Episode 22 – MB Raimondi


MB’s stained glass projects make for colorful client relationships

 

Several years ago, a friend invited MB (Mary Beth) to a stained glass workshop and now she can’t stop. And when the stained glass studio made the move to QuickBooks, you better believe they called MB first. So her passion led directly to a new client that she still has today.

In this episode, MB talks about how people sense when you’re not being true to yourself. When they sense this, it makes them not want to interact with you which could really hinder your ability to serve your clients well.

MB does QuickBooks consulting and training, having trained more than 12,000 QuickBooks users and accounts. Prior to this, she had a full-time tax and accounting practice. She is a CPA, CITP and Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor.

She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Dayton and an MS in Taxation from the University of New Haven.

 

Other pictures of MB

(click to enlarge)

MB poses with Brad Smith, President & CEO of Intuit.

Teaching a QuickBooks workshop at the Scaling New Heights Conference.

MB’s favorite stained glass project.

MB’s links

 

Transcript

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    John: Welcome to Episode 22 of the Green Apple Podcast where every Wednesday, I talk with a professional who’s known for a hobby or a passion. And if that’s you or someone you know, then please let me know at greenapplepodcast.com. I’d love to have you on as a guest. And this week, I have a CPA who also do stained glass projects. I’ve never met anyone who does that, so I’m so excited to introduce you to MB Raimondi, a CPA, CITP, and Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor. MB, which is short for Mary Beth, had a full-time tax and accounting practice before switching her main focus over to QuickBooks consulting and training, and she hasn’t looked back. To date, she’s trained over 12,000 QuickBooks users and accounts, which is a lot. Now, she’s with me today.

    MB, I gave everyone a quick introduction but I thought it would be better for you to let everyone know how you got to where you are today.

    MB: Okay. Well, I am a CPA, which is not a surprise, right? I’m assuming most of your guests are CPAs.

    John: Well, I only talk to cool people, MB, so that’s why.

    MB: And the cool CPAs, right?

    John: Right, exactly, the coolest of the cool. I don’t have that kind of time, right?

    MB: I had a full-time tax and accounting practice for a lot of years and then I started teaching QuickBooks in 1999. I worked for a national training company. So I traveled two weeks out of the month and then I was trying to do my practice two weeks out of the month. So I slowly kind of divested myself on most of my tax practice. I still do some and I had been working on some tax returns on there. But I’ve moved more into the QuickBooks consulting and training rather than doing tax and accounting.

    John: Oh, that’s great.

    MB: Now, I travel teaching QuickBooks a lot to accountants and ProAdvisors. So I do a lot of work for intuitive contractor, as well as other people who hired me to come teach for them and do some webinar development and teaching webinars. And then when I’m here, I’m working on projects. So, moving people from other accounting systems into the QuickBooks world, whether it’d be QuickBooks online or desktop and finding the third-party apps. So it’s really fun.

    John: Yeah. Wow. You sound insanely busy. That’s awesome.

    MB: Well, so John, how long has it taken us to get together?

    John: Yeah, I know. That’s so true. I mean, between the two of us, we should probably — we should have just met at an airport some random place and just done it there.

    MB: And maybe we saw each other in the airport. I don’t know.

    John: Oh, I’m sure, I’m sure. We are probably staring down that same person that was being rude to the gate check agents. Yeah. So one question I’d love to ask everyone is just, how did you get into accounting?

    MB: My degree is in psychology.

    John: Oh, okay.

    MB: I didn’t know — honestly, I mean all girls public high school didn’t really know accounting existed and might have gone into it right from the beginning. I’m not sure. But I think my psychology degree helps me when I’m dealing with clients. So, it’s not a bad thing to have. I ended up getting a temp job in a Ford Motor plant. I first started out, my first temp job there was I was Ernestine on the switchboard, you know, putting the plugs in and out. And then when that person came back, I got a temporary job in the accounting department, and I loved it.

    So, I went back to school and started working and then I got subsequently hired there. I started working on a master’s of accounting but of course they had no accounting undergrad, so basically, I did all the accounting undergrad. That was in Michigan. And when we moved to Connecticut, I took the rest of the classes that I needed to sit for the CPA exam and then set for the CPA exam and here I am today.

    John: Yeah. And the rest is history.

    MB: The rest is history.

    John: Wow. That is certainly not the route that I’ve heard before. So, good for you.

    MB: Well, you know, it’s really funny because I tell my kids or any young people when they’re trying to figure out what they want to do with their life is that, you could change, right? It’s not that I didn’t like what I was doing because I did — like doing counseling and I would have had to go further in schooling if I wanted to stay in the psych field. But I switched. I have the tax and accounting. Now I’m doing more QuickBooks consulting and training. You can switch what you’re doing.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. And it seems like both of those degrees are pretty flexible. Even with an accounting degree, you can do a wide variety of things as you’re proving between having your own practice to training and consulting. So, good for you. That’s fantastic. So when you’re not doing all of this in jet-setting all over the country, what sort of hobbies or passions keep you busy in your free time?

    MB: I think probably my number one is reading. Maybe because I do a lot of travel and I can read while I’m traveling. But when I am around here and I have time, the two things I probably do the most besides getting exercise, which to me is a hobby, as well as a necessity —

    John: Sure. That helps with the psychology part of it, right?

    MB: Right, right. I do stained glass. And then I also dabble at like knitting. I’m not a great knitter but I —

    John: Sure. Well, you’re better than me, so that’s what counts, I think. That’s so great. So, stained glass, that’s just so fascinating. Do you do it at home or do you go to a workshop? How do you do that?

    MB: I’ve done both. So when I started, I actually started because a friend of mine wanted to do it and then I’m like, “Well, that sounds like fun. I’ll go with you.” And we took this class and our first project, they say, “You know, keep it small, not a lot of pieces.” So I picked a piece that was maybe 15 pieces of glass in there and my friend wanted to do the little side windows on either side of her front door. And she had this pattern that had like 230 pieces of little glass on there. She never finished that project and that was the only stained glass she did and I kept them with it.

    When I was doing copper foil, which is basically, you’re cutting up the shape of the glass and you’re grinding it and you’re putting foil on it and then you’re shuttering it all together, I bought a lot of the equipment, the grinder and a light box and other little tools in that and would work on it at home. Usually, at some point, we’d go to the stained glass studio. And I continued taking classes too. We have not done copper foil a lot lately. I’ve moved more into fused glass. I think I sent you one of the pictures, like my pride and joy is the one that is actually a real hotel in San Gimignano, Italy that I call it a multimedia piece because it is from copper foil. I mean, I was cutting glass and putting it together but it’s also a fused glass. So that one, once I started working in fused glass, I pretty much do all of that at a stained glass studio, the one that I took classes at.

    John: Okay. All right, yeah. And we’ll definitely have that picture on greenapplepodcast.com on your show page so everyone can check that out and some others as well. Yeah. Well, that’s impressive. Is it often that you do use both techniques or is that kind of a rare –?

    MB: That one was kind of unique. Actually, I did another piece that was copper foil but it was also sun-blasted. So there’s this glass that’s called flashed glass where it’s clear on one side but it’s got a veneer of color on it. What you can do is sun-blast it and where you sun-blast looks just like regular frosted clear glass rather than like when you’re doing a wine bottle, it’s all green glass, right? So if you’re sun-blasting, it’s green in the background. That one was a little bit different. And then the fused glass, I do — usually, what I’ve been doing lately are like different plates and balls and things like that.

    John: Oh, okay. All right. Yeah. I mean that’s just so fascinating because it’s pretty rare to find someone that does stained glass regularly, or even at all, I guess.

    MB: Yeah. It’s been fun. You know, I did it and then I had pieces and then I made my mom a piece. She loved irises and so I did her an iris piece. And then for the kids, each of my kids, like at their 21st birthday, I made them each a stained glass. And then if they have friends that have been getting married, friends that they were really close with that I know really well, I’d try to include a piece of stained glass as part of a wedding present. And I’m a little bit far behind right now, because this fall was a blur to me. So, I haven’t really done much stained glass since last summer.

    John: Sure. No, that’s so fantastic, and then it was just because a friend asked you to — she was going to go and you’re like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll take it along.”

    MB: Right.

    John: Yeah. She should commission you to finish her door windows.

    MB: Right, you know. But she’s moved. She’s been long gone. I mean, that was a long time ago. And I’ll tell you, I mean the coolest thing about it for me is that when I go to that stained glass studio and I work — I’ll go like on a Saturday morning and work for three or four hours is that I’m so completely absorbed in doing it, I’m not thinking about anything else.

    John: Yeah. It’s a good release, I would imagine, especially from travels and stresses of having your own practice and things like that. It’s certainly a good getaway. Yeah. I guess when it comes to stained glass, is there anything from doing that hobby that’s translated back to your work?

    MB: You know, doing accounting is like a puzzle. Doing stained glass is kind of like a puzzle. You have to have all the pieces put together.

    John: Right. And you can sun-blast clients, right? Is it how it works?

    MB: Right.

    John: And they bring you all their tax papers on April 14th.

    MB: Right, right. I like to share information with clients. And certainly, when I’m out teaching, to make it personal to connect with the audience or to connect with my clients, I think it’s important to be kind of open and share yourself. In that respect, the fact that I’ll talk about stained glass in it, I think it humanizes me. It takes me more out of the green eyeshade accountant and say, “Wow, this woman has a life outside of accounting,” which it sounds as — you know, it’s pretty cool.

    John: Yeah, yeah. And I have to imagine that clients really gravitate towards that. I’m sure they have plenty of follow-up questions.

    MB: Right. Actually, the stained glass studio was one of my first clients. Not one of my first clients, but they were a client that I set up when Debbie owned the studio. I helped her get set up on QuickBooks and then Michael, who’s now on the studio for quite a while, I’ve helped him out a few times, which has been great.

    John: Yeah. I mean it’s almost like your worlds are colliding there. I mean, they’re just so interwoven. But yeah, just make sure that he knows that when you’re on hiatus, it’s when you’re there doing the actual work.

    MB: Right.

    John: “Hey, I got this accounts receivable that won’t tally out. Come you come?” “No.”

    MB: Right.

    John: Get your appointment card and get back to me.

    MB: Right, right.

    John: That’s excellent. So definitely, stronger relationships with clients and everyone. And that’s interesting how you said that you’ve always been open and wanting to share. Has that been your whole career really?

    MB: It must be my psych background, right?

    John: Right.

    MB: When I had my full-time tax practice, especially in the early years when people were actually bringing their stuff to me as electronics have gone on more people and we use a portal and all of that stuff, I don’t necessarily see them as often. But I love seeing my clients every year and I would have them bring their kids. It’s like sometimes they’d find out they’re pregnant before their families knew that they were pregnant. And then they bring their kids and we’d go sit at the kitchen table because my office is in my home and pullout Duplos but my kids are way too old to be using Duplos but I keep them. I still have them because now, my kids’ friends are having kids. So, they come over. You know, I like to have that personal relationship. And I’ll tell you, the hard thing was when I downsized my tax practice. So I did it in two stages, and that was really difficult to what clients were I going to give up because I do feel like all my clients are my friends.

    John: Yeah. And I have to imagine that that makes you even better at providing the services that you do by being so involved with them in their lives.

    MB: I think right. I mean, they know that I care, right?

    John: Yeah.

    MB: And having conversations with, particularly, tax clients, not so much QuickBooks clients but I might find out information that wasn’t on the organizers. That question wasn’t on the organizer and I might not have forgotten to ask you because I didn’t take that time to have the conversation towards them.

    John: Right, yeah. No, that’s an excellent point that I think a lot of people gloss over and they’ll realize.

    That’s excellent that you’re in the moment and do realize that. So, kudos to you. I think that’s fantastic. I know when I was — I mean, I would use my humor to relate to clients. At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing or why or whatever. It wasn’t until I looked back on it. It was like, “Oh, wow. No wonder everyone said I was their favorite auditor.”

    MB: If one can have a favorite auditor.

    John: I know. I was like, “Wait, are you allowed to say those two words together at the same time? What?”

    MB: I don’t know how you ever did auditing. I’m like —

    John: Well, it was only a couple of weeks and then they’re like, “Yeah, maybe you should move over to this area in a little more transaction services and processes and controls and things like that.” But yeah, a little more forward thinking things. I wasn’t very good at busting people. I was really bad at that. Yeah, because I would be like, “She’s so nice. Let’s just not write this one up.”

    MB: Right. I can see where they probably would want to move you.

    John: Yeah, exactly. Well, I mean it wasn’t like a huge material thing but I was like, “All right, whatever.” It’s just not in my nature. So I imagine back when you first started, when you were temping and then having your own practice and being involved into it now as well, you’ve had a wide variety of organizations that you’ve been a part of. And I guess when it comes down to people wanting to share, do you think the onus is on the organization to kind of create that culture? Or is it on the individual to sort of pick and choose when to share and make that happen on their own?

    MB: That’s a really good question. I happened to interface with a lot of people because I’m out training. And I think the job trainers are ones that are willing to open themselves up and be human. And if you don’t know something, say you don’t know it and share a little bit. So my daughter is working for me, doing some work for me now. She doesn’t have any client interface. She might send out an email saying, “Oh, we’re missing this bank statement.”

    When I started in public accounting, we were out at the client all the time because that was the way that the partners felt like if we were there, then the client knew that we were doing the work. When they sent those big bills to them, it was well — yeah, but you saw how much she was there. Well, things have moved away from that because technology has changed so much that I’m wondering in the accounting world, if accountants — how much interface do they really have with clients? Do they even talk to them to have –? You know, I wouldn’t share a lot of information in an email.

    John: Right, yeah, because you wouldn’t see them face to face. You don’t even have that personal connection.

    MB: Right.

    John: Yeah, that’s an excellent point. You know, maybe some organizations that you’ve seen or been a part of, have you seen any that are doing things really well when it comes to maybe creating a culture where people can relate to their coworkers better or things along those lines or even their clients?

    MB: I’ve worked with some CPA firms that I feel like they have a really good relationship between all the workers and the partner or the owner. They are the one that comes to mind. She’s at her business but she has six or seven people working for her. I mean, they’re like friends. They really do all work together and support each other. I don’t know that they go out to clients that much but I spent, I don’t know, five or six days with them helping them with the QuickBooks project and they definitely are spending time in the phone with the clients as is she as the owner of this firm. You could tell that she is willing to spend time with them and I think to her, that was important to make sure that she touches base at least by telephone if not in person on a regular basis. I think that probably helps her with her clients, and I think she encourages her firm to do the same thing. Yes. I mean, there’s other organizations that I have worked with or tax shows that I’ve done that have been sponsored by organizations that — they’ll have a summer picnic or they try and get some teambuilding in there whether it’s formally called teambuilding or not. So, at least the firm itself is cohesive a month.

    John: Yeah, yeah. Just get out of the office and break down the walls and just relax a little bit and be yourself. That’s the thing that I always found out that was tricky as that. A lot of times people, when they go into the office, they put on a veneer, if you will, of corporate, whatever, and they’re acting like a partner or acting like a manager, what they think a manager should be instead of just being you type of the thing.

    MB: Right.

    John: Do you have any words of encouragement maybe for people that are on the fence or kind of act that way and maybe to get them to open up a little bit and see the benefits of that?

    MB: I think that I would say, you always have to be true to yourself, right? And people sense when you’re not really being yourself, when you’re putting down a little bit of an act, and then that doesn’t help somebody want to get to know you because they might not see past that or might not want to saying, “Oh, that person is always playacting for a better word there.” I think you can be yourself. I mean, being yourself maybe doesn’t mean like you being a full-time comedian at the office but bring your sense of humor and your comedy into there so that people get to know the real you. I think it benefits everybody. It benefits you too, and it certainly benefits your coworkers and your clients.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s a time and a place for sharing or using your skill if you will. Yeah, and it certainly makes you stand out. I’m sure that out of all your clients and anyone you’ve worked with, when they see stained glass, they think of you. I mean, you’re the only one that they’ve ever met, probably, that does stained glass.

    MB: How many other CPAs do stained glass, right? It’s tapping into their creative side.

    John: Yeah, exactly. I hope that more are, and that they reach out and you guys can get together and go down to the AICPA office and blow it all out.

    MB: Right.

    John: But absolutely, I mean you know, because it makes you stand out because that’s something that you love to do and that you’re passionate about. It at least gives you an identity beyond QuickBooks trainer or tax practice owner or things along those lines.

    MB: You know, really in the QuickBooks, what makes me stand out is at one of the conferences, in particular, I teach some kind of group exercise class early like six o’clock, one of the mornings with accountants.

    John: Oh, my goodness.

    MB: Because I got group exercise certified, and I took that because I go to the early morning group classes at our local Y and those teachers have a really hard time getting subs. So, that along with my daughter who lived at home for a while after she got out of college, she was going to the classes with me and she’s like, “You know, I think I want to become an instructor.” And I’m like, “I’ll do that with you.” Well, she was a bio systems engineering undergrad and I was a psychology person and took like no sciences or just a minimum amount of sciences. So we go, and whereas, you study for it. They give you this book and it’s all on like exercise physiology and kinesiology and you have to know all your muscles and bones.

    My goodness, I struggled so hard, like she’s breezed right through it and took the exam and there’s a practical partner written for it. She was great and that I was way behind her. It just kept sitting out in my shoulder saying, “Hey, MB, either do this or give up that dream.” Then finally, I did it. So because I’m certified, I feel comfortable offering to give a class and I rotate some Sundays with a couple of other people at our Y. I sub early morning. I’m subbing through our morning on there. There’s one woman who does the yoga class one morning and then I do some kind of cardio class the other morning. So if you ask people at that conference what MB did outside of doing QuickBooks kind of work, they would say, “Oh, she teaches group exercise.”

    John: Yeah. That’s a lot better than being known for something else, that’s for sure.

    MB: Right.

    John: That’s for sure. For the handful of people that are up at 6:00 a.m., God bless you.

    MB: It’s amazing when you’re at the parties the night before and you’ll ask people, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ll be there, I’ll be there” and you’re right. I mean, you know you have a conference that there’s 500, 600, 700 people at and if we get eight people, we’re doing pretty good.

    John: Right. Yeah. And the night before, you think you’re going to have 200. You’re, “Maybe we need to get a bigger room.” And then eight of them come in. Yeah, that’s hilarious. I can imagine that. That’s for sure. No. I think that you brought up some really excellent points about how just to be yourself and people really can sense that, whether you’re being genuine or not, and can really gravitate towards that. So, that’s an excellent point that I think everyone can take away from that and from your own experiences, which is cool.

    Yeah. So I feel like we’ve gotten to know you really well but I don’t feel like we can hang out until I give you my 17 rapid fire questions. We’ll get started here. First one is Star Wars or Star Trek?

    MB: Neither.

    John: Neither. Ouch.

    MB: Mary Poppins.

    John: Mary Poppins, okay. Favorite toppings on a pizza?

    MB: The white broccoli and garlic.

    John: On a white pizza?

    MB: On a white pizza.

    John: Okay, all right. Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    MB: Crossword puzzle.

    John: Yeah, okay. Do you have a movie that makes you cry?

    MB: Most movies make me cry.

    John: Most movies, okay.

    MB: Even if they’re comedies.

    John: Right, right, because you’re crying from laughing. Right. Balance sheet or income statement?

    MB: Balance sheet.

    John: Pens or pencils?

    MB: Pencils.

    John: Yeah. Wow.

    MB: I get really mad when you go to these conferences and the vendors are giving away pens. I’m like, “I’m an accountant. I use a pencil.”

    John: Right. The mechanical one or are you a sharpener kind?

    MB: No, mechanical.

    John: Mechanical, yeah, yeah.

    MB: There’s nothing like going into an office supply store and looking for a new fun mechanical pencil.

    John: Yeah, that’s quite the adventure, right?

    MB: Right.

    John: Do you have a least favorite vegetable?

    MB: Bok choy.

    John: Oh, that’s a good answer. A favorite number?

    MB: I don’t have a favorite number.

    John: Yeah, all of them, right?

    MB: Right.

    John: More commas the better. Favorite sports team?

    MB: I think I’d have to say the New England Patriots.

    John: Okay. PC or Mac?

    MB: PC.

    John: Yeah. Heels or flats?

    MB: In the middle.

    John: In the middle, okay. Maybe like a transformer kind?

    MB: Right.

    John: Do you have a favorite color?

    MB: I would say something —

    John: I’m a stained glass person, this is tricky, right?

    MB: Right. Something like in the jewel tones.

    John: Okay. And how about a least favorite color?

    MB: Something really pale.

    John: Really pale and not very vibrant, yeah.

    MB: Like pale yellow.

    John: The pale yellow, yeah, sure. Yeah. Right click or left click?

    MB: Right click.

    John: It doesn’t even make sense, right?

    MB: Right. I don’t know why I said that.

    John: I know. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    MB: Well, I’m going to say Jamie Lee Curtis and only because people tell me that I look like her. I mean, I think she’s great. I really like her a lot and I don’t know very many — I mean I’m not very good at remembering actors and actresses’ names but hers I always remember because people have commented before that I look like her.

    John: Right, right, okay. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    MB: Butterscotch ripple.

    John: Oh, nice. And the last one, a favorite thing that you own.

    MB: A favorite thing that I own?

    John: Yeah.

    MB: Related to work or not related to work?

    John: Completely whatever you want. It’s probably either a mechanical pencil or — you know, I’m just kidding.

    MB: It could be though.

    John: It could be.

    MB: I would say technology was, my favorite coolest thing that I have is a portable USB powered monitor.

    John: Oh, nice.

    MB: And they’re hard to find.

    John: Yeah, yeah, and they come in handy.

    MB: That’s great.

    John: That’s a bonus. Well, thank you so much, MB, for taking time to be with me. This was so much fun.

    MB: Thanks for having me. I thought it was fun too.

    John: I can’t get over how much I love how MB said that people sense when you’re not being true to yourself. And it makes them not want to interact with you as much, which is kind of your job to interact with coworkers and clients. So, have the courage to be true to yourself and good things will happen.

    And you can go to greenapplepodcast.com to see pictures and links to MB, and there’s also links over there for iTunes and Stitchers. You can listen there as well. I won’t hold you any longer so you can go out and be a green apple.


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