John Garrett on Being More Than Your Job
In business, especially in the world of accounting, people are often boiled down to billable hours, expertise—what they can bring to a firm—but not who they really are. Emmy nominated writer, comedian, and “Catalyst for Corporate Change“ John Garrett, himself a podcast host and author of What’s Your “And”?, talks to Randy about the importance of having interests, hobbies and passions outside of work. He explains how finding your “And” makes you a better professional, how firms have a responsibility to create better workplaces by honoring their employees’ “And”s, and how for him, everyone is a Unique CPA.
Today, our guest is John Garrett. Thought provoker, catalyst for change, and podcast host, he’s on a mission to create better workplaces. What the two time Emmy nominee may do best is champion the human side of professionals, consulting with organizations to develop more productive cultures, while shining a light on their people’s rich lives outside of work, delivering inspiring keynotes about his research, and recording over 300 podcast episodes of What’s Your “And”?, landed him on Accounting Today‘s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the profession. In addition to the podcast, What’s Your “And”?, John actually recently released a book of the same name, which I’ve been fortunate enough to be skimming through and reading—not just skimming, but reading the last few days. And so John, welcome to the show.
Hey, thanks so much, Randy. I’m excited to be here. I love the name Unique CPA. It’s so awesome.
Well, what I was going to say is that I think you fit the bill of The Unique CPA pretty well. The one thing we did not mention in there is your side gig—and I don’t know if you call it that—is doing comedy as well, correct?
Yeah. So when I graduated from the University of Notre Dame, I went to PricewaterhouseCoopers. And yeah, just started doing stand up comedy at night, just for fun as just a creative outlet, go to some open mic nights, then I started getting good, started to get paid. And then did some pretty cool stuff. So yeah, it was fun to do, you know, on the side—and then, at one point, there was a perfect storm where I was going to leave; I’d gone to Industry, and was going to leave that job anyway. So I gave it a go. And, you know, I was fortunate enough to be able to make it, but I definitely don’t advise that people make their passions their jobs, ’cause you’re probably not that good at it! It’s really hard. But it’s an “and”—it’s not an “or”—it’s an “and.”
Well, I was gonna say that sounds like an “and.” And we’ll get into the What’s Your “And”? And we’ll also get into—I normally end the show with a fun fact about our guest, and we already delved into a fun fact about you. So we’re gonna have to figure out some other fun facts when we get to the end of the show.
As long as we’re talking comedy, and then we’ll get into other things, but as long as we’re on the comedy thing—I’m amazed that you left accounting, you made a profession of this. I read some things: You opened for the band Train. You opened for Louie Anderson, you made money—you made money on your passion. That’s amazing. But give me that experience. I mean, the whole Train thing, the whole Louie Anderson.
Yeah. And like I said, I mean, the caveat here is, “Do not do what I did.” It’s way too hard. And it’s insane. And it’s crazy. And I don’t advocate that anyone does this. But for me, it was that perfect storm. So I gave it a go and ran, and I was able to achieve “escape velocity” is what I call it—and I was able to get into orbit, and was very fortunate for that. It’s a lot—a lot of work to do that.
But yeah, I mean opening for the band Train. That was in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is where the lead singer is from, and I was doing the comedy club there for that weekend. So I come into Erie on, you know, Thursday, and there’s a Thursday night show and then to Friday, to Saturday, and then I go home on Sunday, usually. And so on Friday, when I got to the comedy club, they’re like, “Hey, so Train’s in town,” and I go, “Yeah, I know, I’d love to go. But I got these shows.” And so then they said, “Well, their opening act got laryngitis, and so they want you to open for them.” I guess they had sent someone on Thursday to watch the show. And so I did the show on Friday—the first show—and then I got in a car that was waiting for me, went down about 12 blocks because it’s Erie, and then went into their massive auditorium.
More people than are in my hometown are in this arena for this concert, and I go in and meet the band. They’re super cool, down to Earth, great guys. It was awesome. I go up on stage, and no one’s there for comedy. They’re like, “Can you sing?” “No, I cannot sing! I do jokes!”
So it was crazy because you’re on this giant stage and the lights are so bright that I could not see the edge of the stage. So the whole time I’m up there in the back of my brain, I’m just going, “Don’t fall off. Do not fall off.” Because that’ll be hilarious, but also humiliating. So, and it was also super weird too, because you have a rhythm to your jokes. And so, you know, I start the joke and then, you know, laughs start, and then I go to start the next joke, and there’s more laughter that’s still coming, because the very back row of, you know, thirty-five hundred, four thousand people, by the time they hear the joke, and they laugh, and it comes back to me, there’s time there.
So it was a very out of body experience. But they were super cool, and then I went back to the comedy club to do the late night show! And late night Friday is—brutal. I mean, if you read Steve Martin’s book, that’s why he stopped doing stand up because it’s the end of the week. People are tired. They probably went to happy hour. They’ve been drinking for five hours. They’re just jerks. And Friday late show is brutal. And so I went up, and I didn’t even care, because I was like, “I have 4,000 laughs all stored up in my heart. Like, so, you guys can laugh if you want. I don’t even care.” It was fine.
The show was great. But it was literally like, “How did this happen? Like this is crazy. I did a show for 300 people, and then 4000 people, and then like 150 people”—like same jokes. Yeah, it was crazy. But then opening for Louie in Atlantic City was super cool. That was like a 1,000 person at the Borgata Music Box Theater. And yeah, just done some pretty cool stuff with that, and been really fortunate to have had those opportunities.
My adrenaline gets flowing when I’m up in front of people just talking about, you know, taxes. And I can’t imagine getting up and telling jokes! I mean, I want to kind of do it, but man, I could just imagine the adrenaline rush going through with that, and I could see getting addicted to that pretty quick.
It’s pretty surreal. It’s a roomful of strangers that have no idea what you’re going to say, and then words come out of your mouth and all of their reactions is immediate laughter. Like, it’s the most surreal thing that I find myself sometimes—when now it’s more keynote speaking, but I’ll think like, “How does this happen?” So surreal. It’s weird. But it’s cool!
We got to your Fun fact, I guess, early in the show! But what we really want to concentrate on is being The Unique CPA, we got the uniqueness out of the way, and we’ll continue I’m sure to hear more uniqueness. But before we get to how you’re working with CPAs, let’s talk about the book because that relates to what you’re doing with CPAs, too. So this book was what, released a month or two ago, correct?
September 15, 2020, yeah.
And it’s What’s Your “And”?, which is also the name of your podcast, which by the way—you’re on podcast episode 331 or something like that, which I found out is not the number. You probably have about 100 plus more podcasts you recorded.
Right. I did some “point fives” in there. Yeah, I got weird on the numbering.
I’m at less than 10% of your total, so we’ll have to get some pointers at the end, and learn from your expertise here.
You’re doing great, man.
I’m intimidated here!
Stay the course. I was once at 30 as well. Don’t worry about it, man.
No, that’s awesome. Now I’m not sure I’m gonna make it to 400+, but I’m having fun with where we’re at now.
Alright, so let’s talk about the book then! So the book obviously, translates from the podcast. What was the impetus to starting to write this? What was your goal? What were you trying to get to communicate that to people?“I don't consider it to be, you know, my message. I think it's our message. I'm just the mouthpiece, and I'm really sensitive to that because I think it's a collective ‘our message.’” – John Garrett Click To Tweet
No, that’s a great question. Because, I mean, I never thought I’d ever write a book. I didn’t want to write a book. I just thought books were written by like, super smart people—a Brené Brown or a Seth Godin, or the Simon Sineks, or Adam Grant, or, you know—those kind of people.
From speaking so much in 2018 and 2019, I added it up—over 10,000 people were in the audiences of conferences I spoke at. And so I was really able to dial in that message, and really nail it, as to what it is, so it’s not just theory, it’s actually applicable. And it resonates with people and it really strikes a chord with a lot of people. I had, oftentimes, audience members coming up, “Hey, do you have a book? Because I want to share this message with people that weren’t here. And I want to do it justice, I want to make sure that they get it right,” and all that.
So when people kept asking, I was like, “Well, I guess I need to write it now.” So it was one of those things that just—it had to happen. I don’t consider it to be, you know, my message. I think it’s our message. I’m just the mouthpiece, and I’m really sensitive to that because I think it’s a collective “our message.” I’m just the one that happened to put it together and be the one to write the book.
So not only put together, write the book; is this what your—as we said in the beginning—your thought provoker? Catalyst for change? Is this the concepts you’re using when you’re out “catalysting” change?
Exactly. I mean, it’s “What’s Your ‘And’!” I mean, we never asked that at a networking event, or we work with people—we’re around people in the office for more waking hours than our family. And you don’t even know these other dimensions to who they are! And the thing is, one, it’s nice, but two, it actually makes you a better professional is what my research has shown, as well as the research that I’ve gotten from like Duke and Northwestern, and stuff like that.
So it makes you a better professional to not only have these outside of work hobbies and passions, but to share them. And you know, when I came out of Notre Dame to go to Big Four… For some reason, our default mode is “don’t share.” First of all, don’t have a hobby or passion outside of work, and if you do, God forbid, don’t talk about it, because ”it’s unprofessional, no one cares, you’re going to creep people out, it’s way too personal. You should be dedicated to your career—what, are you not very good at your job? Why are you wasting time doing something else besides reading tax code FASBIs or whatever the hell? There’s more billable hours, just do that!”
There’s so many excuses that we feed ourselves, and all of those are lies—they’re all lies. So that’s what, you know, my book shatters that. It shatters what the stereotype is, and, you know, we’re all unique CPAs, not just me. And then the handful of people you’ve had on the show, it’s all of us are, just, if we focus on the part that’s unique, which is not the CPA part—it’s the everything else.
So we’ve gone back to the handful of people on my show. You’re already bragging that you’ve had four hundred shows, and I’ve only had forty!
It’s the percentage of the numbers! The auditor in me was like, “It’s an immaterial difference!”
I had to give you a hard time on that one, sorry about that. And the other thing I wanted to point out going backwards for a second: Super smart people write books, just so you know, and you probably understand this—people who go Notre Dame usually have very good academic record.
I appreciate that.”We're around people in the office for more waking hours than our family, and you don't even know these other dimensions to who they are!” Click To Tweet
So you might be listed in that super smart group. I just wanted to point that out. You’re not taking a compliment that well, you look like you’re blushing.
No! I feel like a jerk now!
No, you’re fine!
So let’s move forward then. So What’s Your “And”? Obviously, you kind of explained it. It’s, “You’re not just your job, you’re not just that accountant, you’re not just—you have other things that you’re doing outside of work.” And so how do you use that? I’m assuming that’s what you use when you go out and do this, talking with [people].
I mean right, your past as a comedian, you’ve done that… but currently, you’re out, you’re doing corporate events, you’re talking, you’re working up in these, to do this change. So what are you trying to do and implement? What are you talking to them about?
For a long time, it was the speaking: you know, executive retreats, partner retreats, all staff town hall meetings, things like that. And then I realized that this concept is simple, but not easy. And so people implementing it, it’s just like, people telling me, “Go to the gym,” and I’m like, ”But I don’t, you know, and even if I went, I wouldn’t know what to do—I really wouldn’t.”
And so it’s the same thing, right? It’s simple, but it’s just not easy. And so that’s where, in about the last year, year and a half, has rolled out more of the consulting piece of, “How do we implement this? How do we make this part of the culture?” Because really, when you look at your organization, whether it’s a firm, or it’s your company, or even your department, it’s made up of people, but those people are made up of passions.
So the core of your culture isn’t the people, it’s the people’s personalities and passions outside of work. And so that’s really it. It’s how do we build that culture around what happens outside the office? How do we shine a light on that? How do we celebrate that? How do we get people to share that and make that just—it’s routine, it’s just normal, it’s what we do here—type of a thing. And what works at one firm won’t work at another and what works at one office of a firm won’t work in another office in a different state, so it really does have to be customized. But really just crack that door open to the human side, to each of us, and how important that is, especially now with the pandemic. A lot of places find out “Oh, I guess we don’t have a culture, because it was based on complaining about the breakroom coffee or passing each other in the hallway.” “How are you? Fine. I’m fine. All right.” You know, that’s surface level. How do you actually get to know your people? How do you actually have a genuine interest in the people around you? And, you know, how do we make that normal?
So what are you teaching them to do, then? How do we make it normal? I mean, you can’t just flip a switch, I guess, and now, okay, I’m concerned about what my people are doing outside of work, rather than that—I’m still concerned about their billable hours or whatever—
—of course you are.
—but concerned about the person. So how do you make that switch?
I mean, the work’s gonna get done. The work will get done, you know, the billable hours will happen, the work will get done. So don’t worry about that. It’s gonna happen. It’s like worrying about breathing. You’re gonna breathe, I mean, it’s happening. So, you know, focusing on that isn’t necessarily always needed. But yeah, it’s working with teams to find out basically—it’s great to start with the leadership group, “Let’s build the sandbox. So what are the boundaries? What is never going to happen?” You know, “Look, we’re never gonna have casual Friday,” or “Look, we’re never gonna…”“The core of your culture isn't the people, it's the people's personalities and passions outside of work... How do we build that culture around what happens outside the office? How do we shine a light on that? How do we celebrate that?” Click To Tweet
Different places have different things, depending on their culture, or where they are or, you know, in the United States, or even in Canada, in the world. What are they willing to accept, or do and not do? So let’s build that parameter, build that sandbox, and then everyone go play inside. Because I think in accounting, especially, we’re so permission-based that we wait for permission, and then you find out that they were gonna let us do this all along! So instead, it’s easier to tell people what the boundaries are, and then you have carte blanche, go nuts! Within this fence, do whatever you want!
I think that that’s really freeing and liberating to people. And then, when you start to find out about the people around you, there’s emotion and color and people’s eyes light up, and there’s energy in their voice, and they sound excited about that—where, when they talk about work, sometimes they light up, but sometimes they don’t. You know? And when like you—when you’re talking about craft beers, and you know, like you light up! You light up when you talk about taxes—sometimes you light up, but sometimes it’s like, well, it’s taxes, whatever.
Yeah, so you hit on it. And people listening to the show probably have heard me talk about craft beer in the past. But yeah, no, that’s definitely passion. But honestly, I get this passionate about R&D tax credits, which makes me quite a geek.
That’s totally fine! That’s the thing! You’re good at your job, and you like your job. I’m not saying, “Right, one or the other.”
No, no, no.
I’m saying there’s both. And totally cool! But I think that the energy you get from that craft beer side of you can fuel the work side of you. And rarely does the energy you get from doing tax stuff fuel your hobbies.
No, you’re correct. Yeah, you’re correct. Unless it helps you make more money that you can spend more time on your hobbies!
And that’s exactly it—we’re working so we can live. Yeah. And it’s about time that we all just admitted instead of lying about it.
So we’ve been—and you and I talked about this last week or so—we’ve melded craft beer with specialty taxes. And we’re having a lot of fun right now with all of our clients getting on virtual happy hours and tasting through different beers, and explaining the beers, and having fun. As a company, I think we’re having a great time with it, and it’s nice that when I was doing that, too, when I do it now I’m going, “Okay, it’s pretty interesting that we’re kind of incorporating our ‘And’ into what we do.” So you’ve got me ready! I’m hooked on the book. I’m hooked on your message.
Thanks, man. Yeah, it’s simple, just not easy, but you’re already doing it. And yeah, I would have to imagine that, like, before you did that—I mean, are things different now? Like client conversations, or that energy or when you’re hanging out, you know—it’s got to be a different thing.
So the interesting thing with us is, you know, it was kind of always a thing for the last three and a half years. I kind of changed my role in the business and myself and one other gentleman started the business, and we were kind of just managing it and I decided that wasn’t for me anymore. My role now is, I call myself the “breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks conference, CPE presentation guy.”
There you go!
And so those are the things I do, but so often our meetings are based around, you know, going out to dinner and having a drink. And the thing with virtual is, we just get to do it with a lot more people now, because it’s easier to get a group together. I don’t like it as much—I like to be face to face—but we do get a bigger group. So that’s what has changed, is that we just have been able to get in front of more people.
That’s encouraging to hear that it works!
Yep, for sure. So I’m gonna go back to the book for a minute now. Because like I said, I have been reading it, I wanted to get through it all before we talked today. And unfortunately, I didn’t get through it all. But I got through at least half of it—read it and tried to skim the second half. But when I was looking through it, I saw that the makeup of it was really three sections: Elevate Your Employee Experience—which sounds awesome to me—Don’t Be Afraid; and then Taking Action. So maybe you can expand on those.
I mean, yeah, I wrote the book for people that aren’t readers. Most people aren’t readers. We’re all busy, we have work to do. Life happens, things happen. But I wrote them in micro chapters, so they’re all less than a page to maybe three or four pages long. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book, and I finish a chapter, and then I see, “Well what’s the next one? Oh, it’s 20 pages. Yeah, I don’t have 20 pages.” So then I put a bookmark in, and then I put it on my shelf, and then I don’t finish it. So like, I want my book to be done—I want you to read the whole thing. And so I wrote it in a very conversational tone, and it’s just the meat. There’s no fluff, I just hit it and go.
And so yeah, three big modules, as you said, and then the micro chapters within. But, you know, the employee experience is something that I think a lot of us don’t think about. We hear about customer experience, but employee experience is really something that we don’t even give a thought to—and unfortunately, especially in the accounting profession, it’s churn and burn. It’s like, well, we got another one coming, and whatever. But the problem is, we don’t anymore. Talent is at an all time premium, and you really have to love the people that you have, and not just love the work that they’re doing—but love who they are outside of work as well, and those other dimensions to them.
So that employee experience, it’s asking “What’s Your ‘And’?” when you’re recruiting, it’s asking “What’s Your ‘And’?” when you’re onboarding, it’s “What’s Your ‘And’?” as you’re training and, you know, development, “What’s Your ‘And’?” to build that into the culture, make people stay longer, and then even when they’re exiting the company, you know—still using that “And”. A perfect example is, a lot of times people are, “Hey, that was a good job. Here’s a Starbucks gift card.” Well, I don’t like coffee, and their hot chocolate is terrible. So if you give me a Starbucks gift card, I don’t know what to do with that, besides give it back to you. So that shows that you do not care about me.
But you find out somebody loves their dog? “Hey, here’s a gift card to PetSmart or whatever. Hey, you play a musical instrument. Here’s a gift card to a music store. Oh, you like ice cream, here’s a gift card to you know, the ice cream place or whatever.” That shows that you actually care about the people. And you give them something that they like, and so that creates a better, intentional employee experience that just makes them stay longer and provide more value, and be more engaged.
Yeah, that was one of my favorite parts of what I was reading so far is just taking the time to get to know what people like outside of work—which I feel I do. But when I read that, I go, okay, and I started thinking of employees, what’s their thing? What do they like? On our website, we list every employee, and at the end of their bio, we put a fun fact. So I just went in and I read everybody’s fun fact this morning, just to make sure I knew what people enjoyed doing.“No client is going to read that and say, ‘Whoa whoa, this guy raced motorcycles? I'm not going to work with that firm.’ No one said that, and if they do, then good, because I don't want to work with you either.” Click To Tweet
So again, going back to—you’re already influencing me—but on some of them I was like, I didn’t know that, I should have known that! How come I don’t know that? One person’s goal was, after retirement, to be a powerlifter. I’m like, I had no clue that was it.
Yeah, exactly! Another person was a professional motorcycle racer prior to this. Okay, I didn’t know that. Now I feel terrible that I don’t know that.
Don’t feel terrible, because now you do. And so the next time you talk to those people, I promise you that’s going to come up. I promise. And the fact that you guys put that on your website bios, I love, love, love, love that, because that’s something that’s so simple, and it’s something that—no client is going to read that and say, “Whoa whoa, this guy raced motorcycles? I’m not going to work with that firm.” No one said that, and if they do, then good, because I don’t want to work with you either.
So like, that’s the thing, is we’re all trying to be—professionalism tells us that we have to be this thing and put on this façade, and yet everyone else is doing the same thing, and so you’re just a commodity. I mean, at the end, what makes your firm different than the other one? It’s not your technical skills. It’s your people, and it’s not just your people. It’s your people’s passions. It’s that motorcycle racing. powerlifting, it’s your craft beer. And it doesn’t have to be world record breaking something, it’s, “You know what, once a year I do a 5K walk for a charity.” Sweet! Or “I like to make kombucha,” or “I like horror movies. I love wine,” whatever your thing is.
That’s your thing—what lights you up! Find that out, and that’s cool that you guys do that. That’s a great example for everybody listening.
No. And I honestly was thinking, “I’m gonna call everybody and just talk about their passion.” Not every day, but one day once a week, call the person, just say, “Hey, you know, how’s this going?”
Yeah, that’s cool. I think that is awesome advice, and I think that there’s probably a lot of people that I’ve talked to on this podcast so far that probably think that way, and I don’t know if they’ve really gone as far as that. Hopefully, they’ll listen to this and realize that that’s gonna be important thing.
Let’s go to the next step on that if you want then, from The Employee Experience to Don’t Be Afraid. What do we mean by that?“I think we're all really good at our jobs, and we all deserve to be remembered 12 years later.” – John Garrett Click To Tweet
That’s just crucial to know—that you’re not alone. You know, I did my own research, because when I started this, there was a guy who remembered me from my first PWC office 12 years before that, as, “Oh I know John Garrett, that’s the guy who does comedy at night.” He didn’t remember any of my work related things—I was one of the first promoted in my star class, I was on the largest financial services client that PWC had. I didn’t suck at what I did, and yet, he didn’t know any of that, because he was in the tax department, and I never went to that floor. I never met him, I never worked with him, I’ve never been around him, and yet 12 years later, he remembers me.
I think we’re all really good at our jobs, and we all deserve to be remembered 12 years later. So don’t be afraid. I started doing my own research, and I found that 92% of professionals have a hobby or passion they regularly do outside of work. So that means that the stereotypical accountant is actually unique. A stereotypical accountant is somebody that has these outside of work interests, and it’s not like 51 to 49, it’s 92 to 8—it’s not even close. And the 8% has been bullying the 92% to believe that if you don’t act this way, then you’re not good or dedicated to your career, and that’s a lie. It just shatters that.
Now we just lost 8% of our listenership on that.
No! But—and that’s fine. If work is your jam, then that’s fine. But also know that for the people that work isn’t their jam—
Right, no, I understand—
—also fine. But here’s where it gets scary, though, Randy. When I do the consulting with some places, and partners or executives pull me aside and they’re like, “Hey, I’m gonna retire in like three years, and I don’t know what I’m gonna go do.” That’s when it gets scary. Because if it’s all work all the time, anxiety through the roof, depression potential very high, and you’re not going to retire. And that’s what happens—that’s why there’s no succession planning in firms. That’s why, because they don’t want to leave, because they have nothing to go jump to. And it’s not healthy.
No. Well, I’ll tell you, I have plans for retirement, so I know what I’m gonna do—not drink beer all day long. That’s not gonna be it.
Exactly. But I mean, for the people that it’s all work all the time—just think ahead a little bit.
Right, so okay, don’t be afraid. And then Taking Action.
Yeah, Taking Action. Because there’s so many books out there that are theory, and then it’s like, “Well what the hell, how do I do this? Like, I don’t know how to apply this, like, what does this mean?” So I preface it with, “Hey, these are just ideas that I’ve seen in the real world with clients that I’ve worked with. But what works at one company might not work at yours. So just use these as ideas to get you going. Brainstorm, and then just pick one, and then throw it out there and see what happens” type of a thing.
But like, simple things, a lot of them free, even, which accountants love! But just some ideas to get you started. So it’s not just all theory. It’s here’s how to apply it.
All right. Well, that’s awesome. And then let’s go back to then, you know, we’ve got all these concepts. We’re gonna wrap up here pretty quick. But you do this—not only for CPA firms, you go out, you do the talking. So is this a firm hires you, a conference hires you, everybody hires you? How are you out speaking? And I guess who is the audience typically?
I mean, the audience is typically white collar nerds. And I say that affectionately, because I’m also one of them. So it’s accountants, its consultants, its attorneys, it’s engineers, it’s bankers, insurance actuaries, architects. You know, those people that have a degree, and maybe letters after their name, that they feel like that’s their identity. And there’s so much more to who you are. So that’s the audience, and it’s working with those organizations. It’s been cool to see—I started mostly in the accounting space–consulting space, but it’s been cool to see how it resonates with so many of these other professions and how it’s a much bigger message than I originally thought.
And so it’s, you know, whether it’s through the speaking, or it’s the speaking leading onto the consulting to help you implement that, it’s really just wanting to make a difference and make a change to where, you know, the stereotypical professional is somebody that has these outside of work passions and interests, and the organization shines a light on that and celebrates that.
Yep. And I’m glad you transitioned in the consultant there too. So is there a standard consulting agreement timeframe you work on? Or is this, every client’s different?
It is a little bit of every client is different. It’s also somewhat new, being a year, year and a half old. So you know, I’m still honing that in, as to exactly what it is. But typically, it’s an implementation—like speak, and then implement. So maybe like a two day. And then I’m available, you know, for check-ins every month, and then maybe around three or six months, we revisit as it moves the needle. And then along the way we tweak to dial it in, and then, “Hey, do we want to go next level? Do we want to do something else? Do we want to keep going?”
So, you know, I try not to—it’s not an 18 month, we meet every week. It’s like, “No, we got work to do, man!” But you got to let it breathe and you got to let it happen. Or you know, and it can’t be just totally organic. It has to be intentional.
All right. Well, I’m super excited because it sounds like you’re going to be speaking at an event, albeit next year. That would be September next year, that I’m assuming is gonna be in person at this point.
I hope you didn’t just jinx it all around, Randy.
I didn’t name the association, so you know!
It’s virtual and not me!
I just screwed that up bigtime! Well, maybe I’ll see you the year after then.
Yeah, whatever. I’ll just come to Chicago. I don’t care.
Yeah we’ll go get some dogs, some Italian beef, some deep dish pizza. And you’re an Illinois person, right? I mean, you’ve been around, but you were in Illinois for a while, right?
I’ve been around?! No, I went to a high school in Southern Illinois near St. Louis. I was in the Air Force. So yeah, I moved a lot. We moved, yeah, every two or three years growing up, and then yeah, settled in Southern Illinois, near St. Louis.
So all that moving, that’s how you got funny. All these different experiences from all over the world, huh?
That’s possible. I mean, when you’re the new kid? People like the new kid that’s got jokes. It’s just weird when you’re writing your own jokes.
Now I’m gonna go off on a tangent. When you’re telling jokes, is it jokes, always prepared? Or does it veer when you’re in front of an audience? Like you start?
It’s gonna be 99% prepared.
That’s what I figured.
And then, yeah, because the only difference between, you know, a brand new comedian and me, and then me and Jerry Seinfeld, is the brand new comedian’s told the joke ten times, I’ve told it a thousand times, and Seinfeld’s told it ten thousand times. So you know, the confidence, the polish, the word choices, the cadence. You know, it definitely is rehearsed. You just, the more you do it, the more—it’s weird. It’s kind of an arc where it starts out where it’s very fresh, because it’s brand new, and I don’t know where it’s gonna go, and then it seems very rehearsed, And it’s not that great, but then after you do it so many times, then it seems like “Wow, he just made that up off the top of his head!” It’s like, “No, I say this every night.”
Well, that’s awesome. That’s not where I wanted to end. So we’re gonna go back to the whole consulting.
I feel like I’ve wrecked your podcast so much. I don’t even know, the editor should not even touch anything and just be like, “here it is.”
I think we’re gonna let this flow—this is free flow. It’s fine.
“This is what happens when you talk to John Garrett.”
Hey I’m having a great time, I’m laughing, that’s all that’s part of the goal is the show is to have fun so we’re having fun. We want to educate, we want to have fun. I felt you’re educating. I am super excited about what you had to say—I honestly am.
When I first started up public accounting, you know, a thousand years ago, I was on my Abacus and and I came up with these ideas that when I started my own firm—and I set the goal that I wanted to start my own firm four years after I started in public, I don’t know why it came to four years, I don’t know what the plan was. But three and a half years later, I did. But I wrote down things that I wanted to do with that firm and there were things that I wanted employees to do if I was lucky enough to have employees, but there were things that you know—I wanted to have fun. I always want to have fun. And I feel we’ve continued that into this business, and so I’m super excited to hear, “just getting involved with your employees, getting to know them better, getting to know their passions, and then how those passions affect you within the business.” I honestly am. I’ve never been so excited to read a—I don’t know if you call this a business book—but a business book.
It’s actually more of a leadership book than I even anticipated as well based on the feedback that I’ve gotten now.
I agree. So before we wrap up on that, anything else you want to touch on, on the Catalyst for Change in the book?
No, I’m just so grateful that you had me on the show, man. So like, no, I’m just, I’m all yours. And I just appreciate being a part of this. So thank you.
Well, believe me—I’m the same way. So before I get to a final question, how can people get ahold of you? We can get the book on Amazon, I’m sure.
Yeah, Amazon, Barnes and Noble book shop. And then the Audible will be out early 2021, first quarter. WhatsYourAnd.com—I make it super easy—that gets you right into the podcast page, the book page, right into my website. I have music video parodies that I have out there as well. And then you can read some more of, you know, the stuff that I’m doing. So yeah, follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, all that stuff.
Alright, well, before we do finish, then—we’ve got a thousand fun facts from you already, but we always have to end the show on a fun fact.
So I don’t know if you have another one you want to bring out? I have a question if not?
Yeah, question. I’ll let you fire away. This will be fun.
Okay, so Emmy nominee, what is that all about?
So, yeah, so for Notre Dame football, I was back on campus for a game five years, six years ago now, and some buddies of mine that were in the athletics department, they were like, “Hey, come over and hang out,” and then they were like, “Hey, we’re gonna walk over to the football building.” And I was like, “Oh, well, this is neat.” And then I go up, and I’m meeting with Brian Kelly’s right hand. And she’s like, we’re just talking and whatever, and so then they go, “We’d like you to write—” they call it Echoes, their award show at the end of the year. And I was like, “Okay, sure, that sounds cool.”
So then all of a sudden, I’m like, in the locker room and on the sidelines for games, and learning all about the team and the players, and, you know, the jokes that they have, and the inside stuff, and what the personalities and the tics are of the coaches and the players and all that. So then I wrote the show, and the first one was hosted by Hannah Storm, who’s a Notre Dame alum—ESPN anchor—and then Dan Hicks. They’re married, and he was doing the play by play for NBC at the time. So they hosted the show, and it’s in the theater on campus, 900 people—it’s a TV show. It’s a legit, all out TV show. And then they recorded it, they tape it, and then it airs on NBCSN.
So I’m just the guy behind the guy, or, and gal, to make it happen. So yeah, that first one, like you meet Dan Hicks and Hannah Storm, they fly in that morning. I meet them that morning, like five hours before we tape, and I have to coach them up on, “Here’s how you tell the jokes, and here’s why they’re funny, and what do you think’s funny? How would you say it?” And then we go live.
It’s super cool. That was the first one that was nominated for an Emmy, which is insane. And then two years later, Jerome Bettis was the host, so I got to hang out with The Bus for a day. Great guy, super hilarious. And then that one was also nominated for an Emmy. And then the year after that was Aaron Taylor, and then last year was Ryan Harris. They’re all Notre Dame alums, Super Bowl winners. And then this year, not sure exactly how it’s gonna go down. But, yeah. When I found that out, I was like, “Wait, what?”
And then when it happened a second time, and now it’s almost like, what the hell you gotta do to get one? So yeah! They’re hilarious, they’re super well written, they’re really good. Like, I’m really proud of them. And it’s a team of like 40 people that come together behind the scenes to make this TV show. And it’s easily the most intense week of my life, outside of being on The Unique CPA Podcast.
This was extremely intense, I know that. Usually people have to sleep for like a week afterwards, so hopefully you get through this okay. I’ll be praying for you.
So my producers are gonna get really mad at me, but I want to go with one more fun fact. We’re having too much fun to stop right now. Listeners, I hope you’re enjoying it too. John is very entertaining to talk to.
All right. Another fun fact—your book. The foreword was written by Lou Holtz. So sticking on that Notre Dame football theme, holy! How did that come about?
Which, by the way, is my “And”—it’s definitely college football, in case you were wondering.
Why didn’t I ask you that?!
No worries! College football, going to concerts, and ice cream. So they don’t have to be super exciting, people! Just that. I obviously was an accountant. My “And” was comedy. I mean, I enjoy that too, but not performing anymore at the clubs.
But yeah, so Coach Holtz. Last year I was speaking at a conference in New Orleans. I was the close of the first day, he was the opening of the second day, and I stuck around to watch it. I have a picture of me with Coach Holtz, when I was a junior at Notre Dame—there’s a picture of me with Coach Holtz. I was in the marching band, and he loves the Notre Dame Marching Band. He’s such a huge fan. So I had that picture on my phone, and so I showed the client, and they were like, holy cow, you need to meet him. And I was like, “Well yeah, I do!”“College football, going to concerts, and ice cream. Your ‘Ands’ don't have to be super exciting, people! Just that.” Click To Tweet
So then they had a little private meet and greet for their—it was a software company—their top clients, so it was maybe like 20 people… and then me. And then Coach Holtz is in there. And he had just got done speaking, they were in a small room in the back. And so I just stayed out of the way and all that, and everyone’s talking to him. “Hey, Lou, hey, Lou,” you know, “Lou this, Lou that.”
So when he was done, he went down to pick up a satchel, and I just walked up, and I was like, “Hey, Coach Holtz”—and the immediate attention and locked eyes. I said, “My name’s John Garrett. We’ve actually met before,” and I showed him my phone. And he said, “Holy cow,” and I said, “Yeah, I was in the marching band.” My junior year was his last year. And so he gave me his business card, and he said, “Hey, if you ever need anything, that’s my cell phone, and this is my email for my assistant, whatever you need, let me know.”
And so I sat on it, because I’m from the Midwest, for like, four months, like a big chicken. And then finally, I was like, “You know what, I’m going to ask him, I got this book, and I think it really dovetails well with the message that he speaks on in some of his books.” And so I was like, “Hey, would you write the foreword?” And then they wrote back right away, “Absolutely. What do you got?” And then a week later had the foreword and I was like, “Well, now I have to publish the book. Now it has to happen.”
I’m so thankful that he did that. And just out of the kindness of his heart, you know, to do that, and then what he wrote is really cool, too.
Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. I really enjoyed your book. That’s awesome.
That’s about a thousand “And”s we’ve got from you, and fun facts, so we’re gonna cut it there. I’d keep going, but we’re gonna stop.
No worries, man!
Correct. It’s all right there.
All right. Well, again, thanks so much. I had a great time. I appreciate you being on here.
No, this was a blast, Randy. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.
Thank you for joining us today. And you can find all the links and show notes for today’s episode, as well as more about Tri-Merit at TheUniqueCPA.com. Remember to subscribe and join us for our next episode, where we’ll be going beyond compliance into forging new pathways of delivering value to clients, diversifying your revenue streams, and leading edge management techniques and styles.
John Garrett’s What’s Your “And”?
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About the Guest
John Garrett, catalyst for corporate culture change, is trained as a CPA, having graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1998 with a degree in Accountancy. But after spending time at PriceWaterhouseCoopers as an internal auditor and in pharmacy/healthcare with multiple firms, John stepped away from the accounting world to pursue his passion for comedy full time.
He followed up his comedy career by transitioning into consulting, where he helps organizations create a stronger culture based on their true differentiator—their people. He hosts the What’s Your “And”? Podcast, which he started in 2015, which now has over 400 episodes. He also wrote a book of the same name that was published in 2020.
A nationally recognized speaker and emcee, John can be heard on several channels on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Pandora performing his debut comedy album, Outside the Box. He’s also been heard on The Bob & Tom Radio Network, featured in The New York Times, seen in concert with Train, opened for Louie Anderson at resort casinos, and has been invited to perform at several comedy festivals.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 10% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.