- Michelle introduces herself, her CPA firm, and when a CPA could be the right consultative partner for your company. (2:14)
- Michelle shares her perspective on how she’s able to integrate herself into a client team as a true team member, even when she’s not a part of their company. (9:36)
- The group discusses the value of delegation, setting accountabilities and responsibilities to different team members based on the unique skill-sets of diverse teams, and the value of “staying in a swim lane”. (15:24)
- Mike recaps and reviews some of the major points from the conversation to this point. (33:09)
- The group takes a laugh over a few “accountant dad jokes”. (41:38)
- You can learn more about Michelle Tracz here.
- Learn more about TEAMES & CO here.
- Learn more about how TEAMES & CO builds effective and empowered teams that deliver results.
- Follow TEAMES & CO on Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter (@teamesandco) and Instagram (@teamesandco)
- Want to watch the podcasts on video visit TEAMES & CO on YouTube.
TEAMES Global is live! We will be launching new courses throughout the summer to support leaders and organizations as they empower their teams, connect with customers and reach their goals!!! Follow TEAMES Global on Facebook and LinkedIn, and sign up for a course today!
Strategic Planning. In this episode, Tracy and Mike walk through the importance of strategic planning and how you and your team can start the process today!
Listen to Episode 35
Episode 35 Transcript
Mike Vaggalis (00:25):
Well, hey, everybody, and welcome in to the Building Teams with TEAMES & CO podcast. My name is Mike Vaggalis, here with my co-host and the founder and president of TEAMES & CO, Tracy Eames, and our awesome guest, Michelle Tracz, the founder and president of her own CPA firm. Michelle, Tracy, welcome in. How are you guys both doing today?
Michelle Tracz (00:46):
Awesome. I couldn't be better. How about you, Tracy?
Tracy Eames (00:49):
I'm doing great. We're having a great day here, beautiful weather, so, I'm looking forward to getting out for a little evening hike. As Mike knows, that's one of my favorite evening activities. But we're really looking forward to this podcast. Michelle, we've been trying to schedule and organize and I know we're both very busy, but we finally made it happen. And we learned today that this is Michelle's first podcast ever. So we at TEAMES & CO are super excited that you're honoring us as your first podcast, so, thank you.
Michelle Tracz (01:20):
Mike Vaggalis (01:22):
It's awesome to have you. We have a good time in the podcast, we were talking before the show, we sometimes like to joke around and have a good time, but always get some really good content and know that we've got a great listenership and Michelle, just so excited to get to know you a little bit better, get to know more about your business and how you lead your team. And to start and kick things off, I would love for you to just give a brief introduction to yourself so our listeners get to know a little bit more about you and how you got to be the owner and founder of your own CPA firm. So, would you mind just walking us through your career background?
Michelle Tracz (01:59):
Yeah, my goodness. Well, how much time do you have? Okay. So yeah, it's an interesting background and story. Kind of typical, in that I graduated with no accounting degree, which is really hard to pass a CPA exam without an accounting degree. So try that with your friends next cocktail party. But anyway, it was an economics degree. I'm super proud of it from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and an accounting concentration. But I got through the CPA exam.
Michelle Tracz (02:33):
I knew it was accounting I wanted to do, I started my career off very traditionally in public accounting, worked for a couple of different firms in the northeast, mostly Massachusetts area, and then typically went into internal auditing, did some manufacturing accounting and the like, and then ultimately ended up being a director of finance and operations for a local not for profit. And it was in that experience that I realized that this not for profit, how fortunate it was that they had the ability to have a CPA, as their director of finance on their team, and how great it would be for other not for profits and other small businesses that could have that resource.
Michelle Tracz (03:16):
So with that in mind, I decided, I think it would be great to start my own accounting and consulting firm, and be that, be that contract controller, that contract accountant, that CFO for small to midsize businesses and not for profits of all sizes, which we're really super fortunate here in the Western North Carolina area, which is where I'm located, we have a ton of not for profits. And it's really an entrepreneurship a community. So there's a lot of small businesses, new businesses starting up all the time. And so it's been great. And it seems to be something that a lot of folks really are happy about. They've got a CPA on their team that really is there that to help them with all questions that they have and be that, I like to call it, CPA on a shelf, and they can reach out to us anytime and that's what we've been doing. We started in 2012, so we're now celebrating nine years, and I can't say enough, it's been great.
Tracy Eames (04:16):
That's awesome. Michelle, for our listeners that might be wondering, why would I need a CPA? We know how important it is and we love working with you, but we'd love to have you explain to our teams. We work as you know, with organizations that are growing, right, they're in this big growth phase, but also as you know, the key to being successful in growth is having that strong foundation. So maybe you could tell our listeners a little bit about how you work with the clients that you work with to help set that foundation, get them on the right path and then, how do you help keep them on the right path as they move forward?
Michelle Tracz (04:49):
Yeah. I can't stress enough, you're right Tracy. Getting that right foundation, it's key, right? When you think about even building a house, if you don't have a solid foundation, it doesn't have a good platform by which to grow or to be built, for example. So we provide that in a couple of different ways. One way is, we do a lot of trainings, we do a lot of training and education in the community, and that's through things like the Small Business Center, through the local chambers. We provide a lot of community training and counseling just in general for free of charge for those folks and always trying to give advice and guidance.
Michelle Tracz (05:29):
For our clients, it usually starts with clients reaching out to us saying, "Well, how do I even begin? I've got this idea, I like to make widgets or blankets and I like to sell them." And so we are able to really help them with understanding, what's the goal? What are you trying to do in your business so that we can maybe make some suggestions or advice about what business formation you should be? So structuring your business in that formation. Should you be a sole proprietorship? Should you be a partnership, a C-corp, an S-corp. LLC are hugely popular, and so we even teach a class on how to form an LLC in North Carolina.
Michelle Tracz (06:11):
So it's just a lot of consulting and really working with each individual client and that business to really understand, what is that goal? What are they really trying to achieve, what are they going after, and what's the best formation or structure of business that would satisfy them and their needs?
After that, then we get into accounting systems. Sometimes clients will come to us, well, they've already established their business, which is great, but they're using pen and paper or Excel, also a great product, I'm not bashing Excel by any stretch of the imagination. I love Excel, I work in Excel all day. But an accounting system is key to everything. If people don't realize it, it's really how to put all that data, all those transactions into the system so that you have the power as a business owner, to really be able to understand what your business is doing.
And so sometimes folks are like, "Okay, I get it, you put the stuff in this accounting system, and I can enter these transactions, but how do I know what it's trying to tell me?" So then we spend a lot of time coaching and counseling our clients on how to read their financial statements and understand what it's trying to tell them so they can make really good, timely, appropriate business decisions.
So, it's on a path, setting that foundation. The first step for them is just getting us to be part of their team, getting us to be a part of the process, we love to help them from the very beginning from just a thought or a concept. But if they've already gotten through that step, then just bring us on whenever you can. And we'll be there to guide, to coach, to counsel, to offer advice, to even help you enter the transactions and all the things in between.
Mike Vaggalis (07:56):
Michelle, I got to say, I have never heard anybody talk as passionately about accounting and accounting systems. So, I love it. I really, really do. I think it's so important. And Tracy and I talk about this a lot about having passion behind your work. And it sounds like you're talking about a lot of really important things, right? You've got the deep competence in what you do, and the knowledge as a CPA with experience from public accounting to other firms, everything else.
Also it sounds like, I don't know if you've ever gotten a certification as a counselor or a therapist, but it sounds like you are counseling and giving therapy to a lot of people as they work through the challenges of how to do bookkeeping and how to read financial statements and make decisions from the data, and I just love it. That was my initial reaction. The question that I have, coming from that long winded statement is, when you work with these other teams, how do you integrate yourself in as a team member, but not necessarily part of that internal organization? So how do you think about integrating yourself into the team and being the most helpful that you can be?
Michelle Tracz (09:21):
Mike, thank you. I love that question. First, going back to that long, initial assessment that you made, which I love, it's really funny you say that because I actually have been called a financial therapist. No, I'm not certified in therapy, but I do think there ought to be a thing. It should be a thing. But yeah, to get to your question, it's really interesting, there isn't a science to it. But I find that when I have the opportunity to talk to a business owner or an administrative group or a board of directors or something to that effect, and explain to them that I'm here to help. And so I want to be there to assist in whatever way it's possible.
Some people, especially some of the folks that are accustomed to say auditors or things like that, they get a little nervous at first when they see me coming, for example. So not only am I a CPA, which is a certified public accountant, but I'm also a CFE, which is a certified fraud examiner. And so it really tends to make people step back and think, "Well, what's wrong, what's going on?" And that's not the case at all. I use that that accreditation, the certified fraud examiner really, to ... Although I can do fraud investigations, that's not where I spend a lot of my time, because it does take a lot of time to do a fraud investigation. I use that knowledge base and that accreditation to really help businesses and not for profits know what good internal controls are.
So with that in mind, I explain to folks, I'm here to help, and I want to be able to find, what's the right mix for you? It's not necessarily a cookie cutter type of situation, every client is different and what they need is different. And so we go into it with well, what's going on, what can we do to help you? And so that's how we get started initially with working with various clients. And then after a while, they realize, like I said before, it's an ongoing relationship, although we structure our engagements to just actually expire after a year, because we want to force the issue of revisiting with the clients and saying, "Is this working? What else is going on? What else can we do to help you?"
But during that time periods, in some cases, for some clients, maybe we're there every week doing various functions or entering transactions or helping them, and some clients it's monthly or quarterly, and some literally, will just call me when something comes up, when they have a question, when there's a problem. "Oh, gosh, this happened, what do I do?" Or, "I'm thinking about opening another location, what do I need to think about?" Things very simple. We provide these great services for the community, and it's therapy type of services, say, for example, "But we are thinking about doing a fundraising campaign and we're going to make t-shirts and sell those."
And so, when they let me know those kinds of things, it gives me the opportunity to say to them, "Okay, that's great. I love that idea, but did you know that even not for profits, when you sell things, you now are in the world of sales and use tax, let's talk about what that means? What can we do to help you? That kind of thing." So once we have the ability to really meet with a client and get them to understand we're just here for them and to help them, it's this natural, symbiotic relationship where they know I'm here, they can call me and they should, and let me know what's going on, and then I can easily help them and advise them with whatever might be happening at that time or whatever thoughts they're thinking about doing next or changes their thinking about making. So it really does work in a very team collaborative way.
Tracy Eames (13:25):
Yeah, I think that the thing that resonates with me about that Michelle is, we often say to our clients, "Hey, you can't be everything to all your customers, right? You need to know your customers, you need to know what's valuable." But also all of us on this call have founded an organization and you can't do everything, right? As a founder, there's not enough time in the day for you to be both your CPA and business development and marketing and the actual producer of your widget or your service. And so, the nice thing about having somebody like you on the team is saying, "Hey, you know what, I don't have expertise in this. But I also don't need to worry about that because I know I have somebody who knows all of those things, and has my back, right?"
There's this nice safety net, as a business owner and founder to say, "Okay, who are those trusted partners, I can plug into my team, and I don't necessarily need to know or do everything?" I think that really resonates especially for our listeners, as you're building your team, not everybody has to be an actual employee of your company, but it's, how do you find that right balance to build out the skill set you need to move forward?
Michelle Tracz (14:30):
You're exactly right. That's really what I tell folks. And that's actually where most of our clients really approach us. Because, especially, who knew, but in a pandemic, people actually start a lot of businesses. I didn't know that. Did you know that? I'm thinking a pandemic or in an economic recession, not a good time to start a business but apparently I'm in the minority. So a lot of people start a lot of businesses and of course, that stands for a number of reasons, some maybe have left employment or are no longer employed and just think, "Well, this is the opportune time."
But a lot of times people will just get started, they think they can do it all, Tracy, to your point of, I can make the widget and I can do this and I can do that, I can be my own marketeer and I can be my business developer, my own accountant. And soon they get to that point, like you said, it's just too much.
And so what ends up happening is, they're making the widgets all day, then in the mornings or in the evenings, we do those fun things be called networking, right? And so now they're going out into doing all that networking, they come home, it's now 8:00, 9:00 o'clock at night. And it's like, "Now I've got to do my accounting." And so, Mike to most people, not unlike you, it's a little bit of a drag to them, whereas it's not for me.
Tracy Eames (15:50):
I feel like you've just explained my day to all the listeners.
Michelle Tracz (15:56):
It's true, we do. But that's when they come to me and they're like, "I'm tired of this eating up my family time, or my personal time. And so I really need some help." And so that's where we come into play. And you're right, I'm not there every day, I don't need to be an employee, per se. And I think this concept actually a little bit easier for people to understand having lived through now the pandemic. We all can do different parts of the whole puzzle from different locations in different ways. And let's try to learn how to maximize each other's core competencies. It's not your core competency as a business owner, to know accounting and understand what the financial statements are trying to tell you or how to enter various complicated or complex transactions. That's what I do. But I don't make widgets. I couldn't quilt to save my life. So for those of you who are quilters, you know what that means? So we all have our expertise.
Mike Vaggalis (16:58):
Yeah. I think that that resonates so strongly. As Tracy mentioned, we're all founders of our own things on this podcast. And I recently got the advice from one of our technical advisors telling me, "Mike, you're not a tech guy. You need to trust that you can step back a little bit from that part of the business, stay in your swimlane, keep your finger on the pulse of the things to make sure that you're on top of everything. Yes, it's your accountability, but it doesn't need to be your responsibility." And I think that what you just said, is a perfect articulation of stay in your swim lane, trust the accounting to CPA auditor fraud investigators, because you're really good at that.
Michelle Tracz (17:50):
I'm actually going to write that down, Mike. If it's okay with you, I'm going to steal that it's your accountability, but not your responsibility.
Mike Vaggalis (17:57):
Michelle Tracz (17:57):
Tracy Eames (17:58):
We have a nice tool, the RACI tool that we can share with you as well. Mike has been very focused on our new online learning platforms for TEAMES Global. And so, we've been talking about this a lot for first time leaders, especially and I'm sure you've you've come across this with growing organizations, as leaders, I think we feel like we have to do everything, versus how do we delegate responsibly, right? How do we build our team, not just through, "Okay, we're going to go do the ropes course in a team building event." But how do we intentionally build skills in our team, to empower them so they can go off and be successful and do the things that we all need to achieve?
And also from a leadership perspective, I now can focus on strategy, right? So if I'm training my team, and I'm empowering them to do these things, I also free up a ton of my time to be doing the thing I'm responsible for, which is strategic thinking and leading the organization. And we speak to a lot of organizations, especially now that we're focused on these leadership trainings around how do you find that balance as a leader? And I think your firm is really helping a lot of leaders find that balance. So, it's fun to think about.
Michelle Tracz (19:05):
Yeah, exactly. And that's the other thing. You brought it up, you mentioned just the accountability, responsibility, how to really make sure you delegate. And that's another area that like you said, a lot of business owners, they're a little bit afraid of letting go. And so I work them to really understand it's really important for your own health and sanity, but also, there are things that you can do to make sure that you structure this delegation process, that you can still keep a pulse on things. But not to mention it, as we're talking about forming teams, one of the things that I learned in my career that was so helpful is empowerment of teams and people around you.
And when you give people and you delegate to people, certain tasks or responsibilities or you empower them to be overall or responsible or in charge of a certain aspect, even of your own business, it's rewarding, and they get extra good feelings about being part of your business and being that part of your team. And I help the business owner understand, you're not totally letting go, you're not completely out of the picture, you're not ignoring this, it's your responsibility to put the proper controls in place to make sure you follow up, you check, you've got checks and balances, so that you can sleep better at night. You know that all of your assets are protected. But delegation, it's empowering and allowing your team to feel that empowerment, is so critical.
Mike Vaggalis (20:37):
I totally agree with that. And it's something that it feels like if this were on a multiple choice exam, where you're asked the question, is it important to be an effective delegator and to empower your people? Yes or no? Nobody's going to answer that multiple choice question incorrectly. We all know the right answer. But it's so much harder to do in practice, as opposed to that hypothetical academic occasion. Michelle, how did you put that into practice with your own firm with your own team, thinking about delegating and empowering your people?
Michelle Tracz (21:16):
I love that question, too. It's hard, right? Even though I said, "Okay, this is what I help other business owners to do." This is just between us, okay? So just a little confessional right here, I had to work at it, I had to, "Okay, Michelle, you cannot be all people to all things all the time. And so what do you need to do?" So just by nature and by design, first of all, my firm, what we do here is, and it's a good thing and it's a bad thing. So we have all what I call, senior accountants working as part of our team.
So no one is right out of school, and all of the folks that work as part of our team have been doing accounting for a long time. And that's a relative term, but a while, and ironically enough, every one of us has owned our own business at one point in time. So we really know what it is like to walk a mile in the shoes of our clients. It's not the same business, but it's the same experiences. It doesn't matter whether you're repairing cars, or you're making widgets, or you're selling therapy services. It's still the same trials and tribulations when you own your own business.
So, at first, the whole process of how we actually deliver our services is very independent. So finding the right people to work in our firm, senior accountants that are self starters and they all make their own schedules. So I do all the business development for the firm and then I say, "Okay, well, we assign the team member to the client, based on, of course, availability, who's available to make sure that the client's needs are serviced? But also who may have that expertise?"
Some of our team members are very good at, say, or understand restaurants or retail operations and those kinds of things. So, so when we get those restaurant or retail operations, I want to connect that client with that person on our team that understands that industry best, or whatever it might be. So making sure I pair them correctly and appropriately. And then they get together with the client and set the dates and meetings and all of the scheduling, et cetera. And so we work as a team, and the pandemic helped this too. Before the pandemic, we would get together at our conference room, we have a small office that has a conference room that can be shared and booked. So we would meet there, we do some training, some discussions, some talking and everything. But with the pandemic, we instituted a weekly meeting, just because it was so important to touch base, right? Even though we didn't maybe do it before, but all of a sudden, it became critical to have that connection.
So we do a team's weekly meeting, all of us get together, and it's been amazingly great. So they have the ability and we have the ability to connect and touch base and ask questions and bounce things off of each other, but they're completely empowered. Once we've made the connection with the client and that team member, they get with the client, they set the schedule, and if there's any questions or problems, they come back to us either at our team meetings or they get with me, but they feel really served in that way.
And then I also work with my team members individually. I want to make sure that they're happy they're satisfied, am I supporting them the way they want to be supported? So one of our team members, she's what I call a senior accountant, she has owned her own business, she understands accounting, but she doesn't have an accounting degree. It's very interesting. And so she's like, "I would really like some more education or trainings on various things." And so I try to provide that for her.
Another member of our team is getting her master's in accountancy and she wants to sit for the CPA exam. So I say to her, "What can I do to help support you? You're going to need time off to study." It's cost a lot of money to sit for the exam. So we have a policy where we help financially support folks when they're sitting for the exam. So just various things that I can do for each person individually to help support them and feel supported by me and the firm. And then as I mentioned, these weekly team meetings, they love it, they feel supported by each other, they feel connected. And then also they have that autonomy, they're able to connect with the client individually on their own, they go through the processes, they make their own schedule. So I think all of those things combined is really been helpful for my team to make them feel really empowered, and yet part of the team.
Tracy Eames (26:03):
That's great. I think first before I ask my question, I wanted to say I love the authenticity. One of the things that I think all of us as business leaders struggle with is, you do go to these whether they've been virtual networking events for the last year or so or in person, and there's this fake kind of, "We don't want to say that we're having a struggle with this, right?" Or even when we work with clients, they're really tentative to admit, these things are hard, right. But they are hard. It's hard leading a team, and it's difficult to make sure that you're helping each individual team member.
And I just love how you started off saying that you had to work on it. Because, all of us as leaders have our own weaknesses, and being able to admit that and say, "Hey, you know what, I had to try really hard at this but now I feel like I'm in a good place with my team." I think also builds that trust with your team, right? I think if you always go in and you're like, I know everything, and you never say I don't know, it starts to feel disingenuous to your team. So I think having that frame of mind is really valuable and we secretly love it on the podcast, because we think all the other listeners are also dealing with their own challenges. So to hear other well established leaders admit it, it's very refreshing. So thank you.
Michelle Tracz (27:17):
Thank you, I appreciate it. Yeah, it's something that not everybody knows. And I have other clients that say to me, "Well, what do I do? How do I do this?" And I say just that to them. Transparency and openness is so important. And if you can be open with your team members, they will so appreciate it. They will assume now that you're real. So once you can be real to them, they'll be a real real back to you. And now you've got real people communicating and talking and coordinating and collaborating.
Tracy Eames (27:46):
And it's so true. I don't want to lose the first point that you made, which is, obviously there's been a lot of change in the last 20 months with all of us struggling and the way that we worked changing as we were living through the pandemic. And we get a lot of questions from clients around, "Okay, how do I shift my strategy? How do I adjust to what customers want now, right? How do I make all these changes in my business model? And how do I support my team with all of these changes, right?" So we're getting a lot of those questions.
Are there questions that your clients are coming to you from a perspective of, we often speak about agility, right? And how do you make your teams agile so you can keep responding to all the new things we all have to keep facing? But are there ways that you're working with your clients to say, "Okay, these are some common questions were getting about agility on the financial side of things."
Yeah. I love the ingenuity of people. And so where my clients and I've seen other business owners, got involved or got in deep in the pandemic and realized, "Okay, we need to pivot that famous where we do something different." They were really ingenious, and found that ingenuity and creativity to slot here or slot there. And where they got us involved is, they said, "Okay we're going to do this. And so I want to make sure that we're accounting for it correctly. How is this going to affect my current business? And maybe if I want to come back to it later how do I make sure I can keep those spaces separated for now maybe it's a short term, new thing I'm going to do or do I combine it as a total?" So just helping them account for all the different things that they're doing now.
Michelle Tracz (29:30):
But what I found really a big change, and I don't know if you all are experiencing the same thing, but it's, everything has gone virtual or electronic. So I get a lot of questions about electronic forms of payment, and how to make that happen and then also, how do I make sure that my electronic forms of payment are secure? And my assets in my business are protected, and what are the good controls I need to put around that? So we get a lot of questions about electronic forms of payment. So we've been helping clients with that.
But more than that, in the very beginning of the pandemic, we got a lot of questions about cash flow. All I can say is, cash is king, right? So we get a lot of questions from clients. And we did a lot of trainings and teachings for a lot of the local not for profits and Small Business Center and the Tourism Authority and all sorts of things where we had a platform, we could tell people, "This is really important, right?"
Michelle Tracz (30:29):
And it took the pandemic for us to go, "Yeah. Okay. Cash is quickly diminishing, what do we need to do to make sure we're saving and preparing for tomorrow? What are ways that we can maximize our cash flow? If we look at our customers and our clients, what do I need to do to make sure that I can get paid from them? What can I do with my vendors? If I'm out there sourcing various things to make my widgets, what are ways that I can, again, work with those vendors to maximize the cash flow?" And some of my clients even lived through the economic recession, we had an '08, '09. And they were like, "I'm not going back there again, I'm not putting everything on credit cards. I'm not going to end up with all that debt again. What do I need to do differently this time?"
And so hopefully, this information we were able to share with our clients and the community, resonated with them and they were able to think through some of those processes and get some of those plans in place early on. If it was maybe a little bit too late for them to implement some of those plans, because now it's like, "Okay, now all we can do to keep the wheels on the bus on a regular basis." Then maybe they can think about it and start planning for the next pandemic. And maybe it won't be a pandemic, I don't want to be a doomsday person. Maybe it won't be a pandemic, but here in the Western North Carolina area, we're lucky we don't have necessarily tornadoes that we deal with, but it's quickly becoming the local rain forest. So flood is a real possibility.
So what are other business disruptions that you can't control that you need to be planning for? Just like a pandemic, but there's other things that happen, and cybersecurity has become a big, big deal. So we want to keep all those things in mind as we're helping our clients understand, "Okay, you figured out that you can pivot your business and do this other thing, but let's think about other ways that we can help you with electronic payments, like I said, or just cash flow planning, and just making sure you've got all the right things in place to protect you, your business and your assets for the next event."
Mike Vaggalis (32:39):
Yeah, Michelle, there's so many amazing points that you've made in the past little bit. I just want to take a moment to pull out a couple of things that I've heard, just to summarize some big things. One is, you fundamentally established this business because you're passionate about your profession, and your trade and your craft. Two, you have a very clear direction on who your customer is, what are the right businesses and professionals for you to work with and you have an established view on how you can help them from everything from risk mitigation to establishing the right organization to obviously very tactical financial advice and in helping business owners understand how to maximize their cash flow and things like that.
You've got a great understanding of your team, and you have a very strong organizational strategy for yourself where you've made a decision at some point to say, it's important for us to hire senior accountants. And we need those in order to, I'm assuming deliver the appropriate value for your customers. And you've also figured out these incredible ways to empower your team by giving them flexibility over their schedules, by setting up a cadence of weekly conversation and weekly meeting, by giving your team empowerment and coaching and training and resources. I'm sure there's other things I'm missing, but we've been talking about so much that ties into what Tracy and I talk about pretty consistently, which is, have a very clear view of your customer, have a defined strategy, have an organizational design that is human centric, and puts people at the center where you are trying to understand how can I empower my team and get the right people on to deliver for my customer?
I think we ask so much and where the conversation is going in so many ways. I just wanted to pull out a couple of the really big themes that I've heard because I think they tie in so well to what we talk about on a daily basis and hopefully, what our customers are looking for or our listeners when they're listening to this podcast. So I think all of those are great lessons for everybody out there that's listening.
Michelle Tracz (35:07):
I think you summarized it very, very well, Mike, and it is a lot. I'm not short on words, by the way. So if you ask a question, expect a 20 minute answer.
Tracy Eames (35:18):
We love podcast guests that are happy to give us long answers, because we feel like it's really informative to our listeners, right? And I think Mike's right. We're a little sad, because it sounds like you've got all the pieces and parts in place. So you're probably not going to work with TEAMES and CO anytime soon. But, we do appreciate all the different high points that you're hitting. Because I think, again, from a listener's perspective, one of the things we like to share is, how are other leaders doing it, right? And one of the things that sticking out to me as you speak is, it's not the big things, it's the little things, right? It's the little things each day that add up for our team. So it's the time that you'll take to say, "Hey, what is important to each one of my team members?" And asking them.
It's the simple hour or two that you say, "Hey, you know what, we can't see each other. We need to touch point. Let's have a quick team meeting now." We used to never do it, but nothing to say that we can't start, and you can also stop at some point, right? We say that to leaders all the time. When you become the leader of a team, or somebody new joins, you might meet with them once a week. Over time, that might become once every other week, right? Because everybody has that working relationship, but you can change things as your business ebbs and flows.
So that's one of the things I've really loved about this conversation is, that tacked back to, it's just the little things that add up over time. And I'm sure for your clients, they love that you keep track of those things for them as well, right? Like, "I do have to pay sales tax on a t-shirt I sell? I didn't know that." And I'm sure we can all resonate, right? As business owners, there's that never ending stream of things that you're like, "I did not know that, but I'm really glad I know that now because now I can adjust and now I can take that and be better for the next time." I'm sure you hear that often. But that one resonated with me as well.
Michelle Tracz (37:09):
I've seen you Tracy, I know. So for your listeners, Tracy, I've known for a while. And I know that you also employ this tactic, which is really super important and a tactic that I also use in my business. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and special. So yes, having those team meetings is super important, it really was that touch point that they needed to feel connected in a pandemic, but also feel supported. But I also make it a point to throughout the year, have events where I pull the team together, we'll do something. Even in a virtual space. We attended together the Blue Ridge Community College, they had a beer tasting event. So that was fun for everybody.
We've done a wine and design event, we've gone to the Biltmore Estate as a team, we go out to dinner, we did one of those, shoot, it's escaping me, but one of those lock rooms where you have to escape rooms?
Mike Vaggalis (38:10):
Michelle Tracz (38:11):
Yeah. It's fun. Oh my gosh, that was so much fun. Put a bunch of accountants in an escape room, and we wouldn't talk about fun.
Tracy Eames (38:23):
[inaudible 00:38:23] I'm secretly terrified of being locked in a small space and that does not sound fun to me, but I'll take your word for it.
Michelle Tracz (38:32):
Even with the clients, and I know you do this, Tracy, even with clients, we make it a point to send year end gifts to the clients. If we find out a client is having a baby or a significant others, having surgery or whatever the case may be, we'll send flowers, someone's passed away, we send year end cookies or gifts or firm things. And then what was really one year appreciated a lot by our clients is we sent gift cards, that they get to choose which not for profit, they can use their gift card that we pay for. So they get to choose how this money is allocated. And it was all online, they get to tell it where to go. They don't have to pay for it, we paid for it for them.
But it's just a little things like you were talking about where they feel special and they feel recognized. And I think all of that is important for your team, as well as for your clients.
Tracy Eames (39:28):
Yeah, that's awesome. That is probably one of the best gift ideas I have seen in a while is the idea that you can give the power of giving to somebody else, right? So you can say, "Hey, we care about our community, but we also want to make this part of your choice. And that's just a really fun idea. So I like that one.
Awesome. Well, Michelle, we want to be cognizant of your time we know you're busy and your team and your clients will probably want to pull you back into your work day. So we appreciate the time that you've spent with us today. I know our listeners will love hearing the conversation. If they have questions and they have now listened to this and said, "Yes, we do need help from somebody like Michelle." How did they get in contact with you?
Michelle Tracz (40:09):
Oh gosh, yes, I'm here to help. Very simply, of course, we have a website, it's Michelletraczcpa.com. And then also email, I'm a little old school, so email is great, it's Michelletraczcpa.com, phone is good as well. But if you're in the community, reach out, ask folks, make recommendations, referrals, we work with tax preparers, other accountants in the area, as well as like I said, other small business centers and everything else. So we love the referrals, so reach out.
Wherever your listeners are, if they're looking for assistance, obviously reach out to Tracy and Mike but also reach out to Small Business Centers in your location and ask them, who they know who can help? And certainly, if I can be of any assistance to any of your listeners out there, I'd be more than happy to.
Mike Vaggalis (41:06):
And we will absolutely be posting those links and your contact information in the show notes for this podcast. Michelle, before you get out of here, I do have a more important question for you. What is an accountant's favorite brand of cereal?
Michelle Tracz (41:26):
Oh, boy. Well, every accountant's favorite brand of cereal is very different. But I'm very much a typical accountant, so it's very much your rechecks. Sorry, it's not very exciting.
Mike Vaggalis (41:43):
The correct answer is post.
Michelle Tracz (41:50):
I love that too.
Mike Vaggalis (41:52):
One more for you, do you know how Santa as an accountant values his sleigh?
Michelle Tracz (41:57):
Mike Vaggalis (41:57):
The net present-
Michelle Tracz (41:57):
One year at a time.
Mike Vaggalis (41:57):
Michelle Tracz (41:57):
What is it?
Mike Vaggalis (42:01):
The net present?
Tracy Eames (42:08):
These jokes are brought to you here by Mike at TEAMES & CO.
Michelle Tracz (42:15):
That's awesome. So I had a good joke this morning.
Mike Vaggalis (42:18):
Michelle Tracz (42:19):
In addition to all the other things, Tracy knows, I'm a very active member of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce here in the western North Carolina area. And so I run one of their leads groups each week. One of our members of our group, he comes in, he's so funny. He has a joke of the day and every week, he tells us a new joke. So he said, "Sad to report, there's been a tractor trailer that overturned on I 26." One of the major highways out here. "Just so you know, it was terrible. It was a tractor trailer, everyone's okay, but it was terrible, and the tractor trailer happened to have been carrying a huge load of Vicks VapoRub. Come to find out when news is there's no congestion."
Mike Vaggalis (43:09):
That's amazing. I love it. I am not a dad, but I am a huge fan of dad jokes. So I just thought this was too good an opportunity. Sadly, I didn't know any dad jokes about accountants. So I just looked some up and I like those too. I'm going to use that Vicks VapoRub joke.
Tracy Eames (43:30):
Mike does all of the adding of personality to the podcast. So now our listeners are going to expect jokes on the regular, Mike. So you've just raised the bar for us.
Mike Vaggalis (43:41):
In my old corporate life, we had these big team weekly meetings and inevitably somebody was late. So I always took charge of filling the extra time before the meeting started with some good jokes.
Tracy Eames (43:56):
I love it. I can rest assure, Michelle that, if anybody calls TEAMES & CO looking for accounting help, we do not have that expertise, so we will definitely put them in touch with you. We will help them build their teams but we also know that accounting is not our forte.
Michelle Tracz (44:12):
Tracy Eames (44:12):
So if you are looking for Michelle, we will put all of her information in our show notes. It is a little bit of a trick, her last name is spelled T-R-A-C-Z. So when she says Michelle Tracz, just know that that's a different spelling than you may expect. But again, it'll be in our show notes, especially for all of you who are listening on your car ride and you can't take notes. We will have that all there as well as transcripts. If you want to watch in video and see us laugh out loud to Mike's jokes section, you can catch us on YouTube, or obviously on audio with podcasts at Spotify, Apple or anywhere else.
So we appreciate you all listening and tuning in. Michelle, thank you again for all of your time. It's been a pleasure and we will see you all next week.