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Randy Crabtree is co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, plus a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
His approach to helping businesses and entrepreneurs with getting the most out of the business tax system has been also augmented by his own mission to deliver a personal story of health and wealth that we all need to learn from.
Check out Randy’s podcast, the Unique CPA here: https://tri-merit.com/podcasts/
Get in touch with Tri-Merit at their website here: https://tri-merit.com/
Thank you for an inspiring and enjoyable conversation, Randy!
Transcript powered by HappyScribe
Welcome, everybody, to the podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host for the DiscoPosse podcast this week featuring Randy Crabtree. Randy is a fantastic human who is also a fantastic accountant, a fantastic podcaster, and somebody who’s got an incredible story that will talk to you at your heart about what we need to value both and what we can do for each other, for ourselves. And he is beyond just being the unique CPA, which is also the name of this podcast. He and his team at Tri-Merit are doing really great stuff to empower businesses to get the most out of their tax situation, which, hey, we’re in the throes of it right now. Tax time is kind of not a friendly time for a lot of folks. It’s part of what we got to do. But how do you make sure you’re getting the best of the best out of that? So you can go check out Randy’s team at try-merit.com for that. Of course, check out the show notes. We got lots of stuff around Randy and, of course, links to his podcast as well. Speaking of links and things that don’t need to be as bad as they are, what happens if you lose your data?
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This is Randy Crabtree, co founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tech Services and host of the unique CPA podcast. And you’re listening to the Disco Posse podcast.
Like a pro. This is how I can tell you’ve got professional podcasters that are on microphone because you are ready for this. So, Randy, thank you so much for the chance to chat today. This is something that I know especially for a ton of my listeners. Well, it’s timely with the kind of part of the year that we’re heading into taxes become top of mind. They’re often bottom of priority, but top of mind. And in the way that we’ve seen the world shift in the last couple of years, I can imagine that you’ve seen an incredible amount of change in your industry. But for folks that are brand new to you, Randy, let’s have you do a quick intro, and then we’re going to talk about Tri-Merit, your podcast and congratulations on getting noticed, as it should be. And we’re going to talk a lot about what you’re doing for the world.
Sure. Like I said at the beginning, we’re specialty tax service. Tri-Merit. We deal with really specific parts of the tax code. Actually, tax season for me is not a busy time because I’m normally out educating CPAs on certain aspects of the tax code. But we deal with big things like R&D tax credit, you know, technology, big user of the R&D tax credit. So that’s something that was how we started the business. Over the years, we branched into six other services. A big one that didn’t exist a year ago is employee retention credit that we’ve been doing a lot of work on now as well. But that’s our background. My background is I am a CPA. I actually came out of public accounting. I was one of those generalists that was just doing in and out accounting and taxes. I liked it, was not a huge passion. I found a passion in specialty tax. So the last 15 years has been just an awesome ride. And I don’t see an end any time soon.
But that’s really amazing to see too, that we – I think every industry has this idea of the sort of the early generalist days. And then when you find your niche, your specific thing that you can become passionate about and ultimately then translate to hitting this new target. You know, demographic target market, like ultimately building a specialty practice, that’s really great. And then it lets you just like put all your focus. I really would love to just jump right into the exploration of what is the last two years look like for you? Especially you talked about employee retention credit, like, this stuff didn’t exist two years ago. So it’s probably been a wild ride on your side.
It has been it’s been a wild ride, obviously, for everybody. It’s been specifically wild for at least in my circles – CPAs and the IRS and us. Because everything that’s happened in the last two years from an incentive standpoint, runs through the CPA firm, runs through the IRS. And we’ve touched on that as well. It’s been crazy. CPAs in general have had a non-stop, they’re going on the third year of non-stop tax season just because of all these things that have come out over the last couple of years. You mentioned the one I mentioned as well, employee retention credit. This has been huge for businesses. It has been affected by the pandemic. It’s been able to put a lot of the money back into businesses. At some point help them survive, at some point help them thrive even. But it’s been a really important tool to help businesses that have been affected by the pandemic get through the last two years. And honestly, for us, it’s been an unbelievable ride because this thing didn’t exist two years ago. And now last year and this year will most likely be our highest revenue generating product and probably not the year after, but at least over a two year period, it’ll probably be the biggest revenue generator for us.
So it’s been interesting.
It tells you that the interest that came from the tax system in understanding that we needed to solve this problem, I’d say by regulatory and tax ratings, it was a pretty rapid response. Like this stuff does not move fast. So for us to be able to move fast at many levels of government, look, I’m not saying the government, the sloth image. Obviously, we can sort of poke and joke about some of that stuff, but it is just because of the regulatory environments that they’re wrapped inside. It is difficult to make things move quickly and be responsive. But it feels like, I think this is a good sign that hopefully the system is ready to help people succeed.
Yeah. And this is interesting. It’s an interesting part of the whole looking at tax in general over the life of tax, which is a long life right now. The last two years we’ve seen things happen at a – and it’s not just tax, but everywhere, but happen at this meteoric pace. It’s just unbelievable. And so a lot of these changes, and this has gone through two regimes at president as well. And so it’s kind of continuing on. It wasn’t like, okay, one’s against and one is for it, we’re going to fight about this. People agreed let’s move forward. And it started in March of 2020 when they planned retention credit itself. That’s where it was defined. I can go deep into it. You can direct me there if you want to at some point, but that’s when it’s defined. And then it’s gone through three additional pieces of legislation that have either changed it, enhanced it, affected it, and it just continues go. Not only from a standpoint is it meteoric pace, but it’s meteoric pace and all the changes just keeping up with it. Just trying to because tax code comes out, I get excited about tax code. Other people might not. So I apologize. But this is an interesting area. Tax code comes out. Congress rates something. They’re not tax attorneys, CPAs, they just say, here’s what we need to do. Now, we need to start interpreting that, putting that up against tax code, putting it up against IRS information or documentation that comes out explaining it. And so for me it’s just been a fun, weird word, but fun ride for really the last year and a half, digging deep into this and seeing how we can help businesses with it. So yeah, it’s been really interesting.
It does show right in just the way you describe it, that this is what we need. This is what allows you to stand out amongst the industry and what you’re doing because you have to have that passion just like anybody that looks for opportunity, not just for you, but every client you’ve got. You’re effectively opening the door to the industry because a lot of people do not understand that this stuff exists. They maybe go to, I’m sorry I got to mention, I don’t mean to trash on H&R block, but it’s like that was it right? The moment you can file a tax return, you have no idea how to file a tax return. You go to your local tax shop and the little stand up H&R block or whatever the local tax firms are. They’re not passionate about taxes. They’re just minimum amount in, minimum amount of pain and collect $35 per term kind of thing.
Yeah, it’s a weird area. What you just said is how I got interested in tax. I did not graduated as an accounting degree. I was computer science degree actually, which is more in line with I think your audience probably. Although that’s 37 years ago. So that’s passed me by quite a bit. But I’ve got that background. But the year my wife and I got married, which is 35 years ago now, I started to do our tax return and just like might be a little bit steep to say fell in love with taxes but really enjoy digging into that. And it was a passion for a while, kind of became a little bit of a more of work than a passion as I was doing this for years because traditionally CPAs have had crazy hours during tax season and every business can have an area where there’s crazy hours, but there was crazy hours. And for me this crazy hours just started dragging on and on. But when you mentioned before passion, when I actually merged my firm in with another firm and then started the specialty firm, I talk about passion all the time now.
I talk about passion, how it is for me. I talk about how this changed everything, how I look at everything, how I look at business in general. I talk about this all the time to different groups. In fact, I was on a talking with a gentleman just this morning where we just talked about this whole doing a self-evaluation of yourself, determining your strengths, determining your passions, using that to help you in a business setting and going forward. So for me, the specialty tax became this huge passion. Believe me, if you turned off your mic now and let me talk for 2 hours, I would do it. So we bet I’ll stop there and we’ll see what direction you want to go.
That is the thing. That’s what I love you. I sort of joke you described. This is Randy. He’s forgotten more about taxes then you’ll never know. Right. Like you get those sort of those things. But it’s not about amount of knowledge or time in the system or even dollars per hour that you can ultimately earn. It is what you do and your choice to chase knowledge and turn knowledge into opportunity, not just for you but for your client base. Which led to the business growing, which led to the opportunity to merge those firms which gives you that sort of leg up. You are a founder. Like you are ultimately the same as the very clients that you serve because you’ve looked for that opportunity and have seen, rightly so, an upside as a result of doing that.
Yeah. And it’s funny when you see that opportunity because I get that a lot. People say, well because I’ve started multiple businesses, I’ve had my CPA thing. But opportunity is something that you said, you searched it out. I don’t really search it out. It just comes to you and everybody has opportunity to come to them. It’s in front of them every single day. There’s an opportunity there. It’s just the difference between I guess an entrepreneur and someone. And there’s nothing special about being an entrepreneur. You either do it or you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t. It’s not like you’re better because you start a business. It’s just you’re somebody that sees the opportunity and then acts on it. But that’s not for everybody. But for me, that’s been a passion. And then when I put that together with the passion for what I do now is really education and speaking events and writing articles and talking to people like Eric Wright, which I am thrilled to be able to do that. Putting those together and you can create something pretty special.
I would posit that your comp sci degree isn’t that far off of what you’re doing right now. In a way that you probably seek or discover systems inside or methods inside systems. And ultimately in doing so, you can exploit them and exploit it in a positive way, sounds like a negative thing, but really truly see that. Heck, look at the way that economics has gone in the past three decades or more. Really in the shift that we had behavioral psychologists who would define the future of market economies with stuff like the work that happened with Daniel Conneman and Amos Tuberski who are winning the Nobel Prize for economics. But they’re behavioral psychologists. Right. So in the same way that you may be doing, you may be a CPA by the designation on the business card but your method and approach were discovered in other ways. And you went down the comp-sci road and you said, okay, here’s another systematic thing that I can do, but I can really do it well.
Yeah, and it’s interesting you say that, because in my mind, I don’t see blow charts and systems and paths and all that. I see something I like doing, and this is something. But when I look at it, I’m like, okay, yeah, I see this now. I do do that because I analyze things, and then I see the next step, and then I see the next step and I don’t see the big picture, I don’t think right away. But what I found is five years ago, and I’m going all over the place, Eric. So you rein me in anytime you this is perfect. So five years ago, I basically stepped down as manager partner of our firm. And it was a passion thing. And there was other reasons as well. One, I had a traumatic event in my life that made me re-look at things. I had a stroke eight years ago. We can talk about that anytime you want, too. So I saw that and changed my role from magic partner, which in hindsight, I realized I wasn’t good at because I’m not an implementer. I come up with ideas. I see I can generate new business. I can come up with a path, but I can’t implement that. I can probably, but I have no passion. And after my stroke, I realized I want to concentrate on things that I enjoy. And I did a whole self-evaluation. Look at things that I’m good at, you know. I realized after 30, well honestly, my first business was at 16. So I look back and for 43 years, I realized I was not really good at running the business. I was good at coming up with ideas and growing the business and all that. But the whole day to day, systematic approach of this is what we need to do and here’s the processes to put in place to get to the here and here’s the team’s make up and how we do it. I just don’t enjoy that. And what I found after this self-evaluation is, it took a while, but I looked and said, if I’m honest with myself, that is not a strong suit of mine. And honestly, I don’t like it. So why am I doing this? And then looking at the things I like, which I mentioned before, is education. Looking at a new tax law that just came into existence two years ago, and being known now is like the expert in the country on this stuff and looking at it and being able to share your knowledge, that’s another big thing with me. Share your knowledge. Don’t keep it hidden. Share it. Let teach people. Let them know what’s there. At some point they’ll know, well, you’re the expert. I need to come to you to do it. You don’t have to sell. You just have to be a good person out there sharing what you’ve got. So looking at that whole re-evaluation and passion and that changed my role in the business. And in the last five years, we’ve got an 800% increase in revenue, partly because I’ll give him credit. A big part is because the process is my partner put in place to really take us to the next level. But in reality, it’s also me getting out there and educating people and explaining and letting them know that there’s these opportunities for tax savings. And that combination for us has been outstanding.
It really is the important thing for any growing company, especially once you hit a point of like stability in business, at least in revenues, you need a COO or a chief of staff. Somebody who really is focused on the processes and they’re good at that. And I’m with you, like every year I have to do my sort of employment self-assessment. And every year I say, yeah, it’s that time of year again where we say, Eric should be doing more stuff around long term project management given his seniority. It seems like this is one area that we don’t leverage and some where he struggles a bit. And like I’m 49 years old, I’ve had the same self-assessment since I was 25. And every year they say let’s find a big project for Eric to lead out and then it will go precisely as well as the last 22 of them.
Which I’m sure is great. Yes.
But it’s like to be given that freedom to explore your strength. I’m glad that I’m here today with you, Randy, because you are on the right side of a major health event. Right. That’s a big thing. And the one thing that I wish we would do better as humans, I wish we could find that passion and that drive and that reason without the triggering.
Yeah. So we mentioned before that I go out and I speak a lot. And so my speech, my webinars, my things have always been on tax topics. And I started writing articles for accounting magazines the last year, year and a half. And some of it’s been taxed, but more of it’s just been I wrote an article about hiring individuals with disabilities, which is a passion of mine because I’m very fortunate. I came out of my stroke with a 100% recovery. Physically, I don’t have any deficits, which I think the number is. And I might be wrong on this, although I should know this. I’m also President of an organization called Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other. So I should know the numbers, but I think it’s only 8% of us come out fully without any kind of deficit. I’m very fortunate about that. I forgot where I was going Eric.
But this is the idea that you can take that and turn it into a thing that empowers you to get out in the world. And it’s that whole thing of, especially it’s just like the human behavior is so bizarre that we like work, work to a point where you can eventually enjoy the fruits of your labors. By the time you get to do them, your health is degraded, your ability – it’s so upside down sometimes.
I always had a mindset of I’m not going to wait until retirement to enjoy things. So even though I had the stroke, it wasn’t like this is going to change how I look at life. I mentally had issues for five years. Mental health was an issue for me. Physically, it was fine. Mental health was an issue for five years. But I always had that mindset of enjoy life. Work’s one thing, family, life, all that, it’s another thing. Doesn’t mean they can’t be combined too. And that’s a huge thing that I like talking about is that I’m not the tax expert. I am the dad, I am the hiker. I’m the craft beer enthusiast. I’m the whatever else. Being the tax expert doesn’t define who I am. All these other things do. And so we try to bring that into business as well. Is everybody in our firm is not their job. That’s not who they are at all. They’re good at it. They enjoy it, I’m hoping for the most part, we want people to enjoy it. But the stroke didn’t make me change that way. But it did help me re-evaluate what my role in the business was and make sure that I was having more fun in the role that I was doing and using my strengths rather than trying to increase my weaknesses and make them better.
I think that’s in my mind, this is my opinion. I think that’s crap. But if you are your weaknesses, there are weaknesses for a reason. You don’t have any passion. You don’t like it. It’s that you’re not good at it. Why force yourself to be good at that? Look at yourself and say, okay, this is what I’m good at. I’m good at this. I should concentrate on this. I’m good at that. I enjoy this. How do I do those things? And for me, making that change that was triggered by the stroke to enjoy things more in business. Five years ago, I would have told you, I’m going to force myself to work three more years, and then I’m done. After this change, I can’t imagine stopping. I’m having way too much fun. And honestly, I’m really good at what I do because I enjoy it.
The interesting thing too, especially when it’s like health related, where we see those events. I even see it in work context all the time where you tell somebody, like, I need to take a couple of days off, you’re like, okay, let’s make sure we work around your schedule. Do you like it’s always immediately saying, like, how do we fit your vacation into your work schedule? But if I say, hey, I’m run down and I got to head to the doctor. People are like, no problem. Clear your calendar. What do you need help with? We got it. I’m like, God damn it, why can’t we do that every day? I tell people all the time, just take a day. Just say, like, I got to tap out and just say, just call it. Just shut the calendar down. I don’t care how full it is. Tell those people I’ve got something I got to deal with at home. And they’re like, no problem. We should all have that want to do that. And that passion to do that at every day.
That’s what we feel we have in our company is here’s what you need to do. You know what you need to do. Do it whenever you want. If you want to work at two in the morning because you want to be with your kids all day, do it at two in the morning. We just implemented this year unlimited PTO. We know our people are very good at knowing what they need to get done and when they need to get it done. And like me personally, the last two months I’ve just been on the road working. We have plenty of people that do that. They’re just Nomads, they go wherever. We’ve pretty much had a virtual office from the beginning 15 years ago. It’s just the nature of our business. I feel are living that within the business. I guess I would say that the people with internally would say that as well. I try to talk to everybody as much as I can just to talk about things that aren’t work related, which I think is important as well. But I would think that people are happy. Well, I know people are happy working here and enjoy the freedom that they have with the way we set things up.
And on the health side, too, having seen your bio picture and seeing the real picture here, you definitely prioritize health. You look thinner than your bio picture, which is kind of fun. You talked about hiking. You talked about introducing that. How important is that lifestyle? And especially in the work sense, too, where how do you as a team promote each other, staying healthy in every aspect?
Yeah. Well, for me personally, I hate that bio picture I have because I think I look fat in that as well. And I still feel that way. Actually, when I had my stroke eight years ago, it was three months after I won a fitness contest. So fitness has always been an important thing to me. Working out, probably my entire life has been working out serious in the gym. Workout started in 2003. Before that, it was just basketball every day. That was my workout, basketball every single day. And so for me, it’s always important. In fact, my goal, I’m sitting in a hotel in Tukumkari, New Mexico, right now. I’m not sure the right way to say it. As soon as you and I are done, I’m heading down to the gym and getting on the elliptical for a half hour. So yeah, we talk about that all the time, take time to do whatever you want. And that goes back to again. So I have a friend and I mentioned him a lot of times on podcast. I’m on John Garrett. I don’t know if you ever heard of John’s name, but he wrote this book called “What’s your and?” Okay, I felt I lived what you’re and before I met John, but after I met John, now I have a definition of it, what it is. And I kind of mentioned this earlier, it’s not your job doesn’t define you. Your passion is outside of work. You define you. And so that’s what we try to tell people in the business as well. And if exercise is one of it and hopefully it is, prioritize that you can work your schedule around it. And that’s our goal is to make everybody make sure that they’re doing the things they enjoy and work will be one of those things as well. If they have the freedom to do whatever they want.
It really does breed the sense of comfort that that’s a priority as a team and that gives people the ability to embrace it. I remember working. I had a good friend of mine, we became good friends through work and he had done marathons. Then he did Iron Man and we had a deal that our company worked with a gym that was right in the adjacent building and we worked in tech. Right. So we’re working crazy hours all the time. We’re constantly working nights and weekends. And it’s not a lifestyle conducive to health. No. And we got this deal through work where this gym, which was normally like $130 a month, we could get it for $20 a month. And when we found out we got this deal, there was like twelve of us on the team. We sit down in our team meeting. He says, I’m telling every single one of you, I don’t care if you only go there once a month, once a week, whatever it is. He says you have unlimited time to go to the gym, book 1 hour of overtime to pay for it, and sign up today. And all, every single one of us signed up.
There were three folks on the team who had never even they wouldn’t have gone to the gym unless it was on the way to the food court. Okay, sure. Let me give this a try. And next thing you know, six, seven months later, these folks who had never thought about even adding a health regimen or a fitness regimen into their life were now focused on it and getting in there every morning saying no can’t do lunch meeting. I got to go over, I’ve got Pilates class, I’ve got a jump on the elliptical and do whatever, and it became a core of their day. It was so fantastic to see that.
For me, I just feel so much better after working out. And that helps me work. I’m sure it helps everybody work. Your mind is better, your body is better, everything feels better. You have more energy. And working out doesn’t drain you out, at least for me, it gives you energy. And so I guess if you look at it selfishly, as a business owner, it’s going to make people more productive. That’s not the reason to do it. But I think there is a side benefit. And just like what you said, we moved into a new office three or four years ago. Pandemic time. I don’t know anymore what time frame is kind of a blur now. Exactly. But one of the keys was we wanted to have a gym in the office and they were just building it. And I haven’t been to the office. I honestly haven’t been to the office in a year and a half, probably at least. But I was talking to someone there just yesterday and he said, yeah, the gym has been done for a while. He says it’s awesome. Two locker rooms and it’s just part of our fee for renting the space we’re in.
And then most of our people are on the road. Pandemic obviously changed that, but we’re getting on the road again and we have a gym in every hotel we’re at. So getting to a gym shouldn’t be an issue. And really, I tried to talk about exercise and working out as much as I can because I think it’s important.
In going out and doing speaking opportunities. And now with the podcast, let’s talk about taking this passion to the audience now and being able to evangelize. This is such a unique time versus 20 years ago, even ten years ago maybe, where now you can grab a microphone, you can publish, you can get it out there and you have a growing audience and you’re being recognized rightly so for your ability to share this fantastic ways of both storytelling and really bringing important information to the community.
Yeah. This is one reason things have gotten so exciting for me in business, because I get to go out and talk all the time. But yeah, it’s funny because for years I’ve been out doing CPA, continuing professional education for CPA firms. And I’d be out traveling and doing that inside of a firm or at a CPA association event. Occasionally at like a tech event or a manufacturing event. But most of the time we’re working with CPAs, they bring us to their clients. So I was always able to do that. Pandemic when it hit, I’m like, what am I going to do? How am I going to be able to get in front of all these people? And the first few webinars on Zoom or whatever, go to the webinar, go to meeting. Whatever I was on, it was like, yeah, it’s just not the same. There’s no interaction with me in the audience, but I just started thinking about it. The mindset was they’re there, I’m going to talk, they’re still there and I can hear them and they can see me. When I present, I try to have a conversation just never scripted. I have slides that I’m going through, but there’s never a script.
Every single one is different. And I’d like to get the questions typed in. So that has been huge. And in fact, at this point in time, I almost think that I’ve probably had a bigger impact on the industry in the last two years than I had prior. I probably educated 30,000 CPAs on the employee retention credit over the last year and a half. There’s no way I would have done that traveling. So it was pretty interesting to have that change. Now I like still the audience and being up front and seeing their reaction, but this is going to be a blend going forward. That’s been nice. And then in the last year and a half, I started concentrating more on the writing articles, which traveling – I probably would have put that to the side because I probably would have been on planes and I actually work on planes more than I used to pre-pandemic, which I never used to do. So doing that too. But now I’m writing the articles. The podcast has really started right after, right before the Pandemic. I’ve been able to concentrate more on that. So it’s weird how the pandemic changed all that and what I thought would be for the worst.
I think a hybrid approach going forward is going to really work out well. To be able to be out there and impact what’s going on in the industry has been a lot of fun and a lot more able to do that the way it’s gone the last two years.
It’s a funny thing that I get asked quite often, but they’re like, oh, you go to events and you do keynotes and whatever, and they say it must be great. Like you like to talk, I like to collaborate. And when I do a keynote, I’ve described it to people as listening to 500 people at a time and the fact that you’re watching reactions and little things in the audience and it steers. So I’ve never been good at scripting. Partly because I think I just don’t have the capability. Whether I have a poor wrote memory, there’s a lot of things I have dyslexia. So that also really kind of cuts into me reading and talking at the same time. I just can’t do it and I’ve become very adaptive, but mostly in having conversations. That’s why I love the podcast, because then you can do it and you also do it in the mind of 500s, a thousand people watching you. You begin to think like that, like you, I’m able to carry that imprint and that memory of those experiences into these types of conversations, which is so fun, and I enjoy it. That’s why I like your style.
Your delivery is so fantastic because you’re just you’re at home. It’s like you’re sitting next to a conversation. You’d love to slow down. If you were sitting at a table and somebody next to you was having a conversation, you’d be like leaning over a little bit watching. You just want to hear it.
Yes. No, I agree. And what you said about the scripted – we’ve all seen boring presentations and they’re the scripted ones, almost always. The conversations out of the way. And that’s why I said I try to act as if I’m having a conversation with the audience, even on webinars when I’m not. And you just said it as well. And I think that mindset is huge because nobody wants to be read to unless it’s an audio book. Other than that, I don’t want to be read to.
When they do corporate big events, especially when they’re doing stage events, and it’s so painful because they’re great people and they’re basically put up there and it looks like a grade six play about the origin of Thanksgiving. It’s like, so, Peter, how exciting is this year now that we’re going to be able to do this? That’s a great question, Eric. They’ve pre-configured the scripted, witty repartee. And the only thing that’s missing is like when someone says, I think that’s a great idea, exits towards the left. Like they are like line for line range. It’s painful because you talk to these people like you’re a human. You can have a conversation. Just take away the script.
Exactly. Because even on podcast, you’ll hear this where it’s okay, I’m going to ask question one. Okay, tell me about the service you’re working on right now. And then boom, the answer. And at the end of the answer, let’s say somebody says, yeah, but it’s been tough for the last couple of days because my dog died. All right, well, tell us about this. I mean, you can’t go, I’m so sorry to hear that. What kind of dog? It’s like, oh, no, I got question, too. Your dog doesn’t matter to me now, Tax, question two is how are you getting the service out to your clients? I mean, that script just bothers me so much, having a human connection interaction. And like you just said, that conversation, if you’re having it back and forth and someone hears it, they’re going to lean in that’s perfect way to explain that. Eric, you are really good at this.
Misspent youth of watching great conversations. The one thing that is really neat about your approach and you hear it and everything you say is you are so outly focused on other people’s positivity. It’s incredible. You talk about your team, you talk about empowering people, teaching everything you’re doing as selfish as it deserves to be because you deserve to be able to enjoy the benefits and stuff. It’s like the moment you feel 10%, you want to give 90% away. I really get the sense that community and sharing has been a strong part of your life. It is.
And it’s funny because I don’t think of it that way, but it keeps coming up in conversation where people say what you said. So apparently it shows through. But as I mentioned at the beginning, a little bit. I started my first business at 16, partly because I didn’t want to work for anybody else. I ended up after graduation, went and worked as a computer programmer for about a year. That failed. And then really, it was the business I was at. It was just we did nothing. But then I thought, hey, I should go out and sell, because people I know that are selling are making a lot of money. And I went out and tried to sell, and I was awful at it because it was formulaic. Tell me that word I’m trying to say. Formula. Formula trick. Yeah, there you go. There’s a formula to it. And there was like no passion. It was food and it was fun, but it wasn’t even really fun. I wasn’t good at it, but I learned from both those things. I learned a lot. And then I decided to go back to school full time to be a CPA.
This is a long answer to what we’re just talking about. I’ll get to a point here in a second. So then I went back got enough hours in graduate school to take the CPA exam, did that. And that’s where I started thinking after I went to work for a firm, which was a great firm, I really enjoyed the two partners I was working for there. But I started thinking about things that as an employee, I don’t like this or I don’t like that. And I started writing these things down, thinking, okay, someday I’m going to have my own firm. And when I do, here’s how I want to do it, so that people enjoy working here. So I think that mindset, whether I consciously think about it going forward or not, that was developed 30 plus years ago when I started working in public accounting, because I just saw things, not that these people, I really liked working for them, but as an employee, you see things different as an employer. And I wanted to make sure when I was an employer, I would think about the employee first and not anything else. So that was my goal, whether I’ve accomplished it or not.
You can ask the people that work at Tri-Merit, but I feel we’ve done a pretty good job.
I often hear people describe, especially early entrepreneurs. They say, I was unemployable like, you always sort of saw a hole and just being part of someone else’s system, you really get that early taste of, hey, I kind of want to be responsible for the outcome, and especially at 16. I imagine even then that probably wasn’t the first time, you probably thought about it even earlier, as if that was the first time you executed on it.
Probably I’m the oldest, too, so I’m sure being the oldest of four siblings makes it in reality, I’m the oldest of 20 cousins that all lived right around each other, I mean, within blocks. So I think that probably had something to do with it as well, that you’re kind of the leader of the sibling/cousins gang, so that probably had something to do with it as well.
Well, Interestingly, by a common trait of the oldest is actually they’re the most sort of conservative and less lights need to take risk. You’re often the closest to the parents, because if you look at the behavior patterns that you observe are of people who are 20 to 25 years older than you say in the time frame that you and I were raised, right. Now it’s 45 years. It’s a longer gap between the first child and the parents, but then your next sibling, their model of interaction is following you, who is two years difference or a closer age. So they tend to be more free and more they think differently versus your model of behavior tends to be much more mature. But yet you’ve got that really good, rare mix of that responsibility, as well as the sort of sense of freedom that you give to yourself.
Yes, I think you’re right on. And you got my brother to a T, too, when you explain the second. So definitely different. We’re very close family overall, which is nice, but each of us has a separate personality, and I never really looked into that whole 1st, 2nd, 3rd, whatever traits. I know a little bit of it, but yeah, I could see the oldest not being the risk taker. When I look at business, I don’t see the risk. So maybe there’s just a gene missing in me or something, which can be a problem because I always just see the positive. Hey, there’s an opportunity here. Let’s do it. I guess in the back of my mind, I know there’s a chance for failure, but it doesn’t demotivate me. And that’s the difference between entrepreneurs and non entrepreneurs in my mind as they see the risk first, not the opportunity first. And I think you need to see the risk. It’s just I’m not really good at seeing that risk. And for me, overall, it’s worked out. There’s been wins, there’s been losses. But I’m on a big winning streak right now, so I’m enjoying it from a fun standpoint and a business standpoint.
But part of it is you talked before about setting yourself up to be positioned against a team, a partner, somebody who else can pick up that piece that you know that you’re not going to be the best at. Like why in goodness name would I spend? If it’s 50% of my time but 80% of my mental effort to do this task, then why in goodness name, if we afford ourselves the ability to staff somebody to do this, by God, get them in that role and let them be fantastic at it, and then let me be fantastic. So it’s funny that there is a difference between an entrepreneur and a visionary. Sometimes an entrepreneur is just like somebody who’s willing to go it on their own because they kind of want to manage the process. But visionary is somebody that’s like you. And I said, not just like you, you are a visionary. And that you’re saying, I’m going to go with this crazy idea, I’m going to go with this big idea, and I’m going to see if this can work. And then you find, you hypothesize, you bring it out, you test it, and then you look for people that can help you to bring that vision into a reality, which is exciting.
Yeah. It took me a long time to realize that was my strength. I just thought it was as an entrepreneur, you’re supposed to do everything in my mind. It took a long time to figure that out. But when I did, I mean, when I look back to five years ago, when I stepped out as a major partner and my partner took over and I had mentally fought that, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. Man, I should have done it years ago. In reality, at the time, it was perfect. I wouldn’t have changed anything. But he is so good at the managing of the business part of things. He is so good at the implement. He is so good at the processes. He is so good at all that. Where I have no desire to do any of that and really never looked at myself internally to realize I had no desire to do that. It’s just something I wouldn’t pay attention to getting that team approach. One thing I tell people, because everybody says influencer, I don’t influence anything. People, I guess, just like to talk to me about certain things, and they’ll ask me about just business in general and what I’ve learned. And I’ll be 60 in a couple of months. So I’ve learned a lot over the years. It took me a long time to implement what I learned. But the biggest thing is and you just mentioned it, and this is the point – is fill those your gaps in with other people’s strengths. And even if you’re just starting a business and you mentioned this as well, and I tell people all the time, let’s say you’re starting a restaurant. You’re doing that because you’re passionate for food. I’m sure that’s why. That’s one reason. Let’s assume that’s your passion is food and developing recipes and seeing people enjoy what you’ve done. Your passion isn’t bookkeeping. Your passion isn’t HR. Your passion isn’t tax returns. Your passion isn’t getting the technology set up in your business. That’s not your passion. I’m sure it could be. But in most cases and so fill in those gaps, whether it’s employees, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford an employee, find someone that fills those strengths that you don’t have. If it isn’t, you can outsource just about anything. Whether it’s a part time CFO, HR obviously, services tech huge. You can outsource anything in there.
And in reality it’s not. People will say, well, it’s going to cost too much. In reality, you’re going to make more by doing it. Because now you can concentrate on the thing that’s really going to make your business shine. Concentrate on HR is not what personally is going to make your business shine. Your passion for creating these recipes is what’s going to make your business shine. Now find someone else that could do those other things. So I agree with you completely. That’s the way to look at things and not something I always did. But it’s almost 60 now. I have for about the last five or six years.
We’ve luckily developed enough hindsight and figured out. You can see it in advance. You mentioned before about the idea of the timing of the change where you left the managing partner role. And it’s funny when it happens, you have that weird moment where you’re like, why didn’t I do this earlier? But I like that you recognize that there was every reason why you didn’t, right? I often say to myself, what would I say to myself, what would you say to 20 year old you? And I give all sorts of advice to a 20 year old me. And do you know what 20 year old me would say to me, shut up, old man. I got it.
Exactly. That’s true. That’s true. I want to address something you just said because I think this is important. I had a little resistance to change in that role from managing partner. And looking back, why would I have that resistance? And it’s because I felt that was my identity in reality. That’s what I probably look back. That’s what I thought. My identity is made your partner of this pretty significant specialty tax firm. And so if I’m not that, who am I? What am I? Do I just become a partner in a firm that now is somebody else’s firm? And it’s a weird mindset, but that’s probably what I was thinking. Look back at that now and where I am today, this identity I have today, it’s just, one – if you look at ego wise, I’m more recognized today than I was back then. I’m pretty well known in our industry. I guess that’s the ego end of things. But it’s an identity that I just enjoy so much more than that identity i thought what I had to be before, I did not have to be that. Looking back now.
The world deserves you, Randy. We deserve the passion that you can bring to that larger audience. Right. It’s so amazing to see when those two things come together because there are a lot of folks who never need to go outside of inside the organization, and that’s a fantastic function and role that’s ideal for those folks. Not everybody wants to get out and be able to talk to a larger community. Some people don’t like to share things. They’re very introverted. I still have sort of weird split sometimes where I’m an extrovert by profession, but an introvert by nature. I’m a cyclist, I’m a runner. I like being very introspective. I like alone time, and it gives me free thought, deep work. But I also like collaboration and these sort of things. But every once in a while I’ll hit a point where I’m like, all right, time to tap out. I got to go for a walk. You go to a big conference. And every night I used to purposefully stay with my hotel far away from the conference center so that it would be like, oh, sorry, guys, I got to go because I got to go change. So I’ll see you guys back at dinner, knowing that it was like put in ear noise canceling headphones. I’d go sort of like detach for a bit and then reenergize and come back to it.
And look at you now. You’re this podcast host of Top 1%. Is that what I heard?
That is nuts. Yeah. Thank you. I know.
That’s great. Obviously, it’s not the introvert part of things. It’s just the passion. You have a passion for this. I say passion all the time. And people get sick of me saying, but you have passion, you enjoy this, you can tell you enjoy this. And it’s not that group setting of the conference that maybe was a struggle to try to have these conversations that are talking about whatever, not something that’s exciting. And now you get to direct wherever you want this to go, and you enjoy it the same way from that standpoint. Growing up, I was the shy kid. That’s what I was known as. Look, in my mind, I always thought, well, I’m not shy. Just if it’s important, I’m going to say it. There’s nothing important to say. I wasn’t a small talk guy or anything like that. And I remember thinking that from a young age. As a side note, I hate the labeling thing like that because I still know I was labeled as shy. And in reality, I wasn’t. It’s just the way I was. So I hate that. When my kids were growing up, if somebody was trying to label them, I would get mad.
So we can talk about that forever. So I was able to just shake it, in fact, to a point where my third grade teacher sent me to speech therapy because she thought I couldn’t speak. I mean, it was that level. But it was more of a if it’s not important, why do I want to discuss it? Which I think has helped a lot today, because when I’m doing webinars, I mean, I have to make sure that I have the answers because people, not one, look at me as an expert. And if I don’t have an answer, I’m getting everybody on the team to start researching this. We need to find this out. And with tax code, like we said, the beginning with tax code the last two years, there’s a lot of unanswered questions with this stuff. And we’ve been the first to release information on some of this stuff often. In fact, last month we did a webinar where there was two key issues with R&D tax credits and some changes that occurred that I had a webinar the next day at 11AM. At 5pm there were two answers that we didn’t have. And this is brand new information, but I figure the answers exist. We have to dig into tax code. We have to find this. So I got about five people and myself starting to research this. At 1:30 in the morning, I get an email from this one guy who was brilliant, John Capril. He just knows all the tax code inside and out. And John Seagraves as well, he does. I’m going to call people out in the firm. These guys are great researchers. And he sends me an email where he found an answer. Well, I didn’t see his email. I woke up at 4:30, and I’m researching because I can’t go to this webinar and not answer this. I could ignore it. I don’t want to ignore it. I want to be able to tell everybody this is how it is. And I could have ignored it. And then I found it. Then I saw his email and it we meshed. I’m like, okay, he’s agreeing, I’m agreeing. We have it. We have important information now. This is exciting. This is important. And then going back to eight year old me, it’s as important to say, I’m going to say it now. I’m not shy. I just want to make sure it’s important. And so I think that even though it was a label that probably I look back and wish I didn’t have, it made a big difference in my life going forward. So it’s probably a blessing.
Yeah. It’s so funny that shy used to be the, there’s a difference between shy and quiet. But when we were kids, that was a thing. You’re just like, oh, they’re the shy kids or whatever. And there were people who were very extroverted and they wanted to be wanted to be heard. I prefer to have something important to bring to the room. And there’s an interesting combination, too. I used to joke with people. I’d say I never ask a question that I don’t already know the answer to. I research in my head long before I ever will because I don’t want to be caught out. I kind of just want to make sure that I’m going down the right road. So you take it in. And I used to be a people watcher. It’s still one of my favorite things. When I go to airports, I just put in, like, music or I’ll have an audiobook sometimes, but I just to watch the behaviors and the way the people interact. And it makes me a much better presenter because I can do that in audiences. And then doing that so much in person translated to the webinar platform where I know how to sort of I shouldn’t say control, but it’s like I know how to manage people’s attention appropriately, where you bring things down and that’s a very important thing. But what we really want to do is we want to get into it, and you can bring them up and down. People always talk about this thing. They’re like, there’s this thing in the middle of a webinar. They call it the attention hammock. I’m like, not mine, kid. No attention hammocks anywhere. No room for that.
Yeah. I said this one thing often, and it sounds negative. I don’t mean it like this but, by observing I think what you do is you help people make the decisions you want them to make a little bit. It sounds weird, but it’s more than that because you educate them to the point where you’re directing them their knowledge, and then you help them to come up with that solution that they’re looking for, whatever that is. But examples of this that I’ve done, I’ve been wanting to be part of a few boards in the past, and I don’t ask anybody to ask me, but I somehow get it to a point where, okay, yeah. And it’s education. I’m educating on things that I am passionate about that I like. And then they start thinking, oh, you know what, Randy? Would be great to be involved in this. So I never asked to be on these I want to be on. And then just by letting them know things, they ask you. So I think to make that not sound like a negative thing, because it very well could be like you’re manipulating people. That’s not it. It’s just getting to a point where you’re helping them make a decision.
One thing I’d love to get your thoughts on, because a lot of folks that have your capabilities and have the voice you’ve got and are out there very publicly, we hear a lot. We talk about imposter syndrome. I have a PhD in imposter syndrome. Every once in a while, it just sort of just rolls in hard. I even joke. I said, I don’t know if I deserve to have imposter syndrome, the ultimate imposter syndrome. But it’s like, is there ever that side of things, Randy, where you have self doubt that maybe doesn’t come out necessarily.
So I probably used to have that. I don’t feel I do anymore because I’ve been out there so much, and I know people in our industry because the biggest thing I have that I enjoy the most is education. Education comes through the podcast, it comes through the webinars, it comes through the articles, it comes through even just, not even just, but being interviewed on other people’s podcasts. And I feel I’m prepared for that. And I think I, in my mind, know it as well as anybody. I know imposter syndrome is big in tech. I’ve heard that a lot. It’s just because I’m guessing it’s an ever changing profession. There’s always something new and you feel like you can’t keep up with it. With tax, is it new? Yeah, obviously there’s new stuff, but I have the freedom to dig into that pretty quickly when something new that is at least going to affect us comes out. So I never thought about it, but I don’t think I have the imposter syndrome. I think I used to for sure, and not even in business. I think it was more growing up. I mean, this is almost not imposter syndrome. It’s more just confidence. I was really good basketball player. The head coach of our basketball team asked me to play on the team, and in my mind, I wasn’t good enough. So I wouldn’t do it. And I look back and I go, that was dumb. So it was a confidence. But I wouldn’t change anything. Where I am today, I don’t want to be anywhere else. And if I did something different over the last 59 years, I’d be in a different spot. And this is the spot I want to be.
I think that’s another thing that comes through in so much of what you say, Randy. You talk about entrepreneurship as often being risk management and risk awareness, and you talk about being not sort of focused on risk, but having that optimism, having that thing is your ability to also shed regret or sort of avoid regret. I often think there are many things I wish I had taken a different path with, because I understand intellectually there probably would have been a route around it. But I also looked at certain things happen for reasons, and I have to accept it because I can only change what I can and I can only change what’s ahead, not what’s behind. So what’s your view on regret management, I guess, is what I would call it.
Exactly what you said now. So for the longest time, there’s things I regretted. The basketball, and that’s why I brought that up. Still probably because it’s probably still in the back of my mind. I love basketball. I played basketball probably more than anybody has. I played so many games and regret it for a while, not playing. But I’ve got over that again just because I want to be where I am today. I try not to regret anything. Everything that I’ve done has changed me has made me better. I was a computer programmer. Is that where I ended up? No. Do I still use skills that I learned in that? I’m sure I do. I was in sales. I was not good at it. I didn’t have passion for it, but I wasn’t good at it. I sell all the time now. I don’t sell. I educate, but really, I’m selling with education. I learned something back then and that do I regret that I didn’t go into public accounting straight out of school? No. Because without those two things, I wouldn’t be who I am today. You have to learn from it. But I don’t look backwards. I look forward and I know I take the skills I learned backwards. I take those education experiences and use them today. But I can’t change that. I can only look and see. I can affect tomorrow. I can’t affect yesterday.
Another important thing that we hear about, and I participated myself all the time. They have communities of practice and entrepreneurship organization EOS, a popular one for entrepreneurs. They’re at a certain phase of the organization. So you’re basically surrounding yourself with people with a common purpose and a common experience. But the community practice I want to focus on, Randy, you talked about stroke recovery and survivorship that experience far outside of. So there’s probably all walks of life of people that come in there. But how important is that in your continuous look back on that moment and that experience in your own life?
So I’m fortunate that I can look back on that and not like think I wish my stroke never happened. And the only reason I can sit in that situation is because I fully recovered and I’m in the position I am today. There are so many stroke survivors that are struggling daily with a loss of half of their body, loss of ability to speak, loss of ability just to communicate in general. I feel selfish saying that looking back, that probably was a positive impact on me. I have a hard time saying that because there’s 92% of the people that have stroke that probably can’t. Well, even if you have some deficit. I’ve talked to people look back at it and say, yes, this was the shape who I am today, and I’m okay with that or good with that. For me, it’s hard to say positive experience because it wasn’t. But did it make me who I am today, and am I grateful for that? Yes, I’m grateful for that. And because of that, I give back to the organization that helped me, which is stroke survivors empowering each other. That is when you have a stroke and I’m going to go into stroke here for a few minutes, if you don’t mind.
Yeah, absolutely. When I have the stroke and when everybody has a stroke and I’m sure everybody has similar mindset is what just happened? Why did this happen? Is it going to happen again, what do I do next? And in that situation, I was looking back because you’re like, why is a big part of it? And you have a stroke, you’re in the hospital, they release you, and that’s it. They release you. There’s not much else that happens. It’s like, now you’re on your own. You got to go figure out what to do. They give you some pamphlets. They say there’s a survivor.
I’m sure you’ve had a stroke pamphlet. Thank you.
Right. And they’ll tell you there’s a survivor group that meets once a month at the hospital and which is all great. The community of somebody that’s gone through what you’ve gone is extremely important to be part of that. But for me it was and I was 51 at the time. And this is a misconception. But in my mind it was okay, this is going to be a bunch of 80 year olds in this group, and I’m not going to connect with them because I’m 51 now. I know after the fact that I’m not special in being 51 when I had it. We have a group called Young Survivors. We have a bunch of people, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old that have strokes. So stroke happens at any age. It’s not just somebody who’s 80, 90 years old. But I was looking for this community that would know what I went through and be able to answer me. A doctor can say this, a nurse can say this, but somebody has a stroke, I’m going to talk to. So I was fortunate to know a few people who know people with strokes. I started talking to them, and that was great.
I felt at least I was getting answers from them, but they still wanted more. So I found this organization called Stroke Survivors are Part of each other. And it was based in Illinois, where I am, where I live, I’m not there today, but where I live. And I called them actually, I think I sent an email and they called me and they reached out to me and I’m like, this is unbelievable. They’re calling me and they talk to me about a group they had called Survivor to Survivor, Telephone Support Group. When you talk to somebody who’s a survivor, they’re going to communicate you with you. They’re going to call you monthly. They’re going to ask how you’re doing. If I did have deficits, they’re going to talk to you about how you start to use the bus or how you start to set up your home so that you can function if you lose the side of your body. A lot of times people lose one side of your body, the ability to use it. How do you just put toothpaste down a toothbrush now and then brush your teeth? I mean, things like that that they were able to communicate.
And so they actually, the three leaders of that organization set up a meeting to get together with me. And I was like, this is amazing the support that they have. And so from that I told them they helped me tremendously. I still had three or four years of dealing with mental health issues after that. But they got me down the right path. And because of that, I started to want to give back. And so I would do a little fundraiser here and there. I would do things. And then they asked me to be on the board. And at the first board meeting, I look around and the President was just about to not just about she just said, I’m going to step down. And I looked everybody’s faces and I didn’t see anybody saying, I’m going to step up. It’s a great group, but everybody has different skills. And I’m like, I’m going to be the next President, aren’t I? And then about a month later, that’s what happened. But it’s been great to give back. It’s a great organization. It was an experience that I do not wish on anybody to have stroke, but it has shaped where I am today. And for that, I’m grateful.
Well, I’m glad that we have you here today, and I’m glad you’re on the other side of that event and that you give back to your community. And Randy, it’s been a real pleasure. I thank you so much for I think we didn’t talk too much about taxes, so it may seem like a disappointment from quite often what you’re talking about.
Eric, this is what I want to talk about. I can talk taxes all day. If I can share something to help somebody in business that has nothing to do with taxes or even personally, I want to do that. And I might be have a big ego thinking I can help somebody, but hopefully something I say does make a difference to somebody.
Well, I’m absolutely sure that you help people in some way every day, and I appreciate spending the time today. So, Randy, if people do want to reach out and get a hold of you and find out more, what’s the best way they can do that?
So I will go to our website, which is Tri-Merit (T-R-I- Merit.com) there’s “About Us” page link to my information there. You can go to LinkedIn. Apparently I’m going to be on TikTok soon and other things. I’m going to be recording, like one or two minute updates on different things. But go to the website. That’s the best place to start and you can get to anything else from there.
Can you imagine that many years ago saying to yourself, like, yeah, I’m going to be doing 92nd social media hits where people do crazy dances. It’s a fun world. And I’m glad that we can all evolve to really fun stuff together. And thanks again, Randy. It’s been a real pleasure.
Thank you, Eric. I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure where that we were going with this. But. It was awesome. Thank you much.