Episode 561- David Bergstein

David is a Chief Innovation Officer & Pickleball Player

David Bergstein, the Chief Innovation Officer of Bergstein CPA, talks about his hobbies of racquet sports, mainly pickleball, how it has helped him establish relationships both personally and professionally, why it’s so important to be yourself in the workplace, and much more!

Episode Highlights
• Getting into pickleball
• Making connections and relating to people
• You don’t need a suit and tie




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    Welcome to Episode 561 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 the answer to the question of, who else are you besides the job title?

    And if you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the award-winning book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com.

    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 writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.

    And 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 audiobooks.

    And 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, Dave Bergstein. He’s the Chief Innovation Officer at Bergstein CPA. And now, he’s with me here today.

    Dave, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?.

    Dave: It’s a pleasure being here and I always enjoy speaking because that’s part of my “and”. Actually, I read your book a couple of times, almost finished it a couple of times, but now, I will finish it because you just told me, I can get it on Audible. I’m into listening now, so I will definitely finish it now.

    John: Oh, no, thanks, man.

    Well, me met so many years ago on my first association conference speaking thing and been in touch ever since, so I’m just excited to have you be a part of this. So, thank you, man.

    Dave: Thank you. I’m glad that you moved on from the spreadsheets and the large accounting firm and brightening up everybody’s life was what you’re doing.

    John: Oh, no, that means a lot, man. I appreciate that for sure. But, I do have some rapid-fire questions get to know Dave on a new level here. So, let me start with this one, this one might be an easy one. Favorite color?

    Dave: Green.

    John: Green. Solid. How about a least favorite color?

    Dave: I’ll go with green again, I’m a green person. Look at my shirt.

    John: Everything is green. It’s your favorite and your least favorite, like everything is all green. I love it.

    Okay. How about a favorite Disney character or any animated character?

    Dave: Grumpy.

    John: Oh, nice. Very good. Very good. And why Grumpy?

    Dave: Because I want to scare people away, I wear the Grumpy shirt. And you know what? I live – I live in Orlando, so I get to go to Disney all the time. So, I’m not really grumpy, I’m happy, but I like Grumpy.

    John: Yeah. But, Grumpy is honest. You know, like it’s like, hey, not everything is great all the time.

    Well, how about puzzles? Sudoku, crossword, or jigsaw puzzle?

    Dave: No. The only thing I’m into these days is Wordle doing it with my family. We roll on a group message and every day we each try to solve it. I solve it most of the time, but not all the time.

    John: Nice. Yeah, that’s definitely been a popular answer for sure. Maybe I need to update the question.

    How about favorite actor or actress?

    Dave: I like Woody Allen. And my millennial little baby boom is probably that’s my byline and I guess Woody Allen has been around a long time, you got to get used to New York humor.

    John: Exactly. Definitely.

    How about – this is an important one – toilet paper roll, over or under?

    Dave: I’m left-handed, so it goes a certain way and I like it under and I’m Charmin Soft to be precise.

    John: Charmin Soft, even the brand. There you go. You got to love yourself, right? There you go.

    How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Dave: I’m not a trekky. You know, I went to Disney World, I went on the Star Wars ride because it’s easy to go on with my family. I’m more into doing things myself than playing in the machine.

    John: Sure. No, absolutely, I get you.

    How about your computer, PC or a Mac?

    Dave: I’m a PC person, but I’m a iPad, iPhone, Apple watch…

    John: Everything else Apple watch they call that. All right.

    Dave: And the only reason is I still do tax returns and when you do tax returns, you need a PC.

    John: Yeah. Definitely. Definitely.

    How about – ooh, this is a good one, sunrise or sunset?

    Dave: Well, I’m a little bit sunrise, sunset. It comes with my heritage, so I’m coming from Europe.

    John: Right. There you go. Yeah.

    Dave: But, I do get up every morning even today when it was cold when we do our pickleball here. I live in a adult resort retirement community. They’re trying to come up with a mission statement now. They’re pushing that around and pickleball every morning.

    John: That’s great, man, which is why I can’t wait to jump into here for sure.

    Ice cream in a cup or in a cone?

    Dave: In a cup these days, vanilla with sprinkles.

    John: Ah, nice. There you go.

    How about a favorite day of the week?

    Dave: Every day is a great week for me. I don’t care what day of the week it is.

    John: Okay.

    Dave: Yeah. I like Tuesday this week because I started the teaching. I teach college and class just started Tuesday. So, Tuesday is a good night.

    John: Okay. All right. Since you have the accounting background, balance sheet or income statement?

    Dave: I guess I’m an income statement kind of guy.

    John: Okay. Yeah. Just get right down to the numbers.

    We got four more. Favorite concert?

    Dave: Barbra Streisand.

    John: Oh, wow! That’s classic. That’s amazing. Very cool.

    Dave: And I even sat next to her in a theater once watching a show.

    John: Wow! That’s amazing.

    Dave: She came in late with her two kids, sat right behind me, nobody was allowed to talk to her.

    John: Oh, right, yeah. No, I’m sure. I’m sure.

    And since you have the New York background, favorite toppings on a pizza loaded up?

    Dave: I’m just a pepperoni kind of guy. Not into pineapple, not into bacon, just give me pepperoni.

    John: Just a slice with pepperoni, there you go. Nice.

    How about favorite number?

    Dave: 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1028. You can see I’ve been doubling it and doubling it. I’m stuck with that number.

    John: There you go. Nice. I love it.

    And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?

    Dave: I have no favorites, I’m an equal opportunity person. I guess I like my paddle and my ebike these days.

    John: Yeah. I was going to say those sound like pretty important things.

    And so, let’s talk pickleball, how did that get started?

    Dave: Well, all my life I’ve been playing racket sports from paddle ball in the city of Brooklyn to Coney Island. Paddle ball, racquetball, hand ball, tennis. And once I moved into this community eight years ago, I discovered pickleball, they were playing it.

    Nobody ever talked about it. Now, it’s the fastest growing sport and must be a great business because Tom Brady is getting into it and LeBron James. I guess Tom is going to make up for the FTX, he’s got to make money now.

    John: Right. But, I mean, for those listening that don’t know what pickleball is because I really didn’t know what it was until about a year ago, how would you describe it to someone?

    Dave: I guess it’s a cross between pingpong table tennis and tennis. It’s a court that’s smaller than a tennis court. Generally, you play doubles rather than singles, even though the people on the 55 do singles. Less running and strategic game, a lot of thinking. And don’t go in the kitchen, which once you learned how to play the game, you’ll know where the kitchen is.

    John: Okay. Okay. And because the ball is kind of like a hard Wiffle ball.

    Dave: It is a Wiffle ball, plastic.

    John: Yeah. Yeah. And then, the paddles are – it’s like solid.

    Dave: Solid wood. No holes in it.

    John: Yeah, exactly. But, I would imagine you could still get some pretty good hit on that.

    Dave: You can. If you got good wrist action, you got good hit. It’s not about the hit, it’s about the drop shots, the thinking, and twist.

    John: Oh, okay.
    Dave: And even at this age, I can enter a senior tournament and maybe someday, I can make money at it.

    John: Oh, look at that. Okay. All right. But, I mean, it’s just something you enjoy doing, which is awesome.

    Dave: It’s great exercise, talk to a lot of people. We’re talking about our backgrounds, what we’re doing. And actually, I got people asking me, when can I collect my RSD, etc, stuff like that, you know.

    John: Right. All the tax return questions now that it’s turning to you.

    Dave: Actually, R&D, I was thinking of RS something around it.

    John: Right. Right. Right.

    And so, it just got started in your community, that’s when you started you saw people playing?

    Dave: Speaking of Jerry Seinfeld in Florida and what goes on in Florida and communities they used to have tennis courts. Now, there are big fights in these over 55 communities converting the tennis court to a pickle ball court. The tennis people don’t want to give it up, but more and more of these communities are converting the tennis courts and converting it to pickleball courts and more and more pickleball court is coming up.

    John: No. I mean, because I mean, it was at a like a vacation resort that I was at and they had you can either do tennis or pickleball. I mean, it was the same court and I was like, well, I don’t play pickleball, let’s do that. And, yeah, it was fun.

    Dave: It’s easier to play than tennis. So everyone can pick it up, so it’s easier even if you’re not as fast as you used to be.

    John: No. I love it. And I guess are there tournaments there or I mean, do you have any fun stories from playing that you can remember?

    Dave: Well, we did one tournament in the community for breast cancer to raise money by having it, you know, and it was fun. There are tournaments all over the country, senior tournaments, etc.

    But, it’s fun, you get to meet people, everyone always makes comments about, you know, they don’t go in the kitchen, they make reservations, things like that.

    Dave: And it’s mixed doubles in some cases, so you’re playing and you’re meeting a lot of people.

    John: That’s really awesome. And do you feel like the racket sports maybe in his – over your career, but especially the pickleball that it translates to anything at work?

    Dave: I think everything you do translates to something about yourself.

    And, with pickleball, I’m looking for the angles where to put the ball. So, I guess that goes back to tax strategy. I’m more a tax person than a – even though like talk about client accounts, it’s all about advisory service now. Complete change.

    And when I think we’ll see these big four firms as they start to divest the audit, I think there’s going to be a whole different change in way the world looks at accountants going forward. So, you know, everything relates to a little bit about work. You’re looking for the angle here, you’re looking for the angle there. And it’s also teamwork and being able to relate to other people.

    John: Yeah, which I mean being able to relate to other people, I mean, that’s something that is never really taught in school and it’s not really a skill set that people hang their hat on. You know, it’s instead of memorizing tax code or knowing, you know, whatever all these forms, but being able to relate like how crucial do you think that is?

    Dave: I learned my lesson over the last seven years playing pickleball by I guess alienating some people upfront with my sarcastic New York humor.

    Dave: And then, when people got to know me, they knew it’s just, you know, my style of fun across the board, so you got to be able to relate to people, not to get them mad at you.

    And kind of interesting, we got some people that live here that didn’t speak English upfront. They moved here from other countries, but as we got into pickleball and we socialize with each other, language barriers went down.

    John: Yeah. I love it. And kitchen was probably their first English work they learned.

    Dave: Don’t go in the kitchen, yes.

    John: Right, exactly.

    Dave: People learned how to say ouch in several different languages.

    John: Ouch. I’m pretty sure I can translate that one.

    But, I love that, you know, how it’s just through pickleball it created that human connection that, you know, is something that we can also take into our careers as well.

    Dave: Yeah. It’s gotten me to relate to people from – a lot of people from the Midwest here, some people even from North and South Dakota, Kentucky, and again, I’m in New York at different, you know, and we’re all starting to relate to each other with personality-wise. I made a lot of new friends.

    John: That’s awesome, man. I love it so much. And I guess was the racket sports something you had talked about in your working career with co-workers or with clients ever throughout your career?

    Dave: I talk a lot about it. Over the last seven years, I’ve talked a lot about pickleball. I used to talk about more racquetball. Again, you go through phases, racquetball was I guess my mid years and now, it’s pickleball.

    You know, when you start giving a speech you’re talking you talk about pickleball and people want to know what it is, how do you play it, it just breaks the ice. One of my clients just sent me a text yesterday, nude pickleball is becoming a thing.

    Dave: Not really, but there’s nude pickleball in Florida or in Kissimmee. There’s a resort where they’re doing nude pickleball. I don’t think I could do that.

    John: Right. Yeah. Maybe not for me, but good for them. That’s funny.

    But, I love how there were follow up questions when you talk about, you know, racquetball or pickleball especially pickleball. And there’s rarely follow up questions on the work technical speak, you know, type of thing, which is interesting to me because I mean, when I fly, you know, speaking in conferences it’s, you know, “So, what do you do?” And if I say I’m an accountant, people put on their noise cancelling headphones, like there’s no follow up questions, like they’re done talking to me.

    Dave: Every time I start giving a presentation to people, I ask them, “What do you do?” And when they say, “I’m an accountant,” I’m going to say, “Wrong answer.” You know, I say, “You got to say, I help people be more liquid, solvent, and profitable.” You know, what do you want to achieve in life? If they don’t say those questions, it turns it off.

    John: Yeah. No, it definitely does. And especially if you can bring the human side to you, you know, “I play pickleball” and they’re like, “Professionally?” “No, not professionally, but that’s what I do.” Like, you know, you didn’t ask me what I do for money, like, you know, what my work is, you know, that’s a different question altogether.

    But, I love how throughout your career like racket sports has been there. That’s always a thing that’s the technologies changed for sure, you know, the organizations that you work for, your job titles, you know, the technical expertise that you’re using changes, but your “and”, those racket ball sports have always been there. I think that’s important.

    Dave: I guess when you think about it, again, growing up in Brooklyn, I didn’t have tennis courts, I started with hand ball from hand ball to paddle ball and all the paddle sports.

    John: Right.

    Dave: So, I guess that’s followed me and I guess it’s followed me in my work career. But, I guess I got to pick up bowling next.

    John: Right. Yeah, but I mean, it’s one of those things like if I told you you could never play pickleball again or any racket sports again, you’d be like, whoa, time out, like those are fighting words, you know.

    Dave: Well, let me answer that question. As a matter of fact, I did have something come up last January. Last January, I was playing pickleball and I went for a shot and I tore my Achilles tendon.

    So, I had to be operated on. I thought I’d never play again and I’m back at it. But, you know what that did to me last January when that happened, it made it the best tax season ever because I couldn’t leave my desk, I had to actually do tax returns. And instead of delegating what I normally delegate, I got more involved with my clients because I had to sit there I couldn’t do anything.

    John: That is interesting. But, you’re back at it, like you didn’t stay away, like you were like, oh, I can get back to it.

    Dave: Right. I got back as quick as I could. And in between when they say rehab, that’s when I picked up the ebike. And now, I won’t go back to the regular bike. I think, you know, when you look at the past and you look at the future, probably the next ten years, they won’t be selling pedal bikes, those will be antiques. Everyone will be having an ebike, sort of like the Jetsons and what they predicted.

    So, and you think of accounting that way, you go back to it and, you know, because they do a lot of these technology presentations and you back and, you know, the iPhone wasn’t there in 2007, you know you go back and a big portable phones Panasonic, which is the big box.

    In fact, you know, all these people coming into accounting today don’t realize what it was like with a pencil and paper actually write visual presentations. I have a pocket projector and a pencil here.

    So, what I teach with the students now, I’m teaching accounting, I try to explain to them why accounting is exciting and why they should go into it even though we keep hearing less and less people coming into the profession because people are telling them how great the profession really is. You don’t have to be an accountant, but you have to understand accounting to be in business, even to be a good comedian today, right?

    John: Oh, definitely, absolutely, especially that because you have to count up all the money that you’re not making, you know. But, it’s also like really important that we show them who we are as professionals beyond just the technical expertise, because, you know, there’s the stereotype of what people think you have to be to be a successful accountant, to be a successful lawyer, to be a successful engineer, to be a successful IT person.

    And it’s not true, there’s – I could point to twenty different people that are all totally different and all successful, but they’re very different people. And so, you know, I think that it’s important that we show them that you can have a life and you can be who you are and bring that to the profession. Don’t let the profession hammer you into, you know, a square peg into a round hole-type of thing.

    Dave: I think it applies to all professions. You don’t need the suit and tie, you need to be yourself and your clients relate to you whatever they are and that’s the change. You got to be yourself.

    By the way, I predict that the younger people coming up won’t be playing golf as accountants, they’d be playing pickleball because millennials don’t want golf.

    John: Oh, yeah, whatever your thing is. I’ve talked to so many people that are, well, I learned how to play golf because when I started, that’s the only way that you did business development or whatever. And now, it’s like, you know, clients don’t want to play golf either. Some do, but some don’t.

    So, you know, it’s just meeting them where they’re at as well as your co-workers where they’re at as well as yourself, like just be honest with yourself as far as like, you know what? I don’t like doing that, I like doing this. And then, you find out, holy crap, there’s like so many other people that like doing this too, you know, whatever your thing is.

    I feel like the more that we can bring the human side of who we are to the work, the more impact we’ll have, you know, on our own career and on our clients because that matters, you know. And you’ve always brought that, I mean, your personality, your “ands”, your other things, like I mean, you didn’t hide behind the veneer of what you’re supposed to be, you know, and clearly success.

    Dave: And I think that’s important, it’s all about human relationship. You know, it’s not about transactional deals. If you don’t have a relationship with somebody, things get better — if you don’t have a relationship, you have nothing. You know, it’s just transactional in nature, so everything is about building upon each other and everyone should be getting along. That’s part of what is lost in politics right now. There’s no civility. You can’t get along.

    John: And that just translates to social media and to, you know, emails and things like that. Just get off away from your desk, go walk over to the person, have a conversation with them. You know, the tone isn’t missed. And like when you use your sarcasm, you can tell that it doesn’t land properly at times and then you can easily follow that up, where if it was a text or an email or a Slack message or whatever, like you don’t know that the other person didn’t read it the right way. And so, you know, just be human and get off from behind your desk, that stuff matters.

    And talking to clients, the same way, you know, pick up the phone, go meet them in person. Like, it doesn’t have to be just an email or a quick email that seems impersonal.

    Dave: I’m big face-to-face and I’m big if I can’t be face-to-face, I’ll be Zoom-to-Zoom or Factime-to-Facetime, which is still better than the phone because you can see facial expressions and see what’s going on with people.

    John: No, I love it, man. I love it.

    So, do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that may be has an “and” that they feel like no one cares about or because it has nothing to do with my job?

    Dave: Well, I think everybody should care about their “and” and let people know what interest them. Don’t hide behind what you do. Don’t just be the expert at whatever subject you’re talking about if you’re an accountant, a lawyer, a banker. It’s not about the accounting, the law, the banking, it’s about your relationship.

    Let people know who you are and what you enjoy doing and watch out, you’ll find out they like doing the same things, you’ll have better relationship and you’ll be doing better business.

    John: No, it’s exactly right, because — I mean, there’s a lot of accountants and bankers and attorneys, you know, using your example, but the ones that also play pickleball, well, now, that’s a smaller subset. And if the client also plays pickleball or is a manufacturer of pickleball equipment or whatever, well, now, I have a differentiator that other people don’t and so, that’s important.

    But, if you leave that outside or never bring it up, well, then, you’re just the same as all the others.

    Dave: Right. You got to tell people, let them know what’s going on. It’s like the accountant just does work and let – doesn’t let his client know he does these other things. If they don’t know he does these other things, they can’t ask questions about it.

    John: Exactly. You can’t create that sticky relationship and then you lose clients and now, you’re competing on price, which means you’ll go broke and so, like there’s no differentiator there. That’s awesome, man. Such great advice.

    Well, I feel like it’s only fair that since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning of the show that I turn the tables and make this the Dave Bergstein Podcast. So, if you have any questions for me, I’m honored to be your guest.

    Dave: Mr. Garrett, what’s your favorite color?

    John: Favorite color, blue, all day. Green is a good solid backup though.

    Dave: Well, I was going to say blue is my second favorite color because the word for Intuit and they like blue because it blends in and it’s soft, that’s why it’s blue, people relate with it. I was watching how they change that colors in their ads and they actually look green at one time and solid blue.

    What do you see for yourself in the next five years? Are you going to become a more famous podcast, more famous speaker, or are you going to be in the entertainment world?

    John: I feel like pickleball champion is right around the corner. No, no, probably another book and just continuing to push the envelope and bring fresh perspectives to different industries of how to humanize the workplace.

    I find that when I speak if I push people five steps outside their comfort zone, they’ll end up, you know, backing up to maybe two steps outside their comfort zone, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable because I pushed you further. And so, it’s just getting people to just celebrate each other’s, you know, “ands” and shine the light on those things as an organization. And it’s been cool to see it happen over the last couple of years to be honest.

    Dave: And probably that’s the most important skill people have to have in the future because everyone learns differently, everyone interacts differently, the world is changing into a more hybrid diversity equity inclusion. Everybody is different and larger firms and even smaller firms have to realize they go to relate to everyone and everyone’s got to relate to them. So, if you can relate to people, that’s a tremendous plus.

    So, I look forward to your next book as an audiobook, I’m going to look at that and I’m going to repurchase on my Kindle Audible because I want to finish the book. Again, I have a lot of books sitting behind me. I pick them up, I put them down, but when it’s Audible, I listen to it in the car and I listen to it while I’m bike riding.

    John: Well, thanks, man. No, I appreciate it. That means a lot, so thank you.

    It’s been so fun having you be a part of this, so thanks so much and I look forward to next time I’m in Florida maybe playing a little pickleball when I’m down there.

    Dave: Let me know when you’re at the conference, I’ll get extra paddles. We’ll teach you how to play the game.

    John: There you go, you put me right in the kitchen right away, I can feel it.

    Well, thanks, Dave.

    Dave: Thank you very much, I appreciate it. I look forward to listening to this.

    John: Yeah. And everybody listening, if you like to see some pictures of Dave in action or maybe connect with him on 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.

    So, 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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