Episode 217 – Brett Neal

Brett is an Accountant & Motocross Rider

Brett has been riding and racing dirt bikes since he was five years old. He uses it as motivation for training and exercise and is what still keeps him in shape. His wife and himself are co-partners at their firm, High Velocity Accounting, LLP, where they specialize in helping HVAC business owners get clarity in their business and creating real wealth.

Brett talks about his transition and the culture shock he experienced from being an aircraft pilot to an accountant. He also talks about how his firm embraces his passion for motocross and how he uses it to promote his ideals of persistence and commitment! Also, John shares what he doesn’t like about the accounting industry!

Episode Highlights

What is motocross?
• Starting out in motocross
• Recovering from accidents and staying committed
• Applying his commitment and dedication into the office
• How his office has embraced his passion for motocross
• The transition from pilot to accountant
• Connecting and resonating with his clients
• Having a routine can lead to confidence
• Why he feels the culture starts at the top
• Creating an atmosphere for connecting with one another in the office
• What John doesn’t like about the accounting industry today

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Brett’s Pictures

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First race back after braking my right femur.

Big 6 Grand Prix Hole in Gorman, CA.

Step Up at the Glen Helen Grand Prix


Brett’s links


  • Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close

    Welcome to Episode 217 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett and each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or passion or an interest outside of work and to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, the things that are above and beyond your technical skills, your job title, if you will, the things that actually differentiate you at work.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know, my book is being published in just a few weeks. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com. All the details will be there. I can’t say how much it means that everyone is listening to this show and changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really, really cool. So thanks so much.

    Please 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, Brett Neal. He’s the Accountability Accountant at HVAC Growth Hack in Fresno, California. Now he’s with me here today.

    Brett, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Brett: Hey, John, it’s a pleasure to be on this podcast with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

    John: Absolutely, man. I’m so excited. I just can’t wait to get into it. But, of course, before we do the super fun stuff, we have to get to know Brett on another level here because if I’m going to do motocross with you, then it’s going to take some time, so I got to make sure that we can hang out for that long.

    Brett: So that was going to be one of my questions for you. Do you know what motocross is?

    John: No, I don’t, but we will cover that in the first question after we do these bad boys, like that’s for sure because I don’t know if everyone does, and I don’t want to assume so. But let me ask you here. All right, I’ll start out. We’ll see. Favorite color.

    Brett: Oh, my favorite color is red.

    John: Red. Okay, how about a least favorite color?

    Brett: Least, probably yellow.

    John: Oh, interesting, okay. How about cats or dogs?

    Brett: Oh, man, dogs for sure.

    John: How about when you’re on an airplane, window seat or aisle seat?

    Brett: Window seat. I’m a pilot. I love flying.

    John: Oh, nice. I like it. Okay. All right, so the front window, like that’s not even an option for most people. How about a brownie or ice cream?

    Brett: Dude, brownies and ice cream together.

    John: Oh, both?

    Brett: Yeah.

    John: That’s actually probably the only correct answer on that one. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Brett: Is there a difference?

    John: So neither.

    Brett: Right.

    John: That’s hilarious. So funny. Somewhere right now Jeremy Wells is rolling his eyes. How about when it comes to a computer, PC or Mac?

    Brett: Yeah, I’m a PC fan all the way.

    John: Oh, yeah, totally. I’m not cool enough to even go into a Mac store. How about on your mouse, right click or left click?

    Brett: Left click but it’s disappointing is I can’t find good left-handed mouses.

    John: Oh, yeah, yeah, that is a good point.

    Brett: The right-handed ones fit so well, but when I used to be able to do a 10-key in a left-handed mouse, I thought it was pretty efficient.

    John: Right. That’s impressive. That’s really impressive. How about a favorite Disney character?

    Brett: Gosh, right now it’s Moana because that’s all I hear about.

    John: Okay. Don’t blame this on your children. That’s not fair. That’s not fair, Brett.

    Brett: One I know best.

    John: Yeah, there you go. How about balance sheet or income statement?

    Brett: Yeah, I’m the balance sheet fan, definitely. It has all the information I need.

    John: There you go. All right. Favorite toppings on a pizza?

    Brett: Oh, gosh. So, I’m one of the meat, like I love to put on the sausage and pepperoni and then add on tons of veggies, artichoke hearts, artichoke hearts for sure.

    John: Ah, that’s very California of you. That’s good. Suit and tie or jeans and t-shirt?

    Brett: Yeah, t-shirt and shorts all the way. Probably a Fox or motocross shirt.

    John: Okay. All right, all right. Do you have a favorite number?

    Brett: Number seven.

    John: Is there a reason?

    Brett: It’s supposed to be the lucky number. We’ll get into it, but one of my favorite motocrossers, that was his number. Ironically, I’m not in — I don’t want to say that. I’m not a numbers person. But my number was 34 and if you add them together, they’re seven.

    John: Ah, nice. That’s deep. All right, two more, two more and the past one if you want to revisit, toilet paper, roll over or under?

    Brett: Over, but we have the children, so it has been under for a while and I was going to kid around with you until you stay over and fold it like little triangles.

    John: Fancy hotel, Brett has been here. Look out. And the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Brett: Gosh, it’s my current lifestyle. I could not complain. I’m having so much fun. I have my two little girls, my wife. We have our hobbies. My hobbies are my hobbies. So the things that we’re doing and my lifestyle right now.

    John: That’s a great answer, man. That’s really good. So let’s talk motocross, and maybe you can just explain it. In my head, for some reason, it’s crazy dirt bikes that are on ESPN 2 at 11:00 p.m., but I could be wrong like I don’t know.

    Brett: I suppose sometimes the publicity is not its best and watching motocross can be — it’s been on to put me asleep quite a few times, so I can get that sometimes.

    John: But is that what it is?

    Brett: So motocross is 40 guys on a line racing high-performance two-wheeled motorcycles. And it’s some of the toughest conditions that I suppose any physical athlete can deal with. I suppose it’s kind of just brute force and also mental toughness.

    John: And so is it on street track or is it like a racetrack, or is it on dirt, or it doesn’t matter?

    Brett: Yeah, so there’s different types of, I suppose, motocross, but this is closed circuit on a dirt track. There’s going to be a lot of tight corners, maybe some long corners, and then big jumps like 100-foot distant jumps. It’s crazy.

    John: Holy cow! So you’ve done those?

    Brett: No. I’ve done a 90-foot jump once. I won’t do that again. Thank you very much.

    John: You landed it?

    Brett: I landed it, but I have my fair share of broken bones.

    John: That’s impressive man. I would tell somebody I did a 90-foot jump and then I was in the hospital for a week.

    Brett: Yeah.

    John: I mean, technically the jump in the air part I did.

    Brett: Right. It was just the landing.

    John: Man, like when you’re in the air, I mean, I don’t care how long the jump is. What’s going through your head? There’s got to be so much skill on the launch part of that.

    Brett: So I think the comedy is is that it’s actually your moment to breathe. It’s your chance to loosen up, loosen your fears, and take a deep breath before you get back into racing again.

    John: Wow.

    Brett: Yeah, for a lot of motocross athletes, you’ll hear them kind of — that’s what you’ll hear is that take a breath and get a moment to think.

    John: Interesting. I never would have guessed that in a million years.

    Brett: Like you say, once you hit the face of the jump, that work is pretty much done.

    John: Right. That’s incredible, man. Do you start on smaller jumps and then just work your way up?

    Brett: I was fortunate enough to ride as a kid. My dad bought me a 50cc motorcycle when I was five years old. I rode that thing all over the place and crashed it into any tree and dish that I could. So hitting jumps just became sort of the routine, just what we were doing out with friends. On some point, you end up on a closed circuit, and then you do have to commit, and there might be a double that’s a little bit bigger than you want to hit. But once you watch somebody do it, you’re just out there doing it. You learn. You learn to kind of make the commitment, and then it becomes fun, just like anything. It’s learning.

    John: Like you said, it’s making that commitment is where you get over that hump, if you will.

    Brett: I mean, if I was going to talk about motocross, I would have said commitment, dedication and persistence.

    John: Wow. Okay. I guess if you start as a kid, as a kid, you’re invincible. So all the jumps are fine. And then as you get older, you just keep doing the jumps and then it doesn’t faze you anymore. Did your dad have motorcycles?

    Brett: Yeah, my dad was a semi-sponsor. He was kind of, I guess, amateur pro when he was young guy. He used to do off-road racing like desert racing. So he would go in California like race to Las Vegas from Barstow or Baker, something like that, just kind of out in the desert to another place out in the desert, but it would be over 300 miles.

    John: Wow. That’s awesome. So you grew up that way. That’s great.

    Brett: Yeah, definitely, it has been a part of my whole life. My father and I still ride our bikes together.

    John: That’s very cool. So were you really good at Excitebike on Nintendo?

    Brett: The shame of admitting the hours that I put on Excitebike. You can put me in front of any game, even the games today, unfortunately, I’m pretty good at it.

    John: Unfortunately. That’s great, man. It’s so good. Is there a cooler or more rewarding moment that you’ve had from your racing days?

    Brett: You think of the couple of wins. Definitely just being able to hold that trophy up, knowing that I did do the work. I’m kind of wrapping up again to do — well, now I’m a senior. I’m 40 years old, but now I’m considered to be in the senior class. It’s old-guy motocross, and up and up to go racing again. I think about how I did it before and the training. It is much more difficult now. The recovery is not as quick. But getting ready for all that is getting me really excited, and I’m looking forward to starting this fall.

    John: That’s really cool. And do you feel like racing at all has given you a skill that you bring to the accounting profession.

    Brett: That’s kind of what I wanted to mention was commitment and dedication. People should be respected for their craft. We don’t just get to walk into things and think that we’re going to be good at it. And it’s hard when you see other people do it because they’re good at it. They’ve practiced, and we just don’t see the practice that goes on behind the scenes. It is a commitment and it’s routine and doing it again and again and again and again and again. I think that’s what I took away from motocross. Having a lot of injuries, you have to bounce back, if you’re committed. I’ve broken my tib, fib, my right femur, my left elbow and my right wrist, all in different occasions, accident. I’m coming back from those in crutches and learning to walk again, learning to run again and being fit again. I mean, there’s times I just want to sit on the couch and say, “Give me ice cream.” But I’m too stupid to know different. I want to keep pushing forward. In fact, that’s kind of what in our team around me, the people that I work with, that’s what we advocate is persistence. Stay on it. Show up ready.

    John: No, I love that, man, because at no point in your business school education did anyone tell you that the motocross is going to make you better at accounting.

    Brett: No.

    John: But clearly it does. It makes you a better professional. That’s for sure.

    Brett: I could still be in the file room looking at old cases.

    John: Right. Don’t even like the sun because you’re never going to see it.

    Brett: Right.

    John: You’re like, “Wait, what? That wasn’t in the brochure.”

    Brett: Exactly.

    John: That’s really interesting. So is the motocross something that you talk about at work?

    Brett: So everyone knows I’m a fanatic. We have posters on the wall. There’s a couple of riders that I have signed autograph stuff with that’s in my memorabilia. Part of having fun is we’re working on getting below 50s so that we can all kind of go out and have fun together. Ride our 50s together and that kind of stuff.

    John: That’s really neat that people have embraced it that much. Not only the posters on your wall and everything. But that’s such a great, easy way to let people know this is what my thing is. When you step into my office, I can decorate it how I want. And having that signed memorabilia and the posters like that, that’s pretty neat. That has to be a good conversation starter, I would imagine.

    Brett: I suppose so. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I kind of just think it’s just us. It’s me. It’s us.

    John: Yeah. You get what you get. But so many people, I find, that they don’t want to be, you know, it’s us. They want to be it’s what you think a professional is supposed to be from the movies and TV shows that I watched. Did you at any point think, maybe I shouldn’t put this stuff up?

    Brett: It’s funny, I’d love to talk about that and how do I not do it without getting myself in trouble, but I fully felt that in my professional career in transitioning. I was, like I said, an aircraft pilot and I used to be an airplane mechanic out of high school, and then I did work on airplanes for about five, seven years, and then I became a CPA. Making that transition from putting engines on airplanes to sitting behind a desk and learning accounting was crazy tough for me. And I did have a hard time accepting that role, recognizing the clothes that I was supposed to be wearing and maybe talking a certain way. I totally admire the first firm that I worked for. I learned so much. But at the end of the day, it didn’t resonate with me. That was probably my fault. Just really not understanding what I was getting into.

    John: Yeah. The different cultures are for different people and different clients as well.

    Brett: Right because now I’m connecting with the clients that do resonate with me. They do have dirt bikes or buggies or they’ve been to Baja, and we can talk to each other. And I’m not putting up a false front, and they aren’t either.

    John: Yeah. And that’s got to be pretty liberating, I would imagine, because it’s exhausting. Some of the people that I’ve had on the podcast talk about who have I told? Who haven’t I told? Am I allowed to share like all this? If you can just open up the gates and let it rip, then it’s like you’re so much better at what you do.

    Brett: Because I’m going to say too many things anyway, so I better —

    John: Right. When I was before with PwC and people would ask us, “So what did you do this weekend?” and it’s like, “Oh, well, I drove to Louisville, Kentucky and did a comedy club there for the weekend,” it’s like, well, you asked me. I didn’t know, am I not supposed to tell you? I didn’t know. It’s not that you’re not supposed to. It’s just that for a lot of people, their default is to not share. I was also maybe too dumb to know that that’s the default. I was like, “Well, why?” That’s crazy. You hired all of me, right? So here you go type of thing. And it’s not illegal. It’s not like you’re going to lose clients if they walk into your office and see motocross stuff all over. They’re going to be like, “Oh, yeah, I have to go. You’re not the guy for me.” And it’s like, “Wait, what?”

    Brett: If they do that for me, it’s a very welcoming thank you. You know what I mean? We understand that. It’s not even an issue.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s a great point of view to have there too is if that’s what really bothers you, then we’re not right for each other to begin with.

    Brett: Probably rubbed somebody wrong at some point. I can’t be apologetic for it. My poor wife, I told her I have no emotional intelligence. I’m learning. I’m definitely learning.

    John: Right, at 40, finally, Brett. Good for you too, man. That’s really great. I think that’s so fantastic. And it sounds like this has benefited your career in a way that your team is, I mean, you guys are going to get bikes together and have little races. You have clients that have done that stuff as well. I imagine that that helps you with relationship building, both in and out of the office.

    Brett: Yeah, I find it a lot easier to connect now knowing what I do, who we are, kind of where I stand, and what I believe in. I just think that’s just the difference of being a little bit older. I remember my 20s and just exploring and kind of being lost doing different things. So having the background in motocross, working on airplanes. Some of the other things that I’ve done in my youth, to bring it together to the professional side of being an accountant and having gone through the CPA licensure and that kind of stuff, I guess that I feel like I’m in a great point now in a position in my life to do great things.

    John: That’s great, man. And do you feel like the motocross at all gives you some confidence that you can bring to the office? Because it just sounds like all these different pieces are really added together like a Voltron, like the sum of the parts is greater than the whole sort of a thing, and it just gives you some confidence to bring your authentic self to everywhere you go?

    Brett: You know, interesting that way. What I think of when I think of motocross, it’s the routine. It’s how you got there and the steps that you take before you get on the line before you race your motorcycle. So when you do that every day, you’re setting yourself up to do the stuff that you need to do in that moment. And if it means walking into an office, kind of grabbing that cup of coffee, talking with some people, loosening up before the morning gets started, all those things that take place is what forms you. So that confidence of knowing that, for me, it’s a routine. Confidence is something in the new, not knowing, unventured terrain. But when you have it, obviously, you feel a bit more confident. How do you bring motocross together and explore the new? I think that’s just something I enjoy. I enjoy putting myself out there a little bit.

    John: That’s great, man. That’s so fantastic. And how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create that culture where you’re able to be you, share your hobbies and passions and things you love to do outside of work, or how much is it on the individual to maybe create that circle amongst themselves on their own?

    Brett: Gosh, I’m going to have to go with the company culture on that one. The culture starts at the top. Having been to a few different tech companies and kind of seeing some of the way that they work as opposed to being in a silo in a way it was for me, there’s a little bit that can be there sometimes. I don’t know how that all works out for them, but I don’t think you want to isolate yourself and say, “Hey, this is just me and this is how it’s going to be.” You need to probably mesh yourself with others. But as far as your company culture, I hope that I’m connecting with the individuals that I work around, even clients, and that they know that. I used to laugh at the open-door policy because how can you possibly get any work done? When the doors open, it’s a good time to communicate.

    John: And that’s the thing is once people start to know the motocross side of you or the airplane side of you, then it humanizes you as well. It’s just “Go talk to Brett” instead of the guy in the office with the door closed or whatever. Sometimes people forget that we can be intimidating to clients and coworkers on accident.

    Brett: It’s funny because I hear that from other people, Brett’s very approachable. I appreciate that. I think, well, that’s nice. I’m glad people are comfortable coming to me and talking to me until I get to the grocery store and I think, “Why on Earth?”

    John: Right. Totally, or you’re like on an airplane and it’s like, really? Oh, man!

    Brett: Why are you talking to me?

    John: I have air pods and Bose noise-cancelling headphones on. What more do I need to tell you? That’s awesome though that people feel that comfortable with you and approachable. And then that means they feel like they know you which is great. So is there anything that you guys do there specifically that maybe other companies and firms and people listening can maybe mimic in a way outside of everybody getting small motorcycles and racing in the parking lot type of thing?

    Brett: I wish I had a cool answer for you. I think that we’re growing. We’re starting to kind of add staff. I don’t have a big picture for that other than just knowing that for us, it’s going to be a very casual and connecting kind of level. Our atmosphere is to not have a table sitting on the other side of people. It’s a roundtable. We all sit there together. Everyone has a role. I do tend to kind of play a leadership role. I do just want more information than being involved with the nitty-gritty. But at the same time, I kind of feel like I want it all out there. I don’t picture us ever being so big that we’re going to be so department. I think I also chastise about the whole silo thing that I do want us to be in it together.

    John: That’s great.

    Brett: I take that from motocross. It’s crazy, these guys, they never say me or I. It’s we. They can’t race their bike without the team putting it together, without the truck that got them there, without the trainer that helped him with the fitness. It’s completely a we team function.

    John: I love that mentality. That’s something that obviously you grew up in, so it’s just how you operate. Very cool, man. So do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe they raced motorcycles or do motocross or whatever their hobby is that they think has nothing to do with their job?

    Brett: So you have to commit. Kind of the theme is be persistent and have determination. Things don’t happen overnight. If you’re committed to success, you still have to figure out how to do it. Just because you wake up every morning enthused about getting something done doesn’t mean that you will. You have to show up at those times when you don’t want to do it, when you maybe aren’t interested in doing it. And it’s just the persistence and the dedication that’s going to make you follow through.

    John: That’s so great. Just because you want to do it doesn’t mean you can or it will happen. You still have to follow through and make it happen. So that’s great, man. Well, it’s only fair that at the end, I can turn the tables, a round table since we’re sitting together and not across from each other, virtually.

    Brett: You’re using the Lazy Susan on me?

    John: There you go. I love it, man. Lazy Susan. Spin it and then there we go. So rapid-fire question me and my seat is getting hot, so I’m nervous.

    Brett: Do you like motocross?

    John: Yeah. It’s something where I watch and I go, that’s maybe one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. And bull riders, I think the same thing. I’m like, oh, my gosh! This is amazing.

    Brett: Yeah, that is tough.

    John: I watch and I’m like, I don’t totally know what’s happening. I clearly understand that it’s a race, but then people start laughing each other or somebody falls, or I don’t know who’s on what lap, but I’m just watching and I’m like, man, these jumps are nuts.

    Brett: They are. They’re crazy. So I’m just going to ask you the hard one, the hot-seat question. What don’t you like about the accounting industry?

    John: What don’t I like about the accounting industry? The accounting industry itself. I guess is that I feel like it’s a lot of people talking about change and what’s going to happen, and then it’s either not happening or they’re not doing it. So when you talk about the commitment, when you talk about the persistence, I don’t feel like there’s commitment on things all the time. It just turns into like these buzz phrases that don’t even mean anything, like future ready. What does that mean? I don’t even know. You’re not even present ready? Are you from the future? How do you know what’s going to happen? And then there’s all these phrases that people throw around and I’m like, what do you mean? Just say normal English. I just wish that it was people that were a little more open to new ideas or doing things a little bit differently than what they’ve always been done because why not? Imagine what could happen.

    Brett: I completely connect with that. I was at a CE class the other day, and it didn’t resonate with me because there’s just been no transition. It was kind of the old, just a pre-filled out PowerPoint with a book in front of me and a speaker saying his own words. I had three different things going on in front of me, and I just didn’t understand what they were talking about. Why can’t we connect better than this and communicate better within this and do something better than this? It was frustrating.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like either you care or you don’t. Don’t say you do and then not actually invest in your people. Maybe it’s just a culture thing that’s been passed down from the prior generations or whatever, but don’t say that you care about your people and then not actually invest in them or care about them. But that’s not just an accounting profession thing. That’s every profession really.

    Brett: Yeah, exactly.

    John: And probably my answer applies to all the professions really, to be honest, on what I said.

    Brett: It’s the culture and maybe having that business that you enjoy. Do it for you and get the people around you that you enjoy and build a business that you are having fun in.

    John: Or just make the change at the bigger place where you are and then find out that you’ve been sitting around waiting for permission when actually you should be asking for forgiveness later when no one’s even going to say anything.

    Brett: Good point. I fully understand, always ask for permission later.

    John: And then you find out that no one even cared. And they were like, wow, that was really cool. And you’re like, “Oh, really? Oh, I can do more of this?” It’s just be you and truly care about the people around you. That simple. Just have a genuine interest and it’s got to be genuine, and then people can tell.

    Well, this has been so much fun, Brett, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really great.

    Brett: I appreciate it. Thank you so much, John. It’s fun to be on this podcast with you. It’s good conversation.

    John: If you’d like to see some pictures of Brett on his bike or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. While you’re in the page, please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.

    So 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, that no matter our job or technical expertise, there’s a human side to all of us.


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