Episode 249 – Amie Kuntz

Amie is a Tax Manager & World Traveler

Amie is a tax professional with over 13 years of diverse experience, including roles in both public accounting and private industry. She currently is a Senior Tax Manager at Eide Bailly LLP serving clients in the Des Moines, Iowa market as well as writing internal and external technical tax communications for their National Tax Office. Her published work has appeared in The Tax Adviser, Thomson Reuters, and local publications. She also maintains a personal blog at www.livingthetaxlife.com where she writes about tax, business, and life in general.

Amie talks about her first travel experience, getting lost in foreign countries, and how her experiences from travelling help her handle day-to-day conflicts in the office!

Episode Highlights

Her first trip
Getting lost in Argentina and Spain
How she built resilience from travelling
Why having a curious mindset can help with building relationships

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Amie’s Pictures

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Oceans meet climb in Big Sur

Wild girls belong in the wild

California’s Wild Coast

Unexpected treasure at the end of a trail in the Rockies

Amie taking in the ridiculous beauty of Zion
 

 

Amie’s links

Transcript

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    Welcome to Episode 249 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 a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and,” those things above and beyond your technical skills, those things that actually differentiate you when you’re in their office.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in just a few months. It’ll 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 then change the cultures where they work because of it. And the book will really help reinforce that message. Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. This week is no different with my guest, Amie Kuntz. She’s a Senior Tax Manager with Eide Bailly in Des Moines, Iowa. Now, she’s with me here today. Amie, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Amie: No problem. Thanks for having me.

    John: Oh, this is going to be so much fun. But before we get into the travel talk, I got my 17 rapid-fire questions. I hope you got your seatbelt on and you’re ready.

    Amie: I’m ready. Let’s do it.

    John: How about a favorite color?

    Amie: Blue or green.

    John: Okay. How about a least favorite color?

    Amie: Ooh. I don’t think I have one. Yeah. I mean colors are beautiful. They all belong.

    John: There you go. There you go. Just in case they’re listening, you don’t want to offend them. I get it.

    Amie: I don’t want to offend them.

    John: Okay. You travel a lot. So airplane seat, window or aisle?

    Amie: It depends. I go back and forth. I really love the window if I’m sleepy or want to look out if we’re going somewhere cool. But if I have to get up and go to the bathroom, I want the aisle. So I do it back and forth.

    John: Yeah. You should just do first class, like one seat.

    Amie: Yeah. That’s what I try to do sometimes. Yes.

    John: Right. No, no. Totally. I hear you. I hear you. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Amie: Ooh, I’m going to go with Robert Downey, Jr. I love his personality. He’s such a smartass. He just makes me laugh all the time.

    John: Totally. No. Absolutely. Absolutely. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Amie: I’m going to pick afternoon. Is that okay?

    John: Yeah. Totally. I love that answer. That’s very good.

    Amie: The hours, 10:00 to 2:00.

    John: I love it. How about more pens or pencils?

    Amie: I have a good pen. But back in the day when I first started doing tax, I loved those colored pencils. Did you ever use them?

    John: Right. Yeah. Well, I never — I wasn’t in tax so I was always jealous of you. I thought you guys were just up there coloring. I didn’t know what was happening.

    Amie: Sometimes.

    John: How about this? Puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?

    Amie: Definitely crossword.

    John: There you go. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Amie: Ooh, I like both.

    John: Interesting. Okay.

    Amie: But I’d give it to Star Wars.

    John: Okay. All right. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Amie: PC.

    John: PC? Yeah, me too. And on your mouse — this is a good one. Mouse, right click or left click?

    Amie: I love the right click. There’s so many shortcuts.

    John: Right. It’s where the fun is.

    Amie: It is where the fun is. Yeah.

    John: There you go. How about favorite toppings on a pizza?

    Amie: Ooh, mushroom, green olive.

    John: Wow. Okay.

    Amie: Is that weird?

    John: No, it’s an interesting combo. And it sounds healthy.

    Amie: I like it.

    John: There you go. All right. Would you say more heels or flats?

    Amie: Ooh, three to four inch heels all day.

    John: Okay. All right. Do you have a favorite tax return?

    Amie: A favorite tax return? I love S-corps. I’ll give it to S-corps maybe.

    John: There you go. Okay. All right. Yeah. Do you prefer more hot or cold?

    Amie: Hot.

    John: Hot. There you go. Three more. Tea or sweet tea?

    Amie: Sweet tea.

    John: Okay. Like the kind that goes through your teeth. I was in Charleston, South Carolina. And man, it’s so sweet. It was like, “What is going on here?”

    Amie: Okay. Maybe not that sweet. I really like an Arnold Palmer. I order that a lot for lunch.

    John: There you go. All right. How about a favorite number?

    Amie: Three.

    John: three? Is there a reason?

    Amie: I don’t know. It seems like a solid number. I’ve always liked odd numbers. They seem edgy to me. I personified numbers in my head. For some reason, it’s edgy. The odds numbers and even as like, I don’t know, the nice guys. I don’t know.

    John: I like that a lot. Three’s a hard ass. You don’t mess with three.

    Amie: That’s right.

    John: You don’t.

    Amie: You don’t mess with —

    John: Yeah. Totally. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Amie: Oh, my gosh, for material possessions?

    John: Sure. Yeah.

    Amie: Okay. Material possessions, I will say I love my car. I have some pretty sweet golf clubs and a sweet bike. And I also really enjoy my hiking backpack.

    John: Okay. All right. So if you can just, in your car, you have your golf clubs and a hiking backpack and your bike. Then that would be a three.

    Amie: Actually, sometimes, I do. In the summer sometimes, I usually keep my clubs in there because I just like to hit up driving ranges. I just like to go hit the ball. But I’ll have my bike in there sometimes too. And it’s just like on a warm sunny day with those things in my car, I feel really happy.

    John: Yeah. The driving range is so perfect for taking out all of everything. Just drool away. Very cool. Yeah. So travel, is this something that you grew up doing a lot or did you get into it later on?

    Amie: I actually traveled a lot more when I was younger, but younger being like — so my first major trip was of 16. And it was over spring break. In my Spanish class, ten of us went to Spain. It was just eye-opening for me. It was just amazing. It was so beautiful. We traveled around to all the cool spots in Spain. And I just was thinking like, “Wow. There’s so much more to this life.” I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. I traveled playing sports and stuff, but nowhere like that. And I just figured, “Wow. I need to be doing this a lot more. This is really cool.”

    John: That’s awesome.

    Amie: Just to see a different culture — I mean it was beautiful, period. The Mediterranean was beautiful. The castles are beautiful. But just being exposed to a different culture is really interesting.

    John: It totally is because you either appreciate more what you have at home or you understand better what’s happening over there type of a thing. And you’re like, “Wow. I wish we could have some of that here or some of this food or things like that.” It really does open your eyes to a lot of that.

    Amie: Yeah. And just appreciating differences. You’re so sheltered sometimes if you don’t get out, so you don’t know what you don’t know. That was definitely an eye-opening trip. Then I went to Argentina as an exchange student a year later. I was the first person in my school. I was pretty good at Spanish actually. I’ve always liked foreign language. And over the loudspeaker one day in — I think I was — I’m a Civitan Junior. Over the loudspeaker, they just said, “If anyone wants to sign up to be an exchange student, come to the guidance counselor office.” No one had ever done it in my high school. And I didn’t go to a small high school, but I think they didn’t have that program before. I literally shut my locker door and went and signed up.

    I remember I even didn’t get a second thought. It felt like so right. “This is what I need to be doing. I love different culture. I love foreign language. I’m good at it. Let’s go do this.” And I went and signed up. I probably should’ve asked my parents first. They had to consent ultimately. It was just doing the initial signing up without their knowledge. But I went home. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when I walked into the kitchen after school and said, “I signed up to be an exchange student in Argentina today.” My mom was just like, “What? Are you…” She wasn’t surprised because I’m independent. I always have been. She just was floored. We had to have some long talks.

    John: That’s great. What made you want to choose Argentina other than obviously the Spanish speaking part of it?

    Amie: I think Spanish speaking was a lot of it. And I don’t remember. I think since we were new at it, there weren’t a lot of options. I had never thought a minute about Argentina before that conversation. I told my Spanish teacher. I was all excited when we finally decided that I was going to go. She told me that was one of the hardest dialects to pick up. I’m like, “Oh, fantastic.”

    John: Right.

    Amie: The hardest place to go to understand anything.

    John: Exactly. This is good. That’s so cool. So you were there for a year?

    Amie: Yeah. It was a whole school year. I think it was ten months. I mean that’s a long time when you’re a teenager.

    John: That’s totally a long time.

    Amie: And it wasn’t senior high school too. I had played sports since I was little. It was a huge commitment that I just made on a whim. But man, it was the absolute right decision. I would never take it back. It was so scary, but absolutely worth it looking back on it.

    John: No, that’s awesome. That’s so cool. I mean there’s so much that you can learn from that as well. I mean it is one thing to travel and visit a place, but when you’re dropped in for ten months, yeah, you can’t fake it for anything.

    Amie: And I’m telling you, even though I was great at Spanish in class, when I got there, I knew nothing. I couldn’t understand anything they’re saying. Probably, because I was so nervous. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. I had a hard time speaking. If you really want to get into it — I got lost the very first day. My mom reminded me of this just recently. On the plane right down there, because I couldn’t understand anything — they had a layover. But they do it differently down there where everyone stays on the plane and they just let people off who need to get off, like a bus. We don’t do that here, right? So people were getting off and I was like, “Crap, I need to get off.” So I got all myself off the plane at the wrong stop. It was like the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Yeah. So I was sitting there crying in the airport. Sorry to get off on a tangent but yeah.

    John: No, no. Totally.

    Amie: I’m sitting there in the airport at nine o’clock at night in the middle of Argentina, four hours away from my final destination. And I’m sitting there crying. I don’t know what I’m going to do. This was way before cell phones or anything. This girl came up to me and she saw me crying. She knew a little bit of English and talked to me and figured out what was going on and totally saved me. She took me home for the night. She scheduled my flight for the next day, called my host family, told them what was going on, took me home with her family for the night. She took me out to the club too.

    So my first time, Argentina was really interesting. Man, I’ve thought about her before. I wish I had the foresight to get her name at least. I was so terrified and confused that I didn’t even get her name.

    John: But what a resilient moment for you to show that even nowadays, if all hell breaks loose, you’re like, “You know what? I’ve been through some crazier stuff.”

    Amie: Yeah. Oh yeah, for real. I got lost another time too, if you care to hear.

    John: Oh, absolutely.

    Amie: In college, during my master’s program, I did a summer in London.

    John: Okay. Well, they speak the same language, so this is going to be 100% on you.

    Amie: One weekend we had free, my friend Danly and I, I told her, “Hey, I’ve been to Spain. Let’s go to Spain.” So just she and I booked a flight to Spain. We accidentally booked it to the wrong destination city that was two hours away again. Not completely my fault; we just messed up the city. Again, we were in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. Luckily, I had some confidence. Well, I got us on a bus. We had to take a bus two hours to get to the coast. But it is so funny just how many things have happened. And you’re right. It just builds resiliency.

    John: Yeah, which at no point in any of your schooling did people probably say, “Go to a foreign country where they don’t speak English and get lost because it’ll make you a better tax accountant.”

    Amie: No. I never heard that before.

    John: But it clearly does. And just in life in general. That’s awesome. Are those some of the more favorite places that you visited?

    Amie: Yeah. I mean I live in New York. I Love New York.

    John: Sure.

    Amie: I was not visiting. I just moved there for a while. I don’t know. I stopped traveling for a while. When I first started work, I think I was so busy and I stopped traveling. Someone brought it to my attention a few years in like, “You don’t travel anymore. What happened?” I just got to thinking, “You’re right. I don’t feel as much as myself anymore. I need to start going again.” So a few years ago, I went to Zion and Utah with my sister. Have you been to Zion?

    John: I have. Yeah. It’s beautiful.

    Amie: Oh, my gosh. It was spiritual. I’m not even spiritual. Oh, my goodness. It just spoke to me, reignited this passion for traveling. My sister and I have been going on hiking trips since, anywhere pretty. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park last summer. Then last summer — or no, this fall. We went to Big Sur, which was amazing. Oh, my God. And every place has just being so different and beautiful. I absolutely am in love with traveling again.

    John: Yeah. That’s great to hear. And yeah, Big Sur, you go around the bend. Then all of a sudden, you’re like, “Can we go to a stop and take a picture?” Then you go around the next bend and you’re like, “This one’s even better.” Then you just picture after picture after picture.

    Amie: Yeah. Was that Highway One? Is that it where —

    John: PCH? The Pacific Coast Highway?

    Amie: Yeah. Because I flew in to LA and that’s where she lives. We drove up and then drove back. And on the way up and back, it was just insanely beautiful. And you’re right. We pulled over to make a phone call. It was my husband. I just said, “I’m sorry. I need to just look around for a second. This is incredible.” This is just pull off on the road. And I mean it was just incredible.

    John: Yeah. Well, that’s great to hear. So do you feel like you’re a little bit different when you are traveling somewhat frequently as opposed to when you weren’t?

    Amie: Yes, I do. I feel way more like myself. It’s like — I don’t know. Something comes alive in me when I travel. The world has so much to offer. I can’t imagine not exploring it. That transcends to that mentality. It just transcends because it’s not just physical traveling. It’s like exploring what the world has to offer in terms of thoughts and your job, just life in general, just being open. It’s just a total mindset shift, I think.

    John: I agree. And it’s really interesting how these things that we think are just side things that are hobbies or whatever. We’re not making money at or if anything, we’re spending money to do them. We don’t always understand how important they are until we’re not doing them. Then it’s like, “Wow, it matters.” It really matters to what you are when you’re in the office as well type of a thing.

    Amie: I totally agree. I mean because that trip to Zion, like I said, it was a reset on so many levels because you get so worked up at work. And work is important. It definitely is. And I love my job. I love being a professional in tax. It’s so easy to get caught up in things and be stressed out. And when you go do something that you love or you go to a beautiful place, that just resets you and makes you realize that you may not need to be as caught up in those things as you are. It just shows you the world in such a bigger picture. Those small things that you might be so frustrated with at work, they just melt away.

    John: No, I agree totally. And yeah, absolutely be good at your job and like your job and like the people that you work with. There are other things that you can also like as well. And they don’t make you less dedicated to your career or less good at your job. If anything, it’s the opposite. It makes you better.

    Amie: I think so too. I think with traveling, being curious, you’re obviously a curious person if you’re a traveler, right? But being curious has a lot of value just in life and in work. When you travel, you’re probably curious because you want to know what a new place or culture is like. And it expands your world. But when you’re curious in life, it opens your mind to new thoughts and relationships, either with people that you’ve known for a long time. Being curious is a key component to being a great listener and a great communicator. Just like your job is to ask questions. You’re a great communicator. You’re great at what you do. That makes you a great professional. Especially when you have clients or just interacting with your colleagues, having a curious, open, exploring mindset is really important to great relationships, I think.

    John: Yeah. No, I couldn’t agree more. And that’s such a parallel there of being curious and actually caring about what’s around you and the people that are around you, whether you’re at work or you’re in Argentina or in Spain or wherever you are in the world. It’s just having a genuine interest for what’s around you.

    Amie: Yeah, definitely. Then when we were talking about how I got lost, I did not intend to talk about two stories where I got lost, but we did.

    John: It’s all good.

    Amie: It does build resiliency. It does teach you to just relax in crisis and go with the flow. Even if you don’t understand what’s happening or the path you’re on, just keep going because you never know what you might miss out on it. Yeah. If I would have turned around and gone home because I got lost, I felt scared or confused, I would’ve completely missed the experience at the end. It was so worth getting lost and being scared and going through those moments of the unknown, to get to a really cool story, A, and then in a cool experience that I got to have.

    John: Yeah. Because I mean so many times, we do want to just turn around or in the office, when something gets hard, it’s like, “Forget it, whatever.” And it’s like, “No, no. We can get through this.” Then when you do, good things are on the other side type of a thing.

    Amie: You look back and you’re so proud of yourself when you accomplish something that you were scared of or you really didn’t think you could do. That happens all the time at work. There’s big projects. There’s questions, big questions that come up that you know you don’t know the answer to and you’re going to have to dig in or you’re scared to take on a big client, but it could be career changing.

    John: Totally.

    Amie: You have to be open to those opportunities. Just be open to the idea of change and what could happen if you do say yes to those opportunities.

    John: I love that so much. Is travel something that you talk about at work, some?

    Amie: If I just go somewhere, probably, I’m annoying and talk about it. Yes. I show pictures and stuff. But I think anything that you do, it connects you with other people on a human level because it’s so easy just to get lost in your own office and not get outside and talk to people on a human level. So when you talk about, “Hey, I like to travel,” and this person’s like, “Hey, I just went here,” I’m like, “Sweet. That’s awesome. Tell me about it.” Then we just made a relationship where we may have just passed in the hall and never got to know each other.

    John: And why do you think that that’s so important to business?

    Amie: Because relationships are important. I mean that’s where business is. It’s in the communication. It’s in the relationship. People do business with people they trust and people they have things in common with. I think people naturally gravitate towards people that they relate to, right?

    John: No, totally. But it’s so weird to me that our default mode isn’t to want to share because people, “There isn’t a charge code for this,” or, “We don’t get paid to do that or whatever, socialize or whatever.” And it’s like, “But you do,” because like you just said —

    Amie: There’s so much value.

    John: Yeah. It’s in the relationships.

    Mamie: There’s so much value. Yeah. When I was younger, I would call clients or even talking with people. I didn’t share. I didn’t open up. I was shy. And I would just hit the technical stuff and be out. But now, I think when I talk to people, it’s a de-stresser. When you talk about something, when you’re at work and you talk about something that’s not work, it just lets you breathe for a second because we can get real stressful. And nobody wants to feel that. So if you can start the conversation off with something that makes you happy, you’re going to get to your little happy place in your mind and be better at your job. Because I know for me for a fact, when I’m stressed out and when I’m nervous, I don’t think as intelligently as I do when I’m relaxed. So being relaxed is super important, I think.

    John: That’s really cool. For some people, the happy place might be talking technical work stuff. But for a majority of people, it is not. And it’s okay, both sides. Okay. But whatever your happy place is and whatever lights you up, whatever — Mark Winburn, who was a guest on a couple of years ago, he referred to singing as his breathing in happy. And if you’re not breathing in happy, then you’re not going to be a good person to be around. You’re not going to be as good at your job like you said. You not only exercise that passion, but you’re able to share it and talk about it at work. And especially in a leadership role like you have, to find out what the people below you love to do too. And if it’s travel, magic. But if it’s not, that’s still cool to find out.

    Amie: And especially being new. I just started with Eide Bailly not long ago. And as a new person, it’s easy to just get overlooked. You have to go do the talking sometimes. So talking about your hobbies is a great way to interact with people. There’s one guy who’s across from me. He’s kind of kitty-corner in an office to me. We both love music. And we both will play. We have dueling offices sometimes. But sometimes, I’ll turn mine off and I’m like, “Hey, that’s a good one.” And that really connected us. I would never have really started a conversation with him or had as good of a relationship maybe if we hadn’t have talked about music.

    John: Right. Yeah. I mean you could talk accounting or tax all day long. But that relationship, as you said, isn’t as good as if you start talking about things that aren’t accounting or tax.

    Amie: Right. And I do love talking about tax. I’m a weirdo. I do like it. But you’re totally right. I mean there’s a lot of value in talking about things outside of your profession.

    John: Yeah. And still, you’re still clearly good at your job. It doesn’t make you less good or less dedicated or you don’t care less. I mean it’s just the same. This has been so great, Amie. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think that their hobby or passion has nothing to do with their job?

    Amie: Oh, man. No. Just think about it in terms of getting to your best self and relaxing. Like I said, when you relax and are your best self, you can think more clearly and more intelligently. So be whatever you need to do to get yourself to a good place so that you can be as effective at work as you can be.

    John: No, that’s so powerful. Be your best self. And there’s just so many more parts to you than just the technical skills to be your best self.

    Amie: Absolutely.

    John: Really powerful. It’s only fair before we wrap this up that I turn the tables. And since I so rudely questioned you out of the gate to allow you to question me. So I’m ready whenever you are.

    Amie: Okay. I just have to — and we’ve been talking. I’m sure this one will be fresh in your mind. What’s your favorite place that you’ve ever traveled to?

    John: Okay. My favorite place that I’ve ever been to — I’m going to cheat and do two. Costa Rica is amazing. The people and everything about it there. Then Cape Town, South Africa is also amazing.

    Amie: Oh, wow. Okay. Awesome.

    John: Yeah. Those two would be my two favorites.

    Amie: They were just beautiful. What was your favorite part about it?

    John: Yeah. In Costa Rica, just the people are so friendly and the Pure Vida. Life is good. It’s all good. Just let it roll. Everything’s fine type of mentality. Plus, I mean it’s the jungle. It’s very peaceful and quiet there. But then you can go to the coast and you’re on a beach. It’s just the ocean. I mean you can’t go wrong with that.

    Then Cape Town is just this really cool mix of infrastructure and modernness, but you still have that raw Africa vibe to it, if you will. And just 45 minutes away is their wine country, which is on par with Napa and Sonoma here. And being a little bit of a wine guy, that’s not too bad. Yeah. And the people there are also very friendly and open and just happy. They’re just happy people. And that’s cool to be around.

    Amie: That’s awesome, very cool. Okay. Last question, what’s your favorite band or music type?

    John: Oh, wow. Goodness. Yeah. I mean I do like a lot. Alternative is my go-to, like Angels and Airwaves or Blink-182 or that kind of genre, good stuff to listen to, high energy a little bit. I mean The Killers are amazing. They’re also amazing live. Yeah. They’re really the best concert I’ve ever seen live. Just the kind of alternative in general, I guess, would be my go-to.

    Amie: Nice.

    John: Cool. Well, thank you so much, Amie, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This has been really, really fun.

    Amie: Yeah. I loved it. Thank you for having me.

    John: Yeah. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Amie from her travels or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, 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 who you are is so much more than what you do.

 

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