S2E2 – Michelle Sopp, Jennifer Oleksa, Chris Fleck, and Bret Johnson | The Future of Professional Learning & Development

Today I sit down with four incredible guests – Michelle Sopp, Jennifer Oleksa, Chris Fleck, and Bret Johnson – to discuss our major takeaways from the 2018 National CPE Educators conference held earlier this year.

If you are in the learning and development business, in any industry, pay close attention because all industries and professions need to adapt and change in response to new technologies and changing behavior.

The conference objectives were:

  • Creating a fun and dynamic learning environment
  • Trying to avoid fluff
  • Offering strategic sessions that spur creativity
  • Creating sessions that challenge attendees to think differently
  • Creating multiple learning opportunities that foster collaboration, not only with other educators but also with our vendors

More about our guests:

  • Michelle Sopp is the Vice President of Learning for the Oklahoma Society of CPAs and the chair for the 2018 National CPE Educators Conference. One of her biggest takeaways from the conference is that today’s learners just learn differently, so the learning experience needs to be more engaging and broken up into smaller increments.


  • Jennifer Oleska is the Director of Education and Training for the Georgia Society of CPAs. One of her biggest takeaways is that associations need to create a better content ramp for bringing in new members, so that we can create a valuable and even beautiful friendship between the members and the organization. “Give them what they need and then they want to be invested and involved with us in the future because they know we’re invested and involved in them as well.”


  • Chris Fleck is Senior Manager of State Society Learning at the AICPA. Chris and Bret were both part of the “FOOD Group” pre-conference meeting, which means “For Our Own Development.” His biggest takeaway is that we’re currently in the process of re-skilling the profession, with associations like the AICPA on the forefront in figuring out what skills professionals need going forward.


  • Bret Johnson is Director of Channel Management and Development for the AICPA. One of his biggest takeaways is that the AICPA and state associations need to embrace more collaboration so that we can stop re-doing work that other organizations have already done. In this way, we can innovate more effectively, together.


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Peter: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode two and my guests today are Michelle Sopp from the Oklahoma society of CPAs. Jennifer Oleksa from the Georgia Society of CPAs, and Chris Fleck and Bret Johnson from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Our discussion centers around the major takeaways from the 2018 national CPE Educators conference that was held earlier this year. Please share this episode with people that you know who are learning and development business because it contains a lot of information that applies across industries and professions. So there’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to the interview. I’m so excited today to be joined with Michelle Sopp and Jennifer Oleksa, and Michelle is the vice president of learning for the Oklahoma Society of CPAs. And Jennifer is a director of education and training for the Georgia society of CPAs. And Michelle was the chair for the 2018 National CPE Educators Conference, which was held in New Orleans on February 28 through March 2nd. And I wanted to get them on the podcast to kind of get an idea, one, from Michelle to find out– She’s the chair — of her thoughts and stuff on putting this together. What they wanted to accomplish. Did they meet their goals. And from Jennifer, who’s been in the profession for about ten years and been to a number of these conferences, get her take on what she heard ,and what her big takeaways from this conference were. So we’ll start with Michelle. Congratulations, in my mind, on the successful conference. It seemed like it went over very well.

Michelle: [00:01:41] Thanks Peter I appreciate that. Yes. We heard some great feedback and, from everything we’ve heard, people really enjoyed the conference. I’m also kind of glad it’s over.

Peter: [00:01:52] So what was– as you were planning this conference, what was your main theme that you were trying to do? What were you trying to hone in on?

Michelle: [00:02:01] The history of this conference is a conglomeration of the regional CPE meetings that were held each year. And we wanted a way to get everyone together, not just within the region, so we can learn from each other and expand our network. So four years ago I believe is when the first CPE Educator Conference was created. We put together a list of the objectives and I was not part of that. But I have been on the committee for three years so I’ve been on it for most of the years that’s been in existence. And those objectives included creating a fun and dynamic learning environment, trying to avoid fluff, offering strategic sessions that spur creativity, create sessions that challenge attendees to think differently, and then create multiple learning opportunities that foster collaboration, not only with other CPA educators but also with our vendors. So we wanted– that’s kind of what we wanted to get out of this conference, and we’ve kept those objectives pretty much intact from the very first year. We’ve made very minimal tweaks because I think all of these are still very important in today’s learning environment.

Peter: [00:03:05] Great. I didn’t realize that that these are in place since the inception of the national conference, and I’ve attended three out of the four. So with this, I heard collaboration a lot. Was part of that around collaboration– What to those who you brought in to present at the conference, and also creating those opportunities for vendors, speakers, learning professionals, to have a conversation.

Michelle: [00:03:34] Right. That’s correct. It’s really important to give the attendees time to speak amongst themselves, to be to speak honestly and openly. Some of our best ideas are stolen ideas, to be honest. I mean we always talk about not wanting to reinvent the wheel, and it’s true! Because you may hear another state society say I tried that. It didn’t work, but I did this instead. And either you can take that exactly how it is and possibly drop it into your state and have it work. You might have to tweak it, especially if you’re a big state and they are smaller, and you’re dealing from a different size state and therefore a different budgets. But it’s something that’s really important to be able to talk openly and honestly. So we had a session in the very beginning that was state society staff only, and it was time for them to get that information out there. What have you tried? What have you not tried? And just have honest conversation with no real direction. We had some ideas for talking point, but no true direction of where that had to go. And then the flip side that is being able to work with our vendors. The rest of the conference vendors were allowed to attend all the sessions. Most of them were actually taught by some of our vendors and it was a good time for us to get to know them better and understand their reasoning behind working with us, behind our reason working with them, and having good open conversations with them as well.

Peter: [00:04:56] Yeah that’s always important, especially for these guys, because you know as as this landscape has changed in the CPE world with learning, and there’s so many different ways of offering… are they willing, or I’m assuming they’re going down that path that they need to make some modifications in their delivery in order to fit it into your model.

Michelle: [00:05:18] I see a lot of conversation. I don’t think anyone’s come up with the golden egg of the vision of how it needs to go yet, but the learner today learns differently than they did 10, 20 years ago. And part of that is the vendor has, right now, a very structured format of how they offer content to it. But our learners are wanting a different structure. So we’re in the middle, trying to work with a vendor that has a set way that they’re used to doing business. And we’re also trying to sell to our learners and get them to stay, have relevancy with our organization, wanting to stay as a member or an attendee. So how do we find that balance to where all parties win? And so no one’s really figured it out yet, like I said, but we’re working toward that. And I think that’s the important part.

Peter: [00:06:05] It’s also that classroom experience of engaging that audience versus lecturing to them. They don’t want to be lectured to. They want to be engaged, they want to be entertained per se. I think it was Kristen Rampe, and that’s in her breakout session when they’re talking about what do we need from the presenters. And someone made the comment about well… a lot of it is accounting, and that stuff is dry. I’ve taught it and it is dry. It’s drier than a dry martini. But there are ways of engaging and making it somewhat entertaining in order to have that participant retain that information.

Michelle: [00:06:48] Yes, and I think that you’re one of the instructors that makes sure that you always think about it on the forefront when you’re presenting. I’ve sat in on one of your classes before here in Oklahoma and I was very entertained. So I think that’s important for our instructors to realize. It’s important for us to communicate our vendors to communicate. I think that one of the aspects of that. The other part of that is learning in smaller increments, and getting people to sit down and do not only nano learning, but even just one hour blocks, two hour blocks. The brain isn’t– there’s been so many studies that the brain learns better in smaller increments. People absorb information better. So we’re trying to bring that to our learners. So getting instructors that are willing to maybe add in breaks, add in things like case studies or group discussion. Anything that can break up an eight hour day. If we still have to fill an eight hour day, Break it up to where at least their brain doesn’t get overwhelmed.

Peter: [00:07:42] Right. I think, one, you said give them more breaks. I think you’ve got a challenge there with the strict rules of NASBA and having to adhere to– There are some states that I go to and I go Do I have any leeway? And they they go No. You’ve got to maintain this– it is a little bit difficult with that, but I agree the brain can only absorb– my teaching philosophy is, at some point, especially during a full day, the mind can only absorb as much as the butt can endure.

Michelle: [00:08:11] Hahaha. So true!

Peter: [00:08:11] And when I when I see that look in their face, that oh my god I need a break, I’ll say okay, stand up, take a break now because– and I’ll say that line. It always gets a nice laugh. So being not involved in the planning of it but being an attendee, what were some of the big takeaways that you saw or you felt?

Jennifer: [00:08:29] Yeah. Well thank you guys for having me on. I just feel so honored to be invited, First of all, and to be invited to present with Michelle, who is one of the smartest women in the business. I’m just so thankful.

Peter: [00:08:43] I second that.

Jennifer: [00:08:45] So I want to echo what Michelle is saying. Just getting together and learning from each other is a fantastic opportunity, and we have to do that regularly – or else we kind of lose our edge. So we study from each other what the best practices are – who are the seats that we want to benchmark. We become cheerleaders for each other. You know when a state does try to branch out and try something new. We want to learn from that person, but also cheer them on to try more experiments, if you will. You know Georgia is a large state. We have a lot of programs going on. We have been successful in those programs. But I’m Always impressed with even some of the smaller states who don’t have the manpower to implement everything that we do. But man they are smart and they’re implementing new processes and they’re learning new technologies, in order to make their state very successful in their market. And I’m always impressed with that. You know I always say that two heads are better than one. In this case, for this conference, one hundred heads are better than my head, and I always learn something when I walk away from that. We had a fantastic speaker in the very beginning, she opened the conference, her name was Amy Vetter. She works for a company called Zero and she is a technology innovations task force leader. She’s very technology driven, and Amy was the perfect presenter to open this conference. You know she reminded us of the technology in that generation changes that are coming. But there was this urgency in her tone that you know we need to wake up as professionals. So at first, her presentation definitely could have been viewed as what she would present at firms. So she talks about the changing technology, creating niche practices, a rapidly changing workforce, rapid changes with the way the audits are going to be done in the future. And at first glance, that seems very important to firms but not so much to state societies or, for this conference, education departments for state societies. But I really wanted to challenge us as a group to view that differently. We have to also approach that internally. We also have rapidly changing technology that four generations in the workplace have to adapt to right now. You know we’ve got Generation Z, Generation Y, Generation X, and the baby boomers, and we’re all trying to learn and adapt our practices to this new technology. So we have to be multi talented in the way that we’re approaching new needs that our customers have that they did not have before. Also, she mentioned creating niche practices. So maybe in a state society we don’t have niche practices to address, but we do have customizable offerings that we can offer to our members. You know we have different groups of people. You’ve got auditors and you’ve got tax folks and you’ve got industry members. And how can we customize our offerings to them, whether that be membership driven or education driven offerings? How can we make every member feel like they are our one and only special member? And that’s what it’s going to take I think to to keep them as a loyal customer of ours in the future. And then we have this rapidly changing workforce. You know 35 percent of firms will change ownership in the next two to five years. That’s the stat that Amy gave us. That is terrifying I think for a lot of people, and we were talking earlier that you know that warning has been coming – that baby boomers are going to be retiring – and now that it’s here, it’s almost like we didn’t listen. And now that time has come. And so our firms are looking to find successors. Is technology going to take a stand in that succession planning more than it ever has before? But also how does that translate over to our state societies? Our employees are moving on at a faster rate than ever before and people have said you know once you come to the nonprofit association side of things you’re not going to leave ever, and that’s not the case that we’re seeing. It is a fantastic profession to be in, but we also have to be prepared for our workforce to turn over faster than ever. And so how does technology play into that part as well? And how can we build a collaborative culture in our practice, in our business? And so she gives some examples of that being mentor mentorship and a collaborative culture, room to learn and growth opportunities. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a very collaborative leader, and so I do not have all the answers and I’m not the smartest person in the room. But, by gosh, I’m resourceful.

Peter: [00:13:41] One of my favorite sayings, as we talk about collaboration, we talk about best practices. I’ve always said that the collective knowledge outside of the office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside of your office.

Jennifer: [00:13:52] Correct.

Peter: [00:13:53] And I don’t know if Amy said this or not, I heard it somewhere, that if you haven’t adapted to your technology within your organization, whether you’re a business administrator or you’re a firm, and if you’re trying to recruit those who are coming out of college and you don’t have the screens, per se, or don’t have the technology – they’re not going to come to you. It’s not built for them and they’re the mass workforce coming in. If we keep it the way we did in the 70s and 80s, you’re not going to have a succession plan. The succession plan, and we’re seeing a lot of this right now, is firms are just being bought up. There’s nobody that they’ve nurtured in order to grow that that firm. Michelle, so Amy, who I’ve already interviewed and she’ll be I believe the one before this episode is aired. I mean she’s a rock star and accounting community. One of the top 100 accountants according to accountants today, one of the top 100 women in accounting. Just rock star status. How did you land her?

Michelle: [00:15:01] You know what. I don’t know if It’s going to air before or after us. But Josh Goldman From Ohio knew her and called her up. So kudos to josh.

Peter: [00:15:11] Kudos to Josh and hopefully I’m able to get them on on the podcast to talk about that. But the I’ve been I’ve been following Amy’s career for a number of years and just love what she’s doing and what she’s talking about, with that aspect of technology. The one session that I attended, just because I really want to hear what you guys had to say about the discussion leaders that you bring and some of the challenges that you had was done by Kristen Rampe. I I thought, one, I thought she did a brilliant job because there was very little use of PowerPoint. It was all that group discussion and stuff, so I think that really came across in looking at everybody who who was attending that. And it was standing room only but there were some excellent feedback that you guys were able to gather from that session. And I don’t know if you remember any of that or have seen that feedback.

Michelle: [00:16:02] Mike, one of my co-workers did attend. And she had pages worth of notes pulled out from the two sessions, she went to both of Kristen’s session, and got tons of great information. She talked a lot about what Amy talked about and then just went further into it. So they talked about you know needing to engage. How do you engage? Different tips and tricks you can use to get people out from behind a lectern, or use a regular height table instead of a podium table. I mean little tips like that to really make it tangible for some of the staff that attended the conference, because that was also one of our things we always talked each year in planning this. Yes, we want to be applicable to the director and the V.P.. But a lot of people who attend are the staff, they are the seminar coordinators, they’re the managers for conferences, they’re everything. We need to run a whole gamut of content that could fit anyone’s work style and work day. And Kristen really got I think to that about the presenters and the logistics of something.

Peter: [00:17:05] Yeah I talked to her after that, and I interviewed her for a podcast that is going to be airing before this one, and we were talking about the session. She ended it and she ended it– we were talking about you know you need to know your audience and I asked what do you think that means? And she went down the path of well you need to know the demographics of that audience, you need to know you know generational stuff, and I went right because it’s really all about the audience correct? She goes Yeah. I said my take on understanding the audience is we have sat– being a CPA, I have sat in their seat. I know how painful it can be to listen to a tax, audit, ethics, any type from a lecture perspective. So when you’ve got a discussion leader who’s coming in, and they might be new, well they’re coming and going well this is the way that I’ve always done it. They’re not thinking about the audience, they are thinking about themselves. Or any time they go I don’t have time to do that. No no no. You need to make the time because your audience needs it. And I think that’s where the big challenges that the vendor community, who provide this type of of of knowledge, is the ability to train and to enhance when we’re putting a program together. When I think about my program, think about who I’m delivering this program to and try to gather what their needs are, and supply of that tool.

Michelle: [00:18:35] One of the things that she talked about in her second session was the differentiation between loyal clients and satisfied clients. I think a lot of vendors now they think we have satisfied clients, Great. The problem is you want loyal clients. They’re the ones that are going to have a positive experience and have an emotional tie to that experience. That is what keeps them loyal. That is what makes them coming back. You can be logistically satisfied. You can think okay everything was fine. Nothing wrong with that. But is it great? Is there something that sticks out in your mind that is unique that sets it apart and makes you want to come back? And that’s the difference, and that’s how we’re going to stay relevant going forward, from a learning environment, I think. It’s keeping people loyal, not just satisfied.

Peter: [00:19:17] John Medina who wrote the book Brain Rules. He’s a neurologist who wrote this book and even I could understand it so he really kind of put it in a context I think everybody could understand. You know basically data is boring. Data doesn’t drive decision making. It’s tapping into somebody’s emotion and having them– that’s what creates that that loyal customer, that one– And I think Amy used the term cherished advisor, not trusted adviser, and kind of had that same same aspect to it. Would you agree Jennifer?

Jennifer: [00:19:52] I definitely agree with that. We talked about some secrets to win learner loyalty in another session that we had, by Tracy King. Tracy works with our Inspire ED. And I think for us to really think about who our target audience is in more than just a five minute exercise, but to really understand what their needs are currently and what their needs are going to be in the future, to know that we’re invested in the future of their companies is what’s going to help build that loyalty as well.

Peter: [00:20:23] And knowing everything that we can know about the company. When I talk to CPAs about whether they’re internal, whether in a firm or business and industry. I go do you know who your big clients are? Even if it’s internally, your biggest customers? Yeah. Do you know their birth date? They say why would I want to know somebody’s birthday? I say doesn’t that make you feel good when somebody says thank you or happy birthday on your birthday? And they went Oh yeah I guess so. I said better yet, do you know their spouse’s birthday? And this inquisitive look comes over the faces. Don’t you think that if you sent an email two days before your biggest client’s spouse’s birthday just to remind them that their birthdays coming up, don’t you think that’s going to make a big impression? That you took the time out to do that? That creates an emotional grab.

Jennifer: [00:21:16] I think you’ve just named their second side business. What do you guys think? We’ll start that side businesses.

Peter: [00:21:23] So that will be our side hustle. Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Jennifer: [00:21:29] We will be part of the gig economy, Peter.

Peter: [00:21:34] I think we need to flesh this out, maybe after this call we’ll see if we can put a business plan together. Oh boy I’m sorry. Put a business plan together. As we wrap up, what is kind of like the one thing you want to leave the audience with in thinking about for this next year, as it relates to continuing professional education in the accounting community?

Michelle: [00:21:56] I think that one of the larger things that we need to start thinking of is the member experience, what we just talked about: relevancy. How are we relevant to their day to day lives? Are we relevant to their day to day life? Because I think right now we aren’t, for a lot of our members. How do we create that tie to us where they don’t just want to be involved, they need to be involved? What are we unique at providing to our either members or attendees so that they will come to us and no one else? I know relevancy is something that a lot of these studies have always talked about, and it’s hard because each person has a different pain point. But if you can find out generally what the pain points are and try to address as many as possible, that’s how you’re going to keep your membership. Because Jennifer said something earlier about how the next generation is coming up and the baby boomers are retiring and everything. Well guess what? Those baby boomers were your checkbook members. Generation X Y and Z are not checkbook members. They want to know what they’re getting out of the organization to be part of the organization. So we have to really think about our strategy and our business model very differently going forward.

Peter: [00:23:07] You’re right. And as you were talking, a thought came into my head. I think I think to maintain that loyalty within within our members – the ability to put cheeks in the seat and not have to cancel a course goes a long way. And I know that’s a pain point for members when we have to cancel a course. So as I’m sitting here, as one who provides this type of product to the state societies, how can we help you put cheeks in the seat? How can we help you in that marketing of these programs? I know I’ve tried video in the past and a few other things, but there’s got to be a way that we can help you to grow that audience for for these sessions.

Jennifer: [00:23:55] There’s this concept in marketing – it’s the push pull theory. Do we push marketing content out to our members or do we pull them into our business, with addressing a need that they have? And so I think that marketing, and choosing different tools and techniques to market to members is great. You know I think Facebook has allowed anyone to become a marketer of any kind of business. And so the market’s a little saturated out there, in my opinion. So the best way to really for us to build loyal customers together, from vendors and educators standpoint, is really to give them the content that they don’t even know that they need yet. So right now, on the horizon, certifications are really big with millennials and their early generation Xers. And so how how can we help our members and customers obtain certifications or additional knowledge that is going to get them one more rung up the ladder I think is what we need to look at, versus you know this class that addresses this one topic on leadership. OK so how do they turn around and use that to become a better leader every day? So there’s a lot of classes out there that are very theory driven and do not present in such a way that members and customers can walk away and implement those practices into their everyday business, and that even goes not only for management type courses but also for tax and arcing and accounting courses.

Peter: [00:25:38] When you said this, and this is my biggest angst. Somebody asked me what keeps me up at night is – I don’t want to come in and be an event. I never want to be a one trick pony because you said leadership. You don’t become a leader just because you attend a course. You become a leader by practicing it every single day. And I have to give that quote to Simon Sinek, who I heard from, that leadership is something we need to practice every day and I think this goes to the content that we need to be providing that audience continual content after the fact, in order to keep it in front of them. If not, they’re not going to create that habit.

Jennifer: [00:26:19] That’s right. And that’s a challenge for us who are educators. That you know how do we follow up after that sale of course happens and that event happens? What’s next? And I don’t think we do as great of a job as we can to continue that learning experience. And so that is a challenge for us to figure out how to keep that going.

Peter: [00:26:43] And that’s one of the reasons why I started the podcast and the newsletter and stuff like that – to keep that constant reminder out there, or for those who have attended or signed up for the newsletter, to keep it in front of them, and just trying to find new ways of keeping that content out there. Your thoughts Michelle?

Michelle: [00:27:01] Yeah I agree. I know some states have tried doing learning tracks, essentially where they’re accepting a new member through a series of courses. Maybe you invite them to come Network for Free event first. Then you invite them to a lunch and learn, maybe only twenty five dollar fee, something nominal. Then you invite them to them to a seminar or conference. So you try to steer someone into not only to the membership, but also into the learning process. And start them with something that’s an overview or update and kind of walk them through. And I think some places have success with that. We have not tried that here in Oklahoma yet. It’s more work to put that together and figure out OK you’re a year 1-3 auditor. What classes do you really need to be successful? Pr if you’re the CFO, What do you need to be successful? And those are drastically different.

Peter: [00:27:51] Right.

Michelle: [00:27:51] So having them come up with, really, a variety of customized tracks takes some time and effort. But I think that’s what– we’re all looking for the easy thing now. You know people want things fast, people want things easy. They don’t want to have to work hard for it and they want to learn the same way. So they are looking to us like OK what classes should I be taking? If you can provide that to them on a silver platter, that’s a great relevancy and loyalty item right there. I just think it’s trying to figure how we do it best before we send it out to everyone.

Jennifer: [00:28:21] I agree. You know we we can customize everything. For example, for my brother this year, he asked for some customized Nike’s. You can pick the color of the lace all the way down to the color of the rivets on the– where the laces go into. You know we customize everything from tennis shoes to you know our McDonald’s hamburger or whatever. And so I think that it’s an expectation in the market right now for us to be more thoughtful in how we make offerings to them. And so what you just said Michelle segues exactly into what Peter asked – Our biggest takeaway from this conference – and so that segues right into my thought, which is you know how do we better learn to introduce ourselves to our members and our customers? And what you’re saying essentially is your content ramp. How do you get people invested, in a small investment way, into your organization, and how can you offer them better and better experiences and content along the way? So that that way, along this journey, we’re cultivating a valuable and even beautiful friendship between the two, you know our members and our organization, and give them what they need and then they want to be invested and involved with us in the future because they know we’re invested and involved in them as well.

Peter: [00:29:44] That’s an excellent point. And I have to say that I I love this conversation. Actually I could probably do this for two hours. But we do have to keep short, so I will I will stop it now. I know you guys are busy. Thank you so very much for taking time to share your thoughts on this topic, which is a very important topic with the accounting profession. And Michelle, congratulations on a successful chairmanship of the conference. And I know you’re looking forward to next year, when you don’t have to do anything but just show up.

Michelle: [00:30:22] Hahaha. That is true. Thank you so much for having us today. It’s been really great chatting with you guys. And yes, next year I anticipate the new committee or new committee chair, whoever that is because we don’t have it quite yet, will do a fabulous job of continuing these objectives. And it’ll be nice actually attend a full conference. That’s the hardest part being the chair – you don’t actually get to sit through all of the sessions. I feel like I didn’t learn quite as much as I normally do as a normal attendee. But it is still a great experience and a wonderful conference, and I’m glad to everyone that came.

Peter: [00:30:51] And I look forward to seeing you guys next year at the conference, and I enjoy you guys company so much. I greatly appreciate taking time. And thank you both so very much.

Jennifer: [00:31:03] Thank you.

Michelle: [00:31:04] Thank you.

Peter: [00:31:06] Wow. I’m joined right now with two esteemed gentlemen from the AICPA: Chris Fleck and Bret Johnson. And I say that since in a funny way because there’s a great story behind it. If you ever see Bret or run into him, have them tell you the story about his name. But beside that, first and foremost guys like you taken time out of your hectic schedule to kind of debrief from the 2018 National CPE Educators Conference that happened in New Orleans. And these guys were part of a pre conference, pre meeting before the conference kicked off, and they called it the FOOD group meeting, where a lot of state society folks got together and collaborated with the AICPA, and I’ll let them explain it to you. But welcome guys I appreciate you take your time. Looking forward to this conversation.

Bret: [00:32:01] Thanks Pete. Great to be here. Great to talk to you again. And I will share that story about my name and why that’s why that’s an interesting story, if anybody who’s willing to buy me a pint at some point in the future. But the one thing I want to say kind of at the outset is you know that the name of the meeting was FOOD group kind of by default because it was a lot of the people who come from that FOOD group group of professionals originally, and Chris can tell you what FOOD stands for. But you know when we when we first started– kind of you know the whole idea was about how do we innovate? How do we skate to where the puck is going to be? To use an overused phrase from Wayne Gretzky. But we had started having some conversations with a few states. We originally called it The Escape Room committee because of a idea that Rebecca Campbell had about having some CPAs learn in a escape broom type environment. Something creative, which was very creative, and that was kind of the genesis of the group that we met with in New Orleans. But it just kept growing because we kept thinking we should be we should include this person and that person and you know Chris I think it might have been only like a week before when he knew who was on the list and there were a number of other people who we would have wanted to add there, and we would have had probably– we would have had representatives from every state, Ii we if we had really thought about it, because of how it grew and how great it was having insight from states of all different sizes. But you know the long and the short of it is that it really was about innovation and how do we work differently together. But Chris where did that name the FOOD group come from again?

Chris: [00:33:47] Ok so don’t quote me on this. But like I said, 10 to 15 years ago, when I first came into this business, so actually 17 now, but when I came into the business, there was a group of I want to say five or six people who would get together regularly, maybe twice a year, in different locations. And it was called, I believe, that it stood for For Our Own Development. But over the years obviously that group has changed and moved them. I don’t even know – that’s probably not what they still call it. So it’s probably something totally different now, but they’ve kept the acronym FOOD intact.

Peter: [00:34:25] So I forgot to ask you guys before we started. So Chris what is your role at the AICPA?

Chris: [00:34:30] So my role– my title is senior manager of state society learning. So basically, over the years, I’ve always kind of been in charge of the live Seminar Training. So obviously we have a pretty robust live seminar business. But obviously you know over the years, as seminars have decreased in popularity, we have increased our presence in the webcast world and you know the on demand world and now we have these new certificates. So I basically work with the state societies on all the different products that we sell, and that they in turn resell to their members. So you know I work with the states on webcasts, work with them on all the different products that we offer that the states sell.

Peter: [00:35:09] And that’s a lot of products. There’s not much shelf room left in the closet we’re all the products are being being announced.

Chris: [00:35:17] There are just so many new thing that you know we’re just developing and these new certificate programs, which are just so popular, so you know a lot has shifted just in the past two to three years, in terms of what they what they are offering.

Peter: [00:35:31] So what are the certificate programs? Just out of curiosity. Because I don’t know if I’m really actually knowledgeable about that.

Chris: [00:35:41] Okay. So we have several different certificate programs. The very first certificate program we came out with probably in 2008, 9, 10 somewhere around in there with the IFRS certificate program and basically it’s a it’s a On-Demand program. And at the end, you get the certificate. And you know now we have digital badges where you can you know put it on your LinkedIn profile and things of that nature. But there are so many more that we’ve developed over the years. I don’t know how many of you think we have… Maybe I don’t know 10 to 15?

Bret: [00:36:14] Somewhere in there. I know that there are digital badges for like 16 or 17 different things, but I think that includes the credentials as well. A lot of it has gone towards… I guess the you know the IFRS is a pretty fundamental type of certificate, but you know more recently, we’ve been working on things like data analytics and blockchain and cyber security, which came out last October. So even more hot topic kind of thing. And just real quick. Yeah we were just talking about this with another group internally but this is– those are products that are really interesting to younger CPAs, that are interesting as differentiators, and that was one of the things we covered in our state society meeting with our partners back in October. A great way to reach that younger demographic and keep them engaged.

Peter: [00:37:07] And what is your role at the AICPA?

Bret: [00:37:09] I’m the director of channel management and development for the association. And so that’s global in nature. The states are where we really cut our teeth on a lot of these programs, but we also work with you know IFAC organizations and commercial training organizations, and my team also has licensing. And so we do a lot of different types of partnering.

Peter: [00:37:34] So this meeting – I guess the one question I have is what was the what was the main pain point or was there a main pain point that you guys came together and were trying to solve?

Bret: [00:37:45] Well there was one we decided to put aside, and that first pain point was Peter Margaritis. Everyone agreed you were a pain.

Peter: [00:37:55] Haha. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.

Bret: [00:37:59] But the pain that we talked about were within the hard trends of of demographics technology and government regulation. So you know I think we came up with different trends there that created opportunities. I think the way that Amy had us organize it were the trends, the opportunities, the predictable problems. And you know I could tell you what the trends were in the three different categories if you want.

Peter: [00:38:31] Sure.

Bret: [00:38:32] Sure. Okay. Well in demographic, it was the retiring baby boomers. It was also that there are more younger people in the workforce. I mean this is a really obvious trend that creates all kinds of problems when it comes to learning because you have different learning styles and people who grew up with smartphones not even never realizing that their great grandparents probably didn’t play the very first call of duty online. And I say that as you know the father of a teenage son who once asked me that, when he was a little bit younger. You know with the baby boomers retiring and with the younger generation really being dynamic in some really cool ways, still also creates some challenges with how do you reach them. How do you help them learn? Those were the trends in demographic. In government, I think government and regulation. There was there was an increase in regulation. We all identified tax reform, which if you hadn’t heard, happen you know towards the end of last year.

Peter: [00:39:45] All I heard was a cash register going off.

Bret: [00:39:53] Haha! Do you do tax?

Peter: [00:39:53] I used to, years ago, and I know when I first– when the reform came through and it was signed into law, all I just kept hearing was these cash registers going off because there’s a new demand for this information that we have the opportunity to provide.

Bret: [00:40:08] Yes. Definitely. And it is it is a huge opportunity. Just jump ahead to the trends in technology. Not to go too deep into the tax.

Peter: [00:40:17] Right right right.

Bret: [00:40:18] Because one thing I will say, By the way, there’s huge kudos go out to the team for creating products so quickly on that. That’s been very helpful for us. Chris spent a big part of getting that out there with our state partners. But the technology trends are really the globalization of business. The automation the profession. The different platforms that make learning accessible and creating other challengers and competitors for us, I think was another. Specialization. It’s something that the profession is doing. People are specializing to keep a high level of relevance, but it’s also – you’ve got to because of what you know and customer needs and what we, in the profession, need to provide. You know, knowing about bitcoin, knowing about blockchain, knowing about cybersecurity. Things like that.

Peter: [00:41:17] Chris, I got a question for you. As it relates to demographics in this conversation, did some of the conversation lead towards the demographics of the discussion leader pool?

Chris: [00:41:28] No, we did not discuss the discussion leader pool at all. That was it was more just the you know the workplace and you know the purchasers of our products. That too is an issue that we continually face as well.

Peter: [00:41:45] Kristen Rampe did a really nice job on her session about some of the demographics, as relates to the discussion leaders, and how that all that all comes together. I don’t know if you guys talked about that. But but thinking about the demographics and you’ve got this diversity, when you were describing that– I was in Philadelphia two days ago I was doing a session for PICPA, and this partner and this firm, and I thought I said Don’t you know what day it is? This is like April 3rd, you’re supposed to be at the office, not here in my class. He said well we don’t do that much compliance anymore. We’ve kind of gotten out of the compliance business, and he went on to say – I mean he had to be mid mid to late 60s, and he goes we can’t continue to think back in the day, as we say the good old days. We need to think young, we need to think like the young folks and think about how we’re going to mold and change into the future – not the way it was 10, 15 years ago. And I almost fell over because — I mean he’s spot on, on that mindset about we need to think like the Millennials. We need to think like what are they need, not what what we’ve done they should do the same thing.

Chris: [00:43:02] I mean that’s very interesting. I I would think it would be the opposite. You know in terms of we need to get them to be thinking like that. That’s interesting.

Peter: [00:43:13] Yeah yeah. He said he saw early on that compliance was going to be way too much of a commodity, or be overtaken by technology, by block chain or by A.I. or whatever, and over time. And it sounded to me like it’s about a seven-year period, they went from compliance base to more an advisory role with their clients. And I know this has been said in Maryland through Tom Hood that a lot of writing that’s been out there, that that’s kind of way the profession’s going. But it was refreshing to see that someone actually said Yeah this is what we’re doing because we want to be relevant to our clients in the future.

Chris: [00:43:53] And it’s interesting you say that because that was one of the things we talked about the technology trends. You know the increase in automation that we’re going to see in the profession over the next you know three to five years. And you know basically we’re being charged with re-skilling the profession, and you know that’s a big thing within our group here at the association, in terms of what is that going to look like? You know what skills do our professional need going forward? You know it may not be like you said all the compliance stuff because maybe they don’t do that much work in that area anymore. So that was another that was a big discussion we had this particular day.

Peter: [00:44:31] So does that tie back to the horizons 2025 project that came out with what competencies CPAs need in the future, with the communication skills, the leadership skills, the collaboration synthesising, and two or three others?

Chris: [00:44:48] Yeah I think it really does. You know it just it’s a matter of how do we how do we get people to engage and embrace that. Because as you know as an instructor who you know teaches a lot of those things – you know that you know in the past, people been more interested in coming to classes that are compliance based. And not your your leadership skills and things of that nature, but that’s what they’re going to need in future. So it’s a matter of getting them to pay attention to that.

Peter: [00:45:18] And I think that’s I think that’s a huge challenge because how do you get their attention? The pain point’s there. I mean I see some firms recognizing that that pain point – that I hear a lot about we’ve got high turnover, we can’t keep people, whatever. That goes to a lot of those leadership skills, a lot of that ability to communicate and collaborate with others and more of a free fall, versus the old top down approach. But a lot of lot of firms and organizations are structured in that top down situation.

Chris: [00:45:51] Yeah because with the automation, I mean those are the skills that are going to set these people apart in the future. Right. So with the automation, I mean anybody is going to be able you know… that compliance work is not going to be where they’re at. So the skills are going to set them apart in future.

Peter: [00:46:10] At that session, I had this– it was a millennial. I made the comment that I believe Excel will be extinct in the near future and we won’t need a 10 key or calculator because everything will be uploaded, and he thought I was absolutely bonkers. We still have to do calculations. I said the calculations will be done for us. It was just it was almost– I was expecting the response I got from him from the older folks in the room, but the older folks in the room were going yep. They were just telling this guy yeah, that’s the way we’re moving, that’s the way we’re going.

Chris: [00:46:45] Yeah. That’s interesting.

Bret: [00:46:48] I was just going to say we’ve seen some pretty encouraging responses to the human intelligence series that the communication has done on the Facebook Live platform. They went out and I don’t know how long it’s been going on, six or nine months, and I think we’ve already had 2 million views of those, and they’re really focusing on those skills that you’re talking about. And it’s interesting because Michael Grant did one and he was he was talking about you know personal brand. And he mentioned the fact that there were some source that he quoted that said the number one reason that people lose their job is because of their interpersonal skills. It’s not their technical skills, it’s the soft topics that we treat as less important that, it turns out, are the most important things.

Peter: [00:47:41] So from this group’s perspective and talking to them, how do you get action on things moving forward in this direction with the states and with this issue? What kind of– Now that we’ve talked about it, what were those next steps that they were thinking about needed to happen in order for this to get some traction?

Chris: [00:48:04] I mean I think the first step is we came to realize that you know the state societies and the association – we have to do a better job with collaborating with each other. We obviously, at the association, have a lot of stuff right. A lot of you know.

Peter: [00:48:18] Resources.

Chris: [00:48:20] There’s that word I needed. Resources. We have a lot of resources to share. And so the state obviously you know they they have resources, you know whether it’s education or whether it’s you know the free stuff that comes from you know small firm group or what have you. But the state societies themselves have a lot of stuff, as well. And so I think the first step we have to do is we have to collaborate more. And so that’s where we’re at. You know Bret can maybe say a little bit more to that. But that’s the point we’re at now. What are you going to look like when you can collaborate and share our resources because all of our members need it?

Bret: [00:48:57] Yeah that was one of the I think the big item that we spent really spent some time on was how do we how do we do that? And you know who owns that process? And we’re working on it together. But so that Maryland or Ohio or you know someone else doesn’t create what — we’re all creating it at the same time. That’s really inefficient. We are already, ourselves, selling some of the state society content, and they’re selling ours. So is it worth everybody dropping fifty thousand dollars to develop X? No it doesn’t make any sense, and especially when we are serving the profession right. And we will create content that might have an audience, but that doesn’t dictate that it’s you know a big commercial opportunity. But we do it to serve the profession. And so if five of us do that, then that makes it even less efficient. Right. And so you know that’s that’s one of the big things that we need to figure out, that we need to spend some time on it, and that I think we’re even a little off schedule with that but we need to do follow up there. But that that definitely resonated with everyone in the room.

Peter: [00:50:15] Yeah I’ve I’ve witnessed, over time, that we all want to recreate our own wheel, even though the wheel has been created someplace else – and we could all probably gain much more through collaboration and put things together as as a group, versus well if you’ve got yours then I want mine, but I want to make it my own. And this branding and like you said, throwing how many dollars down the rabbit hole where we could partner and share in those resources and share that revenue stream.

Chris: [00:50:51] Yeah absolutely and you know with more you know more regulation and things of that nature ON what you develop, you know as far as you know NASBA regulations and things like that. You know it takes a lot of resources, as a small society, to actually develop content. You know when you could actually you know collaborate with another state society that has already done it.

Peter: [00:51:13] Right. I agree. To jump to technology real quick because what did you guys talk about with the change in technology – You know blockchain, AI, whatever. But what about the technology in the classroom? Did you guys go down that path? How technology is impacting the classroom?

Chris: [00:51:32] We really didn’t. I don’t remember going down that path. You Bret?

Bret: [00:51:36] Yeah we did a little. I would say you know one thing we acknowledge is the need to use the different technologies to reach especially younger audiences. That’s one thing. We also talked about the barrier to entry for education is lower with technology right. Like if you do something in a virtual platform, as long as you can get to the students you know in a small town in Illinois, like I was growing up. You know you could have people attending from all over the country. So it both complicates and makes things easier, I think is the answer. I don’t know. Chris what do you think?

Chris: [00:52:20] Yeah I mean we’re seeing a lot. State studies are embracing the technology through whether it’s simulcast or whatnot because they see opportunities within their state. You know they can’t serve members– you know if you’re in Iowa, you can’t serve members in Storm Lake in Dubuque and you know all these small towns. So this is the way for them or all their members. One thing that just popped into my head. You know the state side is embracing breaking technology, and people get a kick out of that, I had one instructor – last year was his last year to teach for us, and he was still using an overhead projector. And there were a couple of state societies– and he was a fantastic instructor, like a really really well respected instructor. And there was a society society who actually kept the overhead projector for all these years. And I just can’t imagine. He was heartbroken several years ago when we stopped making transparencies.

Peter: [00:53:21] Haha. So now I have seen an overhead projector, more high tech, where you don’t read the transparencies. You can write it on a piece of paper and it projects, but… Haha.

Chris: [00:53:36] That’s old school.

Peter: [00:53:40] But with technology in the classroom – So being one of these instructors who do travel, I mean travel costs are… states societies are very cognizant about these travel costs, and it could either make or break the session, depending upon attendance. And I know Hayden Williams and I, we tested this a couple of years ago where he was going to cancel one of the courses out in Washington. He had kind of almost enough but not quite there, I said well we tested Adobe Connect in San Antonio, the first year for this national conference. Why don’t we give it a shot? I was at my office, like I am now, for eight hours. They were there. We could interact. I just didn’t physically have to be there, but it was almost like I was. Two years ago, the technology was pretty good. But according to some of the attendees, I did sound a little bit like a Godzilla movie at times. Those who remember, the mouth moves and the words finally catch up. But has that been explored in any additional depth?

Chris: [00:54:41] Yeah actually it really has. We’ve had to do that on an emergency basis a couple of years ago, where an instructor could not get to a location due to a flight problem. But there are a couple of things societies with tax reform, when we had that at the beginning of the year, where they didn’t want to pay the travel costs just for somebody to come out one day, and so that particular instructor actually taught it just like you said, from their office, and it was just fine. I think we’re going to see more of that because more and more state societies have that capability now. We even polled all of our instructors and that was one of the questions we asked them – Are you willing to do this? Because not everybody is right. Not everybody is comfortable with the technology, but we do actually in our database have it flagged whether or not an instructor will do that. So I see it in the future we’ll be doing more of that.

Bret: [00:55:32] Not surprising at all that it was Hayden you were doing that innovation with. He has a bit of a reputation.

Peter: [00:55:38] Yeah he does, he is very much an innovator.

Bret: [00:55:43] Absolutely.

Peter: [00:55:44] That was actually– you know I do love traveling. I do like traveling, love traveling, but I really love going out to Seattle. That part of the country. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t go, but I didn’t want the class to cancel. And that’s always been my my concern. Having spent some time on the Ohio society board, and even chair of the board, I get that part of the business. And when we start canceling classes, the members start losing trust and they start looking elsewhere for classes that they can take that are unlikely to cancel, webinars and things like that. And I think if we want to kind of bring seminars alive again, that we have to have some other alternative make sure that we’re still holding them in some type of live environment, and that they’re not canceling them.

Chris: [00:56:35] Yeah it’s been a struggle the last couple of years. You know we’ve definitely seen the numbers decrease. But you know there are people that still like that live interaction. So it’s going to be interesting to see you know, say five years from now, what that like seminars going to look.

Bret: [00:56:49] I don’t like – And I know contrary to trends – but I’d much rather learn face to face. But I just want to say something related to that, and that is with the virtual technology. It’s actually a different skill set, from an instructor perspective. And so you may have somebody who’s really good in the room, they kind of need to reskill a little bit, right Chris? As far as if they’re going to– you know they may not come out as well in reviews if they don’t have experience in delivering through a virtual platform.

Chris: [00:57:27] Yeah I think you know… we didn’t have an instructor symposium this year. Last year when we had it, we did bring a guy who specialized in virtual training, and it just kind of I think just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of the information that they need. But I think going forward, that’s going to be critical. It’s going to be just as critical as teaching somebody how to– you know Pete has been to many of these you know like training the trainer sessions, right, where you know you learn how to make the class more interactive. I mean I think that technology’s going to be just as important going forward.

Peter: [00:58:02] Actually you remember you remember Lynn Nichols?

Chris: [00:58:06] Yes.

Peter: [00:58:07] Lynn is still around, and actually Chris Jenkins out of South Carolina contracted both Lynn and myself to develop a two and a half day discussion leader Academy for a group of CPAs who are South Carolina based that he wanted to give them this type of training. And it was an absolute blast and they loved it. We’re actually in the process to trying to schedule it again for another group here in the month of June.

Chris: [00:58:30] Very very cool.

Peter: [00:58:34] It helps with– the ability to engage an audience in the classroom is critical to that learning, versus that lecture head and just delivering of information. You’ve got to engage that audience. I will say, it’s a little difficult at times to engage CPAs. I had one gentleman tell me once. No no no no don’t engage me. I’m just here to sit and listen. I don’t want to I don’t want to– I’m going okay, that’s fine. To this content and learning, you guys did mention about technology. I’m seeing more and more written in state societies and Accounting Today, in the Journal of Accountancy, about blockchain and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Are we– do we have products that we are delivering at the national and state level on these topics? Does anybody teach blockchain?

Chris: [00:59:24] At the state society level I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. You know we don’t have– I mean we do have some learning surrounding that right now. But you know I think we’re kind of in the early stages of that. When you think you know at the state level, you teach seminars right at the state society level, when you go into that classroom. I mean am I correct in saying that most of the people in there are your sole practitioners, your smaller firms? You know some people from business and industry? I mean those folks right now are not the ones who are probably interested necessarily in blockchain – yet.

Peter: [00:59:58] Right.

Chris: [01:00:00] You know I think you know we’re kind of in the early stages of all of that. Wouldn’t you agree with that Bret?

Bret: [01:00:08] Yeah I mean I would say it’s… there is content coming in very short order that I think is going to be in that digital format. You know a self-paced learning, and I even think some of the stuff that we’re working on has augmented reality aspects to it. I mean it’s really cool. But yeah as far as face to face learning, at this point, I don’t think it’s quite there yet.

Peter: [01:00:35] Well I would assume that if it’s not at this level yet, that the bigs are doing it at their level. They have some type of content or discussion leader or that subject matter expert that’s helping them understand this process.

Bret: [01:00:52] Well and we are working with certain industry leaders as well. I know in blockchain that we are, I know in cyber security we have. And that’s kind of a new thing for us is, with all the specialization, you have to have to reach out and get some people who really are digging into the cracks of some of that stuff.

Peter: [01:01:13] Yeah I think the one thing that fascinated me was… did you attend Amy Vetter’s opening keynote session?

Chris: [01:01:20] Yes.

Peter: [01:01:23] Bret, had you already left?

Bret: [01:01:25] I came in for the FOOD group / escape room committee and then I left. So I missed it.

Peter: [01:01:33] Amy was talking about – She’s an I.T. expert, wonderful speaker – but she was talking about the different levels of machine learning that my head just exploded because I don’t think I really realize that– Now that she’s brought to my attention I see it, but the machine will actually learn and improve its processes as it continues to learn more, and in my mind, that’s a whole ball of was.

Chris: [01:02:07] That’s a whole nother universe out there. Haha.

Bret: [01:02:11] Some Isaac Asimov stuff right there. Seriously. You have a machine that learns and grows. You know it’s it’s really cool. I wish–

Peter: [01:02:23] Don’t unplug me Hal. Not right now. We can’t do that. And wrapping up, what what other marching orders– I don’t like that word. What other initiatives that the states are undertaking and that we will circle back and make sure that we’re all holding each other accountable in solving that those pain points or was there something there that we haven’t discussed that needs to be discussed?

Bret: [01:02:52] I’ll throw this out there. We– you know that meeting was about innovation and additional innovation. It should be noted that we have been innovating together on a lot of things outside of that meeting and process. So you know we’re working together on the self study OnDemand or e-learning content. And you know working with the states that you know we have branded portals for state societies. You know a lot of it is about the soft interaction of a state society member coming to a state to buy something. Getting an email thank you from the state, going to a portal that’s got the State’s brand on it, and that’s all enabled by technology that we’ve been working on. And so in different states taking their lumps with us on that, which I think is great, so that you know that that sort of thing is ongoing and sort of natural. I don’t know how to say it. It’s like we didn’t really plan for it. It’s just been necessary. But coming out of the meeting, Chris, would you say– I mean what do you think?

Chris: [01:04:01] Well I mean it’s just you know the the action, or should I say from you know that meeting, you know first you know all the different things they have to go back and you know kind of get the buy in from their leadership, you know to move forward with whatever is going to morph out of this, you know whether it’s going to be a centralized database, whether it’s going to be you know housing all the different stuff that the state societies have. They’ve got to get the buy in from the leadership, and then from there, we’ve got to figure out who are are going to be key players? You know who’s going to who’s going to host the technology or who’s going to develop it? How is it going to get built you know? So those are those are all things that will be down the road. I believe that, as I’m looking here my notes, I believe we already missed the first the first thing, which was getting the buy in from leadership. But I’m actually going to follow up with one of the guys from the meeting today, before I leave, to see where we’re at on that. So that was kind of the first step and then you know we’ll take steps two and three once we’ve gone down the road. But we also have, as you know, an interchange meeting where this conference, that takes place every July, and so that’s going to be kind of a time when we can get to get back to get this group back together and probably knock out some planning at that meeting.

Peter: [01:05:22] I think that challenge of getting the buy in from leadership, and I think the definition of leadership is two parts: one, getting the buy in from the CEO or the executive director of the Association or society, and two, getting the buy in from the board.

Chris: [01:05:44] Two separate problems.

Peter: [01:05:45] Because I think getting the buy in from from the exec – that’s not can be as difficult. But getting the buy in from the board and having them recognize the urgency here, as well as the pain points… I would love to go in and you know you’re presenting something like this, and you start getting we can’t do that. That kind of atmosphere and just go let’s try this – what if we could? What would that look like? We’ve all played the what if game. What if I win the lottery? I wouldn’t be talking to you guys right now right. OK. Bingo. I actually I got to give credit where credit is due. Brad Hoffman, who’s a partner and firm and Maryland, DeLong and Stang, I interviewed him for part of my upcoming book and he mentioned this that he does with his clients: when they push back on we can’t do that, he goes well just humor me for a moment. What if we could, what would it look like? It’s like you’re giving them permission now that they can kind of think crazy or what would this look like. He says it’s amazing what happens when you give them that permission.

Bret: [01:06:59] I think one of the challenges there on that we can’t do this I find really interesting is the we tried it before and it didn’t work. That’s another one. And it’s you know well I tried. Maybe I would have loved to have had a phone that I could actually walk around with when I was in high school, but they have them now. You know things change so quickly that you know something that wasn’t possible the year before could be possible in the very next year. So that’s an interesting one because so many things can make things fail. But that’s that’s an easy excuse that people need to get past that thing.

Peter: [01:07:43] Oh I you saw me jump out of my chair when you said that because that’s the other one. And it goes like well. How long ago did you try that? My wife and I were having this conversation last night. Well maybe three or four years. Technology has changed. Maybe we could do it now.

Chris: [01:08:00] You, Pete, of all people know, if you can’t do it, you have to dump Sally, right?

Peter: [01:08:04] Right. You got to dump Sally. And actually I had one group say isn’t that a little harsh? Shouldn’t we just let her down easy. And I said no, we gotta dump her and move forward. We got to come to a portion of that – when we talk about innovation, it’s innovation– I look at innovation and I said there’s two pieces to that. One is creativity and one is applying that, how to effectively apply creativity. And if we can get organizations to think I need the quantity of ideas in order to get quality ones, and create an atmosphere that allows for these ideas, albeit crazy ones at times, and not be punitive in nature, and you’ll get so many ideas out of people that you wouldn’t believe, if you create that culture that allows that. And I think that’s also part of getting past a lot of these challenges that we have.

Chris: [01:09:04] Yeah I would definitely agree with that. You’ve got to create the culture – just like all these soft skills and the stuff that we’re talking about that we’re going to need in the future. You also have to position your organization to embrace that.

Peter: [01:09:18] Right. Exactly.

Bret: [01:09:19] And not make it sound like wizardry. Right. You’re not inventing the lightbulb. I mean a lot of these things can be really simple. The best ideas are small, you know are simple ideas.

Peter: [01:09:34] Exactly. And the other – and we’re going to wrap up on this – But Jennifer Oleksa said this: That when she was listen to Amy Vetter’s presentation, Amy was talking a lot about firms, but she said It dawned on her she’s also talking indirectly to state societies about how they have to change and redesign themselves in order to meet that. And that was her that was her big aha moment from that keynote was that this is not just about the firms, it’s about us as a society, us as a CPE deliverer, that we need to do that same process.

Chris: [01:10:11] Yeah absolutely. How do you stay relevant? Because you’re not relevant, your members aren’t going to be there.

Peter: [01:10:18] That’s right. You’ve lost all types of trust. Any last words before we wrap this up?

Chris: [01:10:23] All I have to say is go Cubs. Go Cubs go.

Peter: [01:10:28] I’m looking at Chris and he’s wearing a Cub jacket. He’s got Cub stuff all over the place. I believe he might be, outside of Bill Murray, one of the big Cubs fans. If they weren’t in the division– I root for the Cubs, except when they play and beat the Reds.

Chris: [01:10:47] I actually… the Reds are fine as long as we can agree though that we don’t like St. Louis.

Peter: [01:10:53] Oh yes. Oh yeah. We can agree. What about you Bret? What you got?

Bret: [01:10:59] We’ll go Cubs as well, of course. I’m a Cubs fan. One of the things that really bring Chris and I together. But last thoughts, I think we’ve covered just about everything – and it’s just we need to go out and find the time and do the work.

Peter: [01:11:13] You’re right. We’ve got to find the time. We got to get the work done and we got to keep this in the forefront of our minds, and that’s really the reason why I want to do these interviews, to kind of help you guys out and keeping the message alive, and so we can move forward and maintain our relevance. So I’ll wrap up by saying thank you both very much for your time. I greatly appreciate it and I look forward to the next time we run into each other because I want to have a whole lot of people buy pints for Bret so he could tell the story.

Bret: [01:11:46] Hahaha.

Chris: [01:11:49] Alright, thanks Pete.

Peter: [01:11:49] I would like to thank Michelle, Jennifer, Chris, and Bret for sharing their thoughts and perspectives from the conference on how we can begin to develop and design the CPE for the future. In Episode 3, my guest is Eddie Turner, who is a specialist and a deep generalist. He is a Certified Information Technology expert with digital marketing, social media, and leadership development experience. Thank you for listening, and begin the process of changing your mindset and getting out of your comfort zone and develop new skill sets to become more future ready. Remember, this is a process that requires daily application with a big dose of applied improvisation.