Orumé is an Accountant & Traveler & Runner
Orumé Agbeyegbe Hays, Founder & CEO of Hays CPA, LLC., talks about her passion for running and traveling and how it has helped improve her skills in endurance and networking within her career! She also talks about some of her favorite places she has visited!
• Getting into running
• How running has helped her career
• Favorite places she has travelled to
• How she encourages her employees to share their personal side at work
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 549 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. And to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you at work. It’s asking the question who else are you besides your job title.
And really quickly, before we get into the episode, I wanted to plug Michael Puck’s globaldogart.com. Michael was a guest on the podcast. Dog photography was his “and.” And he’s partnering with other dog photographers all over the world to create globaldogart.com where 100% of the proceeds go to Save 1 Million Dogs by 2030. And he says that shows that dogs foster social connections amongst people, promote trusting relationships in business settings, and just pictures of dogs increase our well-being and reduce stress, so check out globaldogart.com and help save some dogs. And get some cool pictures in your office while you’re at it.
And don’t forget to check out the book of What’s Your “And”? at whatsyourand.com. And also, 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 Orumé Agbeyegbe Hays. She’s the CEO of Hays CPA in New York City and was named one of the 25 most powerful women in accounting by CPA Practice Advisor. And now, she’s with me here today. Orumé, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Orumé: Thank you for having me, John. It’s a pleasure to be here.
John: This is gonna be so much fun. But before we jump in here, I have 17 rapid-fire questions. Get to know you on a new level here. So let’s start. I think this is an easy one maybe. A favorite color.
Orumé: Favorite color, well, I’m actually wearing two of my favorite colors today. It’s pink and blue. So that was very easy.
John: Oh, very easy. All right. How about a least favorite color?
Orumé: Least favorite color? I would say maybe gray because it’s kind of bland, you know.
John: Yeah. And that’s the color I’m wearing, so perfect.
Orumé: No. I’m sorry.
John: No, I’m teasing. I’m teasing you. That’s all good. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
Orumé: I don’t have a favorite, but I will say I like the Lion King. Does that count?
John: Oh, yeah.
Orumé: I like all of them. All the characters.
John: All of the characters. Absolutely. No, that’s a great pick. That’s an excellent pick. I’ll take it. How about when it comes to puzzles? Sudoku, Crossword, or a Jigsaw puzzle?
Orumé: Crossword because I used to play Crosswords when I was much younger. I don’t play it as much any longer, but Crosswords. Yeah.
John: All right. I’m impressed. I like it. Are you more of a talker or a texter?
Orumé: Well that one is difficult. It depends on who I’m interacting with, you know. There are some folks who, you know, it’s like I can’t BS on the text any longer. Well, I just get on the phone and get it over with. And then other times, it’s like I’m gonna do the texting. I’m like you don’t wanna face that person. It can be an avoidance and it can also be that is text. That is half and half I’ll say.
John: Half and half. I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Do you have a favorite actor or an actress?
Orumé: My favorite actress right now is Viola Davis ’cause like she is the bomb. She’s really something else. Everything she does is— It’s like she shines. And she’s someone that I look up to.
John: So good for so long too. Absolutely. And that’s a trick question ’cause you have the acting background as well. I was gonna say you, but no, no, it’s all good. How about— ooh, that’s an important one— toilet paper roll, over or under?
Orumé: I do over.
John: Over. Yeah. Yeah.
John: Okay. Fair enough. Some people really, really, really, really care. That’s funny.
Orumé: Me, I’m like whatever. It’s like just get it in there. Whatever.
John: As long as it’s there. Exactly. Exactly. How about more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Orumé: Star Trek.
John: Star Trek? Okay.
Orumé: Yeah. Because, again, I had a lot of older brothers and my brothers were into it, so I got into it as well.
John: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Is your computer more of a PC or a Mac?
Orumé: Well, right now more of a PC, although I am with Mac family. My very first one, I still have my old Mac, which I use sometimes. And then all of my other products are Apple, you know. I got all of the other stuff. So I still use a Mac. But for work, it’s all PC.
John: Sure. So little both. I’m impressed. All right. All right. How about ice cream, in a cup or in a cone?
Orumé: Well, it depends on if I’m out and about or if I’m at home. If I’m out and about, absolutely it needs to be a cone. If I’m home, then I’ll go with a cup.
John: Yeah, because then it’s extra scoops at home.
John: Exactly. I see what’s going on here. I see. I see. How about balance sheet or income statement?
Orumé: Income statement annually. If I’m looking at it, if I wanna do a longer period, then I’ll do the balance sheet.
John: There you go. How about prefer more hot or cold?
Orumé: Hot. I am from Nigeria. It’s tropical. It’s hot all the way. Nothing cold for me. You can see right now I’m drinking my cup of tea. Always something hot. Hot, hot all the way.
John: 70 degrees is cold to you, I’m sure. So it’s like woo.
Orumé: Yes, it is.
John: Yeah. Yeah. That’s impressive. All right. How about a favorite number? Any number at all?
Orumé: 17 because that was the name of my childhood home and it’s not part of any of my password numbers. So don’t anyone try, okay, 17 with anything else. It’s not gonna work.
John: That’s funny. That’s great. That’s so great. Well, since you’re in New York, how about what’s a favorite toppings on a pizza?
Orumé: So pizza, it’s not particularly my cup of tea. But recently, I had some really, really good pizza in Manhattan. I actually met up with a number of CPAs, and we got together, and we had a really good pizza. And so, it was deluxe of everything. So I like mushrooms. I like pepperoni and veggies.
John: Okay. Yeah. Fair enough. And two more. When it comes to books, audiobook, e-Book, or the real book?
Orumé: I like the real book because I just like the feel of paper to like flip the pages over. Any problem is that if you’re traveling or whatever, then you know it’s not as convenient to carry all those books with you. But I find out with like magazine subscriptions, it’s so difficult for me to go and get a subscription online and read it online. So I like to have paper copies of them.
John: The physical copy. Yeah, no, I’m with you on that too. Absolutely. And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Orumé: Favorite thing I have or own is actually one of my other “ands.” And I know we’re not getting into this yet, but it’s running like medal. The medal I got from the 2010 marathon that I ran.
John: Wow. And where was it? What marathon?
Orumé: The New York City 2010 Marathon. Yeah. So I love that medal. It’s framed in my living room.
John: That’s awesome. I lived in New York City then, so who knows if I waved at you as you ran by ’cause I was not running. I was probably eating ice cream out of a cone and then going back. Right?
Orumé: We love spectators and supporters. They are the ones who carried the runners through all the time.
John: Yeah. Well, we can jump into running. I mean, that leads right into one of your “ands.” Absolutely. And so, like is running something you did as a kid and then just carried on as an adult or did you get into it later?
Orumé: Well, it’s kind of funny, right? So in school, I actually did it. I ran for the school. I ran 100 meters and 200 meters.
John: Oh, wow.
Orumé: I think it started from when I was really, really young ’cause my parents, my mom would call. She’s like “Which one of the kids are out there?” She will just call your name. And so, you would run through the living room to go meet her ’cause you wanted to get there in time before somebody else or whatever. So I started running and then I ran in school in Nigeria. That’s like secondary school, which is like junior high. And then I forgot about running. I didn’t run for a very long time and relocated to New York. I can’t remember what triggered it. I just started to run again, and I just started, and it was little by little. You know, 3 miles, 5 miles. I had a couple of friends who were like really, really passionate runners, and they were members of a running club, and they asked me to join. And the next thing I know, I’m like training for a marathon. I’m like this is crazy.
John: Right? That’s a lot more than 100 meters. That’s for sure. And so, was the New York City marathon the only marathon you’ve done or have you done others?
Orumé: Yes. That has been my one and only marathon, which is why that medal is so precious to me. However, I’ve done a couple of half marathons. I’ve done about 4 half-marathons. I did the Detroit Half, the Stockton Island Half, and the Brooklyn Half.
John: And I think that those count. So that’s like two more marathons, four halves. I’m giving it to you. We’re gonna round up. The auditor in me says let’s just round it up.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool. And so, do you have anything from the running that you feel translates to work at all?
Orumé: Yeah, it’s that endurance. I think when you are running a long distance, you have to like be disciplined and just like know that you have to get to that end point, right? And so, it’s the same thing. Like when I’m going through taxes or working with any deadline, I’m tired, I wanna stop, I’m like “No, I’ve gotta keep going ’cause I’ve got to get to that end point.” And so, I think I bring that endurance from running into practice with work.
John: Yeah, I love it. That’s exactly it. I mean, you know, ’cause you’re exercising that muscle outside of work. And then when it comes time to use that muscle, that endurance muscle, if you will, at work, then you’re like “I’ve done this before. This is not even close to as hard as being on mile 14 of a marathon and being like, oh lord, like I thought we were done and I’m only halfway.”
Orumé: Exactly. You’re like look at the clock and like look at the stock of papers and I’m like “Ah, there’s so much to do. Keep going. Keep going.”
John: Exactly. Yeah, no, I love it. That’s super cool. And I guess also traveling. I know you’ve traveled all over the world. And so, do you have some favorite places that you’ve been?
Orumé: Yes. And I’ll tie a little bit of my running into my travels everywhere I go especially recently within the last 10 years. Every time I travel, one thing that has to be in my suitcase is my trainers, my running sneakers and a pair of running out stuff. And so, I make sure I get in like 2 miles or 3 miles just to like get to know the place where I’m at and get a feel for the local environment where that is a great way to see a new city just by running. Obviously, you can see the city by transportation and all of that stuff, but running is another way to see it. So yeah, I consider myself to be a global citizen.
Growing up, my mom used to take all of her children. My siblings and I, we always traveled away on summer vacation. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. So we’re either coming to America or going to London. So I had that travel bug from when I was small. And one of the things I always said is like I wanted to be in a field where I could get paid to travel. So when I applied at some point in time to a flight attendant, I did not make it. I made it through the first round. I didn’t make it through the second round because at that time, flight attendants still used to pull the baggage in the overhead bin.
John: Oh, up in the overhead.
Orumé: And I didn’t want to be doing that. I’m like “No, this isn’t gonna happen.” But anyway, so travel, I’ve been to like so many places. I used to have a map in my room in which I had— It was a world map and I would just check off all the different places I’ve been to. So one interesting place I’ve been to is Austria. I went to Salzburg, and it was like totally blew my mind away. Why? Because when I was small, the musical that everyone gets to watch when I was small, I dunno if you watched it, was Sound of Music.
John: Sound of Music, absolutely.
Orumé: I couldn’t believe that where I was was exactly the way it was in the movie. I was like the most beautiful thing. I said, “You look at a movie and you think it’s all make believe and it’s what—” But they’re like “No, this is real. This is where the Sound of Music was filmed.”
John: That’s so cool. That’s so cool.
Orumé: Oh, well, totally cool. So I did that. Another interesting place I’ve been to is Athens. And one of the places I visited when I was in Athens was I went to the amphitheater. And like you mentioned earlier, I used to be an actress. And one of the plays, we did a lot of Greek tragedy plays when I was—
John: Oh, wow. Yeah
Orumé: So for me to be in Athens and I went to the amphitheater, the acropolis, and it was like, whoa, this again identifying something that I’ve been exposed to in real life to my travel. So I was like I got to the floor, to the main floor of the theater, and lay down there to recite one of my Greek lines.
John: Yes! Yes!
Orumé: You know? People were looking at me as if I was crazy. I’m like I don’t care. I’m actually reciting words from Euripides. I think it was some lines from the Trojan women and I got to recite that. Another interesting place is Ecuador.
John: Oh, wow.
Orumé: There is a place that you get to in Ecuador where you get to straddle and you have one foot on both hemispheres. Yeah, I was like this is so wacky. Right?
John: Right? That’s so fun though. It’s so fun. And I mean, in the Acropolis, I mean, to be able to recite lines that were recited there thousands of years ago and, yes, you’re crazy, but it’s awesome, you know. And so what, you know? But to bring it full circle for you, but also for that theater, like how cool is it for that theater to hear those words again that were spoken there thousands of years ago and now by you? That’s so cool.
Orumé: Exactly. I’m like even if you guys don’t identify with it, I’m like I am living my life right now. This is so—
Orumé: Yeah, it’s great.
John: That’s so great. And to be able to straddle the equator and all that stuff, like that’s so awesome. And like things that you would never get to do otherwise. And so, do you feel like the traveling at all gives you a skill that you bring to work?
Orumé: Yes. It absolutely does. I look at myself, I think of myself as a global citizen. And when I get to travel and I get to all those different places, I get to meet people from different cultures, different countries, different religions. And it makes me be able to again relate to colleagues, to my clients because nobody ever— I don’t know about you, but I’m sure you don’t interact with just one mode of people, right, so exposed to different cultures, different languages. Even though I don’t recall those languages, but I’ve been in France, I’ve been in Spain, I’ve been in Italy, I can relate to them whether I get with them whether as a client or as a colleague when I was working with other staff members.
So it just makes it easier for me to relate to a wider variety of people instead of just a small, I mean narrow—
John: Which is huge.
John: ‘Cause, I mean, how much of that is part of your career versus your technical skills? I mean, that other side of you is maybe even more important to be relatable and all that.
Orumé: Yeah. Because especially, you know, it’s like starting up with my firm. I started from scratch, growing a practice and trying to bring new clients onboard. They need to be able to relate to you. I mean, you need to know that even though just something we might not have— We might have traveled in common or I might be speaking to someone who we’ve been to the same country or visited the same place, whether it’s Puerto Rico, nearby here, or whether it’s Belize, I’ve had a lot of different connections with people like that when we say that “Oh, you’ve traveled there? You were there?” You know, at this rainforest or the other rainforest. And so, those little things, it definitely also helps in a workplace.
John: Absolutely. No, that’s so cool to hear that the whole What’s Your “And”? thing isn’t just I’m making it up in my bubble head. It’s real life, and it really matters, and it makes a huge difference in your work.
Orumé: It does. Recently, I met some CPAs who were from India. And I got to talk about when I went to travel to India. It was one of those wild experiences. A friend of mine invited me to attend a wedding in India. And I went there. And it was the most lavish, lavish wedding ever. But to be able to say to the CPA “Oh, I’ve been to Jaipur, I’ve been to Mumbai and a bunch of other places, I got to ride on an elephant”, I had to share that experience with her. And then to talk about the wedding, immediately she identified with the wedding. And she was like “Yes, this is what they do.” She knew what I was talking about.
John: And it just softens everything. And then the relationship’s just better. You know, the work will get done, but it just gets done better and smoother if you have that relationship there. So awesome. Before you started the firm, you worked somewhere else. How much is it on an organization where you’re not the CEO or maybe as the CEO even to create space for the people that work there to have an “and” and to share it versus how much is it on the individual to just be like “Hey, this is what I do, take it or leave it”?
Orumé: I think it’s really super important. That wasn’t done everywhere where I have worked at. I work primarily in industry. And in one of the international firms where I worked at, they had that culture in which every time a new employee was onboarded, we had a staff meeting to welcome that person in. And that person will share a little bit about their professional life, but always also touch on their personal something that nobody else would know. And so, to help bring that person in immediately so that other staff members, the team, we could begin to relate to that person.
And then weekly, we would have all hands on deck meeting and first to talk about what they got up to over the weekend, who went bowling or whatever. What’s in your head? What else are you doing? Are you acting off stage, off Broadway somewhere? Are you doing a standup comedy somewhere or whatever? So I think, therefore, the employers that had that vibe going on, I noticed that the team were more together versus other employers that I’ve worked for that did not have that culture per se. Of course, you make things work, but folks are not as connected per se.
John: Yeah, no, it’s so true. I mean, it’s just amazing how when you just— I mean, you talking about traveling and running, I mean, but especially traveling like Austria, this is a movie that I watched as a kid, I mean, you were so animated and so alive. And you could hear it in your voice everyone listening, you know. And if this was a tax update podcast, I doubt that you would be as excited and as animated as you were talking about travel, which is totally fine. It’s not a knock on taxes, or you, or anything. It’s just human nature to this is what lights up my soul like on a basic level. And so, it’s like, yeah, find that out about the people around you. I mean, magic happens. It’s awesome.
Orumé: Yeah, I agree. I think we have to fill all the different buckets of life, right? So if you are just filling your professional buckets and just doing all the CPAs and getting all that technical expertise and not getting any other buckets, I think that something after a while is gonna go awry. So it’s better to like fill in all those other buckets of life.
John: Oh, that’s so perfect. So perfect, Orumé. That’s so good. And I guess do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening? Or maybe that’s it. I mean, just make sure that all your buckets are full.
Orumé: Yes. Just fill in all your bucket. I have a girlfriend who does pottery. She just started to like do pottery. It’s just like making things from clay, from scratch. I’m like find your creative— Everybody has something that they can do. You know, find a passion and tap into it. If you’ve been holding back for so long, just let it go. And you know, the good thing is that you can do it in secret if you don’t wanna be judged. And then when you feel comfortable, come out and share it with other people because you’ll be surprised that there might be somebody else who shares the same passion as you do your “and” and you’ll make a connection there and that could take you somewhere else.
John: That’s so great. And yeah, you’re supposed to be bad at it. That’s why it’s a hobby and not your job, you know. And I’ve also found too, if you just change the phrase to I enjoy, I enjoy traveling or I enjoy making pottery, I enjoy running, I didn’t ask you your marathon time, who cares? It doesn’t matter. You ran a marathon. What more do you want from me?
Orumé: If you are there when I finished, you would have thought I was like #1. I was like it doesn’t matter if I was like the last person. I’m like I finished. That was more important.
John: It doesn’t matter. And so, you know, I enjoy blank. I’m doing it for me, you know. I’m not doing it for your approval. I don’t even care if you approve. Actually, it’s better if you don’t. I don’t even care. You know? So I love that. So great, Orumé. So I feel like it’s only fair though since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning of the episode that we turn the tables, make this the first episode of The Orumé Podcast. So I’m all yours and whatever you got for me.
Orumé: Okay, great. So tell me about an interesting place that you have traveled to in Africa.
John: Oh, yeah. So, okay. I mean, my favorite city in the world is Cape Town by far.
Orumé: Oh, nice.
John: Yeah. And going down just south of there is the Cape of Good Hope, which is where the Atlantic Ocean starts to come around Africa and then hits the Indian Ocean. It’s unbelievably powerful. And just to imagine these ships in the 1500s or whatever coming around that with no GPS, no cellphones, no computers, I mean just unbelievable. I mean, just crazy, crazy. And then there’s also baboons just running around wild, which makes me laugh hysterically. I don’t know why. It turns me into like a 6-year-old kid. And so, their red butts like running everywhere. So like that was really cool. And again, one of those things where you read about it as a kid and then you go and you’re like “No! This isn’t even close to what you told me. This is crazy. Like this is unbelievably crazy.” So that’s a pretty cool place.
Orumé: That’s awesome. So I have been there. I have been to South Africa. I have been to Cape Town. And I did climb the Tabletop Mountain when I was there.
John: Yeah. Tabletop Mountain right there. Yeah. Oh, you climbed it. Oh, wow. I did the cable car. I paid 20 bucks or whatever. I was like “Yeah, I’m gonna ride up.” And then I waved probably at you as you were hiking and like what I was supposed to probably do, but—
Orumé: So keeping the theme with Africa, what would you say an African Dish that you’ve enjoyed, either an African dish or African music that you like?
John: So I did a safari in Kenya in Masai Mara. And it was really funny ’cause they kept serving us Western meals. And I’m like “Yo! I’m in the middle of Kenya, like hook me up with some good stuff.” And I was joking with the Safari driver and I was like “Yeah, but I just wanna get all energized so I can run a marathon like all the Kenyans do.” And he is like “Oh, we don’t all run marathons, just the Masai warrior types.” He’s like “Look at me.” He had a big gut. And he was just like “I don’t run anywhere.” But they made me a traditional meal and ugali. I thought it was great. It was like a white cornmeal, I guess sort of. Kind of like mashed potatoes, but kind of cornmeal.
And man, that that will fill you up quickly. And it was that with some greens and then some beef, but the ugali was definitely a unique thing that I hadn’t had before. They were all like “You liked it? Really?” And I was like “Yeah! You should have this on the menu. Why is this not a thing?” And you know, it’s what they served all the workers in the back. And I’m like “Yeah, bring that out. That’s what I want. I’ll go back there and eat it with you.”
Orumé: Yeah, I loved it. And it’s not spicy. It’s not like over the top.
John: Oh, really?
Orumé: It was great. Yeah, it was really good, you know. And so, yeah, I enjoyed it for sure.
John: Yeah. A nice one. So I love spicy and not spicy. I love a lot of African food. In Nigeria, we have a cassava mix. It’s called gari with eba and then some like really spicy vegetable soup. But I won’t go into that. I have another question for you. So how many languages do you speak? Any other language apart from English?
Orumé: Yeah. Well, not so much anymore. We lived in the Azores for 2 years when I was in sixth and seventh grade. So I knew Portuguese when I lived there. And then just after that, I took Spanish in high school.
So that ruined all the Portuguese because they’re close, but they’re different. Little bit of Spanish and then like a very tiny bit of Russian I also know, but also Pig Latin in high school I was a professional at, which is where you take the English word, and you take the first syllable and put it at the end, and then put an “ay” at the end of it. Like my name would be Ohnjay. So you just take the J and put it at the end. And I think it was a code that was made up during World War II, so then the Germans couldn’t translate or intercept the English as well. And so, it was just a dumb thing that several of my friends picked up and decided to— especially on the soccer team for some reason. We had that as a thing. But yeah, so the short answer is no. English is pretty much it, but I can hang a little bit with the Spanish and then a very tiny bit with Russian I guess sort of, but not really. I mean, there’s Google Translate app. Thank goodness.
Orumé: I know. Well, that we can all cheat. But before we go Google Translate, I do know something.
John: Yeah. So I’m impressed by someone like you. I mean, what are you? 5 languages I’m guessing?
Orumé: No. I wish. I used to live in Miami. When I was in Miami I used to get so frustrated ’cause everybody around me would speak Spanish. So I went to the library, tried to get some books. And this was back in the ’90s. I tried to get some tapes and whatever. And I just couldn’t pick it up. I was like this is not working, so I gave up. But when I was much younger, I used to speak French. I took French classes. And I used to write in French. And now, I can hardly put two sentences together because, like you said, if you don’t use it, you lose it. You lose the skill.
John: Exactly. Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Orumé, for being a part of What’s Your “And”? This was so much fun having you be on the show.
Orumé: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure. Definitely great conversation. Thanks for inviting me.
John: Absolutely. And everyone listening, if you wanna see some pictures of Orumé from around the world or from her running or maybe connect with her own social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button. Do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. And don’t forget to read the book. And 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.