Episode 164 – Ron Jacobson

Ron bowls his way to better engagement



To Ron, numbers have always made sense to him, naturally leading him into accounting given the job security. This, along with growing up in a bowling alley, has also lead him to pursue his passion of bowling on a professional level!

In this episode, Ron talks about how his success in bowling has helped him come out of his shell as introvert and help promote a more engaging experience for his colleagues at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram. He also shares a couple of stories like winning a USBC singles championship, and working for professional golfer Jack Nicklaus.


Ron is a partner at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram. With more than 30 years of public accounting experience, Ron provides services such as business consulting, estate and trust planning, and financial planning. He is also well-versed in tax compliance, consulting, and planning matters. Ron works with a variety of clients – including (but not limited to) physicians, professional services organizations, small business owners, and high-net-worth individuals.

Ron received his bachelor’s degree at Augustana College.

Episode Highlights

• Why Ron set aside bowling for some time
• The importance of engaging with others in the office
• How bowling and accounting can go hand-in-hand
• An experience with someone in the office that didn’t fit in
• Ron’s experience working for Jack Nicklaus
• The only reason why Ron is not a PBA champion
• Some bowling tips from Ron

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Open Championship Trophy 2017

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    Welcome to Episode 164 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work, something that seems like it had nothing to do with their job but it makes them better at what they do when they get back in the office. They’re shattering that stereotype of the boring red apples. They’re the green apples standing out. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and” as in my guest, Ron Jacobson. He’s an accountant “and” a championship bowler, like USBC Open Championships Regular Singles Champion Bowler, like freaking cool.

    I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you like the show and are listening on iTunes, your favorite Android app, maybe leave a quick review so others know what the show is all about. Don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Ron Jacobson. He’s a tax partner in the Carr, Riggs & Ingram office in West Palm Beach, Florida. Now he’s with me on the Green Apple Podcast. Ron, I’m so excited to have you on this show.

    Ron: Thank you for having me. This is going to be exciting.

    John: Oh, man, I’m equally excited. I can’t wait to get to the real meat of it. But as you know, I’ve started out the episodes now with my rapid-fire questions. Get to know Ron. Because I figure if I’m going to get on a plane and fly down there and we’re going to bowl together, I’m going to need a little bit of lessons. It’s going to be a long time all day. Let’s see, make sure that we can hang out. Let’s get to know Ron a little bit. Let me fire this thing up. I’ll start you out here with do you have a favorite color?

    Ron: Blue.

    John: Blue, okay. How about a least favorite color?

    Ron: I would say red.

    John: Nice, okay. All right. How about do you have a favorite TV show of all time?

    Ron: Probably M*A*S*H.

    John: M*A*S*H, that’s a great show. What a great show.

    Ron: Yeah, it is.

    John: Yeah, yeah. All right. Would you say when it comes to puzzles, more Sudoku or crossword?

    Ron: Crossword. I’m not good at either one of them.

    John: Okay. At least you’re not putting numbers into the crossword because then that’d be really bad. How about would you describe yourself more as an early bird or a night owl?

    Ron: That one’s a tough one. I would say probably a night owl just because I have a hard time getting out of bed.

    John: Fair enough. I’m right there with you. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Ron: That one’s another hard one. But because I’m a little older, I would say Star Trek.

    John: Oh, okay. All right, because that was around a little bit before.

    Ron: That’s correct.

    John: All right. When it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Ron: PC.

    John: PC, yeah. Your mouse, are you more a left click or a right click?

    Ron: I’m more a right click because there’s a lot of options on right click. Left click is just boring.

    John: Right, right. Right click’s where all the crazy stuff is, right? Would you say you’re suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?

    Ron: Jeans and a T-shirt all day if I could.

    John: Right, right. Maybe even shorts there in Florida. Now, how about when it comes to a pizza, do you have any favorite toppings? You can load it up.

    Ron: Meat-lovers.

    John: Meat-lovers, so all the meat, right? There we go.

    Ron: Oh, yeah.

    John: When it comes to financials, more of a balance sheet or income statement?

    Ron: I’m a tax guy. I think most people would think I’m an income statement but I’m absolutely balance sheet because that’s where the errors get hidden, let’s just say.

    John: Right, right. Put it in good will, right? There you go.

    Ron: That’s right.

    John: When you’re flying on an airplane, more window or aisle seat?

    Ron: I’m a very tall, big guy so aisle all the way. I need room.

    John: Yeah, I know. I’m the same way, the same exact way. Plus when the plane lands, get me out of there faster.

    Ron: Yes.

    John: Totally. How about — as an accountant, I have to ask you — do you have a favorite number?

    Ron: Favorite number, I would say the number four.

    John: Why is that?

    Ron: Well, it’s because when we get into the discussion of what I’ve done with bowling, my score, I had to beat an 802. I got an 804.

    John: Oh, nice.

    Ron: Four means a lot.

    John: Yeah. All right. Would you say you’re more oceans or mountains?

    Ron: Mountains because I hate water. That’s ironic that I live two miles from the ocean.

    John: I thought that was going to be a slam-dunk there in Florida.

    Ron: No.

    John: But no, you tricked me. Look at that. It’s why you have to ask. We got three more, three more. Do you have a favorite animal?

    Ron: Favorite animal is dog.

    John: Dog, okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Ron: Sean Connery.

    John: Oh, okay. There we go. Even with the little bit of the accent, I like it.

    Ron: Yeah. It’s showing my age again.

    John: No, he’s classic. Absolutely. I mean, it depends on which movie you’re referencing would show your age, but he’s still a legend. Then the last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Ron: This is a weird answer probably because it’s not what I own. The favorite thing I have is my daughter. I was very lucky to have a wonderful daughter.

    John: There you go. Awesome. No, that’s a classic answer. Absolutely. Now that we’re done with that, we’ll get into the real meat of it. But one thing that I love to ask everybody as we transition into that is just what made you want to get into accounting in the first place?

    Ron: Good question. That’s what we use in the accounting. We’re all to try to buy some time with our answers.

    John: Right. Good question. Yeah.

    Ron: When I was a kid, in high school and before that, numbers always made sense to me. I always want to deal with something that made sense. I just gravitated towards numbers and accounting. Then also, when I got to college, I realized that accountants can pretty much get a job anywhere they want to go. I headed in the CPA direction so that I could get the education that I needed and make sure I had a job when I graduated and make sure I had a job wherever I want to be.

    John: Right. You just started right away in college, right? In the accounting track or business track?

    Ron: Yes, absolutely.

    John: Good for you, man. I mean, as a partner at Carr, Riggs & Ingram, obviously you made a good choice.

    Ron: Yeah, absolutely.

    John: Very cool. You alluded to it earlier, but I know when you have some free time and even taking some vacation days, I imagine — I mean a professional bowler, I mean that’s so amazing. I mean like have you been bowling since you were a little kid and you just kept at it?

    Ron: Yeah. Well, I didn’t keep at it. What happened is my mother used to manage a bowling center when I was a kid. She put me on the lanes when I was seven years old. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. But when I got into the business world and got busy, I took some time off. There’s a break in the middle. But when I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional bowler. It was the thing I dreamed about. I did have a break in the middle though. Actually, what got me back into it is also in the business world. I took a little bit of a break into private accounting. I worked for the Jack Nicklaus Companies. I was working with a professional golfer. Then he found out I was an avid bowler. He pushed me to give it a try, to get more competitive. That kept me going.

    John: That’s fantastic, man. What is it that made you want to step away? Was it just the demands of family and work?

    Ron: Yeah. It had a lot to do with the work and then also getting married, having a child. There’s just only so much time. You’ve got to choose the things you want to do. Also, the realization that as a professional bowler, you’re only going to make money if you’re the top of the level. I mean you’ve got to be the best of the best. I think I realized that that was not going to be me at that time or it was going to take a lot more work than I was willing to put into it.

    John: Yeah. No, absolutely. You just stepped away altogether, not even bowling once in a while?

    Ron: Right, because there’s I’d like to call different levels of bowling. I mean I’m a competitive bowler. I bowl events. I bowl for money. Then there’s the league bowlers. They bowl once a week. Then there’s just fun bowlers that just go out once in a while. I completely broke away from all of it probably about the time I was 24. I didn’t pick it back up until I was 37 or 38.

    John: Oh, wow. Okay. All right. Yeah. No, I mean I can appreciate that. I mean if you’re competitive, then it’s hard to turn that off. You can’t be a fun bowler when you’re a competitive bowler because you would just get frustrated and annoyed in everything else with not only yourself, but everyone around you. The courtesy of who bowls first if you’re both standing there and all that, I could completely understand how that is. One thing, since we’re at it right now is just, do you feel like there is a difference between when you were not bowling and you work and then now where you’re competitive bowling again and also working? Do you feel like there’s a difference?

    Ron: There is a big difference. I mean for me, one of the things that I had trouble with when I was young was I was very introverted. By the way, a CPA or an accountant, that’s what the stereotype is. You want to sit in the back office and just work. What my bowling has helped me do is step out of that. It’s given me the ability to have something, a conversation in other words. In competitive bowling, we’re bowling against each other. But I can tell you the camaraderie is unbelievable. It helped me step out of my comfort zone, which is being quiet. When I tell people I’m quiet and shy, they just laugh at me because they’ve gotten used to the Ron who’s a competitor and does this stuff with bowling. I also do something else that’s strange as well on the side. It’s I officiate high school football. That’s even another thing where I’m interacting with the coaches and the kids. Those things from bowling and officiating have helped me be an extrovert, not an introvert.

    John: Right. I mean that’s so fantastic because it’s you exercising that skill and strengthening that skill outside of work and then being able to then bring it to work as well. Imagine there was that gap there where maybe those conversations weren’t as fruitful or maybe not happening?

    Ron: Yeah. What I would say is during that period of time, I was more of the guy in the back office just getting things done. Frankly now, I’m still — as a partner with Carr, Riggs & Ingram — I’m still the “get it done guy.” I’m the one that has to keep things moving, has to keep track of what’s due, what we’ve got left to do. But at the same time, to do that, you have to interact with your staff. I think the great thing that this has done for me is it’s made it much easier to bring my staff in this office. We have 68 plus offices so you can’t interact with everybody. But in this office, I think we’ve done a great job of being a part of each other rather than just working.

    John: No, absolutely. I completely agree. By talking with the bowlers or talking with coaches while you’re officiating or the referee in the football games, it also gives you something to talk about when you’re back at work. Which I think as introverts, that’s also hard because if you don’t know what to say, then it’s twice as difficult. Because it’s like, “I don’t want to talk and I have nothing to say.” Where when you have those passions and interest outside of work, maybe you don’t want to talk, but at least you have something to say or something to talk about.

    Ron: It also gives you the opportunity. For example, one of my staff likes to work out. He goes and works out. He loves his church. One of the other staff loves to jog. Another one loves ballet. It also gives us the ability to interact with what each of us like to do. But it also, as a partner, it allows the staff to recognize that it’s not all about work. We do recognize that we have a work-life balance and that you need to find what your passion is and then take it.

    John: No, I love that. I absolutely love that. It’s so cool because yeah, early on in your career, you probably didn’t have those role models to look up to or maybe they had something, but they didn’t share it or maybe they didn’t have something at all. They didn’t have anything. But it’s cool that you’re being an example.

    Ron: Yeah. That was 35 years ago. The environment was so much different. I mean I even had a hard time transitioning. But back then, it was, you work 70 or 80 hours a week. You didn’t have a life. That’s just not the way it is anymore nor should it be.

    John: Okay. No, I was going to ask you your thoughts on the difference and what is better now or, “I love how showing the example and getting to know each other better.” Do you feel like that really benefits the bottom line and makes the firm run better?

    Ron: Yeah, I think it does. In fact, I have kind of — and it’s not a negative but it could sound that way depending on how I say it — but we recently lost a staff member who quit and went to another firm. But what was interesting about the situation is she was someone that we just couldn’t seem to engage.

    John: Right.

    Ron: We would have lunch brought in. She would walk into the lunchroom and grab what she wanted and go right back to her desk. We have, as an office or as a firm, Carr, Riggs & Ingram, we would have a one week a year where we all get together in one place. We go to education classes. After the education, we go out to eat. We go sit and have a beer. She went back to her hotel room. I guess what I’m saying is that’s what I found. It’s that we couldn’t engage her and then ultimately, she left. I think it’s benefitted us a lot because I think by engaging each other, we stick together.

    John: Right. No, absolutely. Then when someone does leave, it’s either you know it’s coming or it’s good for everybody. Because it’s not the right fit as opposed to everyone just walking around blindly like, “Well, we’re all really good at accounting.” But it’s not even really that good of a fit type of a thing.

    Ron: Right. That’s actually what she said to us. She goes, “This just isn’t a fit for me.” She was right. I mean based on what we saw which was – well, what I saw, I just couldn’t get her engaged.

    John: Right, right. How much do you think it’s on the firm to create that opportunity, which it sounds like you’re doing especially in your office really, really well or how much is it on that individual to jump in and be a part of it?

    Ron: I think it’s on us, the partners as well as the firm itself. I can speak for the — even though there’s 68 offices, corporate. I guess it’s who I would be referring to. They’re trying to engage all of us more on social media and bring us together, even all 68 offices. They’re trying to promote that and get more camaraderie in all aspects. But as the same time, they always say, “If you want to make a change, you’ve got to make the change at home. You’ve got to make it with yourself.” Each of us have to do our own part. But I think the firm is trying to do that as well.

    John: No, that’s great. I mean I love those examples of what Carr, Riggs & Ingram is doing to make that happen so people that are listening can do that. One thing that I completely glossed over just so that people know that I mean — not just a competitive bowler, but I mean like USBC Open Championships, Regular Singles Champion Bowler, I mean this is great, man. I mean that’s so cool. Do you have any more rewarding stories or what is it like to win a championship-bowling tournament?

    Ron: I’m glad you made me focus in on that because it is interesting. The team that I always went with, I was what was called the companion team. We had a team that was very good. They’re young guys. They’re very good. When I went to the tournament, I was the older guy that understood the lane conditions and understood how to make adjustments and was good at trying to help everybody. For me, it was unbelievable that I’m out there trying to help them win an eagle as what it’s called. I end up pulling it off and winning it myself. I was in the singles. It’s where I won it. When I threw that 11th shot in the final game, I thought I still needed a strike. I mean I really did. I left two pins. I turned around kind of dejected. Larry came running up to me, hands in the air and saying, “You did it. You did it.” I’m looking at him like – what do they say that? — a deer in the headlights kind of look. He goes, “You’ve gone into the lead. You’re going to win this thing.” I was like, “Oh, you got to be kidding me.” There’s 65,000 of us singles bowlers that year, 65,000. I beat them all. I was pretty excited.

    John: That’s so great. That’s amazing. Maybe it’s because you were focused on the other people that you were just in the zone yourself and not really stressed or —

    Ron: Yeah. That’s one of the things that Jack taught me when I was working for him. It’s almost like you need to get into a hypnotic state. He taught me to find, “What is it that you do that makes you do it well.” Whatever that is, you have to repeat that over and over. I just have learned to do that. But it’s also — I was more focused on them. Frankly, when I was bowling so well, I actually got — we call it lined up. I was watching where those guys were playing on the lanes and the balls they were using and lined up from them. It’s all about being part of the group. Once again, I used the excuse or I tell people, “It may be a singles title, but it was a group effort. It wasn’t just one person.”

    John: Yeah. That’s so great. I mean so many huge takeaways from that. Yeah. I mean I’m just flabbergasted by all of it. How great is it to get some coaching and be around Jack Nicklaus? I mean, amazing.

    Ron: Yeah. That was wonderful. I can tell you. I loved working for them. He and Barbara are wonderful people. Just being around him and experiencing that level, I mean, that man is unbelievable not only from a golf standpoint but from a business standpoint. He is a smart man. By the way, once again talking about it not being just one person, he is who he is because of Barbara. Barbara is the driving force there. She is a wonderful woman. I can say nothing, but great things about the family, the organization. I loved working there.

    John: Going back to that hypnotic state that he said, you’re doing something that get you into that hypnotic state. Ironically enough, what if the passions and interests outside of work, the bowling, gets you into a hypnotic state for accounting? Do you think that’s possible that someone’s passions and interests outside of work could get you into a state that makes you better at doing work in the office?

    Ron: Yeah, absolutely. For example, in my office, one of our ladies here who helps me review returns as well, she made the comment to me that she’s just amazed how many mistakes I can find, that she’s just impressed on how I do it. I think part of that is because once again, you create this state of how you’re working. Just like Jack told me years ago, “Each person finds their own way of getting into that.” I think you can do it in anything you do. In bowling, we call it a pre-shot routine. I have a pre-shot routine that I go through before every single shot. It’s whether I’m in the midst leading the tournament or I’m dead last. It’s a training thing. I think that carries over to what I do here.

    John: No, that’s awesome, man. That’s really fantastic. Do you feel like relationships have blossomed or things are, I guess, a little more alive now that you’re back in bowling and more extroverted?

    Ron: Yeah. Actually, they are. I mean just like Jack, there’s other people I’ve met. I’ve got another what I like to call a nice story. The greatest bowler ever, arguably — whatever the right word is — is Walter Ray Williams Jr. He’s won 40 some national titles, a hundred and some PBA Regional titles. I mean it’s just unbelievable what he’s done. I got to meet him about 15 years ago bowling in regional events against him. About three years ago, I got the opportunity to go head to head in a final match against him. A cute story I like to share with people is, “The only reason I am not a PBA champion, Professional Bowlers Association champion is because of the greatest bowler of all time beat me in the final.”

    John: Well, that’s a pretty good way to go down, right?

    Ron: Yeah. I mean if you’re going to get beat, you’ve got to get beat by the best.

    John: Right. That’s so cool though, man. I mean just to be on that level with someone that you’ve looked up to since you were a kid, I mean, very young anyway, I mean, just somebody that’s been around for a long time.

    Ron: He and I are the same age. At the time when I was contemplating that I wanted to be a professional bowler, he was obviously doing it. He’s one person who has made a lot of money at it. I said, “The only people that make money are the ones at the top.” Well, he is at the top.

    John: He is at the top. Yeah, yeah. Maybe, “Hey, do you want to sponsor a number two guy?”

    Ron: Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?

    John: Yeah, yeah. No, I love it, man. I think it’s so fantastic. Congrats on all your success and also how it’s translated to work and made you genuinely better at what you’re doing at work and how it’s bringing the office together as well. It’s really, really encouraging to hear. That’s awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement for anybody listening that maybe they love to bowl and they’re like, “Other than adding up to 300, it has nothing to do with accounting so no one’s going to care,” type of a thing?

    Ron: I like to teach. Some people, I drive them nuts because even in league, I will show somebody what they’re doing wrong and try to help them do something different. But to encourage somebody, I would say, “If you want to get better, you absolutely can.” The environment for how bowling is done now, the equipment can help a person dramatically improve if you have the right equipment, if you have somebody that just coaches you. This goes back to what you had asked earlier about how what I do helps me in the business world. Being a coach on the lanes is just like being a coach to my staff person, John. The future of this firm in my opinion is not me. I’m 57 years old. The future of this firm is these young people. They know how to use the computers. They know how to be who they are. But we need to teach them how to be us. I think that’s made a big difference because my getting competitive in bowling has helped me learn, “Hey, I got better in bowling because of some people that I reached out to that helped me.” Now I need to reach out to these kids and I – John is 25. He probably doesn’t appreciate it that I call him a kid.

    John: Yeah, right.

    Ron: But he’s a kid to me.

    John: No. That’s so fantastic. Like you said, you meet them where they are. Then teach them the skills. Yeah, they’re so much faster. The computers are making that so much faster. But there’s still that human-to-human connection that will never go away within the office and also with clients. That’s where the magic’s at. Really fantastic. Well, yeah. Before I bring it in for a landing, sometimes people think that it’s fair to turn the tables back on me since I’ve rapid-fire questioned you in the beginning. I wasn’t sure if you had anything to fire away to get to know John a little bit here.

    Ron: Well, the one question I have to know is what is the highest score you’ve ever bowled?

    John: Oh, okay. The highest score I have ever bowled was probably like a 160s. It wasn’t too bad, I don’t think. But I haven’t bowled in like, man, probably five or six years. I’m the person that – now I mean, it’s completely fun bowling. But yeah, when I was in junior high, we lived overseas, sixth and seventh grade. There was a lot of bowling happening there. Yeah, I got pretty decent at it anyway. But now I’m the guy that just goes once every five years. I’m pretty decent the first game. Then I just get tired and lazy. Then the second game, I try to keep it above a hundred anyway, but yeah, 160s. I don’t know if that’s all right.

    Ron: Yeah. Well, and the reason I asked the question the way I did is because it’s probably a 160 with that bowling ball you grabbed off the rack.

    John: Oh, yeah.

    Ron: What I would tell you is what most people don’t realize. We call those plastic balls. They’re actually polyester. But we call them plastic. They don’t grip the lane at all. They just skid.

    John: Oh.

    Ron: Yeah. When you use the plastic ball, you’re at a disadvantage because believe it or not, there’s an optimal angle. This is why I love accounting and bowling. There’s an optimal angle into the pocket to strike at. You have to figure out what that angle is and with a plastic ball, it is virtually impossible for you to get that angle unless you are really good. I mean I could take you out on the lanes to help you select a bowling ball from the pro shop that would have that 160 into the — at least 200 fairly quickly, believe it or not.

    John: Nice. Yeah. I love it, man, nice. Well, we’re doing it. Next time I’m in Florida, it’s on. That’s for sure.

    Ron: Don’t come here in July.

    John: Right, right. Exactly. We’ll make it in the fall or wintertime. That’s for sure.

    Ron: There you go.

    John: Well, thanks so much, Ron, for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast. This was really great.

    Ron: Yup. It was a pleasure being here.

    John: That was really fantastic. If you like to see some pictures of Ron’s bowling trophy or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. It’ll really help me out for the book that I’m launching early next year. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use 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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