For tech leaders challenged with engaging their audience - corporate or otherwise - it may be time to elevate empathy by tapping into the technique of - what else? - improv. At least it's funny to think improv could help solve tech leadership challenges. And a whole lot of funny is part of what comes fully-loaded in episode 21, when Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano are joined by special guest and "accidental accountant" Peter Margaritis.
4:14 Episode Start
4:19 Peter Margaritas Intro
9:57 Communicating with clarity
15:03 Secret languages
25:04 Customer experience
26:05 Change your mindset
29:51 Crazy Ideas
38:27 Using humor as an educator
45:40 Silly Putty
53:37 Recommended books
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Brian Comerford 0:14
Nick I don't even know what to say about what to expect with today's episode. You know, we took some things in a decidedly different direction, I guess I would say, you know, I got a chance to reference on my favorite authors so I don't think I've ever shared either with you or on names Robert Anton Wilson and he he's been gone for a number of years now but he wrote a lot of books and he one of my favorite books of his is actually only available on audio. And it's called Robert Anton Wilson explains everything or old Bob exposes his ignorance. In it, he was asked to, to explain, you know, If If you were to summarize, you know, kind of, you know, what are what are all your life's learnings about? And you could put that into a phrase, what would it be? And he said, I'm more at alera toss, which is love and laughter. And I gotta say, Nick, I feel like that's what we brought today. There's a lot of
Nick Lozano 1:20
Yeah, there's no doubt. You know, Peter, Peter, Marguerite is definitely a different person than we've had in our past. But, you know, his background is accounting, he was a CPA. And, you know, his his whole thing. Yes. And, and taking the non model numbers, his book, we thought he'd be a good guest to bring on because, you know, accountants and CPAs are the first you know, silo of business where they were talking to their leadership and nobody understood anything they said to him and now now we have technology. We we speak just like them. We talked to people and they have no idea what we're talking about.
Brian Comerford 1:56
That's right. And I love how it connects empathy. As a Leadership quality to his background in improv. And, in fact, he's written another book called improv is no joke using improvisation and create positive results and leadership in life. And we get a great opportunity to talk with him about that, to a degree. You know, I also think about the years that I've spent as a DJ, which, you know, may surprise some of our listeners. But part of that empathy, you know, comes from reading an audience, right. And when you read the crowd as a DJ, if you've got an empty dance floor, you're in trouble. You better change some things up and figure out how to navigate through it pretty quickly. And he addresses some of those same types of issues as leaders, you know, what they're confronted with how to navigate through some of the gray area and really have a level of empathy so that you can have engagement that's authentic and and is really working in harmony with those who you're trying to serve.
Nick Lozano 3:00
I loved he said, you know, everyone should take one one improv class. So I guess that's my homework grad, I need to find an improv class and do and have you have you ever done that before? Brian,
Brian Comerford 3:09
you know, it's been many years since I've done it. But I have four and I have a friend who actually just recently went through improv. And then was you know, as part of graduating from the class had to go through an improv routine at Denver comedy works. So I you know, I think it's something that both of us should put on our to do list because I'm convinced now there's, there's new opportunities and insights that await us.
Nick Lozano 3:41
Well, what I like about Peter see now, when you bring up the comedy, and some of its like he said that you know, you bring up your own situations, right? So you're bringing up and vulnerability. As a leader when you're doing these presentations, you're you're allowing people to make a connection with you because you're being vulnerable while you're presenting. But I don't want to take any more of Peters thunder. You know, we've got a great episode for a guest. So let's get on with it. Love it.
Brian Comerford 4:14
I'm Brian comer forward in Denver, Colorado,
Nick Lozano 4:17
and I'm Nick Lozano, Washington DC. And
Brian Comerford 4:19
today we've got a very special guest Peter Margarita. He's a certified speaking professional and author who also tends to refer to himself as the accidental accountant. You're going to be learning more about that on this episode only if we can actually keep the reins intact to guide the conversation. We've already been having a lot of fun theater before even got started here. So, Peter, welcome to the program and if you could kick us off and just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Peter Margaritis 4:50
Thanks, guys. I appreciate the opportunity. Yes, I am the accident Look, I'm a CPA, but not a really good one. I quite honest with that I, you see, I didn't get into this profession. So I was 30 years old. My last name is Margarita, I'm Greek, I should be in the restaurant, rally kitchen cooking. And actually that's what I did for a large part of my life and 12 years old all the way through college and, and managed a couple of pizza places after that, but then I found myself in the accounting profession. And I come in with this. Yeah, so once a year very good. garius I went I went to University of Kentucky I have to look that up and now that I understand what it means, and I come into a profession that I walked in the door Price Waterhouse on day one, and all the air left. That wasn't what it was like what when I when I went through my interviews, there's a lot of actual on air in there, but it was all gone and they couldn't figure me out and I surely couldn't figure them out and I survive for years ago at Price Waterhouse. Oh, before that I went to Case Western Reserve and got a Master's accountancy, which means I can study I pass the CPA exam study and then they wanted me to do and i i saw i love Price Waterhouse what's worked for Victoria's Secret catalog? Not as a model but I appreciate it guys.
When both you guys eyes when I said
Nick Lozano 6:20
if they can only see the video
Peter Margaritis 6:26
my boss my boss on my performance review. My cheeks hadn't hit the seat yet and she was how in the hell did you ever become a CPA? CPAs and get down in here I get you about halfway. You're an accidental accountant. I think that was the nicest thing she's ever said to me. But I looked her and said foot when you want something done in this building Who do you ask to get it done says Will you paint because your cheeks in her in the seat? I don't know. No, no, no, I'm not eating bonbons and watching Oprah. See I realized since I guns professional There's this thing called a stereotype about accountants and CPAs. Have you heard about this guy?
So understanding that stereotype if I need I'm in the information gathering business and if I need the information and I come in as the CPA or the account that into your office, that the likelihood that you're going to be forthwith and give give that information up, it's probably not going to be well, you can just probably not going to do it at first or you know, find ways of saying no, but if you know me as Pete on the guy had a cocktail was I had lunch with, you're more likely to give me that information. And the more that I know of you become friends and such, the more willing you are to give me information and sometimes will give me information that you're not aware of when we go to happy hour. That's, that's how I got the accidental account, but then I've actually have a registered trademark on it.
Then I found myself unemployed for a while and someone thought I could be a good teacher. I start teaching at the college level at The Ohio Dominican University. That joke kills in Columbus,
Nick Lozano 8:23
Peter Margaritis 8:27
And I taught there for about 10 years and learn how to build curriculum and learn how to clap your class and, and as my students said, I made accounting fun, which is an oxymoron. But I, I took I have a background in humor. I'm not a very good stand up comedian because I'm talking to you guys out versus I've been a student of improvisation for over 20 plus years, and I was able to take that Schumer that piece of my background, my business accounting background, and Turned out to be really good as a teaching tool. And I've been I've taught hard hardcore accounting for about 10 years. But my real love was more from the leadership communication compassionate level. And today I have my own business and the name of the business is Peter a margarita LLC. But the accidental accountants were I do communication programming, leadership programming, primarily for financial professionals. But I have worked with sales teams and different types of manufacturing industries and I started this I went full time with this business in 2010. And I have not worked a day since.
That's my wife, you'll get a whole different story.
Brian Comerford 9:50
Spoken like a true entrepreneur.
Peter Margaritis 9:51
Yeah, exactly. Of course I can do that.
Nick Lozano 9:57
I love I love your background, you and I have some You know, similarities, they're both kind of starting out in the restaurant industry and accidentally finding our way. You know, same thing with Brian, Brian, you know, got into technology through music. So we're here with you kind of accidentally being in, in the positions that we were in, kind of brings me the first question I want to ask you is, you know, as technology leaders are faced with communicating with executives, you know, where we're kind of where the heck am I going at this tripping over my words here? You know, we have to take complex information and present it to people who might not actually understand what we're saying to them. And I feel like accountants are the very first you know, a role where where you work somewhere and no one completely understood what you did, right? Or what you said to them, right? Like, you turn to somebody like oh, well, what's the depreciation on that you don't straight line are you doing it a different way and most people look at you and go, Well, what the heck and from our from a technology perspective, you know, we as technology leaders, my turn Okay, we're going to do a, you know, Amazon workspaces here. Are we going to go ahead and spin up EC to incident incident? Yeah, so your face is exactly the same thing. As, as somebody you know, who works, you know, in a highly technical area, how do you communicate clearly and confidently to, to your fellow peers in the sea level to make sure that they understand what you're saying.
Peter Margaritis 11:31
But the first thing I have to get them to understand is they speak a foreign language. They speak the foreign language of business called accounting. because like you said, when you say depreciation to an accountant, they think that's the value they lose in their car when they drive it off the car lot. And the accountants what No, no, no, that's a systematic allocation of an asset over time. So I my first challenge is to get to the realize that you speak a foreign language and to Just the can't yell it out, just like you understand like when we do, and we go to foreign countries, but they have to learn how to translate it into the thing called plain English. And it's really hard to do that. And and I discovered the I think when I first discovered that accounting was a foreign language, my wife and I were dating at the time, and we would meet for dinner. So tell me about your day. And then she glaze over like a beer. So would you speak English to me? So I'm speaking English. So don't you speak in Chinese to me speak. Tell me what you did. And this went on for a while until I realized, wait a minute. She doesn't have that knowledge that I have. Just like your folks. They don't have you've got extensive knowledge in your in your profession in your industry and those who don't. We have no clue because we haven't invested that time as you guys have and as we as accountants. So once we realize that and we realize we speaking to someone who is not have our complex, our competency and that subject matter, we have to put it in plain English and put it on and using story using analogies. And that's how that's how we do it and from accounting and you can help me here as it relates to technology. But in the county my numbers don't move themselves. Five not sitting today via five more I'm going to be a 10 might be too much the next time I come back to an eight people move the numbers some type of physical type some type of transaction has to occur, which is in been starter engaged are created by a human. So when we see numbers that are out of line to our expectations, we have to go if there's any CPAs listening, you get up behind your desk and go find out why that number move. Don't just say it went up by 20% Why? What made it There's an The only technical thing I still teach is financial analysis because I love finding the story behind the numbers and communicating that story. So just like with you guys with the technology, technology happens, but it doesn't happen on its own yet right?
Nick Lozano 14:22
Now you still need a human in there, at least implemented, you know, they still that human element, even if it's artificial intelligence, a human still needs to implement it.
Peter Margaritis 14:31
Exactly. So when things occur that are unexpected, we have to find out what that is. And realize that you will be speaking in your highly complex technology language. But how do I take that and translate it into something as in plain English as in like, you know, just everyday kind of analogies that people can understand and that it doesn't time that that does take a fair amount of work.
Brian Comerford 15:03
No, yeah, there's no question about it. And, you know, I like the idea that you're, you're touching on our own secret languages because, you know, part of as technology leaders, part of the challenge for us is we end up interacting with a lot of folks who come from more purely business and form domains, they may not realize that they've got their own secret language and, you know, set of symbols and, you know, all these things that make it very easy for them to communicate, you know, with their, their business associates in that way. And then it sort of forces the hand of us as technologists, to come, you know, be multilingual, and be able to interact in that same way so that we can all be equally understood. But, Nick, correct me if I'm wrong, if I'm wrong here, but you know, I tend to find that, you know, business doesn't, you know, have that same expectation of itself that it should actually be learning more about what can technology do and what's the Language, you know, kind of behind the scenes so that it can better articulate what its needs are. And so that also leaves us having to have good bedside manner and part time playing psychologist so that we can really elicit those details. Right. Right. The process.
Peter Margaritis 16:17
Is he wrong, Nick?
Nick Lozano 16:18
No, he's he's, he's he's right. And I'm sure you've probably experienced that too. Just just in the the CPA days, right? as an accountant. You talk to other people, and they just have no idea what you're what you're completely talking about. Right?
Peter Margaritis 16:34
You guys are perfect. I mean, so I've attended enough conferences in my day. And I don't know, I still don't know when this occurred. When did we because we grew up a story. We grew up telling stories. When did it turn into every time we're communicating in a conference or communicating with others across organizations that were doing a dissertation were like definitiveness notation. It's all facts and figures. It's a data dump. And all that does is put people to sleep. Or, as I like to say, and a conference that it creates the conference prayer, because they take this out the cell phone that they bow their heads, and they're not looking at you. They're playing Angry Birds are reading email.
Nick Lozano 17:25
And that's always a good key to engagement, even in a meeting, right? When when you're hosting a meeting or anything, and as soon as you see people look down at their phones, or now you got this Apple watches and everything. So people looking at their watch, I don't know if they're actually looking at the time. That's a good way to tell that, you know, your audience or the people in your meeting aren't engaged. So you brought up storytelling and that that's a great point. I'm something that that Brian and I are pretty passionate about. So So what are your tips for people that you get them when you get them into storytelling? I know it right there. You just talked about you know, Prayer but what's your methodology or thought behind storytelling?
Peter Margaritis 18:07
It really first starts with the audience. Okay, so a lot of times we don't we don't put ourselves in the audience's shoes, we put in our shoes. So the first thing I try to do is, is put myself in the audience members shoes, and scope out their level of competence. How you know, if I'm if I'm in a room with a bunch of CPAs and CFOs and stuff, I can say they'll crazy acronyms, I can use the high tech language. But if I'm in a room with younger CPAs, you don't have the complexity that I had that I have, or those who are not. I've got to figure out, figure them out and figure out how I can tell the story. And and there's, there's an example that I use is the night before I was doing a presentation back in 2013 or 14. And one of the topics I was doing hardcore County, one of the topics was consolidations of variable interest. entities. And this all came about because of Enron and I'm looking at my stuff go, oh dear Lord, I'm going to put myself to sleep because it was a data dump. And I sat there that night. And so what what are they trying to do and this the trying to take an entity over here that's on the off balance sheet and put it on the balance sheet, the trying to take something over here and shove it in here, but over here doesn't want it. They're trying to take something over here and they're trying to move it Oh, moving, oh, move it in over here. So the idea came up. And as soon as I put the slide up, so consolidations vas and I 200 CPAs in the office, and they all grab their phone. It was almost instantaneously. And I said you know this about my third year, so I'm going to do a little audience poll. So for those of you who are the room, did you raise your hand if you're married? And they're looking at me strange, I said, to phrase your hand. Listen, raise your hand if you have Mother law. And all these hands up there, I said, I want you to, I want you to think of your mother was a variable interest entity. And your spouse wants their mother to move into your household and to a variable interest entity. And it went from people looking at their phones, to leaning in and laughing and engaging. And if I go back to Arizona and speak for the Arizona society patient, and if somebody was in that audience that day, they'll go, you're the mother lode guy. And to me, that's one of the greatest compliments I could get because I have a really cool last name. But if they remember the mother lode guy before that, I've succeeded.
Brian Comerford 20:45
So you know, part of part of how I imagine you have learned how to assess reading the crowd is through some of your interest in improv. And Frank, you've written entire book around how the These techniques can be applied into leadership set. There we go. There you go. So, so talk to us a little bit about that what is, you know, how did you start to apply these characteristics of improv? You know, both to your approach as a public speaker, but also how did you start to correlate this to a series of techniques that could be beneficial for leadership?
Peter Margaritis 21:28
You mentioned something earlier about, you know, frustration, you know, we get frustrated and improv it's about, you know, obviously about two words. Yes, and it's all about a green light, but not always agree in.
It's about empathy. It's about putting yourself in their shoes. It's about
listening to understand versus listening to respond. Because we live in a listen to respond. culture because we we've got an agenda in our head. We try to push that agenda we interrupt people, we're not listening. And there's there's no respect. We have no respect between two parties. You know what you call that? Congress? because nothing's waiting for that. Nothing's getting done. So in improv, it's all about deferring your judgment. It's all about when you walk into a room, you leave your ego behind his pocket. It's all about listening to the conversation, and truly listening because we're listening to understand we're parking our agenda, and trying to assess what the person saying and then not saying no, or that's a stupid question. That's a stupid idea. It's an interesting idea. Tell me more. Have you thought about this? Well, yes. And have you thought about that? And it's more about engaging a conversation than shutting it down. And it'll people think improv is about making stuff up because that guy Drew Carey, where everything's made up in the points don't count. Yeah, Whose Line is I would True. Genuine. True knows that's incorrect. Because I realized my my second workshop and problem, somebody said you might like this. And I thought we were right calm and it was something different. But the instructor said, Come back next week. But go out and study the 70s. Soak it all the information you can from the 70s. If you grew up in the 70s, you might want to research it because you probably don't remember it.
That was that was a good job for those who grew up in the 70s.
And we came, those of us who came in the room, came to the workshop that next week and did the work to the homework. We were funny, those who didn't work. And I went this is about being funny. This is about our knowledge, our experiences what we have to bring into a situation. That's improv. That's one of my big aha words. So, I try to be as this is, I'm a professional speaker, but I try to be a better listener. I try to listen to my audience by the body language to see if they're if they're getting information. If they're receiving if they're with me or you know, there's always a few. But if I, if I start seeing certain body language amongst most in the room, I'm going to change it up and just accepting what's given to me and moving forward with it. And and moving the conversation forward. That's that's improv. So many times in business today. We're not even close to doing that with our customers with our people. You know, so you guys are in offices. And I would ask my artist so what is your what business are you guys? Yeah, and you would answer
fell asleep on the not sure what business
Nick Lozano 25:04
know our businesses will be different. But, you know, most people would say, I guess for me, you know, an insurance business or we're in, you know, the restaurant business or we're and I'm in the music business. But I would say you're in the people business, right. faygo you're in the people business.
Peter Margaritis 25:21
Yeah. Mo I know in my world, it transcends all we don't think about that. When the people business first and foremost, everything else is a byproduct. And improv is a leadership tool because it empowers inspires and motivates. It doesn't. It doesn't want to tear down it doesn't want to destroy, it wants to continue to grow because as a leader, this is not about me. This is about my team. It's the opposite of ego leadership.
And it's a way of life. I've turned it into a way of life. Clearly, yeah.
Unknown Speaker 26:01
Brian Comerford 26:05
know, I love that and in fact, you know, the so the the title of your podcast is change your mindset. Right? Right. Right. That's I mean, that's not something that either an improv artist or an accountant, you know, a title that for me with leap to mind for either of those two right.
Peter Margaritis 26:24
And actually I rebranded it about a year and a half ago because I've been doing my for about three and a half years. My original podcast was improv is no joke. And it's hard to get accountants, financial professionals to tune into something that scares them to death.
So I went through a process of rebranding that but it really is a change in mindset. And
I think a lot of think a lot of us in corporate America and in business today have a hard time changing that mindset. This is the I I hear this I just want to just shoot somebody. No, I just take that back. But this is the way we've always done it. This is how we do things around here not well, then I just go then you're not going to survive. You're going to be Blackberry. You have to continually move forward and invent and the great another that improv does it, creativity. It you say yes. And tell me more that that's a stupid idea. I was doing a workshop for Fortune 500 company and they brought their emerging leaders in from Latin America, and the US. And they were for two week workshop and I had the privilege to do a creativity workshop session with them with improvin. And the main topic was how we can increase profitability on our company. And I set the stage this Whatever you say, and this is like Las Vegas, what's said in here stays new. We might laugh, we might be afraid, but you know, we might think certain things but what we say in this room, stays in this room and nobody shoots down it. And I want crazy ideas. Because if I have crazy ideas, I've got two year guys for bandwidth to play with. If people can give me the safe ideas, I have nothing to create this yes and just give me and so they were how do we increase profitability? I said do raise revenue, cut costs, throw that out, go deep. And I was getting all these rural safe ideas. And this one gentleman from Latin America says, I tell you what we do. This is how we're going to increase profitability in our company. We are going to kill all of our competition sales people. I froze. And I caught myself because I almost said, That is crazy. That is stupid. We couldn't do that. I stopped myself. And I took about two beats. I said, Let's take murder off the table. Instead of killing them, why don't we poach them? Why don't we go find Top salespeople in our competition, see if we can alert them to us and we can stay out of jail. But I don't know if we would have gotten to that point if that gentleman didn't take me seriously. And so when somebody says crazy ideas, you want them, right. However, in the walls of corporate America, that could get you fired, which is, which is the craziest thing. You want those crazy ideas, you want that bandwidth so you can create and most of the time, they don't allow you to have that flexibility or that empowerment of that. They want to keep it within the the coat and tie of the organization which is really a waste of time.
Brian Comerford 29:51
Well, to me, it's so interesting that you bring up these points in part because in the last year, I had been asked a Question from a senior executive leader about digital transformation, right? Everyone wants to know, what's the secret sauce to make digital transformation happen? And my response, you know, I really took the time to articulate it in one of my LinkedIn articles as well. And the article is called Digital readiness mindset. And to a lot of the points that you're bringing up, for me, it wasn't just about, you know, now, what's the project plan look like? How are we going to implement what are the tools and technologies, you know, what's our digital business model look like? It was more about what's your readiness to change, right? And that that requires not only looking within and understanding your own points of resistance, but also looking outside of that and finding, you know, where can you really hear some of these changes into Some niches where there's the potential for success. And I love how you characterize that around crazy ideas. Because if you don't have that big thinking taking place, and crazy ideas are certainly a component of that big thinking. How do you ever find out where to exploit some of those niches? That look completely different from how you may be operating today?
Peter Margaritis 31:22
Exactly. And which company comes to mind? Kmart
Blackberry, the list goes on and on.
Nick Lozano 31:31
Circuit City was the largest corporation for a while on earth in early 90s.
Peter Margaritis 31:37
Yeah, they were. We get we get stuck in that same old thought process and not, you know, thinking all this internet thing is never going to last. Right, right. Yeah, it's, we need more. We need more bandwidth to be creative. And I've always said that if I had my own company, I had people, you know that that was responsible for their livelihood, whatever. And I come up with a huge business issue. The collective knowledge outside of my office far exceeds the collective knowledge inside of my office. So it would be a Friday, I would send an email out to everybody in the organization. This is the problem I am working on. Monday morning, I want you to come in with a post it note and put on my whiteboard your thought, here's your solution to this problem. So if I got 50 people, there's 50 ideas. I just want one from them. And then I can start looking at it. Well, I can stop me. Oh, I got a big clump over here. We need to do this or, you know, I never thought about this one here. This could solve everything right now. Oh, who gave this to me? I'm not sure it could have been the janitor. I don't know. But not not having my ego get in the way of all this wasn't my idea. Well, my my idea is just to start the conversation. A lot of people think there is improv, we say, bring a brick, don't bring the cathedral.
And we've all had that boss who comes in says, Give me your ideas. And so now we're going to do it this way. This is this is the cathedral and we just wasted everybody's time. But his ego feels good about it now. Yeah. Or her ego feels good about it now.
Brian Comerford 33:27
You know, it's interesting how, how much, you know, customer experience, or cx has been, you know, part of this mantra and lots of different types of organizations, lots of different industries. And to the degree that now there's, you know, there's a whole sort of like mystical practice behind it. Right. There's consultancies that are built around, delivering great CX, you know, and how do we help your organization game plan for that? You know, I had a conversation with one of the executives from one of our cx practice teams And I said, Have you ever gone through the process yourself of trying to shop for the product we sell? I mean, I think that right there would answer a lot of questions. We actually don't need to engage in the consultants word, right? I actually buying the thing that we sell, and come back with your ideas from that experience.
Peter Margaritis 34:18
That's brilliant. That's absolutely brilliant. And how much money has the company now saved?
Nick Lozano 34:26
So I would I would add to that, and what I was going to say, Brian, is that a lot of times when we talk about these problems in India are talking about customer experience or customer journey, or personas, or whatever the heck they want to call it these days. You know, a lot of times they're like, they're like, we know what the customer wants, right? We know what the client wants. It's like, Well, have you actually talked to the customer to find out that that's exactly what they want. And you're just going to sit here and assume that that's what they want. As soon as you hear that you you should instantly know that they're probably wrong. Right?
Brian Comerford 35:00
Spend that budget on then.
Nick Lozano 35:05
Peter Margaritis 35:08
Now you had a sore spot.
I, I so it's December and this is kind of a unique year. I haven't had the phone call yet but in previous years in December, I get a phone call, Hey, can you come out and do a presentation for us on whatever
Brian Comerford 35:24
Peter Margaritis 35:31
basis comes down to Why are you doing this? Because if I don't spend my budget, I won't get the same amount next year. One of these days I'm going to say then, don't hire me. Save the company some money. And maybe you don't need this money for next year while you're an organ is this organization yours? Now you work for the organization. So once you help the organization save, save some cash. It's just time to start bed and back to your point about budgeting
that one just I it's we are one organization but when it comes around had be very very quiet its budget season budgeting season as it everybody's out for themselves the silos who should be working together are working against everybody. I never I've never understood that and actually I was offered the job of a manager or something of budgeting at Victoria's Secret I turned them down immediately. I did I say Okay, so what what ultimately happens is the salespeople it build what number do you want it to be? Just do that. It's just a top down approach that takes forever that nobody likes. And you know, it's there's importance in it, but we go at the word budgeting sounds like a four letter word. will try to make the planning sounds good. I like to plan for vacations. I said plan for outage, why don't we just call it planning, budgeting and people just get that scowl on their face. I thought about what they said, on the county will make it attractive. We get this thing called approval accounting. The word crew is
Unknown Speaker 37:26
Peter Margaritis 37:28
So, when it comes to budgeting within an organization, we should be working together, not against each other.
That's all I'm gonna say about that.
Forrest Gump come from
Brian Comerford 37:48
To be honest, I was waiting for the Victoria's Secret reference to take us another
Nick Lozano 37:59
Toria secret sauce.
Brian Comerford 38:02
Peter Margaritis 38:04
It's funny because I worked on the catalog side for about four or five years. And I left in the late 90s. My brothers in retail been in retail all of his life. And he just left one organization now works for Victoria's Secret stores.
In the genes of the family
Brian Comerford 38:27
theater, you know, you, you touched on something earlier that I'd like to circle back to, really from an educational perspective and, and part of what you talked about in terms of, you know, really injecting humor, you know, fun stories and using this as part of a device in your educational approach. I'll tell you, one of my favorite writers was Robert Anton Wilson. And, you know, he had a very similar kind of trajectory in the sense that his background was in electrical engineering and he wanted to be a writer and he wanted to be, you know, presenting big ideas and be kind of a futurist. And you know, very quickly realized that if you've got, you know, sort of the sequential sequential, you know, process oriented procedural mindset of someone whose background is electrical engineering, you're probably going to bore the heck out of the people that you're trying to educate. So he jumped career tracks and when edited playboy forum for about a decade and then got a degree in like to say that some of his his books are among the most fun books I've ever read. They're full of big ideas, but everything is interlaced with humor. So it makes it easy to remember a lot of these concepts that he's bringing forward, because there's funny stories that get, you know, baked into that. So I know that one of your books has taken the naam out of numbers. In fact, I can see that you got a copy of it sitting right You know, is tell us a little bit about how that came about. And, you know, did that correlate to some of this approach that you had in your own? You know, the way that you you found teaching with humor to be effective?
Peter Margaritis 40:17
Yeah. So I went to school at the small liberal arts college and that was playboy form. I think what?
Somebody a friend of mine told me at all those stores
I just got this book came more out of frustration, that so as a CPA, I still have to get continuing education credit. And I can't do it anymore. I'm going to point because I had to sit and listen to somebody lecture. I hate lecturing the idea of you talking at me you're not created a conversation. And what happened was is I do a lot of work for the business Learning Institute, which is the Innovation and Learning subsidiary, the Maryland association of CPAs. And one of their prospects about, I guess, about four years ago asked if they had a class on financial storytelling. And they said no, but we have somebody who could create it. Me. So I know the description I and so the client, the prospect never engaged us, but I took it and created a course. And what it what it is, is to help Emma's I'm going to say CPAs, but this really goes to almost almost any industry, but it really resonates with those industries like yours, like engineering architecture, those left hemisphere brain types of that linear systematic process, to be able to explain complex information and the way that people can understand an account that has to We have clients and whether we're internal or external, you know, if I'm a CFO, I have a client, that's the rest of the organization and I'm a public accountant, I have clients and our job is to inform, not bore. And when we speak that language we bore so one, get into understand this is a foreign language to get into the real, it's not about me, it's about them. I don't have time to do. That's about you. It's about them. And I tell audiences have you ever sat through an eight hour course bored completely out of your mind? got this one right now? And now go Yeah, I said, Tell me how you felt bored. You know, I'm getting my hours I kept getting my hours but I'm bored. I'm not engaged. So when you do a presentation, remember how they felt. Remember you felt and do the opposite. Put put your butt in their cheeks in their seat and no That pain and find a way to cure their pain. And, and then I started researching storytelling techniques and stuff. And in the book I created my own. And it's all for the acronym. I am PR ooV and it's you know, there's this, there's stories everywhere. We, you know, I keep my Evernote I keep a log in different stores just enough to remember one thing. A story happens when the villain gets introduced. Right when, when the villain when the villain comes in, I was explaining this to this one class. It's like so you know, you meet you meet someone, you meet a girl you meet a guy wherever and that very first kiss. You can't and if it's if you have that connection, you cannot go back from that. It's like that or in the hangover. You saw the movie The Hangover. The villain is introduced on the roof of Caesars Palace, when they're all at the doing shots of Jagermeister. The villain was the roofie. Right? Yeah. So everything in that story that led up to it was developing that character because all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
An even charge for that when people pay.
So, you spent about 20% of time casting the character. So we got the exact delaford actresses, idiosyncrasies as that character could never remember his name. Then Bradley Cooper and the event so they, then that happens, and if you watch it, then they wake up and their hotel room is trashed. Golf back to school since the rest of them there's a Bengal tiger in the bathroom. one guy's lost a tooth. There's a series of what they call. I call it the RB in the race. Being the embellishing a debt to help but the story creating more tension to keep the audience's attention. Now in our world from from those in the left hemisphere, what do you mean? embellish? That's called lie. No, no, no, no, don't let the word I given a dissertation. When I think about this way, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. Because the facts are boring. We can add a little spice. It's like you remember silly party, Nick. Paul, you don't
Nick Lozano 45:40
know what it is. Put it on the newspaper. Pull up. Think off of it.
Peter Margaritis 45:46
Go. Yeah, if you pull off, what would you do with it? Yeah,
you cover back up. What would you do Nick with it? I mean, by what you do.
Brian Comerford 45:57
Yeah, you gotta you gotta stretch it out. You gotta destroy You gotta play with the image.
Peter Margaritis 46:02
Right? Right, you play damage. That's the race part. I'm straight. I don't want it to break. But I just want to add a little bit there to the story. And my book I write about an event that my first time teaching, I was making them laugh. Everyone's cool, really cool, I get a little over tacky. And the color of the class that my next class I did not prepare well enough for was a complex topic called bonds payable. And when I say buys payable to a group of accountants, they get that Oh, dear Lord, I remember that. It's been years ago, but I remember that. And it just so I write in the book 95% of its pretty factual and I had a little embellishment just for that tension to keep their attention and sometimes some stores just need bml And then at the end and this is the this is the out. When we get I was so weird. We don't have to like the end. It's so in my bonds payable. Sorry. I was like so when I get to the point. So let me ask you guys this question. Have you ever done a presentation that you haven't prepared for? cattle overconfidence came in, and I'm watching people's heads on like a bobblehead. Yeah. What did you learn from that? And now you're, once again, it's about the artist now you're flipping it back on the audience and making them sick. It's your story. But now you're putting it in their lap and getting them to Oh, yeah, I've done that. Yeah. So what did you learn what we should not do again. And when we do this correctly, that's the way we've got victory. So and there's a variety of ways but we always have to find the villain
I'm I'm when is this going to air?
Nick Lozano 48:05
This will air probably the first of December I mean January
Peter Margaritis 48:11
1 January well I'm let's just put this I'm, I'm in the process of writing an article about what's the true villain in accounting? And it's gonna if if me and I have someone helping me write this if we write it the way I hope we write it. Some people get really upset but that's fine. But a lot of people go You're right. That is the villain. That is that is the big villain and I don't want to let the cat out of the bag. But I will sit when we do have I'm pretty sure we have a periodical. Let's go pick it up. I'll send you guys that
Nick Lozano 48:53
will be happy to share
Peter Margaritis 48:55
villains and everything that we do. Sure, nothing happens something He'll we don't get up and everything goes just like I supposed to write those, like those like those notes down when something went wrong or or what problem Did you solve the problems of value I provided all our product or service was the hero and solving that. That's, that's how we come up with stories.
Brian Comerford 49:24
Well and you know, the you think about the African how many like the eight or the 12, you know, classic story structures, you know, man versus man, man versus self, man versus nature, right? It's all these, all these different variables in the villain can be found in each one of those. Right, right. It doesn't always have to, you know, I mean, it can. It can, it can be your environment in certain circumstances. Right, right. versus just someone that you can clearly identify as that's my phone.
Peter Margaritis 49:56
Right? And if you ever need a place to go. To find stories and villains. They've got this city that's perfect for it's called Las Vegas. I was doing a half to half day workshop at a conference there. And I've been working with this person, this instructional designer for this association because I didn't understand their language. There were the construction, world construction accounting, so I wanted to learn their language. And the more we worked probably twice a month for about four or five months. In the morning of as a Sunday morning, June 2 or something. And she comes down to classes start 730 she comes down about 630 Hello, how's your morning going? She's had this look on it. Well, it started out a little weird. And I said, Would you care to share school? Sure. So I get an elevator. Well, the elevator door opens and there's a gentleman and somewhat of a towel holding to process tans and, excuse me, she goes, No, no, no. Yeah, no, he he was I even have a hard time keeping that towel up. He was holding these two prostitutes hands because they stole his wallet.
And so, I said Funny you should say that because I had breakfast this morning at the hotel and there was a whole bunch of drunk people in there. And I asked the waiter so what's the craziest funniest thing you've seen around here? Oh, it just happened yesterday. What? This guy was chasing this prostitute right in front of her cuz he stole she stole his wallet. I see. But those dollars will come back. There's something in there. I know there's something there that I can apply. But I know that one will probably burned into my brain. That's one of the funniest things somebody has ever told me. But
Brian Comerford 51:59
next, your next question. For the bartender, wasn't was he caring at all?
Peter Margaritis 52:04
No, he did say he he was dressed.
And I'll tell you what, I wanted to remark to this one, but I never met her when we're off air.
Yeah, I don't want to put that one on there.
Brian Comerford 52:20
Thank you for that.
Peter Margaritis 52:21
No, you don't want the FCC to come down any of us?
Brian Comerford 52:24
Well, back to your points on creativity. You know, there's a lot to be left to the imagination.
Peter Margaritis 52:33
But there's there's if we stop and take a look, and the more that so why that was so successful with that with the bet the variable interest entities because I told a story that everybody in that room can relate to who has who was married because most of what their mother or father in law moving in with them permanently. So it's, it's the more that we can take everyday life life stories and put it into business context. That even becomes even more powerful. We can take business stories that we have, but if we can equate it to something that a story that's happened in our lives that a lot of other people that that's the that's the key. That's that's the secret sauce.
Brian Comerford 53:19
Find the mother in law.
Peter Margaritis 53:23
Find them the mother lies.
Nick Lozano 53:26
That's your next book title.
Peter Margaritis 53:31
You know what?
I am looking
Nick Lozano 53:37
forward. Okay. So speaking of books, do you have a book that's had a big influence on your big impact or a piece of media or something that you like to give to people or you know, anything like that just had a big impact on you.
Peter Margaritis 53:53
Oh, the one book that had probably one of the biggest impacts on me
was the book by Dan and chip Heath called Made to Stick. Oh, yeah. That the curse of knowledge and the tappers and listeners I did. Yeah. Did you send the video along, but on tappers and listeners? Yeah, that that right there the ability to understand the impact versus the intent verse and the impact differences was it was a game changer was like I mean that I referenced a few times in, in my book and I reference it all the time in my presentations. And so, to watch the audience go, oh my god, I'm doing that. recognition is the first piece if I don't recognize I'm never doing it. So I made the steps. And these guys are like PhD at some community college in San Francisco called Stanford University. So the Really smart guys. And it was never meant to be a New York Times bestseller. And I guess the story of somebody who was a member of National Speakers Association picked up with Oh my god, this is the secret sauce. How we make things sticky because we want our audience to remember. And the stickiness is the emotion how do we bring emotion Oh, bring him that's that's emotional intelligence stuff. That's it fuzzy stuff that we don't like to talk about.
Brian Comerford 55:28
Well, they also use the the metaphors of the elephant and the writer and their their book on change management called switch, which is also it's probably the best book I've ever read on on change management, same same authors, these brothers,
Peter Margaritis 55:41
I think it's switch because I think I have that in my stack of things to read. And I will move that on that set because there's another one that they wrote, and my financial planner sent it to me and I can't remember the name of it. I would turn around what every time I do. That's look at my bookshelf I can never find. I'm digging around. But I think everybody who I think everybody in business should read made this deck by Dan and you don't have to be presenter. And the other thing I would highly suggest is everybody. I'm so I have an improv coach. His name is Jay sukho. He's been on faculty at the second city in Chicago. He's now currently on faculty at the second city in LA. And I interviewed him on my podcast. He said, You know what, if everybody just took one improv class, this world will be a better place. And I firmly believe that I actually my son was graduating high school and I gave him three options. I said, One, I said, if you decide to take a gap year, that's fine. You have three options. One, you can get a 40 hour week job and pay rent. To you can save up a bunch of money and gold backpack, a country that is primarily safe. I'm not sure what that is anymore. Or three you can go to Chicago and spend two years studying at second city in their curriculum. And dad's paying for it. He just finished his first semester at Columbia State Community College. He doesn't realize what he is. To the degree that that is what I am giving him a Christmas present this year. But it's not gonna be something I will get in him. There's a number of improv groups here in Columbus and I'm going to pay for his first class in improv, beginning improv it's like a six or eight week course. And I will make him go because it I someone said what what excites you what, what motivates you? Where's your passion and empowerment? Secure. I'm a big fan of it. I don't like use the word preach, but I talked about every day on how it just makes the world so much nicer. It deflates a lot of egos. And it's just those who can improvise. They can be funny to which we all need to laugh.
Brian Comerford 58:25
Well, I couldn't agree more. I'll just tell you, you know, one leadership characteristic that I frequently cite is great leaders are able to navigate through a lot of gray area. And that's the nature of improvisation right there. You know, things are rarely black and white. It's, it's, it's very rarely, you know, you know, an on off kind of scenario. There's, there's a lot of nuance that you have to work your way through. So I love that you touched on that. It's accepting
Peter Margaritis 58:54
it's agreeing its agreement, but not always agreeing. But when you say no, when you say no become Yes, but conversation stop actually defenses rise. When you say and it's like, there's a possibility. And it's it's so cool when I can when audiences pick up on that. And I had one gentleman, contact me one day. I have a Kenyan pharmacy, by the way just wants you to know, we had an issue in one of our meetings and I pulled out the esand cars. Okay, let's look at from this perspective, and we figured it out. Now. What can I have that a testimonial?
Nick Lozano 59:32
You're like, yeah, that's what you definitely need. That's right.
Peter Margaritis 59:37
It at unsticks us when we're stuck.
Unknown Speaker 59:42
if used properly,
Nick Lozano 59:43
it's really great. So So Peter, if people are looking for you, where can they find you?
Peter Margaritis 59:48
And my basement office in Westerville, Ohio. Bobby the publish the address
Nick Lozano 59:58
who's gonna show up
Peter Margaritis 1:00:02
My website is Peter margaritas and it's Mar j or it is.com. My podcast is change your mindset. It's out on all the podcast platforms, I am taking a little bit of a sabbatical per se that I'm scaling back to one episode a month for a few months, I want to change it up. And I decided the collective knowledge outside of my office far outside of my podcast far exceeds the collective knowledge inside my podcast. And I'm gonna take this time asking my audience to help me co create season three and see what I can. What I can get out of that, see if I can get some people involved and give me some ideas because I've been thinking and thinking about the audience. I've been thinking about what the audience wants. But what if we changed it up and I asked them what they wanted, but over a period of time versus like one episode and moving on, so they can find me there.
Man, my email is [email protected]
Brian Comerford 1:01:09
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to join us say it's been one of the most fun episodes. At least for me. I think we've done and it's, it's it's really I think enlarged the scope of how we talk about leadership on this program. So thank you for bringing your insight and your humor and your personality. It's lit up the room. So it's been a
Peter Margaritis 1:01:34
lot of fun. I appreciate guys and I I'd be remiss if I didn't have to give a big thank thank you to Roxanne Kaufman Elliot for introducing us and having this opportunity. So thank her as well
Nick Lozano 1:01:46
know for sure we thank you for being on and you know, Roxanne's been a good friend of our show, so we appreciate Alright, thanks, guys.