Episode 149 – Roger Swanger

Roger heads outdoors for better client relationships


Roger Swanger loves to be outdoors. He’s always up for some hunting, or fishing, or camping, especially with his sons and other friends. To strengthen the relationships with some of his clients, he’s even been known to take them clay shooting and to other outside activities. He found that becoming a member at Ducks Unlimited allowed him to find others with similar interests who also happened to also be business people in the community.

In this episode, Roger and I talk about how it’s so much easier to connect with others if you’re just yourself. This also gives you confidence, which is what a client wants. It’s important to not only know what you can do, but maybe more importantly, what you can’t do. As Roger says, “Trying to be all things to all people is not a recipe for success and can bring you some disappointment.”

Roger Swanger is a Partner and the Construction Industry Leader at James Moore in northern Florida.

He graduated from Stetson University with both his BA, Accounting and MAcc, Accounting.

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    Hello, this is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 149 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 at 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 and all those letters we have after our names. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that actually make you better at your job but only if you let them. This week, you’ll hear how those passions are actually what humanizes you and allows you to create really strong connections to better serve your clients.

    But very quickly, before I get started I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute anonymous survey about corporate culture and how the Green Apple message might apply in your world. So if you’ve got just 60 seconds, please just head to greenapple.com. You can click the big green button there and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help as I’m in the process of writing this book that will be out later this year.

    Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the shows. You don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Roger Swanger. He’s a partner and the construction industry leader at James Moore in Northern Florida. Before we get started, Roger, I just want to say thanks so much for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Roger: I’m glad to be here.

    John: I’m excited. We’re going to jump right into the 17 rapid-fire questions. Before I get on a plane and fly to Florida for some outdoor stuff, I need to make sure that we get to know you a little bit better. So here we go. Let’s fire this thing up here. All right, so the first is what’s your favorite color?

    Roger: Silver.

    John: Silver? Nice. How about a least favorite color?

    Roger: Lime green.

    John: Oh, yeah, that’s a good answer. That’s a good answer. Are you more cats or dogs?

    Roger: Definitely dogs.

    John: That’s what I figured on that one. How about when it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?

    Roger: Neither.

    John: Neither? All right.

    Roger: I don’t have the patience for puzzles and riddles.

    John: How about more planes, trains, or automobiles?

    Roger: I’ll say trains.

    John: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Roger: It’s hard to beat Keanu Reeves in the Matrix and Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Western.

    John: How about would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Roger: I am definitely an early bird.

    John: All right. I think we know this one, but would you say you’re more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?

    Roger: Definitely, jeans and s and efficient shirt.

    John: Jeans and efficient shirt, there you go. How about do you have a favorite number?

    Roger: Three.

    John: Three. Is there a reason why?

    Roger: I don’t well. Just always been a three.

    John: That works. That works. This is an important one. When it comes to a toilet paper roll, over or under.

    Roger: Definitely over.

    John: All right, when it comes to financials, more balance sheet or income statement?

    Roger: That’s an interesting one. I would say income statement.

    John: Would you say more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Roger: Star Wars.

    John: Okay, all right, when it comes to computer, more PC or a Mac?

    Roger: PC.

    John: PC, yeah, yeah. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Roger: Chocolate.

    John: Chocolate. Solid. All right, we got three more, three more. Do you have a favorite Disney character?

    Roger: Grumpy.

    John: Grumpy. That’s funny. How about a favorite sports team?

    Roger: University of Florida Gators.

    John: Okay, all right, all right. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Roger: Just got twin 8-week old English Lab puppies.

    John: Oh, fantastic. Very cool, Roger. Very cool. I know they’ll come in handy with your outside of work passion for the listeners. Why don’t you just explain what you love to do when you get some free time?

    Roger: I like hunting, fishing. We do Boy Scout backpacking, canoeing, boating, pretty much anything other than being in an office is what I’d rather do.

    John: Right, right. That’s funny, man. Is this something that you’ve grew up doing?

    Roger: My dad was a big scuba diver, spear fisherman. And then in college, I ran into a best friend who did a lot outdoor stuff and just kind of fell in love with just doing outside stuff. Not a lot of cool stuff happens in an office.

    John: This is true.

    Roger: In my opinion.

    John: It’s going to be hard to argue that from my perspective. I mean the Boy Scouts especially, I mean you were a scoutmaster for many years, yeah?

    Roger: Yeah. I just retired after five years with my — my oldest two sons are Eagle Scouts, and my younger son is a Life Scout, just turned 16 so we’re hoping to get him finished up this fall. That’s a great opportunity of a way to do something with the boys.

    John: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean the hunting, the fishing, I mean do you do that locally or do you take trips for that stuff?

    Roger: Both. We try to do some locally, but I’ve got a trip scheduled next year to go turkey hunting, elk hunting. Usually, we do some quail hunting offsite and then around. We’re in a kind of rural areas. I have a lot of clients that own property, so it’s a great kind of a business fun thing to get an invitation and say, “Hey, come join me out at my farm. We’re going to do x.” I’m always, “Yeah, I would go.”

    John: Yeah, I mean that is interesting how it becomes a client relationship activity that you also happen to love to do.

    Roger: In fact, I had lunch today with two of my clients. As we’re walking out, “Next week I’m taking off, going out to the coast and going to get a trip together. I’ll let you know what day we’re going if you can make it.”

    John: That would be awesome.

    Roger: I said, “Call me up. Let me know.”

    John: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Clearly, this is something that you talk about at work. How do you feel like it’s benefited your career? I mean relationship building for sure.

    Roger: I’ve got a number of clients that have been introduced at activity, so we’ll go do what they call sporting clays which is a lot of fundraisers that are centered around that, kind of like people who run. So you go up there and get on a team and meet other people and get introduced to people. You have a common interest. Someone says, “Hey, this is my CPA Roger. You should hire him.” I mean people say that. And then you start talking to that guy about whether he needs something or not. That can happen in a fishing boat. That can happen out in a hunting field. That can happen at one of these kind of events.

    John: That’s fantastic, man. Really fantastic. Is this something that you’ve always talked about throughout your career, or is it something that’s been more recent?

    Roger: When I came to this town, one way I got to meet people was through a group called Ducks Unlimited. Actually, I’ve still got great friends. It’s a fundraiser for — they do a lot of wetlands preservation. Towns have big events. We’ll have a couple of hundred people at a dinner to raise money, but a lot of them are business people so it’s a good way to meet people. I did that for many, many years. I think it was part of kind of the beginning of hey I can do something I like to do and kind of mix it. People are trying to get balance. I don’t worry so much about balance actually. If I can go to a kid’s event and enjoy it and also meet people, I don’t stick my business card in people’s faces but I ask them what they do and who they work for. I never ask them for their business, but a lot of them will say, “Oh, I use so and so,” or “I’m not happy with my guy. Can we talk?”

    John: Right, yeah, and you just start to develop that relationship as a human-to-human relationship.

    Roger: I had a client that I was actually pursuing that was a successful businessman, very well looked up to. His two sons were Eagle Scouts. So that’s what the introduction was. He thought that was an awesome thing to be involved, so it gave us something kind of kick off on. A few years later, he called me and said, “Hey, let’s do some work together.”

    John: Yeah. I mean that’s really cool. That’s really cool. So were you always this open about this early on in your career? Because sometimes I find that not everybody early on when they graduate college and start working want to be as open about their passions and interests outside of work.

    Roger: At least in the accounting profession, I went and worked for one of the national firms. You found kind of pockets of people that were interested in fishing. I mean most people wanted to golf. I golf some. It didn’t do much for me. But I wasn’t dealing with a lot of clients and that kind of stuff. It was really more of as I got advanced in your career and you start having to look for building a network, I found that it worked for me.

    John: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, because I mean why do you think it is that people are a little reluctant to share those interests and passions outside of work?

    Roger: I guess they care too much about what other people think of them. I mean to me, it’s you got to be you. This is who I am. I realized I attract maybe a certain element of folks, and there’s probably an element that I don’t fit with and that’s okay. Nobody fits with everybody and trying to be all things to all people I think is not a recipe for success and I think can do some disappointment. I feel very confident, you know, my clients and a connection.

    John: I agree with you right there. I mean that’s such a wise advice because so many people are trying to be all things to all people, and then you’re nothing to no one. I’m sure that it comes up in conversation or, like you mentioned, in your office you have things around. So when people come in, they can ask about it and then that opens the door for a conversation. That’s I think the easiest thing for people that have something that, you know, they’re like, “Well, I don’t know if anyone’s going to care.” Well, put something out that reminds you of it and then see what happens.

    Roger: Right. I think most people, they want you to be respectful of what they think are important and things and vice versa. If somebody says, “Hey, I don’t like that,” I don’t get on them about it. You don’t want them to do the same to you. I mean they’re not going to convert me, so I’m not going to try to convert them.

    John: Yeah, absolutely, man. Absolutely. How much do you think it’s on an organization to create a culture where it’s okay to be you and share versus it’s on the individual, like you said, when you were with a larger national firm to find those little pockets and kind of just have your little circle?

    Roger: I think it makes it easier to connect to people and ask people if you’re yourself. If you allow your employees within reason to be themselves, I mean we’re CPAs, we’re accountants, we charge people a lot of money, they pay us a lot, there’s a certain expectation that I think you have to make. I think that has softened some. We have a dress for your day. If you don’t meet with clients — I’m in jeans right now. I work with contractors which is another reason. Cowboy boots and jeans fit in very well, but we have others where you really need to be in a suit and a tie because it’s a suit and a tie world. Just like if you’re going hunting, you don’t wear your fishing stuff.

    John: Right.

    Roger: If you’re going fishing, you don’t really need to take your firearm. You got to know who you are and who you’re going after, and actions can help and can hinder you depending on what your objective is.

    John: Yeah. I think a really big thing that you just said is know who you are. I mean when I started Big Four myself, I think a lot of people are trying to be what they think they’re supposed to be. It’s so much more effective if you’re just who you are. People can sense that.

    Roger: Well, that and I think it gives you some confidence because you’re not trying to do or be something that you’re not. At least if I’m hiring accountant, I want somebody who is confident about what they’re doing and their ability and where they’re taking me and what they’re going to recommend. That confidence piece, if you know who you are and what you can and can’t do, and in most cases, knowing what you can’t do is as important as knowing what you can do. But you want to help find the things you can’t do. So yeah, maybe I don’t know that but I’m going to do my best to find someone, if it’s not us, someone else to do that because you need it. I care about you. If that’s what you need, that’s what we’re doing. If it doesn’t benefit me, I’m not the important part of the equation. My client is the important part of the equation.

    John: Yeah, that’s huge. That’s absolutely huge. Is there a way that you convey that to your clients? Because the relationships that you have with them are next level stuff.

    Roger: And some of them are small snippets. I mean some of them we have some mutual folks that work with them, so we might go and grab a beer or dinner one night. It might be a few hours. I had a client I’ve always wanted to go to an equipment auction. So I told him, I was like, “Next time you go to an equipment auction, if you don’t mind, I want to go.” So his senior guy, he and I loaded in the motorhome, went out of town, camped out in the parking lot of this big auction and that’s the day climbing over bulldozers and kicking tires. What do you look for and how much are you going to pay for these things? It was a neat experience that I thought was a lot of fun. I mean I learned a lot. In the future, when somebody is going to an auction, it’s like I can relate to what that’s like and what you’re finding. We get to spend some time together. We ate some good food. It was all good.

    John: I think the cool thing to take away from that is your genuine interest in something that he’s really excited about to begin with.

    Roger: Exactly.

    John: It’s not fake from your side. It’s, hey, who doesn’t want to climb around bulldozers? This is awesome. I mean I’m not going to do it every day, but yeah, the next time you’re going, I’d love to come along. You can sense an enthusiasm, and it’s infectious.

    Roger: The other thing is asking lots of questions. So asking why, why, why, why, why do you do this? Why do you do that? What about that? There are things that periodically will come up to go, “Hey, I can help you with that,” whether I can do it personally or whether I know someone to say, “Hey, yes, so and so is really good at that. Let’s get them and they can help you fix or solve or develop or something like that. Again, it’s not all about what can I do other than it’s like how can I help.

    John: Right, I love that. Very cool, man. Very cool. Well, thanks so much, Roger, for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Roger: Oh, it’s been a blast. Thank you, John.

    John: That was so great. I loved how Roger said trying to be all things to all people is not a recipe for success. It can bring you some disappointment. This is absolutely true. So all you can be is yourself, and you’ll be amazed in how much the right people will gravitate towards. If you like to see some pictures from Roger’s outdoor adventures and connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. So thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends. 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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