Episode 489 – Nikki Winston

Nikki is an Accountant & House Cleaner

Nikki Winston, founder of the Winston CPA Group, talks about her passion for cleaning, how it applies to her organizational skills at work, providing a space for individuals to be themselves at work, and much more!

Episode Highlights
• Getting into cleaning
• Creating the WERKin’ Mommas brand
• Being proactive
• Why it is crucial for organizations to provide a space for individuals to be themselves
• Humanize people first, then worry about the workplace



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    Welcome to Episode 489 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. It’s 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, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and listening to 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 sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Nikki Winston. She’s a senior finance controller at Microsoft and the founder of the Winston CPA Exam Virtual Classroom and the host of Werkin’ Mommas Podcast, and now she’s with me here today. Nikki, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Nikki: Hey, John, thanks so much. Glad to be with you today.

    John: This is going to be a blast. I have 17 rapid-fire questions though, get to know Nikki right out of the gate here. You ready?

    Nikki: I’m ready. Let’s go.

    John: Here we go. I’ll start you out, here we go, Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Nikki: Unpopular response but I don’t know enough about either of those franchises.

    John: Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. You’re straight up. That’s totally honest. How about any franchise? Is there a franchise that would be more?

    Nikki: Let’s see, Ozark.

    John: Oh, okay. Yeah, sure.

    Nikki: Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers.

    John: Okay. Right. There you go.

    Nikki: Yeah, that franchise.

    John: Those are all good.

    Nikki: Any sitcoms, Golden Girls, Martin, I know them all.

    John: Okay. If you throw Golden Girls and Martin at the same time, that’s amazing. Those are both hilarious shows for very different reasons. That’s awesome.

    Nikki: Yeah.

    John: That’s so good. So good.

    Nikki: I don’t know a thing about baby Yoda.

    John: That’s all the new stuff. Yeah, totally. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?

    Nikki: Depends on the day.

    John: Oh, really? Okay.

    Nikki: When I’m, and this might be a bit of a biased answer, but when I’m at work during my day job, I’m on a PC; and when I’m running my business and working on CPA exam coaching stuff, I’m on my MacBook.

    John: That makes sense. Okay, all right. You’ve got both. That’s some skills. I can barely do a PC, so, good for you. That’s impressive.

    Nikki: It’s just funky, though, because I wish the Excel keyboard shortcuts would be the same on both. Because I’m a keyboard user and not a mouse user, so it’s a little frustrating with my Mac when I try to do that.

    John: Yeah, that makes sense. How about favorite ice cream flavor? Because I love ice cream.

    Nikki: Cookies and cream, all day, every day.

    John: There you go.

    Nikki: It has to be Oreos, not just the regular cookies. They’re not paying us for this, John, but it has to be the Oreos.

    John: Yeah, exactly.

    Nikki: No Oreo sponsorship, but it’s better with the Oreos.

    John: Maybe now we will, maybe now. How about a favorite Disney character?

    Nikki: For me, it has to be Goofy. Goofy is who he is, no matter what, no matter what the situation is.

    John: I love it. That’s mine too. Yeah, Goofy. Awesome. How about, since you have accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?

    Nikki: The nerd in me, that is so hard. I’m tempted to say income statement because if something’s wrong on the income statement, it’s going to flow through to the balance sheet, and you have to find it.

    John: Okay.

    Nikki: But I like looking at balance sheet recs. I like reviewing recs, so I’ll say the balance sheet.

    John: Okay, okay. All right. There you go. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Nikki: Night owl all day long.

    John: Okay. All right.

    Nikki: 10pm to 2am are golden hours for me. That’s when I feel the most productive actually.

    John: Wow, that’s impressive. How about a favorite number?

    Nikki: Four.

    John: Four. Is there a reason?

    Nikki: Well, there are four people in my house, myself, my husband, my son, my daughter, but my son is my absolute love bug. He’s the fourth. He’s Thomas the Fourth.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Nikki: So four is my favorite number.

    John: That makes sense. Okay. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-book or real book?

    Nikki: The millennial in me, I need a real book. I can keep all the readers. I’m kind of that seasoned millennial. I don’t get with all the tech, but when it comes to a book, I need to feel it and hold it and have it in my hand and put a bookmark in it.

    John: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. There you go. How about when it comes to puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or a jigsaw puzzle?

    Nikki: Sudoku.

    John: Sudoku. Okay. That’s how I do my taxes. That’s perfect.

    Nikki: I love brain games. Oh, gosh, John. Don’t say that.

    John: You’re like, no, no, no.

    Nikki: We didn’t hear that part. I’m covering my ears. I didn’t hear that part.

    John: Statutes of limitations has passed. We’re good. That’s awesome. That’s hilarious. How about favorite adult beverage?

    Nikki: Hurricane.

    John: Hurricane. Oh, yeah. Nice. Yeah, they’re also fun to say. It’s fun to say. It’s like, there you go.

    Nikki: Since we’re talking about statutes of limitations, I can actually buy alcohol now, but the first time I had a hurricane, I was 19. I was in college. I was like, this is the best thing ever, and it became my thing. When I had my first trip to New Orleans, which I feel like has the OG hurricanes, I was like, oh, yeah, this is my thing.

    John: Pat O’Brien’s. There you go. Absolutely.

    Nikki: That’s it. I have my souvenir glass, my souvenir glass.

    John: There you go. How about, this is a tough one, brownie or ice cream?

    Nikki: Ice cream.

    John: Ice cream. There you go.

    Nikki: Hands down. Chocolate sometimes, ice cream always.

    John: Yeah, that’s a good point. How about a favorite color?

    Nikki: Coral.

    John: Oh, nice.

    Nikki: Yep. Not to be confused with orange.

    John: Oh, no, no, no, no, not even close. Not even close. How about a least favorite color?

    Nikki: Yellow.

    John: Yellow. Okay. All right. Yeah, a little too bright.

    Nikki: Which is crazy because I love the sunshine. The solar plexus chakra is my thing, but I think yellow is just, it’s not as neutral as other colors. You can mute a red. You can mute blue. When you mute a yellow, it’s almost not there.

    John: Right. That’s a good point. Never even thought about it like that. All right. All right. We’ve got three more. Favorite actor or actress?

    Nikki: Meryl Streep.

    John: Oh, yeah. Very popular answer. She’s amazing. She’s so good, so good.

    Nikki: Miranda Priestly is the character that came to mind.

    John: Yep, there you go.

    Nikki: When I said that.

    John: There you go. How about, are you more heels or flats?

    Nikki: Heels.

    John: Heels. Okay.

    Nikki: Me and flats are like oil and water, unless it’s some Air Max, Air Max 95s. If it’s regular ballet flats, no. Heels all day. Three and a half inches are better.

    John: Nice. Okay. Okay. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Nikki: Favorite thing I have is my water pitcher because I can slice my lemons, and I can put my mint leaves in the diffuser thing. I can refill the water over and over. That’s like my go-to drink every day is lemon mint water, so being able to conveniently make it, that’s one of my favorite little gadgets that I bought.

    John: That sounds fantastic. That’s so great. Let’s talk cleaning. How did this start? Was it from when you were a kid, were you always into this, or was it something that you got into later?

    Nikki: It definitely started as a kid. Growing up, my daddy is, I won’t say, was, he is very meticulous. If there was a plate and a fork in the sink, the expectation was you make dishwater, and you clean them.

    John: Even just one plate, one fork.

    Nikki: Even just one plate, one fork. You make dishwater, you clean it, and then you wipe off the counters around it in case there’s something there. It was more proactive cleaning, but me, I was the youngest. I was the youngest girl. My cousin lived with us, too, but I was the only girl. My job on the weekends was the refrigerator. I had to clean it out, and I had to keep it organized. I looked at that like all these shelves and all these shapes. I can really get creative in here. It started like that. I would make my dishwater, and I would wipe down all of the shelves, the door, the handles, everything on the refrigerator. It was sparkling by the time I was done, and it looked good. It stuck with me. I love the look of clean. I remember trying to line up my doll babies and make sure they were neat, and their clothes were put away in the dollhouse, and organizing my school folders. When I was in school, especially college, my highlight was going to the store, getting the dividers for all the different subjects and having it organized. Cleaning and organizing has been my thing forever.

    John: That’s impressive. No wonder you went into accounting. You’ve been training for this all your life.

    Nikki: You know, we’re often referred to as the cleanup people. I will say that much.

    John: That is true. That is true. Exactly. Hence, the Ozarks reference earlier. It’s a little bit of cleaning going on there, too. Oh, wait, John, no, no.

    Nikki: Yes, that Marty Bird is something else.

    John: Right. Right. You’re so true because when I was in high school and a little bit of college, when I was home, I would work at the grocery store in my small town. When you see, in a grocery store, they call it facing the shelves where everything’s pulled forward, and it just looks clean, and the dairy. When I’m in there, I just see it. It’s like, man, that looks good. No one else notices. Then somebody just comes in and pushes everything or whatever. It’s like, no, no. Even now, when I pull something out, I pull the back one up, so that it just keeps that clean front to it. It definitely looks good.

    Nikki: A couple of my college jobs will tell you a lot about me. I worked for Express and Victoria’s Secret, number one because I get like half off on all the stuff. I worked as the stock person, which tells you how much I like to be organized, straightened all the shelves, and I worked there after the store closed, so that tells you about my night owl. I’m also an introvert because I didn’t have to interact with the customers. My job was to make that store look good, clean and spotless for the next day. I loved that job. That was one of my favorite things to do.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely. No one’s interrupting you. You don’t have to go to the register and check people out. I’m just, bam, just put on the blinders, and let’s get this done. That’s so great. I’ve got to feel this skill, we’ve been joking about it, but translates to work, I would have to imagine, in some way.

    Nikki: Yeah. Professionally, when I share that I love to clean, the typical response is like, oh, so do you want to come and clean my house? It turns into things like that. I said, okay, my passion is monetizable, if that’s a word. It kind of reminds me of how important it is to just really do what you love. I don’t know a lot of people that like to clean and grocery shop and organize and do all of those things.

    Part of how the Werkin’ Mommas came about, because this is usually the other part of the conversation, is I love to clean and I love to organize. I created The Werkin’ Mommas first as a brand, with the goal of making life easier for busy moms. We’ll come clean your house and run your errands and do your grocery shopping and all the things that moms do not like to do, that they’d rather have somebody else do. That was the original thought, but we’re accountants. We wear a gazillion hats, so The Werkin’ Mommas has been simmering in the back, if you will. It’s always a thought for me. I need to get this going because there are so many moms who are tired of cleaning up after these kids and these partners. Everything that goes on has to go through a mom almost.

    John: Pretty much.

    Nikki: It was like, what can I do to make life easier for busy moms? These thoughts come to me when I’m cleaning because I’m doing it by myself. It’s like me time. If you say, hey, I’m about to go clean; nobody’s going to volunteer and say, oh, I’m going to join you. It’s a me time, and I love the end goal. I love how it looks, how it smells, how it just… It feels like you can breathe easier in a clean house. People are always like, do you want to come clean my house? Or I think The Werkin’ Mommas is a great idea. You should do that right now. Then it spurs into other things. A lot of people don’t like it, but I love it.

    John: It’s great. Even the organization mindset that you have, translates to your career, as well, because it’s hard to be an accountant and disorderly.

    Nikki: Right. Exactly.

    John: That mindset and that skill that’s just innate in you comes through.

    Nikki: Yeah. It’s about being proactive, too because, like I said, the way my daddy handled it is just make a sink full of water and clean those dishes and clean anything else that might be dirty. Even in business, I tell business owners all the time, don’t wait until your books are a mess to come and talk to me or one of my…

    John: That’s a good point.

    Nikki: CPA friends because now, you’re going to pay a premium for all this extra work we have to do. If you had retained us way back when your business became an idea, then we could have avoided all of this, so, start being proactive.

    John: Just do a monthly reconciliation

    Nikki: Exactly.

    John: There you go. Instead of, hey, here’s a box of receipts, and you go nuts. It’s like, that’s going to cost you. That one’s going to cost you. That’s for sure.

    Nikki: Exactly.

    John: Have you come across other super cleaners in your career, or people that are maybe almost as passionate?

    Nikki: I have not. A funny thing that I need to get over is I have never hired a professional cleaning company to clean my house because I feel like I’m going to have to go behind them and do something. You’re not really doing a deep clean like I would do it, so I feel like I would have to go back and do it. Now, I’m putting myself in the working mama situation like, I want somebody to come and clean my house just because I’d rather do something else.

    John: Absolutely. It is funny because on the handful of times that I’ve had someone to clean, occasionally, there’s a cleaning that you do before the cleaner comes. You’ve got to straighten up. You’ve got to get things off the floor. I’m like, wait, why don’t I just finish, and then I can just not have them come.

    Nikki: Right. Because for me, the pre-clean becomes a deep clean. Once I put my earbuds on and my playlist, and everybody’s out the way; it’s like, okay, rubber gloves, broom, mop, and I go the work.

    John: There you go. Yeah, you’re bringing it. That’s awesome. That’s so good. How much do you feel it’s on an organization to create space for people to share these hobbies and these “ands” that they have? Or how much is it on the individual to just maybe just start that conversation amongst their peers?

    Nikki: It’s crucial for the companies to create a space where employees feel like they have this space to step away from their desk job, if you will, and show more about who they are. I was having a conversation with somebody a few weeks ago, and we were just talking about conversations, how opportunities come about. One of the things we were saying is like, a lot of deals, a lot of promotions, a lot of conversations happen on the golf course, over dinner, all these other places outside of work, so it’s important, if you love to craft or you love to clean or you are really great guitarist outside of work, to share those passions. You never know if the VP or somebody else is passionate about guitaring, or y’all went to the same alma mater, anything. I think it’s crucial for companies to make that space available for employees. Also, that speaks a lot to inclusion, as we talk about the employee side, because if an employee doesn’t feel like that space is there, they’re going to be reluctant to share that, oh, they might downplay what I’m doing, or they might think that playing the guitar is not cool or something like that. You never know that somebody might say, I love to volunteer, and volunteering is a great way to network within a company outside of desk work, if you will.

    John: Absolutely.

    Nikki: I think it brings nothing but opportunity on both sides for companies to make that space available and for employees to take advantage of it.

    John: I agree totally because when you’re looking to get promoted, or you’re looking to get staffed on a project, or you’re looking for something, like what’s your differentiator? It’s not, oh, well, I have this college degree. Well, so does everyone else. Oh, I have these letters after my name. Well, so does everyone else. The human side to you is really, whether they also like to play guitar, or they just know about it. Either way, it’s cool, and it’s a way for you to stand out and be like, well, this is who I am. The more that people get to know you, the more they’re going to like you. You like you, so why wouldn’t someone else like you?

    Nikki: Exactly. In most cases, those skills that you’ve refined or developed in your hobby are transferable. If you like to play a guitar, that requires skill. If you like to do jigsaw puzzles, there is strategy in a different part of your brain that is working, as far as making the best move. It’s really important to understand that aspect of it as well, that it can bring value to the workplace just by doing something that you love.

    John: Always, always, and at the very minimum, it humanizes you, but oftentimes, it’s a skill, like you said. If something’s out of order or somebody comes in with some gnarly looking project that requires a lot of organization, it’s me or Nikki. Nikki should get that, hands down. If you have some other kind of project that maybe I have outside skills that are a little bit different then that. We often only look at the book skills that people have as opposed to the human skills that are outside of work, and there’s more expertise that we have than our degrees and certifications.

    Nikki: Yeah. I always say that humanize people first and then worry about the workplace and everything else. I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately. I’ve been finding a lot of good shows and series to watch. I’ve been hearing these interviews where people keep saying, what does the world need more of? I feel like we need more humanizing of actual people. I think that will solve a lot of our problems, but what do I know? I’m not the President.

    John: We’ve got three more years and then you will be. We’re starting today, the launch of the Nikki Winston campaign. I just did it.

    Nikki: Yes, more humanization, that’s it.

    John: Amen. I totally agree. It’s so crazy to me that we’re born humans, but we stop acting human at some point. We hide it. Then when people are like, no, no, bring it out, you’re like, no. Or I forget what it is. I forget how to human. You’re like, what? How’s that possible? It’s just more human. I love it. That’s so good. No one can campaign against you. Who’s going to be like, no, no, less human. It’s like, what?

    Nikki: That’s a good point. You might be a campaign manager.

    John: You can’t be against this.

    Nikki: Right. You cannot be against better treatment for people.

    John: Right. Totally. That’s so good. So good. Well, I feel like, before we wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to people listening, of maybe they have an “and” or maybe they love to clean, but no one is going to care because it has nothing to do with my job or there isn’t a charge code for it or whatever excuses?

    Nikki: My thing is everybody on this earth has a birthright to be happy. If there is something that you do or an instrument that you play, something that you create, whatever it is that makes your heart sing, do more of that and then tell us about it. Because contrary to what you might be thinking in your own mind, we really want to see your dopeness, so let us see.

    John: Yeah, there you go. That’s the tagline. Be more human. Show us your dopeness.

    Nikki: Yes. Yes.

    John: There it is. I love that though. That’s so awesome. We all have the right to be happy and to shine. Let it out.

    Nikki: Absolutely.

    John: Do that. I love that so much. Well, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning of the podcast, I feel like it’s only fair that we turn the tables. You already have your Werkin’ Mommas podcast, but I’m not working or a mama, so I’m not sure what kind of podcast this is going to be, but you’re the host now. I’m all yours.

    Nikki: One quick little shameless plug I will say is, on The Werkin’ Mommas podcast, I have series. I have a series for career advice. I have a series for entrepreneurs. We talk about starting LLCs. If the LLC is right for you, how to run your business, how to generate cash flow when you don’t have any clients, things like that.

    John: There you go.

    Nikki: I, of course, have my episode where I was cleaning up my kitchen while I was recording.

    John: That’s great. Nice.

    Nikki: For the moms. Because sometimes we need to vent, and we want to get multiple things done, but I realized that everybody is not a mama, so I still want to share the things I want to share about business, careers, managing your money, building your credit, stuff like that.

    John: It’s awesome that it applies to so many people. Absolutely. That’s so great. That’s so great. I’m all ready. I’m buckled in for your questions.

    Nikki: Let’s jump into some questions, this one, which I think is going to be very telling.

    John: Oh, boy.

    Nikki: iPhone or Android.

    John: I’m Android all day. Yeah. I’m not even cool enough to go into an Apple store. They stop me at the door. They’re like, sir, you’re not allowed in. I’m not even allowed to go in. I feel Amish when I go in there. What does this do? What? You know what, I’m going to stand outside and wait for all the cool kids to come back out.

    Nikki: You know what,there’s all these memes on social media where they make it seem like — there’s the whole iPhone versus Android war, and it’s always making iPhone look super bougie and Android look super, like living in the trailer park like Ozark kind of thing. I think that’s just so funny. I won’t judge. I switched from an Android so fast, years ago, that I don’t know enough about it to even try to knock it, but the commercials I see definitely raise my eyebrows. Oh, wow. Okay, Android, that’s pretty dope. Yeah, I won’t knock until I try it.

    John: It’s probably the reason why I still use a PC because it was the first one and then you just stay with it and then we’re all good. I’m cool either way. It is funny, though, because I do find that the people that care the most are iPhone users. They’re the ones that, ooh. I’ve never heard an Android person go, whoa, you’re iPhone? I’ve never heard that. I’ve only heard it the other way around. I’ve never heard an Android person judge an iPhone —

    Nikki: You have a point, John. You have a very valid point.

    John: I’m just saying, if I’m going to be your Vice President —

    Nikki: iPhone users can’t argue.

    John: As your Vice President, I need to make sure that we…

    Nikki: Cannot argue with that at all.

    John: There you go.

    Nikki: Okay. Do you call it pop or soda?

    John: Oh, it’s soda because I’m a grown adult. Kids say pop.

    Nikki: Disruptive millennials say pop, and Midwesterners say pop. That’s what I was going to say. It’s a Ohio thing.

    John: You’re down in the south too, it’s just Coke.

    Nikki: Yeah.

    John: When I was a kid, I was in the south, and I was just like, what kind of soda do you have? They’re like, oh, well, we have Pepsi Coke. We have Sprite Coke. I’m like, what? Pepsi Coke? You can’t have Pepsi Coke. What? Coke is just the generic word for all of the carbonated beverage, I guess.

    Nikki: Yeah, pretty much. I’m a Cincinnati girl, so I’m a Pepsi girl in a Coca Cola world. I actually don’t even drink pop anymore. My mom told me when I was a teenager, if I didn’t stop drinking pop, the acid was going to cause me to have bumps all over my face, so I stopped drinking it. I might have a fruit punch or a Hi-C orange a couple of times a year, but it’s not my go-to drink.

    John: Fruit punch all day. I will order fruit punch and then they’ll be like, excuse me? I’m like, yeah, fruit punch, you heard me.

    Nikki: That’s when they give you the double take. You are not seven years old, ma’am.

    John: Is your kid here with you? Nope. It’s for me. Large.

    Nikki: Nope, it’s for me, and get ready for the refill.

    John: There you go. All right, you’ve got one more?

    Nikki: MJ or LeBron James?

    John: Oh, yeah. I’m going to go Jordan, only because I’m a little older, so he’s the OG. LeBron is good, but Jordan was just, the dunks and the highlight reels. LeBron’s great, but the highlight reels are Jordan all day.

    Nikki: Yeah. I love LeBron because he’s from my home state. It’s always the Ohio versus everybody thing. Love what he’s done for the game. Love what he’s done for people in general, but my childhood growing up was MJ is it. I think we saw that when they were on recently, and they were doing the top 75 players. Who was the last one to come out, and who got the craziest applause? No other player standing out there can be mad about that because that is Michael Jordan, and then put a period after that. He’s always my top guy. Always. Always.

    John: Absolutely. Whew, so I redeemed myself.

    Nikki: Yes. Yes.

    John: Oh, my goodness. All right. That’s awesome.

    Nikki: As long as you said MJ, we’re good.

    John: Okay. All right. Cool. Cool, but thank you so much, Nikki, for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”? This has been so much fun.

    Nikki: Of course. Likewise. I have thoroughly enjoyed this, John. Thanks so much.

    John: Very cool, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of outside-of-work Nikki or maybe connect with her on social media or check out Werkin’ Mommas podcast, 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, and don’t forget to check out the book.

    Thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast 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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