Episode 90 – Trent McLaren

Trent’s beach life is perfect for coworker connections


Trent McLaren grew up visiting his family’s beach home near Melbourne anytime his parents had a long break from work. When he moved to Sydney, he thought what better place to live than on the beach? Then he can visit every day instead of just for holidays. When he isn’t entertaining coworkers at his home, he really enjoys walking along the beach and sipping lattes.

In this episode, Trent and I discuss his philosophy that “as long as my outcomes are being met, then everything is free reign.” We talk about how companies and firms can create the framework for a sharing culture to thrive but it’s still up to the team members to be an active participant in that. He also gives several examples of ways that coworkers have bonded at different places he’s worked.

Trent McLaren is the Head of Accounting & Strategic Partnerships at Practice Ignition in Sydney, Australia. He was named this year’s Thought Leader of the Year Award by Accountants Daily in Australia.

He graduated from Real Corporate Partners with a degree in Business Administration and Management before getting a Graduate Certificate and MBA from the Australian Institute of Business.

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Other pictures of Trent

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Speaking at the Practice Ignition end of financial year report meeting.

Trent on a pier near his home in Sydney.

Trent with Chris Hooper and Anthony Papalia at the Australian Accounting Awards show where he won ‘Thought Leader of the Year’.

Trent’s links



  • Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close

    Welcome to Episode 90 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion, making them stand out like a green apple in a red apple world.

    And when I tell you to imagine an apple in your head, I’m sure for most of you it’s red, right? Because in school, A is for apple. The picture is always red because that’s the stereotype, red apples, right? But the interesting thing is that all apples actually start out as green and then over time, they turn red turning into the stereotype. But deep down inside, all of us has this passion for something other than our jobs and that’s what I love to shine the light on each week here on the Green Apple Podcast.

    And before I get into this week’s guest, just a quick favor to ask, if you like the show and are listening on iTunes or your favorite android app, it would be really, really cool if you could just leave a five star rating and maybe a quick comment because people have been telling me how they like the uniqueness of the podcast and it’s the least business-y show out there and it’s really about telling people stories. So you, doing this, would be a huge help for others to learn about the show. So thank you so much.

    Okay. Now it’s time to introduce this week’s guest, Trent Mclaren. He’s the head of Accounting and Strategic Partnerships at Practice Ignition and the winner of Thought Leader of the Year Award by Accountants Daily in Australia. He’s an absolute rock star in the accounting, book keeping, technical space and so I’m so excited to have him with me here today.

    So thanks so much Trent for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Trent: Hey, John. No worries at all. Thanks for having me.

    John: I’m so excited. And another Aussie. I’m just hitting you guys up down there left and right. So I’m just excited that you’re able to be with me. And the Thought Leader of the Year Award winner at the Australian Accounting Awards. So congratulations, man. That’s super cool.

    Trent: Yeah. Thank you. It’s been an awesome couple of weeks, or months even. It’s been really exciting. And yeah, I was really stoked to come away with a lot of real competition up for that award. So I was really happy to come away with the win. It was great.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely, man. I love what all of you are doing down there and changing the profession and even the image of the profession, if you will, which is the whole goal here. So we’re combining forces like Voltron. And we’re going to make this happen, right?

    Trent: I love that you said Voltron. I love that show. That’s amazing.

    John: Right. I think I dated myself but we’re all good man. We’re all good. As I was throwing it out, I was kind of concerned that you may not get that reference but good. God bless you.

    Trent: Well, there’s a new series on Netflix. I don’t know if you saw that.

    John: Oh, I have not.

    Trent: Yeah. There’s a modern updated version that I might have binged watched myself through by myself with no children around. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    John: That’s hilarious. You couldn’t get a big crew together to binge watch the Voltron?

    Trent: No. Yeah. There was no Voltron Thursdays or anything like that. It was just me and myself, lonely, just hanging out.

    John: That’s hilarious man. That’s so funny. Well, we can watch together in Skype chat.

    I gave everyone a quick introduction but maybe on your own words, a little bit of what you’re up to now. I know a little bit of a recent change but a little bit of how you got there.

    Trent: Yes. So I’ve just taken on a global role with an accounting company called Practice Ignition which are digital engagements, letters, and payments solutions. So it’s helping with your client on boarding experience. Something I’m pretty passionate about. I’ve got a bit of experience on online payments. And you know, two and a half years with QuickBooks Online. I kind of get to combine my last five years of work history into this one global role working with accountants all over the world between the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia which I’m really excited about. It’s going to be a huge opportunity and journey.

    John: Yeah, man. Wow. That’s everybody. You’re going to be the guy. That’s impressive man. You’re going to have some serious airline miles too. So good for you.

    Trent: Yeah. We’ll see. Hopefully things like Skype kind of hopefully removes some of that these days.

    John: That’s true. That’s a good point.

    Trent: Unfortunately, you can’t Skype any conferences this days.

    John: Right. That’s a good point.

    So one question I love to ask everybody is just I guess what made you want to get into technology and more importantly accounting technology?

    Trent: Yeah. I think I kind of fell into accounting technology. But I guess to address your first question, I grew up on technology. I’m a 28-year-old young guy, grew up on MSN Messenger like you do in high school just chatting away you know, with friends. And that whole instant messaging thing was such a pretty big thing back then. Technology’s always been something I’ve been passionate about because it’s something I’m using every single day regardless. I spent about four or five years in retail management. I came into high school, I didn’t do that well in high school. I had some really low scores and largely because I was playing a bit of basketball and sport and you know, just being a normal teenager kid.

    John: Right. And chatting on Messenger probably.

    Trent: Yeah. Chatting on Messenger late at night. No studying. And then I had to work really hard to sort of scale my career through retail. I eventually started managing stores from being the stock boy at the back. And that then led me to think you know, using my hands to quite get a real job, like a Monday to Friday job. And I just happened to land in an online payments company called eWAY which is like PayPal essentially here in Australia. And they just happen to be one of the largest and best providers for online payments in the country. But this is hidden away in a small part of Australia called Canberra.

    That’s where I started in accounting tech and e-commerce tech because they had integration to zero the online accounting software here in Australia and New Zealand. And I was doing that for about two years, working with accountants and book keepers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand. And through that, I made a lot of great networks and connections. And when IN2IT were just starting in Australia, they were looking for people that were working in the industry that knew how to work and speak to accountants and bookkeepers, knew how to speak the lingo because we know that’s a bit different sometimes. And that’s how I worked my way into IN2IT. And again, it’s been a big journey for two and a half years as a business development manager there before yeah, stepping into my new journey with Practice Ignition which again, is still focused on accounts and bookkeepers but in a global capacity.

    John: Right. Yeah, man. Once you get hooked with the coolest people in the room, you’re like, “I’m not leaving this bunch. All these accountants? These guys are too cool to go somewhere else.”

    Trent: These are my people.

    John: Exactly, man. Exactly. That’s the thing that is so great is you’re able to create those connections and find the human side of them that is what makes you want to be around them more and hang out with them more and talk to them more.

    Trent: Yeah. And I think that’s the cool thing. For me, this whole came together still through technology. Like I joked about MSN Messenger obviously as a big part of my teenage years but that’s still a big part of today. That whole instant messaging with people all around the world. That’s a big part of why I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do. It’s because I’ve been able to connect with people. Even like yourself. I know we met on Twitter. I think I followed you and then you sent me a message and here we are. You know what I mean?

    John: Right. Yeah.

    Trent: It’s crazy how quickly you can meet people that think like you, that are passionate about things you are passionate about. Just through things like social media.

    John: Yeah, man. I mean and it’s great. And just opening yourself up just a little bit leads to some really, really cool things which is fantastic.

    Trent: Yeah. It’s fantastic. So crazy things happen when you put yourself out there.

    John: Right. Crazy good things which is what’s amazing. And that’s the thing that always trips me up. It’s for some reason, the human brain defaults to, “It’s going to bad. Don’t do it. Be scared of that.” What makes you want to just throw yourself out there and overcome that?

    Trent: Well, I think the more I did it, the more I realized good things came from it. I think everyone’s really skeptical because we hear all the bad stories and we don’t want to be criticized. We are our own worst critic. So every time you know, I hear people, “Oh, you know, I went to write something but I hated it so I had to start again.” And I’m like, well, you can’t write with the intention of writing a perfect piece because realistically, you need to write about, I don’t know, 20-30 things in a year anyway. If you want to stay consistent and people do really follow along, but if you keep trying to write the perfect piece, you might only get five to ten pieces out in a year.

    John: If that, right? Yeah.

    Trent: If that. And everyone you kind of hate because you’ll overthink it. You’ll overanalyze it. You’ll chop it and change it and then it reads more like an essay and less about what you actually started to write about. And that’s the thing, you just got to put yourself into it. Don’t think too much about it.

    John: Yeah. And I think that applies also to just sharing hobbies, passions, things that make up who you really are. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overanalyze it. Don’t figure out, “Well, this is exactly how I’m going to say what I’m going to say.” Just be you. That’s so exhausting to try and overthink it like that.

    Trent: Mentally, you’re so tired because you’re just running yourself ragged down a little bit. But what if someone thinks this? What if someone thinks that? What if I can’t cater to that person? It’s like, who cares? Shut up.

    John: Yeah. Just tell yourself shut up, right?

    Trent: Yeah. You know what? Some will like it. Some will not. So what? Just do it.

    John: Right. Right. That’s exactly it.

    So before we get too carried away, what kind of hobbies and passions do you love doing in your nights and weekends, some of that free time when you’re not signing autographs from all your award groupies?

    Trent: I enjoy playing sport and all those kinds of things but personally, I live on the beach. I walk barefoot, you know, down to the beach to get my coffee from my coffee shop that’s on the beach nearly every single day. So I don’t know, me and my wife just had this philosophy that we could live out on the suburbs or we can just live somewhere really nice and just enjoy life. That’s just the way it is. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll probably hate my feed after a while because it’s just sunny weather and beaches and lattes. So with a few bit of extra little things in between and good food. Everyone’s like, “Why don’t you buy a house? Why don’t you do this?” I’m like, yeah or you know, not. What’s the point? We want to be able to travel and just live our lives.

    John: That’s great. So did you grow up on the beach?

    Trent: We used to have a holiday house on the beach when I used to live down near Melbourne. So we would go to the beach sort of every three months. We would be at the beach for a week or two because Australian holidays have broken up a little bit differently. You’re working terms. So every term, you get two weeks off. So there’s four terms in a year. And then at the end when you get to Christmas time, you get about six to eight weeks off before the New Year starts again. So anytime, we had the holiday breaks which was a minimum two weeks or the big long one for eight weeks, we would be hopefully down at the beach or travelling somewhere or doing something like on the road, getting out to see the country side or whatever it is.

    So when I took that in and when we were moving to Sydney, my wife and I said, “Forget it. Let’s just get it somewhere with the water view and just do it.” And don’t get me wrong. It was heck expensive but you can’t beat waking up every day looking at the water going, “Oh, it’s pretty nice.” I’m not unhappy.

    John: Yeah. Exactly. Now, that’s so cool man. That’s really fantastic. So are you into surfing and volleyball and all the beach stuff?

    Trent: You know what? I really wish I was but I’m just not. But I don’t know if it’s because — I don’t find a lot of time to get out and about that much. I probably should do surfing being as it is the beach is there and it is a surf beach. I get into the water a little bit but I spend a lot more time either walking around looking at the beach and the ocean, jogging, running, basketball. My wife gets into a bit of yoga herself. So sometimes she cons me into doing that with her.

    John: Right. Right. “Touch your toes.” It’s like, “Oh, man.”

    Trent: Which I feel ridiculous. “This looks so weird. I’m a guy. I can’t do this. This is the not right.”

    John: Yeah. “It does help but when I’m barely half way down my shin, we’ll call that even. All right? How’s that sound?”

    Trent: I want to do it in front of people when I’m good at it. Until then, I just want to be solo.

    John: Yeah. Honestly, that’s such a great quote that I think that’s how we all look at everything that we do. You know, when it comes to the writing or if you play the instrument or if you play a sport or if you’re like me doing comedy, it’s just you don’t want anyone to come see you until you’re good.

    Trent: Yeah. That’s the thing. Everyone sucks at everything when you start.

    John: Yeah. And a lot of them suck even a longtime after.

    Trent: Yeah. You just got to learn to just suck for a while until you don’t. And even then, I had a couple of pieces come out last week. I read through them going, “Oh, I can’t believe I wrote that. It’s so dumb.” But then the funny thing is you’ll get comments and messages with people going, “Oh, my goodness. I love what you said. This really changed something for me.” I’m like, “I hated it but I like it now.”

    John: Yeah. Exactly. Thanks, mom.

    So I guess being on the beach, it’s all over your social media, clearly. But is this that something you talk about at work and things like that, invite people over sort of a thing?

    Trent: Yeah. We have actually people over all the time. We’ll do dinners. We’ll do movie nights. We’ll do binge watch TV shows. Unfortunately, not Voltron but there’s other stuff that my friends will happily come and watch with me. My wife and I like to go the cinemas a fair bit. I don’t know if you guys in the U.S. have a Gold Class Cinema. Do you guys have that?

    John: No. Wow. I’m not sure what that is.

    Trent: Okay. It’s like first class in an airplane in the cinema.

    John: Oh, my. Wow. So you have like a little pod.

    Trent: Yeah. You get like a full leather reclining chairs. Someone brings you food and beer and you can order like three course meals and you can choose what time they come out in the cinema.

    John: Wow.

    Trent: So we love that sort of stuff. You would probably pay about anywhere from $40 a ticket plus you then buy your food and stuff. So it’s not cheap to do it. I think in the U.S. — how much do you pay for a ticket on average in the US?

    John: You know, I haven’t been to a movie in so long because in New York City, they always just sell out. But I’m guessing anywhere from like $12 to $15 maybe.

    Trent: Yeah. So probably $30 to $35 I would say if the U.S. was going to do it. It would be $30 to $35 each plus then you would buy food but then in Australia, food’s quite expensive.

    John: It is. I’ve been —

    Trent: Yeah. Compared to what you pay in the U.S. So you might spend anywhere from sort of a $100 to $140 to go and see, I don’t know, the new Fast and the Furious but you’re doing with this epic surround sound, leather recliners, people bringing you food. So me and my wife, we love a good gold class cinema experience in a movie.

    John: That sounds fancy.

    Trent: We love watching TV shows and stuff.

    John: Yeah. In the US, we have some places that they refer to them as Brew & View. So it’s like a microbrew then they show the movie but it certainly isn’t like a first class airline. It’s more like hanging out at a bar and watching a movie type of a thing. It’s a little more casual. It’s kind of fun. You can eat dinners. But yeah, that sounds fancy, man. Really cool. I’m sure that just being on the beach is so great when you invite people over because no one wants to say no. They’re like, “Yeah.”

    Trent: Everyone is all about it. They’re like, “Can we move in? Can we do this more often?”

    John: Yeah. Self-inviting themselves. “All right. So we’ll see you next weekend too.” And you’ll be like, “I’m not going to be even be here.”

    Trent: Yeah. So it’s like, “What are you guys doing tomorrow at the same time? Are you free?”

    John: I mean, “I like you guys but not that much.”

    Trent: Yeah. Like, “We won’t be here.” “Yeah. That’s cool.

    John: Exactly. Yeah, man. That’s so great.

    So before you moved into the beach house or onto the beach, was there something else? Like a hobby or passion that you would share at work? I guess probably playing sport and basketball and things like that?

    Trent: Yeah. So when I was in — I don’t know how much of a hobby this is I guess but when I was at eWAY, something the guys used to get into a lot there was like punting, like online betting and stuff like that but it was always on the most random stuff in the world. It will be all like NBA, and hockey and all that. And we got a thing in Australia, we don’t have access really to any of that kind of that stuff because it’s all played during the day for us. So the NBA finals can be starting anywhere from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., you know, during week. So what is a Sunday night basketball is like my Monday 9:00 a.m. So you would be sitting these guys and they’re doing they’re multi bets. So they’re trying 7, 8, 9 different winners to then click through but you couldn’t not get amongst the buzz. And then the next thing you know, they’re betting on Korean baseball. They’re betting on Swedish table tennis. I’m like, “What the hell?”

    John: These events aren’t even happening. This isn’t even a real thing.

    Trent: I know. I’m like, “How is there even a market for that? Who is watching Korean baseball on a Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.?”

    John: That so funny.

    Trent: I mean we wouldn’t even watch normal American baseball let alone Korean baseball.

    John: That’s so funny, man. That’s absolutely hilarious. But I mean that’s a great example of a shared experience where you guys are all in it and you guys can talk about it. Weeks later, somebody actually wins money.

    Trent: Oh, it was a daily thing. I think people they would lose more than they won. It was something that everyone kind of kept in common. We’re all updating out phones going, “What’s the score?” Whilst selling online payment solutions in e-commerce. You know, you hear all these people just cheering in the background and the customers are like, “What was that?” I’m like, “Oh, we just had something really great happen. Business related. I swear.”

    John: Yeah man. That’s so cool. And what a fun thing that the company lets it happen and realizes that, “Hey, if people are happy, they’re engaged and they’re doing good work –” it’s not a terrible thing to tale a little bit of a break to do something like that.

    Trent: Yeah. That’s the big thing. As long as you’re achieving and hitting your deliverables, that’s always the most important part. And I find as long as my outcomes are being met and my team is always happy with what I’m doing, then everything else is free reign, right?

    John: Yeah. That’s exactly it. You know, because that’s the next question that I was kind of lean into was how much do you think it is on the organization like in eWAY or anyone to create a culture where this is allowed or encouraged or how much is it on the individual to kind of you know, if it’s not the best place to forget their own little circle and maybe be the source of change for that?

    Trent: Yeah. So during my time in IN2IT, they’re really big on this whole culture piece and it was really awesome to be amongst them. For me, I had flexibility. I’m working out on the road most of the time anyway. So I can literally work from anywhere which then kind of created this fact that well, okay. These are my targets. These are all what I need to be doing. These are what I need to be hitting. And then you soon start to figure out and find a balance between okay, well, I’m able to hit my targets plus start doing these extra things that help my role, help what I’m doing. You can find other things that you want to be passionate about that you weren’t necessarily employed to do or getting paid to do.

    And a big thing for me has always been around writing blogs, doing the podcast, even just the whole social media piece in general. When I started in IN2IT, it wasn’t, “Hey, we’re going to employ you so that you can connect with accountants all over the world, write blogs, travel and speak in conferences.” That was stuff that I was able to get into because it was something that I was just passionate about doing. And as much as it is work related, it’s still just a lot of fun like being able to connect with people on so many different channels and being able to really help people with you know, whether it is personal business or whatever. There’s no better feeling. And I think we all crave to be able to do that sort of stuff. If you can be generous with your time, then you really feel it on the inside. Like, “Oh. That felt good. I really enjoyed it.”

    John: Yeah. Right. Absolutely. And so I mean, I agree. I think it’s more on the individual. I mean the organization can help support that but you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, type of a thing.

    Trent: Yeah. Correct. Companies can create the frameworks for it. I think it’s important that the company — they do have the framework and they don’t because cultural wise, you want your teams to feel like they can enable themselves to do things they believe in. So they need to have that stability and framework to be able to do that but then they also need leaders to be able to lead and do the same thing and set the example and really show what that means, what that looks like and how they can be involved.

    John: Yeah, man. That’s so perfect how you said that. That’s great. I agree totally. So I love that, man. But before I go and get on an airplane and fly down to your beach house before you move abroad, I better get on this quickly, I do have my 17 rapid fire questions that I like to run people through. Now, granted, inviting me to a beach house is not going to take much convincing but I still have to run you through this as protocol. So let me fire this thing up here.

    Here we go. First one, do you have a favorite color?

    Trent: Blue.

    John: Blue. All right. How about a least favorite color?

    Trent: Pink.

    John: Pink. All right. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?

    Trent: Hawaii.

    John: Hawaii. There you go.

    Here’s an easy one. More oceans or mountains?

    Trent: Oh, oceans. Yeah.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely. How about more cats or dogs?

    Trent: Dogs.

    John: Dogs. There you go. All right.

    When it comes to accounting financials, more balance sheet or income statement?

    Trent: Oh, balance sheets.

    John: Balance sheet. All right. How about, more pens or pencils?

    Trent: Pens.

    John: Pens. No mistakes here. Look at you.

    How about do you have a favorite comedian?

    Trent: Yeah. There’s a guy in Australia called Carl Barron. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with him. He’s hilarious.

    John: I’ve heard of him, yeah. But I’m a little bit in the industry so that’s probably why.

    How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Trent: Oh, crosswords.

    John: Crosswords. All right. Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Trent: Star Wars, for sure.

    John: Yeah. Absolutely. Now here’s the one, PC or Mac?

    Trent: Mac. Every day of the week.

    John: Yeah. You’re the coolest guy in the room, man. I’m not even allowed in the Mac stores. I don’t think.

    What’s a typical breakfast?

    Trent: It’s an Australian thing but it’s generally smashed avocado on toast with a poached egg maybe a bit of bacon.

    John: Yeah. That’s amazing. Do you have a favorite number?

    Trent: Seven.

    John: Seven. And why is that?

    Trent: Just that’s my basketball number always growing up.

    John: Right. Do you have a favorite band?

    Trent: Like Wolfmother, Powderfinger, like again they’re all Aussie bands. But I like everything, man. Like give me a good vibe and I’ll be there.

    John: Oh, nice. Three more. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Trent: You know what? I can burn really well at both ends when I need to.

    John: Okay. How about do you have favorite toppings on a pizza?

    Trent: I’m loving what we call this peri peri chicken. So it’s the chicken with your cheese, capsicum, onion, and then you have this amazing peri peri sauce which is like a spicy Chipotle mayo type sauce.

    John: Yeah. And capsicum for those listening in the States is green peppers.

    Trent: Yeah. Green peppers.

    John: So last one. Favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Trent: Favorite new thing has been my AirPods, like the wireless Apple AirPods. They’re amazing.

    John: Okay. That’s’ so great, man. This was really, really awesome, Trent. Thank you so much for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Trent: Thanks for having me.

    John: Wow. That was so great. I just loved how Trent said, “As long as my outcomes are being met then everything else is free reign.” This is such a great philosophy to have especially as a leader because it shows everyone around you that, you know what? It’s okay to be passionate about something outside of work.

    And if you would like to see some pictures of Trent on the beach or presenting about Practice Ignition or connect with him on social media, he’s all over Twitter. Be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about firm culture. Thank again for the ratings on iTunes or whatever Android app you’re using. For sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.

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