Chris power lifts his way to better coworker relationships
Chris Hooper took the roundabout way into accounting — from wrestling promoter at the age of 13 to power lifting competitor to entrepreneur. He’d always been good at making money, but never good at keeping it, so he figured he needed to study up on accounting. And the rest is history. While he isn’t competing anymore, he still lifts regularly, sometimes even with clients.
In this episode, we talk about how Chris works hard to make Accodex a refuge for really good accountants who also have passions outside the office. While this might be frowned upon at larger firms, he not only embraces but also encourages it. He stays in constant contact with all the staff but also schedules quarterly meetings with every individual. His goal is to have short-term productivity but long-term engagement from his team, so he works hard to align their personal goals with those of the firm. The question that he asks everyone is, “What’s your dream job and what can we do for you to help you get there?”
Chris Hooper is an Accounting Futurist who happens to be the CEO of Accodex, a firm in Adelaide Australia.
He graduated from the University of South Australia with a Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting degree and later went back for his MBA.
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John: Welcome to Episode 68 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion. Making them stand out like a green apple in a red apple world. And by doing so, these professionals not only make work more interesting and fun but their careers have actually benefitted from having stronger co-worker relationships or maybe stronger client connections or even a unique skill set that others don’t have. I’m in a process of writing a book about this and have an anonymous research survey out that would take less than 60 seconds to do. So if you would help me out and go to greenapplepodcast.com, you click on that big green button there, and like I said, it’s anonymous. It takes about a minute. So thank you so much in advance for doing that at greenapplepodcast.com
Okay. Enough about that. Now, it’s time for this week’s guest, Chris Hooper. He’s my second guest from Australia and I’m so excited that he could be with me today.
So Chris, thanks so much for taking the time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Chris: Yeah. It’s my pleasure, John. Thanks for having me.
John: I’m so excited that you’re able to be on because I read your article, “Going Concern” a couple of months ago.
Chris: Yeah. That’s how we first crossed paths, wasn’t it?
John: Yeah. It was such a great article about, “Do I just not a have a life or was accounting that sucked it out of me?”
Chris: Yeah. I think it was called, “Did the accounting profession ruin my hobbies?” And you had something to say about it.
John: I was like, “Yes. Somebody else is getting it. That’s awesome.” But I’m excited that you’re able to on with us today.
Before we get in to the fun stuff, maybe just a little bit of your background and where you’re at now and kind of how you got there.
Chris: Yeah. Sure.
If you go right back to sort of when I was nineteen, I was actually working in a gym as a personal trainer which gives some background to the hobby stuff, I suppose. But I got myself enrolling into an accounting major at university at nineteen. I was always there to learn. I was never going to become a career accountant and I felt like I learnt as much as I could at that practice and what I wanted to do was sort of learn from the other side of the spectrum and go into the corporate industry. So I picked up a job as a finance analyst. I would have been about 23 by then, I reckon.
John: That’s great, man. That’s so cool.
So how did you guys come up with the name Accodex?
Chris: We kind of just started playing around and the word Accodex actually came as a portmanteau of Accodex, acc, like accounting. So I see if you didn’t get it. So code which is obviously a testament to sort of our commitment to technology. And then, codex which is actually Latin for ledger or book of accountants. But it’s also the origin word for code or computer programming.
John: Nice, man. So that’s deep. I thought you were going to say that you were looking through that beer and the coaster happen to spell out something.
Chris: Well, I wish it was like that but we’re actually using a portmanteau generator. There’s a video up at You tube about the process that it went through. And I just typed in the words acc and hit generate and was staring at that for an hour. But that site also checked the domains to see whether it was free because my other criteria was like a seven letter .com domain which needed to be available like not more than seven letters. And they’re really rare these days. So we actually have a seven letter accodex.com available for it to make sense in terms of the portmanteau. Yeah, it was sheer luck on my part.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome man. I think that’s great. Congratulations. I mean, because that’s such a huge leap to go out in your own and make that happen So congratulations.
Now, you’re in the UK and the US. That’s fantastic. That’s so cool.
John: Right. Right.
One question that I love to ask everybody is just how did you get into accounting to begin with?
Chris: I actually went into college to study accounting because I was really good at making money. You know, sales, marketing and running businesses but I was never good at keeping it. So every year, I would of sort of look back at the year and it’s like, “Wow. I made more money than ever.” And then I would look at my bank account and still have nothing to show for what was going on. You know, I just didn’t understand how money works even from the most fundamental level. So I was talking to a friend from high school, Tammy. She sort of had a year out of high school, working. She was like, “Okay. Cool. I’m going to buckle down. Go to college.” And I was, “Cool. What are you studying?” She said accounting. I’m like, “Accounting? I’ve heard of this. Tell me what it is about?” She gave me the lowdown. And I’m like, “Wow. That actually sounds like everything that I suck at right now.” And if I nail that I’m going to be even better in business.
I literally went home that night and just typed in to Google how to get into college without your U12 which is your senior year because I actually dropped out of high school to focus on the business. I had two years of that and I was I’m not able to do this my entire life plus I really need to get this accounting thing nailed. So I went home and Googled that and found a way to get in. And within a couple of weeks, I was actually in college which was crazy.
John: That’s insane man. I think that’s so interesting how most of the stories are, “I was really good at Math and I really liked puzzles so I went into accounting.” And you’re like, “No. No. I sucked at it. I had no clue what I was doing so that’s what I’m going to major in.” I think that’s so interesting. It’s the complete opposite of pretty much what everyone says, you know, of why they get into something is because they’re usually good at it. But it makes sense. I wasn’t very good at it so if they’re going to train me up on this then let’s do that. I think that’s great, man.
I think it naturally leads in to your hobby and passion and the weightlifting. I’ve seen the video and I’m not sure if it’s you because the guy had hair. But you know what, I’ll take your word for it because were all heading that way fast.
I think that’s so interesting. I guess the weight lifting is just something that you were good at as a teenager on?
Chris: Yeah. I had always done that because that was something that I was quite passionate about. I think the reason I stuck with is because powerlifting is the ultimate busy man sport because I train once a week and that’s enough. It’s not enough for me to be competitive by any measure but it’s enough for me to get results.
John: No. That’s an excellent point. So what are some of the cooler things that you’ve gotten to do? I guess, some of these competitions and what have you are some of the rewarding things?
Chris: Yeah. The competitions and going into state.
John: That sounds awesome, man. That sound really fun. And would you say that doing the powerlifting has helped with work? Is there any skillset that you’ve developed from doing the powerlifting that translates over to work?
Chris: Probably not a skillset side of things but I think an attitude adjustment. Because the coolest thing about powerlifting and the powerlifting community is really you’re not competing against anyone. It’s not a team sport and it’s really not a competitive sport either because everyone weighs different.
Yes, there’s a way to win but ultimately the attitude within the community is as long as you’re doing better than your last, you’re winning. I think that’s really valuable because I have always been hyper competitive. But, yeah, I suppose this is for some introspection on me going, “Look, as long as it’s better my last.” As long as this year is better than last physical year, then I’m doing good. Yeah. I don’t have to try and beat PWC overnight, inch by inch getting better. So I think that has really been a huge revelation to me.
And then I think the other thing is just the stress side of things. These days, I train once a week with an old client of mine who runs a medical practice. We just get together every Sunday and we lift heavy things for an hour and a half. We just talk life, business and everything.
So far as stress release is concerned, I really get a lot out of that.
John: Yeah. That’s sound’s great. That mentality of you’re on your own lane, in your own silo. Other people are doing their thing but that doesn’t really impact you directly. So you’re competing against yourself. That’s the same how we are in our careers and when we own a business and what have you. I think that’s great. Because you don’t feel defeated at the end of the day. Everything is up. Everything is good as long as you’re putting up in your best effort.
Chris: Putting in the work.
John: Yeah. Exactly. So is the powerlifting something that comes up at work?
Chris: Yeah. Absolutely.
John: You said that you lift with a former client even?
Chris: Yeah. That’s actually where we met. He became a client because we met at the gym. That’s when I was actually competitive maybe four years ago. I think we met through that and I think we were the only ones that were in business at the time. And then obviously we talk at the gym. But also, one of the staff here, Samantha is actually climbing the professional league at the moment. So she’s 22. I told her to get into powerlifting because I thought it might be good for her. One, because she definitely had a natural ability for it but I also knew sort of the intrinsic benefits of doing it. And she’s been doing it for two years now. She ranked third in her competition on the weekend. And I think she’s going to state and hopefully to nationals as well.
John: Wow. That’s awesome because I went to lunch with her when she was her in New York City.
Chris: Yeah. When she was in New York.
John: Yeah. We hang out. I actually missed her. I walked by her because I didn’t know that she was going to be very short. Like very short.
Chris: Yeah. Like five foot even.
John: Yeah. Maybe in heels. So, I was just walking by her. I completely missed her. And then I came back and I was, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I’m like 6’2” and some change. So I was like, “Oh, man, I apologize.” But yeah, we had a great time hanging out and I got some great pizza. She was really cool. So congratulations to her. That’s just fantastic.
I just think that’s awesome.
So how does it come up when you’re talking to clients or even co-workers or whatever? Is it something that you know, you just say, “Hey, my name is Chris and I powerlift?” Or do they just know from the handshake or is it just from hanging out? How does it usually come up?
Chris: Look. It doesn’t really come up that much for me because for me it’s just a hobby. It’s something that I do. Everyone comes and goes to the gym and it doesn’t really matter what they do when they’re there. But it certainly comes up with Sammy but because of social media these days, everyone kind of sees it anyway. So a lot of clients and staff ask, “How is the competition? How did it go?” In Sammy’s last competition, there were a whole bunch of clients and staff that actually went to cheer her on for the competition.
John: Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s the ultimate right there. That’s a testament to — because a lot of people might be worried that you know, “Hey, the stereotypical accountant is a power lifter.” And so if I’m a power lifter and I let that be known in the office, then they’re going to think I’m not a very good accountant.
So what makes you fight through that and be like, “I am who I am and this is what you get?”
Chris: You know, it’s funny that you mentioned that because I think Accodex is becoming a refuge for the accountants that have got something going on in their life outside of the mold. I keep getting people approaching us to join the firm. Good, super talented young accountants. I’m talking like top of their league that are the rock stars of their firms. But they’re coming to us going, “Hey, I want to join Accodex because my firm takes issue with the fact that I do blank.” That could be modeling. That could be dancing. That could be s professional skater, a professional wrestler, in a band and et cetera. I’ve heard these stories where the partners have sat this person down and go, “Look. About the band, yeah. I saw what you did posting it on Instagram and we don’t think that’s becoming of a CPA.” That stuff just does not stand and I think the audacity to kind of single out a top performer in your firm and go, “Look. You’re a good performer in the office and we want to keep you but you have to quit this thing.” That is not a conversation that you should be having because ultimately what happens is the end up going to approach firms like mine.
John: Right. That’s what perpetuating that stereotype. That person right there is — professionalism has sucked their soul out completely. It’s over.
I remember, I had my last job I had in industry and there was a senior manager in a different department than mine but I remember at a meeting just out of nowhere, he just goes, “Why don’t you just go do comedy. That’s all what you want to do anyway.” It’s was like, “Well, I’m really good at my job also. Like it’s possible to do both.” And something that actually came up with my earlier episodes with Jerry Folly-Kossi and he brought up that it’s not necessarily our fault that they don’t understand that we’re able to do both because not everyone is. But the problem is, is that the people that are on the other side that are only one-brained if you will, they don’t understand how it’s possible to be both good at accounting and have a life outside. And so that’s is what’s frustrating. It’s when you hear stories like that. It’s like, “man. What are you doing?” But it’s great that there’s a place like you where all the “rejects” that can actually hang out.
Chris: Yeah. Like the misfits.
John: Yeah, you’re the band of misfit toys. It’s great.
But that’s the coolest place to be. I mean, that’s great in that you’re able to take amend and you fan the flames. I guess, encourage them even. So, yeah, I guess as a business owner, people are always worried about their chargeability and making money and things like that. You know, while they’re off goofing around, “doing their band stuff” or whatever, that’s going to make them not a very good employee.
So how do you approach that as a business owner?
Chris: I think because I’m in it for the long haul, I want sustainability above all else. Yeah, you can squeeze chargeable at 95% – 100% but people are going to leave. And they’re going to be talented people. And what I’ve seen happen with respect to our firm is that it’s like these firm squeeze every pint of blood out of these young accountants. They train them up and they’re great practitioners. They’re great operators but they just kind of quietly kill them.
I want to have these guys and I want to have them in the firm for sort of ten, twenty years because we respect who they are and what they do outside of the office. So it’s less about sort of about getting short term productivity and more about getting long term engagement and I think that philosophy is what sort of attracted some of these super talented players into the practice. Because I remember when I actually started the practice, in quite simple terms, so far as vision was concerned, all I said was that I wanted to build the type of firm that people like me wanted to come work for. And that was it.
John: Yeah. Absolutely.
And what I’m here is people do the work but they get refreshed, they need to get energized, they need to recharge their batteries. And doing that is doing your passion, doing your hobby, doing that thing that is outside of work. I think that’s awesome how you’re able to see that clearly. But you know, I just wanted to reiterate that to everyone listening. That’s your recharge space and if you take that away from people or tell them to not do that anymore, I mean that’s their breath of oxygen. That’s their life. Blood, if you will. If you cut that off, then they die. I mean, they’re done. It’s over.
Chris: Yeah. I get that not everyone is not going to be as passionate about the accounting profession as I am. It would be very rare to actually make people who are so down to ride for the accounting profession. That was their hobby. Because the reality is business is my passion and my hobby. When I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it. But I don’t expect that of everyone else in the company. It’s like that I get you’re human and that you’ve got other stuff going on and for you this is a job and that’s totally okay.
I think that’s the difference because it’s totally okay because all we’re doing in here is lining up your objectives, your goals with our goals for as long as we possibly can. Because I’m quite realistic about the fact that not everyone is going to be here for their entire lives. We have exit plans.
I’ve got an exit plans with my CFO, Katy, who is only here for probably another eight years before she goes to become the CFO of the Adelaide Football Club which she has always wanted to be. Her passion is football. She loves it. She’s been going to every single football of Adelaide’s as long as she could walk. And I think when she enrolled in college, it was like, “One day, I’m going to be in-charge of that team.” And when she first started with us, it was like, “Okay. Cool. How do we make that happen? What can we do for you that’s going to make help you get there?” And I’m just realistic that the fact that Katy is not going to be around here forever but she’s going to be around here. She’s going to give us ten of her best years and we’re going to help her leapfrog into that position so that she can achieve her goals.
John: That’s so cool. So how do you bring that up? Is that during an interview or once they start working? When does that conversation happen of where do you want to go and how do we help you get there?
Chris: I think it starts in the interview but then it takes some of those performance reviews to kind of eek it out of people.
Barbara: Because they don’t believe you. I’m not telling you.
Chris: Yeah. Is this a trick question?
I think there’s very much a culture and spirit of sort of open candidness within the office where people understand that it’s like, “Okay. Cool. I don’t have to be here my entire life. I don’t have to pretend like that’s my life’s goal. It’s to work for Chris until I’m dead.”
Every quarter we kind of sit down. I sit down with all of the staff and it’s like, “Okay. Cool. Where are we going? How are we getting there?” And we just keep checking in with Katy as an example. How are we progressing toward this with respect to — and that strives towards, “What kind of skills do the CFO of a multimillion dollar sports franchise — what skills do they need to have? How are you networking internally within the organization?” She’s now got the actual current CEO of the team, of the club as a mentor. So we’re progressing towards those big goals, quarter by quarter.
John: That’s so fantastic man. I mean that’s so great and kudos to you for encouraging that and being that kind of owner and boss. I mean that’s just awesome. That’s really, really cool. I can’t exaggerate that enough.
Imagine how fun accounting would be if all the firms were like that. Because it’s the exact opposite mentality of what can you do for me? And you’re taking the, “What can we as a firm do for you to help you get to where you want to go?” I’ll be like, “What? That’s crazy.”
Chris: I think it speaks to goal alignment. The firm and the individual are facing in the same direction for a set amount of time. And then when those goals or needs are no longer aligned, there’s an off ramp and an exit strategy because I don’t want Katy to quit with no notice just because she’s burnt out or she’s got another opportunity. I want it to very much planned succession so that, you know, in eight years’ time, seven years’ time, we actually start the hunt for the new CFO of Accodex and she’s there interviewing them with me.
You know what I mean?
Chris: Because her goals are no longer aligned. I mean, I don’t know what she’s going to do after she gets the CFO of the Adelaide Football Club. She’ll probably have a midlife crisis and go, “Wow. I did it. What do I do now?”
We talk it about as an off-ramp, if you know what I mean?
John: Yeah. No. That’s great man. That’s great. So do you have any word of encouragement for the listeners that are maybe power lifters and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want anybody in my office because no one is going to care or they’re going to be intimidated.” Or anyone that is just on the fence as to whether or not they should open up and share what they love to do.
Chris: I think the words of wisdom here would obviously be never give it up. Don’t feel like work has to come before those stuff. Because honestly if work does come before what you’re genuinely passionate about, it’s a race to an early grave and a life of a missed opportunities and regrets. Right?
John: Yeah. Absolutely.
Chris: So far as talking to people at work is concerned, if you’re working at the type of firm that is going to judge you or berate you for having something outside of the billable our, you’re probably at the wrong firm. And that’s really talking about it which is going to act as a catalyst for you making some big career decisions.
John: Right. Even if it’s in a small group. Just on your little audit team you share but not everyone in the firm needs to know. But I mean, that’s exactly what you said, never give up that hobby or passion.
I mean, your powerlifting hobby, passion was since you were thirteen or fifteen years old. So that was in you before you even thought of accounting. And it’s in you now and it’s going to be in you later on in life when accounting goes away and you retire. That’s the thing that I think people forget is that they identify with their job instead of who they really are. That is a part of you but it certainly isn’t all of you.
Chris: Yeah. That’s what I do. It’s not who I am.
Barbara: Exactly, I mean, it’s a suite that you put on for a couple of years or part of your life and then you take it back off. But inside, under that suite or under those clothes is that hobby or passion. It’s all there all along.
Chris: Yes. That’s right.
John: That’s awesome man. That’s so cool. I’m going to come and work for Accodex and we’re going to fire this thing up and this is going to be great. No, that would be the worst thing possible for you guys. Is there a code for distracting everyone at the office? Is there a charge code for that because I’ve got forty hours of those?
Chris: No. There’s not a charge code for it. But it certainly happens plenty around here.
John: Yeah. No, I’m just teasing. But before you come and hang out and lift some weights, hopefully you guys have the pink padded ones so I can actually do some but I do have my seventeen rapid fire questions.
Chris: Sure. Here we go.
John: Exactly. I highly recommend you use these the next time you’re interviewing someone because it’s only a couple of minutes and then you know pretty quickly whether or not they will fit in.
So, here we go.
First one, Sudoku or crossword puzzles?
John: Neither. Nice. You don’t have time for that.
Chris: I’m just not very good at either.
John: You’re just not very good at either. Okay. Do you have a favorite color?
John: Blue. Okay. What’s your least favorite color?
John: Orange. All right. Boxers or briefs?
John: Briefs. There we go.
Do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Chris: Yeah. Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man. Big fan.
John: Oh, yeah. No. He’s really good. Do you prefer pens or pencils?
Chris: I would probably say Pacers, you know, those mechanical pencils. Big fan. I keep losing them in the office. I need to get some pens.
John: Oh, yeah. Those are nice. You better find them
Early bird or night owl?
John: Both. All right. Burning the candle at both ends.
John: Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Chris: Star Wars.
John: Star Wars. Yeah, absolutely. I agree.
When it comes to computers, more PC or Mac?
John: PC. All right. Mouse, more of a right click or a left click?
Chris: Left click.
John: Left click. Making decisions. Let’s do this. Do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Chris: I would say Schofferhofer. It’s a German wheat beer.
John: Okay. All right.
Chris: Look it up. It’s awesome.
John: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Room temperature, I assume?
Chris: No. Cold. To the English, it’s a room temperature thing.
John: Oh, okay. Too cold. Oh, my bad. Correct. Do you have a movie that makes you cry?
Chris: You know that Disney movie, Inside Out?
Chris: Yeah. I think there was a lot of repression there for me. So, yeah, that one.
John: Okay. Right. And when it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?
Chris: Income statement but I really want to say cash flow statement.
John: Oh, wow. That’s the one I don’t even — that’s the one that pretty much was like, “Yeah. Accounting is probably not for you, John.”
Chris: That’s the single source of truth.
John: Right. I was, “Awe, man. Which way does the cash go? I don’t know.” Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
Chris: Cookies and cream.
John: Solid answer. I have some in my freezer right now. Do you have a favorite number?
Chris: Number seven.
John: Seven. And why is that?
Chris: I have no idea?
John: Yeah. I mean, it’s my favorite number too but I’m just curious. It just goes back to sports, I think, for me. Do you have a favorite animal? Any animal?
John: Just cats. All right. Simple. And the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Chris: I have several some custom life out Nike Sneakers. I have become obsessed with them. There’s this guy in Texas that makes them in his back shed and then would ship them to me a bulk. I think it’s awesome. I’m absolutely meant for them and I’m in love with them.
John: That’s so great man. That’s so great. But you earned it. Do what you can. Thank you so much, Chris, for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast. This was awesome.
Chris: Don’t worry, John. Thanks for having me mate.
John: Wow. That was jammed full of some really, really great stuff. I just love how Chris said that he asked everyone at Accodex, even in the interview process what your dream job and what can we do for you to help you get that. I mean, wow. I mean, just imagine how great the world would be if other firms took the time to mentor you like this.
Be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. You could see some pictures of Chris at his powerlifting competitions. And while you’re on that page, please click on that big green button and do my anonymous research survey.
And thank you so much for listening and sharing this with your friends so that they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.
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