Episode 145 – Donny Shimamoto

Donny eats his way to better client relationships


Donny Shimamoto grew up in Hawaii with very practical parents, so he didn’t get to travel much until after college. Now he travels all the time and people have gotten to know him through his social media posts about the food he eats wherever he visits. He says he’s more of a pragmatic foodie because he feels it’s less about the cost and more about the taste and presentation.

In this episode, Donny and I talk about how he uses food to relate to others because he doesn’t watch much TV and isn’t really into sports. But everyone needs to eat, so he finds that business meals are a great way to create connections with others. He feels it’s up to each of us to allow others to get to know us better, always asking himself, “How can you create an opportunity for others to relate to you?”

Donny Shimamoto is the founder and senior member of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies (ITK). He’s also the Director of Innovation for the Houston CPA Society.

He graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with his BBA, Accounting & Management Information Systems.

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Other pictures from Donny of some of his favorite dishes

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    Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 145 of the Green Apple Podcast, where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or 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 how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in degrees and certifications. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that actually make you better at your job. This week, we’ll even hear how these passions can humanize you and differentiate you and maybe even become a part of your brand.

    Really quickly, I’m doing some research, just a super short one-minute anonymous survey about corporate culture and how maybe the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head the greenapplepodcast.com, click that big green button, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and it’s going to really help me out with the book that I’m launching later this year. Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s, Donny Shimamoto. He’s the founder and senior member of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies, ITK, and a regular speaker at conferences all over the country. I know you’re super busy, Donny. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Donny: I’m happy to be here. I’ve been waiting to do this. I’m glad that we finally were able to make this happen.

    John: Oh, this is great. We’re going to mix things up from I’ve usually done and jump straight into the 17 rapid fire questions. Before I get on a plane and meet up with you at a restaurant. I need to get to know you a little bit better. Here we go. I’m going to fire this thing up. The first one, when it comes to computers are you more of a PC or a Mac?

    Donny: PC, definitely.

    John: PC. There it is. All right. When it comes to a mouse, right click or left click?

    Donny: Right click.

    John: Right click. All right. There we go. How about do you have a favorite color?

    Donny: Blue.
    John: Blue. All right. How about the least favorite color?

    Donny: I don’t know.

    John: All right. You like them all, man. That’s fair enough. What’s a typical breakfast for you?

    Donny: Just cereal and milk.

    John: All right. That’s cool. How about more cats or dogs?

    Donny: Definitely dogs.

    John: Definitely dogs. All right. Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Donny: That’s not a hard one. I would go with the Jedi.

    John: Okay. All right. You were on the fence there. Interesting. How about more pens or pencils?

    Donny: Definitely, pens.

    John: Pens. Okay. As the accountant in you, how about more balance sheet or income statement?

    Donny: I’m a non-traditional accountant. So I’m going to go, none of the above.

    John: None of the above. All right. Yeah. I don’t even care. Okay. This is an important one. Toilet paper roll over or under?

    Donny: The only right way is over.

    John: There you go. Amen. Do you have a favorite TV show of all time?

    Donny: I really like Six Feet Under. Also, Sopranos was also one of my favorites too.

    John: Oh yeah. All right. That works. Are you more a Sudoku or a crossword puzzle?

    Donny: Sudoku, definitely.

    John: All right. Because I was going to say they’re on the plane magazines of every airplane seat. How about do you have a favorite number?

    Donny: Twenty-three.

    John: Twenty-three. Why is that?

    Donny: I don’t know. It was just one of those that – I forgot there was some fortunetelling thing that just said, 23 is your number.

    John: There you go. All right. Nice. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Donny: That’s another one. The food, it depends with my mood. But Cherry Garcia and mint chocolate chip are the top two.

    John: Right. There you go. Those are solid answers. How about do you have a favorite comedian?

    Donny: Am I supposed to say, you for that? Is that like one of those loaded questions?

    John: No. You’re not supposed to say me. Come on, you’re already on the show.

    Donny: Favorite comedian. What’s the guy that does the puppets?

    John: Oh, Jeff Dunham?

    Donny: I would say him.

    John: Jeff Dunham. Two more, two more. Are you more early bird or night owl?

    Donny: When I’m in Central Eastern Time, I’m more of a night owl. When I come back to Hawaii because my sleep schedule was earlier, I’m totally an early bird in Hawaii.

    John: Okay, that’s funny. Last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Donny: I think of like my phone and my laptop are like the two things I have to have everywhere.

    John: Yeah, phone and computer. That works, man. That works. Now, we get into the fun stuff and something that I love to ask everyone is just what made you want to choose accounting in the first place?

    Donny: Accounting always came naturally. I did my first accounting course, I think it was sophomore year in high school. It was kind of funny. The teacher was actually a new teacher. She had just graduated. She was teaching her first class. There were times where we’d be sitting in class and she’d be like, “Donny, what answer did you get?” I’m like, “This is my answer.” She goes, “Okay, yeah, that’s probably the right answer.”

    John: That’s awesome. You were just good at it, so might as well run with it. That’s cool, man. That’s fantastic. Congratulations on IntrapriseTechKnowlogies as well. Because I know how hard it is to launch your own thing and keep it going, really neat. But when you’re not doing that, what passion or interest outside of work keeps you busy?

    Donny: For me, it’s really — work has enabled this a lot. It’s really about travel. I like to call myself kind of the pragmatic because to me it’s more about the taste and the presentation. Whether it’s actually good, not just that it looks good or that I’m being treated like some —

    John: Celebrity, right. Or it costs a lot of money. That’s cool, man. I mean did you grow up traveling or is it something that you adopted later on?

    Donny: It’s definitely something adopted later on. My roots are pretty — I would even say lower middle class, very practical family, public school all the way through college. But it wasn’t until after college that I started getting the taste for the little finer things in life. That was kind of the nice thing that we would treat ourselves too. I think I actually have a heightened sense of taste. I realize in that, because there are things that other people either can’t taste as we’re eating stuff or things that really stick out to me. I don’t use a lot of condiments with my meals because I feel like it overwhelms the actual natural flavors of the food.

    John: Yeah, interesting.

    Donny: Just being able to do that and tapping into like, this taste is really good, and I can taste the distinct flavors. That’s really where that comes from.

    John: Yeah. Just hidden talent that skill if you will that you never would have known otherwise. Yeah. Really neat. Do you have like a cooler, a most rewarding story from traveling or food wise?

    Donny: That’s a good question. Travel wise, actually the trip I just went on to the Dominican Republic, it was actually one of the most interesting trips. I actually went there to speak for a BKR international regional meeting. It was actually work related. But being that, it was in Dominican Republic, I took a couple extra days, went in early and went actually on one of the tours that they had arranged for the — they called their partners. I guess it’s basically all the spouses that are coming. I hadn’t realized that the Dominican Republic is really the first place that Columbus set foot on. There was a ton of history there that I’m so attracted to because there was somebody explaining it to me. I actually don’t like history. So somebody explained and we got to see the first hospital, the first school, the first tavern.

    John: Wow. That’s amazing, man. That’s really, really cool. Do you do some of the travel just for fun as well? Or you probably travel so much for work, you just tack on to that and that’s really easier?

    Donny: Yeah. Well, that’s where it’s really turned into what work has really been able to do what I love which is travel. When I first started doing this, what I used to do was specifically coming from Hawaii. I would fly to where I needed to go and then I would come back. Because of course, they’re counted me as going — well, the IRS looks at it as the number of days that you’re spending on the work stuff versus the days that you’re not. Because I’m only going, I was doing the AICPA meetings. I was like I’m going for a day or didn’t have meetings. I can’t stay more than a day-and-a-half later. But I realize that’s not the way it actually works.

    John: There you go.

    Donny: After that, I started like, “Well, let me tuck on some days before or some days after and really at least be able to enjoy the city that I’m going to.” That’s what I started doing a lot.

    John: Yeah, for sure. Do you feel like this passion for travel and food has benefited your career at all?

    Donny: Oh definitely. For myself, I am not a TV watcher. I think that’s what people used to relate to each other a lot. Its TV somehow, some type of show or sports. Those are two things people used to relate. I really just cannot relate to those types of things. I mean there are some shows that I watch later, because I’m watching it on Netflix because I travel so much. So I’m not home to watch it real-time. But food, and then places, locations, those are things that people can talk about and they want to hear, they’re interested. Everyone complains about people like posting pictures of their food on Facebook and Twitter. But I actually get quite a bit of compliments. People are like, “Oh my god. Your pictures are making me hungry.” It definitely created a way to talk with them more and have some talk about or even explain.

    John: Right. Yeah. Why does it matter so much to be relatable to others and to be able to talk with them about something besides straight work?

    Donny: I think it’s the way we connect with the other one people always told me was, you’re going to have to golf. You have to golf to be successful in business. That immediately set me off to say, okay, I am never golfing ever, because I’m going to prove you wrong.

    John: Clearly you are in those connections then lead to better business, I would assume?

    Donny: Yeah. Well, its business meals, right? One, it’s deductible. I have a nice meal with someone and it’s deductible.

    John: Right. You’re such an accountant too. That’s so great.

    Donny: But then you get the time to actually talk through things. It’s interesting too. One of the things that someone told me about golfing — because I was like, it’s just stupid. You’re just playing around together. But they were like, no. You actually get to see the way that someone responds to different situations.” They don’t perform as well. The ball goes in a different way. Something happened. You get to see how they react. I never thought about that I was like, Oh, it’s interesting. You’re learning more about their behavior and how they respond to things. I think you get to see the same thing when you’re going for a meal with someone. Because like say you’re waiting for the table to open up while you get to see how impatient they are or what type of — are they like, “Wow. We had a reservation and they’re not sitting us.” And then you get to spend more time.

    Again, you’re spending time sitting on the golf course, spending time talking to them. You’re forced to stand there together waiting for the table. Then what they order? How they order it? If the server makes a mistake, do they tell the server thank you? If they bring the food or they serve the water like you get a real picture of a person and how they interact with others that are “beneath that” or do they treat them as someone beneath them or do they treat them as a peer. I think that’s important in understanding how they’re going to be –

    John: Totally. Yeah, man. That’s huge.

    Donny: No one is going to want to have a meal with me now thinking that I’m just analyzing them as we’re eating.

    John: I’ll eat with you any day, there is food involved. I’m in. It’s a parallel of how our business relationship is going to go is how their relationship is with others that they interact with.

    Donny: You just say it too like you’re food, I’m in. That’s pretty much everybody’s reaction.

    John: Right. No, you’re right. Because it’s pretty rare that you’re like, “Hey, do you want to go out to dinner?” and be like, “No. I don’t eat.” ‘Really? What? You don’t eat? Of course, everybody eats. Yes, I’m in. Let’s do this. Especially with somebody that knows what they’re doing or has taken the time to be more interested in it, then it’s going to be more enjoyable because I’m not just walking blindly through something that I don’t maybe fully understand. That’s really cool. How does it come up? I guess in conversation with people because there are a lot of people that I talk with or that I know listen. They’re like, “I love food as well but it has nothing to do with accounting or nothing to do with law. Why should I bring it up at work?” How does that come up in conversation?

    Donny: It’s probably more, the travel actually comes up a lot, because I literally am in a different city, almost every week. It more comes up as that. Then people are asking, “Well, what do I do? It’s like, well, what I really like to do is eat in different places and experience their foods, their takes on the food. I like the local food like hole in the wall, no chains. Nothing that I can get anywhere else is using my preference.

    John: Yeah, so then the travel and then it’s like, “Oh, what’s really good there? This kind of dish or something like that.” That’s really fascinating. Early on in your career, was this something that you openly talked about?

    Donny: I think I just treated it as I was going on a trip, but it evolved to where one of my friends — friend and colleagues. So email and then — email back if she doesn’t get an out off. She goes, “Oh, my God. I didn’t get your out of office. Are you actually home? Because more often or not my out of office like right now my out of office is on. No, I’m home. I’m in a lot of meetings. I’m trying to help manage expectations.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. What is it that keeps accountants, lawyers, professionals, in general, what is it that keeps them from wanting to open up and share these outside interests?

    Donny: I think a lot of times, it’s this concept of what it means to be a professional. I think a lot of times we’re taught that being a professional is being more formal and especially accounting, in the law, it’s that more dignified image. I think that’s been both a good thing, but it’s also been a disservice, because it’s created this image that we’re like these boring — especially for us. I think it’s that we’re these boring accountants. But really, like yourself and a lot of others that have been on this podcast, there’s tons of personality out there and it’s just a matter of letting it shine and integrating it.

    That makes me think of like when I first started doing social media, when the social media first started, I was going to keep the two separate. I was going to have my Donny, the personal accountant; and I was going to have Donny ITK which is my social media handle. I had my work accountant. I was going to keep it two separate. But then people that were on my personal side we’re like, “Oh, we’d love all those pictures of your food and everything.” Eventually, it merged you together because I realize that travel is really part of my brand. People recognize me as — I’m being called like The Rock Star CPA because I’m flying to different cities every week and going on stage and “performing” and talking to people and just doing fabulous things. It’s become part of my brand now.

    John: Yeah. That’s really fascinating where that interest outside of work that seemingly has absolutely nothing to do with accounting, you don’t learn it in business school and you don’t certainly get CPE credit for or anything like that. But that’s as much a part of probably more a part of your business than the accounting stuff and all the CPE stuff which is really fascinating when you think about it. That’s cool. That’s really cool. Cool that you’ve been able to harness that and found it. It feel like a lot of people they just blindly follow the professionalism path of, oh, to stand out you need to get another degree or another certification or some something else to put on your business card.

    Donny: Right. You’re hitting towards the point where — the other thing that I think a lot of this just does is it personalizes me. Not on this Uber Expert, but I’m now this person that also has to eat like you said earlier. Everyone has to eat.

    John: Right. Absolutely man. You’re a real human being. You’re approachable. You’re relatable. Because other people do the same things or they’re fascinated by it anyway. That’s really cool, man. Really, really cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to those listening that maybe are on the fence are afraid to open up and share?

    Donny: I think we hit on it. It’s that humanization piece which makes people more relatable. Just think about — we don’t need to know the esoteric little thing that everyone’s going to go, oh, I did not know that? I’m not sure I wanted to know that. But it’s really more about how can you create an opportunity for others to relate to you or to understand you or to get a glimpse at who you really are because that’s really what creates that personal connection, that relationship.

    John: Man, that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Donny. This was really, really great. Thanks for being a part of the Green Apple Podcast.

    Donny: Oh, any time. This was fun.

    John: Oh, wow. Yeah, so great. I loved how Donny asked, how can you create an opportunity for others to relate to you? They don’t really to you over the work? It’s the interest outside of work. That’s how we actually connect. If you like to you see some pictures of Donny’s travels and connect with them on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please put that big green button and do the Anonymous Research Survey about corporate culture. 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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