Episode Summary

Fishbowl’s Senior Director of Integrated Services, Bev Lang, shares her journey within the accounting industry, her experiences “coming up to bat with Brolin,” and why Fishbowl feels like family, and is a key member in Team Brolin’s Starting Lineup!

This episode is sponsored by Fishbowl.

Beverly’s Introduction and Why We’re #BetterTogether

Beverly shares how difficult it can be to collaborate effectively, especially in the QSP industry, and talks about her passion for teaching others how to do so. She references QSP’s moto is “#BetterTogether”, and acknowledges how important it is to seek help when you need it, and be willing to help others when they are struggling

Beverly’s Journey and Experience with Fishbowl

Beverly started at a QSP, and after attending her first Scaling New Heights in 2009, she decided to take a chance starting her own QSP. She chose to go all in a few years later, and ended up having huge success!

Beverly talks about meeting Fishbowl at Scaling New Heights a few years later, and fell in love with the software that they provided. Beverly became their top seller, and Fishbowl eventually offered to buy her company. Now, Beverly and all of her employees have a Quickbooks channel at Fishbowl.

Beverly also talks about how Fishbowl has consistently outperformed similar programs and software, and shares her appreciation for the company as a whole.

Importance of Partnering in Payroll

Beverly talks about how she built her own empire, and how she has always been one of the top providers of payroll. She also talks about how important it is to become certified in payroll to show your knowledge to your clients.

Dawn agrees, and talks about how important it is to be in compliance with payroll, and how important it is to find a good partner to assist you. 

Clients Success Stories with Fishbowl

Beverly talks about a medical equipment company she recently worked with, and how Fishbowl was able to not only provide excellent inventory management to their company, but also help in other aspects of their business, including all the medical requirements implemented by the FDA. 

Beverly also talks about how many clients come to Fishbowl in desperate search of a system that provides them with what they need, but does so in an affordable way.

Impact of Covid on Manufacturing and Importance of Inventory Management

Dawn also talks about the importance of having a virtual or cloud based system that allows companies to implement new inventory programs without having to have a representative come in person.

Beverly agrees, and talks about how quickly Fishbowl pivoted their program to provide virtual solutions, and how Fishbowl has developed integrations with online businesses programs like Shopify, Amazon, and Etsy.

Dawn also discusses how important it is for businesses to partner with inventory management programs because it can be very difficult to project future inventory costs without proper assistance. 

Beverly agrees, and shares her passion for educating customers on how to correctly understand their reports, and how an accurate understanding of inventory can lead to future savings and business success.

Beverly’s Current Work Life and Inspiration

Beverly talks about the difference between going from a business to an employee, and talks about the feeling of needing to prove herself. She also talks about trying to improve her work-life balance, and her desire to be able to have a team of people that work efficiently, without having to work 80 hour weeks.

Beverly also talks about how she found her initial motivation from her beginnings in the QSP community, and now finds inspiration from her former English college professor and best friend, Holly.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to the designated motivator. We’re here to not just motivate but put stuff into action and I’m so excited. There’s somebody else I’ve ever learned from in my career. It is from Beverly Lang, who is a doer she is not a talker. She is a doer, and she is at the forefront of this industry making things happen. Today’s sponsor of this episode, as you can just imagine, fishbowl fishbowl the absolute best Inventory Management System period that you will find and the person that I go to and I refer to as Beverly Lange because she knows all those things. And you know, I want to be an expert at the things I’m good at and that’s just not my area. So I hand it over to somebody who is an expert and that’s Beverly, so Beverly Lang, thank you so much for coming today.

Bev Lang 1:34
I’m so excited to be here. Love my son Brolin love rolling with Brolin. So anytime we can jump on that the train there or what is it? Come up to bat, so to speak with Brolin?

Dawn Brolin 1:47
Let’s go, let’s go. Run’s with Beverly Lang today. And I’m excited because Beverly, you have done amazing things in your career. You’ve gone from here to there to there, and now you’re at the top of the world. And most importantly, Happy belated birthday from the Dawn Brolin. I was so excited for you. You ended up going somewhere. What was your little plan? What did you do?

Bev Lang 2:09
We actually went yesterday with my son and his little friend, we went and played Top Golf and I have laughed so hard. It was the best day ever. It was overcast, it was cool. There was a breeze blowing and I had two quirky teenagers and we just had a ball.

Dawn Brolin 2:26
I love that. That’s awesome. And you have historically done a lot of fun things with your son like getting in your in your RV and traveling all over the place and drive wherever the heck you want. Right. So that’s an awesome.

Bev Lang 2:39
Have a laptop, will travel. So I can work from anywhere with technology even before COVID I was completely mobile, and wasn’t going to leet, let work keep me from being able to do the fun thing. So yes. Well, you know, we just sold our RV though. So we got new adventures coming, just bought to 15 acres of land. Have our own little domicile there and see what comes with that.

Dawn Brolin 3:04
And I love that. So you’ve been so people always ask about the life work balance thing, right? And it’s kind of like, you know, my whole thing was, well, I’m going to go coach a softball team during tax season, because that makes sense. And you’re hoping you’re part of what you’re all about is again, this that mobility perspective that people like we knew this before. COVID. Right. And so now it’s like, people talk about work life balance, and how do you do it? And it’s like, you know what, you have to make a decision, and you just got to go do it.

Bev Lang 3:33
That’s it, you know that’s it.

Dawn Brolin 3:34
You can’t talk about it. And so you have you have done some amazing things for many people in the industry. And I will say definitely, for us a powerful accounting. Amanda was your biggest fan. Although I say I’m your biggest fan. But red, red was all about Beverly, I mean, but you were instrumental in helping us understand we were in the Q SP program. Previously, we’re not any longer but when we were we just we really struggled to figure things out. And I felt like you were able to give us Mote the motivation to do better. And you were there to support us and that’s tell me about how you feel about that. Because that’s really important for all of us in this industry to realize that we are all here for each other and we can do great things for each other.

Bev Lang 4:18
We, we have to be. So I mean there’s let’s be honest, in the QSP environment, there is that clique-ish high school mentality. There’s some people that don’t play well with others. But the way I see it, there’s enough work out there for all of us. And so when read come to me and said I don’t know how you do it. Well here let me help you that that’s what I like to do is teach people how to do what I do. It’s very easy to be able to go out and talk to a customer about a product you love a product that you feel confident in and sell the customer and support the customer using said products. So I feel like we should be able to call each other and there’s been many times late late at night you and I’ve been texting or Facebook message Okay, what do I do about this Dawn, and you’re telling me how to handle something and vice versa? We got to be there for each other. Otherwise, you know, as cliche as it is our motto in the KSP industry is hashtag better together. And we are absolutely, we can’t always be rockstars at everything. That’s why we got to find your niche and find those people. That compliment us like you and I.

Dawn Brolin 5:21
Absolutely. And that’s, like, I mean, you think about the people who have like you, I’ll say you’ve grown up with we’ve all kind of grown up with each other in a little bit of a way, right? I mean, you know, thinking about the days of the Q SP, we’d like Rebecca Brandenburg, of course, she’s with Avalara. Now, and you know, what she was able to do for that program. And so many other people that came before her Simon and all kinds of different people who add into it, I find that it’s so easy to build those relationships, because they, I feel like Intuit doesn’t hire jerks, if that makes sense. Right? For the most part, I would say…

Bev Lang 5:56
For the most part, there’s been a few, but for the most part, they really, truly want to see us succeed. And they really want to work with us. And so yeah, I mean, I started with Simon pass, back in 2009. He signed me up, he, you know, he left the channel and went, went on his merry little way. And now he’s come full circle back to being part of the channel. So you know, and I never lost that relationship with him,so…

Dawn Brolin 6:23
And really you know, and so, of course, we’re going to definitely shift into the conversation of Fishbowl, because, you know, I went up there to do the filming for the Summit. And I’ve an even since I met the fishbowl called the Fishbowl guys, for the most part there guys, except for Kim. Now we see Kim a little bit more, which is great. But it’s like, I feel like I Intuit was my first real introduction to applications, accounting software, whatever. But I’ll say vendors for lack of a better description, where I like was like, these guys are like a family like these people. I feel like I can really count on these people when it gets down to it. And I need something. And I had the same feeling about the fishbowl guys, I say the visual fishbowl environment. Very, very welcoming, very, very intense when it comes to serving their clients and their customers. And I think that that if you’re in so for people who do listen to the show, a lot of people are looking for what are those apps we should be looking for? What are the good, the bad, the ugly of what we should be considering? And for me, one of the biggest things is can I work with them? Are they accessible? Are they willing to have a conversation if we’ve got an issue, or if we’re just, you know, looking for some help on how to maybe close a sale or whatever. And they’re always so open to have that conversation that’s so important to me. Now you have an amazing relationship with fishbowl. And I do want to hear like the history of Beverly Lange, from when Beverly started back when she was a baby baby because she’s only like 32 as of yesterday. So I mean ish. Like, forget it, right? 24 I know, I was really, I mean, I felt like I needed to be, oh, you’re still a baby. When you hit once you hit the top of the hill, man, that’s where I’m at.

Bev Lang 8:09
I’m still climbing the hill!

Dawn Brolin 8:10
Climb it, climb it, climb it! But I want to hear about Beverly Lange’s journey. And a lot of people like to hear the journeys because it’s relatable. And tell us some of the good, the bad and the ugly that you’ve gone through since your inception of, you know, being in business for yourself, and in this space of accounting.

Bev Lang 8:27
Well, I started with another key USP and at the time, I didn’t know what a key USP was. I was working under him selling, selling a lot and didn’t have a clue that he was getting paid for every sale that I made. Okay. And when I found that out, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was like, wait a minute, like you could have at least told me what we’re doing. And we could set the structure. And so he took me to my first scaling new heights back in 2009. Okay, wow, I met Simon pass and found out about the reseller program. Okay. And I said, You know what, at that time you had to pay to play it was a grant to sign up. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take a gamble on me. Yeah, and the other chsp who shall not be named just like you can’t do that. There can’t be two of us in high school. I was like, watch me. He says you’ll never make it. Here I am today, selling a million dollars plus, and he still sell on the 100 150. So who made who do Am I work with? I worked with Simon and I just dug in. I worked a full time job for the first two or three years and started making a little bit of money. I was like, You know what, you can really do this. You could really make money just selling QuickBooks. So I quit my full time job and went all in and got a new cam, which was staff and we grew 578% The next year. I agree. 332%. And so over the course of three years, I’ve built my book of business to where I am. I met fishbowl at scale. New Heights Bahamas which was what, five, six years ago? Yes. Took them kind of it with a grain of salt. It’s like a It’s another software I’ll check it out. I really like the guys. They seem very personable. Okay, close was a great guy Kendrick, and so got to learn a little bit more started making a couple sales. I was like, You know what, this is really good software and I don’t have a whole lot in my partner stack. It was QuickBooks, Fishbowl, Avolera. That was it. And, you know, I wanted to be really good at all of those became their reseller for the last three or four years. And they finally came to me in May. They’re like, You know what? We’re like ice cream, and whipped topping, like, you’re the cherry, we got to put it all together, how do we make this one company? And I jokingly said, You know what, you can’t afford me, you know, this ain’t never gonna work. He’s like, throw me some numbers out two months later, I’m a full time employee that required my company, all of my employees, and we now have a QuickBooks channel at Fishbowl.

Dawn Brolin 11:00
That is so awesome! And because QuickBooks and fishbowl are buddies like, right? It’s a natural, it’s a natural conversion from thinking that QuickBooks is going to manage all of those inventory leads correct. And I’ve always said, listen, QuickBooks Enterprise is phenomenal. It is awesome. It’s, it can do so much for you, it gets to a point where it can’t. And so and maybe that is just not the right fit. So I find that like, and I’m sure you do, too. When you’re working with clients, you’re trying to help them with the solutions that you know are the best for them. I always tell people, I try to meet them where they are, and then bring them into, “Hey, listen, are you ready to be a legitimate company?” Yeah, right. “Are you? Are you ready to run this right?” And I think that that’s where we, as the consultants run into sometimes challenges because we have this conflict conflict of, oh, I don’t want to spend all this money. Well, number one, Fishbowl is extremely affordable. Let’s be real. I mean, honestly. But not only that, it’s not just affordable. It’s what the client needs at the end of the day. And it’s not an expense, it’s an investment. And I have this conversation, right? With the clients, you’re not spending money on fishbowl, you’re investing money in your inventory, which by the way, it makes you that is your product, man. Without it, you’ve got nothing you’re out of business.

Bev Lang 12:20
Well, just like they say you have to spend a little money to make money. And that’s true, if you really want to take it to the next level. We as consultants have to look at the customer and where they’re at today, and where they want to be in six months, 12 months, 18 months. And if it means okay, we need to push them in fishbowl because that’s where they want to be in 18 months, that’s better than putting them on QuickBooks now, then having to cater to what it can and can’t do, and then turn around and having to push them too quick to fishbowl again in a year. So that’s not the best for the customer. Now I love into it, I am number one into it fan into it. and QuickBooks is capable of meeting the needs of the drivers. That’s where I’m going to stop. But nine times out of 10. If they’re heavy manufacturing, or they’re into the three PL or they’re into distribution, QuickBooks just doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that are needed. And so the best solution out there that I have found, and I have tried them all is visual, whether they’re quick, yes, desktop or cubio. And so then we can even reduce them, maybe they don’t need enterprise anymore. Maybe they just need QuickBooks Online. So because all the heavy lifting is going to come out of fishbowl, right. And so we really want to look at the customer and right fit the customer, whatever that means.

Dawn Brolin 13:34
Right? So now if we think back, we pull back a little bit, and we think of the 2009. And the experience you had with the Q SP being a partner and things like that, it was easy for you to be motivated to kick ass. Let’s just be honest about that. Right. So So with that, as your journey went on, I’m imagining that your MO, a lot of your motivation came from being able to fulfill the needs of your clients, right?

Bev Lang 13:58
Absolutely, absolutely.

Dawn Brolin 14:00
I mean, without clients, we have nothing, we’re consulting with no one, if that even makes sense. But but at the end of the day, you built yourself an empire and you were the lead in that. And how many employees did you get up to at one point?

Bev Lang 14:14
Umm, six.

Dawn Brolin 14:16
Six employees, and they were implementing…

Bev Lang 14:19
QuickBooks, Fishbowl, filled service management, payroll, because I’ve always been one of the top providers of payroll. I think Cary Kahn and I go back and forth quite a bit. But yeah, for the for a long time. It was always me in the payroll industry, right. I work hand in hand with Intuit on product development for both enterprise cubio payroll. We just had a Payroll Certification release. I don’t know if everybody knows that. But there’s a new certification, a new badge. It’s bright pink. Everybody’s gonna love it. But it’s payroll. And it I wrote I helped write that. So everyone needs to go learn that because it talks to the product and it talks about being a payroll specialist. So if you want to provide payroll, go get certified so that you can show your knowledge and your wealth to your customer.

Dawn Brolin 15:07
You know, and I love that you talked about that, because I did see an email that had come out that that was coming down the pike and knowing that that’s out there. If there’s anything that it’s that is important, when it comes to us as consultants or bookkeepers, or CPAs, it doesn’t really matter what it is, the biggest things are compliance, right? So having that, that being in compliance at all times payroll is a stinking nightmare. If you want to provide payroll services, you got to obtain every ounce of knowledge that you possibly can certainly with Intuit having that relationship with Intuit, whoever your your contact is there with regards to payroll, and making sure that you have that conversation. Because payroll, guess what, here’s one thing that I’ve realized about payroll, no matter how well you do it, how often you do it, how good you are at it, you’re going to get notices.

Bev Lang 15:56
Yes. Different, right, wrong, or indifferent. That’s it.

Dawn Brolin 16:00
Yep. And the client is going to look to you as the payroll provider, whether you outsource full service, whatever that may look like for you. Or if you’re actually literally doing payroll, handling quarterly things like that, which the cost of the technology these days, and the ability to have that full service is a no brainer. But still knowing how to set them up knowing where they need withholding registrations, because no payroll service that I’ve seen, are actually providing the service to those withholding registrations and Department of Labor and they hire a new employee in another state, you don’t know about it, and there’s no withholding and no unemployment, or if there’s no holding, if it’s applicable. But that’s just such a big thing. And with Fishbowl, the compliance area that we’re concerned about a sales tax, right, we’ve got distribution, we’ve got all of this crossover…

Bev Lang 16:49
Postal, drop ship, you need to know where there’s tax, and that’s where Avalara, as you mentioned before, comes in, we have a great integration tool. And Avalara is the leader, by far in the industry of maintaining compliance with both sales tax use tax, and keeping your sales tax exempt certificates in compliance so that you know which ones are dated and which ones are out of date. So yes, compliance is a big issue in the manufacturing in the wholesale industry. And we have solved by that by using Avalara.

Dawn Brolin 17:23
Absolutely. And I find that, you know, certainly for me, my compliance area that I deal with is tax returns and tax representation. I don’t want it to go any further. So that’s why I partner I personally partner with ADP, and I partner with Avalara. But Intuit just the same, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re partnering with somebody who again, I think the most important thing about the vendors and I mentioned this before about fishbowl is the relationship you have with that vendor. Right? Right. Because if you can’t get problem solved timely, there’s penalties and interest involved here, and we’re talking significant. So having that ability. So tell walk me a little bit through what is your who is your ideal fishbowl client, like if you were to say, okay, here, these are the ideal people, they’re out there, obviously, anybody that’s like you said in distribution or manufacturing and things like that. But you know, give, I would love to hear a case where you’ve got this client, and they were just a train wreck, because that’s usually how we get them. We don’t get them because they’re doing great!

Bev Lang 18:23
If they’re doing right, no. We get ’em because it’s a mess.

Dawn Brolin 18:28
It’s about… so talk me through one.

Bev Lang 18:30
I had a customer in Seattle, Washington medical manufacturing, didn’t have a system in place, decided to go with QuickBooks, we looked at QuickBooks and decided that it wasn’t robust enough. So we implemented Fishbowl. Customer has been up and running for a year, and they they absolutely love it, they have grown, it has grown with them, it has allowed them to create specific processes for each division within within the receiving within the inventory control within, you know, quality, outsourcing it to other third party vendors for value add. And so it’s allowed them to keep track and because they’re in the medical industry, they are so heavily regulated by the FDA, that it keeps all of that reporting that’s required allows them to track by lot number, serial number, whatever they need to, so that they can do a recall if necessary, which knock on wood, there hasn’t been one. But it gives them that capability. And so it has really helped this company come full circle with their inventory management, and making sure that they’re ready to grow as quickly and growing, so a great solution for this company.

Dawn Brolin 19:43
Yeah, and so interesting, too, because you’ll find that clients come to you and there do you find that they’re more price conscious or they feel like you know what, we’re ready to get a system that we know is going to work because they’ve been stumbling with workarounds which by the way, we are kings and queens have workarounds, right? But when you can get a real true system like Fishbowl, it’s always the better solution. Always.

Bev Lang 20:08
I would say they’re about 50/50. Most of them come, they’re mad because they’ve been stumbling. And they can’t find that one system that works. But they’re still price conscious. So fishbowl has done a really great job at increasing the features, making sure that everything is as robust as it can be, but still a price point that is palatable, something that I can afford to do something that the mom and pop onesie twosies can afford, as well as things. We try to offer bundled pricing with implementation QuickBooks support, because they need to integrate the two systems, we want to teach them upfront before it becomes an issue. And so we do some bundle packaging. And then we usually have some great financing offers, you know, 0% down for 12 months or whatever to hell, right, that small business or that price conscious customer or cashflow with cash flow issues, to still be to afford the software that they need. And then right like you said, you’re you’re only as good as your support, we can sell the greatest product in the world. Let’s sell a Lamborghini. But if you don’t put that key in, in the engine crank, it don’t matter how pretty it looks it run. So we have to be able to support and we do we have multiple support divisions and teams. We want to make sure the customer is taken care of we’re working hand in hand with the Fishbowl rep on the QB side to make sure that everything is talking the way it’s supposed to.

Dawn Brolin 21:32
Yeah. And so that’s a good question too. I want to ask you, as far as, like implementation, when somebody comes to fishbowl like, obviously I said everything to Beverly, because why would I go work around anywhere else, right. So you can also anybody that’s listening, if you want to hook up with fishbowl and get some more insight into that just reach out to Beverly, she’s all over the place, social media, you name it, she’s there, she drives around an RV that she just sold, which is going to build on a property, we should probably have some kind of a retreat for all of us to come to. But in the meantime..

Bev Lang 22:03
Yeah we could do that! Once the house is built. we can we could have a, what would everybody do? We can just all are out on the property?

Dawn Brolin 22:11
Well I think that’s what we’re also excited about Scaling New Heights is actually be able to get to be face to face with people.

Bev Lang 22:15
What seeing somebody? Yes, because it’s been what two years now?

Dawn Brolin 22:18
Tt has been two years! I went to engage. And it was great. I got to see Deb Defer, I got to see, I’m just Todd was there and just a bunch of people, Amy Selleck, from ADP, just a bunch of people, it was kind of like, oh my gosh, like Todd Robinson, who I love very much. Just being able to get to be in front of people, again, was just like, we’re real people. Again, I kind of forgot right now. And now I think if you think about COVID, and the impact of COVID on those manufacturers, wholesalers, all those kind of people who it’s 100% touchless. And it’s in a little bit of a way, and it has been for a year and a half, almost two years now. That’s something that people need to take into consideration when they’re considering what am I going to do about my inventory supply chain, or being able to distribute and get things out and not have to have that human human touch, unfortunately, right. So so tell me a little bit more about how that kind of plays in and what you’ve seen over the last year and a half with regards to, you know, the COVID response from for those that industry.

Bev Lang 23:24
Well, fishbowl pivoted very quickly after COVID hit and designed some really great virtual implementations. For those that couldn’t go on site. We also have developed quite a few more integrations, we’ve seen a lot of spike in people having websites or online presence, so that they could sell their product. And so for that fact, we have integrations with Shopify, you know, webgility, we have other shopping carts that we can work with so that we can bring that information down into fishbowl verify that the inventories there, process the order and then push that over to QuickBooks. With the training and support, we’ve really gotten some fine tuned processes in place, so that we can make sure the customer is still taking care of even though it’s virtually through a computer. And we’ve been very successful at implementing Fishbowl virtually. And so that makes the customer happy. It’s cheaper on the customer, the quality is still just as good. And getting up and running. We’ve seen us I would say we’ve seen a spike in the number of people that are moving to fishbowl because during this COVID time, people actually have time to stop and look at their accounting and what’s not working and actually fix some of those issues so that when we come out of this tailspin, they’re already set for success. And that’s what we’re hoping to see is our customers just sail through with great sales moving forward.

Dawn Brolin 24:49
And you know, I think certainly with because of the COVID pandemic having that it’s got to be good information, more than it ever has had been before. Although we’ve always we’ve been talking about this Ever as in the accounting industry of, you know, I was saying yesterday to Gaynor, I’m like, Listen, if you’re not recording, you are not properly reporting. And it’s just like anything else with inventory. You know, from a tax perspective, there’s tax implications when it comes to your inventory. You know, I had this one client, they happen to be a liquor store, and he would at year end, buy a ton of inventory. He’s like, I’m getting it on sale, it’s gonna be great. And I also can reduce my costs, I can reduce my bottom line. That’s not how inventory works, buddy!

Bev Lang 25:32
No that’s not how it work! That’s perpetual.

Dawn Brolin 25:35
Inventory is perpetual, it’s gonna sit on that balance sheet, and it’s not going to affect your cost of goods sold. He didn’t understand it. And so I feel like people are now starting to give inventory the right attention.

Bev Lang 25:51
Right. There’s a lot of customers that don’t really understand why buy and sell it. But there’s so much more that goes into that. There’s so they like, what are all these journal entries? Well, it doesn’t just go straight from I bought it, I sold it, like there’s a lot between, you know, so you know, educating people, which is what I enjoy doing is teaching them how the system works, and how the two work together so that they can understand the reports they get.

Dawn Brolin 26:18
Yeah, and they’ve just got to realize that that value of inventory is from a succession planning perspective, which a lot of people I just find that people don’t think about. What are you gonna do with the future that inventory on your balance sheet is going to help you sell you’re, hopefully, hopefully we see inventory turnover ratios turning and turning and churning, right? Because without that we’re sitting on dead inventories. Also No, good, right. That’s no good. So I think that again, like you said, I think people are starting to say, hey, I really do need a good inventory system, I need to make sure that I’m understanding what my numbers are, that they are accurate…

Bev Lang 26:55
Absolutely, trends. What did I do this time last year? What do I need to you know, budget for in the next six months. So you can look at cash flows you can look at during the analysis, and you can see exactly what you’re return is.

Dawn Brolin 27:08
Absolutely. And being prepared for this coming holiday season, which I think I’m hoping that those who are selling products online, because like you said, people are moving more online, because it’s not so brick and mortar anymore. People need to be able to get to your store. But they also don’t want to get to your store online, and buy something that isn’t in stock. And if you don’t have your inventory system up to date, so that you know, you have 10 in stock, and you actually do have 10 in stock, because you can go to a bin and check it that people are in line are being discouraged because you never have stuff in inventory. And that’s not because of anything other than I would say, lack of investment in the business that you’re trying to be successful in. You know..

Bev Lang 27:52
That’s correct. Especially with all these that I’ve picked up Amazon and eBay, and Etsy as resellers, we have plans for those so that we can help manage that Amazon. While it’s probably one of the the most common selling platforms, it’s very intimidating for someone who doesn’t understand how to reconcile because there’s a fee for this a fee for that, you know, so having the knowledge to understand and have that talk to to Fishbowl so that your inventory value stay correct imparitive to keeping your financials accurate on the QuickBooks side.

Dawn Brolin 28:28
So now, Beverly, now…

Bev Lang 28:31
Now Dawn!

Dawn Brolin 28:32
Now honey..

Bev Lang 28:32
Now honey…

Dawn Brolin 28:34
God I love you, Beverly!

Bev Lang 28:35
I love you, too.

Dawn Brolin 28:36
So now that you’ve made this amazing transition from owning your own company, having it been acquired, and that whole process, how do you like how is your life today as opposed to what it was say five years ago? Even? Like, just in general like your, your Do you? I mean, I can I know you I know how excited you are about being at Fishbowl. And I know that you have, obviously they know you have what it takes to take their company to a whole nother level which you already have done in a very short period of time. And I think a lot of that is because of your experience, and your compassion and your passion to solve these problems for people because I think I forget who I was talking to the other day, we really are people pleasers, right. And so here’s what do you what do you find has kind of changed for you as, as anything changed.

Bev Lang 29:28
A lot has changed. I mean, it’s a complete different mentality going from business owner to employee. So I feel like now I have to kind of prove myself even though I’m putting that on myself, because I’ve already proven myself. But I still have a stress level. I still work but now I have like six or seven under me that I need to make sure you’re taking care of our team is phenomenal. We’re like family and we are growing by leaps and bounds. We’re adding another employee next next week. Okay. And so I’m hoping I’m giving myself six months, another couple of weeks, a couple of months. And I’m hoping that the the work life balance shifts. And then I’m back. Sure even more even playing field because I’ve got all these great people around me like my great Tina and Maracore. Tiffany and Casey, all these great employees that, you know, I’m teaching, not that they don’t know how to do it, but just teaching them what I’ve learned in my years within teacher, my best practices, and then we’re finding our best practices. And I think we can grow this team without us all having to work 80 hour weeks.

Dawn Brolin 30:36
Sure, sure. Which is obvious. I mean, you have a young one, you just have a son, right?

Bev Lang 30:42
Well, does my ex husband count? So then I have like, two?

Dawn Brolin 30:48
You can never you can never change that. And so being able to spend more time, oh, he’s 14, right. I knew he was a teenager. So because you’ve made the reference to the golf outing. But are you finding like, alright, I like for myself, even having that ability to spend that quality time with him is like priceless. And, you know, your motivation, I’m sure is to continue to provide for him in ways that, you know, he needs right as a teenage boy, I’m sure there’s plenty of I had girls, so I can’t imagine I mean, the boy thing.

Bev Lang 31:21
My situation is probably a little bit different. Noah doesn’t want to spend any time with me. He’s at that age where moms are not cool unless he needs money. Okay. But Noah was also diagnosed with narcolepsy at 12. Okay, okay. We have we’re really not sure what the future holds. We’re still trying to figure that out as we don’t right. But we actually went looking for him his first car yesterday. And yes, I know. He’s only 14. He’s fixed to turn 15. But I drive an Audi that he drives an Audi. He ain’t driving our cars. So we gotta go. We gotta go get him a car. So you need a leader. That’s what we were looking for something that he can learn to drive in? Because he’s not getting in mine.

Dawn Brolin 32:04
He’s not touching Mama’s car!

Bev Lang 32:07
I don’t think the Gator counts, because I don’t think you can drive that on the road, the little aka utility vehicle. So but yes, my whole thing was I wanted to set myself up for retirement. I have said for the past few years, I wanted to retire at 50. I’m now set to retire at 52.

Dawn Brolin 32:25
That I love that. That’s yeah, my goal is 55. So my goal is to retire 55 Because my dad retired at 55. It’s it’s more of a personal goal, because I want to be like my dad, right? We all have that. So for you, Beverly, if you think back in the history of your career, or your life or whatever, who was somebody who inspired you motivated, you picked you up when you were down? Whatever that case, may be you have a person that that fills that role for you.

Bev Lang 32:58
I do I have a couple of people actually. So motivation comes from two different places. I have the one the key USP that I work for at first that told me I couldn’t and I don’t like to be told I can’t do anything. That’s all you know, that lit a fire because I’m like, I’m going to show you and I think yeah, but then I have a probably my best friend Holly who was my English professor in college. Oh, we connected because I got my first essay back and I only got a 90. And I wanted to so I asked for a meeting. And I wanted to know what I had to do to get those other 10 points that I wanted to a plus not a minus. And she’s like, Are you kidding me? You’re the only student asking me how to get a better a. So she worked with me so that I got an A plus in that class. And we just hit it off. And we’ve been friends for years. So but she’s, she’s like my voice of reason. Whenever I’m starting to go off the deep end or I’m spinning out of control. I call her it’s like okay, I need you to talk me off the ledge like, help me here. What do I do? And she’s always got my back and she’s always got the right words of wisdom just when I need them.

Dawn Brolin 34:11
I love that, and just so you know you are that person for other people. I know for sure for me, you have always inspired me to like be better do better. I almost kind of think of it like what don’t I know more than anything? It’s because you know, obviously we know what we what we know. You are a very big inspiration to Amanda. She really looks up to you still does we I text her every once in a while and she’s always asking me if you see Beverly and I can’t wait to send her a picture. We’ll have to do that. Yes. We’re gonna text her a picture for sure.

Bev Lang 34:43
You know, I could say the same about you Dawn though. I have a ton us Rebecca Branberg. I still call her, Jamie Dimon and Avalara. Like, there’s so many of us in our community that we’re so tight knit, Gina from Intuit. Oh, like we’re just family and like if nothing happens Like I could pick up the phone and call you in the middle of the night, you didn’t answer the heartbeat, I do the same thing for you. And so there’s, you know, there’s so there’s those few that we have connected with. yet. I think we, we build on each other, you know, and we have other and that’s the way it should be. There shouldn’t be this whole USP, I can’t talk to you, because you might steal my client. Look, if I can take your client, they weren’t your client to begin with. Bang, done that. I’m not looking for you to steal your client like right, you know, but if I can, they weren’t yours to begin with, so…

Dawn Brolin 35:34
It’s it’s funny you say that too. Because Mama said to me, mama, mama still miss mama, that Mama, she’s never going I told her you have to be dead before you leave me honey, because she keeps this whole company moving forward. And I said to her the other day I said, Oh, my I It’s so strange. We haven’t been getting any leads this week. Because we’ve been getting since COVID. started, we’d get in one to two to five a week, we have new either people with issues with tax returns or need to get tax prep, or whatever the case may be. She’s like, Oh, I’m a little worried. I said, Mama. I don’t remember the last day I came into the office and called you and said, Hey, I don’t have anything to do. Like that just goes to the whole, like, there’s so much work out there that we can all help each other. Right?

Bev Lang 36:18
That’s right. That’s right, there’s enough work for us all. And is enough, I believe if QSP’s would lean on each other a little bit more, we can all have a better work life balance. Because there’s things that I don’t like to do that I would gladly pass off to someone else. Absolutely. My customer was safe, and that they’re just going to do this work. And they’re going to come to me for whatever, because that’s how I would treat other people in their customers. Like if you ask me a customer for Fishbowl, I’m only going to talk to them about Fishbowl. If they need QuickBooks, I’m going to come back to you and say, Hey, this is what your customer needs. Can you go sell this customer that? Like I’m not gonna steal–

Dawn Brolin 36:55
Beverly, could you just handle it?

Bev Lang 37:00
I’m not gonna like a sale, sale. There’s too much out there for me to build a retai– or reputation like that I wanted your own for being honest, loyal and helpful. Nothing other than that.

Dawn Brolin 37:10
Absolutely. Absolutely. So listen, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. Is there are there any last words you want to want the listeners to hear from my dear friend Beverly Lang.

Bev Lang 37:22
Just if you have inventory needs and QuickBooks is not cutting it, rr you think maybe QuickBooks is not the best solution. Reach out to me at Fishbowl. I’ll be happy to try to answer any of your questions. And then make sure you go pick up a book for Dawn, pick that book up and show him one more time, Dawn, and I’m waiting on my autographed copy. I’m sure I’m right.

Dawn Brolin 37:44
Okay, I’m bringing it to you. But the new book is going to be out by scaling. Yes, designate motivator for accounting professionals. And really, it’s all about helping pick the industry up helping people see that there are other things you can be doing if you don’t love what you’re doing. Beverly loved what she was doing, but found she could do bigger and better have she joined forces with fishbowl and sometimes that’s a great move as well. Right? Right. Right. So Well, thank you so much for coming on. Beverly, I love you dearly. What would Beverly do? Reach out to Beverly if you need anything for fishbowl or call me and I’ll send you to Beverly, whatever, whatever you may need. But that’s what we’re here for. So thanks again for everybody for listening to the VM disruption and we’ll talk to you next time and go out there. Figure out that work life balance and enjoy yourself. That’s what we’re all what life’s all about. Thanks again. Everybody was ready, honey. Let me fly back.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Episode Summary

Daniel Fritz, SmartVault’s Director of Products, chats it up with Dawn Brolin, CPA CFE, about the importance of setting personal and professional goals, plus provides insights on how to help your team work like a well-oiled machine. He also shares how SmartVault’s passion for creating happier and more productive accounting professionals is at the core of their commitment to creating the ultimate document management solution for your tech stack.

Daniel’s Story and Motivation

Daniel begins the conversion by sharing his experiences as a new graduate, and how his first boss, Nancy Ward, was the catalyst to help him actively pursue his personal and professional goals. He talks about his current professional goals being improving his team and scalability. He also shares that he finds joy when those around him also achieve success, and love what they do. 

SmartVault and Going Paperless

Dawn discusses her admiration for SmartsVault’s ability to secure and hold important tax documents, and how many accountants operate completely paperless now.

Daniel also talks about how SmartVault’s goal is to go completely paperless, and how they are on the cusp of doing so. Daniel shares that over 1.5 million CPAs use SmartVault’s services, and how they had over 13,000,000 documents that were uploaded and processed through their service.

Dawn also expresses her appreciation for SmartVault, as they are alway striving to integrate with new programs and software, and their growth as a company has never been static.

SmartVault’s Integration, Current Changes, and Company Growth

Daniel begins by talking about how SmartVault has completely redesigned their entire billing system to allow them to bill in local currency. He also talks about DocuSign’s new subscription based model that is more affordable than their DocuSign counterparts. And lastly, he discusses revamping their UI in their web portal and other programs.

Dawn also shares how SmartVault makes communication between her and client easy, and makes sure she can do her job efficiently and efficiently as a practitioner.

Daniel adds how SmartVault becomes your central document depository; practitioners and clients are able to access all of their documents quickly and securely. 

Importance of Outsourcing and SmartVault’s Flexibility

Dawn also talks about how important it is to outsource tasks to companies who specialize in them; you can’t do everything in accounting, so stick to the things you like doing, and outsource the ones you don’t.

Daniel talks about the flexibility of SmartVault, and how they take into account what their clients want and need. They also keep in mind that accountants aren’t the only clients they serve, and are always striving to make their program more accessible to businesses of all types and sizes.

Today Not Tomorrow

Daniel talks about his experience as a salesman, and how many relationships he established back then, he still has today. He also shared another former boss’s valuable advice of TNT, today not tomorrow, and shares that SmartVault strives to maintain that value as well.

Dawn agrees with Daniel, and expresses how important it is to implement knowledge you learn in your firm today! Not only will this allow you to help your clients gain success, it will also help you achieve your personal goals.

SmartVault and Their New Developments

Daniel talks about SmartVault’s past operations, and how they needed someone on the inside to directly oversee new product development. They onboarded Daniel to try and implement these changes, and he shares how they have scaled their team from just 2 developers, to now 7 developers, and a team of 15 people. He talks about how they made small changes at the beginning of 2020 to cut ambiguity and increase efficiency.

He talks about how they are so close to developing a well-oiled machine, and now they are focused on slowing down, taking their time, and implementing more automation to make their workflow more streamlined.

Daniel’s Personal Motivation

Daniel credits his wife for his personal motivation, and shares how her intellectual guidance has been crucial for his success. He also talks about being inspired by his Dad’s work ethic, but also the devotion to his family.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

All right, well, hey, everybody, welcome back. My name is Dawn Brolin, the host of DM Disruption. Also the author of the Designated Motivator and the Designated Motivator for accounting professionals. I’m also a Certified Fraud Examiner. I’m also a mom. I’m also a volunteer assistant coach, I could go on for days, but it’s gonna be more fun to talk with our today’s guest, who’s going to be Daniel Fritz from smart ball. Now if you know me, you know I love smart ball period. Okay, it does the job it needs to do for me and my clients and I love it. So Daniel Fritz, I could tell you what I would have to intro you. This is the Wizard of the Wizard of Oz. And smart ball. This is the guy and you want to talk to if you ever see this guy at a conference, grab him, nail him down and talk to him. Because he’s brilliant. And he wants to hear what you want to know what’s coming down the line for smartphone, all that stuff. Daniel knows it all. So Daniel, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing? And I’d also like to say Shazam, Team rolling. There we go SmartVault theories. Let’s take this thing.

Daniel Fritz 1:51
Thanks a lot, Dawnn. Yeah, super glad to be here. It’s really, really kind of you not only to have you on the show, but also those kind words. Yeah, absolutely. We’d love everything smart vault, everything you have you see me at a conference, let’s talk like we can talk for days. You know, security and smart vault is completely built into my DNA. I joke with my my team members all the time that, you know, I one time yelled at my product manager. Why didn’t you do that? Well, you never told me this I know I told you to do they found out that I totally told him to do that in a dream. So I live eat sleep and dream smart ball every single day of the week. So here’s somebody that says I absolutely love smart ball. Nothing on this planet makes me happier. So thank you,

Dawn Brolin 2:29
I’m your girl, Dan, I love SmarVault, it what it does for me and my productivity level is through the roof. My profitability is even further and adjust, you know, I’m able to do my job for my clients, which is all I just want to do is get it done for them. So it’s great. But you know, we had a great conversation last week on a totally separate call. And we talked a lot about where, where your motivation comes from. And you had some awesome stories of, you know, a former company that you worked for, and how you had some management or some so other people in that company that really just fired you up and motivated you and I want to hear all about that.

Daniel Fritz 3:04
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I have to give a shout out to my very, very first boss, Nancy Ward. She truly took me out of my shell, I was this, this kid, honestly, right out of school. And she brought me the first time we ever sat down, I worked completely remote. This is back, I worked for an EHR company called Sage. And people today will know that is Greenway, one of the biggest EHRs out there. And anyway, Nancy sat me down. And she said, look, the most important thing to have is to keep you motivated as a salesperson is to always have a personal and a professional goal. And, you know, just kind of trick for anybody ever interviewing with me? That’s a question I’m going to ask you. Because I think it’s really important that you stay motivated, both personally and professionally. And, you know, the very, it’s funny how things change over time, because whenever I first heard that, I thought, Oh, well, I want to get engaged to my wife now of nine years, Sam, and then my professional just like, Look, I just want to be as good as the person that I was replacing, because she was on that sales trajectory path before me. And you know, it’s funny how it evolves. Because now here at Smart ball, my personal goal is, you know, I want to pay off a little bit more debt because I want to get a boat, but it’s gonna take some time. Yeah, no, we talked a little bit about your, your awesome Grady White over there. But uh, on the professional side, for me, it’s all about my team and their scalability. Because I, they, my team hears me talk about all the time that we want to become a well oiled machine. And there’s an old video out there of either Secretariat or one of the other famous things in the guy back in like the 50s or 60s just saying, like, look at this incredible machine that’s going down. And that’s, that’s what motivates me, is it seeing we’ve got some new devs that have joined on our team and just to see those guys contributing? see them having impact on what we’re doing. That’s just so exciting to me. Because when I joined, we were such a small team, under invested and no one really knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted this to be a vision. And it’s it’s been great to see that growth because one of our more experienced developers told me a couple, like, about a month or two ago, he just said, we’re working on hard problems early in the morning 745 before most people are in the office, and we’re sitting there going back and forth. And he just at the very end, I was like me, I really appreciate you, Jacqueline, this thing, thank you so much for the extra effort here. He’s like, man, I just love my job. And that there’s nothing that beats that as far as like satisfaction, because you can work anywhere. But you know, getting to work on the cool stuff that we’re doing innovative stuff that we’re doing the SmartVault is is awesome.

Dawn Brolin 5:52
That is awesome. I was just talking to a room Mather with ultimate ultimate quest. And they do a lot of education for CPAs. And he told me a story about how so if you’ve listened to this episode already, it’s okay. If you haven’t, you want to listen to it. But anyway, he was wonderful. And he talked about how he went into this customer. He’s his former CPA, and he does practice now. But he saw the sign on the wall. We walked into this executives offices at TGI M. And it goes right along with what you’re saying. And usually we say well, tgi fridays, Friday Hello, yeah, maybe they said, right. Like, that doesn’t make any sense. Like who knows that. And he said, That’s exactly the point. What the guy wanted to do was create a culture that the people that worked for him and worked at that facility would want to come in on a Monday morning, and they were excited to come back to work because it was a place that they love to be. And that’s exactly what you’re saying with your guys. And just being able to, you know, create that culture. And like you said, it’s a, it’s a well oiled machine. If you think about a CPA firm, if there’s any other place, and he’s a well oiled machine, it’s at a CPA firm, because we have compliance deadlines, we have security, you know, things are requirements we’ve got to pay attention to so we have to be as much of a well oiled machine as anybody else. Right. And so that’s, again, one of the things about smart vault, allowing that and having that secure portal for your clients to be able to jump in and grab what they need whenever they need it. You know, we started charging people for paper copies of their return. We said, you know, we send them their quote, and we have little checkboxes optional. paper copy, 20 bucks, that’s 200 bucks, right?

Daniel Fritz 7:29
That’s right, there you go.

Dawn Brolin 7:30
I might have had one person check that box this year. And that’s it.

Daniel Fritz 7:36
That’s the goal that we’re completely going for honestly, the paperless revolution that’s been trying to happen across multiple industry, I’ve worked in the healthcare industry, I’ve worked in the tax industry, I’ve actually, there was a small stint where I worked in the entertainment industry.

Dawn Brolin 7:53
Oh, we don’t get to hear about that!

Daniel Fritz 7:58
But uh, but you know, everyone wants to go there, everybody wants to be paperless. And here at SmartVault, that’s, I really feel like we are right on the cusp of truly getting there and just like you don, you’re able to go completely paperless. But you know, as we as we release some of these features, yeah, it’s just hey, person, we need these documents. And then you guys take those documents, put them through your well oiled machine, Don, and then provide them right back out to the portal. I mean, that’s, that is completely paperless, the idea that the only piece of paper is just getting sent down from the employers from the banks and all those things that you have to just take a picture of, you know, and that’s where we’re adding a lot of efficiency and usability when it comes to smart ball because we want your clients which we have about 1.5 million clients of our CPAs it’s Marvel 1.5 million that are using this I think some of the crazy stats, I should have grabbed some of those stats before I jumped on but we had over 13 million documents uploaded I mean, I mean it’s it’s crazy that the amount of documents we play with and just making that so much easier for the for the team members for you guys to deal with makes it to where to truly is paperless. And that just there’s there’s no like, yeah, you’re at your office, you don’t have the just file cabinets of old documents. You guys are like “No, it all on SmartVault, we don’t have to worry about it.”

Dawn Brolin 9:26
Exactly, you know, and I think that one of the things i i made beat a dead horse and it’s just too bad because my podcasts and I can’t if I want to write like cry if I want to. It’s my birthday. Who cares? So one of the things that I just want to hammer down into people’s brains two things. Number one, having applications are awesome, but they’re even awesomer which is a word. They’re awesome. Okay, if they integrate with each other, they can talk to each other. The second thing that I say about applications are are they growing? Are they forward thinking? Are they always looking for the next better way to do something or better technology? To solve a problem, and that’s why I choose Smart ball, they’re always on the path of improvement. And they’re always, they’re always thinking of open API. I think, for example, liscio is a great example, the way we’re integrating with carbon assert, and other software’s. And I think that that’s so important. So you obviously, a lot of things coming down the pike, some new release is here in the last couple of months you guys have put out there. Tell us about that stuff.

Daniel Fritz 10:25
Yeah, so some of the most recent things that we’ve done is that we are completely redesigned our entire billing system, we don’t want to be experts in billing, we want to be able to bill in local currency we want to do like ACH payments, and all of these things. And so we had to completely just break part of our software that’s been there for 14 years and plug in something new, we have a new way of using DocuSign, you can now just use it as a subscription model, use as much as you as you need. And it’s just a per user per month cost. That’s, by the way, what’s more affordable than our DocuSign counterparts. And the biggest thing that we’ve done in the last about three or four months is changing up the UI. So the UI was very dated, especially in the web portal. And what we’ve done, we’ve actually added something called Request docks. So you as a CPA can just type in Hey, Fritz, I need some documents from you, it takes if you know what document you’re looking for, I can create a template of 1520 documents that are recorded in about a minute, if I’m just typing down, I need this because they’re free text fields, you put in whatever you want in there, and they’re like, Hey, Don, I need your W two, I need your 1099, I need your IMTS, I need all of your DIVs. And I need a picture of your dog, I need a picture of that great wine, because I love boats. And you can say that the required ones that are in there. And so you get to that point. And you say like, Alright, I’m going to name this just, you know, prints this template real quick, because it took me a minute to make. And I just pull over and I say alright, Fritz, and I can add a little message in there. So usually I need these things. And then when you’re done, the little submit button in the top corner will light up. Because that was really important, because you talked about, you know, being innovative and things sometimes the smallest pieces, I have to quote my she’ll be embarrassed if I give her her name, but my lead QA person, she really talks about the last 5% all the time, she’ll kick something back in the tabs. You know, we have her her name proof code is what what the developers strive for at this point, and we want to make sure that she doesn’t kick it back. But she talks about the last 5%. And that that submit button is it’s just one of those things that just makes us just that, you know, just ticks it because you can have it to where your clients could upload documents, and they could just hit it. Well, what if they didn’t miss? They didn’t upload a couple of them? Mm hmm. Well, then you have to go through the whole wringer again, where is it? The button is not even clickable. It’s it’s it’s just a blue button that has the dark black letters of submit in it. And once you have uploaded or said, Hey, this, this question doesn’t apply to me that for the last required question, that thing lights up. And that’s the that’s the difference of having a team that really thinks about how that inner interaction should occur. So we don’t even allow people to make the mistake of like, Oh, crap, I didn’t answer that. Last question is, Hey, I can’t Why is this not working? Oh, I didn’t. And I got a scroll down. There’s more questions down here. And that saves time on your your end? It’s key.

Dawn Brolin 13:29
Oh, it’s key. Right. I mean, revisit. I mean, I don’t know how many times Tracy historically, just be like, she’s like, I think everything’s there. And then I go in, I’m like, nope, they don’t even they give me zero information on their for rental properties, I have nothing like what. So having this ability to ask and request that information and have that go right into their smart vault folder without us having to deal with it. And knowing once they submit, it’s that we do have everything that we asked for. Right. And that’s, that’s a time saver, and it’s for the client. Here’s the thing, people, this is important to know, how you’re reacting or how you’re how you’re communicating with your client, the way you communicate with the client, the easier you make it, the more they’re going to love you. They don’t want to be bogged down. Nobody wants to deal with this crap or deal with it. They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to have to deal with taxes. Like, oh, God, here we go. Another year goes by which it seems like it goes like that. And it’s back again, tax season returns. And so for the practitioners who are listening to this, just think about your workflow and how you’re communicating with your clients. We just implemented liscio a great tool to use with clients, right? I mean, if you if I’m if I’m doing that, if powerful accounting Inc, is sending requests and having communications through liscio and working with smart ball and they’re everything that they need is at their fingertips in a lot of ways, right? Especially on their phones, they want to have things on their phones. If you’re not doing it, they’re going to find somebody who is absolute right and I don’t want to take your clients I have enough of them. I love I love Almost all of them and many of my clients are listening, not sure which way you go, hopefully, you’re going to in the happy development section of our client list, right. But that’s the key is the is the interactions that you’re going to have with your clients has to be has to be workable. I know that clients say to me, they thanked me for smartphone, you know, they thanked me because they don’t have to ask me for a copy of their return. It’s right where they’ve always live, which is in SmartVault from day one. Right?

Daniel Fritz 15:28
Yeah. And that’s in that right, there is one of the really big benefits that you know, you you sometimes run into a lot of people, it’s like, oh, well, I, I have that. And I printed it out, it’s here and I haven’t physically in like my safe at home. Whereas the SmartVault, digital copy, fullback, you know, fully protected every single alphabet soup of acronym from sec to FINRA, to GDPR. All of those acronyms, you’re covered. Because we we have that in there, we have a complete audit log that you can see everything that has happened that document from the beginning of time. And and that is so key, because when we talk to some of these accountants like look, no smart vault truly becomes your central document repository. This is the brain center. Yes, you have those tools, which awesome. I was just on a phone earlier today with Chris from Liscio. Love Chris girl, well, yeah, me and him are doing a Happy Hour, in a week or so. But like, that’s the thing is like, you know, to the point of the whole, like billing thing we talked about a minute ago, we don’t want to be experts, smart nuts. You don’t have to be good at everything, to make money in this world. And then that’s something that I learned whenever I was working in the entertainment industry, the software I sold was, was very niche. And there was like this very specific kind of person that would pay a lot of money for it. And so that’s how I feel about smartphones is like, look, we are the document storage location, we don’t need to be this beautiful app that liscio is the communicator they are 1000 times better than we are at client communication. And we own that, that’s why we decided to integrate with them and said, like, Chris, you don’t want to be I sat on the phone with his CTO, when we were first talking about the integration. And he just said, I, I don’t want to build a document storage solution on this, right? He’s like, we want to stay in the UI on the front end where it’s beautiful. And and we said like, look, we could never compete with you in that world. But we’ve got a document storage system that is, you know, the equivalent of Fort Knox over here. Why don’t we just connect those and then we’ll just kind of like, hey, you need a document storage system. Oh, you need some communities, go to Liscio is very similar to the like you said, with Karbon, the conversations that we’re having with carbon are going to be the very same thing that practice management with Licio. With us that starts that best of breed. In that way. You’re not in this like locked ecosystem, because when you try to be good at everything, you’re good at nothing, you’re mediocre at best. So yeah, that’s definitely where we want to go.

Dawn Brolin 18:06
Well, that’s one of the messages I’ve been trying that part of this the purpose of the podcast, right is to take motivation, put it into action. And one of the things that I look at is when you like we have a reassess your firm mentality. And so taking, and we’ll have this up on our website, at some point is to take an assessment of your of your firm, because at the end of the day, exactly what you’re saying, Dan is, really, what are you good at? What do you love to provide for services? What are the things what are you doing right now that you don’t like to do? You know, I know for a long time you know, when you first start your firm’s we’ve talked about this many times, you’re like, you’re kind of like an accounting whore. I know, that’s not really the right term to say in business, but you are, you will do anything to make money, you’re gonna you’re gonna take on payroll, you’re gonna take on sales tax, you’re gonna take on, right up work, you’re gonna take on tax returns, whatever it is that you’re just going to take on all these things. And then he makes eventually, after you’ve fallen on your face enough times to say I suck at this. It’s okay to say that, by the way. And I did that I was like, I don’t want to do payroll, I don’t want to be a payroll person. ADP, you’re my full payroll HR solution. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to worry about it. You’re doing it. You’ve got a great partner program this great line myself up with that smart ball. Okay, smart ball. I want to duck storage. I want the best doc storage, I can find smartphone. I think I’ve out of all the apps I use besides into it because I started with QuickBooks back in 1999. But I think smart ball is the application, the solution that I’ve had the longest, you know, because you you go through your firm’s growth pattern, and you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna try, you know, this app, or I’m gonna try Google Docs or on the truck. And then you come to this one, you’re just like, Oh, my God, this is my lifelong app forever. Yeah. And that’s what you do you go through over time, but then you get this well oiled machine. And you’ve got things integrating, and everybody in the firm knows, we do the same things, every single client, we onboard, every single one of them matter what we’re doing the same way. And guess where they always start. So number one thing, SmartVault, because what we do is we create this potential clients folder, right? Because not everybody’s a client automatically. It’s kind of like what we do with keep, we put that you know, person into keep. And then once they upload their, their prior year return, we use quotient, we send them a quote, they accept it great. But they have to upload their prior return, the number one thing they have to do is upload their prior returned a SmartVault. So guess the first app they deal with with us, the very first app is SmartVault. That’s how it’s done.

Daniel Fritz 20:46
That’s the way to do it that. And you know, as those as those things go through, you know, you mentioned all those different things that we can do. That’s because we have that flexibility, when it comes to the folder structure, because you’re just in your case, Don, you’re using that as a potential client, and then you probably apply some more templates to it. But as you think about those things, it’s the flexibility of smart bolt is really where a lot of that value comes into play. Because, and honestly, that kind of makes it harder on our side, you know, not harder, just a little bit more fun, if you will, because you whenever we make a change to the software, we have to consider not just what it’s done once, even though she has like 90% of the roadmap locked up, like she knows what she wants. But for those other 10%. You know, we have to think about it. And that’s really prevalent in the way that we did some of the new files and folders, you know, when we released this new look and feel to it, there’s now a breadcrumb instead of this, you know, 1995 windows tree on the left. I you know, it’s funny Don is to laughing about that we literally had a design that was skinned and beautiful. And it took me and me and Danya to say like, Guys, no, there’s some times when you just have to let something die. And we just and the funny thing is, is that one of my CSM people they came over, and they just said they were just concerned. Like, they trust us. We know what we’re doing. We’re talking to enough customers. But she was very much like, are you guys not sure about this one? Because you just get so used to it. But that’s, you know, we really thought about it and said like, look, yes, accountants work that way. But a plumber, a potential pool company that could definitely benefit from smart vault, they can, you know, get those quotes from quotients. And kind of run it the same way, hey, we’ve got these bids for some pools. We need XYZ documents from you because and we’re going to provide you some documents cuz you got to give that to your HOA to make sure that they’re not going to tell you to rip up the hole in your ground. And, and it’s a those are some of those just that flexibility. But when you’re talking about like, hey, yeah, we use this this way. It’s just it’s so unique to hear. But that’s what we that’s the innovation. That’s what makes our life fun. Is saying like, how are we going to make this work? Yeah, we’ve got, you know, of our 7000 customers and our 1.5 million guest users. We, yeah, how we’re gonna make this because the big Yeah, the big majority of about 5000 of them are accountants and say, like, we’ve got to break that mentality. And that’s one of the things that whenever I came in, I really instilled on the team like look, kind of like you said, you reassess your practice, like we kind of had to reassess how we did development here. And I had had a couple great mentors through the years that taught me valuable lessons in that realm. But what we ended up on is just like, hey, no, we’ve got to consider that and we have to stop pump the brakes. And hopefully, you can’t see too much more back here. It’s a little insight into my mind a little bit, but we we will whiteboard everything. I’m, I have two whiteboards here, I have an entire wall that’s on the other side of this. That’s just it’s a whiteboard wall. And awesome. We’re always thinking about how’s this gonna work, we got to make sure it works for Dawn, but we also have to make sure that it could work for the potential landscapers. Bang, right that wants it to do, because if we just narrowed our focus, and we only did tax, you know, there’s a lot of great tax programs out there that are just that. But if you think about it’s like, they’re really rigid, it’s like, well, what if I’m a CPA, but I also kind of do this other thing, right, it would really be really hard to enforce one of those to do something.

Dawn Brolin 24:29
Right. Yeah. And that’s, you know, one of the so, you know, we talked in the beginning and you mentioned briefly that it was Nancy Ward was the name of the of the lady right. So I remember you telling me about some other like tidbits of that of that company that you worked for and and some really great stories there. Like, what other kinds of people were around you that you just loved and…

Daniel Fritz 24:49
Oh, just you know, when you’re a young sales guy, you you really get to kind of like meet a lot of people and just all my different teams. They had profound effects on me. And I still keep those relationships going today, some of the other big throughout the years of me being out and about. One of the best quotes that I learned early on was no matter who’s copied on the email, the truth doesn’t change. That was one of one of the best. And then bajas Dan was my boss. When I was at Azalea, I was the VP of product, and he really, he really instilled on me and I absolutely love Baja. He instilled upon me, TNT–today, not tomorrow.

Dawn Brolin 25:36
I told that story, Dan! you told me that one last week. I told the coach, I told the coach on Friday, I said I learned a new one today. Go ahead, keep going with that, I love that.

Daniel Fritz 25:47
And that was the thing is like I was the VP of product in you know, we were in a rural health care, really underserved areas. So you have all the big monolith hospitals in downtown’s and the medical centers and everything like oh, this massive Hospital, a lot of people forget about the random little hospital that’s three hours away from anything, right. And, and that’s what Azalea provided and you know, they’ve gone on since since I got wooed away to come over here to smart vault. They’ve gone on they’ve they’ve acquired a couple companies. But the thing is that always was instilled in me why bajas like let’s do make the change that they need today, not just wait on it. So we had several instances where, you know, healthcare is always changing, but it’s like, oh, this new customer, we only had about 40 or 50 of these smaller hospitals. But we were constantly changing that. And just having that as a as a motivation behind me is, you know, he’s like, Look, man, like your wishes what it is, but we can take an action, let’s take that action today, not tomorrow. Because we’re just kicking the can down the road, we’re never going to get anything done. And so we we use that mentality here at Smart vault as well. We try to be as efficient as possible and like, hey, if we find something like QA, find something, we’ve got to take that action today, and not just kick it down the road, because someone’s going to find that bug, someone’s going to find where that doesn’t, that that error message doesn’t describe what you have had, you know, what mistake has been made.

Dawn Brolin 27:16
That’s, you know, so T N T. Today, not tomorrow, if you want if you’re listening, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m telling you right now, if you take nothing away from this conversation with Dan, today, is today, not tomorrow. And that means in your firm, we go to conferences, we watch webinars, we listen to podcasts, we read books, we do all of these education, and then you know what we do with it? Nothing thing. And you just have to say, What am I going to implement today, I’m not going to wait until tomorrow, I’m going to implement this one solution for my firm, because it’s going to help my firm, it’s going to help my clients, it’s going to make me happier, it’s going to make them happier. And with all of those little things, you will be more profitable. You can go buy yourself a great 22 foot Grady White like hey, go that’s or whatever it is that you want to do you want to spend more time with your kids at games or whatever, you know, and that’s something dandy or the culture at Smart ball people. It’s smart ball that work with you. You were talking to me last week a little bit about, you know, you grew from a very small number of developers. And now you’ve got quite a few more which one body is a big number, by the way? You get one more developer that’s like, Oh, my goodness, two more hands. And one more brain. I’m in! So tell me about that.

So yeah, when I joined the team, we were we were being overseen by the smart vault is owned by a company that’s actually traded on the London Stock Exchange called Get Busy. And so we were we were being they was kind of being run by those guys. But they weren’t here in the business. That’s why they decided to bring me in this looked like they wanted somebody who has, you know, kind of done that before, has a decent track record, and whatnot. And so that’s, that’s what I came in, and it was me and another product guy. We have one QA person. And actually we only had two developers when I first started because one of them was on paternity leave it so there’s about five of us. And now we have we are about 15 people strong. We have scaled the team. The QA team is now three different people. We have a content writer on staff, I have two product people that help just build this engine. And then not to mention the seven developers and we have a couple more openings that we are we are actively hiring. We have two people that run our development operations area. So we’ve we scaled from this tiny little group. And all of that was we kind of had to sit down and I sat down with my team. I said, Look, guys, we have to do development differently. And I was telling you no dumb we talked last week I kind of mentioned is like look at what you remember changing. It was these little changes for the last couple of years in smartphones, like they move to AWS and then they just kind of just worth, you know, just plugging in just time and just saying like, hey, let’s just get these couple of things. And they made an investment the the board made an investment and let’s let’s have this smart ball could actually grow gangbusters over here. And that’s honestly what we’ve done. So we had four really small releases in 2020. During the pandemic and everything I instilled my processes we have a way that we like tickets to be written for our development teams so that we cut ambiguity and increase efficiency because even us, one of the six pillars of Smart Vault is BSU, it’s about blow shit up and that’s on. And, and the thing is, is that that’s I kind of just reiterated that, you know, some of these guys have been doing this my right hand guy, Himashu has been a smart vault since the beginning doneness.

Daniel Fritz 28:58
I love that guy. He’s just like, teddy bear, you just want to hug him.

Yes, absolutely he is he’s absolutely been instrumental in my success. And I, I owe a lot of that to him. But I also feel like we’ve kind of taught him because it’s really fun. The first year we hear you’re the new guy in town, you’re like, Oh, we’re gonna do it this way. He’s like, No. And now the funny thing is, is here we are about two years later, and he’s just like, we can’t do that. Because we haven’t followed the process. We’re not doing these things. And this is gonna turn into a mess. Yeah. And that’s what the evolution is now seeing. We have structured feedback sessions, we have customer validation, we have this massive multi page document that we put in this work. So that structure to say like, okay, we’re thinking about doing something, let’s write an executive summary about it. What are the market requirements? What is the cost? Like, what would this if we decided to do this thing? So I’ll give a little bit of a insight here. One of them is a document approval workflow, like, what if I wanted to say, in your case, Don, you want to Tracy to approve something, or trace or vice versa? Tracy is like, I want to send this out, but I need Don’s approval. Hey, assign it to don don. And you get a little notification. Hey, Tracey assigns you this thing do you approve or deny? That’s one of those things that we’re considering right now. So we have to go through what competitors. And the best part about it was like I brought that up, I hamachi. Just said there’s no way we have enough time to do that. Now, now that we have gotten into that we have scaled from those two developers, we now have seven developers. And it is very much a it’s still just me and him honestly, for the most part writing those. My next guy, my new guy starting next week. Oh, great. But that’s, yeah, give us a little give us our little bit of our lives back. But that’s the thing is when you’re writing those and you just create like I said that well oiled machine, we’re not quite there. I always tell my seems like we’re almost there. We’re on the path. And I think everybody can see that. And we were having conversations around like pace right now. It’s like, let’s, okay, guys, let’s tap the brake. We’ve been like pedal to the metal, we need to calm it down a little bit. Make sure that we follow these processes and what is realistic, sure, we can sprint and like really get a thing, but we should calm down. And and just take our time, let’s make sure that we get these efficient, efficiently out, let’s make sure that QA does the right thing. We’ve kicked off automation. It’s all these really cool side initiatives that we’ve been wanting to do for so many years before I even got here. But now like we got there, we have the process. We have the personnel like we’re scaling to that. And so we’re really close to that like Okay, now we can calm down, get our pace, add a couple more people to where we’re not ever in crazy. 12 hour day mode. Like a CPA is during tax season, right? It’s just like, hey, no, like, this is now life. This is my, this is my job. And we’re doing some really cool stuff. And that’s what’s so exciting.

Dawn Brolin 33:54
Yeah, that’s awesome. And, and so, you know, I want to bring it in a little bit personal for you right now. Right? So we love smart ball smart ball. It’s my favorite. I can’t I love them enough. But I want to I want to hear from Dan the man Where’s gonna be Dan, man. And through your just Was there somebody in your life? Like for me? It was my dad. I mean, that’s a lot of a lot of girls will say that. Right? So was there somebody in your life outside of your professional world that that really helped you help? You know, guide you?

Daniel Fritz 34:24
Oh, absolutely. It’s my wife. 100%

Dawn Brolin 34:26
I knew you’re gonna say that. I knew it. Oh, yeah. To meet this woman. She sounds like an angel.

Daniel Fritz 34:32
She is She is brilliant. She is hard working. And she has it the priorities. Right? And I’ll take her word from whenever like we got married almost 10 years ago. My brother was the best man. He gave a speech and he kind of mentioned like the positive things that happen to my wife and just in his species like oh, yeah, no, like this has just been a godsend. She’s here and in honestly like she’s the biggest cheerleader but she’s also just so many intellectually smart that she’ll listen to me and like, what do you think about this? And should I should respond and just kind of give that guidance? Like, no, you can truly do that. No, you’re being a little crazy. Yeah, sometimes it works. So, um, but yeah, like with her, it’s, it’s she’s always the one that is just right there to give you the right a bit of motivation. You know, I’ve made a couple switches. And she’s just like, No, let’s just go for it. Like, this is an opportunity. Like, let’s let’s do it. Especially when I jumped to smart ball. I was like, I don’t know, like, do you think guys like I’ve I had left health care before. And she says, Look, every single time you’ve done something different, you’ve learned it, and you’re, you’re more excited about this than you have been on any of the other changes. And so she was very much a cheerleader through that entire process. So she’s her and then, you know, my dad is I have to say, my dad as well. He goes my pops in there. Yeah, so So pops. You know, he, he was an engineer, so he always, and he’s as Black Belt Six Sigma kind of guy. And he really showed that, you know, work is for work and life is for life. I mean, he coached my basketball team, which I’m terrible sports, by the way.

Dawn Brolin 36:19
That’s okay. He needs to be typing. We don’t need to be out there hittin’ things.

Daniel Fritz 36:22
That’s right. And so but but he really just kind of, there’s something that I like to mimic myself is, you know, he was always there. He’s like, look, he never missed a band concert. He never missed a competition or something that we were doing. And my parents had, like, kind of two families is kind of how I look at it sometimes because I had me and my older brother. But we were in college. My brother was in college, when my youngest sister was in first grade. Wow. And they and they were two years apart. So like, my parents kind of had two families about 12 years apart. That went through that. And it’s just he was always there. Every single thing his priority was always family. He was, you know, he also he’s the kind of guy I could just call him. What do you think about this? You know, what should we do here? And he’s just, he’s just a brilliant guy. But yeah, it’s just like the family that people that are around you. He was a grown up. He was he had four kids on a single income. And it’s just, it’s just awesome. Pops. Pops is in general, awesome. So definitely a motivator for me.

Dawn Brolin 37:31
I love that. That is that’s yeah, I mean, in those for us, for those of us who have lost their father, since which I’m one of them. You know what my whole mission is? Listen, I’m gonna work as hard as my dad taught me to work was a guy who was he worked for Pratt Whitney was a tool and die guy. I still have his tools and probably the problem. At this point, I’d love to give them to a kid to start out with in that world. But you know, he just he had guys behind the lions when they had Strikes Back in the day. You don’t see a lot of that these days, but Strikes Back then he was like, I’m not crossing the picket line. I’m not crossing against my guys. I’m not going to have them see me go home to my family while they’re here here picketing for their jobs or whatever, whatever the case was. Yeah. So he taught me Listen, you do whatever you know, is right. That’s right. If you if you it’s funny, you said that about the truth in an email, right? But it’s just yeah. Right. So if you’re, if you put out an email to your guys and say, hey, you know, whatever, whatever. And then they see you driving across the picket lines. They’re like, well, that email couldn’t be true, because look at your drive across, but whatever I mean, I’m using as an example, but that is, you know, your word is the best thing that you could possibly have. You say you’re gonna do something, you do it and and I’m not saying I always hit the mark on that, because I don’t I do the best I can. You know, life is an etch a sketch. I definitely believe in that, that every day you get up in the morning and you start drawing all day. And you’re like, oh, that didn’t come out. Very good. Well shake the thing. Go to bed and get up in the morning you starting over again, anything giant and I think that’s the purpose of sleep, to be honest, it’s kind of like a reset button, a reset button, wash your brain out, get rid of the crap that happened. And you know, we can all only do the best we can do. And that’s why the motivation part of life is so important to me because you know, yeah, I have crap days I have days where I’m just like, Oh, God, I can’t do this again, or whatever the case may be, which also is a really good indicator that probably shouldn’t be choosing to do it. That’s a whole nother conversation. There you go. Right so yes, I agree. Yeah, I reassess it’s like almost every morning like i Yesterday was terrible because of this or yesterday was great because of this. Then I can say okay, well I know what I need where how I need to shift today. I spent all day on emails yesterday I felt so unproductive where now today I come in I do four or five tax returns. I feel great. Because I feel like I’m doing my real job right. So right I definitely find that to be the case but but it’s been awesome having you on Daniel we try to keep these within 30 minutes and otherwise Okay, great. Yeah, ah, people check out they don’t care anymore. And we want them to hear our message because really, at the end of the day, you know, smart ball happens to be a visionary as well. Okay. And like I said, The the, my whole selection of the apps that I support, and that I use every single day, have to be visionaries. They have to be trying to do better every day just like we are. And really, you know, approachable is another kind of a key thing where it’s like, if you can’t get a hold of somebody in support at some kind of an app for an app, we got a problem. You know, I’ve got a couple that I had worked with. And I’m like, I can’t I’m not getting the support I need. What I love about smart ball is they’re on it. They’ll send you out, Hey, listen, we know this isn’t working right now. We’re working to fix it. Like you guys are proactive rather than reactive. True. Yeah. And I found that you know, because you can go to your website, and it’ll even just say, hey, SmartVault’s down, which has I mean, that might have happened twice in the last–

Daniel Fritz 40:45
Eight years.

Dawn Brolin 40:46
Eight years. I don’t think it’s gone down. But it’s it’s just that ability to find out what’s up and be able to approach them and work with people on their team. So responsive and awesome. So you know, that’s why smartphones definitely in my starting lineup will always be part of my starting lineup, because I just don’t see anybody else outpacing these guys when it comes to document storage solution. So, but I want to thank you so much for taking your time. Daniel, you’re fantastic to talk to!

Thank you, Dawn, and thank you for being such a champion of SmartVault. Yeah, you know, we’re all of us here we live and breathe it. Really excited to see what the next couple years are gonna bring. We’re gonna make it innovative and be that visionary.

It’s gonna be awesome. So and then we have another release coming up here in the next couple to three months. Daniel, we’re gonna have you back. We’re gonna talk all about it. We’re gonna you know, get people to understand even better, and just love smart vault. Smart vault smart people. Daniel, you’re my people. Danya shout out to you girl. I love you man. Daniel, you’re my girl. Danny Buchanan fan was smartphone I think since the beginning if not close to it. Yes. phenomenal person. Rachel Montana. Rachel pay, all those guys. Yeah, all everybody. It’s smartphones. Just love you guys. And again, thanks so much for being here today, Daniel and talking to you soon. All right, take care. You better take care.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE is joined by Jame Upton, President and CEO of Upton Accounting, to discuss how COVID-19 has proven to be a huge challenge for accounting and tax professionals, and how many are experiencing feelings of stress and burnout. Dawn chats with James and discusses the business and personal challenges he is currently facing, and how he was able to bring himself to a better place with the help of Dawn’s new book, “The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals.” Have similar feelings? Listen now to hear how you can get back on track to achieving the goals you want for your business and your life!

James’ Beginnings

James talks about how he’s been involved in accounting since he was 16 years old, and became the president of his family’s accounting firm at just 24 years old. He’s always felt motivated in his practice, but is feeling major burnout following the start of COVID-19. He talks about his personal struggles, and how it took his business partner to be his motivator and to help keep his practice going.

James’ Challenges Within His Business in Current Times

James talks about how he feels he can’t keep up with the amount of work he has to complete, and shares his frustrations with how far the IRS is far behind in processing material he needs to complete his job. Dawn agrees and shares similar frustrations, saying it appears to everyone else that they are not doing their job.

Why Having a Motivator is Necessary

“Who do you have in your organization that is motivating you?” says Dawn, in relation to discussing the importance of having people around you to lift you up. James finds solace and motivation in his business partner, and credits her for helping to lift him up in times of work and emotional stress. 

“If you are by yourself [as an accounting professional], you need to find [a motivator],” says Dawn.

James also talks about the difference between being a “motivator” or an “encourager,” and credits Dawn’s books for allowing him to understand that being a motivator would allow him to achieve much more success. 

“An encourager makes you feel better in the moment, but a motivator is somebody that’s going to challenge you to make changes that will make you better down the line, all the way through your life,” adds James.

James also adds that adding self care back into his routine has allowed him to gain back his motivation.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program became the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup. So on today’s show, I couldn’t be more excited because we’re going to talk to James Upton today, James, the owner of up to the county in Seagrove, North Carolina. So James, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming, because we want to talk about kind of what’s been going on in your coconut. And how can we help that coconut feel better? Right?

James Upton 1:09
It’s yeah, it’s great to bet you’re down. Thank you so much for asking me on the show.

Dawn Brolin 1:15
Yeah, you you, um, you’re the reason I wrote this book. You are the reason right? So, um, you know, it’s been quite a rough year and a half for the accounting industry. Just you know, us being practitioners, right? Let’s talk about your store. Tell me what’s going on. Because I am here to do nothing but help motivate you help you take some action and get, you know, kind of bring your life back to you, James, because that’s what I honestly genuinely care about.

James Upton 1:45
Well, I’ll tell you, what, don’t I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. Yes, I actually have been in the accounting attacks business, probably. All my life. Our family’s had an accountant, your tax business. You know, ever since I was born, and I’ve worked in this business since I was 16. I went on and because you have families, I’m in the sale and your route. Oh, yeah, you can you hear? Can you hear it in the horse a little bit? Yeah, I apologize to the listeners out there for burning your ears. But what I was gonna say is here, South is kind of one of those things that people expect you if your family has a business, that you will just pick up the reins, and complete down with that business. So I went to college at Gardner Webb University, and got an accounting degree. And then I went on and got my master’s. In the time between my BS and my master’s, my aunt who had been the, the owner of the farm, she developed stage four breast cancer. And so she ended up having to step away. And I became depressed at the farm when I was 24 years old. So I’ve had to have a lot of motivation in my life. So and, and I felt like for many years, that I’ve been motivator of people, and I’ve been highly motivated. And I’m just gonna be honest with you, the pandemic, and everything that’s happened, has just completely crushed me. I’ve had some personal things also, we actually ended up getting married last year, and when I’m sorry, it was 2019. You know, 2020 is the year that never ended. So we’re still excited last year’s 2019. The last year that we live, you know, it’s kind of like, Apple, like, you know, how we have Anno Domini. And I feel like we need to have another like, I feel like it’s an epic time, like we need to, to create some type of numbering system, decide we’re going back to zero now. And this is the year one, you know. I was gonna say, Yes, I had gotten married. And you know, that’s a huge change in laugh, because I had put my career on my personal lap. So attorney and I get married, then trying to be a newlywed during COVID. And then everything just kind of goes off the rocker. And the last part was tough. I won’t get into that. But in the course of last year, I went through a COVID pandemic, march 15, all my staff is scared that they’re gonna die. I go home. And everybody if you’ve ever been in a accounting practice, march 15th is, you know, it’s the biggest demo of the biggest days of the year. Right? So March 15, all my staff, I have six staff besides my co pilot business partners. So my stay up there in here and they’re like, you know, it’s almost like we’re looking for the asteroid to heat and sun and everybody’s like, let’s go home. You know, these taxes don’t matter. They’re gonna extend every standard this deadline, you know, we’re all gonna die anyway. So it doesn’t matter. You know? Because to begin with, you know, I was almost like a nuclear blast, like, let’s walk outside and take a breath and take and just Dan I have this this light eye on, you know, or when are the walkers gonna start walking down the street, that’s what we’re looking for. And so all the staff gets home, okay, my business partner, we’re like, you know, we still have a farm to run, we still have a base overhead, and we set up returns that have to be done. And so we just continue slogging, it’s gonna be slogging through returns. And we did that up until April 15. Because we, you know, we were used to that. And then we were kind of like, you know, we’re gonna have to have a mental reset. And so we waited till after the April 30 deadline, and I took a week off the first week of May, and just tried to reset it. And then through the course of all that, we just realized that a lot of banks were in a personal office not going well at that moment. And so I ended up becoming separated. It is July 19. So we had July 15. And then July night, I became separated. So what I went through was, from July 19, to September 8, I was at work, but I was just go through the motions. As I was in a fog. And my business partner, she is my motivator, you know, we’re all over. She’s one of my motivators. And when I can’t say if she can motivate me, gotcha. So she steps in, and she says, James,

I need you to do some work. And I’m like, okay, great. And so she thought, I need you to review these 40 corporate returns. And I need you to sign off on these 30 individuals that are connected to these corporates. And she said, when the position and then I need you to get on board with getting another 150 Understand the October 15. So I was like, Okay, sounds like a plan. So somehow, I don’t be and got through it. Right, yeah. You found out probably, I’m a big talker. But at the same time, just out of these from the painting, and the personal stuff, I have lost, I lost a lot of motivation. And, you know, I’m 41. And this pandemic is made began to resemble my career choice, and just everything. Well.

Dawn Brolin 7:35
So Alright, so let’s talk about that for a second. So it’s, it’s the volume of work that is, is what is over, like, what’s killing you from the firm perspective?

James Upton 7:45
Okay, from a farm perspective. Number one, if you think about it, okay, if you take six people that were working, okay, and you multiply six people, times, here in our office, we did generally, like a nine to six, and we had a few that work on Saturdays, but just just for easy math, just say 45 hours. So six people times 45 hours. Okay, that’s 270 man hours each week. And we lost that from March 15 to June 1. And, and what’s so bad was, you know, we really should have kept pork in hindsight, 2020, we should have kept working. Because it was after that kind of back was when everything everybody started saying, Oh, my kids, daycare is closed, or, you know, my husband is, has quarantined his work, or, you know, my wife has been exposed, I’m happy to be out to somebody, you know. And that’s what brought me here. You know, and, and really, I feel like, if it ever happens, again, I know better what to do. But back to the farmer aspect, 270 hours, times, just say, a week, that’s 20 160 hours.

Dawn Brolin 9:00
That’s a whole year’s worth of work for one person.

James Upton 9:04
Right? Yeah. And so that puts us way behind. And then when I faced the personal challenges I was already behind. And even more low balled, right? Yeah. Well, and here’s the thing, I’ll tell you. What’s happened to me is, I don’t have I have a telephone. I don’t know, if you, you probably don’t do that you’re probably smarter than I am. But here the telephone calls that I don’t answer, the staff put them in a Google a good Google Doc, or a Google sheet. And I have all the others and they pose and they say this person is their second call or whatever. Well, here’s the thing, once I’ve spent 10 hours here, and I try to catch some phone calls, but you know, in the course that I might get eight to 10 phone calls. Yes. It’s hard to return those calls. And then I have people that are emailing me, I have work, you know, and I still have people now that want to come in face to face. So I just feel different. Crusher, the volume of work. But what nobody’s talking about is how the IRS is, is set up are behind in processing. And they’re not doing anything for us. Yeah, I’ve got I’ve got probably 10 or 12 cases laying here on Mondays. I can’t resolve because I can’t get Irs on the phone, or they won’t process or mail.

Dawn Brolin 10:24
Yeah. Well, that’s, and I think that that’s part of our problem is that, you know, we’re working our tails off. And, you know, I had a guy who just came in, like about an hour ago, and he’s somebody who didn’t file a 17 return. So we had a paper file to 17. And there’s a refund, I know he won’t get the refund, but there’s a would be a credit on the account, whatever, to offset some future tax and stuff. I think we got it done before the deadline, etc, etc. And he’s talking…

James Upton 10:48
I rush to get one in, I rushed to get one in to, I know what you mean. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 10:52
I’m like, your board of mail. Let’s hurry up. Right. And so, you know, so we got the clients that are common in their last give me the same freakin question every week. And I’m like, Joe, I called I got an extension to October 13. This guy gave me he’s like, let’s wait to let all the returns process and everything could wash out or whatever. And it’s like, so they think we are doing our job. Right, because you’re and…

James Upton 11:16
And it makes you feel defeated you because I haven’t always, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a rookie at this. I’ve done this 18 years, I’ve been the president by state Accounting Society. I’m not a CPA, but I’m an enrolled agent, because tax is my specialty. But I do have a master’s in accounting with a concentration in taxation. You know, tacky search was one of my things that I love to make what you say you love to actually search, you’re obviously a tax or but anyway. So for these clients to come in and say, James, you’re just letting me down. And I’m like, you know, I’m, I’ve got the gas pedal down. I’m throwing gas on the fire and no, you know,

Dawn Brolin 11:57
Yeah, so in. And I think that’s why, like, I was so interested in talking to you, because that is definitely, it is very common. And this is how people are feeling right now. It’s like, so the way I kind of looked at it, so we I’m just 100% virtual, always, you know, kind of embraced that for about 12 years. Now. I’ve got all my tax software hosted in the cloud. I’ve got everything I can grab a MacBook. So when the pandemic did hit, we only had three total staff, myself plus three people, two billable ones, my virtual assistant, she’s phenomenal. She’s been with me for like eight years, I was able to say, hey, take your laptops go home, work from home, no problem, right? We have everything’s in the clouds that grab the documents. So we don’t really skip a beat. If anything, we’ve brought on about 70 or 80 new clients last year.

James Upton 12:41
Well, and we have a lot of that in process. The thing is, I had me and say we still have a front desk here. So you know, we lost those people. And I did have two people are working virtually. And then I had one lady that we would, she would come and pick up things and go back home. And you know, because we have pots, we did virtual See, or we do CFO services. So we have to go pick up mail. There’s so much that has to be physically handled.

Dawn Brolin 13:12
Yeah, and that’s really tough. No, it’s really hard. So I you know, I just find like, I think it’s like we just have to have this club of people. A club. And you know, there’s a lot of great Facebook groups out there. There’s I’m a part of what’s called, I think it’s called The Sisterhood of the lady tax pros. And they are awesome. It’s like, you know, they’ll put you know what, I’m down today. And then we see a lot of what you said in your comment. We’re seeing that everywhere. People are just feeling so defeated, like you said, and it’s like, I think it does make you feel a little bit better. You’re not the only one.

James Upton 13:46
Yeah, right. Absolutely. Tax Twitter has really lifted me up. I love tax, Twitter. And because we’re all sharing, you know, the pain that we’re in together, you know, it’s professional pain, and sometimes personal pain, but we’re sharing it, you know, and it’s true.

Dawn Brolin 14:03
It’s true. So I love I love what you said about your part, your business partner who’s your motivator, right?

James Upton 14:09
She has a lot of motivators in my life. But right now, she’s pretty much my motivator, we try to motivate each other because there’s some days, she’ll tell me she’ll say, she’s like, I can’t do this today. And usually, the days that she’s down are the days that I can work.

Dawn Brolin 14:26
It’s perfect combination right there. The how that is just so important right now. And that’s what the message of the designated motivator is all about. Who do you have in your organization who is motivating you who is helping you get through those tough days and we all have them, everyone has them? There’s not one person in this world who’s like every day is awesome. No, it’s not a thing. So and that’s what were the message I’m trying to get out to a lot of the accounting professionals, all of the accounting professionals is if you don’t have the partner that that that you have James Upton’s got his motivator. And James Upton’s business partner has her motivator. Right? All in it. So if you’re by yourself, you got to find one. Because, you know,

James Upton 15:11
I’m gonna be honest with you. And I’ll talk to you about that in just a moment, I mentioned that I had a prison of North Carolina Society of accountants. And prior to having a business partner, I actually, I’ll just go back in time, I think it was 2000. And over was when I that was, it was October 31 2003, was it I took over. So it’s 18 years this Halloween. So anyway, for the first few years, I was alone, my past and I was on my own. And so I had my mom, she had retired from another career, and she was kind of a open, and I’d had my staff, she had two staff. So to begin with, it was just me, and two of my staff, and my mom, that’s so small, we were smaller to start with, you know, the business just started growing. Just the natural outgrowth of just changing, embracing technology, and we were blamed. So I remember, I had not really took part in any associations or organizations. And I kept getting invitations. And, you know, this is something I would share with people that listen to this, don’t forsake face to face organizations and interactions. Our organization was having chapter meetings, we had a local chapter. And I would say, you know, that’s a waste of my time, I can make more money at the office. Well, I remember one day, and I’ll tell you how this happened, this true story. A client o’clock came to me, and they said, Hey, we’re going to be leaving your phone. And I said, Oh, really? I said, why is that? And I said, well said, we were at a meeting, which our local Chamber of Commerce has a Professionals Network meeting. And they met a guy, because in these potential networks, I always have one bit for pension, if you’ve ever heard of it, insurance, I don’t want to turn your account on whatever. Yeah, we would I met this guy at their professional meeting. For whatever reason, he just told them, they said, he said, Who’s your accountant? And they said, James up, and he said, Hi, that guy doesn’t know anything. He’s just a kid. Okay, so I knew he was in this organization. So that’s what I was gonna tell you. So sometimes, you can start out to be vindictive, or have the wrong mindset. And thanks for your work out. And I’m accretions. I don’t believe in karma. But I do believe it, Providence. So let me go ahead and say this, I go to the meeting with the intention that this guy does not even know me. And I’m gonna lecture next time, he says, it’s just a kid, and he doesn’t know anything. And he’s gonna have a face to put with that name. Because I’d never made it. So I get to the meeting, and genuinely great people. And I’m like, while, so through that organization. In my local chapter, I’ve met great people. Then I went to some state meetings, and met people from all over the study. And I met a lady that is actually, you know, a mentor to me. And I have anyone that our time. But there was one account, that was an HSA to consider a mentor to me. When I was starting out, number one, these were two. And number two, I was working too hard, which I’m back to that, you know, that’s what happens. But I remember she told me, she said, Let me tell you, she said you are spending too much work information, people who don’t value you, and that she was my motivator. And something I noticed in your book, you talked about the difference in encourager and a motivator. And in my life, I’ve always encouraged her. But I realized and I’ll read your book, that being a motivator, it’s so much more important. Because an encourager makes you feel better in the moment. And a motivator is somebody that’s going to challenge you to make changes that might be better. Down the line all the way through your life. Yeah. And I never had really great plan until I read your book.

Dawn Brolin 19:31
Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you!

James Upton 19:32
Yeah I will tell you that. But that like, I remember one time I had a project to do. And she told me I called her up and I said, and I’m going to tell you her name is Florence, blacker, and I’m going to give her credit Florence black. Okay. And she’s a wonderful account on North Carolina. And but I’ll tell you what, this tells you how motivators go through generations. She told me she said I learned How to be big and tough. I’ll just use that kind of word. Because when a podcast big and tough from the guy that she started working for, which was a man named Bobby Murphy, and she said, you know, he would do that. And she said, he just owned who he was. And he knew that he was worth his value. And he would say, this is your full evolved, he would say, that’s great. He said, You know, I respect that. He said, I’ve got two other people who are ready to come in here and work with me, thank you so much, have a good day, and even escort about no work. And so I never had been that confident. And she told me, she said, know what you’re doing. He said, You got to have that confidence. And she said, but make sure if you’re going to be like this, deliver the value that you promised. And so that’s, you know, I remember that first project, I had a client and I ended up and I’m sure I’m saying this, but it was, it was a, it was a very, very lucrative engagement, the most lucrative engagement I had ever been involved in. And the client, believe it or not, they did not balk. And they knew it’s worth it. And they believed me. And that was my first time saying, you know, I didn’t lowball. And so that’s one thing that has changed. You know, our firm, we’re almost to a million dollar revenues here in this far mile. I know, that doesn’t sound huge. I mean, I’m in the sale. But at the same time, for me, it was great. It’s a big deal.

Dawn Brolin 21:34
So congratulations, that’s awesome.

James Upton 21:36
And that’s what I was gonna say, three months later, those days made motivators. And then when things started growing and blossoming, no sign people taught me this, Hey, you can’t do this alone alone. And, you know, at night coach me and saying, hey, you know, you need a business partner. And they were also the ones that told me, this is your brand, you build this arm, you need to have a business partner, but you know, majority, and I helped me to allow that planning process. And these people have affected me positively, you know, for the rest of my career. What I got back, is that lady, the motivation she received from her mentor has passed down to her. And now she’s passed that to me, and I’m hoping to do that, as well.

Dawn Brolin 22:24
And you will, James, there’s no doubt about it. Like, you know, just having this conversation with you. Like, I don’t know, I just, I just feel like we we have to just stick together, we really do. And we and you know, you motivated me when when Gaynor reached out to me and told her what had happened. I’m like, get him on the phone now. Get the boy…

James Upton 22:44
Oh, the day I was writing that tweet. I was kind of down and I was just like, you know, under the ball, have no motivation? And I’ll tell you what, that no motivation. Like for me, it’s where, you know, I know. And I just don’t care. You know, it’s where our batteries are completely drying? Yeah. Yeah. And, and I think the whole accounting for patients that right there now, you know..

Dawn Brolin 23:10
I agree, and that’s what we’re going to try to revive, we’re going to try to revive them. And that’s why the, you know, there’s a sequel to that book that’ll be coming out this fall, really specifically for the accounting industry that we’re really that I’m really excited about that we can just help, you know, push people forward. So between you, me, your mentors, other people’s mentors, I mean, we’ve all have them, and people that are motivating us. And that’s that’s the key, because, because talk is talk, but when you actually do something about it and say, You know what, even this morning, today’s gonna be my day, I’m going to go get this day, this is going to be my day, and nothing stopping me. And you just plow through like the guy who goes in with the confidence. And that’s what, that’s the hard part. Because it’s the hard part to just be like, you know, willing to do that it’s so much easier laid out. It’s easier to just stay in your room, for instance, right? I’ve done that. I’ve been there when I don’t want to get up. And then it’s like, you know, the kid pops into your head or somebody you know, pop and you’re like, oh, right, I’ll get up.

James Upton 24:10
Well, I’ll tell you, for me. Something that I’ve realized is because of the pain, deeming I put a lot of self care on the back burner. So part of me trying to regain motivation, has been saying, Okay, I’m taking time for self care. And, you know, I hired a trainer, I met with our Friday, you know, you know, the things that you’ve got to do, because here’s the thing, we’re professional people, we’re intelligent, we’re and that’s what I tell myself. I’m too intelligent for this. And I’ve investigated and invested too much into my development. You know, I love to teach, but sometimes you have to teach yourself and you have to go deep. And you have to say, Okay, this is coming from the inside of me. I’ve got to reach down and motivate myself. Yes, you know, And I know there’s times and you mentioned it to there’s times that, you know, concern for. And I’m gonna be honest with you, I was somebody that I got so overwhelmed that this and I’m going to have an honesty moment here. And I know I’m on a podcast. But you know, I’m doing this because it helped me. There was one day back in March. And now this part ends and she says, you know, you’re not functioning well, what is going on, and she realized that I will sit, you’re having panic attacks, you know, I’d be the thermostat, but I’m saving the file. And I’d be going to get the sweater and put down because I was pretty easy and filling Muscat Prowl and everything. And she’s like, the doctor. So I got the doctor. And I said, you know, this kind of what’s going on, and she’s like, you’re having anxiety and panic attacks. And I’m like, Really, you gotta be kidding me. And she’s like, she said, we’re gonna give you a sample for anxiety. She did very low dives. And within a week’s time, I felt like a brand new person. So that’s what I’m gonna say is, don’t be afraid. This is not a laugh. But there are times and this pandemic, and this work load that we’ve all been faced with. Because here’s the thing. I’m not an unemployment specialist. I’m not a PPP loan specialist. I’m not SBA loan specialist. I’m not important for teacher Credit Specialist. I’m becoming all of those things. Mm hmm. But what people don’t realize is, you know, first of all, we were facing, you know, nice refunds every day, people are dying people die, paper died. But yeah, our job is getting, you know, piled on over and over. And we’re having to learn brand new things, on top of everything we already have today. So, right, accountants have faced, I think, our most difficult challenges and some of the most difficult moments. And at the end of the day, all of us just like me, we all still have our personal lives, you know, and here’s the thing, families, number one, you know, family has to be number one. Even more so than that your own self care. And looking after yourself. Yeah. Because there’s times that you need to be able to say, you know, I’m gonna have to check out, and I’m not saying for all day, but it’s okay. And I’ve had to learn these, it’s okay to say, I’m not answering emails today. I’m not answering phone calls today. Or I’m gonna plan to come in at 11am today, or I’m leaving at four o’clock today. It’s not, it’s not a crime. Not something I’ve done is I’ve sacrificed relationships and things with friends. And you know, especially we didn’t have during the COVID, you’re in COVID times because we couldn’t meet. But now I’m back to where, you know, one of the greatest things I used to do was I used to plan to go have breakfast with a friend every Friday. I’m trying to get back to that you got it’s all self care. It’s all self care. thing is we’ve got to motivate each other to self care and to do all these things we’ve got to.

Dawn Brolin 28:00
Absolutely and Heather Satterly a great example of that. She she went back to horseback riding. You know, I went and coached the softball team, which is why the book even happened. Yes, right. And that’s life is shortly I decided once we got past that May deadline, I work 10 to four, I’m going to do the best I can to get as much done as I can obviously some days I stay till eight or nine. Got stuff, it’s okay. But I feel like mentally it’s like I’m okay with I like I like to just lay in bed, read facebook, watch me some tic TOCs because I love the funny animals I have my newest favorite tic tock are these dogs that are literally howling, but they’re screaming and I cry every time I watch it. Like that’s the stuff I want to fill in my head in the morning, good stuff, happiness, and, and hopefully, you know, one person that I see, you know, throughout the day or talk on the phone too, that I can, you know, step back and even my my guide Joe that comes in constantly out. He’s just got nothing to do, you know, not getting frustrated with him like Joe and trying to get stuff done. So I get out of here and be like, Hey, Joe, what’s going on? Come on in, sit down, you know, yeah, I’m trying. I’m really making a mental decision to be more patient and be more and I don’t pray for patience, because that’s never a good idea.

James Upton 29:14
No. You know, that’s my best financial advice I would give you do not pray for patience.

Dawn Brolin 29:22
So yeah, so I mean, you know, really the end of the day, James, I’m so glad that we got to talk and I hope and I want to continue the conversation with you. I you know, so we can just stay in touch. And, you know, I’ll give you I’ll motivate you and we’ll stick together.

James Upton 29:36
Well, I’ll tell you something, you really have motivated me and reading your book and seeing how because what you’ve done is you took your experience with the with the team and you were able to motivate them. And I think people don’t realize a lot of our job as accountants is to motivate our clients. Absolutely. Because I think we see potential in businesses and clients but maybe they don’t see. And you know, I’ve had clients that were ready to throw in the title and that’s I don’t feel like I’m making any money and I’m like, Yeah, you actually already and you know, this is gonna pay us. And I’ve got clients that stayed in business, because I’ve been able to motivate them. But, but I think we struggle finding those motivators are slightly off sometimes. And so, it’s okay to reach out and say, Hey, I need some motivation, you know? Yeah. And I appreciate you motivating me.

Dawn Brolin 30:28
Yeah, you’re great, James. I mean, you’re on my mind all the time. We’re gonna stay in touch for sure. And I’m will have you I’m gonna have you back on it like a handful of months once you’ve gotten you know, get through this. And then I want to hear more about how it ended up. You know, because your story is always going on. So you’re going to be my bread. And oh, so but thank you for joining the DM disruption podcast today and James, opt in. I love you, man. And I will I will be in touch with you. Okay. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Episode Summary

Best-selling business author and advocate for entrepreneurs, Mike Michalowicz, joins Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, to talk about finding the motivation to come back from setbacks. He details his own struggles and why his mission is to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty. He also gives Dawn tips on how to run a successful podcast…Michalowicz style!

How Mike Found His Motivation and His Come Back Story

Mike shares the story about how he had to lose almost everything in his life to gain back control. He talks about how making the active choice to try and solve the issues around him is what put him back on the path to success.

He also shares a quote that he keeps on his wall that reads, “Eradicate entrepreneurial poverty,” and uses that as his motivation to solve issues not only for himself, but to fellow entrepreneurs around him.

Mike’s Impact and “Profit First”

Dawn discusses how Mike’s book, “Profit First,” comes up in certain conversations with clients and colleagues, and how people always have wonderful things to say about him and his book.

Dawn and Mike also discuss how since the success of “Profit First,” other entrepreneurs have used his concepts and ideas to write their own version of “Profit First,” and tailor it to their specific industry and needs.

The Designated Motivator Concept and it’s Success

Mike discusses his admiration for Dawn’s new “Designated Motivator” concept, and says he really understood it when she presented it at an art conference he attended. He speaks fondly about her phenomenal presentation, and says “It really can be one person,” when discussing how the right individual can make all the difference in a team or company. 

“One person with the right attitude and the belief in others can turn a company into anything,” he also adds.

How to Be the Designated Motivator

Mike asks Dawn how she is able to genuinely believe that a team or company is going to achieve success, despite their losses in the past.

Dawn responds by saying, “I’ve got to find out what makes this person…what makes them tick. What do they love, what do they not love…you got to get in their heart, and you have to show interest.” She talks about how if you truly take time to know someone, and genuinely want them to succeed, progress will be inevitable.

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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM disruption. I’m the host Dawnn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Mike Michalowicz 0:48
This is your first podcast ever and that’s why I’m going to teach you how to do a podcast.

Dawn Brolin 0:52
That’s what we’re here on the designated with the DM disruption. It’s all about disrupting yourself while on camera.

Mike Michalowicz 0:59
Exactly in front of them. So here’s tip one. Tip One is you start in a facilitated conversation that sounds like it’s kind of off the cuff like, hey! I haven’t seen you in so long!

Dawn Brolin 1:10
Oh my Lord, Michael.

Mike Michalowicz 1:12
You look amazing.

Dawn Brolin 1:13
Oh, stop it.

Mike Michalowicz 1:14
And always sound like you’re in the same room. That’s the other thing.

Dawn Brolin 1:17
Oh, we definitely are.

Mike Michalowicz 1:18
I know we are and it looks like it. Are you broadcasting the video? Are you just showing just audio?

Dawn Brolin 1:24
Oh no, we’re doing both.

Mike Michalowicz 1:25
Okay, so do listen to recording. We’re in the same room. People are video. We’re not in the same room.

Dawn Brolin 1:31
But don’t tell those people. They’ll never know.

Mike Michalowicz 1:34
That’s tip one. Tip Two is have little icons of yourself that you can throw up on the screen.

Dawn Brolin 1:39
Oh, I like that. That’s awesome. I um, well, I guess this is probably a good interpretation. Here’s mine. Because if you know me, you need is looking for my face. You need a you this is a user manual. And we got a user manual. For what how do we use her? How do we use Dawn Brolin?

Mike Michalowicz 2:01
How often have you heard that like when when you were dating? Yeah. How many times you here? How are we going to use? How am I going to use her?

Dawn Brolin 2:09
I think it was the other way around. How many?

Mike Michalowicz 2:11
Did you ever say that? Like someday like I’m gonna use that person?

Dawn Brolin 2:14
Oh right to their face, though. I would not like look over the room. I’d be like bright up in their grill. Like, how old were you?

Mike Michalowicz 2:20
When you did your first date? How old were you?

Dawn Brolin 2:22
Seventh grade. I held hands. Man. It was intense.

Mike Michalowicz 2:26
Oh my god. That’s amazing. And I’m like, serious boyfriend girlfriend.

Dawn Brolin 2:30
Actually, he was my first real boyfriend. And I say, I still love him.

Mike Michalowicz 2:37
Oh, yeah! It’s your first love is always your permanent love. Totally. So how long did you date?

Dawn Brolin 2:45
Well, for about two and a half years, of course, you know, from junior high school into high school. And then he found this blonde and left me. I mean, let me give you the instance when I knew we were done. It was snowing. And I called him we’re supposed to talk on the phone, you know, talk on the phone. I called him and he’s like, I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you. I’m making a snowman.

Mike Michalowicz 3:06
Right now ninth grade.

Dawn Brolin 3:07
This is ninth, Like almost 10th grade.

Mike Michalowicz 3:09
That’s a dagger to the heart.

Dawn Brolin 3:11
And I think part of it was that every time we would get together I still thought it was like it’s a competition. So let’s play like, let’s play horse. Let’s like compete, and I would win and I think that kind of went against me. Yeah, the man. Want a competitive woman.

Mike Michalowicz 3:27
Yeah, so some people do some guys do some guys don’t. You know, he’s like, I’m making a snowman and you’re like, with who are by yourself? Or how did

Dawn Brolin 3:38
Yeah, he was he’s just like I’m making I’m making a snowman. I gotta go.

Mike Michalowicz 3:42
So what came of his life?

Dawn Brolin 3:44
Do you know? Wonderful guy is a chef.

Mike Michalowicz 3:46
Oh, nice.

Dawn Brolin 3:47
Nice guy. Yep. Marry to actually girl that I played basketball against named Pam. Great person. Love her. So it was all good. It wasn’t really good in the beginning. Oh, because I you know, we play basketball against each other. So I just want to pound her every time we were on the court. Oh, she stole him from me. And you know, after that phone call went upstairs. Of course, it was dinner time, which is always convenient. While I sit at the table sobbing. My tears go falling into mashed potatoes. My mom’s crying, I’m crying.

Mike Michalowicz 4:18
And let me ask this question. Obviously, that didn’t continue that relationship didn’t continue. But when it comes to family members, your spouse and people in your family, what are the professions you need for a well rounded family? Chef is one you definitely have chef in a family.

Dawn Brolin 4:36
A nurse or a doctor doctor? Yep. For the chef.

Mike Michalowicz 4:40
I’m asking I know that list. By the way. I’m asking to see if you can get the top five.

Dawn Brolin 4:43
Okay, so I’ve got chef I’ve got nurse,

Mike Michalowicz 4:46
I count six, nurse or doctor number one,

Dawn Brolin 4:50

Mike Michalowicz 4:52

Dawn Brolin 4:54
I mean, let’s be real, therapist.

Mike Michalowicz 4:57

Dawn Brolin 5:00
I would ah, a contractor.

Mike Michalowicz 5:05
Number two, well, we’ll take woodworker, cabinetry maker or contractor number two.

Dawn Brolin 5:10
So does plumber doesn’t get involved…?

Mike Michalowicz 5:13
Four! Number five?

Dawn Brolin 5:18

Mike Michalowicz 5:19

Dawn Brolin 5:20

Mike Michalowicz 5:21
Oh, you that should be, it’s not even listed, that should be on there. Number five is auto mechanic.

Dawn Brolin 5:27
I could I could have gotten there. I could have totally gotten there.

Mike Michalowicz 5:30
The thing is I was looking at this bill I got from TIA, I made the whole thing. Every time I looked down. I was like this bill, my insurance bill. I don’t know what the ranking is.

Dawn Brolin 5:40
Of course you don’t

Mike Michalowicz 5:41
Yeah, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you all those were good guesses. I don’t know you. Who don’t who don’t you want the family. A mortician?

Dawn Brolin 5:49
A therapist.

Mike Michalowicz 5:51
Ha ha! A therapist.

Dawn Brolin 5:52
I’m diagnosing you with you know, double personality disorder.

Unknown Speaker 5:56
Yeah. A home, a bum. A vagabond? You don’t want that one.

Dawn Brolin 6:03
An attorney would be a good one though.

Mike Michalowicz 6:06
Yeah, attorneys like you want them and you don’t want them.

Dawn Brolin 6:08
Right. Especially like if they’re a divorce attorney. Maybe not

Mike Michalowicz 6:12
When you’re in trouble. You want an attorney, but otherwise, you don’t want to acknowledge an attorney in the family. Oh, somebody was a chef. There’s a therapist.

Dawn Brolin 6:22
You know what you don’t want? An IRS agent?

Mike Michalowicz 6:25
Oh, well, they don’t have family.

Dawn Brolin 6:31
unless you don’t want to go to parties. If you don’t want to be around people. You don’t want people to talk to you have an IRS agent in your family,

Mike Michalowicz 6:39
I wonder if anyone’s ever said that like, oh, what does your wife do? Oh, she’s a Russ. She’s an IRS agent. An Earus agent? …IRS.

Dawn Brolin 6:55
I have a true story about that. I did a IRS case 2011. With with down here in New Haven. And we had a great successful case. I was on the side of the IRS, which is now you know, get close to your enemies. loved them. They were great. So the Assistant United States Attorney her she had a birthday party. So she invited a bunch of people and she invited little Don Brawl into the party. And you could see the tables of people that were like, not anything to do with that IRS group. And those that were the ones that came like actual friends that came over the ire IRS criminal investigation, IRS agents, nobody was sitting at that table. But me. Yeah. It was great.

Mike Michalowicz 7:38
Why would you work with the IRS? Typically, they’re the private entities do the defense side or the other side? I should say,

Dawn Brolin 7:45
Right. Well, that was in your–thank you for just interviewing me during the podcast.

Mike Michalowicz 7:50
That’s how the first podcast always goes!

Dawn Brolin 7:54
No, it’s good. So what happened was actually I was an accountant who was not doing his job and said that his his own tank defrauded his own tax return essentially, and said QuickBooks was broken and made the wrong accounts and the reports were wrong. And so they called the IRS called into it, and they said, Hey, your software is broken. According to this defendant. We need you to send somebody out to verify and testify and they said, Oh, we don’t do that. But we know someone in Connecticut that will. So they sent me over and I went in as a QuickBooks expert. We convicted him of of IRS fraud, went to jail for eight years.

Mike Michalowicz 8:28
That could be jail time.

Dawn Brolin 8:29
He was eight years. Stavros S T A V R O S, Gainias G A N I A S, you can look it up, Google it. You’ll see the case right in there. I should get a copy of the transcript because there was one line that I said towards the end of my testimony. The opposing counsel said to me, Ms. Brolin is anyone–

Mike Michalowicz 8:51
Can I use that term loosely. And I think color–

Dawn Brolin 8:55
He should have just said Brolin, Brolin.

Mike Michalowicz 8:57
He’s like do you go by groin or crotch?

Dawn Brolin 9:01
I go by duh best. So he asked me Is anyone in this is anyone perfect Ms. Brolin. And I said, Sir, and I looked him right in the eyes as loud as I could, sir. Only Jesus. And that is in the court transcript.

Mike Michalowicz 9:18
“Only Jesus.”.

Dawn Brolin 9:20
And let’s just say that was pretty much the end of my questioning.

Mike Michalowicz 9:23
Oh my God, you did the biblical. Really? Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 9:26
It was so good though! The whole testament like they told me I testified for probably a total of six hours. I created a whole PowerPoint spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation for the jury to understand what was going on. And they told me that for the first like, hour, if you need to stand up you can really, because now I can use my hands. I said, I can. I’m pointing at the jury. Do you see what I’m saying? I’m looking at see that?

Mike Michalowicz 9:54
Oh were you you talking like that?

Dawn Brolin 9:56

Mike Michalowicz 9:58
It became your own show.

Dawn Brolin 9:59
It was sha–, they had the IR– I’m not bragging, maybe I am. I’m not. But the the CI, the head of CI in Boston. After my first day of testimony on a Friday, they recalled me to Monday, they called them and they came down from the Boston field office to watch the rest of my testimony.

Wow. They’re…

The bet the bails guys, the ones that come in, they supervise the courtroom. Yeah, they were like, We’re, it’s my turn, we want to go to the show.

Mike Michalowicz 10:30
So let me, this is my best interview ever. I want to say this, when it comes to that personnel you have you are a rarity. And you gotta admit this, like most people are not like, you know, therefore, most people don’t have the courage to be designated motivator. You know, how can how can I be a Don Brolin? Or do I need to be made better question?

Dawn Brolin 10:51
You just need to make sure you have one in your life?

Mike Michalowicz 10:54
Oh, you can find one? You can find one.

Dawn Brolin 10:57
Yeah, you can find one. But you know, for those people who you don’t have to be screw, yeah, I’m a little over the top. A little. But really the end of the day. And this is one of the questions I want to ask you, Mike was, at some point you’ve been through, you’ve bought and sold businesses, you’ve been a part of you, you have your amazing story of a major struggle that you had towards the end of one of your opportunities, one of your entrepreneurial outings, if you will. And you had to pull yourself together. At the end of that you’ve told the story many times and if you want to preface with a little bit of that, what got you motivated enough to pick yourself up? And I know the answer this but people, people out there listening or watching do not know it that pulled you out of that pit that you were in and motivated you to say I’m not giving up? I’ve got to do this. Oh, yeah.

Mike Michalowicz 11:49
So sorry, the end now tell the story. Good. I found I know this is true in your life, too, is that we all experienced trauma. And there’s different flavors of it. My experience was around financial collapse I brought upon myself and it was in retrospect, I now realize I was trauma had all the symptoms, shock, disassociation, anger, depression. But I’ll tell you it compared to other traumas that people experienced that is nothing. There’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, I mean, there’s stuff that’s horrible. And we found those in those moments, we can make a declaration to say I will never allow this to happen to myself or anyone else again. And that became a declaration which I didn’t even really know I was making conscious. I was making subconsciously it wasn’t conscious. Ultimately, you’re unconscious. The mom was I built and sold to companies. I’m 30 years old. You You and I met on a TV set right after this traumas about two years later, but I made money and I thought I was hot. Shit. I thought I was the tamale. I walk around like, oh my god, if I saw you on the street, I’d say nice word. But like, I am so smart. I’m so much better than you. So Right. And I believe that’s really interesting. When I was interviewing you for my podcast about being a DM, you said you got to believe in other people more than they even believe in themselves. I believed in me more, I believe in others. And that’s the reverse of DMing. That’s what I’m doing. That’s where you’re a mad dummy. And what I thought was greater. And so I think God universe, something had to fix this for me. And what I did was I started a third business as an angel investor. I didn’t know what I was doing. I lost all my money, I lost well over a million dollars and wiped myself out. I lost everything, including my home. And I had to face my family to say we’re losing our house. We lost it 30 days later. And when I lost the house, we actually weren’t we were renting a house with the intention of buying in this neighborhood. We’re scouting it out. We couldn’t afford the rent. So landlord said, You got to you got split. And we saved our ass. That’s another story. But I went to my family say we’re losing our house. We’re losing everything. My daughter was nine years old at the time. And she said to me, she was I tell her I said, I can’t afford your horseback riding lessons was $20 a session. And she looks at me and she just starts welling up crying. And she ran away. I thought she was running away from me. And I think when we experience trauma, that sensation of running away is very overwhelming. She actually was running to her bedroom to grab her piggy bank. And she ran back to me and she was Daddy. I know you can’t provide for us anymore. I’ll provide for the family. And it’s such a gut punch. It’s that I brought that much devastation that a nine year old girl feels that she has to give her life savings which she was saving quarter by quarter penny by penny to buy a horse one day to give up her dream to support the idiot. And so that became my wake up call. And just to be clear about this dog because I think many people confuse this in other people’s stories like oh, so the next day you start kicking ass as An author or doing your thing. Now, next day I start hitting the bottle I was Busan, I spent over a year in depression, never went to a therapist. So it’s self diagnosed. But clinically, I meet all the parameters of depression. And but what came out of it slowly, was this growing awareness that I had problems in. First out, except I didn’t really understand how entrepreneurship worked. I didn’t understand how money works, at first admit that maybe I have a problem. And then I set out to fix it. And honestly, every piece of work I’ve done up to this point has been trying to fix my own problems, things don’t stand by entrepreneurship. The final thing I want to add to this is it has become a mission. I was on my wall right here says eradicate entrepreneurial poverty. This experience I have of all these challenges, entrepreneurship in entrepreneurship is not limited to me. So many entrepreneurs have it. So I’m trying to fix for me I’m trying to fix for millions of other people my book, that’s how it came about. And so he said, designated motivator, the first person for me in my life that motivated was me around a calling a purpose. I wake up every morning, I look I have my house too. I look at those words. I think those words, I’m like, I gotta fix this today. I got bring the best of me today, every single day.

Dawn Brolin 16:18
And you do and you you have changed many people’s lives. I run into weird places or client phone calls. And I’ll just say, Hey, have you heard of profit first? And they’re like, Oh, my God, last month? And of course I do and blah, blah, blah. And of course here my next line is? He’s a friend of mine. bodies. We did. We did some shows together. Have you seen? What’s your business? Your business? Episode 77 with? I mean, it was tucked away in the back, but it was there.

Mike Michalowicz 16:50
Yeah, I dare say we were too good for that show. Because first episode, it was just me. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 16:57
Right. We crushed it.

Mike Michalowicz 16:58
We crushed it. And then subsequent episodes. They’re like, really? I don’t know if you should be the exclusive host. We want JJ. And JJ is probably the nicest person I know is she’s on her. Oh, yes. I could spin out show but never.

Dawn Brolin 17:11
You never know. Maybe in the future. Yeah, we could make our own movie.

Mike Michalowicz 17:16
Dude, that woman was awesome that the series of shows she made, I wish to continue on forever. And I don’t know, if they didn’t get renewed or JJ is like I’m just dying after doing like 500 episodes or something crazy.

Dawn Brolin 17:26
Probably no, it was it was a phenomenal opportunity. I just like no everything happens for a reason, the way you look back at it really does. So So I want to hear so it looks like so Profit First is like taking off. And I think that, you know, I’ve always been somebody since I met you to follow what you’re doing. So the first question I have is, What do you have in front of your camera? So you’re looking at the camera as opposed to the person?

Mike Michalowicz 17:49
How do you how do you do this right?

Dawn Brolin 17:51
Yeah I need that.

Mike Michalowicz 17:52
Yeah, you look at the camera.

Dawn Brolin 17:55
So I just go like this instead of looking at you.

Mike Michalowicz 17:57
I’m not looking at you, so I can’t even tell. So I see you out of the corner of my eye. So I can see like an outline of you by can’t see your eyes or anything.

Dawn Brolin 18:04
Okay, so it’s a strategy.

Mike Michalowicz 18:06
Oh yeah, and it’s one of the top things that people doing video don’t do. They look at now I’m looking at you. They do this the whole time. Yeah. And I wonder I understand for conversation, but this is presentation. This is different. So look at the camera like it’s your own. I guess someone’s eyeball and just never never break from it ever.

Dawn Brolin 18:25
Oh, so this is kind of like Monsters Inc. Where you have what’s his face with the one eye?

Mike Michalowicz 18:29
Yeah. Like, you know, I’ve never seen that movie. Mike was always that Mike McCalla watts, Mike was asked

Dawn Brolin 18:37
the same thing. You have one head one thing in your head. That makes sense. But off the part of that. So I’ve been following you. So I’m going to try it. I’m going to practice the rest of this. Okay, stay locked in on the camera, they lock down the camera. So yeah, actually, you know, it’s not like I’m like attracted to look at you. So that’s a whole nother thing but um, so because your wife is terrifying. So um, one other thing is that I want to let you know I’ve been trying to follow you follow in your footsteps on your success when it comes to being an author. But not only that, but being that inspiration motivator to all of your followers and all of your audience. And so I’m my whole goal is to follow your concept of Profit First, and now you have people writing their own versions of profit first for the doctor. I think it was a doc, I can’t remember I see a bunch of people popping up saying just came out what happened motivated with that what happened there?

Mike Michalowicz 19:26
So this is interesting is people that do these, these books are looking to gain further exposure for themselves just like I’m looking to for the work I do in you. And there’s really two paths. If you want to pursue a book, you can write your own book, but your thing garner the exposure you got to get the word out. So you really released DM and you’ve great, extraordinary idea. Now you got to do podcasts or podcasts and in hope it catches on, right. The other path is you take an established brand and you do a derivative. So he’s either said well Profit First so popular that when an entrepreneur hears about it now, they already know it, I just want to, I want to be part of that brand momentum. So that’s what these authors are doing. They’re doing Profit First for a vertical. What’s interesting is I think we have seven in circulation. And I think there’s one more coming out this year, every single author has really soared started, they own their category. The first book that came out was called Profit First for ecommerce providers. Well, if you’re not an E commerce provider means nothing but if you are if you sell on Amazon, that’s a big deal. And Cindy Thomas and the author is the authority now in that space, right?

Dawn Brolin 20:36
Yeah, so So my whole follow Mike Michalowicz, mission, right? Is and I don’t know if it’ll be people that are writing offsets of the designated motivator in the future. But I see what we’re working on right now is a designated motivator for the accounting professional, you know,

Mike Michalowicz 20:52
Where you write it yourself.

Dawn Brolin 20:54
That’s, that’s what we’re going for. So so even if maybe other people don’t want to write their designated motivator book, with their, like you said, with their industry specific or their passion, they could write. So I following that, and so did they approach you how did it work? Did you like put that out there? Or did they come to you what what happened?

Mike Michalowicz 21:13
They a few people approached me say, Hey, I would love to be a co author. So once, once I start getting all these, hey, I’d love to co author a book with you. Which I don’t do, I would suggest you never do. And probably I’m contracted not to do like penguin penguin would shoot me down in seconds. I don’t know, right? You are the brand. The thing is, it’s like any other business partnership to people author a book, if you’re going to and I know you buy you know, I know you over the years, you’re going to dry that so hard to be successful. If the other person doesn’t, they’re riding your coattails. So you really want to get in that and that your bed not for just a business, you’re in bed for eternity that book will always have your two names on it. Or the beginning it’s like I don’t know if I really want to do that. Now penguins lock me out. Real always not always but sorry regularly coming to me saying I want to co author a book with you. I’m like, can’t do it won’t do it. And then they start saying well, is there any way I can do a book with you? Because I want to leverage your brand and that’s like, oh, that’s what you want

Dawn Brolin 22:10
Well, at least they’re being honest,

Mike Michalowicz 22:11
Yeah, totally totally. They just want to get a quick like and are willing to pay for it’s not like it’s free. They pay 10s of 1000s of dollars just for the rights and then they earn a lot more just to do the process get printed. But this model isn’t new to me. You myth in the business space. Michael Gerber did this now this goes back 1520 years ago, it with E Myth for you know XYZ and you’ll see these themed books with these derivatives out there pretty regularly. Once a book gets traction..

Dawn Brolin 22:38
Chicken Soup for the Soul was like probably one of the ratios was a great example.

Mike Michalowicz 22:39
Chicken Soup for the Soul was a great example.

Dawn Brolin 22:43
A great example. So that was the concept.

Mike Michalowicz 22:45
Soup’s for your Mama’s soul.

Dawn Brolin 22:48
Exact always for mama always from Mama. Oh mama still around. She’s great.

Mike Michalowicz 22:52
Is she still working with you?

Dawn Brolin 22:53
Mama is still working with me. Shout out to Mama Mama. She’s great. She’s still still amazing. Still adorable. You can’t I mean, she never won’t be. Although she had to go to jury duty on Friday. And I told her I told her put some like fake piercings on your face. Maybe they won’t pick you.

Mike Michalowicz 23:09
Yeah. Does she care about the business? Or she care about being a noble citizen?

Dawn Brolin 23:12
I mean, right? Hello, it’s taxes. Let’s go. But um, yeah, so So I’m finding so what do you know? What are you thinking as far as like the designated motivator? Concept? Like, what do you think? What kind of impact do you think that that’s gonna have? And like, just be you know, you’re always honest with me. Like, what are you thinking? I mean, you wanna you wrote the foreword, buddy.

Mike Michalowicz 23:32
Yeah, I freaking love it. And the first time I heard it, and really understood it was when you presented it at our conference. Right was now that’s it two years ago, because it was pre COVID. I think it was..

Dawn Brolin 23:45
It was 19. I think it was 19. Because it was right after our season. It was the the fall of our contract season…

Mike Michalowicz 23:51
Yeah, you know, just to give you some context, when you come on stage, I have no idea we’re going to talk about I have no idea why. Yeah. Now anything you have a presentation, you just kind of go walking out there, like a little bit like Chris Farley, from when he doesn’t, he’s a motivational speaker, Matt Foley, kind of pull your pants up a little bit, and then just start rolling. And like, what are we gonna see this time? It’s always phenomenal. It’s always phenomenal. This one has something special about it. In that the story, there was a story arc with you turning that team around that softball team. Yeah. And what goes in my mind is nothing changed. The players didn’t change. The teams they are playing didn’t change, like the schedule, everything’s pretty much the same. There’s minor. Yeah, only thing of substance was one person you came in and started to treat them differently, have different expectations. The way you communicate is different. One person changed it. I started looking at other sports teams and sports is a great analogy for business. And you see a coach come in. And the same team that struggled for years all of a sudden turns around. It really can be one person And you see with companies, like you see, I remember looking at Apple computers, right grows with Steve Jobs, they get rid of Steve Jobs or he leaves wherever and apples are going, this starts tanking, they, they bring him back in one person, it was last season one person, and it goes right back up. I think people underestimate the impact they can have individually. And when you have it’s the strongest emotion, the strongest vision that wins. If you ever come home and you’re in a dispute with your spouse, what one’s really angry, one’s really happy, whoever, whoever brings that more and use the angry person, both sides are gonna go angry, or both sides are happy. And with his Desi motivator concept, I believe in so much, because if you bring it, you can change a team around and the performance can be extraordinary.

Dawn Brolin 25:48
Absolutely. And you know, that’s why the whole concept is if you’re not that person, that’s okay. You know, and that’s where I think people disconnect. Well, well, it doesn’t anymore. Yeah.

Mike Michalowicz 25:59
And I’m not Dawn Brolin, like, like, you know, this is like a tame you doing a podcast like you got to see you on stage. The, the antics is that you’ll do the stuff you’ll say. It’s unbelievable. And people love it and the same time say but I could never be that. We are here at our own. It’s not me. My name is Kelsey Eris. She’s actually down the hallway from me. Love her. Yeah. You know, Kelsey,

Dawn Brolin 26:23
I know Kelsey.

Mike Michalowicz 26:23
Kelsey is not Dawn Brolin, she doesn’t bring an energy this she doesn’t have craziness. She would not dress in a banana suit. Today she but she lavishes our team with love. She loves our people. And I saw our team who I was leading. Before Kelsey came on board. We were doing an amazing job. I so proud of us. When cows came on board it up. We went from amazing team members to team members who will take a bullet for the company now. And I’m like what’s changed? Kelsey, it’s just Kelsey, one person with the right attitude in the belief in others can turn a company into anything.

Dawn Brolin 27:04
Absolutely. It’s a genuine belief in somebody else. That’s part of it too. We you know, like everybody doesn’t have to, you know, order a body bag for instance, and put that in a dugout and then put the other teams scorecards up after we victoriously win 17 to one you know what everybody has said?

Mike Michalowicz 27:21
Would you do you bought a body bag? You’re so effing crazy.

Dawn Brolin 27:24
I bought a body bag. I thought it’d be fun. And I and we put the season we put the teams that lost against us on the body back body back in the body. Yeah. And then when when actually when I first brought it to the field because they never know what I’m showing up with they don’t know or so. How do you even buy a body bag you can buy a body bag I Amazon stores.

Mike Michalowicz 27:44
i wonder what the sales are!? Who buys that?! The guy the funeral home like Oh, my guy pick up somebody? Hey, hop on Amazon give me two bags. I need one for a chubby guy.

Dawn Brolin 27:56
Give me a orime order.

Mike Michalowicz 27:59
Give me a prime plus and a prime.

Dawn Brolin 28:02
Of course I didn’t just go cheap. I got the one with the handles. You know? So? Well, I got to the field. The kids who cannot believe it. They’re all crying laughing

Mike Michalowicz 28:11
And what did, did you have something in it? Or is it just an empty bag?

Dawn Brolin 28:13
Well, so I got in it, and you know it’s all zipped up, let me get in it! So I got in it. A couple of the kids carried me across the field. I mean, just you want to lighten the mood a little bit by a body bag and put one of your staff in it is here in the office

Mike Michalowicz 28:28
Was this if you want to lighten the mood, but somebody in a body bag, but it was this this game day?

Dawn Brolin 28:34
It was a practice actually was a good practice before a tournament and I’m like we got body bags now we got to start putting people in body bags only zip close early. They barely could couldn’t really breathe that seaway good thing only dead people.

Mike Michalowicz 28:48
So they carry you out in a body bag and what they unzip it and you’re like, Okay, here’s who we’re killing next. Or would you sell..?

Dawn Brolin 28:54
Yeah, they dragged me over to the duck out of the bullpen and the kids, you know, the girls are all warming up pitching, say bring me over there, put me on the ground, unzip it, and I just kind of pick my head up and the pitchers are just lose it. They just lose it. You know, and you don’t have to do that. But it’s pretty fun to do something out of the ordinary like, for next season. I heard about little violins to leave in a dugout for every dugout that we when we leave a little mini violin.

Mike Michalowicz 29:17
Oh my god, you’re on the opposing teams.

Dawn Brolin 29:20
Yeah, in their dugout, I mean, yeah,

Mike Michalowicz 29:23
It’s kind of like what you’re what, what’s really interesting about your designated motivator, technique, and people don’t realize this. It’s a technique used by serial killers. So you leave your calling card, some people chisel they take an eyeball with them, or they remove a tooth, or they leave a violin or something behind that’s your calling card.

Dawn Brolin 29:43
Your you got to know I was there. It’s awesome. So we’re, we’re you know, I’m always strategizing on how to here’s the thing people get so wrapped up in the seriousness of life like, unless we got to be serious believe me when you see me going against the IRS or I’m in here trying to battle for a client I’m assuming As they get, and I take all names, okay? And, and so there’s times when you obviously have to reel it back in and I have to work on that a little bit, sometimes sometimes a little word up. But at the end of the day, people will gravitate to abnormal, when it’s fun, and it’s creative, and they’re involved in it. And it’s like, you know, we had this one girl on team this past season, barely talked, and she really had a tough time kind of buying into what I was selling. And then one game, we started rallying, and one of the girls and everyone is sitting the same stay in the same spot. You know, we’re very super, what do you call it superstitious? And this girl that was seeing this one spot that we believe was the reason we were rallying? She had a go, she was she was going to pinch it. So I looked at this girl who has no emotion, I said, I looked around, oh, Taylor, she looked at me and I go, and she’s like, she went right over stood in the spot. And she was like, I can’t leave here. And, you know, so, again, it’s about like, I just want them to experience how great they really are. Yeah. And people in your office. They need to experience how great they are. Yeah, and that’s why, like you said, Kelsey, doesn’t have to be you know, buying body bags and stuff. But she she pours out love in the way that she pours it out and people know it’s genuine. Yeah, you know, and I think that that’s, that’s in the we need this in this in this country in this world, more than we do at any other time. Which I never thought I’d say that cuz I say that every year, I feel like, right, but we really do we need it. We need it now.

Mike Michalowicz 31:31
Yeah, no, I love that. And I love what I’m hearing is believing people so much. But let me ask you this. How do you believe in people when you don’t necessarily believe in, you arrive to a team? That’s not winning? So hard to say? Well, I believe in you and really believe that you arrive to a business that’s not selling and go to sales teams. I know you’ve got this. You can say those encouraging words. But how do you get the emotion there? So it’s an alignment?

Dawn Brolin 32:00
Yeah, you gotta like, the way I look at it is I look into like, your one eyeball in front of me here. I’m looking as much as I can into your soul. Yeah, maybe weird. But I’m trying to learn about you in as an individual. Because yes, a team is there’s no I in team, I get that. But unfortunately, there are eyes that comprise a team. Yeah. It’s that you can’t get the eye in the way of the team. Right? So the way I look at it is I’ve got to find out what makes this person as a person, not a player, not a student, not a what this person what makes them tick, what do they love? What do they not love? I can kind of feel their confidence level pretty easily. And you can do that if you really start to try to learn people and like, kind of get their vibe. That’s where you can start. You got to get in their heart. I believe you got to get in their heart and you get in their heart and you show interest. And it’s got to be genuine. You don’t ever talk fake to people. You don’t. How was your weekend?

Mike Michalowicz 32:59
Right? Yeah. Work? Yeah, it’s got by the way, thanks for not being interested for

Dawn Brolin 33:05
Oh, go ahead over Mike. Yeah, you just you have to have a genuine interest. And so once you start to your heart starts to connect to them. Yeah. You actually can’t stop it.

Mike Michalowicz 33:17
Have you read the book, Extreme Ownership.

Dawn Brolin 33:19
I don’t think I have.

Mike Michalowicz 33:21
Okay, so it’s a pretty popular book is by two Navy SEALs. I think the Navy SEALs, I know Jocko Williams or something. And there’s that guy. Here’s what’s interesting. They talk it was definitely Navy SEALs. They talk about the training they do out in San Diego Coronado. And what they did is they have these rubber boats, these riverboat races where the Navy SEALs at the rundown the beach kind of rubber boats, they go on the boat and they go out to a buoy and back and whoever wins the race doesn’t have to do next race and teams are racing us all day. It’s exhausting. And what the leaders saw was that one boat was consistently winning. And the captain who doesn’t paddle was the most encouraging we got this kind of thing. And the other one there was like almost mutiny they were fighting come on your your effing up. Right did was a they had a team that was unified and a team that was disjointed. They swapped out the the captain from the boat that was crushing it, put them on the crappy boat and took the leader of the crappy boat, put them on the excellent boat. And so they assumed that it’s the team members. Well, the first race it kind of same on the same way that the fast bow that was fast before when again, even the crappy captain, they already saw this dissension. And by the third or fourth race, the boats were about the same. And then by the fifth and sixth race, it flipped. What they saw was the captain was really determining the unity. And when when there was a problem, the captain would actually amplify and say You screwed it up. And then it was fingerpointing. The other one when there’s a problem saying, Hey guys, now we know something that we shouldn’t do again. Let’s do this. Let’s go at it in just that encouragement, flip the boat, same people just to words of encouragement and they flipped so it just points to what you’re saying. And we really hold on to do commercial you know anything about podcasts commercial break time. If you’re a book this guy Mike Michalowicz wits has a book for you. Yucca. Yucca. Yucca. Yeah. Okay. That was a commercial.

Dawn Brolin 35:15
That was stinking perfect. I was that’s what I was hoping for was a little like ad lib advertisement.

Mike Michalowicz 35:20
Yeah, you don’t want to be structure, because people will drop off your podcast if you like, Hey, let me pitch something right now. So the podcast, the speaker, people just kind of continue through the podcast host continues through. But you got to really quippy. It’s got to be engaging. Otherwise, they’re going to do the 15 seconds forward each time. So

Dawn Brolin 35:37
Yeah, we can’t we can’t blame a thank you. Nice job. See learning. We’re all learning the same time. I love that. So the last thing I want to chat with you real quick about is the fact that I know you know, it was a really difficult story where you lost everything. And then you were boozin’, you were homeless, all this other stuff.

Mike Michalowicz 35:53
Well, homeless is all extreme. But yeah, so without a home, it’s true.

Dawn Brolin 35:57
Okay, you didn’t have a home. But taking it that step you had you were struggling with finding a place to live. So now you have a place to live. You even have an office that you work in? What’s with the beard, like, you not afford a shaver? Like, what’s your story there?

Mike Michalowicz 36:10
So I’ll give you the honest truth. The primary reasons I started growing this just because laziness i It wasn’t this length, there’s just kind of like a shorter bear this. And my wife is like, oh, that kind of looks good. It’s like leave it. Like, I’m gonna ditch Cygnar not leave it. So my wife has encouraged it. Here’s what’s interesting. When I speak to speaking, sometimes people ask me about my beards. So I’ll say, hey, audience, let’s do a quick survey. And I did find this one group. It was like all women, and I said how many against the beard and I heard like Mongo. I said, How many for the beard, the place almost fell down. And like the beard stays. The guys are like, 50 guys really don’t seem to care. 5050 women, it seems like 95% I keep the beard. Now, here’s the other thing. So that’s one thing. So it seems like actually more people like it. Okay, I’m either way on so here’s the other funny thing about a beard. The pre how prejudiced people are so it just went in your favor. So I wherever I go people Oh, you look awfully handy. Eric question for I there’s not a a weekend goes by without someone asking me if I if I’m an electrician, plumber carpentry skills. If I can fix something. I was picking up some furniture for my son for college. Someone house was give me it’s almost like she sees me goes Oh, hey, my husband was trying to fix our door. She’s, you might just take a quick peek at it. And like of course I will. I was at Home Depot yesterday. I’m walking down the electrical aisle. Electric aisle and this guy comes up to us like, Hey, you’re an electrician. I gotta ask you a question. I’m like, electrician. The beat is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. What a beard does in people’s perception. So it stays.

Dawn Brolin 38:00
I love that. I love that. Oh my goodness. Well,

Mike Michalowicz 38:02
I could store things in here. I could just I’m..

Dawn Brolin 38:05
I’m sure you have last night supper tucked in there so dinner lunch.

Mike Michalowicz 38:09
Yeah, there’s weird things. There’s a bird’s nest going somewhere on this side. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 38:15
Oh my goodness. I love it. Well, Mike McCalla wits, the man of the hour. Just love you so much. Thank you so much for coming on. And I know we’re going to do some more things together as we move forward so we can make people profit, make profit first write Profit First, and be motivated to do it

Mike Michalowicz 38:29
Dawn Brolin, I love you!

Dawn Brolin 38:33
Thanks, everybody for listening and watching. We look forward to the next episode. Thanks so much. I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit John Rowland calm in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

It’s Dawn here to share with you my new podcast, The DM Disruption!

The podcast features practical advice and insights from yours truly and a wide range of guests from across the accounting profession who are focused on sharing motivation and strategies to help us practitioners achieve greater levels of professional and personal fulfillment and reward.

I decided to create The DM Disruption podcast to offer my fellow accounting professionals and colleagues from different areas of our profession with a forum for sharing our successes and challenges as well as the motivation to fuel greater a better way of doing things in your firm.

On The DM Disruption podcast I’m interviewing you, my peers as well as changemakers and thought leaders in the accounting profession. If you have an interest in making our community as a whole stronger and more successful, let’s talk!

Listeners can listen to The DM Disruption podcast here and watch it on The DM Disruption YouTube Channel.

New episodes of The DM Disruption podcast will be published weekly. To date, I have recorded podcast episodes with:

· Best-selling entrepreneurial author Mike Michalowicz

· CPA, James Upton of Upton Accounting in North Carolina

· Jody Padar, The Radical CPA

· Robin Hall, President & Principal Consultant, VARC Solutions

· Heather Satterley, CPA and Owner of Satterley Training & Consulting

· Dan Hood, Editor of Accounting Today

· Seth Fineberg, Editorial Manager/US Team Lead, AccountingWEB.com

· Chris Farrell, CPA, Founder of Liscio

· Ariel Sandell, CISRCP, Cybersecurity Compliance Consultant

· Erron Stark, DVP, Channel Sales ADP

· Heather Sperduto, VP, Channel Sales, ADP

· Kathy Grosskurth, Owner, Bookkeeping Clean and Simple

· Melinda Emerson, Founder, Quintessence Group

· Nate Flake – VP of Operations, Fishbowl

If you have a need for motivation or are involved in supporting the future success of the accounting profession, I’d love to have you as a guest on the show! Let me know by using this online form.

Looking forward to talking with YOU and helping everyone shake things up and achieve their goals!


A colleague of mine recently shared a text thread from an accounting profession peer. Wow, did it strike a chord (more like a whole symphony) with me! In the author of the text, had shared a “Tip for working with accountants: Yes, tax season was extended, no we didn’t get all of our work done, no we haven’t been on a great vacation, no we are not all rested up. We are still physically, mentally and literally exhausted. Get a grip folks!”

Yowza! The frustration and pain of that text hits my heart—and I am sure it resonates with many of us who have tax preparation as a significant part of our practices. We can likely sympathize with these feelings of burnout and exhaustion. The feeling that the work is never going to end and that we are going to be crushed (literally and figuratively) by the IRS deadlines coming at us head-on like a runaway train.  I know I certainly can.

The truth is, over the past two tax seasons the impact of Covid-19  has morphed what is typically a stressful and intense work period at best, to a completely new form of twisted tax torture.

Have we calculated the true cost of Covid on the accounting profession?

If this situation didn’t have such a serious impact on the physical, emotional and mental health of my colleagues, I might add some levity by imagining the 2020 and 2021 tax seasons as a special accounting edition of the show “Survivor.” Like contestants on that show, we’ve all had to draw on our inner strength and professional capabilities to make it through the daily IRS changes, shifts in the ways we have to work with our teams and our clients, as well as the extended (and extended further in some states) nature of the tax seasons that seem like they will never end. To say that the process has been a challenge might just be the biggest understatement of our professional lives.

What’s even more concerning to me is the impact it is having on accounting professionals on a personal level. Although the standard tax deadlines have passed for the most part, I don’t think they are really behind us. Consider how the text chain I referenced at the beginning of this article began with this snippet below. This is the same accounting colleague bravely opening up to his peers about the way he is really feeling:

“Glad I am not alone in this. I am honestly in a place I have never been—no motivation. I just don’t care anymore. The epoch that has been our life since March 2020…has me in a funk. Truly has me rethinking it all, at 41, what now, the same?”

This is truth. This is vulnerability. This is the real life “stuff” that we as professionals deal with—the human side of our work. This is exactly why I felt called to write my book “The Designated Motivator” at this particular time, in this particular year. In the burning fire of tax season.

Why every accounting professional needs a Designated Motivator

It’s for the accounting colleague who is questioning his profession, his purpose, and his life in deep ways—he is asking for someone to help him see there is more than just what is in front of him or on the immediate horizon at this moment. He needs someone to step in to be his Designated Motivator (DM)—the person I define as, “An individual who has the passion and ability to give others the greatest gift of all: the realization and mobilization of their true potential. Using their superpower to empower others to believe in themselves so they can achieve at higher levels than they thought were possible.”

Maybe you could be his DM. Maybe it’s me (I sent him a complimentary copy of the book). I hope that even if you don’t read the book  yourself, you’ll take the DM Philosophy with you as work through the aftermath of this tax season.

This is The Designated Motivator philosophy in a nutshell: We all have a superpower within us—the ability to encourage and lift up others, to help them see their true potential and help them take action to get  to a better place so they can realize it. Some of us feel that this is more than a latent desire. It is our passion and purpose. I know it is mine.

The DM Philosophy is about using your superpower to motivate others (or yourself), to help them (or you) to take action and to hold them (or yourself) accountable for making good on using their greatest gifts to reach their highest potential. You can read more about the DM Philosophy, Mindset and Toolkit here.

Imagine if we all did this for each other as professionals, but more importantly, as people. What would our daily lives be like? Imagine if we did this for someone and they paid it forward…the ripple effect across the world would be infinitely amazing!

Are you a Designated Motivator? Or do you need one?

By reading The Designated Motivator, you’ll have a solid framework for actually making positive change in yourself, others, and the world (if you so choose). I deliberately wrote this book to be an action planner and an accountability framework that you can use for yourself and others, because we all know that action is the only way to truly make a change. Just thinking about it doesn’t cut it.

Some of you might dismiss this DM book and philosophy as “motivational mumbo jumbo” and that is okay. Being a DM is not for everyone. But if reading this blog has sparked something in you, the desire to reach out to someone like the accounting colleague I mentioned here for example, or perhaps even reach out to find a DM for yourself, then I will consider it successful.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to make a difference. It’s how I started down this DM path. I felt the desire in my soul and the fire in my belly to do what I could to make people realize how gifted they are and to help them see and seize the possibility they held within them.

Now that tax season is “over” yet for many of us not really behind us, I encourage you to take on the Three Key Responsibilities of a Designated Motivator to help a colleague, friend, family member, or anyone else who may need you to:

  1. Encourage unconditionally.
  2. Provide emotional, physical, and psychological support.
  3. Cause a positive transformative effect in another person on a mental, emotional, spiritual and/or physical level.

This is where the magic happens.

I hope you’ll join me and learn how to seize your DM superpower and make a significant and lasting change in your firm, your profession and in time, the world. Consider being a guest on my new podcast The DM Disruption starting this July. Complete the guest form here and get ready to join me with your DM story or a request for a DM!!!

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