John broadcasts live from the QB Connect Conference in San Jose
John Garrett takes his digital recorder around the QB Connect Conference to interview accountants who are shattering the stereotype.
In this episode, he talks with a group of professionals who have interests outside of work including comic strip writing, online technology training, magic and weight lifting.
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It’s day three of QuickBooks Connect here on Friday. I’m in my hotel room and getting ready to go down to the conference and so excited to talk to some more bookkeepers that are shattering the stereotype. It’s just been a really great conference and love talking with everyone and sharing their stories. We’ll get started and I’ll have a couple of more bookkeepers out here that are being the green apple.
Back again on Friday, the last day of QuickBooks Connect here in San Jose and we’re going to wrap it up with another Canadian. I have with me Bill Kennedy. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Bill: Hey, my pleasure, John.
John: Oh, no. I’m so excited to have you on especially when you mentioned what your hobby, passion is but where do you live now and what’s the name of your firm?
Bill: Oh, I live in Toronto and I’m with Energized Accounting.
John: Energized Accounting. That’s a cool name. I like that.
Bill: Yes, it was originally the name of my blog. But when I went out on my own, it was like well, what name will I use? I’ve been writing about this for so many years so let’s just do it.
John: There it is. Yeah, I love the name. I love it. When you’re not running Energized Accounting and making that happen, what hobby, passion do you love to do outside of work?
Bill: Well, I started a comic strip.
Bill: It’s about a young woman because I deal with non-profits and charities and so she’s the executive director and sole employee of the Do Good Foundation and she trips over all kinds of management issues. That’s my way of sugarcoating the message and making it actually approachable for people when I talk about issues in charity.
John: Right. Yeah, yeah. And so what made you want to start the comic strip? I mean you don’t just like stumble into that.
Bill: No, you don’t because actually there’s a whole of art involved and I’m not an artist. But there is software out there that makes this all easy.
John: There we go. Okay, very cool.
Bill: So yeah, it started with my wanting to write a book on charity management and then I realized that that book has already been written. But I also realize that a lot of my clients don’t read that kind of a book. It needs to be something that’s much more approachable with like short chapters that are grounded in reality rather than trying to apply principles to the situations so it’s like working up but then also doing it with a bit of a wink at what really goes on and the things that people encounter every day.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s awesome man. It’s so great.
Bill: Yeah, and it was funny how these things developed, right? Because I just wanted something that was approachable. The publisher said, well, we could do kind of a little comic strip-y sort of character and have that as an illustration of that. No, no. Let’s do a full comic strip. But then I find out that the cost of illustrating it would be prohibitive. You go searching for — there’s got to be an app for that, right? So I was like okay, there it is. It is and it’s a fairly good app like people like the quality of the graphics but it’s more that the humor gets across. I had so many people that I showed sample scripts to say yeah, I’ve been there, right? And that’s what you want.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly it. Do you find that this helps you in talking to clients?
Bill: Well, it’s more that I headline each one of my blog posts with one of these comics and it is — well, I went a step further and actually created a video that I posted on a Facebook site. And it caught 1,500 views within a little while and people were telling others about it. So it got up to 4,500 views. I was so happy because before that, I had no views.
John: That’s great, man. Well, you obviously tapped the nerve. That’s really cool. I mean for people that want to share and talk about it and yeah, and I guess it helps people to see you know, you give them a little bit of humor and you give them a little bit of that in a different context and then they’re able to get the message that you’re trying to say and then they read the blog post and they’re able to consume it in a different way.
Bill: Yeah. And then sort of on the serious side, it lets you say things that you probably couldn’t otherwise, right?
John: Yes, yes. I do that all the time and I just smile and be like, “I do comedy.”
Bill: Yeah, sure. I have her interviewing for a job and the other — first, you see them at a table but then you pan back and you see the tables actually in the middle of a park. And the guy’s saying, “We love your résumé. We want you to join our firm” and she’s saying, “Well, where would I work?” And the guy says, “Well, we get no money for administration. So we do it right here in this park and we get the Wi-Fi from McDonalds.”
John: Exactly, exactly. Because that’s how it works.
Bill: It was a huge issue of who will find administration in a charity?
John: Right, yeah, that’s exactly it. That’s funny, man. That’s really funny and I’m sure people are like, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. We should totally do that.”
Bill: The world needs more humor particularly around these very serious business issues.
John: Oh, for sure. Absolutely, absolutely. I guess would you say that the stereotypical accountant is a normal definition? Would you think that most people are the stereotypical accountant?
Bill: Yeah, the stereotype, right? You certainly see it on network television all the time. If they want a boring character or what really bothers me in romantic comedies. The boyfriend who’s definitely the wrong person, it’s like he’s an accountant. And it’s like man.
John: It’s always the accountant.
Bill: Right. These things always have some source and I know that, when I started in accounting and we are still doing a whole lot of it manually, if you got a subtotal wrong, then it carried forward into something else and it would take you days to find it so you were a slow and methodical that got you through. But those days are kind of gone now.
John: Yeah, yeah. No. I agree. I agree. I mean it’s just an old thing that people just fall in line with because they think that that’s how we’re supposed to act. I think that’s a big part of it and stop, you know, like —
Bill: The plus side of it though is that the profession still has a real reputation for integrity because we ground everything we do in fact. And that’s a good part of it I think. We don’t tend to go out on that limb and just say, “Oh, yeah. That happens all the time.” No. We sit there and say okay, no, it’s happened 63% of the time.
John: Exactly. There’s certainly that part of it. That’s for sure. I always wrap up my episodes, because this has been really great, but before I fly up to Toronto and help you out and draw a comic strip with you which would be really, really fun actually, I do have my rapid fire questions to run through to make sure that we can hang out together. And so really quick. I’ll ask you, what’s a typical breakfast?
Bill: For me, it’s fruit and toast.
John: Fruit and toast, simple. Yeah, yeah, there you go. Well-rounded. That’s awesome. How about when it comes to financials? Are you more balance sheet or income statement?
Bill: Oh, there is such a give and take between those two but I’m primarily a non-profit. And so it’s all about the income statement. It’s all about the surplus or not.
John: Exactly, exactly. The last one I’ll ask you, are you more ocean or mountains or lake or mountains I guess given the Toronto location.
Bill: Oh, yeah. No, definitely the lake. That’s where with the hammock and the trees and everything, that’s where I want to be for sure.
John: Yeah, that’s great. Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Bill, for taking the time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast, really fantastic.
Bill: My pleasure. This is great.
John: All right. I’m back in QuickBooks Connect live on Day 3 on Friday and I have with me a guy that I’ve known for several months. I’m so excited to have him on the Green Apple Podcast. Jeff Bourgeois, thank you so much for taking time to be with me today.
Jeff: Thank you very much for having me, John.
John: Yeah, no. I’m so excited and so tell everybody where you’re from in Canada of course, but where at?
Jeff: I live in Red Deer, Alberta, and my business is primarily Calgary, Alberta.
John: Oh, nice. All right. And we’ve all heard of that so that’s all good. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I guess when you’re not running the firm and then making things happen there, what sort of hobby, passion do you love to do outside of work?
Jeff: I have a very peculiar passion and I think it’s very different. I love to teach and not just teach but I love to teach technology. I love to teach work flow, practice management, but really I love financial literacy for small business owners.
John: Yeah, nice. Very cool. Where do you usually do the teaching?
Jeff: I am again very unique. I teach everything online.
John: Oh, wow.
Jeff: So I use online platforms. I put courses up online and a lot of it I do just you know, it’s a lead generation for business but it’s also my passion to help small business. I make a lot of it available for free just to help people grow without too much trouble.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s fantastic. I imagine that translates over into work where you’re able to better talk with clients. You’re able to better serve them and their needs. I’m sure that somehow that teaching translates over to running your firm, yeah?
Jeff: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing for me has been working with other accountants trying to figure out and translate English to accounting and then back. For me, being an educator at heart, the first thing is making sure they get it which is huge.
The other piece is making sure that they’re applying it. It’s not just teaching to teach, it’s teaching to help them in their business. It’s a lot more fun for me but also when I work with my clients, I tend to teach them more than lecture to them. I’m not just there to say okay, you should have done this, you should have done that. It’s a proactive. Here’s what you can do. So it’s a lot more fun for me and the clients enjoy it a lot more.
John: No, that’s fantastic. I mean another question I’d like to ask people is about the stereotypical accountant, and clearly you’re not because you’re helping people forward thinking. How do you feel about the definition of stereotypical accountant? Is it a real thing? Are there stereotypical accountants?
Jeff: I always wonder chicken or egg, do we become accountants because of who we are or does being an accountant shape who we are? I firmly believe there is a stereotype and for the most part we have earned that.
John: Yeah, yeah. Over time, yeah.
Jeff: And again, there’s the joke of the extroverted accountant who will stare at your shoes instead of his own.
John: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Jeff: We earn that and again, I think it’s a fair stereotype but also, underneath it, there’s a deep caring and a passion for what we do but for the most part, it’s very sedate and we try to be cold and analytical which in my opinion keeps us from doing what we should and having that real bond with the clients which leads to better work, more fun.
John: Exactly. The thing is it exists but we don’t have to be it. And actually, if you’re not it, it’s probably better is what it sounds like you’re saying. You relate to clients better.
Jeff: To steal from your podcast name, it’s that green apple. If we’re all alike, people don’t know how to tell us apart. So we become a commodity.
Jeff: If we can stand out and be unique, we’re going to offend people. We’re not going to necessarily draw everybody in but those that we do draw in, we’ll have a better relationship with, we’ll be able to earn better fees, we’ll have more fun.
John: Exactly, exactly. Well put man, well put. This has been really fantastic but I have the rapid-fire questions that I run everybody through. I’m just going to do three instead of the typical 17. So yeah, we’ll just do three quick ones here. Three quick ones. For computers, are you more of a PC or a Mac?
Jeff: I am a Linux user.
John: A Linux. Look at you, rebel. You’re a rebel.
Jeff: I love PC, I love Mac. They all have their uses but Linux I find way more flexible and it’s all open source. So you can do a lot more with it.
John: That’s great. All right, all right. Now when it comes to a mouse, are you more of a right-click or a left-click?
Jeff: I am more of a stylus or drawing pads.
John: Oh, wow. You’re like all fancy, all kind of fancy. Yeah, I’ve never had that answer that’s for sure. The last one I’ll ask you is do you have a favorite Disney character?
Jeff: Disney character. That’s a tough one. Probably with my kids, my boys, it’s got to be Phineas and Ferb. I know that’s two but —
John: Oh, yeah. No, solid answer.
Jeff: Two boys who spend their summer inventing. That’s my kind of kid.
John: That’s a solid answer right there. Well, thank you so much, Jeff. This was really fantastic. Thanks for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Jeff: Thank you for having me, John.
John: Okay. I’m still here at QuickBooks Connect in San Jose live. This is Day 3 and I have another guest from the UK and actually a listener of the Green Apple Podcast. I’m so excited to have you on Mark Lee. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Mark: My pleasure, John. Thanks for inviting me.
John: Oh, man. This is so cool, wanted to meet you and you’re like, “Oh, John Garrett from the Green Apple Podcast” and I’m like, “What? That’s so cool.” So cool. So yeah, so I guess tell everybody really quickly just a little bit of what you’re up to now professionally and you have your own work that you’re up to.
Mark: Well, I’m a professional speaker and mentor largely for accounts in the UK. But my background followed the traditional path. Not too similar to your own, John. I started as a children’s party entertainer. And then I became an accountant, a magician, tax adviser, speaker, mentor and debunker.
John: Debunker. I love that. I love that so much. I don’t think there’s much of a difference from children’s party entertainer to accountant. That wasn’t much of a transition I don’t think.
Mark: That happened much the same time, yeah.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly. I mean hobbies, passions, what you love to do outside of work and even when you had the accounting job.
Mark: Well, I’ve always been into magic. I was into children’s parties then at grownup functions, restaurants and parties at nights I did a little. Then when I looked back so in 2006, I decided I really didn’t want to be a tax adviser anymore. I could see some of the problems that I felt were coming, and stepped away from all that and became, want to become a speaker and mentor. It took a while to find my voice. Find something I could speak about with passion and confidence and understanding and I related it back. I wanted to help accountants to stand out from their competitors so they can be better remembered, referred and recommended.
I can do that because when I look back at my own career, that’s why I progressed so well. I became a partner. I was headhunted twice. I was a media spokesman for a couple of different firms, a bit of a media junky, radio, TV, papers, working well with the journalist, and I’ll meet journalists years later and they would say, “Are you still doing the magic?”
John: Wow. That is so fantastic, man. That’s exactly the green apple message right there.
Mark: It was realizing that I should reflect back what I knew best and I stood out because there was an unusual hobby and interest and passion in my life. When I was an accountant, I actually kept it quite quiet. My colleagues knew about it. But not my clients.
John: Interesting, yeah.
Mark: Because I was concerned it would adversely impact my professional credibility. When I look back, wow, I could’ve been so much more successful as an accountant. I wish.
John: No, no. And so that’s the thing. It’s like what is it that makes us want to hide that and not show our true passions to coworkers or clients?
Mark: I suspect it date back to having been a children’s party entertainer and a couple of occasions where I went — I remember going from one interview and a senior partner of the firm said, I see you’re a member of the Magic Circle. These days I’m treasuring that’s the Magic Circle.
John: That’s impressive.
Mark: The world’s most premier magic society. But I remember him saying I see you’re a member of the Magic Circle. That says a lot about you and I —
John: Well, did you have a personality? Like what?
Mark: I’ve often looked back at it. I think he may have meant that I was good at deceiving people. To me, magic’s about entertaining not about being deceptive.
John: Right, not at all.
Mark: Anyway, I didn’t get the job, but that could’ve been part of what happened.
John: Actually, I would’ve said, that tells a lot about you, sir, that you’re judging me based on my being a part of this.
Mark: I think nowadays, I might have the confidence to say that.
John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. But when you’re new coming out of school, no, no. Yes, sir, whatever. But that’s so cool to hear that years later you have people remembering you for that. I mean that’s exactly what happened to me which is so fantastic.
Mark: Well, it happens in another way now as well online everywhere. My name is Mark Lee which is a very, very common name. More so than most people would imagine. I couldn’t get a Mark Lee domain name. So online everywhere I’m Book Mark Lee. And my business card therefore is a bookmark.
John: It’s an actual bookmark.
Mark: I have people coming up to me. It happened at a convention recently. A guy came up to me and said, really pleased to meet you again, Mark. I haven’t seen you for ten years, still got your bookmark.
John: That’s great.
Mark: I don’t believe him for a moment but it was a really sweet thing to say.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so awesome and it’s so cool just to hear how people are remembering that and it’s that little bit of standing out that it doesn’t make you less professional or less good at your job. It actually makes you memorable and you’re making a bigger impact which is what we’re all here for. That’s awesome. How do you feel about the definition of stereotypical accountant?
Mark: Well, I made a huge mistake a few years ago when I first started focusing on the speaking side of my career. I took some advice from friends as regards how to brand my talks. They came out with a brilliant idea. I thought it was genius. Boring is optional.
John: There you go.
Mark: I thought, that’s really great. Important lesson. Never choose a marketing brand without talking to your target audience.
John: ¬Right, right because they don’t think they’re boring, right?
Mark: Because accountants, they didn’t like it. It didn’t resonate at all.
John: We’re not boring at all.
Mark: I dropped that and I don’t think accountants are boring. I think the problem is that accountants recognize that some of what they do is boring and that the public therefore think of them as being boring. And yes, I’ve met the old boring accountant but the ones that I work with, you can find that they’ve got an interest or a passion, something that they enjoy. And indeed, many of them really enjoy helping their clients build better businesses. I help accountants be better remembered, referred, and recommended through a variety of mechanisms that will work for them as individuals. I never say that you must do this, that or the other. And the reason for that is because they’re not all the same. They’re not boring. They’re interesting people and I share their passions or their interests.
John: Yeah, let that out.
Mark: And live it out. And it’s exactly what I know you preach on the Green Apple Podcast, John.
John: Yeah, yeah. So that’s fantastic, really fantastic. Well, I have my rapid-fire questions that I’d like to wrap this up with.
Mark: Oh, boy.
John: I’ll fire three at you before I get on the plane, fly to the UK and then saw me in half. I don’t know what kind of magic trick you would do but that’s how it would work.
Mark: That’s a whole another story.
John: All the listeners were like, “Yes! Do it! Do it!” So three superfast rapid fire questions. First one I’ll ask you, favorite place you’ve been on vacation.
Mark: Favorite place I’ve been on vacation. It was a cruise, Mediterranean Cruise.
John: Oh, wow. That sounds nice, very nice.
Mark: I enjoyed that.
John: Very cool, very cool. Do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Mark: Least favorite vegetable, Brussels sprouts.
John: Oh, solid answer. Yeah, you slam dunk on that one. Slam dunk. They shouldn’t even be a vegetable like what are you doing here? And the last one I’ll ask you, do have a favorite band or musician?
Mark: Yeah, I would go with Queen because I love a kind of magic.
John: Solid answer, solid answer. There it is. Thank you so much, Mark, for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast. Really, really fantastic.
Mark: Thank you so much for the invite, John. It’s been great being here. I look forward listening to it.
John: Okay. I’m back live at QuickBooks Connect and I’m so excited, Day 3 and I have a guest from the UK, Carl Reeder. Thank you so much for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Carl: Hey, John. Thank you so much for inviting me onto your show.
John: Oh, I’m so excited and I mean just seeing you and talking to you for just a little bit clearly not the stereotypical accountant which is what this podcast is all about, shattering the stereotypes. I just have to ask you, how did you get into accounting?
Carl: Okay. So I have to admit. I got into accountancy completely by accident.
John: That’s two of us.
Carl: So who on earth would actually dream of being an accountant? Let’s be honest. Who wants to sit there adding up numbers all day long? So what I left school at 15, just before my GCSE exams. So GCSEs are the exams but you normally take at the age of 16. I left school and took up a YTS in hairdressing. Now, your listeners won’t be able to see me. They can stalk me on Twitter but shaved head. It obviously didn’t turn out too well.
So I was a hairdresser for all of six weeks and decided to go back and do my exams. Then I quite literally, applied for every job in the newspaper. I got three interviews. Two accountancy firms and one at the army. So I was obviously going through alphabetical order. Got offered the two accountancy firm jobs and that’s how I got into it.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so funny man. And look at you now. Now you’re killing it. That’s really great.
Carl: Well, do you know what? I would love to say I’m killing it but in honesty, from a personal perspective, I’m not killing it as an accountant myself. So I never really enjoyed the accountancy side of it. I did it under duress. I need you to pay packet, John. That’s what it was. I need you to pay packet so I did the job. But what I really enjoyed doing was going out meeting people and why they do things. How they do it. And then pretty soon, I realized that I actually knew more from the people I was talking to. So when I would go to a new client, I would actually find that I knew what was wrong with their business before they did.
John: Nice. Really cool. I mean, I just want to transition to what do you love to do when you’re outside of work? I mean because clearly that keeps you busy but there’s got to be some hobbies, passions, something that you love to do when you’re not at work?
Carl: So John, yeah. You’re absolutely right. There needs to be passions outside. And the problem with most entrepreneurs, I really am an entrepreneur by heart. I love my businesses. I love building new businesses. It’s like playing with Lego. I don’t work 9:00 to 5:00 and then rest from 5:00 to 9:00. That’s just not in me. But what I do to try and relax is spend time with my family, I’ve got an amazing family. Five kids and a gorgeous wife. So I love to spend time with them and I also like to spend time in the gym although the size of my gut won’t show that I do but I just like lifting heavy stuff and eating lots rather than running on a track mill.
John: Okay, okay. That’s very cool. Do you feel like the weightlifting and the gym training translates to business at all? Do you feel like that’s a skillset or way to –?
Carl: I think that there’s a couple of benefits. I think that first of all weight lifting is a sport that you’re only competing against yourself. So most sports, you’ve actually got the challenges of other people in your team. I need to translate this for your U.S. listeners so I completely that because normally I talk about football but my football’s not your football. But let’s take basketball. You’re playing basketball and there’s four other players on the court who can really impact how you play and you could be the absolute superstar. You could be the Michael Jordan but if you’re let down by one of the others, you’re not going to get the ball. So it allows you to really focus on that personal improvement and personal development. Yeah, there’s always an extra bit as well. So it’s not as if you’re at a certain physical limit. So darts for example, you can hit triple 20 a few times and you can keep doing that and you’ve won the game.
John: Yeah, then it’s over. There’s an end.
Carl: You can’t go any further. But there’s always an extra two and a half kilos obviously for the US, pounds.
John: It’s all good. It’s all good.
Carl: You can always have an extra five pounds onto the bar.
John: I usually bench two-and-a-half pounds myself. So we’re all good.
Carl: You know, I wasn’t going to ask.
John: There aren’t enough weights in the gym for me. No. But that’s great man and I love just how you’re able to look at it in that perspective of you know, it’s that personal — you’re only competing against yourself in the same way in business.
Carl: And you know, it’s also a huge release because being I business, I’m always on. So always on social media. I mean I’ve got about 8,000 followers. And the amount of junk you get in your bin box, it’s permanent. Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. And you have to deal with that day in and day out during the evening, during the weekend, there’s no let up. One of the great things about the gym is the fact that you can you put your phone aside, have your Bluetooth headphones on and you’re away from it for an hour.
John: And just let it go. Yeah, yeah. No, that’s awesome, man. Really, really great. Well, one thing that I do with all my podcasts is kind of a rapid-fire question. So before I get on the plane and fly to the UK and we live together, I should not be a spotter. That’s dangerous. You might as well have no spotter. But yeah, but I love to run people through this. So I’ll just do three quick ones for you.
John: Three quick ones. So do you have a favorite sports team?
Carl: Favorite sports team, yes, I do. And you would not have heard of him, John. It’s a team called Southend United. Southend United play soccer for your American listeners. They are, I would love to say great, but they are awful but they’re my awful team.
John: Right, that’s great then. Did you grow up in there or you made them your team?
Carl: Yes, I did. So actually, I was one of these rare beasts in the UK who follow two teams. So when I grew up, my dad was an Arsenal supporter. And so Arsenal was the team that I’d go and see one weekend, Southend will be the other weekend because they never play at home at the same time. And there was no risk of two teams ever playing each other. However now, I’ll be quite honest. All of my mates go to Southend. My son goes to Southend. So it’s a way for me to go back to my hometown to get to see everyone and to just have a day off.
John: Yeah, yeah. No. Really, really cool. All right. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Carl: Do you know, I’m neither. I’m one of these rare people who needs about 11 hours sleep. So quite honestly, I might seem like I’m always on and always hyper. However, the reality is I burn myself out. And about 9:00, I’m absolutely knackered. I could go to bed and wake up at 9:00 next morning. So I really need my sleep. I’m certainly not an early bird. A push, I could be out in the evening. But really my best stuff comes out in the day.
John: Yeah, yeah, just in the day. That’s great. The last one I’ll ask you, are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Carl: Do you know, I hadn’t watched either of them. So I’m going to adopt my eldest son Jordan’s preferred choice which is Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Perfect. Well, that’s so great, Carl. Thank you so much for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Carl: John, absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.
John: There you have it. That’s so great. It wraps up the Green Apple Podcast episodes coming to you live from QuickBooks Connect in San Jose. We had Carl Reeder and his weight lifting and then Mark Lee in his magic. And then Jeff Bourgeois and he’s teaching financial literacy. And then of course, Bill Kennedy and his comic strips. What a great conference this has been and sharing everyone’s stories over the last three days has been so, so fun.
So thank you guys so much for listening to the Green Apple Podcast and subscribing and you can follow on Twitter @GreenApplePod. Thank you so much for sharing this with your friends and going out and shattering that stereotype and just showing everyone that you can go out and be a green apple.
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