Ford is a CEO & Road Cyclist
Ford Baker, CEO and Founder of BaCo Tech, talks about how his poor health led him towards discovering his passion for cycling and how it has improved his life personally and in the workplace! Ford also talks about how he tries to encourage his organization to take more time off and lead a healthier lifestyle as well as how this led him to create his own accounting system to improve productivity and free up time for employees!
• Getting into cycling
• Cycling from Canada to Mexico
• Sending bikes for recruiting
• Building his own accounting system
• Changing the industry narrative
• Increasing time off by creating a productive workflow
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Welcome to Episode 421 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and 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 in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book, also called What’s Your “And”? on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture.
Since I’m a Notre Dame alum, I’m super excited because Lou Holtz wrote the foreword, so if you want to just read the first page and a half, totally cool. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love hearing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Ford Baker. He’s a CPA and the CEO of BaCo Tech, and now he’s with me here today. Ford, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ford: Thank you. I won’t try to imitate Coach Holtz.
John: It’s all good, man. Yeah, I was super excited when I reached out, and he was like, of course, I’d love to. That was pretty cool.
Ford: It’s domination of Donald Duck and something else. I don’t know.
John: And awesome, Donald Duck and awe — which actually is my favorite Disney character, so we’ll skip that rapid-fire question. Here we go.
John: I’ll ask you. Here we go. How about a favorite day of the week?
Ford: I would say Saturday, college football.
John: Yeah, college football, there you go. Amen. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Ford: I play Sudoku every day.
John: Oh, really? Okay.
Ford: Every day.
John: All right, impressive.
Ford: I didn’t hit the button one day, so I’ve lost my streak in 421 days in a row.
John: Oh, my gosh, that’s impressive.
Ford: I’m like that expert level, yes, all the time.
John: Impressive, man. Yeah, it’s almost like they give you none of the numbers, and then you figure it out anyway.
Ford: That’s what I like, so, a little bit of a math geek.
John: That’s called a tax return to me. That’s how I do mine. It’s like, oh, whatever. All right, how about a favorite color?
Ford: My favorite color would be green.
John: Green. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
Ford: Burnt orange.
John: I saw that coming from a mile away. That’s awesome.
Ford: I’m probably going to get in trouble, at least for not saying maroon, but I like the energy of green.
John: It’s all good. It’s all good. How about more cats or dogs?
Johhn: Dogs. Yeah, yeah, me too. How about, do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Ford: Do I have a favorite actor? Right now, I would say Jason Bateman.
John: Jason Bateman, solid answer. Yeah. He’s in so many good things. This is a fun one someone asked me a while ago, and I like flipping it back. Socks or shoes.
Ford: Oh, socks.
John: Right? That’s what I said.
Ford: I need to send you a pair of accounting socks. I’ve got a debit on the left and a credit on the right.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. I’m a huge fan of fun socks. Absolutely. Even when I’m onstage wearing a suit, I’ve still got loopy socks.
Ford: Rocking a pair today. I like socks.
John: Absolutely. Absolutely. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ford: None of the above. I guess, Star Wars, if I had to pick, but Marvel.
John: Oh, Marvel. There you go. No, that works. Totally. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Ford: I would probably say the real book.
John: Real book, yeah. I’m the same on that one. Since you’re an accountant, here we go, favorite number.
John: Yeah? Is there a reason?
Ford: We played the number game in high school, and it was my high school football number. If you could get the other guys, and we still play it. Literally, the longest year of my friends’ lives was two years ago, when I was 55, and they were as well. I call them on their birthday. How are you now? My kids literally wore 50. They literally wore, Will played safety and wore 55 in junior high.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah, the only junior high kid who really wants 55. Everyone else going for the single digits. Maybe 12, it’s like, nope. Very cool. How about your first concert?
Ford: Oh, this is going to be embarrassing, but it was Captain and Tennille.
John: Oh, there you go. That’s fantastic.
Ford: It was rough. It was my little sister’s birthday party. She went three years younger than I did. Yeah, Captain and Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together.
John: At least it’s legendary. It could have been way worse. That’s pretty cool, man. Here we go, balance sheet or income statement.
Ford: Balance sheet.
John: Balance sheet, there you go. How about a favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall?
Ford: I like summer.
John: Summer. Okay, all right. Impressive. How about favorite ice cream flavor?
Ford: Not knowing all the Ben & Jerry names, off the top of my head, I’d say cookies and cream and just go — I think it’s one that the late night host has, either one of the ones that the late night host has or —
John: Yeah, the Jimmy Fallon one is much —
Ford: Jimmy Fallon, yeah, it’s pretty good.
John: Yeah, that’s a good one. How about, three more, your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Ford: Oh, PC.
John: Yeah, totally.
Ford: Mac’s a great toy.
John: Right. Exactly. Would you say more suit and tie or jeans and a T shirt?
Ford: Jeans and a T-shirt. I had to change out of my T-shirt because I’ve got a meeting today. Typically I’m…
John: Nice. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Ford: I like my man cave. My daughter actually built some shelves around the top of the room. It’s got my Johnny Manziel autograph in there. It’s got my Jimbo autograph. It’s all kind of marooned out. It’s just kind of a big closet is what she actually made it into, but she went and tricked it up, and I can just — it’s a spare bedroom now that the kids are out of the house. She fixed it up, and it’s my sanctuary if I should get up early.
John: It’s got all of the cool things right in there.
Ford: All my cool stuff, yep, all my memorabilia.
John: That sounds fantastic. The TV as well as you just watch the games and, yeah, that’s perfect. Now we just need to move the bed in and a toilet and then I just don’t leave.
Ford: Yep, that’s pretty much it.
John: Right? That’s awesome, man. I love it. Let’s talk cycling. How’d you get started? Was it something where you rode bikes as a kid and just kept going?
Ford: Because of, I blamed it on busy season, I got up to where I weighed close to 400 pounds.
John: Oh, my gosh.
Ford: I had a light bulb moment where I went to the — well, actually, Will and my wife were very concerned, this was back in 2012, and so they staged a conversation. This is a long answer to that question.
John: No, no, it’s all good.
Ford: Yeah, so after tax season in 2012, they staged a conversation about doing a cleanse. I came in, and they were talking about doing a cleanse. I listen to the sports radio station here, and the guy on Saturday morning has a cleanse. I was like, oh, hey, we’ll do that. I’ll do it with you. I’m kind of an all-in guy, and so I did a cleanse. I probably took about 10 days to get all the materials shipped to us in the mail and us actually make the order then we have to start on a Monday, all the normal things. I watched what I did for those 10 days. I was probably 370, 375, something like that.
Ford: We started to cleanse, and toward the end of the cleanse, my glasses weren’t working, or my bifocals. I had just gotten the glasses. I knew it was the bifocals’ fault because I could lift the glasses, and I could read. I was blaming it on something’s wrong with the prescription, not thinking, well, if you can read, then your vision’s actually gotten better. Right?
Ford: I haven’t worn glasses to read since 2012. I called my eye doctor, and I went in to see him. He was like, well, you’ve lost some weight. Maybe your blood sugar has dropped, and your near vision’s — because I was high blood pressure, had all of those things. I said, no way. I’ve been taking Metformin for years. We went in, took a look. Sure enough, my near vision was perfect. My bifocals then had a clear — my riding glasses to see the computer is just clear on the bottom. I said I didn’t understand it. He went in and showed me a beach ball-sized picture of my eyeball, and showed me how you could tell I had high blood pressure and I had high cholesterol and all these things based on the arteries and the veins in my eyes. He said, “See this brown spot in your eye? That’s from blood sugar. That’s not bad.” Then what was a clear HIPAA violation because I can tell you what street this guy lived on, he pulled up somebody else’s eye that he couldn’t see anymore. He had to go to the Texas Eye Institute to get a shot in his eye, once a month, to keep from going blind. By the time I got, shot in your eye, ringing through my head, I heard once a month. I thought, I’m just going to do this cleanse for the rest of my life.
Ford: That was a bad idea, but it really — all of those things that you’ve ever read before, these results are typical, these results were mine. I tried a million different weight loss ideas, and none of them worked. This one did. I started walking the dog. I told myself, when I could get four miles in an hour, that I was going to do something different. So, in the most unlikely of scenarios, the day I hit four miles in an hour, Jim Calhoun, the basketball coach at Connecticut, falls off his bike and, I think, might broke his hip. Somebody on the ticket here in Dallas said he needs to get a different hobby. He’s too old to be riding a bicycle. I said he was 72. When I’m 72, I want to break my hip — or whatever he broke, I can’t remember what broke falling off a bicycle — I don’t want to break my hip falling off a Rascal reaching for Cheetos at the Walmart.
Ford: So, I dusted off the bike, and August 22nd of 2012, I went on my first bike ride. A year later, I rode the Hotter’N Hell, a 100-mile bike ride in —
John: A year later? Holy crap, man, that’s so — I mean, first of all, 15 minutes a mile, walking, is nothing to sneeze at. That’s a pretty good clip.
Ford: The first thing you’ve got to do is just be able to make it without everything — when you start walking off that weight, it was just all kinds of issues. I was down close to 300 by the time I actually got on a bike. I was a little nervous about being on a bike and being top heavy because I tried it before. I had a bike from a couple of years ago. I took it to the bike shop, fixed it up and just started riding that. Then, like I said, almost a year to the day after my first bike ride, I rode the Hotter’N Hell.
John: That’s awesome.
Ford: People were like, be careful not to get addicted to riding a bike or anything like that. If you’ve got a consumption issue, you might as well point that engine at something, if you’re going to run hot, point it at something good. That’s what cycling became for me.
John: That’s impressive, man. Now the dog has to walk itself because, sorry about you.
Ford: You had Will on the show. That particular dog, we let him stay over because we had one that got run over. When that dog’s gone, we do have another Patootie dog. I thought we were completely empty-nesters with the dog, but we’ve got another one. Anyway.
John: 100 miles, that’s an impressive ride, in one day. That’s commitment. Has that been your favorite ride or favorite memory from cycling?
Ford: Next year, I rode from Canada to Mexico down the Pacific Coast Highway, so, 2014.
John: There you go.
Ford: I was off all my meds. I just was all in. I’ve always been fascinated by the endurance, long distance events. Even though when I ran track in junior high, everybody had to run track, I never finished anything. They called me — bring home the bacon is what our track coach would do. I was the baconeer. I was the guy bringing home the bacon, coming in last place, never ran a track meet I didn’t finish last. Ran the 800. They scoured all of North Texas looking for a kid slower than the fat kid from Addison Farmers branch, and they were unsuccessful. I was completely defeated, whatever the opposite of undefeated.
John: You thought it was golf. I was undefeated.
Ford: That’s right. I was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of…
John: Right? I had the worst score possible. No, but that’s so harsh. For you to be able to turn that around, that’s years and years of things that you’re telling yourself that other people are telling you as well. The cycling is beyond the losing weight. There are so many more layers here to it.
Ford: Yeah, you have to get past — I mean, COVID has been a tough time because you got stuck in this depressing place, and you start to play those tapes again. I call this my COVID-19. I’m going the wrong direction again. Got on the road Saturday, and it’s been raining so much here lately. You do have to turn off those tapes. Because the hardest thing, I think, about being obese is that it’s the thing that you can make fun of still. We can’t watch The Little Rascals because of the terrible things that they said. They were kind of racial, but they made fun of the fat kid. He played catcher and ate chocolate with his hands and got it all over his face. He was slow and dumb. 20 years later or 30 years later, it’s Bad News Bears, and it’s still the same. We’re going to make fun of Boss Hogg and all of those guys. They’re always going to be bad guys.
You start to get the idea that it’s okay to be laughed at, that you’re a little less than everybody else. You feel like everybody’s always whispering. You have to get past those mental hang-ups. It is a dangerous condition to have. I worry about going the other direction. I think we’re a little too — swung a little bit and been two accommodating. We need to figure out some sort of encouragement for encouraging people to make a difference. That’s initially what I started to do was just I gave away bicycles to other CPAs and tried to encourage them. We have a very high mortality rate.
John: CPAs as a whole, the profession.
Ford: Yes, yes. It’s the highest mortality rate of any profession. My life insurance, very odd statistic he told me when he said it’s higher than skydiving instructors and window washers, which means it’s more dangerous doing your neighbor’s tax return than it is to jump out of airplanes or hanging at the side of a building.
It’s so cyclical. I’m on the tax side, and every six months, here’s another deadline, here’s another deadline, here’s another deadline. So, a lot of my focus became on becoming efficient. I became a lot more efficient. I was working 100 hours during tax season, and I was working overtime all year long. There was so much work to be done. Obviously I fixed a lot of things in two years inside the practice if I could take off for a month and ride from Canada to Mexico. I found a lot of efficiencies. I was always worried about busy season and that creeping back up.
John: Yeah, and then busy season, there’s free pizzas and free food or whatever. You’re in the office, so it’s getting fast food or takeout or something. You’re just sitting the whole time. You’re not even getting up and walking.
Ford: You can’t order a salad back then either from DoorDash or anything like that. It was all pizza or Chinese food. That was everything that was delivered.
John: Right? Exactly. I think it’s so cool that you’re giving away bikes.
Ford: I had a motivation to make a difference for my industry, I really did, but giving away bikes and doing things like that, was a good way to market the firm for new hires. It was effective there. There are the guys from other CPA firms that have a bicycle that they’re nice bikes. I ride a specialized. I’m loyal to it. We spent a little bit of money on it. The staff comes in once we started the technology firm, BaCo Tech. My CPA firm’s called the BaCo Group, and that was where the word BaCo come from. The name of my firm was Baker and Company, and a nickname, growing up, was BaCo, and internally, we referred to ourselves as BaCo. We were number one on Google for Dallas CPA firm search.
I had learned from a client how to drive and so I wanted to really figure out a better way to do it so I won new clients. So we renamed the firm, from Baker and Company, to BaCo Group so that you couldn’t tell — if you’re Baker and Company, it’s either that you’re working with Baker or/and company. By being BaCo Group, the only discernible word was group. It’s actually redundant because the CO stands for company. It’s the Baker Company Group. Anyway, I got two collectives in there.
John: Yeah, but I think that’s great. As a differentiator for talent, that’s huge. Why not? What’s the difference between one accounting firm than another accounting firm? You’re both doing audits and tax returns, and you’re probably using the same software. This one actually cares about your health and actually gives away bikes. Okay, there’s a differentiator.
Ford: It was an easy way to recruit. I had a similar call today, I can. It was very much a positive mindset, what I did, but I always say is, find a big target, instead of a big goal. Whenever I would start these things before, I would say, I’m not going to eat any carbs, I’m going to meet my trainer, every day, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. Then one day, there would be bagels and you eat a carb. The next day, it’d be a donut. The day after that, it’d be a dozen. That big goal is a checklist of things that you have to do every day, and my mindset literally became, I don’t want a needle in my eye. Not very different than that mindset of, here’s my checklist of goals. If I ate that bagel the other day, but I rode my bike, and I did other things; it was, at least I got a little bit further away from that needle in my eye. Most diabetics don’t live to have that happen. Their heart gives out before their vision does.
Ford: We don’t hear as much about it. It’s also real unfortunate that we have the same name as the real actual chronic type one diabetes. My daughter’s type one. She woke up in junior high, one day, and her pancreas was off. She has a chronic condition. I can fix mine by riding a bicycle. 95% is type two, and 90% of us could control it completely by exercising and eating right. We are inundated with finding a cure, which we desperately need to do, but there is a cure. Get on a bike. Walk the dog. I did a cleanse. A couple of weeks later, my vision returned. It is a side effect from bad eating and type two. There is this percentage of people that can’t ever get off of insulin or whatever is that they’re a type of diabetic.
John: Sure, but for a lot of people, it doesn’t hurt anyway. It doesn’t hurt. I think it’s great that that positive mentality that you had, the accidental byproduct was it helps with recruiting, but it’s helping people get healthy. It’s helping be positive. It’s helping not want to just drive people into the ground, churn and burn, and I don’t really care about you. It shows that you care about them as a person, not just their ability to do a tax return or what have you. I think that’s fantastic.
Ford: The other thing that the way cycling impacted it is, riding a bike, I don’t own a car anymore, so riding a bike is always a more pleasant way to get around than driving a car. It’s fun. If you’ve done a trip like that, or I rode from Manhattan up to Boston, I’ve done a couple of longer rides, you have so much fun doing that. You really want to protect. I like the summer because I can ride all summer. It’s not raining. Right now, it’s in the spring. I know it’s going to be September by the time this is on, but right now it’s raining.
Used to be I couldn’t ride during tax season as much as I wanted to. I had become so focused on everything that was efficient in my practice that I backed into this tool that I’ve worked with, for a client, could gather data out of QuickBooks files very efficiently, very effectively. I ended up putting my clients in that same space just so I could make getting that data out of their files a lot more efficient, a lot more effective. I started thinking, I think I can actually build a functional accounting system inside of Excel. I called it the Accounting Machine. We could consolidate 70-plus QuickBooks files in about 30 minutes, and we’d create this really complicated set of financials.
As cool as I thought that was and, yes, that does make me a geek that I thought that was cool, but as cool as I thought that was, that we got to the point that we could do that, the other efficiencies I saw from having all the data for that client, I started to wonder, now doing this financial reporting, that’s not what I do. I do taxes. Could I build something to automate that process, like I could in Excel, to automate the tax return, convert from accrual to tax? Could I build something that would do that? I literally spent three, four years modeling an accounting software package.
In 2018 is probably where I started to lose those employees. I called it the Accounting Machine, and I said, I think I can fix busy season. That’s not a really great way to set vision for your firm. I hired a guy out of Puerto Rico to actually build out a proof of concept for me and see if it would work. We were on phone calls with Google Translate. That’s only Mexican Spanish, not Puerto Rican. There’s been a body of water that’s separated that for 400 years.
Ford: There were points, I got pretty loud, not like mad loud, but just they’ve got all kinds of chirping crickets and things in the background. He lived up in the mountains. We built a concept. I got an SBA loan, hired a CTO. He built out a really functioning one. We had fixed a lot of issues. What I was realizing was that, now I’ve got all this going, I’m still calling it the Accounting Machine. We lost her, and I knew that meant I was going to lose somebody else. I had to find a better — I had to figure out why we fixed busy season. I went home and just wrote down everything that why I thought that busy season was busy, for lack of a better word, on a piece of paper, and why I thought that I was addressing it on there.
Every time I wrote something down, the redundancy of workflow. If I do a tax plan, the balances at October 31st don’t have anything to do with the balances at December 31st. The work I do on the balances of October 31 has to be repeated on the balances — that concept of, you heard balances, I said over and over again, balances we’re in the middle of all of my problems, and I wasn’t solving them because I was pulling all these transactions. Everything I’d done and built to that point was still balanced-based. I would wait until I actually pulled the balance.
When we actually uncapped that and said we’re just going to focus on the transactions and pull the transactions; that we really saw the efficiency blew off. We really capped what we could do. We applied for a patent for a transaction-based workflow for CPA firms, and we got it in nine months. It was part of the Highway Program, which I didn’t even know existed, which meant we were designated as special.
Ford: We got designated as special, so we got put in for expedited processing. Our patent went in exactly, if you read our patent, it’s exactly verbatim, word for word, what we wrote. The first office action taken by the US Patent Office was to issue our patent, which is our patent attorney only does patents, and he actually worked on the Wi-Fi patent.
John: Oh, wow.
Ford: The patent for Wi-Fi are the only, what he calls, significant patents that had a first Office Action of Issuance where they issued the patent. We’re really excited. We have continuation claims in place now. We didn’t have overtime and busy season, and so Texas is extended through June 15th. We filed 90% of the returns inside the firm by March 31st, on the business returns. It all started because I wanted to be able to ride the bike, finding work in as many hours at a tech startup because I did. It’s really exciting time.
Nationally, we just got out of tax season. That was May 17th. We’re a couple of days after, and we’re at the first point since we actually started the company, December 31st, 2019. We never really have had a chance to sell. The pandemic shut us out of being able to talk to CPAs. We were ready to go to market in June, but we just couldn’t talk. This has been a very small window at the end of the year, and this is the first chance that we’ve really gotten out. We’ve been out of the BDO Alliance and so we have a couple of good-sized firms that we’re pursuing at this point.
We had a handful of people that worked with us in tax season, but just wasn’t enough time to really make a meaningful impact. We are now. We’re speaking at the AICPA conference on how accounting technology broke public accounting, and we’ll talk about the balance-based workflow and how that’s impacted us, at that event.
John: That’s awesome, man. No overtime, that’s got to be something that’s great for people that work for BaCo Group. It’s mentally healthier.
Ford: To some extent, as CPAs, especially these guys that have come in, one guy moved from New York and the other guy moved from Los Angeles to come in and help manage the firm in our place. The younger folks think it’s possible. People my age really are very doubtful that I heard one CPA here in town say it’s going to take somebody with far more resources than Excel and an act of imagination to do that. I think there’s this part of me that gets tenacious about something enough to want to be able to ride a bike from Canada to Mexico, to be pretty good on a bike for a guy who was never really athletic. I’m driven to see something all the way, if I get my teeth into something. It just became this concept that this could work.
I built out more proof of concepts. I anticipated so much more specific, how can I do this, but it’s essentially online banking for a CPA firm. The power of online banking is not that you get a PDF at the end the month with a balance on it, it’s the bank and your accounting software exchange transactions every night, real time. We’ve extended the time, every other solution, because it’s balanced base can’t start until after the end of the year. You’ve only got 60 days to work on a tax return. We’ve got 470 days, from January 1st.
We’re working right now on 21 tax returns because we’re bringing in data every night. We created a real touch at once, an alert. I can clear something that’s of tax significance or accounting significance or things like that. In less than two minutes, I can post things back to QuickBooks from our platform. I can push it straight into the tax software. I can adjust things real time throughout the year.
John: Yeah, it’s an impressive piece of software, for sure. Just to shift subjects just a little bit, how much do you think it matters, for you, it’s cycling, how much does it matter to leadership at the top to create that space for other people to be able to share what their “and” is, with the free time that they now have, thanks to the efficiencies?
Ford: I think that we have to, as an industry, have to start proactively trying to change some of that narrative, the idea that it’s always you don’t understand my clients and things like that. I think we have to start to create that space. When I started, it was a paper workflow. We were more efficient, more effective. We had less turnover when we did everything by paper than we are today. I worked for a firm that was very late on the curve, so, over the next ten years, I became the IT guy, installed the server. By the time we got to the end, I was working more hours at the end of my career than I was before. In that nine-year period that I worked, coming out of school, that nine-year period, I was the second person that left. We were 25 people at that firm. The industry average now is going to be closer to three than two people a year that would leave.
John: Oh, yeah.
Ford: We terminated people. For now, in the industry, for every one person that you fire, four people will leave voluntarily. The turnover is so high. We have a remarkable number of kids that come out of school and will hold their offer to work at one of the big firms for longer than they’ll actually stay there. There are things I don’t like about the big firms.
I went to Texas A&M, as we discussed, and their recruiting center is named after Deloitte. The narrative at Texas A&M, if you spent that much money and you’re Deloitte and every one of the faculty just stays two years, it’s going to be terrible. If I spent that much money at A&M, I would want them to say, hey, it’s the greatest place to work in the world. You should work in the big eight, and if you’re going to work anywhere, it should only be Deloitte, and you should never ever leave. Yet, we all seem resigned to this idea that this is an absolutely terrible job. It can be manageable.
John: It can be.
Ford: In the old days back, but with John Savill and the group that was here local, we solved our own problem in a paper-based workflow. We had all these little tools our clients used. We were proactive, and we worked at the end of the year to get ready for the next years. We were getting data from clients earlier. Now, we don’t really understand the solutions and everything. We’re not fixing it ourselves. We’re not pushing back hard enough. You look at the efficiencies that are out there in the world. There’s not pushing back hard enough that you can get there. Once we do, I think we’ll have a lot more creativity. I think we’ll have a lot more space for people that think outside the box and stuff like that.
John: Yeah. When you worked at that other firm, did people actually know each other? Did you feel like sharing your “and” was the thing, back in that time?
Ford: I think so. We still had busy season. We still worked 55 hours a week, but I could bank all my overtime and take it off as additional time off, if I wanted to. You have to wonder now, can you even take all your time off? They’re now promoting at the big firms, hey, you can have unlimited time off because you can work from anywhere. If I had to work and took my laptop around on my bicycle while I rode the Big Sur but I didn’t leave the office; I’d leave the office.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Ford: I don’t want to drag work around with me. I don’t answer text messages at night. I have a different cell phone for work and business. I just believe you’ve got to set some boundaries, and I hope that we start to do that. Because if you’re working current, then you should be able to set boundaries because you’re going to solve problems before they occur. You don’t have these emergencies. We’re accountants. Why in the world is there an emergency on a Sunday afternoon, needs to get something solved? Because they waited till the last minute. So I really am excited for what it’ll do for the industry. It’ll work for large firms, small firms, whoever doesn’t want overtime.
John: Totally. How much do you feel like it’s a tone at the top sort of message, versus somebody from the bottom starting up, of actually getting to know each other? What lights you up? Talking Texas A&M football or talking cycling, things like that, or whatever someone else’s “and” is. How important do you feel tone at the top is?
Ford: I try to have that discussion with — I think the hard part is that we can be pretty introverted. I’m obviously not the typical accountant, if I was playing around trying to create something. I never took something that I should be a CPA. The idea that there needs to be a little bit more of a connection, I don’t know that we totally ignore it. I think that a lot of the resistance from people that hear about my technology is, well, busy season is when we make all our money. I don’t like the sweatshop mindset that we had. I was sleeping at the office and so was, currently my partner, but she was pregnant, sleeping on the couch at the office, because we were working so many hours during tax season.
John: Yeah, that’s crazy.
Ford: Still, everybody’s not happy.
Ford: Wasn’t enough. Will’s birthday is March 24th. We celebrated his birthday after April 15th more times than we didn’t because I didn’t have time to go to a kid’s birthday party during tax season. I never said I didn’t have time to go to some kid’s birthday party, but believe me, that’s what Will heard. If you’re not celebrating your birthday because Dad’s got to work, he doesn’t have time to go to a kid’s birthday party, no matter how you try to pitch it. It’s a tough business. It’s tough on us.
John: You don’t want that for the rest of your people, and I think that’s great. You’re not happy because you’re not able to go do the things that actually light you up. Doing tax returns doesn’t light you up.
Ford: Wouldn’t it be great to go, I’d love go to the Maroon and White game one year. I’d love to go to spring training and see the Rangers when they’re not pathetic like they are this year.
Ford: Do those things. The idea that I could have gone to spring break with my kids when they were younger, when they had a week off, never could do that. We, as an industry, know exactly what’s going to be due this time next year, what’s going to be due next March 15th and April 15th, what form, who’s going to do it. We’ve been doing it for years. Why are we so focused on those last 60 days? Why is it nobody ever said, why isn’t that a good thing? Why haven’t we built a workflow that just makes that automatic? Because there are so many standards we work with as an industry. It’s easy to create a technology that actually works, because we just haven’t focused on all the things we can set our clock by, until the pandemic.
Ford: Something always happens during tax season. There’s always something that occurs. This year, we were frozen for two weeks in the middle of Texas, all the way down to the border.
John: Oh, yeah, ice storm and everything.
Ford: California seems like it’s always on fire. A couple of years ago, all of Carolinas was devastated by a hurricane. Houston got flooded. Two years ago, Trump changed the tax law in December, and we’ve had all of these new balancing. I literally went to a training class, and I swear, there were more we asked questions on, I don’t think they thought of that yet. You’re literally trying to figure out what are you going to do, real time. Something’s always going to impact what we’re doing. We need to be proactive and be ready for next year so when it happens, you can be in the moment with a client.
We really discovered the difficulty, during the pandemic, of everybody having a different deadline. That was a lot more, everybody dealing with different banks and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot harder to deal with that, and many CPAs just couldn’t do it, than it was to get the tax returns done. It blew up our tax season.
John: Disruptive element, everything. Yeah, yeah. If anything, that just reiterates how much more important having that “and” is because everything’s always changing. Technology’s changing, and the rules are changing. Everything’s changing. Something’s going to come in and wreck it, whatever, but having that anchor point, that eye of the hurricane, if you will, like your cycling, is always there. It’s always there for you. It’s never changing. I think it’s really important just for people to have those things.
Ford: I think that this year, in a backwards way, was more evident of that than ever before. At some points during the pandemic, I could have ridden my bicycle down the middle of the Interstate and not had any traffic. I should have been out all the time, but you became so obsessed with what was happening in the news, whether it was how long are we going to be shut down, or social unrest and social upheaval and all the things that took place over the past 12 months, I eventually just said, I’m turning it off. I’m just not going to watch any of that anymore because it was eating at me so much. It was consuming — there was so much concern about things I couldn’t control, and that’s ultimately why you need that release. I think that it’s just so great to get out and just burn off that, whether it be anxiety from work or anxiety from something like a pandemic or whatever. Just get outside and —
John: Yeah, just go do your thing.
Ford: Yeah. That’s why I like riding. You just clear your head.
John: I love it, man. That’s such great advice for everybody listening too, just get out and do it. Whatever your “and” is, just make time and do it. Doesn’t have to be every day. It doesn’t have to be every month. Just make time and go do it. That’s awesome. Well, it’s only fair, since I started out the episode, rapid-fire questioning you, that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Ford Baker podcast. Thanks for having me on. Whatever questions you’d like to ask, I’m all yours.
Ford: Outside of Lou Holtz, who’s the coach you wish had never gone and the coach you wish you never hired?
John: Oh, wow, that’s really good. Probably, I don’t know, Bob Davey. He was the former defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, who we used to beat all the time. Then he hires as his offensive coordinator, Jim Colletto from Purdue, who we used to beat all the time. It was like, let’s just gather all the coaches of teams we all beat and then have them on as staff. It’s like, no, that’s a terrible idea. He’s a nice guy and was a great defensive coordinator but, yeah, just probably not the best head coach for Notre Dame.
Ford: We were bitter about that until now. Once we realized that he just probably wasn’t head coach.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. Exactly.
Ford: Good defense coordinator.
John: Right, exactly, with the Wrecking Crew, was it? What was the…
Ford: Oh, yeah. RC started that under Jackie.
John: Oh, okay, got it.
Ford: RC was so good, from a standpoint of — the defense was always so good under his tutelage that we won a lot of games, but we’re never going to win that game where we needed to score 21 points against a really good defense because he just was so conservative. If the wind was blowing, he ain’t throwing. We were going to…
John: That’s funny.
Ford: It was a great era, but be careful what you wish for. I love Jimbo now. He’s so much fun to just watch in a press conference. Anyway, I think he’s put together a lot of talent on the field, so it’s fun to watch. Where’s the place you’ve never been that you want to go to?
John: Oh, wow. College football-wise, I’ve been to a lot. Probably A&M actually, would probably be on that list.
Ford: We play all in two years?
John: Yeah, I think so. It’s like, yeah, two or three.
Ford: How about you take me to the Notre Dame game, and I’ll take you to…
Ford: A&M game. I’ve got seats down there, so we’ll catch a game.
John: Just the tradition and the atmosphere and all of it. Well, it’s so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks so much, Ford.
Ford: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll connect, and I’ll send you over those pictures I was telling you about too.
John: Awesome. Everybody listening in, if you want to see some of those pictures, or maybe connect with Ford on social media or LinkedIn, or check out a link to his accounting machine website, you should go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget to check out the book.
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.