HR in the Car - Episode 5: "Cardiothoracic HR"
In this week’s episode, we chat with John Kuznia, owner of Truman Solutions. Hear how John likes to introduce himself, as well as his unique perspective on being both an experienced HR professional as well as a CPA – something we certainly don’t hear every day. John’s unique perspective in supporting the human services industry has given him some great stories you’ll hear about along with his jovial personality.
More about John:
John T. Kuznia is Truman Solutions’ owner and principal consultant. He has over 35 years of experience in business administration as a CFO and HR Director. As a consultant, he has assisted dozens of companies by filling interim leadership roles, managing transformative projects, or providing ongoing support for the organization’s financial or human resources functions. He earned his CPA while working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Albany, and is certified as a Sr. Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and a SHRM-SCP. John also taught as an adjunct instructor in Human Resource Management at the Sage Graduate School, and as a guest lecturer at UAlbany.He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Capital Region Human Resource Association. He also advises and serves as an Officer on the Board of Directors of CAPTAIN/CHS, a local non-profit.
John T. Kuznia, CPA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Truman Solutions, www.trumansolutions.com
John’s unique affinity for both accounting and human resources made this recent SHRM article particularly appealing. It discusses the importance and the organizational benefits of true collaboration between the HR and finance functions. It was honest about the obstacles in the way (not the least of which were two different languages) but gave some good advice on how the HR professional can drive the collaborative process.
John’s Community Interests
Time, Talent, and Treasure – Think of what you can give any non-profit. Volunteer (time), Contribute financially (Treasure), and share your skills with others (talent).
Voiceover: Welcome to HR in the car with Miriam Dushane and Tom Schin of Alaant workforce solutions, where exciting HR professionals and business leaders share laughter, insider stories and maybe even a few tears about HR in today's world. Buckle up for the best half-hour of your week.
Tom: So, Miriam, when I think about our next guest, I think of Monty Python. If I had to describe that or your latest HR professional, who would you think of?
Miriam: Well, I mean, I already know who it is. It's John Kuznia near.
Tom: The last time I saw John in person pre-pandemic, we were at some sort of happy hour networking function, and I had a little black knight lapel pin go along with my bow tie, as you know.
Miriam: Of course.
Tom: And, you know, most folks don't catch up on these little goofy pins that I have, you know, my Captain America one. But John immediately sees he's like, Is that the Black Knight? He's like ,'tis but a scratch! I'm like, oh, John, I love you.
Miriam: Yeah, he's, he's our kind of people. Well, John and I go way back, and there was a company a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time ago up in Luther Forest. And I was back then in my career, I was cold calling and prospecting and doing, you know, the whole drop off offices, that type of thing. And he totally rejected me like five times. And I don't let him forget that to this day that he didn't want even talk to me back then. And now look at us. We're like best friends.
Tom: So I shouldn't tell you that he let me in the door the first day.
Miriam: Yeah, I had a feeling that might have something to do with it. Maybe he saw this short, little, cute blonde and was like, She doesn't know what she's talking about.
Tom: Oh, that's too funny.
Miriam: Yeah, that was was the case. But at the same time, that does make me a little annoyed. I'm going to have to get back to him for that. Anyway.
Tom: He had some great stories today, though, that we were going to share. So if you're interested in learning about John's career as a cardiothoracic surgeon plays out listen in to this conversation.
Miriam: So, John, tell me and Tom, when you're at a cocktail event and we use that specifically because it could be family, friends, maybe not a networking event or a business activity. How do you describe to others what you do? So not your elevator pitch, but just John, what do you do?
John: Well, if it's somebody that doesn't know me, the first thing I tell them is that I'm a cardiothoracic surgeon, obviously, because it is really interesting. And people go, Oh my God, you save lives for living. Then once they figure out I'm really not that I tell them exactly what I do. I tell them I'm an HR consultant and I help small and medium sized businesses with their HR needs. It could be establishing systems and processes, or it could be that lifeline. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, you need somebody to reach out to, How do I handle this? So it's really everything from soup to nuts. People understand, I think, that some businesses don't need or can't afford or can't justify a full time HR resource. So they just need somebody they can go to when they have a question or they just need something done in HR.
Miriam: And I think that's really important. Everybody, even a very small business of a couple of people, they really do need that because there's so many things that affect us day in and day out. And I'm working with a company right now and I was like, so, you know, we have doubled your workforce. You have X, Y, Z, many employees, you know, I noticed you haven't been doing lately or at all do you have your harassment training, your New York State mandated harassment training in place? What's that?
Miriam: Mm hmm. No.
John: And it's true. So many companies used to be that you had to be, you know, a certain size, right? A lot of these laws applied. Now, it seems every time you turn around, I don't care if you have one employee. And the administrative burden and the regulatory burden is incredible. So you need somebody there you can reach out to to just to stay compliant?
Miriam: Definitely. Absolutely.
Tom: Yeah. It's funny, John, we were talking with another John, the famous John Bagyi recently, and he was telling about telling us about some of the new things that are coming down that are even more applicable to smaller businesses. Just because they don't have any of that oversight. They're not thinking about the big picture, about having to retain an attorney, go to court, planning for all the time and all that stuff around it. It's just it's maddening.
John: Well, and funny you should mention it, because a lot of small companies, when they do have these questions, they think that's the first place they need to go, is to an attorney. Labor attorney?
Miriam: Mm hmm.
John: And we all know they cost a certain amount. And, you know, people like me can fill in that gap aren't quite as expensive. I only wish I could charge that much, but no, you can still get 90% of your answers, you know, from somebody like me.
John: And they won't get you in trouble, hopefully. Yeah.
Tom: Well, and, John, you have that unique perspective because you have both the financial history as well as the history. So you blend that together in your approach, both with your customers and your knowledge base. Tell us a little bit about that and what you're seeing and what you've come across this last year to our in our in our universe.
John: Sure. Well, you know, as you know, you know, finance and HR are both kind of administrative functions, but they both need to be done well if you're really going to support and bring value to an organization. And, you know, the two are inextricably attached, if you ask me, your greatest cost. And most companies are your people. And, you know, we all know the cost of turnover and things like that. So, you know, smart financial professionals realize the value in HR and vice versa. And, you know, when you look at, you know, challenges in the industry nowadays, especially after COVID, we all know what happened. We had the big resignation still going on. And expectations of employees are higher than they've ever been. And the market has been such that you cannot find help regardless. And it spans the entire spectrum, whether you're talking traditionally lower paid jobs or higher paid professional jobs, it's simply impossible to find people. What does that mean? Creates pressures financially. If you're going to try to fill a position, sometimes you have to pay a lot more than you expected. You know, I came out of an organization recently in the Human Services field, which has always been plagued by high turnover and low wages.
Miriam: Mm hmm.
John: You know, this was a very forward thinking organization that had actually experienced about a 35% turnover rate.
Miriam: Oh, my goodness.
John: Which was traditionally. And the funny part is it was usually traditionally better than market. It was about 20% on average. And then a year into the pandemic, it was up around 35. So we knew that the the future of the organization was in the balance. And the organization made a very pointed, concerted effort to invest in wages for all of its people. And it was about a 20% average increase for most of the employees.
John: Which was unheard of. And a lot of nonprofits can't do that.
John: Fortunately this organization could. Yeah, it was a big move, and it really did bend the curve. I mean, we had actually we had a lot of difficulty hiring people. And once that was put out into the into the market, what the new starting wage was, it really did turn the tide.
Miriam: So when this company was doing that with the starting wages, I'm going to presume that they also fixed the equity within the organization for people had already been there, I hope.
John: Oh, absolutely. And it was a sliding scale kind of scenario where we also tried to account for tenure with the organization. So it was a significant investment and it's going to continue to be obviously, this is a cost that's going to be sustained for the future. And that was a really smart move. The short term impact was immediate.
Miriam: So, John, are you still a CPA? Do you still? Yes. Okay. So when you were doing that with the organization, I'm assuming obviously we want to give everyone 20% raises, right?
Miriam: Yeah. Oh, boy. You're here.
Miriam: Oh, boy. Right. So talk to us a little bit more about the the financial considerations that went into play when you were doing that, because I I'm going to bring this up, but I envision spreadsheets. And we were just talking to Kathleen Pingelski about spreadsheets. And you know me, you know, I hate spreadsheets.
John: But I'll tell you what, you hit the nail on the head. Yeah. I you know, in a lot of organizations, you know, people aren't really financially oriented. So you've got the finance person run the spreadsheet. You got the HR person saying, here's what we want to do. But we had to run numerous scenarios, as you can imagine. What if we did this? What if we did that? I built these spreadsheets that were just as an accountant. I was getting pretty excited.
Miriam: I'm starting to doze off over here talking about spreadsheets.
John: But, but that was the key, was that we had to have the flexibility so that if the CEO said, you know what, if we made it 10% instead of 15, or what if we gave, you know, $0.25 credit for every year or $0.30 credit for every year or whatever the scenario was, you had to build this crazy.
Miriam: Holy formula, Batman.
John: You're not kidding.
Tom: I love it. I'm doing the math in my head, John.
John: Oh, it's nuts. But but for me, I mean, it was it was really interesting because I could I had that flexibility. I built it in and it took a long time to put together. But once the CEO said, listen, I've gotten the board to agree to X amount, you know, per year of an investment, then we could run these scenarios and back into that bogey number, if you will.
John: And then the HR Part of me was like, okay, how do we do this in the most equitable fashion while trying to, you know, give credit for the tenure that we wanted to, but also attract people coming off the street? Yeah, because you need to throw a lot of money at them just to get them in.
Miriam: Just to even look in your direction.
John: Right. And if you do that without thinking of the people that are already in your organization, then obviously you've got some retention issues.
Miriam: Yeah, huge issues.
John: I mean, nothing's perfect, but this thing, a lot of work went into it and it made a lot of sense. And like I said, it's been, oh my gosh, probably a year since. And I keep in touch with that organization. And turnover rates have stabilized back to more normal levels pre-pandemic.
Miriam: Oh, that's good. That's good.
Tom: So what I what I heard you say there, John, is number one. You HR folks out there trying to do this salary adjustment element is build a spreadsheet. And start with a giant number.
Miriam: Yeah. Make the finance guy your bestest friend.
John: It's true. I mean, let's face it, every organization has to operate within a budget. You have to know coming into it what you can afford. Obviously, you have to know you need to make the investment for your long term stability. But you got to know what you can afford. You don't want to do something and you find yourself out of business because of it.
Miriam: Right. Absolutely
Tom: right. And then for the long haul, too, it's not just 20, 22, but building into your long term budgets. You know, two, three, four years out, because that's not going to go anywhere. It's it's going to get more and more challenging.
John: It is so true. You got to just be prepared for the challenge to continue.
Miriam: Yeah, it's interesting. I was reading more recently that maybe maybe it's leveling off salary wise. Are you seeing that with any of your clients and what's going on? I don't know if I'm there yet myself.
John: Yeah, I guess I'd have to say it's it's based on the industry and the availability of the talent because, you know, just like before the pandemic, you know, there's different dynamics for each industry. I can tell you that nonprofits and human services and that I spend a lot of time with nonprofits, and that is continually a challenge. It always has been. It's just more of a challenge. Now, if you can sell the mission and people recognize that they're not going to get rich in a nonprofit, but other industries I know high tech and, you know, certain sciences and other technical, it's always going to be difficult. And the expectation isn't just about salary anymore.
John: Right. What's it about? Everybody wants to work from home now.
Miriam: Oh, everybody does.
John: Everybody does. So those organizations that are trying to bring people back, they're facing a challenge because let's face it, that's perceived as a take away. And, you know, if you had the flexibility of working from home. You're going to want to continue to do it. And when you are saying, no, it's time to come back. It has actually created issues in some people, that's one. You know, people might say, I'm going to go look for another job now.
Miriam: Oh, absolutely. It's funny because I think I think some employers also thought that, okay, if well, if I law for a work from home situation or a hybrid situation, I may not have to be as competitive salary wise. And they're quickly finding out that.
Miriam: That's not the case. So it's not the case where we want it all, don't we? We do, we want it all.
Miriam: And a bag of chips?
John: It does help, though. I mean, helps a little bit when, you know, especially when you're competing with another employer and that candidate says, well, if I get some flexibility out of you, which the other employee might not provide, then yes, that gives you the edge.
Miriam: Any thoughts around, you know, Human Services, that's pretty much a hands on type of need to be there, you're giving direct care to other individuals. You can't do that remotely.
John: That's true.
Miriam: Do you have any thoughts around other things those types of organizations might be able to put into place to compete with? And I do think the industry, you know, people in a human services, health care, those types of industries, they understand what they're signing up for. But you know, what else can we do to offer something, flexibility, whatever it might be, that could help an organization kind of keep those people. So it's like, listen, we know you can't work from home, but we're going to do these things to kind of make it a little bit easier.
John: You know, I think the more family friendly your policies are, the better off you're going to be. Mm hmm. Because if you can't give that flexibility in terms of remote work, you can give the flexibility in terms of time off. You know, it's it's offering anything that you can to make up for it. You know, a lot of nonprofits and health care and other human services, they've already got a pretty broad approach when it comes to benefits, but things like tuition reimbursement, things like that. Anything you can throw in there that'll make up for it because it is it's tough to compete with working fully remote. But you're right, people do understand when they go into a job like that, it's because they they are mission oriented. They want to help people and they know it's going to be hands on. So they kind of expect that. But when their friends are all working from home.
John: So it's really all about providing as much flexibility to the schedule as possible. I think that's really the only thing you can do aside from actually allowing somebody to work from home.
Miriam: You know, I've heard also, I'm just going to use my son as an example. He's 22 years old, finishing up college. He's got you know, he's been working in an office environment. He actually has the option of doing a little bit more hybrid or remote work. But, you know, it's interesting when I say that he wants to go to the office every day. Mm hmm. And, yeah, he has his mama who is talking and chirping in his ear and saying what the benefits are going to the office and how much more he's going to be able to learn from his peers and all of those things. But I actually find that a lot of our youngest generation that is moving into the workforce, so college to the workforce for the most part, I would say at this scale tips more towards them wanting to be in an office environment, so forth.
Tom: I see that too.
Miriam: So employers who are so worried about this, I think that they can take some solace in the fact that it's our old, it's me, I don't want to go to the office every day.
John: Because you've been doing that your entire career.
Miriam: My entire career.
John: You want the change. Right. It's not a change for them now or for them going into an office. You know, I don't care how good you make a Zoom or, you know, a go to meeting, whatever these whatever the the medium is, there is no replacement for a face to face interaction to be able, you know, communication as we know, the majority of which is non-verbal. You can't really communicate with somebody over a phone, on a speaker phone or even in a Zoom meeting, because we all know people are distracted. But the real, real collaboration happens face to face. It happens with a group of people when you're interacting and there's no real replacement for that.
Miriam: You know, I think maybe college kids figured that out was when they were forced to be in those Zoom classrooms and then when they had to go back into the real thing. Both my kids, I got a 22 and a 20 year old. Both were like, thank God, we're around people. We're collaborating, we're having discussions, we're doing those things again. So hopefully, maybe, you know, it's working both ways, right?
John: Absolutely. Learning is something that is even more important that you be involved. You have to be immersed. I mean, there's nothing like a classroom discussion, right? Yeah. Again, even if it's over Zoom, it doesn't facilitate it. Well, you've got to be able to be immersed in it. So, I mean, teaching, working, collaborating all has to happen in-person.
Miriam: Definitely. Definitely.
Tom: A lot of that is spur of the moment stuff, too. We see it in our office. We're typically in once or twice a week with our different groups. And you can see the smiles and the energy in that spur of the moment conversation that comes up because somebody is asking a question someone else hears it. H as nothing to do with that conversation, but they're learning and they're chiming in. And sometimes it's the wisecracks. Sometimes it's, Hey, I had that scenario, too. But it's that on the spot moments where you make those connections, you realize that, yeah, you're doing the same thing. I am your experience, the same thing I am. Or you can relate to my pain and frustration or my success and my happiness all at the same time.
John: And the real relationships that you build at work. They're not in the meeting. It's after the meeting. It's in between the meetings. It's walking down the hallway. Hey, what'd you do yesterday? You know? Oh, I saw you at the ball game. Whatever. That's how the relationships are built. And that's where that's where people get the engagement and the real joy out of working for a living.
Miriam: Yeah, I love our environment only because I like working from home, because when I need to be focused, I can be. I remember even saying to Tom, Listen, the day that you're in the office with your team, that's going to be your least productive day plan on it being your least productive day, from a work product. And I'm using air quotes.
John: From an output standard.
Miriam: But from a collaboration and team building and all of those other things that are just so important. Yeah, that's what you're focusing on that day.
John: Absolutely. Yeah.
Tom: And that was a big adjustment for me. I can remember one day I, I, I brought a deck, go ahead.
Miriam: I was going to say you were physically like I could, we could tell you were like physically like stressed out. We had to like talk you off the ledge because he's Like
Tom: What is happening!
Miriam: He's watching this one go off and they do Tik-toks for some of our branding and marketing and they were, you know, collaborating on that and they were doing tiktoks and someone else was doing something. And I could just see like his, like his whole presence was like.
Miriam: They're not working. And I'm like
Tom: And I had to tell one of our people, I'm like, it took me a while to come to terms with it. Like, I know that I preach, this is good, this is what we want you to be doing. But to internalize that after 20 some years of not doing that and it was it was like, you know, your worlds were colliding, you know, kind of Kramer and and George and Seinfeld.
John: That's right. Well, you know what? Everybody has their preference. And I've worked so much from home over the last several years that when a client wants me on site, I'm like, Get me there.
Miriam: Yeah, I love the work from home. And then the still being able to meet people in person and go to lunch and go to their offices and that I like that nice mix absolutely.
Tom: So John, we talk about our questions of the week with each of our guests. We run these through LinkedIn and all of our social channels and newsletters and we get a lot of responses from them, usually pretty short, kind of yes, no or option one, two or three kind of discussion points. This week we wanted to ask you about accommodating for inclusive or neurodivergent employees and what your thoughts were on that. When we asked that question in terms of which workplaces were accommodating for inclusive or neurodivergent, I can't say it right. Neurodivergent employees we had a quarter of the respondents say yes, a quarter and say no, and the rest of them were wondering what is neurodivergent?
Miriam: So yeah.
Tom: Tell us a little bit of your spin on that and what's your take on what you've seen? You know, certainly from working in that nonprofit side, the human service side, but also just with your client base.
John: Oh, sure, sure. Well, I knew what it meant only because, again, I've spent a lot of time in human services, specifically in the developmental disabilities area.
John: So we were you know, those of us who work in that business, we're used to having neurodivergent or, you know, people on the spectrum, people with various disabilities and very used to that. However, I also looked at and stood back and said, What's funny is when you know Neurodivergent is a label for something that has always been in the workplace, we have always worked, look back at sure X amount of years and your and your work history and you've always worked with somebody who was really neurodivergent at the time we may have said, Oh, that's just that person's unique or that person's odd. Now we understand that they may be on the spectrum. I mean, look at Elon Musk. This is a man who's, you know, one of the richest but probably the richest man in America who said that he was on the spectrum. I think he said he had Asperger's or something. There's also people who have, you know, dyslexia. There's various other things that when you step back and think about it, we've always had neurodivergent people in the workplace. We just never really noticed it.
Miriam: Right? Yeah.
John: When you think about this, some industries almost rely upon people who tend to be Neurodivergent I know in your career you've dealt a lot with hiring IT professionals, right? I don't want to pick on any particular role or discipline, but people who are software engineers, people who, you know, deal with IT, you know. It's almost a preference that they they tend to focus on certain things. Right, which makes them very good at it. And I got to tell you, I have a story about a Neurodivergent person, and I never realized it until after I had this discussion with the person. I was at a company. They built routers and wireless routers and things like that. So they had a lot of software engineers and software developers, and there was this young kid who we had as a temp. He had done a good job, so we were going to make him permanent. So I'm talking like he gets in my office. I said, Hey, congratulations, we're going to make you a permanent employee. And I hand him an offer letter and I say, Here's your offer, describes your pay and benefits or whatnot. So, so do me a favor. Look it over. If you have any questions, get back to me. So about a half an hour goes by. He comes back to my office and he says, you know, I'm sorry, John, but I can't sign this. I said, okay, I'm figuring this kid's going to try to negotiate with me, right? He doesn't know what he's up against. So let's dance. So so he he puts the offer letter on my on my desk and points to this one paragraph, as in, this is where I have the issue. And it's this innocuous statement that says something like this offer supersedes all previous offers, which is pretty standard language you put in there. Right? Nobody pays attention to it. He's saying it's a sentence. Right. Here I go. Well, I start explaining to him what it means. He goes, No, I understand that, but it's this right here. He points to this one portion of a sentence where I had ommitted an and and I had a comma where a period should have been. And I go, Oh. So I reach over and I change it. And I put my initials next to it and I fixed it. And then I roll it to him and I go, How does that look? He goes, Okay, yeah, great. I'll take the job.
John: So think about it. At first I was like, I just had a real, you know, strange guy. But then I realized this man writes code for a living. And if a period is in the wrong spot, is not a comma, the code is not going to work.
John: So it really made me appreciate neurodiversity in the workplace because in some positions you need people to be so laser focused and they may not have the social skills we want. They may not be able to resolve conflict with other people in the workplace, whatever the case may be. But we as we appreciate their strengths and we learn to work around their differences and help them with the issues they might have. So it's really it was an interesting learning experience, I have to tell you.
Miriam: So, yeah, yeah. That's it's a great way of looking at it. Absolutely. And I do think you're right. A lot of times people are labeled as quirky or different or whatever. And I think we've come a long way as a society in terms of that. Still a lot to learn. True. But yeah, you're absolutely right. You want him to not want to sign that offer letter because the comma was in the wrong spot and it should have been a period.
John: You know, we talk about all of the forms of diversity, you know, cultural, religious. Why not neurodiversity? Right. And once you understand where someone's coming from, what their experiences are, you know, what their DNA is like, kind of then it's so much easier, you know, to work with someone and not, you know, not be concerned about what's different about them.
Miriam: What's interesting about that, though, is that, you know, a lot of companies say that they want to be inclusive or they're they're making strives to be inclusive. But then, unfortunately, they're not looking at how they operate, say, the hiring cycle within their organization. My sister had brought to my attention and others in our office a woman online, and I forget her name, but she does YouTube videos about Neurodivergency and she was saying that the company had sent her basically all this information about prepping before the interview, what to wear, how to talk, how to act.
Miriam: And all of these things were triggers for this woman to basically have huge levels of anxiety, like simply couldn't even figure out, like, what am I going to wear on the zoom call because I don't want to wear any bold prints. Well, what does the definition of a bold print as opposed to a non bold? What is this, a bright color or is this a bright color? And, you know, don't fidget on your call. And she's like, I need to have a stress ball in my hand so that I can basically help myself relax while I'm talking to someone, because that's a thing that I struggle with. And so her point was and she went through like a laundry list of things.
Miriam: It was a fantastic video.
Miriam: We had been guilty of, our clients had been guilty of. And it was a holy crap moment because we weren't even looking through it through the right lens. And so, you know, obviously we want to encourage employers and HR Folks to try to do it from that because they can say, well, yeah, absolutely. We'll, we'll keep all of those things in mind and be inclusive, but. They're eliminating those individuals even during the interview process, because they don't even realize that their process might be the thing that is non-inclusive.
Miriam: So absolutely.
Tom: And if you add to that, some of the organizations that don't have an HR presence or they're not involved in that frontline interview, you think about how many of those front line managers aren't even aware of a what neurodivergence is that it's a thing that it's something they should be paying attention to. Yes, they recognize when folks might be categorized as quote unquote quirky or odd or what have you. But how many great people are they missing out on because they haven't been made aware of the strengths that somebody might have when they come into the workforce. They're just thinking about the ways to rule them out or why they won't succeed.
John: So true. So true. And and this is where the person can be that objective person and challenge, you know, how how do you think that really is going to make a difference in the workplace?
Miriam: Exactly. Exactly.
John: Great example. I had a a CEO. We were hiring for a high level position. I think it was an HR Director and had a perfectly qualified candidate, answered everything very well, had a great background, an otherwise perfect candidate at the end of the interview, was talking with the CEO and I said, what do you think? She said, did you notice? He kept blinking his eyes really hard? Did you notice that.
John: He had a tick, that where he would blink.
John: And I of course I noticed it. But I also said to myself, I said, okay, and how does that impact his ability to do this job?
John: It's it's just very distracting. Okay, it's distracting.
Miriam: But sounds like that's where you problem.
John: So I'm trying to, like, carefully bring this person along saying, do you realize this is an otherwise perfectly qualified candidate? And I she still would not go for it. And we hired somebody else who lasted three months. So.
Miriam: Well, there you go.
John: But it is it's it's just like any other, a form of, dare I say, prejudice or prejudgment about how someone acts. But we just have to keep reminding ourselves and reminding others about what really matters.
Miriam: Absolutely. Definitely. So have you ever thought about writing a book?
John: You know what? Every day I think about it. In fact, I wish I kept a journal my entire life.
Miriam: Mm hmm.
John: Because I want to write a book. I'm either going to be a standup comic, or I'm going to write a book, and I'll probably do a lot better at writing a book.
Tom: You could write a book about being a standup comic from the lens of a CPA HR Professional.
John: This is the thing. I mean, my book would have, you know, the first several chapters to be about my growing up in Saratoga and all the stupid things we did. But then it would be about the career.
Miriam: Before there was Twitter and social media, and cameras and on phones.
John: Yes. You couldn't, you know.
John: You can get picked up once you picked up a you know, a pay phone to get picked up.
John: Yes. I want to I want to write a book and god knows being in HR You know, for as long as i have plenty of content. No doubt about it.
Miriam: Aside from the amazingly detail oriented and fantastic software engineer that, you know, caught your grammar errors, what other incident or situation comes to mind that you would love to talk about or write a story about?
John: What's funny is if you look back at some of the crazy thing that's happened in my career, the one that really comes to my mind first is something that happened to me as opposed to something.
John: Strange that someone else has done. Because God knows there's plenty of that.
John: All right. So this was this was about 20 years ago. I was a CFO in a large organization. And I was a couple of years into the job, about two years. I had from day one, had some conflict with the CEO. I mean, obviously, I spent a lot of time working with this individual, but pretty much from the start we had different management styles and it was a stressed out relationship, so it wasn't getting better. So two years into it, I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall and I said, You know what? I better I better take some steps and protect myself. So I started looking for a job. And if you recall 20 years ago, where did you go to look for a job?
Miriam: I got 20 years ago is probably the paper.
John: The paper. The Sunday Times Union, right?
Miriam: Oh heck yeah. And the deadline was like 1:00 on Friday. So I would scramble around like a crazy person to get my ads in.
John: And so we would wait every week. You'd wait until the Sunday Times came out, right?
Miriam: Okay. I know where you're going to go with this.
John: You would open up that those want ads. And boy, I figured the display ad the better the job. Right. So I'm sitting there I'm you know, drinking my coffee, reading my and this I see this display ad for a financial position and it's like, wow, this looks this looks pretty good. I'm reading through and I go, I could do this. And as I'm reading through it, I'm kind of like as I'm reading a short description of the company. It was a blind ad, by the way.
Miriam: Oh, okay. Yeah.
John: So I'm reading. And as I'm reading and going through the details, I'm saying, wow, I could do this. It sounds quite familiar. And then it hits me. That's my job.
Miriam: That's my job! I knew you were going to say that.
John: That is my job. And I go, Oh, my gosh, well,
Miriam: I better look for a new job!
John: At first sight. Of course, I was shocked at first. And then, of course, I got a little miffed.
Miriam: Well, sure.
John: I said, all right. I mean, I knew things weren't going well, but behind my back, you know. So once I calmed down and realized, okay, he's looking to replace me, that's good. I was looking to leave.
Miriam: We're on the same page on this topic.
John: We are on the same page. So what do you do in a situation like that? How do you respond?
Miriam: Geez, I don't know. I don't know what i'd do.
John: You could do what i did
Miriam: What did you do?
John: I applied for it.
Miriam: Did you? Shut up! You actually applied for it?
John: I sent a resume to my own job.
Miriam: I love it.
John: Oh, you bet. And not only that, I sent a resume, but, you know, we had cover letters back in the day as well. I embellished my accomplishments at this organization. I said, funny, I brought this company from point A to point B, I, you know.
Miriam: Increased revenue by millions.
John: Exactly. I was like Superman in this thing. Because I knew
Miriam: while dealing with a difficult CEO who was breathing down my neck every step of the way.
John: Oh boy did I go after it. And I sent it in. So I basically said, this is going to call this hand, right? Well, it called his hand because about two weeks later, he comes in my office and he terminates me.
John: Like I expected.
Tom: Mm hmm.
John: And to be honest with you, it was a very good discussion. You know, John, and it's, you know, you're great what you do, but we just don't get along. This and that, it gave me, like, a month notice. He even said, draw up your own severance agreement. He says, Draw it up and send it to the attorney.
Miriam: Oh, my gosh.
John: And by the end of the meeting, I look at him, I go. By the way, I almost mentioned his name.
Miriam: Let's say, it's Joe.
John: I said, By the way, Joe, did you get my resume? And at first he turns to me in surprise. And then he smiles and leaves.
Miriam: Oh, my God.
John: I know that you know that I know.
Tom: That's fantastic.
John: And it is a it's a story I tell people who unfortunately my career I've, you know, terminated many, many people. And I always tell them that you're going to think this is a terrible thing, it's happening to you, but it's actually going to be a very positive thing. You'll see it. It may take you six months, but you will realize. And that ended up being the best year of my career. I made the most money that I ever made up to that point in time.
John: Between the severance. And then he called me back in a month to consult and train the new person.
Miriam: Oh, my gosh!
John: So as odd as that actual termination went and what prompted it? It still goes to show that if you maintain the right kind of attitude. Right?
John: And frankly, that was a client of mine for probably six, eight years after I consulted with them for years afterwards.
Tom: But they say, don't burn a bridge right now and take the high road and be professional and abs so you never know who you're going to work for.
Miriam: I think that's one of my favorite stories ever. And I've heard some crazy ones, including stabbings.
John: Oh, yeah. I imagine. Oh, my gosh.
Miriam: And squirrels and sandwiches. So. But, you know, I digress. You have to listen to that other podcasts to know about those.
John: Oh, I got one other one. That was kind of an odd one, which I'm a Seinfeld fan.
John: I imagine both of you guys are to
John: Everything in life can be defined at some point in a Seinfeld episode. I truly believe it.
John: So you remember the episode where George got caught by his employer having sex with the cleaning woman on his desk.
Miriam: Yes. Yes.
John: When the employer's terminating him, he says George had sex with the cleaning woman on your desk. And George says, Is that frowned upon here? Because if I had known about this, I would not have done this.
John: It's like some things are so obvious that you don't have to explain to people. But at a recent position I was in, in the organization, two people were caught having sex on the desk.
Miriam: Oh, my gosh.
Miriam: Is that frowned upon here?
John: It was frowned upon. And they were both married.
Miriam: Not to each other?
John: Not. No, not to each other. Apparently not too happily married. But the tough part was I wasn't even able to, you know, see their face, you know, face to face when I terminated them, I had to do it over the phone because they were suspended.
John: Mm hmm. And, you know, it was a simple phone call. Hi. I'm the HR director. I suppose you know why I'm calling.
Miriam: Yeah, exactly.
John: But, yeah, that was the word got out on that one pretty quick.
Miriam: So all one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is when George again is looking for a job and he uses Jerry's phone number and you're supposed to answer the phone.
John: Oh Vandelay Industries.
Miriam: Vandelay Industries! Vandelay Industries!
Miriam: And it just I use that example when I talk to clients about references.
John: Yeah, precisely.
Miriam: Because you do have to be careful. Because that does happen.
John: It does.
Miriam: Although funny enough, because more so than not, we have people who are named as references who give a bad reference.
Miriam: Then a good reference.
John: That's actually surprsing.
Miriam: Yeah, it's so. Well, some people just don't know how to handle the references, but that's a topic for another day, right, Tom?
Tom: Absolutely. Absolutely.
John: I know you automatically think that they're going to give you somebody who's going to give them a glowing reference.
Miriam: Exactly. Exactly. So, yeah. Yikes.
Tom: Yeah. You never know who you're going to work for.
Miriam: Definitely. So one of the other things that I always like to talk about during our podcasts is we're big in our community. We like to give back to a number of organizations, whether it's partnering or, you know, supporting an event or whatever it might be. So we always like to ask our guests what you know, what causes or organizations are they involved in giving back to that they might want listeners to know about and maybe they don't know about them. And we can give them a little bit of a little bit of a spotlight on them.
John: You know, I've mentioned I've been involved in nonprofits a lot. And several years ago, I think it was about five years ago now. It's funny how my career led me to this mission, so to speak. I had a friend who was on a board of directors of a nonprofit, and they just merged with another, and they wanted to make sure these two boards came together in harmony as opposed to conflict. So they suggested a retreat and they said, John, you do that right. You would facilitate a retreat. And I said, sure, I've done many of them to that point. But I was like, Absolutely. And I spent a Saturday afternoon with with this board. We trained, we did some team building things, all these other things in strategic planning. And what a great group of people. It wasn't a month later they asked me to join their board. And I did. And and I've been on the board for four or five, four years now. I'm their VP of Personnel. So I the organization is Captain, Captain CHS, Captain, Community Human Services. They're headquartered in Clifton Park. They've got an operation in Burnt Hills and they have various services throughout Saratoga County, they're into Fulton County. But at this stage. Primarily, they deal with youth and families in crisis.
John: So they have a lot of diverse programs. They run a youth shelter and they work on human trafficking.
John: What tends to happen is a teenager might have a difficult situation at home. Just decides, I'm getting out of here for my own good. If they end up on the street, they're going to be at risk. They have a an outreach program that helps identify these folks and get some services and even get some shelter if they need it. But they also provide services to families who are in poverty and they teach them how to take a hand up, get a hand up instead of a hand out. They deal with some senior services. They have a food pantry. It's a very diverse set of services, but it's a great organization. And what I've learned about being involved with them is, you know, we can all serve a nonprofit in different ways. My favorite saying: time, talent and treasure. Most people have one of those three, one or more of those three. You know, give your time. Volunteer. Right. Anybody can do that, especially if you're retired, looking for something to do. Volunteer That's your time. Your treasure? That's contributing if you've got money. Every nonprofit needs money and talent. I don't have a lot of money and I don't have a lot of time, but I got something I'm halfway decent at and I provide that to this group. Yeah. So if you have a talent, a particular capability, that's why boards are made up of people with diverse backgrounds and various skills and professions. So time, talent, treasure, think of what you can give any nonprofit, and there's plenty of them out there. Captains, a great organization. It's up in Saratoga, too, by the way. So it's a wonderful organization.
John: So, Captain CHC, I think CaptainCares.org
Tom: That's a great organization. It's a great way to kind of bring us home. John I've known about Captain for many years through you and some other mutual acquaintances. We have that also sit on that board. But I know at least for the at risk youth side of it, there's way more that they provide those youth in terms of afterschool help with homework and tutoring and all sorts of extra volunteers that can help out in so many different ways. So thanks for bringing that to everyone's attention. We appreciate you and spending time with us sharing your stories. They've been fantastic. You know, even though, you know, we've mentioned spreadsheets early on, that's still going to stick out for Miriam. She's gonna be like, no, no more spreadsheets.
Miriam: And if you ever want to embellish your resumé and apply to your job, check in with John, he might be able to give you some tips.
John: I'm into resume embellishment.
Miriam: John, thanks so much. We really appreciate you being with us today. It was a lot of fun.
John: It's been an honor. I love talking with you guys and I hope we can do it again.
Tom: Boy. Miriam, did you love those stories or what?
Miriam: I don't know which one I liked better. The resume embellishment to apply for his own job that he was definitely getting fired from. Or the software engineer who was so extremely detail oriented with periods and commas and where words needed to be. I mean, both were amazing stories.
Tom: I loved how in-tune he was with Neurodivergence, and certainly he has a lot of experience in that human service field, but there's such a fluidity to it that he just lets folks feel comfortable within their own skin.
Miriam: And I think that's really important because I think a lot of us human nature, it's still an area where we just don't know a lot or we're uncomfortable. And, you know, I think I think part of what we need to do is talk about it a little bit more and recognize potential differences and individuals who, you know, might be on the spectrum or whatever it might be. So I really did like our discussion about that. It was a really good topic to talk about with him.
Tom: I really enjoyed his final parting words. What were the three phrases he used at the end?
Miriam: Time, treasure and talent. And to look at those and decide what you can give back, whether it's your time, your treasure, or your talent. And I loved that outlook because I think sometimes people think they have to do all three. And, you know, the reality is, is that it's just not possible. I really loved his outlook on that and his organization, so we'll share more about that in the podcast page on our website. And so for more information on this podcast or with John and you know, his background and experience, go to Alaant.com for more information.