Episode 137 – Carl Reader

Carl lifts his way to better business skills


Carl Reader started lifting weights a few years ago as a way to stay healthy. He really enjoyed it because he was in control and there are always new goals to achieve when training. The weightlifting routine and principles of mindfulness have helped Carl learn to respond rather than react to business situations.

In this episode, Carl and I talk about how business isn’t B-to-B or even B-to-C, it’s all H-to-H (Human-to-Human), because people are still buying from other people. Because of this, Carl says, “My intention is to really get to know others because that’s where the magic happens.” He tries to treat all relationships the same by having the same persona, both in and out of work.

Carl Reader is a Director at D&T Chartered Accountants, author of The Startup Coach and The Franchising Handbook, and a regular speaker at business conferences around the world. He’s also an Economic Empowerment Advisory Committee Member for the International Centre for Social Franchising.

He attended Southend High School for Boys.

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    Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 137 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a passion or an interest outside of work making them stand out like a green apple in a pretty boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated at how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise talking about our degrees and our certifications and all those letters that we have after our name and our business cards. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that that’s only a fraction of our expertise. Sometimes it’s our experiences from our passions outside of work that actually can make us better at our job but only if you let them. Because time is the only resource that you can’t make more of making it the most precious. So what we do with our free time outside of work is a much better indicator of who we truly are and what drives us.

    Really, really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one minute anonymous survey about firm culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. So if you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. You can click on the big green button there, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I promise it won’t take more than 60 seconds, and I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much to everyone for subscribing to the show, so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Carle Reader. I first talked to Carl at QB Connect in the fall and I’m excited he’s back for a longer episode. He’s a director at DNT Chartered Accountants. He is the author of the Startup Coach and the franchising handbook and he’s a regular speaker at business conferences all across the world. Thanks Carl so much for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Carl: Hey, John. It’s great to be speaking to you again.

    John: Oh, absolutely. We had so much fun at QuickBooks Connect in San Jose and had you on in the shorter episodes. I gave people a little bit of the introduction, but in your own words, maybe what you’re doing now and a little bit of how you got there professionally.

    Carl: Yeah, sure. I am probably the world’s worst accountant. Those who would have heard the snippet beforehand would have heard that. I fell into accountancy completely by accident. I’m what you Americans would call a high school dropout. I left school just before doing my GCSE, started an apprenticeship. I realized that an apprenticeship in hairdressing just wasn’t for me. So I went back, did my exams at 16 and needed to do something for myself to look for a career that could work. But my idea on what accountancy was instead, what I did was go through the papers. This is back in the days that newspapers had jobs in them because usually they don’t anymore.

    John: Right. I don’t even know if newspapers exist.

    Carl: Exactly. I went through the newspapers and I got two interviews at accountancy firms and one at the Army, ended up getting offered both accountancy jobs. They you have it, that’s how I got into the world of accountancy. Fast forward quite a few years now and I’m fortunate enough to own my own practice. I’ve started a new FinTech startup which is related to accountancy and having a lot of fun along the way.

    John: That’s awesome man, very, very cool. Congratulations. So the Army didn’t want you, but two accounting firms did or —

    Carl: You wouldn’t believe it. John, you saw me out in California. You won’t believe I was actually underweight for the Army. I have no idea. Their scales must have been broken.

    John: Right. Was this before lifting or was this —

    Carl: It was before.

    John: Okay. All right, yeah. I was going to say now. I’m the before version definitely. You got me by a long shot, yeah. But that’s so fascinating and then you just accidentally get into it and then now look, you’re killing it. That’s really cool.

    Carl: It’s one of those things where accountancy tends to attract a certain type of person and fortunately for me — many others, I didn’t fit within that box, the accountancy as an idea or as an ideology wanted me to fit with him. Actually, I stood out and people noticed me from day one. I weren’t very good at adding up the numbers, I’ll be honest, but I was good at speaking to people basically making friends along the way which in turn became clients, which in turn became revenue which becomes profit.

    John: Yeah. That’s weird how that works, isn’t it? It’s like not the technical skills that get you all the way there. You’re decent at the technical skills, but it’s the being human side of it and because it’s still you’re doing business with other people.

    Carl: Exactly.

    John: That’s fantastic man, yeah. Actually, just the way you we’re describing that, there’s — I do just recently in Denver saw in concert a guy named Gavin James who’s from Ireland. But he has a song, this big song that’s out on the radio, His Heart’s on Fire but he has another song that he played. It’s called Boxes. It’s so fantastic. One line of it actually I believe is something like “I don’t fit into your boxes, were all different underneath.” I was like, wow, that is so powerful. Because I mean he just talks about not coming from the right home or the right family or going to the right school or whatever. When you look at all of us, we’re all accountants, we’re all charged accountants or CPA’s or we all have degrees. But underneath, we’re all so different.

    Carl: Completely, right.

    John: Yeah, and if we never get to that, then we’re really shortchanging everybody around us including ourselves.

    Carl: This is it. The other thing is, our client’s people as well, as accountants, we have to fall into the trap. We think of our clients as names or numbers. But if I could give — I know this isn’t the topic of the podcast, but if I could give you listeners just one tip, it’s that business isn’t B to B or B to C. It’s H to H, human to human. I can’t repeat this enough. This human to human, whether you’re dealing with one person as a person individual or you’re dealing with an employee, they have a person, they’ve got an interest, they got motivations and understanding that. Relating to them on a personal level is the way that you do business with them.

    John: That is exactly what this podcast is about. That’s exactly it. It’s being human and not being afraid to be a little bit vulnerable. Because just knowing you, what is it that you think that makes you not nervous to share or not nervous to be who you are where others are? What is it about?

    Carl: Stupidity. Now listen, John, I’m one of these very strange characters. I tend to volunteer for speaking slots to TV opportunities for any present opportunities that allow that. But I guess it’s a bit of an unnerving confidence that it’s very hard for me to be shaken and stupidity that I’m more than happy to talk first and then think about it afterwards.

    John: Right, sure. Yeah, but I mean clearly, it’s working. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Carl: I’m doing okay.

    John: Right, exactly. That’s what I say because when I did standup comedy when I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers. I was just too dumb to know that you people didn’t talk about stuff. You asked me. That’s what I did this weekend.

    Carl: Sure. It’s funny, John, I actually signed up for a standup comedy class.

    John: Nice.

    Carl: Yes, a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, I had a lung infection which knocked me out for about three to four weeks. I felt worse. One of the missing links in my ability to not only present but really engage the audience. Somebody who knows their subject is booked, but somebody who makes the audience laugh gets books again.

    John: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You’ll do great, man. I’d love to see the video and we could share with all the listeners as well.

    Carl: Fantastic.

    John: To go check it out, yeah. That’s awesome. I know that comedy isn’t your hobby, passion that you love to do outside of work yet. But what is your main thing that you love doing when you have free time?

    Carl: Hey, so I have got a few. Last time, we spoke about weightlifting. So I’ll touch on that a bit more. But there is a couple of others that I’m going to drop on you as well. We’ll start the weightlifting. This is something that’s more for through a health necessity than anything else. I’m one of these blokes who just really enjoys food. You could say I’m on a seafood diet and I’ll see it and I’ll eat it. I just love it. What happened was probably about three or four years ago. I’ve always been naturally big boned. So I was big anyway. Bigger bottoms and bigger thighs than the normal person. But I went to the doctor. I only have a few issues. The results of my blood tests came back. My cholesterol was high. I was pre-diabetic. That’s why I have all sorts of scans and trying to get to the bottom of what was going on. But how long or short it was, I wasn’t looking after my.

    I realized that I had to do something. Now obviously, diet is part of it and that’s been one of the bigger challenges that I’ve had personally. I can eat dinner, but if someone puts another steak on my plate, I’m going to eat it. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to say, no, no, no, I’ve had enough and be polite. I need to do something. I’m not very good at cardio. In other words, I get bored out of my mind running on a treadmill or cycling or anything. The only exercise that I could do that would actually keep me engaged would give me a target where I’m be only one in control of it. Yes, it’s not like a team sport and I’m in control of it and there’s no limits what I’m doing. It was weightlifting because you can always put on extra kilo or two on my bar.

    So I started weightlifting probably about, I’d say about two to three years ago. It started just as a bit of an effort to get fit in a token gym membership, enjoyed it, bought some weightlifting gloves, carried on, joined a new gym because the environment wasn’t very motivating at the old one. It was a gym people used for rehabilitation and the care for the elderly. I tried to make do with some quiet lightweights while there was a couple of old guys having a chat in front of mirror. It wasn’t the right training environment. So I moved on to a more — it’s still a commercial but a more serious gym and pretty much exhausting. Now, I have got my own home gym. I don’t use it and I don’t do weightlifting as often as I’d like to. It’s probably about once a week a moment. But when I do it, it’s fantastic for being part of a routine.

    One of the one of the challenges I have and I’m sure many of you listeners have the same but they won’t admit it is that I’ve got the scattergun mind. Whilst, as accountants, we expected to be organized and so on. I’m very clearly not but I also know from employing plenty of accountants but many are. And I have more ideas before breakfast that most people have in a year. But by training, I can switch off the phone, just put the music on, start lifting and it’s amazing the clarity on any challenges or any stresses that you can get within the hour.

    John: Yeah, because you’re just focused on that. That’s fantastic man. Yeah, and you feel like that skillset if you will, that being part of a routine and in focusing that translates into the office.

    Carl: Definitely. I’m actually going to link that to mindfulness. Now, mindfulness isn’t a hobby of mine outside of work. I personally find meditation and the whole active mindfulness really difficult to swallow. As I mentioned, my mind is not most. I’m actually adult ADHD. So my mind is all over the place and you can imagine some people who’ve had ADHD tried to meditate. It’s not even — we’re thinking of that. But the principles of mindfulness are about awareness, are about being conscious of your environment, but also being conscious of how you react and sponsor things. What I try to do while weightlifting, I try to keep my mind as clear as possible. And that clarity allows me to bring some certain tools but you would normally pick up through traditional mindfulness. It allows me to bring those into the office or into the workplace or into my communications with team members, et cetera, et cetera.

    For example, one of the biggest efforts that I have tried to make this year is to focus on responding rather than reacting. The perfect method of getting me to explode would be either been a certain individual or writing certain words in an email. If somebody sent one of our triggers, I would just flip and what the hell is going on. I’m not nice to be around when I’m like that. However, what I’ve done is I have really focused on making sure that I respond rather than react. Sitting on something, maybe going out, having a weightlifting to approach things with much more clarity and the end result is far more likely to be a win-win than how to have the emotional reaction.

    John: Yeah. No, that’s fantastic. Yeah, it started out as something that was good for your health. And then it turns into being almost like a business skill set if you will.

    Carl: Completely. I’m a big fan. One of the upper areas of outside. I’m a big fan of personal development and learning about the human mind, not to any great detail, never going to have a degree in psychology, but understanding things about linguistic programming and understanding the teachings of people like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss and Jim Rohn and all of these people who’ve been — done it, spoken to thousands and thousands and thousands of people about it and to understand how humans work. Because wherever counsel C is going is either automation by the robots or as I said earlier, it’s a human to human relationships. A match relationships with team members, relationships with customers, relationships with suppliers. That’s what it’s all about. Understanding more about human psychology has been a key thing as well. It’s funny how my activity in the gym, also the latest — what I like to read about, what I like to listen and what I like to watch on YouTube, et cetera.

    John: Right. Is this something that you talk about at work? Do clients and coworkers know that you’re big into the weightlifting?

    Carl: In terms of the weightlifting, some of them notice it. Yeah, it depends on what stage of weightlifting I’m at and whether I tried to die or not. But ordinarily, it’s something that I tend to keep to myself simply because there’s two sides to weightlifting. That’s, first of all, for strength. So you’re making sure the forms are correct and then increasing the weight load. But then if you were to look at let’s say bodybuilding versus weightlifting, bodybuilding is a whole lot more about your diet that you eat rather than what you’re lifting. Don’t get me wrong. You do need to lift weight. However, you also need to have an obsessive amount of control over your food and John, I haven’t got that.

    John: Right. Me either.

    Carl: When it comes to cutting, I’m thinking about I’m cutting a steak in half or you’re cutting my Big Mac. I’m not thinking about eating some chicken all day.

    John: Right, exactly. When someone says, you need 2,000 calories, I have that for breakfast. That’s nothing. I can do that.

    Carl: Exactly.

    John: Oh, it’s a ceiling. I didn’t know it was a ceiling.

    Carl: Yeah. It’s not visibly a pattern to it. However, it’s something that I will talk about. Now, it’s either when I’m speaking to people who know that I’m interested in it or the other side to it is when there is analogies that can be bought in from it. For example, one of the recent senior managers that we bought in used to be rugby coach. He coached kids at quite a high level. Again, he would use analogies to try and help coach and motivate the team. There will be things that I use without even thinking about it. Whether it’s about putting more weight, there’ll be phrases that I used and methods of thinking to try and include performance but would translate into a workplace.

    John: Right. Okay. No, that’s interesting. I guess it’s not something that you necessarily want to just lead with. Clearly, you want to be good at your job. But it’s always fascinating to me reasons why some people share and some people don’t. It seems to be more of a situational thing with you where if it comes up, great. We’ll talk about it, but I’m not going to force it to happen.

    Carl: Exactly. I mentioned I’m a great kind of self-development. One of the very best books th at I’ve read, I’m sure you’ve heard of it is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale.

    John: Oh, absolutely.

    Carl: Everybody knows of his book. Obviously, team members and so on and so forth, rather than try and force my belief, my hobbies and my way of doing things onto them because I do like the sound of my own voice. I do try to make a conscious effort to learn about them as people. I love what it is but makes it makes them take as well.

    John: All right. That’s great because that’s kind of the flip of it. Sometimes, I’ve seen where reciprocity happens where if you share or if you ask, then they almost — the other person almost feels like they have to ask back.

    Carl: Yes.

    John: If you’re like oh, so what do you love to do on the weekends? And then they tell you. If they don’t ask you back, it’s weird like the universe is off. So they feel like they have to ask and it’s a great way to get to know people, and I think that’s awesome. Are there specific things that you do when dealing with maybe new coworkers or clients to try and get that out or to bring it to the table, what they’re interested in?

    Carl: Yeah. For me, I just try and treat every single relationship in the same way. Whether that’s in the office, out the office, whether it’s in work, time out of work time, I don’t believe in having a 9:00 to 5:00 Monday to Friday persona and then an evening and weekend persona. It’s really, really simple. I just try and be a normal bloke old times. If I meet someone whether it’s a new prospect meeting, whether it’s somebody I meet at a conference like yourself or whether it’s somebody. But I am going for dinner — if it’s about kids — whatever it is, I try and just be genuine, not have any hidden agenda and just be friendly and try and spark a conversation. Now, as we know, for some people, that is nearly impossible.

    If there are ways of trying to elicit responses because whilst I am conscious but I’m like that. I’m also conscious but at the zone. Some people feel that they need to be guarded. I have got my tie on and I have got my gray suit and I’ve got my briefcase and then in a professional mode. It can be very difficult to get them to open up about what they did last weekend and the kid’s names and all of that kind of stuff that really helps to build rapport. But often, it just come through time to try and to build that rapport. Again, I mentioned earlier about an LP. Some of the subtle techniques in terms of moving and all of that kind of stuff. But I try not to overthink it. Instead, I just try and have an open conversation with the intention of getting to know from getting to like them. And then that’s where the magic happens.

    John: Yeah. No. Absolutely. What do you think it is that our default mode is — we put on a gray suit and a tie or a professional attire that all of a sudden we can’t talk as if we’re just hanging out with friends at a bar or wherever.

    Carl: It’s crazy. I have no idea what it is. I don’t own a suit. I don’t own a tie anymore. I dress casual pretty much old times. Obviously, if I was going to a funeral, I’d have to buy a suit. But I’m me and I try and radiate in all methods of communication whether it’s believe, bits on social media, whether it’s visually. I portray the same thing. What you see is what you get. As you say it, it does make me even question why people have their guard up, why they feel the need to be — with all respect, John the accountant rather than John, the standup comedian. It’s just one of these things —

    John: Right. I’m just John, the normal guy.

    Carl: This is it. It’s one of these things you need to crack. But over the time, it happens interestingly through doing business internationally. I found different coaches approach us differently. So I have done a fair bit of working — and it’s taking a lot longer with the French and the Germans in particular to overcome these hurdles. But you know what, some of the deepest relationships come with it to know the people.

    John: No, absolutely. Sometimes it does take time. But yeah, it’s always fascinating to me. I don’t know. For some reason, I think it’s professionalism like too much professionalism is what locks us up because we’re always taught these technical skills and all through education and school and then everything. When we get out, we think that that’s what we’re supposed to talk about.

    Carl: Completely. But there is another side to that as well. Through the education system, we’re taught the industrial age mindset. The technical skills are the skills that will keep you in the job and get you promoted, et cetera, et cetera, but that’s not the case. The technical skills are the core competencies that you need to get started. But what’s happening more and more in accountancy in particular is — it’s about management skills, the leadership skills, the sales skills. But most importantly, the soft skills, the people skills — can you get on with other people? That’s the stuff. As a professional, we should be working on — yeah, we shouldn’t be focused on thinking about our importance and promoting our importance. Instead, we should be looking at how we can relate to people better, how we can communicate our message better. That will only be a wingman for everyone.

    John: Yeah. That’s so perfect. That’s absolutely so perfect. Because whenever I meet people and they feel the need to tell me all the little acronyms after their name or what they do for their job or talk about work, work, work, work, work, you know what, I assume everyone is good at their job. That’s why you get paid. But if you have to keep telling me that you’re good, now I don’t believe you anymore.

    Carl: Do you know, it also comes back to identity, doesn’t it? Because everybody needs to have an identity of some sort. The thing is, when you see people whose sole identity comes back to their work, so it comes back to their profession. Yeah, we mentioned about John the accountant rather than John, the — and all the other stuff that you do and you live by, you got a family, you got your whole page, you got your interests. But if you would just jump to CPA, that’s no fun for anyone. The real risk that I see is first of all, people’s identity being intrinsically linked into business and career. But moving on from that, it’s when the business or career doesn’t go so well and that’s disastrous personally. It’s something I’ve seen far too often unfortunately.

    John: Right. Absolutely. Even if it doesn’t go terribly wrong or you get laid off — when the recession happened, people were like I don’t even know what to do right now. But even worse, these people are going to retire.

    Carl: Yes.

    John: I’ve talked to some partners that are retiring in the next five to seven years and they’re like yeah, I don’t even know what I’m going to do. Wow, like that’s really scary because you’ve got another 20 or 30 years to live of not knowing what you’re going to do.

    Carl: It’s really — I actually wrote the LinkedIn post about this. Probably about two or three weeks ago, and I will share it again on my LinkedIn so that any listeners can come along and view it. But it was actually quite staggering to see the responses and the reactions of people who’d have the realization that their career or their business was all that defined them. I get it. I can understand how easy it is to fall into that trap, but it is a trap and we need to be aware of that.

    John: Yeah. That’s so perfect, man. So perfect. Before I bring this in for a landing, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that’s maybe on the fence of — maybe I like to weightlift, but that has nothing to do with accounting or my job or whatever my passions are outside of work to bring them in.

    Carl: It doesn’t matter what it is you do or want to do. You have just got to get it and do it. Whatever your passion is, if it’s outside of the traditional professional mindset, just get on with it and have fun with it because you’ve only got one life. If you live that life in a career or business mindset, it’s not going to be that much fun, not for you or for the people around you.

    John: Right, no. Absolutely, man. That was perfect. Well, I do have my 17 rapid fire questions that I like to run the guest through before I get on a plane and fly to the UK and we weightlift together. Actually, I guess I would more just like help with the weights on the bar and then you lift and then I would just watch. My 17 rapid fire question, I’ll fire this thing up here and let it rip. This is going to be so fun. So I’ll start you out with an easy one, an easy one. Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Carl: Neither. But if I was to choose one, it will be Star Wars because my son prefers it.

    John: Okay. There we go. This one you have to have, a favorite color.

    Carl: Favorite color, blue.

    John: Okay. How about a least favorite color?

    Carl: Probably brown.

    John: Brown, all right. Solid answer. When it comes to computers, are you more of a PC or a Mac?

    Carl: Mac.

    John: More Mac. Do you have a favorite sports team?

    Carl: Yes, I do. It’s one that most of your listeners won’t have heard, it’s Southend United. They are a football team, that soccer to the US listeners. The football team in League One which is the third league down. Probably not heard of by your listeners, but they’re my favorite.

    John: Yeah. That’s fantastic Are you more jeans or khakis?

    Carl: Jeans.

    John: Jeans, yeah, that’s what I figured. When it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?

    Carl: Income statement.

    John: Income statement, all right. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?

    Carl: Spain.

    John: Spain. Nice, all right. As an accountant, I have to ask you, do you have a favorite number?

    Carl: Seven.

    John: How about a least favorite vegetable?

    Carl: Cauliflower.

    John: Cauliflower, yeah, absolutely. That’s a very popular answer, very popular. How about more pens or pencils?

    Carl: Pens.

    John: Pens, nice. When it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Carl: None of them unfortunately. I would love to say that I keep my mind active but no.

    John: None of them, all right. I put words into Sudoku. That’s what I do. How about your favorite actor or actress?

    Carl: Will Ferrell.

    John: Will Ferrell, nice, very funny. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Carl: I’m one of the strange people who needs about 11 or 12 hours sleep every single night. So I’m in bed about 9:00 in the evening. I’m awake at 9:00 in the morning.

    John: Nice. There you go. So you’re a noon kind of guy.

    Carl: Yeah, neither unfortunately.

    John: Right. No, that works. Do you have a favorite bad or a musician?

    Carl: Tough question. I have got favorite styles of music. I really enjoy garage music, house music and light music and the ’90s. I really enjoy all that. But if I was to pick a favorite, that’s really difficult. So I could pass on the favorite artist themselves mostly because none of them were very good.

    John: Right. Yeah, but it’s that genres. That works.

    Carl: Exactly.

    John: Two more. I got to ask this one. Are you more boxers or briefs?

    Carl: Boxers.

    John: Nice. And the last one, a favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Carl: Favorite thing that I own. My family.

    John: Your family. That’s a nice one answer, excellent. Well, this was awesome, Carl. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me again on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Carl: John, it’s been an absolute pleasure Thank you so much.

    John: There we go. I loved how Carl said, “My intention is to really get to know others because that’s where the magic happens,” and he’s so right. It’s because our brains are programmed to be interested in interesting people. There are chemicals in our brains like norepinephrine and oxytocin and they create stronger bonding relationships amongst us that subconsciously create these relationships with those interesting people and those were the people that have something outside of work. Now, if you’d like to see some pictures of Carl and maybe connect with him on social media and read his Linked post that he referenced earlier, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about firm culture. So thanks again for subscribing to the show and 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.


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