Adam Tarnow – Leadership Training and Consulting

Episode Transcription

00:00:00 – Glenn Harper

Welcome, everybody. Another edition of Harper and Company Empower Entrepreneurs, The Harper Company. This is Glenn Harper,

00:00:05 – Julie Smith

and Julie Smith,

00:00:06 – Glenn Harper

And we got a special guest today. Calling in all the way from Dallas, Texas, Adam Tarnow, fellow entrepreneur who is the owner of Adam Tarnow and Company, a leadership training company in Texas. In his spare time, he’s active in his church. And while he’s helping everybody be their best, even though he has the stature of enough NFL lineman, he enjoys golf as he loves to torture himself in five hour blocks at a time and chasing the ball, which is always exciting. Thanks for being with us today. It’s kind of funny. We have an affinity that, again, there’s not a lot of bean counters out there and every time we get one on the show, I get all excited because, you know, we have this little, you know, pocket protectors, green visors and such. And, you know, we’re always, you know, typical accountants, very exciting, dynamic, motivated. We’re breaking the mold of that, I think. Would you agree with that?

00:01:00 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. Yeah. We’re actually talking to each other. That is definitely breaking the mold by having a conversation because we want to, not because we have to.

00:01:08 – Julie Smith

And not with a ten key. Right. You’re not talking in ten key language.

00:01:12 – Adam Tarnow

There’s no spreadsheets. We’re not going to talk about numbers today. We’re going to talk about our life. That’s that’s very abnormal for us.

00:01:18 – Glenn Harper

I’m telling you, a group of accounts together is is like a fifth grade dance. Nobody’s talking to anybody. It’s really bizarre.

00:01:26 – Adam Tarnow

I like that. I like.

00:01:27 – Glenn Harper
That.

00:01:28 – Adam Tarnow

So I appreciate the NFL linemen line. I mean, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. I’ve never been accused of being a big, burly man like that.

00:01:38 – Glenn Harper

I checked out all your action photos and I’m like, Oh, this guy is definitely linemen material.

00:01:42 – Julie Smith

Glenn was just intimidated by your stature, actually.

00:01:46 – Adam Tarnow

Well, that’s funny.

00:01:48 – Glenn Harper

I’ve got a couple rapid fire questions. I’d like to throw out some guests just to make sure we’re on the same page on some things. And so is it true that you started out as a as a CPA because you just knew that was the greatest thing to do? But while you’re in involved with the Enron audit, you decided that you had to change to become a minister because you knew it was such a bad thing you were looking at. Is that how that turned out?

00:02:11 – Adam Tarnow

I thought I’d buried that story pretty deep on the Internet, so I’m sorry that you had to find that out. No. Best class I took in high school was an accounting class or my favorite. My dad was an accountant, my grandfather was an accountant, and my birthday is April 16th.

00:02:28 – Glenn Harper

That’s impressive that you’ve got that trifecta.

00:02:31 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, it was in the stars. I had to. I had to go there. I was one of my only friends that I knew in college that never changed their major. I showed up. Day one said, I’m going to be an accounting major, and I never wavered from it at all. So very, very steady with all that.

00:02:45 – Glenn Harper

Yeah, that’s funny. I just thought I wanted to be one when I was. I think it would have been seventh grade. I didn’t even know what an accountant did. And I’m like, I just worked for this guy as his landscaper. And I’m like, What do you do for a living? He’s like, Oh, I’m an accountant. I’m like, Well, I want to be that when I grow up. I don’t even know. I don’t think I think I got out of college when I figured out what an account really did, which is odd, and I apparently should have studied more.

00:03:04 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, I was one year into my job. Yeah.

00:03:08 – Glenn Harper

That’s just horrible.

00:03:10 – Adam Tarnow

So that auditing class people actually do this, that’s like a real thing.

00:03:13 – Glenn Harper

And they like it. It’s odd, but, you know, everybody needs everybody, right? Yeah. Did you you know, you were did you ever get a chance to or the privilege to rub Howard’s rock at the Clemson’s Tiger Stadium?

00:03:26 – Adam Tarnow

I have yes. I do allow all freshmen to do that. So if our listeners don’t know, I went to Clemson University and they have this rock that a legendary football coach got from Death Valley. Is that in Arizona? I think California. California on the West Coast. Yeah. And so he brought this rock back and it became this moment. Like, if you’re not going to go down there and go all in today, then don’t touch this rock. So when you touch the rock, it’s signifying to the team and to the fans. I’m going to give it my all today. It’s under lock like a bulletproof glass now, really, because of the in-state rivalry with South Carolina, there’s been attempts to steal it and to vandalize it. And so no joke. If you go drive through there right now, drive through campus and you will see it is under bulletproof glass. They remove that glass right before the game so the players can touch it right before they go down the field and then boom, it goes right back on. So it’s one of the most protected things in the state of South Carolina right now.

00:04:25 – Glenn Harper

That’s crazy. They took away all the fun of the college rivalries and go and steal and all their mascots and stuff. They denied that.

00:04:31 – Adam Tarnow

Yes.

00:04:32 – Glenn Harper

Well, yes. Is it are you sad that you’re at Clemson when the football team was in any good and now all of a sudden it’s the best? I mean, crazy would do what they would do.

00:04:41 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. I like to feel like I contributed, right. Like this is they were standing on our shoulders, but I was there for a lot of bad football, a lot of bad football. So it just is sweeter. I mean, I was just literally talking about this with my family the other day about how I think we our local high school basketball team here in Richardson, Texas. Was had a really great season, but they lost, unfortunately, in the playoffs. And we were driving home and I was we were all kind of sad. But I looked at the boys and I was like, guys, you know, with all sports, though, in the end, I’ve gotten to see Clemson win two national championships in my lifetime and I just never thought I’d be able to see that. So really all the other sports teams can lose from here on out.

00:05:18 – Glenn Harper

I feel like life’s complete. Yeah, it.

00:05:20 – Adam Tarnow

Was successful because I just never thought, I mean, let alone watch them play in a national championship, I never thought I’d see them win. And it was great. I was. I’m grateful for.

00:05:28 – Glenn Harper

It. Yeah. What he’s done for.

00:05:29 – Adam Tarnow

Work.

00:05:29 – Glenn Harper

Over there. Yeah, he was done for that program. An amazing just developing young men. It’s it’s a it’s a really cool thing. Do you have, you know, as a golfer, do you play a lot? A little bit. I mean, what’s your dream course to play?

00:05:41 – Adam Tarnow

That’s a really good question. I play not as much as I want to obviously work. There’s I need to put some food on the table for the family so I can’t play as much as I want to. I probably right now in the wintertime here, maybe just get out once a month. I practice a lot. I’ve got a little set up in my backyard, a net and a mat. And so I’ll go hit, you know, four or five days a week back there a few times. But dream course right now, I think I would have to say probably Pebble Beach, right? I’ve never been out there. Something out in California I think would be a lot of fun.

00:06:14 – Glenn Harper

Definitely on the list to do so.

00:06:16 – Julie Smith

Adam What you don’t know is Glen’s also an avid golfer and chases all these dream golf courses as well. So he’s probably just fishing for for the next one that you have on your list.

00:06:25 – Glenn Harper

Looking for the next hookup. You know.

00:06:27 – Adam Tarnow

What’s your most memorable course that you’ve played?

00:06:29 – Glenn Harper

I just got back from a trip to some abandoned dunes, which is fantastic. Just surreal. You’re right on the coast. It was it was so much fun and just built for golfers, so many courses. It’s a great experience, kind of like Scotland but in the US of a and you know this summer I’ve got a trip to Whistling Straits and Hills and I think it’s the Sand Ridge or Sand Castle. It’s the same owner group abandoned dunes in Wisconsin. So looking forward to that. That should be fun.

00:06:56 – Adam Tarnow

That’s fun. Yeah. It’s a great another great way to see the country, right. To go visit some of these other courses. And I think when I first talked to you all, just about seeing the country, my family and I’ve got two boys, a seventh grader and fifth grader and my wife. And we’re trying to see all the ballparks and the baseball ballparks. And I think I chatted with you all when we were visiting on our last trip last summer when I first met you, too, talking about what you all are doing now with the podcasting. And we were up there and I think we were in between Cincinnati and Cleveland. When we chat, I think we drove right on by where you all were. So that’s another great way to see the country. If you don’t play golf, just go see them. Go see the.

00:07:33 – Glenn Harper

Ballparks. There’s some good, good stuff in both those two cities you just mentioned. Yeah. So I got one final, like a softball question for you. So, you know, I would expect that you’re in Texas, you’d have a little more pronounced accent because that’s how you roll down there. But is it true that you ride bulls on the weekend for rodeos?

00:07:52 – Adam Tarnow

I mean, not just for rodeos. I mean, that is the preferred mode of transportation. I know. So, yeah, they hang out in my backyard, I bring them out on the weekend. People will get theirs all painted up.

00:08:04 – Glenn Harper

And the big deal.

00:08:05 – Adam Tarnow

It’s a whole.

00:08:05 – Glenn Harper

Deal. Someday I like to ride one because it just looks like a lot of fun. But, boy, that’s a brutal. Well, why don’t you? You know, Adam, would you mind sharing a little bit of what does your business do? What is the services that you provide? Just give a little a little spiel on that, please. Yeah.

00:08:21 – Adam Tarnow

I mean, it’s really I would say this this is like some recent stuff that I’ve been writing. So I’ve been in business for 18 months now, which is part of the journey, actually a little longer than that, getting close to two years. But right now what I would say is the mission is to do this is to curate the most helpful leadership content my clients have ever encountered. Curation is a word that I’m starting to really grow comfortable with. When I first thought about what I wanted to do as a consulting firm focused on leadership development, I was thinking that I would develop my own custom content or come up with my own custom content, and I do that. But then I realized there’s really nothing new under the sun, right? A lot of what I do is I’m standing on the shoulders of other great authors or thinkers and the ideas that they’ve shared with the world. And I’m just kind of organizing all of that. So I really do think curation is a is a very accurate way to describe what I do. And when I present this this content to my clients, the, the only customized piece that I get to to add to it or where I get to put my fingerprint on it, is really deciding how to organize the content. So if I’ve got a client who wants to say they’ve got some managers that need to get better at communicating or get better at coaching, I get to decide what pieces to put together and how do I want to organize that? What is the basic theme? So that’s where I get to customize some things. I get to add my own stories, metaphors, metaphors, illustrations, videos.

00:09:44 – Adam Tarnow

I just get to share my own experience with that content. So I get to add all of that and then I get to decide what to emphasize, right? I can add my own perspectives and my own opinions and some of my own story in there. So. So that’s a lot of what I do a lot of. Mid-market sized clients, I would say, are really the sweet spot for me right now. If you’ve got anywhere between 25 and maybe 2000 employees where you have multiple level levels of leadership within the organization, so you’ve got some. If we think about the old just CPA firm type, where we’ve got some seniors, some managers, senior managers partner. So if you have some sort of of leadership structure within the organization, that probably is is a client where I’m going to be able to really serve well. And and then maybe probably an organization also that doesn’t necessarily have an in-house training department. There’s a lot of my clients right now that there’s maybe one HR representative who is responsible for bringing in training, but they don’t have their own in-house training department. So that’s that’s where the client base is kind of starting to shake out right now, as is are those types of clients and all sorts of industries. I mean, I’ve got everything from the largest franchisee of a particular fast food brand to to somebody in the biomedical industry. And so it’s like everything in between there. Obviously I connect well with CPA firms as that being part of my background as well. So professional service providers. But, but that’s what we’re doing. I’m on the mission to try to curate helpful leadership content.

00:11:16 – Julie Smith

So Adam, answer me this because I’m not quite following. So you went to school, you became a CPA, then you got out of that and you became a minister. How did you fall into fall into this?

00:11:27 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, I like to if I think about my career, the only metaphor I can find out there that seems to really describe it well, is it my my career has turned into a Seinfeld episode where you just had all of these plot lines that seem to make no sense. And then at the very end, it’s like, oh, that okay, now that all make sense how that came together. So yeah, ten years as a CPA, ten years on staff at a church, a little bit of grad school in between there and a couple of other part time jobs in between there. But so what CPA has taught me is how to think. It taught me about corporate America, it taught me about large organizations, certainly taught me how to be organized and thoughtful. What what ministry taught me was people just we’re all the same. We all have the same issues. We have the same thoughts, feelings, emotions. It taught me how people think and react. It taught me a lot. And being a part of a large organization there too, I also learned about organizational life and what we were trying to do in the nonprofit world was we were trying to lead, right? We were trying to lead people. And so I learned a ton about leadership there as well. And so to me, like that, that corporate America thing and then all this stuff that I understand about people, it all came together with this consulting firm that I started, so I can look back on it and go, Yeah, those were definitely some right and left hand turns along the journey that were maybe a little bit of a head scratcher. But to me it all kind of makes sense right now. It all came together because that’s a lot of what I’m doing right now, working with organizations and also trying to help them with their people. And so those two things come together in a way that I probably when I was graduating from college, I could have never written this out. I mean, this was I didn’t know this was where the journey was going to go, but it’s I’m grateful for it.

00:13:11 – Glenn Harper

So you don’t you didn’t just wake up. You just kind of woke up one day and said, Hey, I’m going to be an entrepreneur and start my own business. Or is that something that was, you know, percolating way back when? You’re just just a lead growing up? When did that happen?

00:13:26 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, I would have never I would have never been accused of being an entrepreneur growing up.

00:13:31 – Glenn Harper

That’s crazy.

00:13:32 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. And it was I really think if there’s some ways, like when I got out of college, I was living in Atlanta working with PricewaterhouseCoopers and and candidly, I was a part of a church there in town that was big. And they were they were one of the first organizations that introduced me to the concept of leadership. And they were reading Built to Last and Jim Collins and John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. And that I just became fascinated by that as a subject. I’d never thought about that before. As a subject. I always just thought about Leader was a boss, that’s all that I didn’t understand that leadership is more nuanced. It’s about caring about people and trying to influence people. And that’s a skill. I never thought it was a skill. I thought it was just something it was a reward for. Hey, when you’re good at what you do and you get to be a boss, it’s a reward. I never thought about it as a skill. So I’m really grateful that church and what they started to teach me. So I just went on this like personally, it became a hobby where I just started reading on this subject and going to conferences and now eventually starting to listen to podcasts, talk about leadership. It just became a thing. And it was it was this theme that ran through my entire career, whether I was in a CPA firm or I was at the church, I was always thinking about leadership and observing leadership and trying to figure out what are ways that we can become better leaders. And and so when I went on staff at the church, I mean, just real vulnerably, it was a big pay cut, honestly.

00:14:59 – Adam Tarnow

So I was a I was a manager in an audit firm. I was making good money and and then I was making a lot less. And so I maintained some connection to the CPA community here in Dallas through training and speaking. And so it was it was it was just it was supplemental income for me and my family at the time. And it was something that I loved. And I was and I was starting to develop a little bit of an aptitude for it and some skills and was starting to get asked to speak at conferences. And then that led to an accounting firm here in town more formally engaging me to train their their managers and their seniors. And after about ten years on staff, I really don’t know what really probably after about seven years on staff, I really started to realize that my heart was changing and I was laying awake at night thinking more about, I bet I could grow this consulting thing. I’m really enjoying it. And, and so it took me probably three years. I had the conviction long before I had the courage, which I think a lot of entrepreneurs can identify with that. Some people you just know that you need to do this. But that’s that’s one thing. Then getting the courage to take a step out and at that time having a family and older kids financially, it’s always a risk to go and do that. I remember having a lunch with somebody telling them that I was thinking about doing this, and the first question they asked me is, Do you have six months of income saved up? And I was like, Nope.

00:16:26 – Adam Tarnow

They were like, Well, I really would caution you against doing this then and now they had their own story on on why that was their advice to me. And I appreciate what they were saying. And they were just that was the courage piece, right? I just needed to get the courage to go and do this. And then probably around 20, late 2019, I had made the decision that I need to do this early 2020. I actually told the the organization, the church that I was working with, I told them in mid-February of 2020 that I was going to leave at the end of May. And they were like, Well, what are you going to do? I was like, Well, I’m going to go start this consulting firm. I’m and I’m going to really focus on that more full time and go seek more clients where I can do more live training and work with leaders. And that’s what I’ve been doing kind of on the side, as you all know. And I’m going to go give that a shot and you’re like, great. And you know, we don’t want to see excuse me, we don’t want to see you go, but but we can’t knock you if we’re going to try this. This makes a lot of sense. And then the world, the world changed. And so that, you know, that really was a test of that courage in March and April and May of 2020 on whether or not I was going to do this.

00:17:36 – Glenn Harper

When you were with the church and doing your thing and you would do these gigs on the side, is that something you were just volunteering to do or are you getting paid for that or you’re getting paid to the church? How did that work? Just out of curiosity.

00:17:46 – Adam Tarnow

I was getting paid. And I think now what I realize is there was a reason I was pretty busy because my rates, I was the cheapest guy down. And so like, how much is it? I’m like, oh, this, you know, coming from the nonprofit world, I was almost embarrassed to ask for what I was asking for. Like, Oh, are they going to think I’m being greedy and selfish? And, and I’ve fortunately changed my prices a little bit now that it’s a full time thing and understand the value that it does provide for some organizations.

00:18:14 – Glenn Harper

Yeah. We always get a kick out of entrepreneurs, like when do you make that jump? Or and literally it’s it’s a cannon ball from the top of the building into it. Yeah. You were able to. I think what some entrepreneurs get a chance to do is kind of slowly test the waters. And because you don’t really know, you’re just like, well, I like doing that. And then you’re doing it and you’re you’re successful at it and you’re like, you get a little more confidence, a little more swag. And then you’re like, Hey, you know what? Maybe I could be this guy. I want to be that guy. But then, like you said, you probably knew that many years before you actually said, I’m going to go do this. And again, those we always talk about, it’s not really regrets, but just if you could go back and change something in your in your journey, do you think that it would have been monumental change or just a nominal change if you’d have said, hey, instead of waiting that five, six years, if you’d had done this at year five, would that have accelerated where you’re at today or were you just not quite ready yet?

00:19:15 – Adam Tarnow

That’s a really thoughtful question, Glenn. And I like that you ask that because it’s something I’ve been thinking about. And I’m candidly, I’m reading Daniel Pink’s new book on Regret right now. And so it’s really interesting as he is breaking that down and talking about what regret is and how often we you know, the way he describes it is we go back in time, we make a different decision, then we come back to the future, so to speak. And that’s why we feel regret. It’s really interesting how he is talking about that. I think the only regret that I really have, Glenn, if I could go back and do it again, is maybe I would have had the courage to have left and maybe 2018 or or maybe end of 2017. So I think it would have just been a few years that I wish I would have started a tad bit sooner, but I don’t think I’d go back to college and choose to major in English and then just start writing and developing content right away. I think that’s where, again, I’ll go back to that Seinfeld episode. Like those plotlines were necessary in creating who I am and then the value that I believe I can add to organizations today and to leaders today. I needed that that ten years in accounting, I needed that ten years on staff at Watermark or five or six years there on staff I think would have been really helpful. So that’s the only change I think I would go back and make.

00:20:31 – Glenn Harper

You certainly couldn’t. I mean, accountants can’t write, so that would have not worked anyway. So you had to stay with the numbers because if you had to do handwriting, it’d have been over. No, no way.

00:20:41 – Julie Smith

Yes. So, Adam, you talked a little bit about the the person that you met and they had asked, you know, do you have six months of savings? And it kind of played a role into that decision. But is there anyone else that really stands out to you that was a mentor that kind of helped guide you to get the courage to make that jump and maybe you still have that relationship today.

00:20:58 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, thank you. That’s another great question. Yes. A guy named Randy Marshall and a guy named Jeff Strasser, those were two very instrumental friends that were looking me in the eye, hand on the shoulder. I believe you can do this. I don’t think this is crazy. Right. So we know you. We’ve watched you for years. We’ve seen you. I mean, Jeff Stresa in particular was the chief the chief learning officer for a large wealth management firm here in town. At the time, he had hired me to come in and do some work with his firm. He also knew me from church and had seen me in that context. So he had seen me in both contexts and had a lot of experience here in DFW in that kind of consulting, leadership, training space and was just going, You’re not crazy. And so I think you can do this. I think you’ve got a product, I think you’ve got some skills. I think you’ve got a willpower that you’ll be able to to do this and get some stuff done. So those were very, very helpful along the way. There’s obviously a lot of friends that are putting you on the back, and for me, that was the way I was trying to make the decision is what the people who know me well, what are they saying? Because if if there is a lot of caution and I want to listen to that, I want to listen to the counsel of others. And and so, yeah, Jeff and Randy were very instrumental as I was making that decision.

00:22:17 – Glenn Harper

Yeah. Because it’s, it’s weird. The entrepreneur, it’s not we believe in what we do wholeheartedly of whatever that skill or task that we’re doing. We just, we just know we can do it. But to actually run a business around it is a very intimidating thing for for most people. And if you don’t have that mentor or somebody who really I don’t want to say respects a big thing, but they’ve got to respect and believe in you so you can actually look yourself in the mirror and go, Man, I can believe. Gosh darn it, I’m Stuart Smalley. I can do this right. And when that happens again, it’s just unfortunate. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t seek those mentors because they’re so busy doing their tasks that they don’t think about that. But if you could just if you would just go out and explore and look at things and meet people and get in those groups, you might be surprised if you’re listening as an entrepreneur that you might get to your journey, not your destination, but you’ll get on that train a little bit quicker. If you can find that one person or a couple of people that really believe in you and just, you know, make you kind of challenge yourself, right? I mean, that’s kind of what happened with you.

00:23:22 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. Yeah. And I always wanted to to also make sure that my life didn’t become one of those opening episodes of American Idol. You know, where the singer is terrible. And they’re looking at the judges are looking at them and going, Who told you you could sing? And they’re like, Well, my mom and my sister, they all tell me I’m great. And and so that’s where for me, an abundance of counselors on this was very, very helpful to make sure I was not just picking and choosing people who were going to tell me, Oh, you’ll be great at this. And then my life was going to was going to turn into a different TV show and I didn’t want that to happen.

00:23:56 – Glenn Harper

Yeah, you can’t be George Costanza because you get nothing done. But having a great show about nothing is always good. You know, when you’re out there and you’re trying to do your thing as an entrepreneur, the ability to you feel like you have to just stay on point all the time and just focus on one thing and try to get that done. But there’s really that other side where it’s that quest for knowledge, it’s quest for relationships. But people are always scared to ask and or they’re scared to say yes and said, You want to do this? You should always say yes, right? I mean, not all the time, but most of the time, if you would just double up the amount of times you say no and say yes, I can’t imagine how many entrepreneurs out there would be achieve their success that they want so much quicker. And I think that’s just a tragedy that people just don’t talk about.

00:24:42 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, yeah, you’re exactly right. I mean, so even if I go back to my story and start my business in June of 2020 and my business model was or the business plan was live training, there was no live training. It was happening in June. So now I’m trying to say yes to different things. And I know one of your past guests, Janelle, who is a story brand certified guide. I went through and did that and was saying yes to helping some some of my friends with their marketing. And and it was a way to use some of my curation skills on, on writing and clarity and things like that said yes to helping some clients with podcasting, you know, that led to some business there. And so that was really helpful to say yes to a lot of things in the beginning because in the beginning I couldn’t really execute Plan A yet. I was everybody was still learning the virtual training space. And so I was certainly trying to say yes to some virtual trainings, but it was still everybody is trying to figure that out. So saying yes helped me put food on the table for about the first 6 to 8 months of my business.

00:25:44 – Adam Tarnow

Then in 2021, the training started to pick back up and I was able to now start to say no to some of those other things that I said yes to. But I was so grateful for the learnings that happened in there. I mean, obviously as an entrepreneur, I need to know how to market. So I was really grateful that I said yes to some of that. Podcasting is a big part of my business model as well for my own personal brand. And then it’s a way to to help some other clients as well. So I was grateful to say yes to those things because I learned a ton as I went through that. So so yeah, I mean, saying yes is very, very helpful oftentimes. But then there comes a time where you do have to focus. Right, right. And and so I feel like I’m just getting now 18, 20 months in where I have the luxury of saying no or it’s more strategic for me to say no to a few things, to really hone in on the products that are profitable for me and where I think I’m adding the most value and really where where I want to take the business going forward.

00:26:37 – Glenn Harper

Yeah, I think that the beginning entrepreneur then you go through the, you know, figuring out what the heck you want to do and how you want to do it. And then you’re trying to just gather that information and ultimately you find out what you’re going to do and then you’ve got to narrow it back a little bit. But that beginning stage, that’s where that’s the most important time to reach out and get that information. And I think what you said was, you know, we’ll go back 100 years from now and look back at what happened and, you know, 2020 and 2021. And it’s it can’t be any more glaring than you start off. I’m going to do this and instantly that it doesn’t exist. There’s no in person. And you had to do this pivot and go, right, turn, Clyde, and we’re over here doing the virtual thing. And you had to figure it out because as an entrepreneur, you can’t go back now. I mean, you committed I mean, you can’t just stop because you believe in yourself so much. You figured it out. And entrepreneurs, you know, you just don’t get frustrated and and go, Oh, no, what happened to me? It’s got to be like, hey, there’s another opportunity. I got to go through that door now. I mean, that’s the a big takeaway, I hope, from this podcast that people will see that you are going to get roadblocks, you’re going to get pummeled, but you just got to figure out a way to get around that roadblock. And I think you did it pretty well.

00:27:46 – Adam Tarnow

I hope so. Yeah. I mean, one way to judge it would be, you know, my family and I, we haven’t missed a meal and we’ve been able to put gas on the car when we need it, you know, and all that. You haven’t missed a mortgage payment, all that kind of stuff. So so from that perspective, yeah, it’s turned out to be okay. I mean, and again, going back to the courage piece that in 2018, that’s really most of 2019, that’s what I was afraid of. Like, well, will we be able to can I provide for. Or my family. And so from that perspective, it’s great to see that that worked out, you know, and now we can start to dream about where growth takes us and where it goes from here.

00:28:23 – Glenn Harper

But right there is the is the coolest thing ever is that until you commit, you can’t you’re never going to make it work. And when you have to put food on the table, there is no other option and there is no failure. I mean, we can’t say failure in these podcasts, but there there is no going back. So but you can’t commit until your back’s against the wall and you’re looking at your family go, well, you know, this has to work. I have to make this work versus well, I’ll kind of sort of and I’ll get to it next week. I mean, what a great way to get you get you motivated when you don’t have any choices. I mean, that’s a big deal.

00:28:57 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. For 20, 20 some odd years of my career, I had my boss is telling me to think like an owner. Think like an owner. Think like an owner. I understood the the intent there behind that. But it was always difficult to act like an owner sometimes because I wasn’t I mean, it was like this is an acting exercise. I get what you’re trying to tell me to do. You want me to take responsibility? And that was a great a great thing for me to continue to do as a as a young leader. But this is the first time I’ve owned something. And so, yes, there is a when you’re walking across that tightrope and there’s no net, you’re a little more focused and there’s a little more motivation.

00:29:33 – Glenn Harper

It’s the best, though, isn’t it? I mean, it’s an incredible euphoria because you’re just it’s all you. It’s you versus the world. But it it isn’t like an adversarial thing. It’s more like, hey, I can do this. I can compete at this level, I can do this. And it’s a really whole different thing.

00:29:50 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

00:29:52 – Julie Smith

So I have one another question for you. And I think you kind of are at an advantage because you’re in the corporate world and then you were really a big part of your team at the church. But from a leadership perspective and your role in what you’re doing today, what does team mean to you and what how is that influenced where you are and what you’re doing?

00:30:11 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, yeah. That is maybe one of the things I miss the most is that that really that feeling of being on a team because my team right now is me and, and then my wife who is a non paid employee at times. Right. She comes and helps out but it’s like, well, the money’s all going in the same place. So there’s no need to know, need to formalize that by giving you a salary. And so, yeah, for me what I have to do with team is really that, that I don’t want to say joint venture, but those professional relationships where we know there’s going to be mutual benefit. And so some podcast with some friends who also have their own personal brand, but we’re coming together to to do this. So my buddy Clay Scroggins and I, we’ve got a podcast called How to Lead. He’s in Atlanta. I’ve known him for 20 years. I’m here in Dallas. He has a very similar career journey to me. And and it’s trying to do very similar things. And so we have done a joint venture on that podcast to try to come together.

00:31:13 – Adam Tarnow

It helps both of our personal brands, helps us test out some ideas that we’re trying to share with our clients. And then that has naturally led into some other products that we’re trying to do together around, like specifically around employee engagement. Right now, we’ve got this thing called the team engagement sprint and we’re just trying to help organizations and teams that are struggling with retention and engagement. We feel like the workforce is thinking differently about work right now, and so leaders need to start thinking differently about their their workplace and how they engage people. And so those are some things that we’re doing together that does feel like a sense of team. But but I think that would be one area that if you too were my business coach, where you would continue to challenge me to not get isolated and to continue to maintain those professional relationships where there is vulnerability. You’re talking about the highs and the lows. You’re seeking counsel, seeking advice. I think that’s an area where I still have to continue to push myself to do that right now.

00:32:08 – Julie Smith

Do you think when you go into these companies and you provide the training, though, is there some sense of team in that regard? Because essentially they’re hiring you as the captain of their team to lead them to the next level or to take them or pivot or do something like that. You have to kind of get a little bit of that team high when you go in and achieve that.

00:32:26 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, that’s really good. I don’t know if I would have been able to put words on that, but but you’re exactly right. That is it. I mean, especially some of these clients that I’ve had for a long time, I do feel like I’m a part of their team now and they do view me as that trusted advisor. And so, yeah, that is an aspect of it as well, that maybe I haven’t been able to put words on that. But you’re exactly right, there is a high because when they do well, I feel like, okay, I got to contribute to that and that was a lot of fun.

00:32:50 – Glenn Harper

So what’s this is? Again, only an account would understand this humor. But, you know, do you find yourself sometimes you’re sitting there at this organization and you’re doing what you do with them and you’re looking around and go, You guys are doing this all wrong. I could reorganize this thing. I get you a new tax structure, I get a new GL, I get all kinds of things I could do for you and do some multinational corporations. Do you ever? Take that hat totally off. You just kind of bite your tongue and not say anything.

00:33:17 – Adam Tarnow

No, listen, Glenn, I was a very average accountant. I mean, I think I think my career is better that I’m not doing that anymore. And so, no, I often I’ll think about reorganization, but not like, oh, if you set it up this way, it’s more like if you move to that person over there and then that one over there, and if you all were just clear about this, I think this team would do better. So that’s where my brain goes.

00:33:42 – Glenn Harper

Oh, my God, that’s funny. So is it safe to say, you know, as you went through this journey as a kid and here we are today and maybe an accountant and doing all these things, you know, have you defined that your superpower? Like, what is that thing that you’re like, man, I’m I’m just the man at that. This is I just rock this space. Is it talking? Is it looking good? Is it motivating people? You know, what is that.

00:34:07 – Julie Smith

Your NFL linebacker stature, right?

00:34:09 – Adam Tarnow

No, I’ve never gotten so many positive comments about the way I look and I have on this podcast. So I will come back whenever you want me to. No, that’s so funny. Again, I was just thinking about this Monday night. I think I was writing this down because I was in a conversation with a leader. No, it was Tuesday, Tuesday night, where I just asked this leader, he’s the CEO of of an organization here in town. And I just said, hey, what’s your like what’s like what are you a craftsman of? Like, what’s your craftsmanship? So what is this identity that you go, this is who I am and what I do. This is my vocation. So which got me thinking about that. How, how would I describe what what I think I’m good at? And I think I just I’m a teacher. I mean, I think that really is it is I just love to teach. I love to learn. I love to systematize that information and I love to share it with others. I really do that. That is something that I can remember all the way back to eighth grade in my math class being able to. We had a student teacher one semester and she every day we started off with an exercise basically reviewing the lesson that we went over the day before. So we’d show up and there was a lesson or there was a problem on the board. We would all do it, and then the teacher would go through and go over that lesson with the class.

00:35:28 – Adam Tarnow

And I remember she got to the point where she was letting me get up there and teach that exercise and that lesson, like going over it with the class. And I loved it. I was like, okay, I’m going to do this. Hey, can I get up there and can I lead this part of the class? And she was like, Sure. And I remember one time, so she was a student teacher, so her professor was there observing the class and I got up there and did that. And as an eighth grader, I didn’t know who this this lady was in the back. It didn’t. I was just doing my thing. And that professor came up to me at the end of class and she kind of pulled me aside and she just said, I just want to let you know what you did up there was fantastic. And I think you really have some teaching gifts and you should think about that. You know, 14 year old Adam was just like, you know, whatever. I don’t know and didn’t really think much about it. But I can think back to that moment and then just all the moments throughout my career where I felt the most alive and it usually had something to do with teaching. And so so I would say that’s probably what I feel like I’m the best at.

00:36:27 – Julie Smith

So you said something very interesting and powerful in the beginning of this interview, and I think that it really hit home for me because I think that a lot of people don’t see it the way that you said it. And you said leadership is a skill and you just described a skill that you’ve had your entire life and essentially you’ve been able to capitalize on it. But for anyone out there who heard that and it was rattling around again, that that kind of really stuck with me. What advice would you give to people that have that skill, that haven’t been able to capitalize on it or have the awareness about it instead of, like you said, most people think they earn this position to have leadership and that’s just untrue. It’s truly a skill. What what advice would you give them? Because I think that’s.

00:37:08 – Adam Tarnow

So how to grow in the skill of leadership.

00:37:10 – Julie Smith

Yeah. And how to, how to really capitalize on that, understand it, be aware of it. Again, it’s not, you know, it’s not a position that you earn. It’s something that comes from within that you’re able to exert.

00:37:21 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah. I mean so again, my teacher side is going to have a bias towards just go study it. And so that to me is always such a great way to do it. I mean, we live in the golden age of learning right now. I mean, like what we’re doing right now, there’s so much free content out there that there really is no excuse to not be a continuous learner anymore. I mean, between master classes and YouTube and LinkedIn classes and trainings that your company provides and books that are out there in audio books and podcasts, it’s just so I think for some, like it just starts with curiosity and just wanting to learn and finding some voices that really do that you really do resonate with. So like for example, I mentioned Daniel, Daniel Pink, like he would be a mentor of mine that I’ve never met, but I just resonate with the way he talks and the way he communicates. It’s ideas. And he has had a profound influence on my on my leadership skill. I take his ideas from his books. I apply them to my life because he’s so clear when he writes. And I find that very helpful. So I think it’s it’s like finding some voices that you really resonate with and just going, okay, I’m going to I’m going to try to apply what this person says to my leadership journey.

00:38:36 – Adam Tarnow

And I think what what is so freeing about the leadership as a skill is it’s like any skill and it’s like if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it and you can get better at it. So wherever you’re wherever you are right now, you can get better. And so there’s a bunch of ways that you can get better as a leader. But a guy named Clay Scroggins and a guy named Duke Rivard really helped me understand. Clay Scroggins wrote a book back in 2017 called How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, which was such a great title of a book, and it’s so just amazing. And he just really unleashed this idea that leadership is about influence, and you can influence anywhere in the organization, anywhere, I’m sure for your firm right now, you’ve probably got maybe the most influential person in your firm doesn’t have a leadership title, whether it be through a positive attitude that they bring every day or a negative attitude that they bring every day, they’re influencing people.

00:39:29 – Adam Tarnow

And so so leadership is influence. Wherever you sit in the organization, you can have some influence. And then my buddy Duke Rivard, taught me what I think is the best definition of leadership that I’ve ever heard. That to be a leader really is just somebody who takes initiative for the benefit of other people. So you just take initiative for the benefit of other people that so some of those concepts along my leadership journey have really helped form the way I think about it. And so to me it was all just being open, curious, listening for ideas, having a desire to want to get better at that skill. And you’ll always find an opportunity to use it. And I love sharing that with emerging leaders is just do not wait to get the title. You can start leading right now. Where can you take initiative today for the benefit of other people? Go do that. And I’m telling you, you start to do that one day after another, day after another day soon, you’re going to find that a title matches the amount of influence that you’ve got. And with the title, hopefully comes some more financial reward and more opportunity and all that and so on.

00:40:30 – Glenn Harper

It’s eighth grade. When you talked about that, it’s one of the things that I find for myself and Julie, I think probably the same same way on this. And you I’m going to try to put it all together. There’s a lot of thoughts in my head on this, but ultimately you can’t really learn something and know something until you take that and try to teach it to somebody else. For some reason, it just makes you have that clarity. And ultimately there you are helping somebody else. And you’re doing this in eighth grade, right? And here you are, what, ten years later? 15 years later, you’re doing it now. But whatever that is.

00:41:08 – Adam Tarnow

For the record, that’s the third positive element.

00:41:11 – Glenn Harper

We’re always keeping it positive.

00:41:13 – Adam Tarnow

But my wife’s going to get jealous. I know she’s going to be like, Hey, I don’t know what’s going on.

00:41:16 – Glenn Harper

Who is this guy? And I think that that the teaching part is really everything in life now, because once you acquire that knowledge, why not might not teach somebody and not only resonates more with you, but you’re helping somebody else. And then the other thing in eighth grade that I can probably count on my on one hand out of like 1000 schools, how many people want to get up and actually do the hardest thing ever at that age and go in front of speaking people speak in front of people like it’s impossible. But ultimately your deepest, darkest fears, scariness, whatever that is, go do that. The first thing when you get done with this podcast, go, go put a trench on your face. I don’t care. Whatever that thing is, you literally, once you overcome that fear, you are a different person because you don’t have those shackles on you anymore. You can be free again. So those biggest fears are things you’re scared of. Just do those first, first thing in the morning and everything else is downhill.

00:42:10 – Adam Tarnow

That’s right. That’s right. That’s really good advice. I like that.

00:42:13 – Glenn Harper

Well, I think we got one more kind of final question that well, I guess I got two. The first one is, you know, when we see people as entrepreneurs are kind of doing two things. One, they’re kind of doing business when they have the skill set and they’re doing what they do and they do it very well. And you can make a great living at that. You find your balance if you do it right and there’s nothing wrong with doing business. But sometimes people want to make the conversion where they say, Look, I’m tired of just doing all the work. I want to build a business. Do you see yourself? I see you kind of as doing business right now. Do you see yourself ever wanting to go build this mega business or are you pretty happy doing what you do? And you find your right balance and you’re making what you want to make and do what you want to do, or you’re like, you know? And Glenn, it’s a funny conversation. Five years from now, I want to have 37 consultants like me doing this.

00:43:01 – Adam Tarnow

That I don’t know honestly how to answer that great answer. Right now I’m very content with what I’ve got. And that was one of the that was surprising on this entrepreneurial journey. How many leaders when I was when I were talking to them, they were asking me, so are you going to build a business or are you going to be a solopreneur? Like, what’s what are you going to do? And so I think right now there’s a tremendous amount of contentment as a solopreneur, personal brand doing. And I have some examples in my mind which has been very powerful for me to just think through, not where do I want to be with some numbers or some words written down, but put some faces out there of people who I think are doing at a high level what I would want to do. And so there’s a guy like Jon Acuff comes to mind is a guy who I’ve never met but seems to be doing some very similar things under his own personal brand, writing books and speaking and doing trainings. And so I’m attracted to that. I think the the autonomy that he has and the upside I like the downside is you’ve got to buy the business from yourself along the way because there’s no exit strategy. And I think as an accountant, I appreciate understanding that, that right now I can’t just take all the revenue and put it in my pocket. I’ve got to start buying the business from myself if I’m not going to grow it and sell it one day.

00:44:19 – Glenn Harper

Oh, so now you’re bringing all the accounting in. Now I get it. I see how you’re drawing. I see what you’re doing.

00:44:23 – Adam Tarnow

For that skill. That’s right. Very great.

00:44:25 – Glenn Harper

So final question is, you know, what’s the end game? I mean, is everybody not everybody, but a lot of entrepreneurs think they have to chase this magical number thing, whatever that is. I don’t really get that feel for me. These are chasing anything. You’re just having a good time and for some reason you get paid.

00:44:45 – Adam Tarnow

Yeah, I do have some owners intent in Casey Graham’s new book, The No BS Small Business Book, a great resource that I would recommend for for entrepreneurs. I just read it two weeks ago. It was very, very fast. Read the first section there. He talks about owners intent. What is your intent? Like, what are you trying to do? And your owner’s intent can change as your business changes. My owner’s intent is very focused right now on what I would say is building a platform. And for the first time in my life, I think I understand why I want to build a platform. It felt very icky to say that before because it was like, I don’t want to be famous, right? I’m not trying to be famous. I’m not trying to be a celebrity platform. Felt like fame or something. Like I was telling everybody, I just want to be rich and famous, you know, like all the millennials want. And so it felt like that. But but I understand now that I want to build a platform, because what I want to do, if I think about the spectrum of hustle for work versus manage the demand that people are reaching out to you for work. I’m way over here on Hustle, right? I’m sending out emails.

00:45:44 – Adam Tarnow

I’m asking for business. I’m trying to do things to build the platform, build the email list, build the LinkedIn subscribers or the LinkedIn followers and connections. Because what I want to do is I kind of want to not mark it right? Like that takes up so much time to mark it. So I want to get a platform to make selling easier and to build that tribe that knows me, trust me, and they will continue to hire me again. So that that’s my endgame right now is just thinking through the platform building. And that’s my owner’s intent now. And I think once I reach that goal, then I’ll have to think about the next owner’s intent where where I think that’s when I would get to the language of what is the endgame, how much longer do I want to do this for? And probably I think right now my accounting brain, I would just pick a number that I feel like my wife and I need in the account and then just start working backwards and just go, okay, what? We’ve got ten years now. How far away are we from that number? And and I think that’s I think that’s how we’d solve that problem.

00:46:44 – Glenn Harper

But that’s a trick question because there’s not a number. Just so you know, the accountant wants to make a number, but there’s no number. There is not there. And the other funny thing you said, like, you just can’t get away of being an accountant. I’m just sorry. You just can’t, because here you are saying you don’t like to do sales. Are you kidding me? An account that doesn’t like to do sales that just doesn’t exist. That’s the funniest thing ever.

00:47:03 – Adam Tarnow

But I’m so rare.

00:47:05 – Glenn Harper

I know. It’s so bizarre. Not stereotypical at all. Well, Adam, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. I hope all of our listeners. They glean some some points that will resonate with them and help them maybe make that next step to try to be all they can be and live the dream that’s out there for all of us to do. Again, this Glen Harper. And thanks again for joining us today.

00:47:28 – Julie Smith

And Julie Smith.

00:47:29 – Glenn Harper

Take care.

00:47:30 – Adam Tarnow

Thanks, guys.

Episode Show Notes

Adam Tarnow is our guest. He is the founder of Adam Tarnow & Company, a leadership development firm located in Dallas, TX. They develop customized training to equip professionals with the soft skills they need to become excellent leaders.

What does Adam do for his clients?

Curation is a word that I’m starting to really grow comfortable with. When I first thought about what I wanted to do as a consulting firm focused on leadership development, I was thinking that I would develop my own custom content or come up with my own custom content, and I do that. But then I realized there’s really nothing new under the sun, right? A lot of what I do is I’m standing on the shoulders of other great authors or thinkers and the ideas that they’ve shared with the world. And I’m just kind of organizing all of that. So I really do think curation is a very accurate way to describe what I do. And when I present this content to my clients, the only customized piece that I get to add to it or where I get to put my fingerprint on it, is really deciding how to organize the content.

So Adam went to school, became a CPA, then you got out of that and you became a minister. How did you fall into leadership development?

The only metaphor I can find out there that seems to really describe it well, is it my career has turned into a Seinfeld episode, where you just had all of these plot lines that seem to make no sense. And then at the very end, it’s like, oh, that, okay, now that all make sense how that came together.

So being a CPA has taught me is how to think. It taught me about corporate America, it taught me about large organizations, certainly taught me how to be organized and thoughtful. What ministry taught me was people just we’re all the same. We all have the same issues. We have the same thoughts, feelings, emotions. It taught me how people think and react. It taught me a lot.

When you are growing as fast as Adam’s business is, there’s time to say yes to all opportunities, but then there’s the time when you have to make the hard choices to say no.

In 2021, the training started to pick back up and I was able to now start to say no to some of those other things that I said yes to. But I was so grateful for the learnings that happened in there. I mean, obviously, as an entrepreneur, I need to know how to market. So I was really grateful that I said yes to some of that. Podcasting is a big part of my business model as well as for my own personal brand. So I was grateful to say yes to those things because I learned a ton as I went through that. So so yeah, I mean, saying yes is very, very helpful oftentimes. But then there comes a time where you do have to focus.

Do you think when you go into these companies and you provide the training, though, is there some sense of team in that regard?

I do feel like I’m a part of their team now and they do view me as that trusted advisor. There is a high because when they do well, I feel like, okay, I got to contribute to that and that was a lot of fun.

What does Adam consider his superpower to be?

I think I just I’m a teacher. I mean, I think that really is it. I just love to teach. I love to learn. I love to systematize that information and I love to share it with others. I can remember all the way back to eighth grade in my math class and the teacher letting me get up there and teach that exercise and that lesson, like going over it with the class. And I loved it.

What advice would you give to people that have that “skill of leadership,” but haven’t been able to capitalize on it or have the awareness of that skill?

My teacher side of me is going to have a bias towards just go study it. And so that to me is always such a great way to do it. This is really no excuse to not be a continuous learner anymore. I mean, between master classes and YouTube and LinkedIn classes and training that your company provides and books that are out there, as well as audiobooks and podcasts. I think for some, it just starts with curiosity and just wanting to learn and finding some voices that really do that you really do resonate with.

And what is his endgame?

My owner’s intent is very focused right now on what I would say is building a platform. And for the first time in my life, I think I understand why I want to build a platform.

Adam is referencing:

On a mission to curate the most helpful leadership content my clients have ever encountered.

Adam’s Website

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Episode Transcription 00:00:00 - Glenn Harper Well, everyone, welcome to another edition of Empowering Entrepreneurs, The Harper Company Way. This is Glen Harper, 00:00:06 - Julie Smith Julie Smith. 00:00:06 - Glenn Harper And we've got a special guest today. We've...

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Entrepreneurial Success Formula: How to Avoid Managing Your Business From Your Bank Account