Episode 316 – Tom Wheeland

Tom is an Accountant & Griller

Tom Wheeland returns to the podcast from episode 138 to talk about his new passion in cooking and grilling! He also talks about how important it is for a leader to be open and vulnerable to make an impact within your organization!

Episode Highlights

• Got away from hiking after Grand Canyon trip
• Getting into cooking
• Why having something relatable to talk about is important
• The impact of being vulnerable
• The culture he tries to establish at BKD, LLP
• Let them know you were there


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    Welcome to Episode 316 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I follow 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 hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.

    I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. That’s right. You can get it on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, Indigo, Bookshop, a few other websites. We’ve got some really cool bonuses for launch week, like a buy-one-and-I’ll-personally-give-one-to-your-friend offer, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. The reviews, so far, on Amazon are blowing me away. It’s just so cool to see how much of an impact this book is having on so many of you from around the world, which is amazing to me.

    Please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Tom Wheeland. He’s the National Insurance Services Practice Leader at BKD, out of their St. Louis office, and now he’s with me here today. Tom, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Tom: Well, thanks so much, John. I appreciate it. This is really exciting for me to be on with a famous author, and looking forward to the movie version of your book and see who’s going to play John Garrett.

    John: Right? Maybe Ben Affleck, I don’t know. He’s The Accountant Guy, apparently. Maybe Brad Pitt. I feel like — no, just let’s be honest. Let’s be honest. Yeah, it’s not realistic at all. No, it’s so cool to actually have you on, on launch week, because we met when I first started in accounting back in the day, so it’s cool that you can actually vouch for me as a legit, I went into an accounting office and got paid by them anyway.

    Tom: Yeah, you actually were a double-entry accountant.

    John: Right.

    Tom: I can vouch for that.

    John: It’s a little more on the internal audit side. I was never good at that double-entry stuff. I was like, here, you guys, figure that out. That’s awesome. I do have my rapid-fire questions I start the episodes with here. Get to know Tom on a new level. So, here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Okay, how about a favorite animal, any animal at all?

    Tom: Koala.

    John: Koala. Nice. There you go. I haven’t gotten that one yet. That’s awesome. This one’s tricky, brownie or ice cream.

    Tom: Brownie.

    John: Brownie. Okay, okay. What’s a typical breakfast?

    Tom: Oh, usually a bowl of Special K Berries, with the strawberries. Yeah.

    John: Okay. I thought you were going to say brownie again. So, my book is out. You’ve already read it, but do you prefer Kindle or real books?

    Tom: I like turning the page. I like having a real book in my hand. There’s the risk of paper cuts, you’ve got to watch that, but I still prefer the hard copy.

    John: Very cool. Two more. How about a favorite adult beverage?

    Tom: A Manhattan.

    John: Oh, fancy.

    Tom: Yeah.

    John: Look at you. There you go. Last one, maybe the most important one ever. Toilet paper roll, is it over or under?

    Tom: Over, definitely over. I’ve gone back and looked at the original patent, which was over. I’ve got to stick with the — respecting intellectual property.

    John: There you go. That’s the best way I’ve heard it, right there. That’s fantastic. So, yeah, Episode 138, so long ago now. We talked, you had just hiked the Grand Canyon, which is impressive. Is hiking still a part of your repertoire, or has it moved on to other passions as well?

    Tom: We still do hike, not as often. We did a lot of training for the Grand Canyon, and once we achieved it, I kind of packed my backpack away for a little while. My wife still does a little more of it than I do. I think there are some people at the gym that think that I died on the trip because I showed up with my wife with my backpack, and we had 20-pound kitty litter bags in our backpacks to add additional weight.

    John: Wow.

    Tom: We’d do the treadmill for an hour. We’d leave. People started asking us about it. We said we were going to the Grand Canyon trip. Then about a month later, she showed back up the gym, and I never went back. I think people are thinking, maybe. I don’t know.

    John: Right? I think your wife may be wanted for murder. It’s like somebody called it in. Is he missing? I think I know what happened.

    Tom: She’s driving a nice car now. I don’t know what she did with those insurance proceeds.

    John: Right, exactly, and a huge litter box full of all that kitty litter. That’s 40 pounds.

    Tom: No cat.

    John: Yeah, no cat. That’s very cool. I know you’ve been busy with other things as well that were also other passions that you’ve had a long time ago too.

    Tom: Yeah. I played a lot of tennis in my life, and I still play competitively sometimes with my wife. That’s a little bit dangerous. It’s kind of like hanging wallpaper. You don’t necessarily want to play too much tennis with your spouse.

    John: Right.

    Tom: Still play a little recreational basketball but really, the passion I’ve gotten into more recently is cooking and grilling.

    John: Nice.

    Tom: Anything involving food. I really started with the pandemic and being somewhat on lockdown and having a daughter who is pescatarian and trying to create new dishes that would be nutritious for her and tasty for us, so, smoking fish and barbecuing fish. It’s kind of turned into something that’s a challenge to try to find something that she can eat that we will enjoy and that’s not repetitive, day after day after day. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m not sure if I’m really good at it yet but, yeah, nobody’s gone to the hospital yet.

    John: Well, then, you know what, that’s a win. That’s a huge win right there. So, pescatarian, is that anything from the sea?

    Tom: Yup, vegetarian, plus any kind of seafood.

    John: Okay, there you go.

    Tom: My father, my sainted father who passed away, God rest his soul, when he first found out my daughter was pescatarian, he said, “Well, what’s the matter with being Catholic, Diana?” I said, “Well, pescatarian, not Presbyterian. It’s okay. She’s still going to mass on Sundays?”

    John: That’s awesome, man. Did you grow up cooking at all, or was this just something that you took on as a challenge in March?

    Tom: I never really cooked much. I’ve grilled a fair amount but usually just burgers and brats and stuff like that. Now, I’ve got a Kamado Joe, and I can go out there and put some fish out there for 45 minutes or an hour and give it a smoky flavor and experiment with different kind of wood chips. I use the gas grill if I need something quicker. It’s also something that you can talk to people at the office about.

    I always think that whenever you can seem more approachable to the people around you, by talking about something that’s common, we all eat, a lot of us like to grill, and whenever you can drop any kind of facade or any barrier that’s separating you from a discussion with somebody who’s new to the organization, that they might look up at you as being something different than they are, when you can find something that — first of all, you open the Kamado and you say, “I’m vulnerable. I’m experimenting with cooking. I’m not really good at it. I’m getting better,” that makes you seem more real to them and encourages them to explore some of their own interests and share those interests, share the “And”, as you would say.

    John: No, that’s awesome. I love that. Especially as a National Insurance Services Practice Leader, that’s certainly something that new people that come in as a 22, 23-year-old is like, holy crap. It’s almost like you don’t even have a name. Because I remember when I first started, you were a partner, and it was like, well, just go ask Tom. He’s just a guy, just right there. It wasn’t this intimidating figure. You’ve been doing it as long as I’ve known, which is awesome. It’s cool to see that you notice that anyway and that it makes a difference, which is what it’s all about, really.

    Tom: I always would be intimidated by people that seemed to be so good at what they did at the office and then they would always share stories about all these great things they’re doing outside the office. They seem to be excelling at. It almost makes them seem like they’re totally unapproachable because they’re excelling in the office, they’re excelling out of the office. I think when you can share stories that make people realize you’re just like anybody else, like, hey, I’ve got a piece of fish, I don’t know what to do with it.

    John: Right.

    Tom: I’ve got a hungry family, and my wife is expecting me to cook right tonight. I have no idea what I’m doing. That just makes you just seem more human, and I think it really helps in terms of those relationships with some of the younger people in the office.

    John: Yeah, and that’s an interesting point you just brought up that I hadn’t really thought of, is it’s not just sharing that hobby or passion or interest. It’s sharing something that maybe you’re not even good at, and that’s a whole another level of — especially in this day of social media where we only show our awesome sides. It’s like the opposite of Facebook where it’s, hey, I don’t know what I’m doing, and look at this fish that I just totally burnt. Hopefully they make pescatarian pizza so we can fill in the gap tonight. That’s such a huge point that you brought up, which is awesome, of that being vulnerable, sort of a thing. Do you feel like that’s something that you’ve always been like that, or has it come later with confidence?

    Tom: I think it’s come later with confidence and feeling that you have an important role to encourage people to explore their interests to become more interesting people, whether you want to be well-read or just well-rounded in terms of hobbies and interests. It makes you more interesting to clients, when you’re out meeting with clients. People gravitate toward people that are interesting and have something to say and something to share. I also want people in our organization to, I’m not saying, encouraging them to make mistakes, but encouraging them to take risks, and obviously within a framework of risk management, but to try new things, whether it’s in the office, a new way of looking at something, and not to feel as if we have this veil of perfection around us that we can’t make a mistake and we can’t admit that we made a mistake. I think that’s really how people grow in that type of environment.

    John: Yeah, totally. Because there are layers of review so it’s not going from somebody that’s going to push the envelope a little bit on extending themselves, to straight out to the client or the media. It’s like, no, no, we have some layers in there to catch things, but everyone’s given their best swing. They’re going to try as hard as they can. They’re not being reckless. Let’s treat our people like adults, instead of like toddlers. That’s awesome, man. That’s really awesome to hear. I love that quote you emailed me after finishing the book, of what your dad would tell you, which is awesome. I’ll let you bring that in.

    Tom: Whenever he was at a basketball game or any activity that I was involved in, and even when I got into my professional career, his expression was always, let them know you were there. In other words, make an impact. Use your own style, stay within yourself, but don’t be afraid to be you. When you walk off the field or you walk off the stage or after a presentation, for people to say, “That’s Tom Wheeland. He made an impact.” Maybe he doesn’t get the work, or maybe he doesn’t win the game, but carried yourself with integrity and decency and sportsmanship. That’s really impacted me in everything I do. I try to establish at least a culture that other people can let us know that they were there and let the world know that they were there, not just hogging the spotlight for yourself but sharing that spotlight with other people.

    John: No, that’s huge. That’s so huge. It’s something that not a lot of people in leadership positions do. It’s, well, I worked hard to get here, and I want all of the credit from all of your work. What is it that makes you want to be the way that you are?

    Tom: I think it’s just I want to make my parents proud and my wife proud. My parents have passed, but I’m pretty sure they’re watching just about everything I do.

    John: Yeah.

    Tom: My mom would always joke that, “I’ll haunt you when I’m away.” In some way, she is.

    John: Right. We’re talking about her on the podcast, so nailed it.

    Tom: can do, yeah.

    John: Right, right.

    Tom: You’re brought up a certain way. When I realized all the touchstones I had in my life, and the positive impact people have had on me, and it’s really taken me, unfortunately, maybe 58 years to process it all; but I realized, I’m in a place in the world for a reason. I’ve got to take full advantage of that and try to set things up for other people to excel and to flourish, both in the office and outside the office.

    John: I love that so much, man. That’s awesome and so encouraging to hear. It’s not impossible. It can very much be done, and it should be done, is where we’re at. This has been so much fun, Tom. I feel like before I wrap it up, it’s only fair that I turn the tables. This is the first episode of The Tom Wheeland Show, so I’ll allow you to rapid-fire question me. Thanks for having me on as a guest. I booked myself, thank you. Anything you’ve got for me.

    Tom: Well, Episode One of the Tom Wheeland webcast, and my guest today is John Garrett, world-renowned author of What’s Your “And”? John, I just have a couple of rapid-fire questions for you. I’m not going to do the boxers or briefs because that’s just way too easy.

    John: All right.

    Tom: When I look at what you do and the value that you bring to organizations, sharing some of your stories and your experiences, as well as your incredible sense of humor and devilish good looks.

    John: Stop now. Just stop now.

    Tom: How did you pivot during this pandemic when so much of probably what you were doing was in-person live, and now you’ve had to change things up?

    John: It was brutal. Yeah, it was really brutal, to be honest, and having the book coming out, just trying to stay positive, also just trying to be the best version of myself. It seemed like a lot of people turned into the extreme, terrible version. People were greedy. They were hoarding things. People were bossy and dictators. Just, don’t do this, do this, do this. I know some people, where they work, they were getting emails, three, four times a day. Make sure you hit your chargeable hours. It’s like, are you drunk? Do you even know what’s going on in the world and the stuff we’re trying to get through?

    It’s doing a lot of things, virtually. It’s really hard. It’s different. It’s exhausting, but I think that it’s making that impact just in a different way because people need that now, and especially some of the funny. We need that little bit of break. Because when we’re working at home, we don’t really have a break. It’s always there. It’s always on. Some people don’t have a spare bedroom/office. It’s on the kitchen table while they’re eating, and then they can’t get away from it. Especially now, it’s come to light of how much this message matters now, where people really need those outside of work interests, just to get through the day. In Episode 300, talked with Tony Nitti about that and just mental wellness. Forget the client relationships, forget the coworker relationships, do it for yourself.

    Tom: Right.

    John: We’ve all been each other’s homes. Let’s not act like we haven’t. I’ve seen you at 8 am when your kids are screaming about their homework and your dog’s barking and you haven’t showered. We’re real people. Let’s carry that forward. It’s also encouraged me to go bigger with like a consulting piece to this. How do we implement this? It’s simple but not easy, so let’s implement this, kind of to go with the book. Yeah, that was a super long answer. I feel like I’m ruining your first episode right away.

    Tom: Yeah. This is my show, not your show.

    John: Right, exactly. You got to just interrupt me.

    Tom: When you lay down at night, and you close your eyes, and you think about what you’re most thankful for; what would that be?

    John: Yeah, wow. Well, that Tom Wheeland agreed to come back on the podcast, that’ll be tonight. But before today, honestly, the sacrifices that my parents have made for me to be able to be where I am. We both went to Notre Dame. I still don’t, to this day, understand how my parents financed that, and I’m a finance guy. So, the sacrifices that they made for me to be where I am and to have those opportunities and to do those kind of things, yeah, I’m super grateful for that, for sure.

    Tom: That’s awesome, and Notre Dame record this year will be…

    John: Oh, yeah. I could see it going 12 and 0. I could see 11 and 1. I think Clemson is really just the hard game. I mean, it’s college football, though, so who knows what will happen, especially with COVID and Ian Book goes down or whatever. I think that the rosters deep, and we’re really talented. I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes. I think they’re good, and they’re all headed in the right direction together, which is cool. We’ll see. I don’t know. What’s your take?

    Tom: I’m bullish on this team. I think it’s got a — when you have such an experienced quarterback and you’ve got some nice, young running backs and Kyren Williams and…

    John: St. Louis guy.

    Tom: Yeah, so I’m bullish. I think it’s going to be a good season. It’s going to be fun to see how this whole thing plays out with a different schedule and then weaving in a non-conference team, and what the overall impact on college football is of recruiting and scholarships and teams that don’t play this year. How does that roll over? You get an extra year of eligibility and then all of a sudden you have 100 kids on scholarship as opposed to 85, whatever. We’ve never done this before.

    John: We’d all be Alabama. It’d be weird.

    Tom: Yeah.

    John: That was just who’s listening. I’m just excited that college football’s happening. That’s one of my big passions. Notre Dame’s great, but any college football, that’s where it’s at.

    Tom: Yeah.

    John: That’s awesome, man. Well, thank you so much, Tom, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? It was so fun to catch up again.

    Tom: Great to see you, my friend. Godspeed. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help further this movie version of your book.

    John: Well, thanks, man. Thank you. Maybe we’ll get you to play the part. There we go.

    Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Tom in action or maybe connect with him 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. Don’t forget to buy the book. Launch week, buy one, I’ll give one, so, hook your friend up.

    Thanks 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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