Chris shares adventures for better coworker connections
Chris Morrison has always been very active and that hasn’t stopped even though he’s with a public accounting firm. While Ragner Relays and hiking are his two biggest passions, he’s also skydived several times and been a licensed helicopter pilot. Hiking is his “budget hobby” and a quick weekend getaway from his home in Phoenix. The Flatiron Hike outside Phoenix is the one he’s done the most but he’s also done a lot of hiking in the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.
In this episode, Chris and I talk about how much these activities have allowed him to open up and have stronger connections with everyone at his firm. He used to be shy and not say much about it, but after people asked what he was doing with his PTO time, he realized how it’s a great way to build relationships. He also takes pictures while he’s hiking and puts those up in his cubicle as a way for others to see what he’s passionate about. He firmly believes that people are what make up the personality of the firm and it’s up to each individual to let that out. In his words, “We live to work – not work to live.”
Chris Morrison is a Senior Associate at Henry + Horne in Phoenix, AZ.
He received his Bachelor of Science, Technical Management, Accounting from DeVry University and then later received his Master, Accounting and Finance Management degree from Keller Graduate School of Management.
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Welcome to Episode 115 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion, and just by being themselves, they stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. Because so many of us are thought a false hope by professionalism. To stand out, you need to get another certification or another degree or memorize all the audit regulations or be the best technician in your field and this simply isn’t true if you want to get ahead in business because it’s still a human to human interaction.
Because professionalism preaches that people with passions outside of work might be less dedicated to their jobs or maybe not as good at their jobs and the opposite is actually true and that’s what we prove every single week here on the Green Apple Podcast by sharing people’s stories. It’s so, so much fun.
If you’re listening to this and think hey, I’ve got a hobby or a passion that I love to talk about at work, please reach out to me because I’d love have you as a guest on the show or maybe you know someone that you work with or a peer through an association or what have you that might be great to have on and share their stories, so just go to greenapplepodcast.com, send me a quick message or you can follow us on Twitter @GreenApplePod.
But today, it’s all about Chris Morrison, a senior associate at Henry & Horne in Phoenix. So Chris, I know you’re always on the go, so thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Chris: Thanks, John. So happy to be here.
John: I’m super excited. Based on your pictures and following you on Twitter and everything, I mean you’ve got a ton of stuff you’re doing outside the office which I think is really, really cool and encouraging to everyone that’s going to be listening so I’m excited to dig in this with you. But I gave everyone a little bit of an introduction, but maybe in your own words, a little bit of in your job and career, where you’re at now and a little bit of how you got there.
Chris: Okay. So yeah, I’m a senior associate pretty much at Henry & Horne which is a public accounting firm here in Arizona. I mean I got into accounting — I mean before that, I was at US Airways working in transaction tax and then I kind of want to step my foot in to public accounting so it’s kind of how I got here, I guess getting in.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean that’s cool, man. I guess the one thing that I love to ask everyone is just like how did you choose accounting?
Chris: I feel like that’s like your typical interview question when you go into any job.
John: Right, right. Because I mean it’s always like — I mean especially when I meet people that are “not the stereotype,” and it’s like how did you get — because I mean, my story getting into accounting was a clear accident. It’s fun to hear sometimes people, it’s their destiny and sometimes, it was yeah, we took a little turn.
Chris: Yeah. So mine was definitely taking a little bit of a turn. This is actually one of the interview questions I love to answer because school came pretty easy to me, I had A-B’s. I was fortunate about that and accounting was the one class I really struggled in. I had a scholarship at ASU, a tuition scholarship, so I was taking my Accounting class and wasn’t doing so hot in it. I was getting a little frustrated to have enough time to take the test.
So the only W on my transcript for Withdraw is actually Accounting. It’s the only one. Kind of think it made me so mad that I couldn’t get in, pick it up like everything else, that next thing I know, fast forward, I’m like in it for the long run.
John: Wow. That’s amazing, man.
Chris: I think it’s just overcoming the challenge. I just dropped into it, had a bunch of other hobbies and I was told accounting, you make some money and it’ll fund my other hobbies so it’s kind of how I just dropped right into it.
John: Yeah. I mean that’s exactly it. So somebody told you early on that you can have the career and the hobbies and passions outside of that.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
John: Man, whoever that Yoda is, is a wise, wise person. That’s really cool, man. I know you have a ton but what are some of the hobbies and passions that you do enjoy when you get a little bit of free time from Henry & Horne there?
Chris: Most of my hobbies I guess is the most current ones are like just running, I do races called Ragnar races which are my favorite kind of races. I don’t know if you’ve heard about those or not.
John: Yeah, yeah. I actually — early on in the podcast had Kevin Yeanoplos on and he does some of those. He’s from out in Arizona as well I believe, so I don’t know what it is about the sun out there but you guys just like being out in it for days I guess.
Chris: Oh, yeah. We just love to bake on the sidewalk as we’re running.
John: Right, right. That’s awesome, man. I mean those Ragnar races are — I mean it’s forever long.
Chris: Yeah. They’re about 200-ish miles is how they advertise it so that comes around right over 200 or 198 miles.
John: Yeah, who’s counting? I mean let’s round up.
Chris: Yeah. 200-ish-ish, really good advertising.
John: Yeah, yeah. I mean you have several others as well, yeah?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. I mean I love to travel and hiking. Hiking’s a big thing for me. I’ve done some skydiving, done some helicopter piloting, basically anything new or active, I will do it.
John: Right, right. Is it out of the office? Check, I’m there. That’s so cool, man. I guess it’s probably good to learn the skydiving before the helicopter piloting just in case. No, that’s really cool, man. That’s really cool. How did you get into the Ragnar races? I mean who wants to run 200-ish miles? How do you get into that?
Chris: So randomly, I was just doing CrossFit. I signed up for CrossFit with a friend which is one of those things I just never done it before so wanted to sign up and that was like early on when CrossFit was just really taking off, and the CrossFit group talked about Ragnar races. I had never heard of them before and I decided to sign up with the CrossFit team so I didn’t really know anybody, just sounded interesting, travelled to Vegas and that was my first one and kind of fell in love with it from there and the next thing you know, I was in a van with five other people that I didn’t know for 36 hours.
John: Right. It’s like are we going to a Grateful Dead concert or are we doing a Ragnar race? What’s going on here?
Chris: I fell in love with it. It was fun. I met a bunch of people, I’m friends with them now, made new friends, it’s like a good networking thing. You just have that whole team camaraderie thing.
John: Right, yeah. Do you feel like some of that translates over into your career?
Chris: Oh, definitely. I feel like just networking and being social with people at work, it’s a lot easier when I mean you’re thrown into conversation with strangers in a bus, you’re forced to talk so kind of takes away all that jitters I guess with starting a new job, and talking to new clients, and it’s easier to build those stronger relationships.
John: Yeah, yeah, no. That’s so true because I mean when you’re just thrown into it, you have to function and then when it comes up again, in the office you’re like oh, this is not much different. It just actually smells better and is less sweaty.
Chris: Very true. We have bags at — we just call it “Contain the funk.” Put all your dirty clothes in a Ziploc bag.
John: Right, that’s awesome. I’m pretty sure every accounting office should have a “Contain the funk” area just in case. Is there one that has been your favorite? I imagine the Vegas ones since it’s your first?
Chris: I’ve done Arizona and I’ve done Vegas a bunch of times and now, I’ve kind of made it my goal to just do one or two a year and just try to travel to them so it’ll be like to go see a new place so those races, I mean like the 198, 200-ish miles, they throw you in the back country so you have to see places that you would never see had you just traveled there and like a tourist thing.
I think my favorite one was called Bourbon Chase and it’s actually sponsored or paired up with Ragnar Relay so same kind of concept and it’s going through Kentucky and it’s the back woods of Kentucky and you’re running through the distilleries. It was pretty cool. The distilleries come out and like bring a bunch of free stuff and set up camp and it’s a blast.
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome, man. Then you mentioned also hiking and I imagine out there, I mean with the Grand Canyon and Sedona and everything else all around, there’s got to be a ton of hiking to be done close by.
Chris: Yeah. Hiking is definitely my cheaper hobby. I’m not travelling to these races and paying money for the races so hiking’s definitely my budget hobby that I like to do. Arizona is my easy weekend getaway so there’s so much to do here in Arizona that I don’t think people realize it. I just did — we drove out to Zion which obviously is in Utah but is not too far from Phoenix so we did Zion then stopped on the way back at the North rim and did the Grand Canyon rim to rim hike but I ended up doing rim to rim to rim which is one of the most rewarding things I think I’ve ever done but I did the group rim to rim with a group of ten people and then everyone thought I was crazy but I went back the entire day and did rim to rim in one day by myself.
John: Wow, yeah. That’s quite a challenge right there.
Chris: I was definitely miserable at the end I won’t lie, but it was the most rewarding thing sitting on that bench outside the gift shop at the end. I was picking up my feet off the ground. That was the best thing ever.
John: Right, right, and then there’s families pulling up in a bus.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. They’re looking at me, I’m sprawled out taking up the whole entire bench like dying.
John: Right, like, “What’s wrong with this guy?” Yeah, so do you find that any of that hiking translates over to the office similar to the Ragnar racing?
Chris: Yeah. I mean it’s kind of like I said, I just like challenges so it’s mental struggle if I can overcome it mentally, physically, it just helps me control stress at work and it’s just easier to maintain like during busy season, I think it just helps maintain stress level and mental health.
John: Yeah, no. I mean absolutely because yeah, when you do the rim to rim to rim and then all of a sudden, busy season comes around it’s like well, I’ve done worse. Puts things into perspective. That’s for sure, man. That’s for sure.
Chris: Yeah, and hiking back rim to rim, it’s like you can’t turn around. One of the rangers told us, he goes, hiking down into the Canyon’s optional. Hiking out, that’s mandatory. You have to come out of the Canyon.
John: Yeah. That’s true, right.
Chris: When you’re hiking and at the point that I start to become miserable and I’m like, why did I do this? I’m so close to the end but it’s all up hill but I can’t turn around because there’s no way to go.
John: Yeah. There’s no quitting. Right, right.
Chris: Yeah. So you kind of take into work too, it’s like you’re in the busy season and people are relying on you, your clients are relying on you so it’s not like you can just stop. If you stop, someone’s getting affected by it.
John: Right, yeah. That’s for sure. They can’t bring in a helicopter on a tax return. I mean what a profound insight that you’re able to have in the moment. Because a lot of people would think oh, well, it’s just hiking, whatever. It’s what Chris does and blah, blah, blah, and it’s like no, no. This is actually making me better at my job which is really cool that you’re able to see that like that. I would imagine that rim to rim to rim was probably your favorite hike or is there other places that you’re more favorite?
Chris: Well, actually, I really like one that’s close by that it’s called Flatiron hike. It’s out in the Superstition Mountains in Phoenix. It’s a tough hike but it’s close to the city so it’s like an easy, quick, getaway for me I guess. It’s really nice to like I mean hike in a general rim to rim, like you actually get to disconnect.
We have our emails on our phones and if I go travel somewhere, I still have my emails, still see them. But you don’t get phone service at the bottom of the Canyon, you don’t get phone service in the mountains typically so it was just my way to really disconnect from social media and technology, work, everything. But I would definitely say there’s Flatiron outside on the east valley in Phoenix is actually a really nice hike.
John: Right. So everybody listening, if you go to Phoenix, get on up there and yeah, because that’s one that you don’t always hear about.
Chris: Bring lots of water. It’s pretty vertical.
John: Yeah, and then when everyone’s in the hospital, they’re going to call you up. “Dude, why didn’t you tell me that this is crazy?” It’s not a stroll with the kids. This is a hike, it’s an all-out hike.
Chris: Pack your lunch and be ready.
John: Right, right. That’s awesome. That’s very cool. Are these things that you bring up at work, clients, co-workers know about these activities? I guess when you come back when you’re all sunburnt or whatever?
Chris: Yeah. I try to decorate my office with photos that I’ve actually taken on my hikes so people come in all the time and they’ll look at my photos like, “Oh, that’s a really cool new photo you got” and then once they realize like I took it because I’m like oh, yeah. I took that on this hike thing, it just breaks out on conversation and people get to know you and next thing I know I have people walking by my office stopping in occasionally and asking me what I did this past weekend or what’s my plan this next weekend?
I’ve kind of gotten known to be that person that’s always gone. It causes conversation around the office and it’s nice because then you get to know people a little bit more and figure out what they’re doing on the weekends.
John: That’s really great. I mean just from a picture or two in your office, now, people are going out of their way to talk to you to find out live vicariously through you I guess. I mean that’s such a simple thing that people can do where you’re not really braggy, you’re not shouting it from the rooftops, “Hey, here’s what I did,” it’s just, “Hey, you asked. Yeah, that’s a picture I took on the Grand Canyon,” that type of thing.
Chris: One of our co-workers started a hiking group so they tried to plan like a small hike somewhere around Arizona within two hours from the office and it turns out to be good. We got a lot of people that turn out. They seem to like it, everyone likes it, we do Fitbit competitions so you get more steps when you go hiking so people love that.
John: Right. Yeah, plus it’s you guys out of the office. You’re in a more relaxed environment, able to kind of hang out and get to know each other.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. Engaging your team members.
John: Yeah. I mean that has to pay dividends when you get back to the office. Huge.
Chris: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
John: You have a stronger connection with now than the ones that don’t.
Chris: Yeah, definitely strengthens the communication channels around here for sure.
John: Right, right, yeah. When you just spend more time with someone and you just get to know them then you realize you have a lot more in common than what you think and especially more than just the CPA background because everyone in the office has that background but now, all of a sudden, there’s another level to it where it’s oh, and also hiking. Cool.
So does Henry & Horne do other things? I mean that’s just a great example of having some small clubs for activities and things like that. Are there other things that they do to help encourage people to open up and share these hobbies and passions?
Chris: We do the hiking group, we do company softball. So company softball starts in fall and that’s a blast. We have a ton of people turning out this year so which is an accounting league. And some of us break the stereotype, some of us fulfill the stereotype.
John: Sure, sure.
Chris: But the fact that we’re all going out there is like the fun part about it so it’s another team engagement building thing. We do quarterly happy hours, get people out of the office, we do team building right before busy season where we get everyone out, go bowling, go Topgolf something like that. Yeah, they definitely do a pretty good job on getting this out there.
John: No, I mean those are all really, really great examples of ways that an organization can do that in and I guess one thing I like to kick around is how much do you feel like it’s on the organization to create that environment or how much is it on the individual to just step up and share when somebody asks?
Chris: I think it definitely goes both ways. I mean when I first started here, I was super, super shy and I went from the shy kid to the very outspoken kid. Probably one of the most outspoken ones now and I think this all goes back to the firm, the firm personnel, and it’s people that make up that personality for the firm. I feel like it goes back and forth like the firm can only do so much but the people also have to be the voice basically especially in public accounting.
John: Right, right, yeah. That’s interesting how when you first started because I never would’ve pegged you as the shy kid that comes in and whatever and I guess what kind of helped with that transition because I’m sure that there’s a lot of people that were in your shoes being shy or tentative or what have you.
Chris: Well, I think I’m just like that all the time when I start a new job, it’s just I’m trying to get a feel for the atmosphere in the firm. I don’t know like I don’t want to be just jump in and be like, “This kid’s crazy.”
John: Right, that’s true. They’ll find out in time. You’re crazy, it’s just they’ll find out slowly.
Chris: Definitely had to break out of my shell really slow and I didn’t want to go full force jumping in but yeah, just talking to like partners and little things like you request time off. Well, share if you feel comfortable, share what you’re doing when you request time off like where are you going? What are you doing? Stuff like that that’s kind of partners would ask so it just kind of helps.
John: Right, right. That’s a great point because if people ask, well, then the gloves are off because I can say whatever. I mean you asked and you don’t have to feel braggy or you’re boasting or whatever. It’s well, you asked me what I’m doing this weekend, and that’s what I’m going to do. I guess sometimes people want to talk to them in the research survey that I have at greenapplepodcast.com and sometimes people reply like they’re afraid that talking about hobbies and passions are going to make them less of an accountant or appear less professional because they have these things outside of the office, do you feel like that’s impacted your career at all in a negative way?
Chris: Not so much here. Like I said, I’m fortunate that we share everything like everyone knows it here so it hasn’t been that bad but I mean definitely coming in, I heard the horror stories of public accounting, billable hours, stuff like that. But I guess my whole slogan I guess is we work to live not live to work. So I’m working like I said, I got into accounting to fund my hobbies. I want to go out and do stuff.
John: Yeah, no and that’s dead on, man. That’s dead on. And so true because I mean a lot of that’s in your own head. Yeah, you hear the horror stories and then you got in and you’re like well, I don’t see these horror stories. I’m just being me and everyone’s cool about it which is great but yeah, and it’s also cool that you’re able to just say yeah, I work to live. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to rule the accounting world. I’m here to make money so I can go hiking and skydiving and all kinds of crazy stuff.
Chris: Yeah, yeah. So definitely pull the work hard, play hard card all the time.
John: Right. Well, yeah. Well, you’re playing hard so to balance that out, certainly working hard for sure. I mean that’s so rewarding, man. I mean so profound that you’re able to see that and able to share that with everybody and I just imagine that those connections yeah, are just so much stronger than had you not. People didn’t understand what you were doing and what makes you tick. So it’s really cool, man. Really cool.
I guess do you have any words of encouragement to people that are listening, that are maybe kind of on the fence and like no one else does Ragnar Relays so I’m not going to talk about it?
Chris: I would just encourage people to just dive in. Don’t waste any time. You’re not going to fit every personality of every firm so if you don’t fit it, I mean there’s other companies out there. Just be you and go out and do your own thing because there’s other jobs out there. If you don’t fit it, it’s better than being miserable. That’s my whole thing. If I don’t fit in, then I’ll go somewhere else where I do fit in.
John: Right, right. And clearly, at Henry & Horne, you’re killing it, man. That’s awesome, so congratulations.
Chris: Yeah. Definitely fortunate.
John: Yeah. What a cool firm and yeah, one day, I get out there that way, I’m definitely stopping by and hanging out because you guys are doing some really cool things.
I do have my rule that before I put on my hiking shoes and come on out and do a little Grand Canyon with you, I have my 17 rapid fire questions I got to run you through just to make sure that we’re simpatico because I don’t want to get half way on that hike and then I have to bail on you because I’m like, “This dude’s crazy.”
So let me fire this thing up. Fire this thing up here. It’ll be fun. All right, all right. So here we go, here we go. Start you out easy. First one. Are you more cats or dogs?
Chris: Definitely dogs.
John: Dogs, all right. As a tax guy, I have to ask, do you have a favorite tax form?
Chris: I don’t have a favorite tax form actually, I kind of just like my hobbies. I’m kind of all over the place.
John: Okay. All of them. Wow. I’m more of an EZ guy. How about do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Chris: Adult beverage, yeah. I would just do Bourbon Neat.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. So that Bourbon run was pretty good for you.
Chris: Yeah. As I said, it was my favorite run.
John: Right, right. Exactly, exactly. How about do you have a favorite number?
John: 27, why is that?
Chris: When I was 27, a year ago, I just had a really, really good year.
John: Okay, cool, man. Are you more Start Wars or Star Trek?
Chris: Star Wars all the way.
John: How about for computers more PC or Mac?
John: PC? Yeah, me too. Me too. When it comes to your mouse, are you more right-click or left-click?
Chris: Oh, I’m actually a right-click person.
John: Right, how about do you have a favorite cereal?
Chris: Cereal? I don’t. I just usually eat granola.
John: Okay, yeah. That counts. How about do you have a favorite band or musician?
Chris: I am big into Country right now.
John: Okay. How about more pens or pencils?
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. How about do you have a favorite color?
Chris: Color is green, definitely green.
John: Okay, all right. Do you have a least favorite color?
Chris: I would say probably yellow.
John: Okay, yeah. That’s decent. How about are you more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
John: Yeah, yeah. How about jeans of khakis?
Chris: Ah, jeans. Jeans for sure.
John: Jeans, yeah. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Chris: I don’t. That’s something I’m really bad at.
John: Okay, all right. Let’s do a new one. Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Chris: Out Cold.
John: Oh, there you go.
Chris: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. It’s an older snowboarding movie. It’s comedy. It’s pretty good.
John: Right. Two more, two more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Chris: Definitely a night owl.
John: Right, right. The last one. Last one is favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Chris: Favorite thing I own is I mean my dog is the best thing I ever had.
John: Yeah. Oh, wow. Very cool. That’s a solid, solid answer, man. So this was great, Chris. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast. Really, really fun.
Chris: Yeah. I’m happy to be here and happy to totally support your whole mission with breaking the stereotypes.
John: That was really, really fun. I particularly love how Chris said we work to live not to live to work. I think it’s really cool that he’s found a firm with leaders that encourage this.
Now, if you like to see some pictures of Chris hiking in the desert and connect with him on social media, go to greenapplepodcast.com and the show has its own Twitter handle, @GreenApplePod so you please follow us on there and don’t forget to subscribe to the show so you don’t miss any of the future episodes.
Thank you so much for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.