Jody Padar, CPA and author of The Radical CPA, joins Jason and Jeff to talk about her radical point of view and how its changing the CPA profession.
About the Episode
She saw problems with the traditional CPA firm model and led a movement to change the profession. Jody Padar, CPA, CEO & Principal of New Vision CPA Group and author of The Radical CPA joins Jason and Jeff in this episode to share her radical point of view and what it’s like to be a disruptor and lead change in an industry.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Radical CPA
Effective Differentiation Comes Through a Compelling Point-of-View
Patience, Discipline and Truth-Seeking: Critical Capabilities of the Best Thought Leadership Marketers
Managing Your HighPos
Marketing Ruins Everything
POV – It’s Time to Get One
Jason Mlicki: Are you ready to get radical?
This is Jason Mlicki and I am here with my cohost of Rattle and Pedal, Jeff McKay. And today we are inviting on a guest, the mama bear. Mama bear, I’m going to let you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and then we’ll jump into what we’re going to talk about.
Jody Padar: Awesome. So I’m Jody Padar, the radical CPA. I am principal and CEO of New Vision CPA Group in Chicago, which is a small accounting firm. I also have a media company, because I have over 660,000 followers on LinkedIn, so I’m kind of a social media person. Kind of, I say. And I also am a bot adviser and accounting ambassador for BotKeeper, which is a new, Google-funded artificial intelligence bookkeeping technology company that is partnering with CPAs to kind of do the AI of accounting work. So, I have lots of roles.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah, really cool.
Jeff McKay: So the most important role is, what’s Mama Bear?
Jody Padar: I don’t know, Jeff, you tell me, because he gave me that nickname.
Jason Mlicki: Oh, you made that up? I thought that was like a thing. That’s why I opened with that. So, I apologize. I didn’t realize.
Jeff McKay: It actually is a thing.
In addition to being a thought leader in the CPA technology space, Jody is a phenomenal leader and if you ever have an opportunity to see her work with her team and her people, she is very much like a mama bear. You do not challenge or threaten her cubs. She’s a phenomenal leader. And if we ever do another episode on how to get the most out of your high-pos, Jody will probably be back to join us for that podcast, as well.
So, one of the best characteristics I’ve heard that a lot of people may not get to see is her leadership. So, I call her Mama Bear.
Jody Padar: No, thank you. And I have to say that when Jeff first gave me that name, I kind of took offense to it because I kind of didn’t get it. But I think I’ve kind of morphed into it from a leadership role because I really understand now what he meant by it. And I think it has to do with the fact that as a woman leader, sometimes you don’t want to be associated with feminine qualities, because you feel that, and I don’t say that all men, but like, it kind of has a connotation to it, right?
But what I realized is that by embracing the things that make me me, it really makes me a better leader. And I think that’s why people connect to me. And so when I say that I’m Mama Bear, I protect my team and they know that I’ll go to bat for them and I really take care of them. And I think that that’s sometimes missing in business, is that people are all about it for themselves and not necessarily taking care of their team or the greater community.
So, if you look at my LinkedIn community, which has tons and tons of followers, I think the reason they follow me is because I take care of them. I teach them, I develop them, I help them grow. And so, from that that’s what I think mother bears do. And so, that’s kind of me in a nutshell.
Jason Mlicki: That was amazing, by the way. I feel bad, because I think I took us on a tangent at the opening of this episode unintentionally, because we’re here to talk about your point of view because you actually have a very distinct and powerful point of view. And my assumption is sort of your rise to visibility, your rise to having 600,000+ LinkedIn followers and sort of being this leading voice in the accounting community stemmed from that original point of view. So could you kind of just give us, I guess, the high level of it? So when you think about your point of view that you’ve crafted over your years in the business, how would you describe it?
Jody Padar: So, my brand is technically the radical CPA and really what it was is, you know, 10 years ago when I left an old school CPA firm and I started working with small businesses who look like me, acted like me and talked like me and they use this thing called the Internet, which they now call the cloud.
Jason Mlicki: Kind of heard of it.
Jody Padar: I started to work differently with them and at the time, the technology in the accounting space was not where it needed to be. But I realized that as I used the cloud, I needed to change my business model. And I kind of evolved and was really one of the inventors of what I’ll call like, the new firm business model.
And realistically, what happened was is I started blogging, not because someone told me to blog or I wanted to do it from a marketing perspective. It was really a way for me to quantify and clarify my thoughts as all this stuff was changing around me and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
And then I started posting it on Accounting Today and developed really, this brand. And because I was somewhat disruptive at the time and I was calling people out for where they were lacking. In a very nice way, of course, right?
And so what happened is that spread and people connected to it and they wanted to be part of it. And essentially we went to Twitter and it wasn’t just me, it was another handful of firm owners who are doing things similar to me because that’s where we found each other because the traditional CPAs weren’t working like that together or they weren’t doing new things and we needed to be pushing the envelope. And anyways, so we bound them together and we really started a movement and we were coined a movement by the AI-CPA.
And it’s so funny to me because people talk about thought leadership and starting movements. Like, we did it because it was the right thing to do, not because some marketing person told us we were supposed to become thought leaders and start a movement.
And so that’s what I always think is funny, because I think when you talk about marketing, these people talk about points of view and starting these movements and I’m like, yeah, like the reason our movement worked was because it really needed to change. It wasn’t because we were trying to market ourselves.
Jeff McKay: Can you say that again? Marketing is not a movement. We did an episode not too long ago on marketing ruins everything. We didn’t throw it in there, but we could have easily thrown in there, marketing ruins movements. Why do you think that it became a movement? Have you given any thought in retrospect to that or do you just go with it?
Jody Padar: So, I think it became a movement and actually, I’ve been thinking about this a while because now that I’m playing in the artificial intelligence space, I think it’s the next movement or it’s the evolution of it, right? The cloud was the first movement and this is, it’s the icing on the cake, or you could even say it’s a new movement. And so it’s really made me introspective and think about it because like I’ve been there, done that. Right?
So I see the power and the players that are coming into it, which I was just young and dumb and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was just like I was doing it because it was the right thing to do and it was important to me and people always say, well, what made you want to change things?
It was because I had been kind of abused in an old school firm and working a bazillion hours a week and I was a young mother and things weren’t fair from a standpoint if it was very much face time and not based on the results and it really about changing the culture.
And I saw that utilizing new technology could change the culture of a firm and it could ultimately bring quality of life back to this profession that I had joined that I was kind of disenchanted with at the time because I thought I went to school to become a CPA. And then I got there and I was like, and this is what it is.
And so that was the underling of the movement, that was to make the world a better place. But then what happened was, is the leadership of the AI-CPA and the MACPA and some of I’ll say the old guard saw what we, because I’m just one of the people who was really in this movement, what we were doing. And they knew that the change had to come from the ground up, not from the top down.
So they were very experienced, very sharp leaders. And they actually gave us some gravitas to get movement really moving. And they placed us in strategic places to talk about what we were doing. It’s so funny, because looking back on it, I really see that the impact of those leaders behind the scenes of getting the message out to actually create the monumental change that had to happen to the CPA profession, but couldn’t come from the top down.
And what I realize now too, looking back, is there were a lot of people who didn’t like me because I was quite disruptive. And people talk about disruption, but you really don’t get it until you’re the target of it, right? When people are mad at you for doing things and I’m telling you you can’t do things and calling you and saying you can’t have a party because more people will come to your party than to the most important leader’s chicken dinner.
So, it’s so funny when you get called out for this stuff, and it took me a couple of years to figure it out, but really it was about power and money. And because I’m such a person about abundance, I never thought about it.
It was never about marketing; it was about doing the right thing. It was never about gaining power and money. It was always just about doing the right thing. So, it’s interesting when you really see what disruption is and how when you start to move people’s power and money, how aggressive they get back at you.
Jeff McKay: Jody, you said something, well, you said multiple things there. You said you were young and dumb, which to me says that you either didn’t see or you ignored the risk and jumped in any way. In my experience, that risk aversion, particularly among professional services types of people who are measured to start with, really inhibits them from coming out with a very clear point of view. What are your thoughts on that?
Jody Padar: Yeah, I guess it, to me, I didn’t have anything to lose because I was starting a new firm, so it wasn’t like I had this … I mean, I was joining my dad, but for all and intents purposes it really was like a new firm and I always kept thinking, well, if it doesn’t work out, I can go get a job. And nobody was doing what I was doing. And so early on I got a lot of positive reinforcement from the people who got me. And I think that helped propel it because they’re like, you’re changing my life. Like everybody else needs to say this stuff, but you’re the only one with the guts to say it. And yeah, and my alternative to, and again, it’s funny because it was like if I decided that I wasn’t going to be a CPA or that this wasn’t going to work out for me, my kids were little and I was like, well, I’ll just stay home.
So, you know, I think I had a lot of opportunity to take those risks that I think sometimes, and not that it’s a girl/guy thing, but it wasn’t like I had to support my family. It wasn’t like it truly was my opportunity to be the entrepreneur that I wanted to be, and to do what I wanted to do. And I wasn’t worried about supporting a family or doing all that stuff.
Now obviously, I’ve exponentially grown my business, money has come back and like there’s all these good things. But when I started out, it was just me being me, doing what I thought was right.
Jeff McKay: And still is. I mean, that part hasn’t changed at all. You kind of outlined some other characteristics I think are really important, from my perspective, in formulating a powerful point of view or as you said, creating a movement and the first one was a willingness to walk away. Like, you have options. You’re not in a box.
The second is something that we’ve talked quite a bit about in recent episodes on the podcast that came out of Jason and Bob Buday’s Thought Leadership Summit and that’s that real thought leaders fall in love with the problem and I very much hear you saying that.
And then the third one, and this kind of gets back to where we started with the Mama Bear, is your worldview about abundance, about sharing more and not worrying about a utilization or am I getting paid for this but just sharing because you know it’s going to come back to you and that it’s just the right thing to do.
Jody Padar: Absolutely. And that’s why people buy me. And I say buy me, meaning like that authentic piece of me is because there is no … It’s just me, and it’s me giving love and being abundant with everyone and people connect to that. Right?
Whereas I think too many of these people set out to be thought leaders and then it’s like, they don’t really care. It’s like someone told them to do this and so they’re doing it but they’re not in love with the subject. It doesn’t get them up in the morning. I mean, like the reason I was tweeting and writing all the time was because it was important to me and I saw it starting to make a difference. And what happens too is once you start to make that difference, it’s the fuel of your followers that keep you going because like you’re actually impacting their firms and they’re calling you and they’re sending you emails and they’re telling you, give me more, give me more, give me more. And to me, that’s the fun stuff. You know?
Jason Mlicki: You know what I really enjoyed about listening to you sort of recant the story is just that it doesn’t sound to me like there was ever a moment in time where you said to yourself, “I need to define a very clear point of view in order to grow this firm,” or to get this firm on the map. It’s almost like you see yourself where you saw yourself as the voice that just happened to be in the place at the time it needed to be there and you channeled your frustration and you channeled the frustration of a lot of people. I mean, you made sense of it and you made it succinct and understandable and people got behind it.
Jody Padar: Absolutely. And what happened is as CPAs, I mean if you really look at my followers, there are other CPAs, but what happened is as it crossed over into the small business world, because regular small business owners were just as frustrated with their own predicaments. And so then they saw me as being that change person and that’s who connects to me. And even that’s who our clients are, the people who kind of get me from that change perspective and they know that I’ve done a lot with the CPA space and then they come into our firm because they believe in me and that stuff. And again, that’s a point of view that had nothing to do with building a CPA firm.
Jason Mlicki: I’m really curious about that because it’s really fascinating to me. You’ve built this incredible following. 600,000 followers on LinkedIn. And I’m gathering there’s a good portion of them that are other small practitioners of CPA firms. They’re not going to hire you for services or are they? Maybe I don’t understand.
How much did that ever cross your field of vision, the sense that you’re building this movement, you’re building this followership of people that aren’t really going to hire you, but ultimately it did lead, to of course clients hiring you? I mean, the point of view wasn’t necessarily directed at the clients, it was more directed at the industry and the clients followed, is sort of what I’m gathering. Am I right?
Jody Padar: Exactly. I never set out to impact small business with my point of view. It was always directed to the profession and making the profession a better place. Now, fast forward. Top 100 firms want to buy me. Right? So obviously, it made its impact, right? Because I moved the profession, right? And lots of opportunities have come to me that never would have come to me in other ways.
I do technology consulting and that kind of stuff, so it’s built that side of my business. But indirectly, it’s built my CPA firm as well. I don’t know. It’s just nice to be with people who have points of view. Right?
Jason Mlicki: Absolutely.
Jody Padar: Because you know what they stand for.
Jeff McKay: That is a great point. And people pay a premium or invite you in to hear your point of view and that point of view, particularly in your case, Jody, it attracts people, but it also turns them around or it turns them off, because your model for service is very different than a traditional accounting firm model. Maybe you could share a little bit about your model and what you give or don’t give to clients and how you interact with them, so people can kind of understand how this point of view actually impacts your business model and how you serve clients.
Jody Padar: Sure. Our firm sells accounting, payroll, bookkeeping, tax, four quarterly meetings. You bundle it all together. It’s a fixed price. You pay monthly and you have unlimited access to us. We don’t bill by time. We don’t charge by time. We don’t even keep time. So in a professional service firm, that’s very different. Right? And when we were doing it 10 years ago, it was extremely cutting edge.
Now, it’s kind of starting to change because of the movement I created and the vendors got behind it and started to push marketing dollars at it. And that’s what actually made it really move. But that’s the way our firm operates differently. And what happens is, is you either get it or you don’t get it. You either want to connect to it or you don’t.
So what it’s done is it filters out from a sales perspective. By the time someone calls us, I already know the sale’s going to close, because they already get me. They already know how we work, they know everything about us, and they’re ready to work in that way, which is very different than a traditional firm. And so, it filters out the people who don’t want to work in that way, which has been, again, really cool.
And the other thing is, is we know who we work with. We only work with certain customers and I’m very okay with saying, “No, we don’t serve that kind of customer,” and you know, I’ll refer it out, which is very different than most CPA firms who take whatever walks in the door.
Jason Mlicki: Jeff knows I like to tell stories. Jody, I’m going to tell you a story. This might crack you up.
Jeff McKay: It actually won’t crack you up, but we’ll listen anyway.
Jason Mlicki: That’s because she has a sense of humor and you don’t. So, we are exploring accounting relationships right now for our agency. And I met with this guy, they called on me and I met with him. And in hindsight, I can see that this particular firm sort of was born out of your movement, because they’re sort of embracing a lot of the philosophies of what you’re saying from a cloud perspective.
Very interestingly, the conversation came up about time tracking and I looked at him and said, “We track time, but I’m not even sure we should. I think it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of resources. And we’re thinking about abolishing it.” He looked at me sideways as if I was crazy.
And what I find interesting about is that, so here’s this point of view that you’ve crafted and sort of the radical firm and the different way it operates and people are picking up pieces and parts of it and they’re implementing pieces of it that they’re leaving other parts of it out, possibly to their own detriment. Right? So, it was interesting to me.
Jody Padar: Well, right. So what’s interesting to me about that is that time sheets kill innovation. So, that’s fine for today because he’s copying my firm. But how is that going to take him into the future? Because you can’t continually iterate if you’re so worried on, focused on a time sheet. And so that’s the problem, right? So CPAs are lemmings and they copy other CPAs. So we started this movement and all these firms are copying us, but they’re not building innovation into their DNAs. And if they don’t put the innovation into their DNA, then in 10 years they’re going to be back in the same place with something else that they’re going to have to change manage as opposed to innovate continuously. And so that’s the problem with that guy who is selling you cloud and still keeping time. Right?
Plus, how do you bill two minutes and why are you keeping time? Because at the end of the day, it’s customer service that’s going to build your brand and build your value. It’s not going to be that you spent three minutes clicking accept on a transaction.
So yeah. And it’s so funny about that too because it’s hard when you create a movement to let go of it, when you see people taking your stuff and altering it to not the way you intended it. So like a lot of this is my IP and I see people change it and that’s the Internet for you. But if the movement is for the better and I’m really trying to change a profession, and if I can get them at least to some sort of fixed pricing model, and maybe in two years they get rid of their time sheets, then I have to be okay with it.
And I think that’s been one of the hardest things for me to accept is that truly as a leader, like the movement is about moving the profession and not necessarily owning everything that I’ve really been a creator of. And so, that’s what’s hard about thought leadership is that eventually it becomes mainstream, and it’s not the way you intended it.
Jason Mlicki: Couldn’t have said it any better.
Jeff McKay: You’ve talked a lot about the people that love you and supported you and fuel you. What about the trolls and the naysayers who say, oh gosh, stop. You’re an idiot. You shouldn’t do this. You’re going to steal people from our chicken dinner party. How do you deal with them?
Jason Mlicki: See Jeff, I love trolls. I count trolls. I consider trolls a badge of honor.
Jody Padar: That’s the way I’ve come to it. So like I had this picture, oh my God. So I was speaking at the QB Connect conference and Intuit took the most awful picture of me on stage with like, my mouth open. Of course, they tweeted it out and someone tweeted it and then put a picture of someone who’s funny, who I didn’t even know who the reference was, and it was this awful like thing and I accepted it and said, you know, you’ve made it when you have trolls who like actually go to the Internet, find something, do a picture collage of it and put it out there.
So to me, trolls now are a badge of honor. Like, to me. But on the flip side of it, what’s really been important to me is not necessarily the people who hate me, but the people who challenge me.
Because again, remember I said I was young and dumb? I’ve evolved so much because a lot of the older professionals have challenged me and they’ve challenged me in a good way and they’ve evolved my thinking and that’s what you have to do because your thoughts are never going to be the same. They still have to continue to evolve. The world is changing.
So, the people who don’t agree with me, I’m okay with them and I think I’ve gotten better at being less aggressive back towards them. Which, that was a learned thing, because I think initially I used to be very defensive and now I’m very much, “Tell me more, explain your side,” because that’s what evolves your thought and that’s what makes you a better leader.
Jeff McKay: Padar for president.
Jason Mlicki: Jeff, it sounds like she’s behaving more like more like an agency owner than a marketer.
Jeff McKay: I say Padar for president. All right, final question and then we can wrap on this one.
So, this movement started some time ago and we looked back on it, how you got to where you are and it’s been very positive. But if you could go back and change anything based on what you’ve learned over the last decade or so, what would it be? What advice would you give to people listening who want to start a movement, want a clearer point of view?
Jason Mlicki: I’ll allow that question because I think it’s a good one.
Jody Padar: So Jeff, you say that I’m very authentic, right? And I know that that’s the way I am. I think I would be more accepting of me being as authentic as I am, because I think it’s hard when you’re in the public eye and you kind of get this Internet fame, and it’s been an adjustment for me to kind of deal with that.
And I think I wish I would have known what that was like before I started, so that I would have dealt with it the right way sooner and not been so critical of myself. Right?
So looking back, because it took me that experience to kind of get comfortable with being famous, which is weird, right? Because you think, oh, well you’re not really famous. But my daughter says, I’m like Hannah Montana, right? It’s like I live this quiet life, but then I’ll be at an event in Vegas and seriously, I’ll be in my yoga pants and my Kohl’s tee shirt and someone will come up to me and go, “You’re Jody Padar.” And I’ll be like, “I am.”
And so it’s a weird thing to be, right? And so, that was the only thing that I wish that I would’ve been better prepared for, is to really understand what would happen with Internet fame. So kind of like the opposite of the troll side is how would I have better known to be prepared for kind of what that brings.
And it’s not a bad thing, but definitely, you live your life differently, right? Because you know that everybody’s fricking watching everything you do. And I’ve spent a long time building this brand and this personal brand and I don’t want to lose it and I don’t want something to be misconstrued and have to go back on it. So I that’s been something that, not that I would change, but that I wish I had been better prepared for.
Jeff McKay: Hmm. Wow. Great counsel. Great counsel.
Jason Mlicki: Well, I will be candid in saying, Jody, I had no idea what to expect coming into this call with you and I loved every minute of it. This was way more interesting than the podcasts I do with Jeff, so thank you for coming on with us.
Jody Padar: Oh, for sure.
Jeff McKay: Thank you, Mama Bear.
Jody Padar: Awesome.