Episode 221 – Mayur Vyas

Mayur is a CFO & Over dresser

Mayur is a CFO and business advisor to startups to small/mid-size companies. With 15 years’ experience (most of it at PwC), he’s been an auditor, management consultant, and corporate trainer. He now supports clients with tax planning, investor relations, due diligence, and financial projections. He enjoys working in a high-performance environment while keeping the team motivated through humor and encouragement.

Mayur talks about his passion for dressing sharp, being an individual, and how he applies humor and being casual towards motivating his team members and providing an environment of ease for his clients!

Episode Highlights

Dressing slightly different to stand out
How custom suits can motivate you to stay in shape
Mayur’s first custom suit experience
Providing a comfortable environment for clients through conversation
 Talking about his passion for fashion in the office
How PwC encouraged him to be an individual in the office
Encouraging his team members to give suggestions in the office

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    Welcome to Episode 221 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett. Each Wednesday I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their and, like you’re an accountant and something, you’re a lawyer and something. It’s those things that are above and beyond your technical skills, and it’s the things that actually differentiates you when you’re in the office.

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

    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, Mayur Vyas. Before becoming the CFO at Finconoso in Washington, D.C. area, he spent 10 years at PwC, so we got the hook up there. Now he’s with me here today.

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

    Mayur: Hey, John, thanks so much for having me, sir.

    John: I’m just excited to have you on. We’ve been talking on social media for like two years since you first started listening to the podcast. Now the magic is happening. So I’m just excited for that.

    Mayur: Certainly, yeah. No, it’s been so great hearing you these times and seeing the progress you’ve made. At long last, you finally said, “Hey, is that guy still alive?”

    John: Exactly. You’re a real person. So let’s just jump right out of the gate and not even get to know each other, but just 17 rapid-fire questions. We’re just taking it to the extreme right here. So here we go. I’ll ask you, Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Mayur: Star Wars.

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

    Mayur: PC.

    John: Your mouse, left click or right click?

    Mayur: I’m all about that left click.

    John: Okay, making decisions. There you go. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?

    Mayur: Jafar from Alladin.

    John: Oh, yeah, that’s a popular one. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?

    Mayur: France, yeah, Southern France.

    John: Southern France. Yeah, yeah. As an accountant, I have to ask you, more balance sheet or income statement?

    Mayur: Well, it’s all about the income statement because what goes on the balance sheet without your retained earnings anyway.

    John: There you go. How about do you have a favorite adult beverage?

    Mayur: I mentioned the French thing, so Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the regional wine that would be my adult beverage.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. How about a favorite number?

    Mayur: Nine.

    John: Is there a reason?

    Mayur: I think it’s my dad’s lucky number, and I just use it.

    John: Yeah, no, that works for me, man. This is an important one, toilet paper, roll over or under?

    Mayur: Over. What kind of savage goes under?

    John: Right. I don’t know either, but they’re out there. Here we go. More brownie or ice cream?

    Mayur: Oh, man, one on top of the other.

    John: Probably, the only right answer on that one as well. Puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?

    Mayur: Crossword.

    John: Yeah. Okay, how about a favorite color?

    Mayur: Purple.

    John: There you go. How about a least favorite color?

    Mayur: Ooh, beige.

    John: That’s a good answer. How about cats or dogs?

    Mayur: I’ll say dogs.

    John: Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Mayur: Let’s see. Jeff Goldblum.

    John: Really good answer. When you’re on an airplane, more window seat or aisle seat?

    Mayur: Aisle seat.

    John: Last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Mayur: Everything I have, I’ll say my family.

    John: Good answer. Very good answer. So yeah, so let’s jump into this with the fashion. Is this something that you were like as a kid, or was it something that came around later in life?

    Mayur: I think it was like when I was a kid because I’d always try to be dressed slightly different than everyone else. As an adult, it’s easy to be like, okay, you can dress nice and everything. But as a kid, obviously, you don’t have the resources. It would come up as awkward and kind of zany that it would as an adult.

    John: Because I mean, yeah, you can’t just go buy what you want, and your parents aren’t just going to go fill your closet with every wardrobe item you want. That’s interesting. Was it something that you just wanted to stand out, or you just didn’t want to be a part of everyone else?

    Mayur: I think it was more the latter, not like in any sort of rebellious way. It was more just I like to do my own thing, and it was just for me. When I got older, then I realized I need to probably look like other people.

    John: Totally. Lady Gaga up here and show up in your meat suit or whatever.

    Mayur: It was on the clearance so, you know.

    John: That’s funny. They didn’t have it in my size. That’s really fascinating because you wanted to do your own thing, wanted to stand out just a little bit. And then as you became an adult, you just figured out your own way to do it. And so now, is it more of just colors, or is it like a pocket square type of thing, or what is it now?

    Mayur: I’ll say I had my peacock face, probably in my mid to late 20s and then as I’m aging myself here, then as I entered my 30s and mid-30s and now I’ll just leave it at that, now it’s more of a traditional. I’ll just kind of stick to my blacks, my grays, dark navys, usually just a crisp white, sometimes with stripes. The only thing I will add probably on my socks or the pocket square.

    John: Or even like when I get the major measure suits or what have you, then the linings on the inside, those are always where you can —

    Mayur: Oh, yeah.

    John: When somebody catches that, they’re like, “Oh, that’s not what I thought that person would be like,” where it’s just like a fun little party going on.

    Mayur: You’re always looking for an excuse to like, “Oh, let me just take my jacket off here. Oh, pop a color.”

    John: What? Look at that. That’s funny. But the socks for sure is super fun. Is there like a cool or more rewarding experience that you’ve had from this? I do the made-to-measure suits because it’s just cheaper than custom. Do you go in and have suits made, or you went off-the-rack guy? I’m sure you’re not.

    Mayur: I do have plenty of custom suits and whatnot and much to my wife’s chagrin, but it ends up taking up more space in the closet than her stuff.

    John: I’m with you on that, man. Good for you. Good for you. That first moment, the very first one, I’ll never forget because you get measured and then they make the suit. And then when you put it on, you’re like, “wow, like this is for me.” It fits perfectly. I don’t have to get it tailored now. I don’t have to feel like I’m wearing my dad’s pants or whatever because we’re both kind of slender guys, so it’s hard to find those.

    Mayur: That’s so true. I took that point, though. It also motivates you to stay in shape. Firstly, you work out so you can fit into them, and then that’s the point, you got to stay in that shape. A suit that wouldn’t have made custom made in college or early days would be one thing.

    John: Maybe a little extra half inch here and there, just in case. I hear you on that. Do you have any favorite suits or favorite experiences from buying them?

    Mayur: Yeah, the first time I got a full custom made was, I want to say, five years now. And I’ve taken forever to do it. I was joking about my wife, but she was the one who encouraged me to do it. And that was like a fun experience because there’s the old-school Italian tailor and then they had the leather mahogany wood room, everything. They’re all chatting. I thought it’d be all formal, but everyone’s joking around in there. Just that whole experience and then, okay, great. And then they select all the fabrics and all that stuff. It’s like the first time that I got to feel like, “Oh, my God! This is my day.”

    John: Yeah. Right. It’s like you’re the bride, finally.

    Mayur: My turn.

    John: It’s my turn. But that’s really cool. I think it’s interesting to how fun and casual and jokey they were about it. You would think, oh, it’s going to be firm and proper and all of this because you’re spending a good amount of money on a formal outfit. And then you get in there and they’re real people. I would imagine that that translates to you in the office a little bit as well. People probably expect you to, “Oh, he’s a CFO. He’s an accountant. He’s whatever.” And then once they get to know you, there’s another side there.

    Mayur: Actually, that’s a great analogy too. I didn’t even think about that. It’s true because I will obviously be dressed up, and I try to have my business partner also do his best. And then the staff is usually looking pretty sharp too. When we have a new client, they do come in and they see all of us looking dressed to the nines, and it could be intimidating. They’re like, “Oh, great, what am I paying for?” I always try to make this experience for them as fun as possible between all the people you’ve spoken to. It’s not like the stereotype is accountants wear green visor, boring. We try to make it fun for them and create, if it’s a tax plan client, we’ll try to make it fun, or whatever it is. Yeah, the idea is to put them at ease and just have a good time because what’s the point if you’re not having a good time?

    John: I think that that’s exactly the same parallel there. They’re spending a good amount of money on something that’s important to them, and you’re creating that experience for them that they’re going to remember and they’re going to gravitate towards. I would have to imagine that people appreciate that.

    Mayur: I think so. I mean, I don’t think so. A lot of them have said so afterwards too and that’s reassuring.

    John: It’s not like you’re losing clients, like people are leaving. Yeah, you’re not for me. You’re smiling. I’m out of here. What’s with these socks? Come on, man. What the hell?

    Mayur: I’m so offended.

    John: Right. I would have to imagine it’s the other way around. When people come in, they’re like, “What kind of socks you got today? Let me see them.”

    Mayur: I think it’s the only reason they come in sometimes.

    John: Right. That’s funny. So do you feel at all like fashion or this wanting to do your own thing kind of idea gives you a skill set that you bring to the office at all or your accounting profession?

    Mayur: Yeah, I suppose. So everyone has their own unique thing about them, and that just goes for nothing specific. We all have, of course, our accounting knowledge, and we have the things we help our clients with, whether they’re necessarily tax issues or would it be something more CFO-outsourced accounting type related. That’s one thing. That’s, of course, why they’re there, but the fact that we are just our own people, and we encourage that, we talk about it. A lot of our clients are entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized businesses themselves, so they had already been there like left like, hey, do this, act like this, and that’s how it should be. The fact that we’re the kind of the same kind of people. Myself usually I give my many examples to class. We end up just chatting about our lives, and that’s kind of the natural admiration that we have for each other.

    John: You are just chatting about your lives. Do you at any point think this has nothing to do with work, or they’re going to think this is unprofessional, or we’re wasting our time chatting about life?

    Mayur: Yeah, I’d say that’s the minority of people who just get to the point. I’m only here for this. And honestly, I don’t think we actually have those kinds of clients. I think we’ve pitched to people like that, and they stopped responding to anything. It just didn’t work out. If it is one of our current clients who are just like, “Look, I only want to talk about the deliverables or the work products,” it’s like an emergency like they extended a tax filing, but now they had to go line of credit or something, like we need this like yesterday. That’s a unique situation. But most of the time, we’re happy to just kind of — I don’t want to call it idle chitchat. I think that’s the more valuable part of the conversation that we’re all knowing about each other. So now we’re all like, okay, now that we got that stuff in our back of our heads, we can actually understand what’s there and what’s the thing they’re working on and how can we support them get there?

    John: Yeah, because it’s not like you’re taking an hour to chat about the weather. You’re actually just getting to know each other, and it’s just for a short amount of time, and then you’re better able to serve them. So when there is that code red, level 10 alert, then you’re ready to go and you understand why it’s such a big deal. No, that’s fantastic. Really great. And so, is this something that you outwardly talk about at work, or is it just something that just people know just from looking at you with the fashion and the silly socks and the stuff like that?

    Mayur: Oh, I actually work in the area where there’s lots of other business owners. I think all my co-located fellow business owners all know. It depends on whether it’s a referral from a current client or even a friend type of referral. I think they’ll have an idea. But I’ll say most of the people who I initially work with, I don’t think they really know what to expect. I think they’re just thinking like we’re going to be talking to a financial professional, a tax guy, a CPA.

    Usually, when clients come to us, it’s either depending if it’s through a referral from a current client, whether it’s external, meaning through a friend or something like that, I think they always talk about subject matter, something more in the realm of accounting their tax. So I don’t think they’re expecting anything. Most people don’t expect, only those who like directly know us. Actually, the people who directly know me are actually surprised that I’m actually sticking to the point. They’re like, “Oh, I thought this was going to be fun.” I’m like, “Oh, this is fun compared to like…” But, no, we’re not throwing back beers here. We have work to do.

    John: Right. Yeah, definitely, but it’s casual and it’s real. You’re a human. The person on the other side is also human. So let’s just be normal people and just like the Italian tailors that are making your suit type of concept and making that an experience. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization, a company or a firm, to create that culture where people can share their hobbies and their passions and encourages people to get to know each other on that level, or how much is it on the individual to maybe just create that little circle on their own?

    Mayur: Well, I think it’s typical big four answer, but it’s two-part, right? It’s like the firm has to make you feel that you can be an individual, and then it’s on you as an individual to be willing to kind of think outside the box or do something original or do something that you think would work. Of course, there’s levels to it. If you’re one of the staff, you’re not going to just go off and recommend a very risky approach to a client. You’ll check first. But we want to encourage people to be able to think freely. There’s no dumb ideas, right? There’s dumb actions, but not dumb ideas.

    John: Yeah, because if you think it through, then it doesn’t become an action. And that’s such a great idea of just encouraging people to be original. And then I have to imagine when you were in PwC days, is that something that you were like, I’m going to be original, or just like when you were a kid, do your own thing sort of a thing from the beginning, or was it something that took a little bit of time to open up on?

    Mayur: As a kid, my parents were fairly hands-off. That’s from early aged encouraged just kind of be weird when I was very weird.

    John: Yeah, I love it, though.

    Mayur: Yeah. It’s a big firm. So with many different departments, I was lucky to work with a lot of folks who did encourage originality. But at the same time, they themselves, like partners are beholden to national advisory, whatever the rule is from each group, like an audit, in a subgroup, different vertical, different horizontal. Same thing in the advisory side, they’re the ones who were dictating the thought leadership. They have their own staff who are dedicated to creating the message, and it’s up to us to kind of show that message.

    So I would do my part to present information in my own way. They were like, “Okay, cool.” And they like the way, you know, I did trainings on behalf of the firm and with clients and just presentations. I think the longer you’re at a firm like that, I was there like 10 years, so the more I think they trust you, okay, you’re not going to do something crazy. So I always had fun. I still wanted to do it my way, and that’s why, ultimately, I did my own thing.

    John: But that’s all great that they allowed you to do that and even encouraged it. It’s within reason. If they build the sandbox and then say, “Okay, here are the boundaries and then go play,” then it’s a lot better than you have to do this exactly this way all the time. It’s like, oh, man, like you hired some pretty top notch professionals that might know a thing or two. So let them do that.

    Mayur: The caveat to that is I think these days, people, they don’t stay at firms as long. If you’re never really truly part of a firm’s culture, something, I think it’s hard. My early days at the firm, I was still a little nervous because I was new here. I assumed everyone was smarter than me and just like, I don’t know if I speak my mind. I think it took basically aging, the big four, to have that confidence and then realizing the partners are actually just like us. They’re actually hardworking people who just want to have fun too.

    John: They have a life outside of here. They have other things that drive them as well. Sure, we’re all good at accounting or law or whatever our job is. If we won Powerball, we wouldn’t do accounting for free. You’re spending money to buy suits. Would you spend money to go do accounting? Like, no, of course not. I’m not going to pay to go do tax returns. That’s stupid. That’s the real passion of the people around you. Is there anything that you guys do there specifically to encourage this or things that you’ve seen in your career whether it’s clients or firms that you’ve been around?

    Mayur: Our firm specifically, we don’t have anything formal that we’ve implemented. I think it’s just monkey see, monkey do sort of thing. My business partner, he’s going to listen to this eventually too. He has his style, and he’s very to the point. He also makes a light joke here and there. I think with me, it’s my presence online as well which I’m trying to get more into. But this is 21st century. If you’re not there, you’re not really doing anything. I also just enjoy it too. It was he’s like, “Okay.” If he actually likes, I do it because we all have our own styles. There’s only two of us who are managing partners right now. So when the managers and staff see us doing activities, it’s up to them how do you want to do it. We more ask them to get the work done and have empowered them. A couple of guys who were actually far smarter than any of us at the top, we’ve empowered them to just physically lead client meetings even if we’re not there and just go with it, however they want to present it, anything, just as long as it’s clean, professional-looking, and you’re not cursing in the meeting.

    John: Yeah. And you’re professional about it. Yeah, absolutely. That’s great because you hired them to be them and let them work their magic. Worst-case scenario, it’s not really that terrible. The whole company’s not going to blow up. That confidence then I think is reciprocated and them believing in you guys as well, which is really cool. And I guess when you work for a smaller organization, is it easier to get to know people and know what their hobbies and passions are?

    Mayur: Yeah, I think we know pretty well about everyone who works for us. We’re like a small shop. We have our partner organizations we work with. We even know about their staff than we know each other. Different firms have different styles. One thing we are, and this is more work related, but we are trying to tighten up our business processes. And our quality control and our timeliness and things like that, that’s something we can always work on. But the culture isn’t open and feel free to speak your mind because then people are afraid of the processes, I think. A lot of people are like trying to get involved and provide ideas like when we have our weekly meeting, there are so many project manager of softwares. Why don’t we do away with all these bells and whistles? Someone wouldn’t recommend something like that if they didn’t feel like they would get in trouble for saying something.

    John: That’s a great testament to the culture that you have because they feel comfortable. They know you and they feel respected. If there’s critical feedback that’s going to come, it’s not hurtful, it comes from a good place because it’s someone who actually knows me and genuinely cares about me as a person. And then before you know it, people are going to ask you where you got socks, and then they’re going to start having sock competitions and it’s going to be all over. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think that whatever their hobby or passion is has nothing to do with their job?

    Mayur: It doesn’t have to be together, right? As long as you’re enjoying being who you are and you feel like you’re not having to hide who you are, I think keep doing that. And if, this is speaking as someone who has made drastic changes in my life to do what I want to do, be prepared that it is not easy. You’re never going to get exactly what you want, so just do the best you can. Honestly, what exactly you want isn’t what you want. So every month, every day, every year changes and what you want is different. So just relax and just have fun. That’s my simplest way.

    John: That’s it, exactly. It’s just relax because a lot of times people are just trying to be what they think they’re supposed to be, and you’re supposed to be you. It’s that simple. You’re the person with the title at that company or firm, so be that. A lot of times, especially at the bigger firms, I found myself modeling behavior of people ahead of me. But then when you actually get to know them, you find out that they’re modeling behavior of someone before them. I don’t know. We go back 100 years and there’s some nerd that everyone’s modeling behavior after.

    Mayur: Mr. Waterhouse.

    John: Yeah, exactly. Why aren’t we just being us? So that’s great, man, and you’ve nailed it. So I love that. It’s only fair I rapid-fire questioned you right out of the gate for me to offer the opportunity to fire some questions at me if you’d like.

    Mayur: Oh, yes. So you, John, if you went missing, where’s the last place your friends and family would think to look for you?

    John: If I were missing, where’s the last place I would be? At USC football stadium on the USC campus at the Coliseum. That is the last place I would be.

    Mayur: Good to know where you will be hiding.

    John: No, I will never be there.

    Mayur: Would you rather be able to speak any language or be able to speak to animals?

    John: You know what? I’d rather be able to speak to animals because I feel like I would be one of the only people that could do that, me and like Eddie Murphy and Dr. Doolittle.

    Mayur: Yeah, that’s true. If you had to be handcuffed to anyone for a month, who would that be?

    John: You, buddy. That’s for sure, man. You. That would be so great. We would drive everyone insane. It would be fantastic.

    Mayur: We also have to coordinate which mouse clicker we’re going to have to coordinate on.

    John: Exactly and we’d have to have matching socks, of course, because, otherwise, it would be weird.

    Mayur: Okay, so yeah.

    John: We’ll definitely coordinate that the next time or the first time we hang out. That’ll be great. So thanks so much, Mayur, for being with me on What’s Your “And”? This was really, really awesome.

    Mayur: Thanks for having me, John. This was awesome. Honestly, I like that you keep us open and loosen now considering it’s still middle of the day for me. I got plenty to do, but now I’m much energized to get on with the rest of my day.

    John: Very cool, man. Very cool. For everyone listening, I hope you’re energized as well. And if you’d like to see some pictures of Mayur outside of work or maybe connect with him on social media, check out his Twitter, for sure. Be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.

    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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