Learning to Speak the Official Business Language in a Way Others Can Understand

Blog 4 PhotoBusiness Innovators Magazine hosts regular interviews with the most innovative leaders in business on their radio show to feature industry influencers and trendsetters. Andy Curry, a bestselling author, multiple business owner, and contributor for CNN who covers topics such as successful business innovators and entrepreneurs in Business, Health, Finance, and Personal Development was gracious to host me a few weeks ago.

We talked at length (20 minute podcast here) on how improvisation creates positive results in leadership and in life. It is no surprise that technology is constantly changing the way jobs get done. For accounting professionals, our soft skills development is necessary for creating new business opportunities and ensuring we are keeping up with the times.

Forming and growing relationships is important for any finance professional. I ask all the time, “what business are we in?” And all the time I get answers like, “accounting” or “finance”. Yes, we provide a very important service, but behind those numbers are very real parts to a person’s life. When we take the language of business and state it in a way that clients can better understand, we begin to make better connections. And we do that by using the principles of improvisation.

Respect, Support, Trust, Listen, Focus, Adapt, and tie it all together with “Yes, And…”

Technical skills are important, very important. But if we don’t know how to go about relating to the people behind the numbers, we are selling ourselves short and leaving clients frustrated. The principles of improvisation, when we respect the clients, truly listen to them, focus on what goals they are wanting to achieve, and adapt to that, we are able to grow the relationship because we have found a way to bridge that communication gap that accounting jargon creates.

To learn more, Download a free chapter from my new book, Improv Is No Joke or email me at Peter@theaccidentalaccountant.com and I will come to you for your next speaking engagement.


“What’s The Matter With Kids Today?

Children with communication devices in business clothingThere isn’t a generation of middle-aged adults who have not wondered what the heck is the matter with these kids today. Whatever the complaint, it always comes down to one thing: they aren’t like us. True. So why is that a problem?

Today’s Millennials are bright, educated, energetic and technically savvy.  They manage the details of projects using tools that some partners and colleagues have never tried. However, for all their strengths, they often lack the soft skills needed to fit into many organizations.

Many are not good communicators – they seem aloof or brash or unprofessional. Sometimes they seem immature, fixated on cell phones, tablets and devices rather than people. They lack the soft skills necessary to succeed in most business environments.

So what can you do?  Bring soft skills training into your firm today. Not as a one-off workshop but as part of a strategy to strengthen skills for all associates. Mentoring new talent has always been the role of seasoned partners. It’s true that millennials may need stronger communication and presentation skills than previous generations. But there has always been something the matter with these kids today!

Differentiate your firm from the competition – embrace the many advantages of working with millennials and welcome the opportunity to help them grow and succeed.


This Is a Wonderful Opportunity to Share This Story

After I finished reading Steve Gilliand’s book, Making A Difference, and I thought about those who have made a difference in my life. I began to question, if I had made a difference in someone’s life, even with a random act of kindness.

Recently, I was talking to my mother and she told me that a family member, Tommy Kavunedus, is in the hospital and she would like to visit him.  So, I decided to fly to Ft. Myers, FL for a few days to visit with mom and drive her to Clearwater to visit with Tommy and his wife Carolyn.

Well, mom and I get in the car for our 2 1/2 hour drive to Clearwater.  I am as guilty as the next person– constantly checking my iPhone for email, text messages, Facebook messages, sport scores or whatever.  We have all heard that we are way too connected to our devices, and communication now exists in the clouds verses direct face-to-face conversation.

Since I am driving, I can’t check for emails and other messages, so mom and I talk the whole way to Clearwater.  The topics are not important, we are just enjoying spending quality time together.

We get to the hospital and I give my email a quick check – nothing pressing.  We walked into Tommy’s room and found him sitting in a chair next to his hospital bed.  His hospital gown hung loosely off his body and he looked frail.  As we looked at him we were unsure if he recognized us.  Mom said, “Tommy, do you know who we are?” In a low, gravely, Marlon Brando Godfather voice, he said, “of course I do. Hello Polly and Petie. ”

After some initial small talk, he began to tell us a story about how his father and my grandfather immigrated from eastern Greece to Harlan, Kentucky around 1910. As I listened to him tell this wonderful story, his face began to show life.  His eyes sparkled and at times he would laugh.  Periodically, he would pause and say, “this is a wonderful opportunity I have to share this story with you” in his Godfather voice.  Other times, he would tear up and say,”can you believe what these young immigrant boys went through.”

During his story, he kept referring to his dad, Charlie Kavendues, and Steve Margaritis.  I was a little confused because my grandfather was named Pete Margaritis.  I just felt that in his failing health that he was confused.  However, the details he shared in telling this story showed that his mind was as sharp as a tack. At one point in the story, he mentions that Steve Margaritis died due to a ruptured appendix and Charlie went to Lexington, found his brother Pete and offered him Steve’s piece of the business.  This is where I stopped him and asked him to repeat that part of the story.  See, I never knew that my grandfather had a brother named Steve.  I remember my dad – Michael – telling me stories about his father Pete but never mentioned anything about Steve Margaritis.  WOW, I had a great uncle I never knew existed.

For three hours Tommy regaled us with a number of wonderful stories.  I sat there listening intently and at times I would feel the vibration of my iPhone alerting me of a message or phone call.  Out of high regard for this man, I didn’t pull my phone out and shut it down and I never looked at my iPhone for the full three hours.  I was disconnected from the outside world and completely in the moment, void of any distractions.

I have to say that was one of the most impactful three hours I had spent in a very long time.  What started as a son wanting to make an impact in his mothers life, turned into a very wise man having a wonderful impact on this 54 year old guy. Tommy Kavunedus made a huge difference in my life, reminding me the importance of our heritage, our past, and to take time to visit with the ones we love more often.  Tommy, thanks for Making A Difference in my life.

The Best of Times

IMG_3974Like many teenagers my son Stephen, who turned 14 last month, didn’t have a real grasp on what I do for a living. And like many fathers, I wanted to spend more time with him this summer. Luckily I had the opportunity to combine both things: I took Stephen with me to Washington DC so he could see me in action at the National Association of Black Accountants Annual Convention and we could spend time away together.

I wanted to make our trip an adventure that he would remember, so we flew from Columbus, OH to Baltimore, MD. We got on an Amtrak train to DC and caught a cab to our hotel. It was the Margaritis version of Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

My three presentations at the conference included two days of 8am sessions. Trying to wake a 14 year old at 6:30am is like sticking your head in a lion’s mouth while wearing a hamburger bandanna. I took the experienced parent way out and let Stephen sleep in. My third session was a professional issues update that was delivered the last day of the conference in the afternoon. After Stephen helped me setup for the presentation he went to the back of the room to watch, which he did with some interest. During the break he asked for money to get something more to eat (a 14 year old is always hungry…always!) I gave him $20 and off he went in search of food.

Shortly after I began the second half of my presentation, Stephen walked into the room with bottle of water. The water was for me – what a kid! Then he did something really amazing: he put the change from the $20 on the table. The room was stunned…a teenager bought something for dad AND gave back the change. I couldn’t let this magic moment pass so I said “Let’s give Stephen a big round of applause.” As my son walked away I could see his big smile, and that made me smile, too.

My work is important to me, and to do it I must travel extensively. I think sharing those days with Stephen created memories that both of us will hold on to and build upon.

Relationships, all relationships, can only get stronger when we invest the time and effort to develop meaningful conversations and experiences.

Moral of the story: share with your kids, your family and your friends. Every day can be the best day ever.