Seth hikes his way to better client connections
Seth David started hiking to the top of Griffith Park as a way to exercise because it was much more interesting than going to a gym. Then he realized that talking with clients and other small business owners while hiking was much more fun than just meeting in a restaurant, so every Saturday morning he would invite others to join him using the #AccountingHike hashtag.
In this episode, we talk about how his sharing his hiking and other hobbies with others gives him an added dimension that humanizes him, especially in the world of social media. It has also helped him continue to build a community and allow others to network as well. By being an open book, it makes it easy for others to see that he is approaching his work with the mindset of service to others. All of this has directly impacted his business in a very positive way.
Seth David is the founder of Nerd Enterprises, Inc. in Burbank, CA, where he teaches QuickBooks and general productivity applications to others. He’s very well-known in the small business accounting industry for his large library of YouTube videos.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting from Pace University – Lubin School of Business in 1996.
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JOHN. Let me introduce you to this week’s guests, Seth David, the head nerd at Nerd Enterprises Inc. which he created in 2003 to teach QuickBooks and general productivity applications to people. I met Seth a few weeks ago in San Jose when we were both speaking at the huge QuickBooks connect conference and immediately thought, “this guy is definitely a green apple.” So I’m so happy that you can be with me on the Green Apple Podcast Seth. Let’s get started right away with a question that a lot of people want to know, what made you want to get into accounting?
SETH. My father forced me into it.
SETH. The short answer is I started out in college as a Computer Science major, but I was sort of loosing interest in academics at that point. So, my grades were dwindling and I know it would take a lot of work to really maintain a Computer Science degree. So I did the practical thing, I went to my father and said, “dad I don’t want to waste your money, my time, or your time having you pay for my tuition on at this point.” Long story short I dropped out of school before I got my degree and I was looking in the newspaper at ads. To be honest I wanted to pursue an acting career at this point. This is what I wanted to do, I’d started to do some acting by then, and I was like, “that’s a lot more exciting than accounting.” Actually, accounting wasn’t even a thought, but it was much more exciting than the Computer Science.
So I’m looking in the paper, and my dad basically said, “I’m not going to support you as a starving artist. If you want to do something like that you’re on your own.” I said, “OK.” I stated looking in the paper and I was going to get a job at TGI Friday, Bennigan’s, or somewhere I could start saving up some money. I had a really good plan, I wanted to save up ten grand, get a jeep, drive across country to California—I grew up in New York—and then I was going to go to California and go to school for theater for film. So this was the big plan. As I’m looking through the news paper looking at ads, literally as I had this ten thousand dollar number in mind I see an ad that says, “Stockbroker trainee, earn ten thousands dollars a month.” I said, “holy crap, I can get there in a month!”
SETH. So next things I know I’m studying for the series seven exam and cold calling at a local firm on Long Island.
JOHN. That’s awesome.
SETH. If you’ve watched the movie Boiler Room.
SETH. The main character’s name is Seth Davis, and when my father saw that movie eventually—this was years later—he asked me if someone consulted with me about the story, because the storyline so similarly followed mine, at least in those days.
JOHN. That’s so great.
SETH. I did that, ended up getting my Series Seven, worked as a stockbroker for a couple years, and again another long story cut short, I was dating a girl whose family was close friends with my family, I had known her my whole life growing up. A romance started, we started dating, and her brother—who again because the families were close—I respected a lot, and he kind of talked me into going back to school and getting a degree. He was like, “look, you’re starting to do well, you’re starting to make money,” and he was frankly concerned about someone who was going to be the caretaker of his sister, he was just giving me very practical advice. “The market will always be there, but you need something to fall back on in case it doesn’t work out, you should really get a degree.” I was like, “you’re absolutely right,” and I started looking to go back to school.
That’s when I was joking that my father pushed me into it. I went to him and said, “what do you think? As a stockbroker it seems like finance seems to be the degree to get.” He said, “yeah, but if you get an accounting degree you’ll always be able to find work.” That was literally the point over which I’d made the decision to get the accounting degree.
JOHN. That’s so great man, what a great story. All I did was get a D in Physics and it was very much like, what degree can I get where I’ll have the lowest GPA and still be able to get a good job? It’s like, “oh accounting? OK, let’s do this.” I feel your pain, that’s awesome man, that’s so funny. Obviously running Nerd enterprises and all this accounting work keeps you very, very busy, and I know you have a lot of cool projects you have going on, but when you have some free time what sort of hobbies and passions do you like to do?
SETH. I love to go hiking. That’s become a newer passion of mine. I also love swimming, so I do that on the side. The funny thing is, a lot of times, especially in our business, we want to meet with people. A lot of people look me up on LinkedIn and find out that I’m local to them, so they say, “hey can we meet? I’d love to meet with you.” I always love meeting people, so I always take people up on that kind of stuff. At one point I used to reserve time on Friday’s for that purpose, so if someone did reach out to me and want to meet up I could say, “sure, let’s have lunch on Friday afternoon, we’ll do it in Downtown Burbank, plenty of restaurants there.” I kind of knew that I would plan on shooting up the rest of the afternoon with that. Then I found that that was just cutting too much into my own productivity so I finally realized that if someone wanted to meet with me badly enough, let them come and meet with me on a Saturday morning.
Next time someone reached out to me I said, “well if you’re willing to get up early and meet me for breakfast at 8 o’clock Saturday morning, you’re on.” The guy was that interested in meeting me, and he agreed. As time went on and I was doing that more and more it occurred to me that we’re getting together and we’re eating, do we really need to be eating? At this point I really was sort of struggling with my weight and I was like, “is that the best way to spend my time with somebody?” It seemed out of left field, I’m sure, to him, but the next time somebody reached out to me saying he’d just moved here from Ohio or something and he wanted to me. I said, “normally I meet for breakfast, but what do you think about going hiking? We live in the perfect place in the world for hiking, we’re in beautiful Southern California,” Griffith Park was literally five miles from my house.
I suggested that we just meet there and we’ll go hiking, and it’s a perfect opportunity to talk rather than shove food in our pie holes. I could tell he thought it was very odd that I was asking, that I was suggesting this, I thought it was very forward thinking and revolutionary. So the first time we agreed to meet for breakfast and he said, “next time we can go hiking,” and eventually we did. I started posting on Facebook saying, and I started calling it #accountinghike, “I’m just going, and if you want to be there, great, here’s where I’m going to be. Meet me and we’ll go.” And people started going. We were starting to build momentum, and I kind of got out of the habit.
So that’s what I really love to do in my spare time. I love going hiking, it’s just a great way to combine exercise with just being outdoors. You climb up to the top of Griffith Park and you get the most beautiful view of Los Angeles, on a clear day you can see all the way out to the water. So it’s beautiful, and that’s what I love to do.
JOHN. That’s so great. After you moved to California when you got into hiking? I’m on Long Island, let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of hiking.
SETH. It wasn’t right after I moved it, it was more recently. I had someone reached out to me who wanted to pick my brain, she’s got a bookkeeping business, and she actually took me hiking to Griffith Park for the first time. She told me she started this thing called 52 Hike Challenge. Long and short of it was that her boyfriend had been overweight for a long time and he just started going hiking because he was bored at the gym, he didn’t want to go to the gym. What he would do is he would just go hiking and he just started going here and there when he could, and he really enjoyed it. It became a thing where he said, “I’m going to go at least one day a week for a year.” Apparently he lost 80 pounds just going hiking.
JOHN. Wow, that’s fantastic.
SETH. Yeah, so he started this whole 52 hike challenge where you go once a week for 52 weeks. Most people find they get the 52 done in well under a year because it just starts to catch on and they just love doing it so much that they start going two or three times a week.
JOHN. Is that the case with you, are you hooked?
SETH. No. No. I’d gotten into it, and I get into a routine, unfortunately I’m a little took hooked on my business too. I get in and out of it. In fact, I’m at a point where I’m about to get back into it, because I’ve been out of it for a while and I’m like, “I need to do this.”
JOHN. That is so hard, that we all struggle with, that balance of how much of this passion that we have, or this hobby that we have, should we do and then work just creeps in though. It’s hard to remain cognizant of that. Work is just always over your shoulder.
SETH. Here’s what I found though, honestly. We live in the illusion, I think, a lot that we need to put in all these hours to get all this work done. The reality, and what I’ve learned, and I’ve now experienced it, when I have disciplined myself to stick with the hiking, is really as follows. A while back I’d also taken this book I was reading called The One Minute Millionaire where the book is written about how millionaires think from one minute to the next. At the beginning of the book it talked about how these millionaires live their lives and structure their lives around six major areas in this particular order: body, mind, spirit, time, people and money. So money is last on their list, believe it or not. You would think that a millionaire would have to have it top of mind, but it’s actually last. It’s actually the last because the idea is they think if you do the first five well, the sixth one will take care of itself. Notice, the first one is the body, it’s being of sound body and mind. What I realized, I took kind of what they wrote about and adopted it into my own world and life, and of course me being me, I made a spreadsheet based on it.
JOHN. Sure you did, of course you did. You put some Macros on it?
SETH. There weren’t any Macros needed, but I did list the areas and go, “how much time do I want to spend on each of these in any single day.” Of course it added up to way more than I could every do in a day. Then I spread it out over a week and said, “just generically I want to spend this much time working out at the gym,” let’s say, and that might be an hour a day, or whatever it is. That kind of got me interested in finding ways to enjoy physical activity. In reality, what I found was that when I was better balanced, when I forced myself to go to the gym in the morning, and only work from eight to four, that was kind of the time I set aside as my money time, my working hours. From four to six would be my reading time, when I would take care of my mind, when I would feed my mind. Then, pretty much six o’clock I put on my calendar, “you’re done. You’re done for the day. You need this downtime to balance and to clear your head.”
When I’ve gotten into the routine where I stick to that sort of generic schedule, what I found is that in the hours when I am working I’m so much more focused and so much more productive that I probably get much more done in less time, because I’m better balanced. I think it’s an illusion that we think, “if I put in 80 hours a week, that’s what I got to do to succeed.” That’s B.S. Can I curses on this? Are we FCC regulated.
JOHN. B.S. is more than appropriate, it’s all good. You’re absolutely right though. Everybody thinks that professionalism just feeds you this, “well that’s what the charge code is for, that’s the whatever, you’ve got to work, work work, whether you’re with a big firm or not. Taking time for yourself, taking time to network, like you did with the hiking, where it was for you but it was also a group thing. I think that’s so cool. I have to imagine that those group hikes with other people, and just the one on one, that had to help your business and help your career.
SETH. First of all, one of the things I’ve really done back of everything that I’ve done, is build communities. What I’ve realized is it’s another really cool way to build a community. Let’s get out of the restaurant, let’s stop eating crappy food, and let’s do something that’s actually good for ourselves and we can actually be productive because we can do the networking thing. It’s such a better way to network. Even if you look at your typical networking group, your BNI’s that people join, what are they doing? They’re all standing around a room stuffing their faces. Me personally, after a while, I get bored. I don’t know what to do with myself, I’m like, “I don’t want to talk to these people, I want to do something.” I love the idea of mixing up the business networking with something that’s really good for you. Again, taking advantage of where we live in beautiful Southern California. It’s gorgeous here,
I spend so much of my time holed up in what I call my Nerd Cave, and I can be in my house for two or three days on end without leaving because I have everything I need, anything I don’t have I can easily have delivered, I really don’t need to leave my house. Then I start getting cabin fever. I’m like, “I got to get out of here, I need to be around people.” And there is no more perfect way to do that than to get out and go hiking with some people.
JOHN. I think that’s so fantastic, and it’s something that then people know you for. These accountant hikes, and things like that, which I think is really, really cool. Now, was there something else that you used to do before this, that maybe people knew you for, or maybe even going back to your broker days, or things like that?
SETH. When I was younger I actually did work out a lot. I used to love going to the gym and lifting weights, and I was a life guard growing up on Long Island. I life guarded for the Smith Town town beaches.
JOHN. That’s awesome man, that’s very cool.
SETH. So I used to run, swim, lift weights, I used to love doing that kind of stuff. I think it definitely adds a dimension of who I am as a person. When I first started with social media a lot of people go to their LinkedIn profiles and it’s just natural to assume that I would find a nice picture of myself wearing a suit and tie and throw that up in my LinkedIn profile because that seems appropriate, and it is. The consultant I’d worked with years ago when I started doing the videos, he’s the one who actually told me that I needed to start using YouTube and not just putting them up on my website. When I started doing that, and he kind of helped me start out this back in 2009, really building up my social media profiles. He actually suggested, because here’s another thing that he knew about me as an individual that had nothing to do with business, I’m a big, big animal lover. We have three dogs and the only reason we don’t have six is because I’m limited in the city of Burbank and only allowed to have three.
JOHN. It’s because of people like you that they have that law.
SETH. Exactly. You know how they have cat ladies? I’d be like the Dog Man, I’d have like 50 dogs walking around. He said, “you should put a picture of yourself with your dogs up there.” He also had me write up in the little tag line that you can write on LinkedIn, in those days my tag line said, “dog lover.”
JOHN. That’s awesome, very cool.
SETH. People started commenting and saying it was so refreshing to see that because everybody else just does the normal thing, and this made me really stand out, and what’s branding all about? Standing out. So I stood out, I branded myself, by adding a personal dimension to who I was. So people see that and people would comment, I wouldn’t even have to explain it to them, it was very clear. They would look at that, comment, and say, “oh wow, I get a sense of who you are as a person, not just some guy trying to shove some sales message down my throat.” It humanizes me is what that came down to. The more we can, especially in this social media world, this is the kind of stuff I talk about at QuickBooks Connect. The more we can humanize ourselves by introducing those personal dimensions into who we are, the things we love to do, that more than our skills is what’s going to attract our clients going forwards, I think. That’s how we’re going to build tribes, we’re going to find people like minded, with common interests, so I’ll end up working with a bunch of accountants and bookkeepers who love to go hiking. It just adds a really cool, really interesting dimension to who we are as individuals and as a group.
JOHN. Right. That’s exactly it. It’s assumed that you’re already good at what you do, we’re all good at our jobs, plus computers do half of it anyway. If you have to tell me that you’re good at it, then you’re probably not good at it. If we just assume that you’re good at it and you’re like, “hey I also love dogs and love to hike. I was a lifeguard,” stuff like that, then it’s like, “wow, he must be really good, because he doesn’t have to tell me all the time that he’s good.” What a great example, and that’s really, really cool.
So, I guess, what might be some barriers that you saw from others, or maybe even yourself, that you went through for not wanting to share, or being kind of hesitant to open up?
SETH. My problem, as I never really had any hesitations about opening up, I’ve always been kind of an open book. My parents friends, that we grew up knowing of course, I remember commenting to my parents about me like, “don’t you think Seth kind of over shares a little bit?” My parents, by this time, had just resolved that they know me, this is who I am, because I’m very open about everything. One of the reasons that I’ve become and open book and learned to be that, is because I know that it places me in a position to be of service. That’s what my whole existence has become all about. what I learned is that happens to work really well in business too.
Again, I got criticized for putting too much information out there for free on YouTube, and I said, “nope.” Instinctively I just knew it was the right way to do it, and sure enough it took a while, and there were times I was ready to give up, but eventually what happened is the tidal wave started coming of people saying, “I love your videos. I love what you’ve done, and I need more help. I would like to hire you.” Next thing I know I’ve almost unwittingly built this online, 24/7, lead generation engine.
JOHN. Yes. That’s so cool, and such a perfect example for others to see that if you did stay closed off, if you didn’t share, if you didn’t let people see who Seth David really was none of that would have really happened. You would have been the best bookkeeper with no clients, or the best accountant with no clients. You know? It’s like, “no one cares, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to create that network and what have you.”
SETH. That reminds me of a very funny conversation I had a few years ago. One of the things I would do for clients, if they felt I was too expensive for them and they wanted to hire a part time bookkeeper, I would go help them, because they don’t know what to look for. So they would pay me and I would go in and interview people and narrow it down to three and say, “here are the top three people I would recommend. I think anyone of them would be good for the job, now you pick who’s the best fit for your culture.”
I remember doing those interviews for this client and offering a position as I was interviewing people. At the time I was charging $40 an hour for my services. This woman sits down across the table from me, here to interview for the job. Long story short, it ends up coming out that I’m doing this for the client to help them out, I’m charging $40 an hour, and she says I work for nothing, and I don’t make any money, and $40 an hour is nothing. I think she said she charges $125 an hour. I was like, “yeah, so you make $125 an hour, but you don’t have any clients. So it’s great that you can say, ‘I charge $125 an hour,’ but now you’re interviewing for the job with me that pays half that if anything.” It’s funny because you reminded me of that when you said, “you can be the best accountant out there with no clients.” It’s so true.
JOHN. Exactly. Or you don’t even advertise, you don’t even let yourself out, it’s just professionalism, I think it’s the ism, you can be appropriate, you can be professional, you can be good at your job, but don’t let it control your personality. Don’t become the stereotype, don’t become just like everybody else. Right when I met you at QuickBooks Connect I was like, “oh my lord,” you’re the definition of Green Apple in my world. It’s like, you’re you, and everybody loves you for it. There were seventeen hundred people there, I guess, and everybody knew you, because you’re you where everyone else is trying to be a version of someone else. I think it’s awesome man, I think it’s so cool, I think it’s great.
So with that said, we really got to know you, but I don’t say that I’ll come and hike with you until we do my seventeen rapid fire questions to really get to know Seth.
When it comes to computers, are you a PC or a Mac?
JOHN. Mouse, right click or left click?
SETH. Right click.
JOHN. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
SETH. Mickey Mouse.
JOHN. How about a movie that makes you cry?
SETH. What was that one with Bette Midler from years ago, Beaches I think it was called. That was the first movie that I remember crying at.
JOHN. Beaches, OK., i thought you were going to go 101 Dalmatians on me.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
SETH. Star Wars.
JOHN. Financials, balance sheet or income statement?
SETH. Balance sheet.
JOHN. Do you have a favorite number?
SETH. Seven, my birthday.
JOHN. Do you have a favorite band?
SETH. Yeah, the first band that popped into mind was The Cure.
JOHN. Absolutely, that’s huge.
How about boxers or briefs?
SETH. Boxers, no, I got to go back to briefs. I got to pull back my answer. I used to be boxers, but it’s been briefs for a long time now.
JOHN. This is an easy one, cats or dogs?
JOHN. I knew that one.
Do you have a favorite color?
SETH. Green. Color of money.
JOHN. Haha! Nice.
How about a least favorite color?
SETH. Maybe gray, I don’t know.
JOHN. How about Sudoku or Crossword puzzle?
JOHN. You said that too enthusiastic.
Favorite toppings on a pizza.
SETH. Pepperoni, no crust.
JOHN. Do you have a favorite comedian?
SETH. John Garrett!
JOHN. Oh look at you trying to kiss up.
SETH. All time favorite, Robin Williams for sure.
JOHN. Oh yeah, easily, unbelievable.
Are you more of an early bird or night owl?
SETH. Early bird.
JOHN. Last one, the favorite thing you own, or the favorite thing you have?
SETH. Do my dogs count?
JOHN. Absolutely. That’s a solid. What kind of dogs are they?
SETH. They’re terrier mixes, they’re all rescues.
JOHN. there you go, perfect. I’m sure we’ll have some pictures up on GreenApplePodcast.com so everyone can check them out. Thank you so much time Seth for taking time to be with me today.
SETH. Thank you, I enjoyed it.