Episode 272 – Paul Meissner

Paul is an Accountant & Curler & Golfer

Paul Meissner returns to the podcast from episode 88 to talk about his continued passion in curling, finding a new hobby in golf, giving up umpiring, and why he feels accounting is not a commodity!

Episode Highlights

Making the grand finals in his curling league
How managing a team and a business are similar
Getting into golf
Why he gave up umpiring
How 5 Ways Group is creating a culture of being open in the workplace
Why accounting is not a commodity

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    Welcome to Episode 272 of What’s Your “And”?Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also to hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s being published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or sign up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out. 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. And if you or someone you know has a hobby or a passion outside of work, I’d love to showcase you on the show as well.

    This Follow-up Friday is going to be so much fun with my guest, Paul Meissner. He’s the Director at 5ways Group Chartered Accountants in Melbourne, Australia, the co-host of From the Trenches Podcast and the founder of Freedom Mentoring. And now, he’s with me here today. Paul, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Paul: Thanks very much, John. Absolute pleasure to be here. I’m looking forward to a great chat again.

    John: Absolutely, man. Episode 88 was so much fun and still the only curler that I’ve had on the show, which is amazing because I was hoping we’d have another four so you could have a team by now.

    Paul: I keep trying to get a team down here. I keep trying to get an accountant’s team so maybe this will help.

    John: Right. We’ll see. But I mixed up the format so I do the rapid-fire questions up front now. So here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?

    Paul: Harry Potter only because my son is Harry but I don’t really care for either.

    John: Okay. No, honest answer, honest answer. How about a favorite adult beverage?

    Paul: Beer. Beer, beer, beer, and beer.

    John: Right. Okay. All right. If you had to choose, planes, trains or automobiles?

    Paul: Trains. Again, my son just loves them. Seeing his enjoyment is my enjoyment.

    John: Yeah. Totally. This is a tough one, brownie or ice cream?

    Paul: Ice cream. So a proper gelato.

    John: Okay. Do you prefer more hot or cold?

    Paul: Okay. It got to be cold, doesn’t it?

    John: Right. I was thinking so but you never know. That’s on the inside. Two more, two more. Do you have a favorite band or musician?

    Paul: Dave Matthews Band.

    John: Oh, okay. Nice. And last one, toilet paper roll, over or under?

    Paul: Ooh, whichever way. I just chuck it on.

    John: It doesn’t matter. There you go. All right. I like it. Yeah. When we talked on Episode 88 almost three years ago, we talked, yeah, curling, umpiring baseball, all kinds of fun stuff. But the curling especially, are you still doing that?

    Paul: Absolutely. Yeah. I was still in a league. We have two leagues a year. It’s a very short season unfortunately compared to Canada and America, but we still get it, still love it.

    John: That’s great. So it’s not only just for fun. I mean you’re in a league, like straight up.

    Paul: Absolutely. Yeah. I made the grand final. I do have a story about that when we get to it, but, yeah, I made the grand final. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the chocolates.

    John: Oh, okay. Right. Was the surprise actual chocolates?

    Paul: I don’t know.

    John: Right. I’m like, “Man, I’ll join your league if there’s chocolate at the end.” And we’ll win. Was that last year or recently?

    Paul: Yeah. It was interesting. It was this season. We’ve been at it the longest, I think, about league teams, as a couple of good teams. Our team particularly takes it probably a little bit too seriously.

    We’re all quite competitive people. It’s really interesting. I guess I’m still constantly amazed. I mean even three years ago nearly that we chatted about the way that managing a team and managing relationships and communication on a sporting team is equal to business and just has that similar aspect. It’s always astounding.

    John: It really is amazing. When I’ll tell people that there’s expertise to be had from your hobbies and passions outside of work, a lot of them are looking skeptical. And I’ll use you as one of the example. I’ll be like, “For instance, curling, you have a stone going down the ice in about ten to 15 seconds. And you need to be very clear where you want that to end up.”

    Paul: And it’s really interesting. I mean a recent passion since we last spoke has been golf. Again, I do see a lot of similarities in the way I approach making a shot in golf to making a shot in curling. It’s been something that’s interesting. My coach is like, “That is such an obscure reference. But whatever helps you play your golf, go for it.”

    John: Right. That’s very funny. Yeah. There’s a lot less yelling for in curling, but either way, it’s all good. That’s incredible though. But the grand finals, I mean that’s pretty awesome. I mean if you’re going to do it, you might as well take it a little bit seriously.

    Paul: It is good to win certainly.

    John: Yeah, right. And then the umpiring, is that something that you’re still doing as well?

    Paul: No. That’s something I gave up a few years back now. I think it’s a sad reflection on, I think, society at the moment. An umpiring in every rank, I think we see it globally. There’s constant stories about umpires and like kids themselves who are umpiring, getting yelled at by parents and getting yelled at by players. And what annoys me is in the big leagues, when there’s massive money on it, then you understand the passion. But all these heroes who are down in the beer leagues trying to do the same thing, it just got to me. And it’s no longer fun. If something like that isn’t fun, it was a wonderful challenge. But I think when batters themselves can only hit one out of every ten bowls, as an umpire, you’re supposed to get 250 odd calls, right, a day. I think society’s got a real problem with that respect for umpires.

    John: No, absolutely. I mean, gosh, I mean we’re going back a long time ago. I umpired in high school and even tee-ball games. I mean these kids don’t even know where to run when they hit the ball off the tee. And parents were the worst. I mean just yelling and screaming. We’re not even keeping score. Like what matters; it’s just terrible. And you’re trying your best. It’s a town league for toddlers. So half of them might be wearing diapers. I don’t know. But it’s just like golly. But it is funny. Like you said, the heroes in the beer leagues that are trying to relive those glory days.

    Paul: It’s crazy. And I’m coming up on it now in the next generation. My six-year-old just started basketball. It’s really interesting. I’m really trying to be aware and be really aware of the environment that these kids are being introduced to sporting and being respectful and respecting a win and respecting a loss. It was quite interesting that bringing it back to curling, my six year old lost his first basketball game. We’re talking about these kids who never played a game before. They lost their first game and there were tears. It was really interesting. Actually, how do you explain to a six-year-old that you’re not going to win all the time? I actually used the concept that we lost our curling grand final and that, “Daddy doesn’t win every game. Daddy gets upset, but you train and you play better next week.” It’s quite interesting the way you listen to yourself explain it to a six-year-old and how that helps put it a little bit in perspective.

    John: It’s amazing how much kids are looking up to us when we don’t even realize it and what they’re being influenced by and things like that. So I don’t blame you for giving that up. Man, I gave it up way before you did. But it’s cool that the curling is going and not only going but you’re in championship games. So that’s really great.

    Paul: Yeah, enjoying it.

    John: Yeah, for sure. Are you finding that others are sharing hobbies and passions that they have or maybe you’re more aware of it now?

    Paul: To a point. I think that it’s not necessarily much has changed. I’ve always been quite open with the passion. Certainly taking on golf, I think it’s a more relatable passion to many people. It doesn’t have quite the kitsch factor that curling does, but certainly, golf has been a good way to share different professional networks.

    John: Yeah, definitely. I mean golf is definitely more common. But I mean what’s the difference? Actually, curling is more interesting because not everyone else is doing it type of a thing. Do you think that having a hobby that everyone else does matters or being a little bit unique might actually be a benefit?

    Paul: I think you can apply it with more people.

    John: Oh, there you go. That’s true. It’s hard to do curling by yourself.

    Paul: Exactly. Yeah. And you’ve got more opportunity. If I have a couple of free hours, I can’t just duck down and go curling. I have to wait for the league game. It’s funny. I had two kids out. My wife was with my daughter. My son was over for dinner. And I thought, I just got this. I’ve got an hour and a half. I snuck down to the golf course. My son comes home from dinner early and ends up having to get delivered to the golf course. So it’s easier to get there, but you can’t get away as much.

    John: That’s an excellent point. I guess have you seen examples of companies that are maybe the tone at the top is a cool thing that they have going where the culture is people are multidimensional and, “Let’s celebrate these sides of people.”

    Paul: Absolutely. And I’ve got a really recent example. I’ve been lucky enough over the years to work quite closely with the zero team, especially here in Australia. And look, I’m sure many other companies do it. I guess this is the one that I’ve just seen it. Without giving away too much of the detail of how they do it, they really do go to great effort to explore, highlight and certainly promote the individual staff hobbies, including it in team meetings and letting people really bring themselves to work. I think it’s something that I’ve seen firsthand and really impressed me. And that was from the top all the way through the organization. And there are some obscure hobbies, too, that everyone has a laugh.

    In an organization that’s growing in that size, you’re always going to find someone who also is this rock guitarist in rock bands, who looking at them you wouldn’t otherwise think. Then of course, other people in the organization, “Oh, well, I’m a drummer,” or, “I’m this…” or, “Let’s practice after work.” Yeah, it’s just been a really interesting example. But to me, they seem to do it really well.

    John: No, that’s great. I mean, yeah, it’s what you’re seeing. So that’s fantastic. It’s cool to hear that it’s out there anyway. That’s obviously a company that’s doing okay for themselves. It’s not like it’s a detriment to the business.

    Paul: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

    John: If anything, it’s an enhancer, I would say. Do you have any words of encouragement for anyone listening that might think that their hobby or passion has nothing to do with their job/

    Paul: That’s really interesting to me because small accounting firms, that’s my passion. There is much about who you are as what you do. I think that a small accounting firm who looks after micro business clients or individual tax returns, your difference or your niche, to call it one, is who you are. It’s your personality. It’s the ability to talk to you. So it’s not finding a difference. It’s just sharing more about yourself. I’ve always said people do business with people. I think that you don’t need to differentiate on the range of services. There’s only so many ways you can do a tax return, but it’s their relationship, the clients’ relationship with you. And I think hobbies and those sorts of things about you, family stories and relatable, becomes your — it can be really used powerfully as a bit of difference to a lot of success. Plus, you can learn interesting things and build relationships. It is all about relationships. And I think by sharing those stories, you can have a laugh and get to know people more.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely. Because I mean when you get down to it, accounting is pretty much a commodity. Doing it faster or better, I mean the last person that came in also said they would do it faster and better. So that’s not really a place to hang your hat. I mean we’re all good at our jobs.

    Paul: And I think certainly, parts of it are commoditized. I think there’s a far deeper question for a very short podcast, but I think there’s certain parts that are commoditized. But the bit we miss, the bit that the market often misses is the real value in all accounting services is that relationship with the client. It’s delivering the news. It’s having them on the end of the phone and being able to explain that isn’t a computer result, that isn’t — in their best times and their worst times.

    I think we often forget as an industry, I don’t, but people who talk about it seem to think that all we do is the data entry and forgetting that very thick relationship side of the role. Certainly, when you look at automation, one is being — can be commoditized at that bookkeeping end but certainly not at the relationship and the high level tax end. And that’s something that whenever I hear commoditization, it’s just like a Pavlovian response. I just have to defend the industry.

    John: Yeah. No, you’re exactly right. It’s just that the work itself can be done by any firm anywhere. How you do it and how you deliver it is your differentiator. But professionalism tells us to not do that part of it. That’s actually the differentiator. It’s like, “What?”

    Paul: I wrote an article for a professional body magazine in the UK. And I had a line that seems to have resonated. It was, “Large companies have an accounting firm,” or, “Large accounting clients have an accounting firm, but small accounting clients have an accountant.” When they reference it, it’s always a person. “Paul’s my accountant. John’s my accountant. Susie’s my accountant.” It’s not 5ways Group. It comes down to those personal relationships. And I think they are — because we’re all doing tax returns, right, exactly as you said.

    John: That’s such a great observation. I would think that it even matters on the larger scale because if a new CFO comes into a company or if a partner retires, I mean things change. All of a sudden, the relationship is different. And it all comes down to the relationship again, which is the human side to us and the personality and sharing those hobbies and passions. That’s awesome, man, very cool. Yeah. This has been so much fun, Paul. But before I wrap it up, it’s only fair that I allow you to rapid-fire question me if you’d like.

    Paul: Fair enough. All right. Let’s see whether you are ready. These are the questions for you, John. Comedian or accountant?

    John: That’s actually a harder question than you would think because one of them has a steady paycheck and health benefits. And the other one does not. But I’ll go comedian.

    Paul: Oh, fair enough. Interviewer or guest?

    John: I’m going to go interviewer only because I’ve been the guest on a couple of podcasts that are not very fun from the guest side.

    Paul: Fair enough. I have saved the hottest one for last, Vegemite or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

    John: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich all day long.

    Paul: Have you ever had Vegemite?

    John: I have and maybe I was doing it wrong. I don’t know if you can do it wrong.

    Paul: Fair enough.

    John: But I’ve been to Australia and I had it. But when I come down and I get to Melbourne, we can Vegemite it up and beers to follow. Thanks so much, Paul, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This was so fun.

    Paul: You’re welcome. Have a great day.

    John: Everyone listening, if you want to see some pictures of Paul in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. 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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