold their leadership style in a different way? And there’s a half dozen people that I know that their boss were sent to coaching in order to do this, but they didn’t have the DNA to change.
Brian Wagner: [00:24:29] Well, I mean, I would go to one area in particular, and I would just say, “Are you getting what you want from your team? Are you getting what you want from the company? Are you ecstatic? Are you happy? Are you delighted with everything?” And if they are, that’s one thing. I mean, if you’re satisfied as a leader, I don’t know many of the leaders that are ever satisfied. They’re not ever at a point where they can sit back, and sit on their laurels, and think that they’ve got everything taken care. This is as good as it gets. They’re always looking for ways to improve. So, that is the sign to me. One of the signs of a great leader is somebody that’s always looking to improve.
Peter Margaritis: [00:25:21] Yeah. It made me think of a few leaders who they want to still do it the way that it’s always been, and there’s no room for improvement because this worked in the past. Well, this isn’t the past. This is the present and the future. And
the world has changed. And it’s that inability to recognize it and move forward. So, when I think of those folks, I think they’ve got one huge blind spot that I’m not sure they will ever get past.
Brian Wagner: [00:25:50] Right, right. And there are lots of other tools that are available, I mean, beyond the Johari window. I mean, that’s just one tool that I use. And it’s easier to talk about. There’s other tools out there that can help leaders to identify that there is something missing, that there’s something that they’re not seeing. So, I go back to the vision perspective all the time, perspective, vision, sight. I think of all those things that if they’re not seeing, then they need to be able to see them. And if they can’t see them, think about what that would mean. Think about what that would mean to where they are. Think about what that would mean to their future.
Brian Wagner: [00:26:38] So, some of the tools are from a doctor named Tasha Eurich. She has a book called Insight. And that book has helped me to be able to understand that there are a lot of other tools out there that can help a leader identify what may be holding them back or maybe, at least, identify that something is holding them back, that there is more to life, and that there is more to their job. All those things that can help them go beyond where they’ve gone today.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:10] What was the name of the book again?
Brian Wagner: [00:27:13] The name of the book is Insight by Dr. Tasha Eurich.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:17] We’ll make sure we put that in our show notes. So, if anybody wants to go out and pick up that book on Amazon because, I think, when we’re done here, I will be picking up that book on Amazon because I love reading stuff. Like I look at leaders, and I look at the process, and that’s what’s missing a lot of times because just because you go to a leadership seminar doesn’t make you a leader, if they forget the process that they need to go through. And to your point, leadership needs to be worked on every single day. It’s not something that’s — it could be ingrained in most of us or some of us, but it always still takes work to maintain that.
Brian Wagner: [00:27:53] No, it’s not like a screwdriver that can use it once, and then put it in the drawer, and then it gets good until you pull it out again. And the screw, you’re screwed. I don’t know if I get to say it that way.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:07] Well, you can because I’m-
Brian Wagner: [00:28:08] This is a good show.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:08] I am going to make sure they don’t cut that out because you are. If you take this screwdriver as your leadership, and you can pull it out whenever that you need it versus you need it all the time because there’s so much involved in being that leader. I don’t know. And I’ve got a couple of friends who are deep in corporate America, and they are just absolutely frustrated. I guess, we are — I’m getting to that age, and a lot of my friends are talking about retirement, and they’re going, “I can’t leave. I hate it here. It’s a miserable environment. However, I have to put up with it because I want my retirement, and I get so many years to go.” And I’ve got a couple of friends who I worry about their health. I mean, they’re so twisted inside and outside, upside and downside. Is that really worth it? Apparently, it’s okay to have that leadership style within the organization, and it’s really just killing their people.
Brian Wagner: [00:29:20] Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s awful. I mean, if they have that screwdriver-first perspective, and they put that screwdriver their back way, I mean they are screwed. So, they need to — I don’t know.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:35] If you think about leadership, and I don’t remember, I did see this stat, and it was in a reputable periodical. I just don’t remember which one. But there was a stat that said 59% of employees trust a stranger more than their own boss or manager. That’s scary.
Brian Wagner: [00:29:59] Yeah. Oh, yeah because they’re worried about them trying to influence them or trying to persuade them in another way. Just they think they have bad intentions.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:14] Because from that perspective, it’s not about the people that are working with me. It’s about me and about my agenda versus about the audience’s agenda. And I think that’s something that that I have learned in my time at National Speakers Association. It really shouldn’t be about me. It should be about my audience, and where do they need to go, and I need to know them, and try to take them down this path versus, “No, it’s about me. And I think these people need what I have. I think they need — I’m not going to ask because I’m sure this is exactly what they need.” And it’s not a two-way street.
Brian Wagner: [00:30:56] Right, right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:58] So, tell us more about this whole blind spot. When you’re out talking to organizations, what else do you discuss with them?
Brian Wagner: [00:31:08] Well, one of the other areas we discuss is their uniqueness. So, uniqueness is one of those things where you can identify it, and then you’ll be able to utilize it in a way that’s going to be different than what you’ve done, ever done before. But that uniqueness in the blind spot really doesn’t — and blind spot isn’t always a bad thing. So, there’s lots of blind spots where I’ve seen people that have helped students that they don’t even realize what they’re doing for those students, but they’re helping them. They’re doing a great service by spending time with them, by encouraging them, by just being their friend. All of those things are helping that student an awful lot. So, the blind spot is one of those things that can be a positive. And that’s one of the areas that we talk about is the blind spots and how they can be something other than just a negative, but-
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:14] Does it — well, you said the word uniqueness. This is another way of saying our quirkiness?
Brian Wagner: [00:32:20] Yeah, I actually call it weird, but I don’t think that comes off as well. I don’t think people appreciate me saying weird. So, I say uniqueness or quirkiness. Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:33] I prefer a weird, by the way, but we all have our own weirdness, our own quirkiness. And I guess, your point was the more that we can embrace that, instead of kind of repel it.
Brian Wagner: [00:32:49] Yeah, absolutely. So, I do different things with audiences where I have pictures that I may have taken with them. I do selfies. So, it’s me and the other person. And i encourage them to wink. Actually, I make them wink. And so, they’re winking with me. And I tell them that it’s a lot easier for me to wink than it is for them just because of my quirkiness and my, I call it, weirdness, but what makes me unique is my face, for one, but really beyond that, it’s how I handle my face, and how I’m embracing what makes me different, and how I embrace what makes me different makes me different more, if that makes sense.
Peter Margaritis: [00:33:34] You’ve really embraced the winking with Wagner mantra. And I don’t remember when — this started within this past 12 months, I believe, or it exploded within this past 12 months because, I think, everywhere you go, it doesn’t matter, you’ll grab somebody, you’ll talk to them, and you’ll take a selfie, and you’ll post it. And I’m going, “He’s talking there. It is so cool, winking with Wagner.” And I will be — full disclosure, one NSA chapter members, board members, she kind of have dubbed you the nickname “Brian, the Wink.”
Brian Wagner: [00:34:09] And I’m okay with that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:14] And when you first joined the chapter, I mean, you really caught everybody off guard because you introduce yourself like you did the very first time at our chapter meeting.
Brian Wagner: [00:34:23] Well, maybe one of the first. I’m not sure what I exactly said, but, I mean, there’s lots of different ways to spell your name. I mean, there’s Peter and there’s Pete. But there’s no really mistaking how to spell my name. My name is Brian, and that’s with one I.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:44] I still laugh.
Brian Wagner: [00:34:44] Now, if people don’t have a picture of me, and they can’t see me, they don’t appreciate that. But if they do, then they will.
Peter Margaritis: [00:34:52] Well, when we post this on social media, I’ll make sure that you send me your headshot, so they can see that, but yeah. But the funny thing was we had another guy in the class, and I guess he said, “My name was Brian with two Is.”
Brian Wagner: [00:35:08] Exactly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:10] But it was that that, I think, you told everybody in that room, “I’m okay with it. This is who I am.” And what a great sense humor with it that, “Which Brian are we talking about?” And the head would tilt, or the guy with one eye. And it’s such a refreshing way to go about things. It’s been so cool out to watch you do this, and how you’ve captured people’s imaginations in so many different ways just by — and the time that Kay Francis, and Dave Caperton, and you, me, and a few of the people were having dynamic dialogue. And I think you asked something about the link. And that just exploded into something even more. And in the coming weeks, I mean, I’m sorry, I think about you, which I see people winking at me.
Brian Wagner: [00:36:09] Well, that’s kind of scary.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:11] Well, “How are you doing?” “I’m good.”
Brian Wagner: [00:36:13] I’m sorry, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:13] Yeah, that’s it. Wow, but that goes to that uniqueness about you, but that uniqueness is contagious.
Brian Wagner: [00:36:22] Yeah. Yeah, I hope so.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:25] Well, I believe it that people — well, if you can get strangers to take a selfie with you, it’s contagious and smile at the same time.
Brian Wagner: [00:36:38] They smile big, usually.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:39] Yeah, they do.
Brian Wagner: [00:36:41] I’ve been to some campuses where I’ve had them taken ad the people are just having a great time with it. So, it’s worked out well.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:50] But you’re also planting that seed because you’re not doing the Winking with Wagner before the conference. You’re doing the Winking with Wagner after you’ve given them your message. So, I think, by taking that selfie, you’re also planting seed ahead, or you’re reminding them about the uniqueness, reminding them about the blind spot.
Brian Wagner: [00:37:09] Yeah. So, the conferences, actually, where I go beforehand, and I’ll go to a pre-conference dinner or something like that with the board. And I will do some Winking with Wagner photos there. And then, I’ll upload those photos into the presentation. And then, when I give the presentation as part of the program, then I’ll pull those photos out, and I’ll show them the entire crowd. So, the entire crowd can see what the board is up to, and how they’re having fun. And maybe it encourages them to get on the board or do other things on the board or with the board. But then, I encourage them to come and wink with me. I wink with them, they’re in the audience, or I wink with them outside of the room after the program is over.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:53] That’s great. And now that you going to be in this new leadership position at our chapter as Vice president, on your way to be President, I’d be interested in how you going to get our audience more engaged and get them with the Winking with Wagner. I look forward to watching you do that, especially with the new people coming to the chapter.
Brian Wagner: [00:38:13] Yeah. Oh, yeah. It’ll be a lot of fun. I’m hoping to continue to do what I’ve done in the past with the membership role, and in trying to increase our membership, and to make it more beneficial to all of the people that are there. So, to
have them embrace their own uniqueness, that’s what we want to do here. It doesn’t matter if you have a permanent wink or if you have one leg shorter than the other. It doesn’t matter to me.
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:40] Yeah, it doesn’t, but it’s amazing that in some places, it’s frowned upon, or you’re not supposed to be unique. You’re supposed to wear the khaki pants, the blue polo, and everybody look alike. And I’ve never subscribed to that. I remember the first time, I was working at Pricewaterhouse, I walked in one day. It wasn’t a blue suit. It wasn’t a red tie. I wore black suit, white shirt, with a tie. And everybody asked me, “Are you going to a funeral today?” And I went, “No.” And they go, “Well, why are you wearing black?” “Because it’s the fashionable color I like to wear.” And they looked at me like, “You’re nuts.”
Brian Wagner: [00:39:20] That’s something.
Peter Margaritis: [00:39:24] It is something. It, really, is something. So, as a parting remark, what advice would you give those who are listening about (1), embracing their uniqueness; and (2), receiving feedback?
Brian Wagner: [00:39:42] Embracing. From embracing their uniqueness, one piece of advice that I would give is to smile even when they don’t feel like it. That may sound like a strange recommendation for people there that are trying to embrace their own uniqueness, but if they can smile, and think about them, and their lives, and what makes them up, what makes them who they are, they’re going to smile. And they’re going to think about that. Whether they smile physically on their face or in their mind, that’s going to allow them to be able to embrace their uniqueness. And it’s going to help them anyway to embrace their uniqueness. So, that’s one thing.
Brian Wagner: [00:40:25] The next thing you mentioned was in terms of in terms of feedback, and soliciting feedback, or getting feedback. That’s a really difficult question to answer because it is certainly depends on the person that’s going through that, but I would suggest, and I’m not asking for you to pay me by any means, but I’m suggesting that if you go to someone for feedback that it’d may be someone really outside of your
friend circle, outside of your family circle. So, it may be someone within your circle, but they know you well enough to give you good feedback. If you can’t do that, you need to pay someone. You need to pay someone to give you feedback. And that is really what’s going to set you apart because the feedback you get from that person that you pay, it’s going to be honest and, hopefully, not brutally honest. Hopefully, they don’t knock you down, but, hopefully, they give you feedback that can be constructive.
Peter Margaritis: [00:41:31] So, two thoughts here. And I like the smile. And I love it. When we smile, that’s more openness, more embracing, but there’s times that we don’t think we can smile. I was in New York working with a company, they put us through this training program and had this actor come in. And it was working with breathing exercises and stuff. And then, we were supposed to do a three-minute presentation on the first person we ever kissed.
Peter Margaritis: [00:42:00] And this one woman comes out, and she’s telling the story, but she got this scowl on our face. And he stopped the class. He said, “Remember, Janet, you need to smile.” She goes, “I am.” “Okay, start over, come back in.” She comes back in, and start, and she still has a scowl on her face. And he said, “Followed me.” And he takes her out of the conference room. We can all see. He whispers something in her ear. She comes back, and starts the story, and she had this humongous smile on her face.
Peter Margaritis: [00:42:29] It blew us all away. We went, “What the heck did you say to her?” And the actor, his name was Craig Rowe, and he’d done some Law & Order stuff, and he said, “All I told her is to say these words in her head – I love you. But in a Southern accent. I love you. I love you.” But when you say those words inside your head in the southern accent, you will smile. And that was the best piece of advice because when I know that I need a smile, I know I’m feel like “I love you.” It sounds more like Bill Clinton going, “I love you,” but it’s not that southern accent.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:13] And soliciting feedback, I think you have to understand who the person is and their ability to receive feedback. Judy Carter was one of my coaches for a while. And she said, “How would you like feedback?” And I said, “Right
between the eyes.” I said, “Don’t sugarcoat. I don’t like it when people sugarcoat. Just tell me the truth.” She goes, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yeah.” And first time she gave me feedback after she was done, and she gave it to me between the eyes. I mean my hair is blowing back and everything. She goes, “Are you okay?” I said, “That’s what I wanted to hear. Thank you very much.” She goes, “You’re weird.” I said, “Thank you.” Even to a point because most people, even when they ask for it, they take it personal. If you ask for it, then let them tell you. And then, you can decide, but don’t get defensive.
Brian Wagner: [00:44:02] Right, exactly. That’s what it’s all about.
Peter Margaritis: [00:44:05] To me, people get defensive. Well, Brian, with one I, I think about it, I think about you when I say that, and it just makes me laugh, but not at you, but kind of with you in this whole uniqueness aspect of it. And I’m so glad that you’re able to spend some time on the podcast. I’m looking forward to knowing you even more so these next two or three years as you begin to lead the chapter. It’s been great getting to know you, and I love the attitude, I love the perspective, and keep putting up the good fight, my friend. You’re doing one hell of a job.
Brian Wagner: [00:44:46] Thanks, man. I appreciate it. And if I’d leave you with one comment, I’m not sure if we’re doing the one comment yet or not.
Peter Margaritis: [00:44:53] Sure.
Brian Wagner: [00:44:54] My one comment is to just keep one eye on the road.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:02] Oh. You did say earlier in the presentation, you said something about one eye. And then, I’m going, “What?” But, yeah, keep one eye on the road, everybody. Just, at least, one eye. Two if you can, but-
Brian Wagner: [00:45:16] Right, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:17] You got another one?
Brian Wagner: [00:45:19] Well, there’s lots of them, but that’s good for now.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:21] That’s good for now.
Brian Wagner: [00:45:23] I don’t want to inundate you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:27] All right, man. I greatly appreciate it. I’ll see you tomorrow at tomorrow’s meeting.
Brian Wagner: [00:45:31] Right. Sounds good. Thanks.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:31] Bye bud.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:38] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to discover your blind spots? What steps will you take to change your mindset and eliminate your blind spots to gain clarity? What risks are you willing to accept in order to be prepared for tomorrow, all the while knowing that, in order to enact change, it takes baby steps?
Peter Margaritis: [00:46:04] Thank you for listening. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. And also, remember, please visit c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent business podcast that they have in their network. Have a great week.
Announcer: [00:46:25] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

Resources:

S2E30 – Robin Thieme | Creating a Virtual, Outsourced CFO Solution

My guest today is Robin Thieme, the Founder of KBS CFO, which is an outsourced CFO and accounting department solution for growing sustainable and profitable businesses. She has over 30 years of financial and accounting experience, a passion for the efficiencies that new technologies enable, and a dedication to small businesses.

 

One of the things that really impresses me about Robin and KBS is that she was creating a virtual organization long before cloud computing was a mainstream term – and she takes the same innovative and thoughtful approach to establishing efficiencies and solutions that fit the current business environment for her clients.

 

The old mindset – although many still use it – is that having a CFO is too much money for a small- to medium-sized business. As it turns out, Robin says, small businesses have some pretty big problems or big decisions, too! And they may not need a full-time CFO, but they do still need someone to help guide them financially. “We’re really meeting a need of businesses that are struggling to run their businesses; they love what they do, and are really good at it, but just need some help on the back end.”

 

An Anticipatory CPA & Organization

You know Robin is a member of the Maryland Association of CPAs because she describes herself as an “anticipatory CPA” – something we’ve talked about in past episodes with Bill Sheridan, as well as other guests.

 

Robin defines an anticipatory CPA as “one who is looking out towards the future, anticipating trends, and is really focused on what’s going to happen next, instead of being a historian for our clients… And, ultimately, when you think about it, from its most basic elements, a successful business should always be thinking about where they’re going and not where they’ve been. So, I live in that world,” and we should all be living in this world.

 

Everywhere in the accounting and finance profession, and really almost any profession, people are having conversations about change; changing demographics, changing technologies, changing societal expectations, etc. And, especially when it comes to technology, our profession tends to see this change as a threat – but that’s just our fear of the unknown talking.

 

Robin compares this to autonomous vehicles, something that still feels futuristic and foreign to many of us, although there are already autonomous vehicles driving on our roads. Robin envisions a future where not only do autonomous vehicles become popular, but it might even become illegal for humans to drive because it will be a safety risk.

 

And you know what? That change doesn’t hurt our ability to commute or get places – it gives us more time! The same thing is true for the technologies that are going to transform the way we do work in our profession, although the transition might be difficult to wrap our heads around.

 

So, what will you do to become more future-ready? What steps will you take to change your mindset and get out of your comfort zone? What risks are you willing to accept in order to be prepared for tomorrow – all the while knowing that, in order to enact change, it takes baby steps?

 

 

Transcript:

Click to download the full Transcript PDF.

 

Robin Thieme: [00:00:00] Those visionaries that are envisioning that an accounting system will become populated in an automated way, the people that would work with that information are completely different than those that worked with that information 10 years ago.
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 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: [00:01:13] Welcome to Episode 30. And my guest today is Robin Thieme, who’s the Founder of KBS CFO, which is an outsourced CFO and accounting department solutions for growing sustainable and profitable businesses. She has over 30 years of financial and accounting experience, a passion for the efficiencies that new technologies enable, and a dedication to small businesses.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:38] Long before cloud computing was a mainstream term, Robin built her own company, KBS, as a virtual organization. She takes the same innovative and thoughtful approach to establishing efficiencies and solutions that fit the current business environment for her clients.
Peter Margaritis: [00:01:53] In this episode, we discuss how she started her business in 2004 and how it has evolved into a virtual CFO solution with the help of embracing technology. She is very future-focused, and we discuss the changing role in the CPA profession, and how best to begin to develop those skills necessary in order to survive this change.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:18] Before we get to the interview, Change Your Mindset is part of the C-Suite Radio family of podcasts. It is an honor and a privilege to be amongst some of the more popular business podcasts such as The Hero Factor with Jeffrey Hayzleyy, Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken, and Keep Leading with Eddie Turner. You can find Change Your Mindset and many other outstanding business podcasts on C-Suite Radio by going to www.c-suiteradio.com.
Announcer: [00:02:49] This podcast is part of the C-Suite Radio Network, turning the volume up on business.
Peter Margaritis: [00:02:54] And now a quick word from our sponsor.
Sponsor: [00:03:00] This episode is sponsored by Peter A. Margaritis LLC, a.k.a. The Accidental Accountant. Are you looking for a high content and engaging speaker for your next conference? Do you want to deliver a story to stakeholders that will transform data dumping to engaging business conversations? Do you want to feel that the value a speaker provides your audience far exceeds the dollar value on their invoice? Then, book Peter for your next conference, management retreat, or workshop.
Sponsor: [00:03:30] Contact Peter and peter@petermargaritis.com and visit his website at www.petermargaritis.com. By the way, one of his Fortune 50 clients actually made the comment about the value he brings to your audience.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:47] Now, let’s get to the interview with Robin Thieme.
Peter Margaritis: [00:03:57] Hey, welcome back, everybody. My guest today is actually a listener, someone in my audience who has been listening for a while. She sent me an email about a couple of weeks ago and asked if maybe she could be on the show. And I said, “Absolutely, anybody who listens to my podcast.” So, it’s you and my mother. I haven’t interviewed her yet. But anybody who listens to my podcast, and as the background that you have, and can speak to the accounting profession, absolutely.
Peter Margaritis: [00:04:29] So, I’m so excited to introduce my guest today. It’s Robin Thieme. She’s out of Maryland. And thank you, Robin, because it’s Friday. Actually, it’s Good Friday. Happy Good Friday to you. And thank you for taking time out of your schedule to spend some time with me today.
Robin Thieme: [00:04:49] Well, I’m really excited to be here, Peter. And I am a fan. So, I’m kind of starstruck by being with you now. It’s been really fun listening to you the last few years and, now, to sit down and have a conversation is a real treat for me.
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:06] Starstruck. I’m the one that’s starstruck. I’m going to have somebody. And recently, people have actually come up, and I’ve made a couple — I made a comment in, I think, the last — this episode that’s coming up with Samantha Bowling about if any of my audience members have ever seen me out anywhere or they recognize my voice, come up and talk to me. And I usually carry books with me. I’ll give you a book, If not, I will send you one. So, please approach me. I think I’m very approachable.
Robin Thieme: [00:05:36] Yeah, it sounds like it. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing you at our next conference together.
Peter Margaritis: [00:05:41] Exactly. So, Robin, tell everybody in the audience a little bit about yourself and what do you do.
Robin Thieme: [00:05:48] Well, right now, I started a business called KBS CFO in 2004. So, that’s what I’ve been doing and what I’m doing now since then. And we provide virtual CFO and accounting department solutions to growing businesses. And what that means is, basically, we are the new version of an accounting department that can work with a business, even though we’re not employed by the business. The old-fashioned accounting department for a small business has been a little bit displaced, and we can provide the solution of transaction capture through controller up through CFO-type services, basically, be a one-stop shop for the businesses that come to us.
Peter Margaritis: [00:06:48] Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You said something interesting there. I’ve never — This is the first time I’ve heard of virtual CFO. I’ve heard of contractual CFO that shows up to a location, but you don’t show up to a location.
Robin Thieme: [00:07:03] We don’t show up to location. I have clients all over the country. And the majority of them do not reside in Maryland actually as it turns out in this day and age. And we conduct our business similar to how we’re having this podcast today, through the different web tools that are available to us, and everybody communicates through email, Slack, Asana, all these other tools. And so, we’re able to accomplish what we do without walking into the organization’s premises.
Robin Thieme: [00:07:40] So, it’s all thanks to a lot of good technology, but it used to be that the old mindset was if you identified, if you were able to identify that you might need a CFO or C-level type person, to employ somebody like that, then you would be like, “Well, that’s too much money. I can’t afford like a CFO for my business. I’m too small for that.” And it turns out, like small businesses have some pretty big problems or big decisions, and they just only need a part of us. So, I saw that that was doable. And I have other colleagues that are doing the same thing, but we’re really meeting a need of businesses that are struggling to run their businesses, love what they do, are really good at it, but just need some help on the back end.
Peter Margaritis: [00:08:41] So, 2004. The technology in 2004 versus 2019, night and day. So, what were you using in 2004 to be a virtual CFO?
Robin Thieme: [00:08:55] We were less of a virtual CFO at that time. I mean, there’s definitely — I had clients even then that we would be set up, where we would be able to virtually get into the accounting system through — there were businesses that were doing hosting of their accounting applications. There wasn’t as many what’s called SaaS-based applications as there are today, software as a service, where you could log into a website. But there was ways to — there was a way to get into people’s computers. So, one of the ways — I had to think about it. One of the ways that we used to be virtual is a tool that I don’t know if it even exists today, PC Anywhere. So-
Peter Margaritis: [00:09:39] I remember that.
Robin Thieme: [00:09:40] Yeah. So, I used that before 2004. So, when my son was born, I convinced my boss that I could work from home and use PC Anywhere. I would, in 1994, to get into computers at the office that we had in Washington DC when I would be at home. So, that was, I guess, one of the most commonly-used tools. I would convince a client. I’d say, “I’m going to help you. I’ll be very available. I’m just going to have to actually ask if I can tap into your computer.” And some clients didn’t like that idea. That’s kind of a freaky idea. And other clients were like, “You mean, I don’t have to see you?” And then, they’d be quite happy about that. So, I can just like — “Virtually, you can move my mouse?” But yeah, I guess it was PC Anywhere.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:33] And you keep saying the word “we.” We.
Robin Thieme: [00:10:36] Yes.
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:37] How may people do you have on your team?
Robin Thieme: [00:10:39] Well, I have 12 people that work in this vicinity near Kensington. And then, I actually have two people that work for us in India. So, the we is-
Peter Margaritis: [00:10:53] Wow.
Robin Thieme: [00:10:54] … global actually. And I’m really excited about that. I started working with that part of the team about twelve months ago, but the “we” here in the states are people who also work for me virtually. I do have an office, and I’m speaking to you from my office outside my home. I walk. It’s about a mile from the house. I needed to separate work and home. And so, I decided to do this a while ago. And it’s actually a coworking space that people can come to, other people in the neighborhood.
Robin Thieme: [00:11:33] And so, some people come to the office, and they like to do that, and many other people work virtually for me. And they’re women. And my business model for hiring is that most of the people that work for me are 0.5 FTEs. They work 25
hours or so a week. And I don’t really keep track of that. They’re assigned a bucket of work, and they need to get it done, and meet every single deadline, but I really don’t keep track of when they do it, and where they are when they do it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:16] That’s interesting because there’s a company here in Columbus, Ohio. The name is Kaiser Consulting. And she started this some years ago. And other than being virtual, it’s built around that same concept. And her firm has grown from herself, and I forget how many years. I think she got like 75 people in the firm.
Robin Thieme: [00:12:38] Wow, I admire that. Wow.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:40] And I spoke to their company about a couple of years ago, and at that time, they were like 35 or 40. It’s pretty fascinating, but it’s an interesting business model. Now, you’re in Maryland. Obviously, a member of the Maryland Association CPAs.
Robin Thieme: [00:12:57] Proud. Proud member.
Peter Margaritis: [00:12:59] And by the way, I’m also a member of the Maryland Association of CPAs.
Robin Thieme: [00:13:02] All right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:13:03] As much as MACPA, the Business Learning Institute have supported me and my business model. I became a member. I think I’m going on about a year now. But I read something in your bio that I knew that you were a member of the Maryland Association of CPAs because you described yourself as an anticipatory accountant. And I went, “Oh, she’s drank the Kool-Aid.” Could you explain what an anticipatory accountant is?
Robin Thieme: [00:13:34] Sure. So, an anticipatory accountant – I hope I do my colleague, Tom, justice here, and Dan Burrus, the one who really introduced that concept to MACPA – is one who is looking out towards the future anticipating trends and
really focused on what’s going to happen next, instead of being a historian for our clients. So, being focused on how you use the information that you’re involved with capturing, and what it means for the future. Just, I get — I guess it’s very redundant but just basically thinking about those things. And, ultimately, when you think about it from its most basic elements, a successful business should always be thinking about where they’re going and not where they’ve been. So, I live in that world.
Peter Margaritis: [00:14:43] And you live it very well because I’ve heard Dan Burrus and Tom speak over the years. But, basically, Dan was saying, there’s two types of trends out there – hard trends and soft trends. And I love how you describe it. I mean, take technology. I’ve got an iPhone 10. And on my next iPhone, am I going to buy an iPhone 3? No, I’m going to wait till that next model. So, technology will continue to evolve. I’m not going to get a dumb phone.
Robin Thieme: [00:15:16] That’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:15:17] I’m going to try to keep getting a smartphone. Same thing with demographics. Once we have this — I think, we’ve now got an idea of the totality of the millennials. And we can see them come through the system. Now, we got to start looking at Zs because we had a large baby boomer and small Gen X. We saw that, but we didn’t do anything about it. And then, there’s this hiring issue. And then, we got a huge millennial population coming through. And I lucked out. I heard Rebekah Brown from MACPA talk about the demographics, and firms were looking for a 35-year-old tax manager. And she said, “Do you know how long it takes to find a 35-year-old tax manager? 35 years and nine months.”
Robin Thieme: [00:16:06] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:06] They’re just not hanging of the-
Robin Thieme: [00:16:09] That’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:16:10] But you have that vision because you’re not going to go back in your business and go, “You know, the Zoom, whatever. I’m going back to PC Anywhere.”
Robin Thieme: [00:16:18] Exactly, yeah. No. I do try to look at what tools are put in front of us and how we can leverage them. I love learning about a new software and trying to brainstorm of what that software could potentially do to help a client. And then, at times, it might be that you look at something, and you realize that it’s really solving a problem that, at times, nobody needs to solve. But I think it’s fun.
Robin Thieme: [00:16:52] And they’ve done this at a lot of conferences, and I appreciate it, to just contemplate. Forget about accounting for a second. Put that on hold and just contemplate, Like the driverless car, and then think about all the innovation related to the driverless car, and then try to bring that back to the work that we do and how we could help our clients think about how to react to these things. So, if you’re a pizza place, like maybe a driverless car could come into play at one point or something like that where you might think those are two different things that should never meet, paths would never meet.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:35] And I think those paths should meet. And, actually, I think I would be more productive in a driverless car than driving myself-
Robin Thieme: [00:17:45] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:17:47] … because I do some work here in the State of Ohio. And when I have to drive to Cleveland, I’ve had the driverless car, and I can sit in the back, and the technology will just pretty well sort itself out. That’s two hours of productivity I can gain.
Robin Thieme: [00:18:01] Right. So, we’ve been brainwashed. And we really love our cars, and I know people do. But all of a sudden, I started to think about, “You know what, at one point, it’s going to be illegal for me to drive.” And that’s a good thing. So, I was like — and I said that to somebody else, and this person I was talking to, they love
cars. And I really upset them. I was like, “Yeah. There’ll be a point where, literally, like, humans getting behind a wheel will be considered a safety threat, and that you won’t…” You know, that’s one of my visions.
Robin Thieme: [00:18:42] But I mean, other people have the similar idea, but it’s just like to think about it, it kind of — it makes sense to a certain degree that, like you said, we get distracted. We want to be working on our — you know, checking our e-mail. We want to do these things. But we, kind of, are trying to struggle with these competing things like, “That’s really strange for our car to make those decisions.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:10] Right. But if you think, I’m sort of thinking about when I get into later retirement years when I really should not be driving, and I would probably be like my father and mother, who would fight over giving up the keys. They’ve given up.
Robin Thieme: [00:19:24] Yeah, that’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:26] That could be the illegal aspect of it. If you’re over a certain age, you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. You should be in the backseat and have the driverless car take you.
Robin Thieme: [00:19:34] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:19:34] And people who are listening to this are going — Okay, some will go, “That’s pretty cool.” Some will say, “That will never happen.”
Robin Thieme: [00:19:42] Right, right. And I mean, we don’t know. So, I guess that’s where the skill of hard and soft trends comes in. And it being a skill, I love that idea, and that was something that the MACPA has really been focusing on sharing with their members is this concept that it sounds like our conversation right now that we’re having is outside of our work, but it’s really a part of it.
Robin Thieme: [00:20:09] It’s thinking — like having this conversation, and then saying to each other, “Is this a hard trend or is it a soft trend? Is there going to be a point where
it will be illegal for us to get into cars? And what does that mean for us? And how would that affect the business that we advised, you know, we provided guidance to, that’s decided to buy a fleet of cars for their employees because they think it’s a really great thing to do?”
Peter Margaritis: [00:20:42] So, let’s think about your business. So, when you started the virtual CFO, there’s probably nothing out there, and I don’t think you have a whole lot of competition out there right now. I don’t know. Do you have a whole lot of competition?
Robin Thieme: [00:20:57] Well, the competition is growing, and I welcome it because I think there’s a dynamic of it. First, I had to really spend a lot of time explaining what I do, but, actually, you do run into business owners right now that will say, “I’d like to hire a virtual CFO,” or they might not say virtual, they might say CFO or they might say fractional, or “I need an accountant. Do you know one?”.
Robin Thieme: [00:21:25] I know that the AICPA has really started to recognize that of all of the CPA pathways that this is the fastest growing and demanded service that businesses are looking for. They’re just completely overwhelmed by trying to run a business, and they’re really looking to accountants to help them. They kind of have heard all these years that we’re helpful, and we’re honest, and we care, and all these good things. So, they just kind of naturally want to pick up the phone and call the people and ask for help.
Robin Thieme: [00:22:13] So, I know that many public accounting firms or large accounting firms have definitely gotten into the term that the AICPA has definitely branded. Well, I don’t know. I don’t about legally, but client accounting services is a term that’s being used through the CPA world to describe this concept of being an accounting department for an organization. And we’re still really grappling with what’s the best term for what I do. I was messing with CAO, Chief Anticipation Officer.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:54] I like that.
Robin Thieme: [00:22:56] I thought you might like that, but nobody knows what that means.
Peter Margaritis: [00:22:59] That’s even better because they have to ask you, what does that mean? We all know what a CFO-
Robin Thieme: [00:23:03] That’s true. I haven’t been able to make that one — get any traction on that one, but it is what I do. But it’s just, you know, [crosstalk].
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:10] I did to that point. To that point, I sort of do. I keep naming in my business The Accidental Accountant.
Robin Thieme: [00:23:16] I love that name. I love it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:19] Someone said, “Absolutely, because they’ll ask you a question, what is an accidental accountant?” They will ask you. “I’m a CPA.” “Well, we kind of know what that is.” So, I set that lead in the question to say, so what’s chief anticipatory officer, was it?
Robin Thieme: [00:23:34] Chief Anticipation Officer.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:35] Anticipation.
Robin Thieme: [00:23:36] CAO.
Peter Margaritis: [00:23:36] So, what does that mean? And that leads into the story to bring the men, and talk about how the technology, and how your firm, and you yourself, primitive visionary because you saw this back in 2004, to some degree, and have been able to ride that wave to 15 years later. So, that leads me to my next question, how does your business — and I don’t use the word anymore. I’m trying not to use the word — change in the next five years? How does your business transform in the next five years? That transformation word was introduced by Daniel Burrus, who was a member of the
National Speakers Association and is the current chair co-chair of our annual convention, and the annual convention is about transforming.
Robin Thieme: [00:24:24] Right. Yeah, that’s really interesting. So, the transformation that I see is — I mean, this might be not very creative on my part, but just really an explosion in understanding and demand for the need of what we do in particular. A part of the transformation being very much centered around the capture of data and the fact that there’s a growing investment in that being done by robots and automatically.
Robin Thieme: [00:25:09] And, also, the way that those that are working with the data. I’m using the word data, instead of accounting transactions. And that the data really requires a data specialist, which is really like a data specialist field is really becoming the way to go where you’re not a person that walks into an office, and there is a stack of pieces of paper there in an inbox, and you sit down, and you open a system, and you start typing in data, and you were really smart, and you needed to know what to enter, and you needed to look at that piece of paper with great knowledge. That role is really transformed. And-
Peter Margaritis: [00:26:08] It’s gone.
Robin Thieme: [00:26:08] It’s kind of gone. I mean, I still live with it. I don’t live with the — we don’t have any paper. I’ve been paper lists since I started my business. So, there’s no paper. I see a lot of paper in the back there, so.
Peter Margaritis: [00:26:22] Yeah, I’m paperless too.
Robin Thieme: [00:26:22] No, sorry. But no. But in terms of the — I think there is a lot of talk about like the reduction of data entry. And I do see that to a certain degree, but it’s not quite the way people are describing it. But they’re the visionaries. So, those visionaries that are envisioning that an accounting system will become populated in an automated way, the people that would work with that information are completely different than those that worked with that information 10 years ago. And this concept of
like a reconciliation is going to look different than it did a long time ago. So, hopefully, there’ll be less of them.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:16] And actually, McCormick, a Maryland company has two RPAs, robotic process automation, which is really a bot that reconciles supplier-vendor.
Robin Thieme: [00:27:26] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:27:28] And, basically, it reconciles, and then it provides, “This, we need to look at. These are, kind of, high-risk areas, and here’s immediate risk, and these are low-risk, but you need to take a look at this.” And it’s not taken days to do it. It’s taken seconds.
Robin Thieme: [00:27:44] Yeah. So, that’s kind of part of the transformation of small business. McCormick’s doing it today, and they’ll become affordable. And part of the Xero, and bookkeeping bots, and bench.co, and all these companies that are trying to make this affordable for small business will, basically, facilitate that.
Robin Thieme: [00:28:09] And so, that’s really — and then, of course, that changes the workforce, and looking for people that were really skilled that — I mean, this isn’t the case anymore, but I bet — I don’t know if your — how our ages match up, but I was quite good at that 10-key. I could do that really fast. So, it’s like who cares. But I mean, I did work in public accounting a long time ago. And I was at the point where you would rapidly type in numbers using a 10-key, and that’s just completely not needed anymore.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:53] Hold on.
Robin Thieme: [00:28:53] Sorry.
Peter Margaritis: [00:28:53] Hold on. No, no. You’re going to get the people to wreck their car because, trust me, I asked this question. I go, “Is business today day the same as it was before?” And I show a picture of a 10-key. For those of you who are not accountants, a 10-key is an adding machine with a tape that rolls out the back. I asked
the audience, “How many of you still have a 10-key?” and 75% of that audience raises their hand.
Robin Thieme: [00:29:18] And they use it to check their Excel.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:23] They do. They use it to check their Excel. And I told them there’s a support group for those people.
Robin Thieme: [00:29:28] That’s good. That’s good.
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:30] I go, “It’s time to-”
Robin Thieme: [00:29:31] Yeah, and-
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:33] “… put that away and move forward.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:29:34] And I think, if I can get like a little hippy dippy about it, we’re missing out at we being accountants and being part of this tribe of accountants. And CPAs, in particular, are missing out on what our clients are clamoring for. They want us to put the 10-key down. And they want us to sit down, and look at them, and actually speak to them, and learn of all the things that are going on in their business. And then, use all those brains to contribute. And it’s like it part of it is giving up the 10-key, so.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:13] Drop the 10-key and take some steps away.
Robin Thieme: [00:30:18] Yeah, exactly.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:19] So, you-
Robin Thieme: [00:30:20] Be safe.
Peter Margaritis: [00:30:21] Be safe. And hearing you and all the stuff that you’ve done, you don’t like staying in your comfort zone very much, do you?
Robin Thieme: [00:30:31] I I guess I’m comfortable with a mistake or two. So, in the company, as we’re making errors periodically, I have an expression, “Success is learning.” So, I do subscribe to that. And it’s a funny dynamic because when I go to CPA conferences, I was at the — I think it was a Digital CPA conference. But I was at a conference, and you’ll sit at a roundtable or sit with people, and there’s people there, they’d be like, “My partners, I cannot convince them to change this thing.”
Robin Thieme: [00:31:15] And then, it’s a joke in my company where they’re like, “Don’t change anything else, Robin. For the first quarter, if you could just please just leave it the way it is.” So, it’s this kind of a funny dynamic that people that work for me, they get a little stressed out because it might not be helpful at times. But I love — I do get enamored with the ability of a tool to do something that I hadn’t thought of. So, I do get caught up in that. And at times, I gravitate more towards that than looking at somebody’s balance sheets.
Peter Margaritis: [00:31:56] I see that in you, but like we were talking before we started recording, you’re a skier, and you share about moguls and how you have to kind of lean in because if you lean back, it’s not good.
Robin Thieme: [00:32:15] You’re going to fall.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:16] You’re going to fall. If you lean forward and anticipate where you’re going, you’ll get to the end. So, that’s scary for a lot of people, that-
Robin Thieme: [00:32:26] Yes.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:27] … leaning in. You lean in. You don’t lean back.
Robin Thieme: [00:32:31] When I’m in business, I lean in. Skiing, I struggle with the lean forward, but I’d aspire to it. Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:32:40] So, this leaning in, that’s kind of like getting outside the comfort zone into that area that’s risky and scary, which is taking me down a path. You are now a graduate. I’ll let you explain it, but Robin went into a scary place just recently, and came out unscathed, and probably with a different perspective on a lot of different things. So, Robin, if you could share what I’m talking about.
Robin Thieme: [00:33:09] Yes. Well, I just graduated last Tuesday from my 10 weeks in improv class. And I just thoroughly thank you. And you are an inspiration to me, for sure. And I had been in enamored with the concepts of “yes and” for a while and from a number of different original pathways. But I definitely got a kick out of like thinking about how that applies to business, and it did speak to me.
Robin Thieme: [00:33:44] At the same time, I was going through caring for my mom who passed away last August. And I miss her quite a bit, but I really started to think about her as a yes-and person. And I did have to, basically, kind of scramble for a few years to figure out how to care for her. My sister is a big help with that. But I was kind of dealing with that and thinking about just basically putting everything else on hold and taking care of that. And I just basically, at one point, decided it was time to do something for myself, and learn, and grow.
Robin Thieme: [00:34:34] And so, my husband actually gave it to me as a gift because he had heard me talking about it so often. And then, I decided to push the button and walk into that improv class not knowing anybody and see what happened next. And, really, it was scary, and I was very much in awe and intimidated by the teacher. I thought she’s going to ask me to do really hard stuff. And it was, really, a very positive experience. And I’m looking forward to continuing with it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:11] So, where did you take the course?
Robin Thieme: [00:35:15] Where?
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:16] Yes.
Robin Thieme: [00:35:16] At the DC Improv in Washington DC.
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:20] And do you remember who your instructor was?
Robin Thieme: [00:35:22] Oh, of course, Anna Bethel. She-
Peter Margaritis: [00:35:23] That’s cool.
Robin Thieme: [00:35:27] Yeah. So, yeah. I mean, we just finished. And I just think she — so, I mean, not only — sorry, I get excited when I talk about this. But not only did I find that for two and a half hours, I’m not turning my phone on. I’m laughing hysterically at everyone. We’re really supportive of one another. I didn’t know anyone else in the class. All those things are really great. And yet, I felt that, ultimately, one of the extra cream on the cake or whatever was to listen to this really talented improv do her craft. So, it was like I was getting entertained by my teacher, and I just loved it.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:12] It was an absolute blast. And, now, you’re hooked and-
Robin Thieme: [00:36:14] Have you been — are you still taking classes?
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:18] Actually, I try to. This winter, I was taking — I haven’t taken a level two in a while, which is more from the acting perspective. And I was commuting from Columbus to Cincinnati, and there was a couple of times the snow kept me away. So, I didn’t get — out of the six that they did, I was able to, at least, get three. But those three, I mean, I’m in nirvana.
Robin Thieme: [00:36:39] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:36:40] Yeah, if I’m driving two hours to take an improv class, that was nirvana. A friend of mine, who’s also a CPA, she’s in Michigan. Call out to Kristen RAmpe. We were talking about recently on email about trying to go to Chicago and see if there’s a three-day intensive course just because. And I’ve-
Robin Thieme: [00:37:01] At Second City?
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:01] At Second City.
Robin Thieme: [00:37:03] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:04] Yeah. I’ve done that a couple times. And that is, “What cellphone? I don’t have a cell phone.” It’s the-
Robin Thieme: [00:37:10] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:11] But that environment that they put you in, you were completely safe. There was nothing to worry about. It’s a very welcoming, very safe environment that, actually, they want you to fail.
Robin Thieme: [00:37:26] Right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:27] And you’ve mentioned something about this earlier, but I’ve learned — and it was outside of improv, but I’ve brought it into improv. There’s an acronym called FAIL, and it stands for first attempt in learning, because we have to fail in order to get better. And that’s the thing about improv, taking that risk. Failure, it’s okay. It’s embraced. A lot of times, out of that failure comes great ideas.
Robin Thieme: [00:37:52] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:37:53] And that’s the magic of it. And it’s not just a theater thing. You bring it into your business, you bring it into your life, and it’s truly magical.
Robin Thieme: [00:38:04] Yeah. And it can be kind of crushing to fail or make a mistake. I mean, nobody — it’s not like look you — we don’t plan it that way, but if you can like walk away from something and recognize that you played a part in the mistake
or failure but that there’s something to be learned from it is really — well, you kind of didn’t waste it. So, that’s to have. Like “Don’t waste this failure.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:38:32] Yeah, don’t waste. Just learn from it.
Robin Thieme: [00:38:35] Yeah, I love that. That’s great. And I think it is a really powerful lesson. And I’ve witnessed other people that really struggle with it, and they really are hard on themselves. And I mean, not that you want to ever, again, strive for making errors, but, at times, the experiments that you’re doing could really have great value. So, I mean, looking at it as an experiment, which is definitely, DC — improv, rather, is an experiment, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s really what the power of it is.
Robin Thieme: [00:39:15] And one of the things that I personally — like I do love humor. I mean, I really enjoy — like I love the Second City. I watched that for a long time and everything. And I love comedy. But I didn’t really like focus in with this improv on gaining great abilities to entertain others. I was really focused on like thinking on my feet, the concept of collaboration, this concept that we’ve talked about or that you’ve talked about with communication. And just also like reading what others around you want and need from you. So, you’ve got to figure that out in that improv. Like, what is it that you’re doing based on what that person just brought into this scene?
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:11] It makes you become a better listener.
Robin Thieme: [00:40:13] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:40:13] It really makes you become — and that’s — I talk about it all the time because, usually, the last words that come out of people’s mouths are the most important, but if we interrupt it, we’d never hear it, that’s with improv. Because if you interrupt your teammate, and they’re about to say something, or they say something, and you’re distracted, the scene falls apart. You’ve got to be actively listening all the time with your eyes and ears in order to be successful onstage and in business.
Robin Thieme: [00:40:45] Right. And I did struggle with that just like where I was like — I’m just — I’m very new to it, and you’ve been doing it for — like figuring out when is the right time to join in where you’re being supportive and when is it that you’re not basically doing a yes-and move. So, I kind of think about that and try to make sure I’m aware of it, and I’m not just like sitting there thinking while you’re talking about what I’m going to say, so.
Peter Margaritis: [00:41:24] It does take time. It takes time-
Robin Thieme: [00:41:27] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:41:27] … to sit there-
Robin Thieme: [00:41:28] Still learning.
Peter Margaritis: [00:41:28] Yeah, still learning. But you’ve got the tools. And it’s just — so, when I was telling you about how I do this podcast, a lot of podcasts will ask guests, “Send me some questions you want me to ask,” or “Here are some questions I want you to fill out and send back to me.” I don’t do that. I do my research, I do my homework, because that’s really about improv is gaining that knowledge. It’s not making stuff up, but it’s about taking the knowledge that we have, and apply it, and listening to the conversation that we have. It does take a little bit of time, but the more you do it, it becomes really magical. It’s almost like lucky charms. It’s magically delicious.
Robin Thieme: [00:42:13] Yeah. Well, I think, ultimately, what you’ve been able to do with this ability to listen is just create a really engaging discussion with your guests. And I think it can sound, when you listen to certain podcasts, you’re like, “Did they write that ahead of time?” and they’ll feel like you’re just part of it, and you just question how much of it is scripted, and so forth, and it’s not as interesting for the listener, I think.
Peter Margaritis: [00:42:46] So, you blend the improv into your business because you have people that rely on you, and you’re trying to motivate the team, and the ability to empathize with them. And instead of saying no and sort of them but, it’s like, “Yes, I
hear you. And let’s talk about some more,” or “Yes, I empathize with what is going on, and tell me more,” or “Have you thought about this?” It’s moving the conversation forward in a positive way. And I will say this, we have a stereotype, and I hear the word CF-No a lot. And so, if I had, “What are you trying to accomplish?” “I’m trying to accomplish the accounts to quit saying no all the time…”
Robin Thieme: [00:43:38] Yes.
Peter Margaritis: [00:43:38] “… and to say yes and.” But it’s about agreement but not always agreeing.
Robin Thieme: [00:43:43] Right, right. Yeah. And I have had some projects recently where I was working with different accountants. And I did find that there was, I guess, a level of arrogance that you just could tell it was a one-way conversation. And it’s unfortunate because you really don’t produce something that is quite as good, I think, that when you allowed two people to collaborate.
Robin Thieme: [00:44:10] And I think it is really — you talked about the transformation, and Dan Burrus, and all these things. And I think that because of the nature of both what happens in technology and just, in general, the way that our lives have changed, we need to kind of change our persona. And I, actually, one day — well, I think, I said this to Tom, I don’t know, or somebody at the AICPA. I was like, “I wonder if the word ‘accountant’ is problematic.” And I think they practically kicked me out of the room. But I was like, “It’s like are we counting anything anymore?”
Robin Thieme: [00:44:56] So, be pretty disruptive to change the term for what we go to school for, and proud to be a CPA, and those kinds of things, and the knowledge I’ve gained is really something that I use every day, but I just — you know, I think that the profession has so much opportunity, and people still they, they really want our help, but when we’re a CFO-no or those expressions, then they basically are going to seek elsewhere, seek help elsewhere.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:32] Right, and-
Robin Thieme: [00:45:33] They’ll call the lawyer. We don’t want that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:45:35] No, we don’t like that. No, no. But they’ll find that person. They’ll find that firm. They’ll find an organization that will listen to them, that won’t say no to them, that will — you know, we use the word cost a lot in our — how much cost? I’ve been taught over the last three years. They said throw away the word ‘cost’ and say, “Where will this investment takes us?” And it gives it a whole new mindset.
Robin Thieme: [00:46:01] That’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:46:02] Cost has somewhat of a negative connotation. It’s now — it’s gone tomorrow, and an investment lasts for a period of time. So, where will this take us? And I do that with my business when I want to start a podcast, or I wanted to do some of the stuff that I do and say, “Okay, this is a …” or the books. The investment will be X amount of dollars, and all right. And how long do I think will it be until I recoup? But I don’t just want to recoup. Where do I think this is going to take me? It changes that whole mindset versus looking at that initial cash outlay.
Robin Thieme: [00:46:34] Yeah, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:46:36] I’ve been wrong. I’ve been wrong.
Robin Thieme: [00:46:38] Sure.
Peter Margaritis: [00:46:38] Look, I’m wrong with that, but I’m getting better.
Robin Thieme: [00:46:40] But I mean, to frame those expenditures in terms of the — you know, a lot of times, when people are talking about operational expenditures, I’ll try not to use that word cost. So, there really — that is really like a common thing. We’re going to cut those costs and things like that.
Robin Thieme: [00:47:00] And one of the common ones that I struggle with communicating, and I’ve just been like — I just came up with a way to maybe make ground with this one is that it’ll be time for somebody to invest in their accounting system. You know, they basically — a lot of companies try to — you know, they find the concept of spending, you know, money on an accounting system. It’s looked at as a cost. It’s really, you know, hard to get out of that mindset.
Robin Thieme: [00:47:31] So, I was like thinking about it one day, and I have this one client that I can just see that it’s time to have the conversation. And I would say, “How am I going to get through?” And then, I’m like “You know what, the owner of that company drives a really nice car. And they spend — you know, that car probably cost 50K. And they made a smart decision in their mind, and, you know, I would never question somebody whose decision in terms of vehicles, but it’s like you invest in a vehicle, and you expect it to do its job. And, you know, people really are comfortable doing that overall. And they will be really uncomfortable spending like, you know, one-fourth, one-sixth of that on an accounting system, you know.
Robin Thieme: [00:48:30] So, it’s just a funny dynamic where that system is going to take you where you’re going, and I’m working on my parallels there. And I just was trying to think, overall, if somebody was — if you were to say to somebody, “This system is a really good solution for you to take you to the next step. It’s going to be $500,” and they’re like “What? You know, that’s a large cost.”
Robin Thieme: [00:49:03] But it’s a similar thing you’re not going to drive around in an old — you know, nobody’s driving around in a car from 1985 that has a tape cassette player and those things. They want the Bluetooth. They want these things. Why? Because they make your life work the way it works today. So, that’s my — as you can tell, it’s kind of a new one I’m trying to work through, the story there, so to speak, but I do think that businesses do struggle with that.
Robin Thieme: [00:49:35] And I was talking with the CFO of an accounting software. And I was saying that they — I was providing a little feedback and said that, basically, they should maybe invest in like a solution that will make it less difficult to convert
information. And she said, “Well, we’ve lost a lot of money trying to fix that.” So, it was like — she didn’t even use the word cost. She used the fact that they spent more than they took in. She actually used the word loss, which is not at all how I would describe investing in helping your customers to convert their data.
Robin Thieme: [00:50:19] So, it’s just — that’s the mindset that, ultimately, maybe, at times, we all need to be skeptics in thoughts. Think about the actual economics and not sign up for pyramid schemes, like you know. But, you know. I mean, at times, like you said, those investments take you to the next level, and it’s very hard, I think, for us to effectively communicate that to our clients in a way that they’re — marketing people are much better at it. I was on a sales call with a marketing guy, and I was like. “He’s so good.”
Peter Margaritis: [00:51:05] So, I’m thinking about your dilemma, and this guy likes his cars. So, maybe an angle is if you buy this investment into an updated accounting system, he’ll be able to process and do things in a faster manner as his business grows. “Would you like to, one day, maybe think that to be able to have a Tesla? Well, you might be able to get there a little bit quicker if your system is ran a little bit smoother, and you could process things easier in the system, and not get bogged down because if you’re using Excel as your accounting system, that’s back from the ’80s and we can get you to that next level that quick, and you can get into a new car.” Think about the new accounting.
Robin Thieme: [00:51:49] All right. I’m going to work on that one. Yeah. No. I mean, I think there’s something there. You know, basically try to draw a parallel in terms of the way people think about their car purchases versus how they want to spend next to nothing on their accounting systems.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:07] It’s, “What do I look good in?” It’s the, “I’m house-rich and furniture-poor.”
Robin Thieme: [00:52:12] That’s right, that’s right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:14] I’m really rich, but you come into my house, I have no furniture because it’s all in the aesthetics out there. Robin, it is a bit an absolute pleasure having this conversation with you. This has been so much fun. Here’s what we’re going to do. Because I do speak a lot up at Maryland, if you’re ever at a conference that I’m speaking out, at some point during my presentation, you are going to come up, and we’re going to show them the power of improv. And you and I going to do an improv.
Robin Thieme: [00:52:40] Oh my goodness. I’d love that. All right. That’s a deal. I’m going to hold you to that.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:46] Cool.
Robin Thieme: [00:52:46] That sounds good. Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:52:48] Cool.
Robin Thieme: [00:52:48] Maybe we can rope somebody else into it too. But I think that’s a fun idea. And I think spreading the word amongst our fellow accountants about the power of it and how it relates to what we do is really something that you’ve been doing for a while, and I want to be there with you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:53:07] Cool.
Robin Thieme: [00:53:08] Yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:53:08] I’m looking forward to it. Thank you again. And let’s stay in touch. And I wish you all the best. I love the visionary that you are, and what you see, and how you’ve done, and what you’ve built. Yeah, you very much are very anticipatory. And keep thinking transformation.
Robin Thieme: [00:53:26] I will. Thanks a lot, Peter. And I just — I want to express my appreciation for not just the podcast and the messaging. So, I love the concept of
Taking the Numb Out of Numbers. I mean, that’s something I strive for, and being able to tell a story. So, a lot of the messaging that you’re trying to communicate is not going on deaf ears over here in Maryland, for sure. And I want to thank you for the positive impact you’re having on our accounting community.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:02] Thank you very much.
Robin Thieme: [00:54:02] And everybody, yeah.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:04] Perfect.
Robin Thieme: [00:54:05] Yeah. And I want to hear about — if you go to Second City and do a three-day, I want to hear about that. That’s really cool.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:10] Well, maybe just look at your calendar and see if you can clear it out.
Robin Thieme: [00:54:11] All right.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:13] And join Krista and I up there.
Robin Thieme: [00:54:15] I think, it’s a fun idea. I need to catch up with you though. I need more classes.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:21] Absolutely. So, once again, thank you very much. I look forward to the next time our paths cross.
Robin Thieme: [00:54:26] Thank you.
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:30] Now that you’ve listened to this episode, what will you do to become more future-ready? What steps will you take to change your mindset and get out of your comfort zone? What risks are you willing to accept in order to be prepared for tomorrow – all the while knowing that, in order to enact change, it takes baby steps?
Peter Margaritis: [00:54:56] Thank you again for listening. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and share this episode with a friend. And once again, please visit c-suiteradio.com to listen to many of the excellent podcasts that they have in their family of networks.
Announcer: [00:55:17] Like what you just heard? Because it’s c-suiteradio.com. C-Suite Radio, turning the volume up on business.

 

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