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Episode 3:

Bringing an Idea to Life

Damien Martin


The Upstream Leader Podcast’s Heath Alloway talks to Damien Martin, Partner at BKD and host of the Simply Tax podcast, about his journey to leadership which has included Simply Tax, as well as a short film noir about tax strategies. Damien’s philosophy to leave things better than he found them has served as a guide throughout his career, and he tells Heath about his plans for the future as well as how he’s reached this point so far.

About the Guest

Damien Martin provides tax compliance, consulting and planning services to individuals, families and fiduciaries, and provides proactive succession planning for high-net-worth individuals and their family-owned businesses as the east region leader of BKD National Private Client Services (PCS) group. As a PCS advisor, he also focuses on helping affluent clients build and preserve their family’s legacy through an integrated suite of services designed to assist families manage and transfer multigenerational wealth.

He is the host of Simply Tax, a podcast dedicated to delivering practical and timely content to simplify tax challenges. He spent more than three years serving in BKD’s National Office where his major focus was the 2017 tax overhaul and continues to be involved in firm tax growth initiatives. Damien is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, where he currently serves on the Tax Profession Strategic Advisory Group, and Illinois CPA Society, where he has served on the Estate, Gift and Trusts Committee.

Damien is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. degree in music, and a graduate of Golden Gate University, in San Francisco with an M.S. degree in taxation.

Highlights / Transcript

Hello, and welcome to The Upstream Leader Podcast. I’m Heath Alloway, your host for today’s session, and you will probably hear me say this a lot in future episodes, but I am genuinely excited about today’s discussion.

I get excited about various topics for various reasons, but today, I get to talk with someone that I consider a leader, I consider a friend—he was a past teammate—and someone that I look back, and I’ve learned a lot from over the years. Whenever we worked at the same firm together, I had the opportunity to watch today’s guest. He had an idea, and he took it and ran with it and really turned it into something special. You would probably never hear Damien say this, but he’s taken an idea and in my mind, it became famous in the accounting profession. Those are often words that you don’t hear in the same sentence.

But today I have Damien Martin, a partner of BKD, and also the host of the Simply Tax podcast. It’s gonna be a lot of fun today to flip the script on Damien. I’ve been on his podcast before, so usually he’s the one in control of the conversation. So I do get to flip the script today, and I get to lead the conversation. So welcome, Damien.

Hey, the feeling is mutual—I’m excited to be here and very much looking forward to the conversation. Although I will be honest, you know, being on the other side of the microphone here is perhaps a little bit different. But all that said, I’m looking forward to it.

Well, very good Damien. And just to start us off, can you give us a snapshot into your life, who you are, and what has really made you the leader you are today?

Absolutely, yeah. So name you’ve already taken care of is Damien Martin. I’m a tax partner in Chicago with BKD CPAs and Advisors. Basically, how I describe what I do, really, is helping people first and primarily. That’s kind of what drew me to tax, I guess. Probably beyond that, there’s lots of ways you can help people clearly, but helping them solve complex problems in the tax world. And in particular, I always say that I kind of sit at the intersection of the business and the business owner. And at BKD, in addition to having my practice and focusing on, kind of that group, that business ownership group, and closely held businesses, I also serve as our East region private client industry leader, so kind of working across our East region, as we call it. And of course, as well, I get to host a podcast about taxes, which I always like to say, I try to make as every bit exciting as you would hope a podcast about taxes would be.

Damien, on the podcast idea, I will say that I’m not a tax guy, and I’ve enjoyed listening to several of your episodes. And just to help our audience understand you, because this was going back several years ago, when you started your podcast, help us understand, you know, where you’re at today, you know, how many episodes, you know, what kind of following you have just to kind of give us a you know, a little window into what you’ve done over the past few years?

For sure, yeah. Well, you know, it’s kind of interesting. The idea actually—and I often say, I didn’t necessarily set out to start a podcast, and sort of fell into it—but it started off as an internal way to develop our people. I was at the time, I was in Springfield, Missouri there with you Heath, and working with our national tax group. And we were just trying to solve this problem of, “how do you keep up with everything that’s going on?” I mean, if there’s been one trend in the last couple of years, probably in anything, but particularly in tax, I mean, it’s been fast moving, fast paced changes, and just change is probably the keyword. A lot coming at you. And so I thought, alright, well, let’s look at a different environment to do it.

So we started this internal podcast, and it was called Simply Tax. So our first season of the podcast, I think we did about thirty or so episodes, was internally focused. And then as things started to ramp up with the 2017 tax reform—the tax cuts and JOBS Act—we decided, based on the feedback we were getting from the group that we would take it external, which was an entirely different thing. I’m sure we can get into that impact because it was interesting kind of traversing that, you know. BKD had certainly never done something like this before, and there really aren’t a lot of firms that do something like that. But we took an external audience. We always tend to say that, you know, we have a lot of those that serve you know, businesses and business owners, but we also target at businesses and business owners and try to get that nice balance of the the technical but you know, not getting really Code Section heavy that you would just sort of lose the the insights, and that’s that’s really what we’re all about.

So since that time—we didn’t number all of our episodes, we’ve kind of taken, you know, there’s some people will say there’s like rules of podcasting, I say there really aren’t rules of podcasting. I think it’s, you find your audience, you get good content, and you try to get it out there, and you listen to the audience, and then that’s really what we’ve done. So since then, I mean, we’re on episode 122. Like I said, there’s a number of other episodes out there, probably a half dozen or so that aren’t numbered. And we’ve covered everything from tax technical, to issues that that pertain to businesses in terms of, you know, again, I might add, something I always say is, “if you don’t have enough coming in to have a bottom line that’s positive, then maybe you aren’t as much worried about the tax liability.” So things that would help the business be able to grow, and grow the team, and so forth, and help those in the profession even navigate, “What do I want to be when I grow up? Or do I want to work in tax?” You know, all of those sorts of things.

So we kind of run the gamut. And we have listeners across the country, we even have international listeners, which sometimes always, I wonder about, you know, some of the International side since we’re, we are sort of focused on US taxation, but obviously, there’s companies and people around the world that that need to handle the tax side of things. So that’s kind of us in a nutshell. I don’t know if I made that simple or not. But the podcast is Simply Tax.

Well Damien, that’s a good background to have. And, you know, we’re going to take a minute here, and we’re going to travel back in time. And, you know, going through something similar as you probably went through a few years ago, there’s no really perfect recipe for a successful podcast. You find your audience, you talk about things you love, and you hope to get a following. You hope to make an impact on others. And so we want to go back here when it was Simply Tax was just simply an idea. And you at that time, did you ever just wonder “What in the hell that I just sign up for?” and “How am I going to do this?” and then “What if I fail?” So give us insight into what you’re thinking in the very beginning of this.

Yeah, no, that is a really great question. And I will say that, you know, out of the gate, I don’t know exactly that I knew, I mean, exactly what I was building, or maybe even what I was getting myself into. I don’t know that I ever asked myself that question, because I think I was following in trying to create something that I just, I saw as something that I always wanted, you know, it’s saying, “Gosh, it’s just even if it’s just 15 minutes on depreciation or something like that, that would just help me keep up,” you know, thinking to my early days in the career and, and even as a student. You know, there’s a lot to wrap your head around, and there’s so much to be learned from mentors and great people that are out there. And I thought, “Gosh, it’d be really great if I could put this in a format, and if I have this for myself.”

So that’s basically, the roadmap I followed was, how I build this thing for myself that I always was interested in. And it’s kind of interesting, too, because maybe speaking of that, we did a little bit of this walking before we run sort of thing, right? By doing it internally and having that focus, so we can try some things out. The format actually has changed from that, you know, initially where we were, and we do kind of leave kind of an open format, which is kind of nice, I think, because it allows us to experiment with different things. But I quickly paid attention to the audience and heard that they really liked the kind of interview format, just basically like your podcast here, and the back and forth and getting those insights. And so we really have kind of honed in and centered around that primarily as our format. And, you know, again, just kind of tweaking and following the topics and try to just just help. At the end of the day, if we’re able to help then that was the goal. Like I said, I was trying to help myself in a way. And I figured if I can’t be alone, and if I’m able to help myself there, then I think it’ll help everybody.

Damien, something you said there is you’re helping others when you help yourself. When you think about reaching your goals in your career, or any person listening in, and one of the things we talked about is, one of the fastest way to reach your goals and your career goals, personal goals, whatever it may be, is to help others reach theirs. And that helps translate into your success as well.

And there was another podcast that I listen to, Dare to Lead with Brené Brown, and she was talking to Angela Duckworth on grit, and grit was a topic that I felt like, you know, I’ve studied, I’ve known a lot about, but one thing she added to that, that I’ve just never really thought about, was just that willingness to try new things, and always learning from that.

So, you know, one of the things from a great leader is being okay with failure. And failure is not always the easiest thing. And if you look at our profession, and one of the things that we face is there’s a lot of firms or a lot of partners and a lot of individuals that have been very successful. So it’s that mindset of, if we’ve been successful, why should we change? And the thought of a podcast, although it’s not a new idea, it may have been new to you and may be new to your firm or maybe even in the profession. So my question is if Damien now could travel back in time, what would you tell Damien then about this journey?

Yeah, I think I have to check that podcast episode out. Brené Brown has some great stuff out there, and I love that concept of grit. But I have not listened to that episode. So I’m going to jot that down, the title. I feel like every time I have a conversation with you, I walk away with a podcast or a book or a something, or a TED talk. I don’t know. It’s great stuff. So yeah, we have to talk more frequently, I think so we can kind of fill in my backlog here.

But yeah, I think if we go back, it’s to say that, yeah, you can’t be afraid to take risks. I mean, that is really it. And I did kind of put myself out on a limb there. I hear from a lot of people, you know, that they just sort of assume that “Oh, you know, you do a lot of presenting, and you do the podcast thing, and that oh, that must be so easy.” And it really isn’t. And if you kind of get to know me, that really isn’t my first nature. It took some work, but it was something I enjoy doing. Again, I think that’s maybe a key theme, is finding something that you enjoy doing in a format that you enjoy doing, you know. Whether it’s writing, or a podcast, or videos, or a blog or whatever it is, if you have something that will help people, will add value, and you keep that as your focus. Because I think that has to be the focus really, is helping other people, you know. If you’re just out strictly for yourself, and I mean—I maybe will clarify that—for myself, you know, it was something that would help me, but I looked at something I also saw that would overlap and help other people at the same time. And so that’s kind of win-win in my book, and you know, but definitely took some, taking some risks a little bit there. And I think I would tell myself, you know, “Damien, yeah, you’re on the right track. And don’t forget that, to continue to do that, and don’t think that, ‘Oh, just because you found one thing that worked, that you need to continue to do that.’”

I will admit that I sometimes find that say, “Okay, well, I’ve kind of found the format,” like just specific to the podcast. “Found the format, we’ve got it locked in, you know, I’m gonna kind of continue down this road and maybe not look to break it if it isn’t broken” sort of thing, you know? And I don’t think that’s the answer. I think the reason that people enjoy it, the feedback that we get from listeners, is that we’re trying to make it interesting, you know. Sometimes—I am not great at voiceovers or you know, doing different voices. And it’s definitely like our totally outside of the realm. But if you listen to the first episodes, you’ll hear that I’ve given my try at some of those, to the point that which I had, my kids actually listened to one, and they thought that it was absolutely hilarious that I would even, like, attempt to do the voice that I did.

So anyway, I think that’s it, though, you know, I’m not saying it’s great. And all things, all people. I’m kind of a goofy guy sometimes, and like the tax puns, but you know, it’s part of who I am. And I’m just trying to be myself. But you have to have courage to do that, and then try that. And I found based on my experience—so I can only speak to my experience and not necessarily yours—but every time I do that, even if it’s slightly embarrassing, something good comes from it. And I would encourage anybody to have the courage to do the same.

And Damien, whenever we were talking about grit, you know, trying things that are new, the other piece of that, that I did not talk about, was persistence and passion. And whenever you’re talking about, it’s clear that you have the passion for what you’re doing. You’re having fun with it, you’re enjoying what you’re doing, I think that comes very clear. 

And, you know, there’s a piece of advice that was given to me at a young age from one of our family friends that always said, you know, “If you have a feeling in your gut, trust in it and go with it.” And sometimes I think that leap of faith is hard to take, but if you do, I think you’ll find yourself, you know, truly finding and honing in on those areas that you love doing.

The other thing you said, Damien, was about the idea of helping others and you know, always wanting to step up. And as long as I’ve worked with you, and as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been the type of person and type of leader, when someone asked you to help, or to be part of a project, or whether it’s another podcast episode, whatever it may be, you’ve always been one that’s—you’ve always been quick to say yes. And you as you’ve grown in your career, you’ve become a partner, you have your podcast, you have other areas that you’re working in. You know, one of the challenges we face in our profession is that capacity to charge our—you know, the amount of time we work. And you as you grow in your career, there are times when you have to say no, and that’s not the easiest thing to do.

So, as you’ve evolved in your career, can you maybe share some insight on, you know, how you’ve managed your time, how you’ve managed your schedule, how you’ve built in time to do something that you really love doing and that you’re passionate about? You know, I know that several people face that, and there’s, once again, there’s a balancing act to what we do in our profession. But also, how have you been more intentional about, I guess saying no, in the right way, and managing your time.

Yeah, you know, that’s a—I think I’ve already said you’ve asked a great question. This is a really great question for me, and one that I have to revisit, because I’ll say that, to be completely honest with you—it’s something I continue to work at. Because I do tend to have this natural, you know, drive to help, and I want to say yes, and I want to jump in. But I have learned—and this isn’t something I came up with—but you know, when you’re saying yes to something, you are saying no to something else, and you really do have to think about that.

So I think the thing that works the best and again, sometimes I fall off this wagon, and you do need some discipline here, I think to do it for sure. But it’s just self-education and self-awareness, you know. Taking the time, you know. I tend to fill in the gaps. And I know, a lot of other people in the profession, it can happen, right? I mean, your inbox, your family, your everything—there’s a lot to do. All of your time and get filled in, and I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, but I think you do need to have at least some time to reflect and just take an inventory of, “What’s going on. How am I feeling? Where’s my energy? Am I doing the right things?” And if the answer to that isn’t “yes,” well, then you start looking at, “Okay, well, what do I need to change? What do I need to say no to? What do I need to find another home for that maybe creates an opportunity for somebody else?”

And that’s actually been the way that I’ve looked at it in my mind that’s really helped me. And it could be, you could be starting your career, and this can be true: that looking for the things that you’re doing, that perhaps somebody else would like to, or could be, or should be even doing to get more experience, or to love the profession, or whatever it might be. And again, we’re focusing on the work side, but it can be in family and hobbies and all that as well. Just looking at, “Is now the time to move this to somebody else and let and get them involved?” I think that’s really the key, and if you don’t take this time to sort of sit down and reflect, like I said—I find that it can just run you by, and then you’re just running down the highway in the fast lane, running a thousand miles an hour. Just taking on taking on taking on taking on taking on, and all of a sudden you realize, “Wow, now I’m in this really tough spot,” where like, maybe we’ll keep with that metaphor of the car, right? That “Now I need to stop for gas, because I’m out of gas. And so I’m gonna have to say no.” And if you’re not being intentional about it, if you’re not being disciplined about it—and really, when I say “you,” I’m talking to myself here because I don’t always get this right. So I can speak from experience on that side. If you haven’t done those things, now all of a sudden, you’re saying “no” to things, you don’t necessarily want to say “no” to.

In my case, at times, that’s maybe been my family. And I haven’t spent as much time as I would like, or feeling like I have to say “no” to a specific thing, or opportunity that I really wanted to do, because I didn’t say “no” to the right things early enough. And I think that’s really what it is, is this kind of continual thing. It’s not like a do it at once, “Okay, I did my self check up, I did my self education, you know, for the month, I’m done.” No, I mean, it’s daily, I think in a lot of cases. And it doesn’t have to be anything, you know, extreme. It’s just taking even a few minutes to just pause and jot a few things down, you know, how you’re feeling, checking in. Ask yourself maybe some questions each day to do that.

But at least weekly. There’s this weekly review that’s as part of like the “Getting Things Done,” the David Allen technique. and I’m sure that if David Allen were ever to listen to this and hear me talking about it, he would say you’re, you’re no GTD guy, Damien, because you don’t execute on it well enough. But it’s kind of an aspirational thing. Anyway, you get the point that it takes some discipline, some practice, and also just forgiving yourself and saying, “I missed, what did I do wrong? What can I learn from myself here?” And try not to repeat that going forward? 

Yeah, there’s really three things that you said, Damien, that stuck out to me: You talked about the ongoing focus—daily, weekly checks, and I’m having a moment  but there was a podcast I listened to where it talked about, throughout your day, a ranking scale of like, plus one plus two, or the negative one, negative two, on how you’re feeling that day, or where you’re spending your time. And then looking back over time and looking at the percentage of time you’re in that plus level, and the difference that makes. So knowing, being cognizant or aware, self-awareness, of whenever you do feel like you’re highly productive, the areas that you’re working on where you’re highly productive. And that’s something I’m, although I haven’t been writing it down, I’ve been doing more mental checks on you know, where am I at, with what I’m doing.

And one of the other things you said, I think was very important. One thing we talk about on Upstream—this is not meant to be derogatory in any way, but many times partners spend time doing non-partner things. So asking your question, and you mentioned the delegation. It’s not just about delegation. That’s career opportunities, career development for others. And I personally experienced this myself, where I would—it’s that fear of letting go of something of “Well, this person won’t do it the way that I did it.” Well, you know, there’s not always one way to do things. So being willing to let go of something. It was actually a partner at BKD, someone that I considered a mentor, I will never forget this conversation at one point he just said, “Heath, usually if you give someone an opportunity, and you put the faith and trust in them, more often than not, they’re gonna over-deliver then under-deliver.” And that’s stuck with me throughout. And that helped me stretch myself in passing off things to other people.

So all really good points there, Damien. And one of the things in my opening comments, I mentioned becoming famous in our profession, and there are very few people that I feel like I can say that. It’s just kind of funny to think about being famous in the accounting profession, but it does happen. So I’d be curious, as you built your own personal brand, with your podcast, how has that helped with other areas in the profession, such as business development, and some of the credibility there, or your client work—or I think this is an accurate statement, so correct me if I’m wrong—but if I remember correctly, you at some point, you were on a billboard in Chicago for your podcast, which I think—I’m not trying to say that to embarrass you. But you know, that’s pretty cool to think about it, you know, it’s just never you don’t ever envision seeing yourself on a billboard driving down the road. So how has it impacted other areas of the profession by going down this road?

You know, the billboard is pretty funny, too, and sometimes I’ll introduce myself to people and say, “You know, I’m probably one of the few tax CPAs you’re gonna meet that has a podcast about taxes, and also is on a billboard.” And it’s funny, too, because, you know, telling my, like my mom about it, for example, and she’s like, “Oh, they want to put a giant picture of you up, go for it, I guess, you know, like, totally knock themselves out!” You know, I’m like, “I don’t know why anybody wants a giant picture of me.”

But you’re right, that is not the stuff that comes naturally again, to me, per se, but I just enjoy, again, spreading the message, and that’s really what the brand is, maybe, I guess you’d say is built on: is simplifying complex tax matters, and just trying to help. But it has certainly helped in ways that are maybe more expected, like along the lines of business development. It has helped for both myself, and for the guests that I’ve had on, in creating opportunities for them that’s led to actual new business and new relationships that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. I mean, even across the country at times, which is, again, surprising. You wouldn’t necessarily think that. But people enjoy that. It develops this, you develop a relationship, you know, with what you’re listening as a podcast listener. And so I’ve been happy that’s happening. That isn’t necessarily always the straight out goal, but that’s definitely been helpful part of it.

It’s helped with building my network, I have met some just incredibly great people, as a result of working with the podcast, both inside the profession and outside the profession. And that’s been, I think, that I’ve really enjoyed that part. It’s helped with even developing opportunities for those that maybe will come to work at BKD. Students—we have a large number of students that listen, that’s creating potential career opportunities down the road, just building an awareness of the firm and what we can do, and really what you can do in the profession, you know. Opening their eyes to that. So that’s also extended it.

And it is, you know, it’s sort of fun. It’s an icebreaker too, which kind of helps, you know, because again, like I said, maybe the the presence on the billboard and the podcast might sometimes suggest otherwise, but you know, you start out with like anybody else that’s a tax accountant—I shouldn’t say anybody, you know—that there tends to be more on the introverted side and nature of things. And, you know, sometimes getting conversations going isn’t always the easiest. And I’ll admit that’s the case for me, as well sometimes. And it definitely creates an icebreaker to have a fun video to share an episode of the podcast or something like that.

And I’ll also say that because I do a fair amount of presenting: it is pretty nice to be able to, you know, when you have maybe an hour to cover a topic, which might seem like a long time, but perhaps anybody that’s that’s covered a tax topic knows that sixty minutes can go really, really fast, when you get into the tax world and in the weeds there. I can say, “Hey, I’m not an international tax guy, but you can go listen to episode whatever, and you can hear, you know more about this.” So it’s a really great way to get a little bit more information to our presentation without actually having to cover it. Yeah, it’s had many, I’ll say, intended and unintended benefits by doing the podcast.

Yeah, that’s awesome to hear. It kind of goes back and ties into your goal you’ve been talking about as far as helping others. And you mentioned some things in there that I just honestly had never thought about. You know, students, or from a recruiting perspective, and you know, knowing the firm that you’re with, and that’s something that I just never even thought about. So that’s great to hear how you’re connecting with different people across the profession and maybe even some outside of our profession.

Damien, one thing we were going to do here, we’re going to flip the stage here and we’re going to time travel again. This is a hard question to answer.


But we’re gonna fast forward ten years from now. In a previous discussion you and I had, we talked about the thought around the infinite game, not finite goals, and it was a podcast, in fact it was Dare to Lead with Brené Brown and with Simon Sinek, and it was “towards your just cause.” And let me help define that a little bit for our audience. When you talk about “the infinite game,” it’s really your end goal. It’s not, you know, there’s really no parameters around winning or losing in our profession. If a firm down the road shuts down, do you really win? Or can you really work less? No, you still have to put in the same effort. It’s not necessarily about managing a quarter, or even a year, in what your numbers look like. But you know, really, that that legacy and what you want to leave behind in that just cause. And Damien’s talked a lot about helping others. So this is once again, a tough question. And you know, honestly, I’m not sure I can answer that right now. But in 10 years, where do you see yourself as a leader?

Whoa, yeah. That’s a tricky one to say, you know. And it is probably more conceptual than anything else. But I will tell you that, again, from one of our conversations, like you were saying, this concept of infinite game in that episode, which was really great, was something I picked up and gave a listen to. And it really has helped me give language, I think, to what it is that I’m trying to do. It’s try to operate on this infinite game. And you know, a lot of times we find ourselves kind of in the finite, you know, in terms of whatever it is. Maybe hitting the next target goals or whatever else. But ultimately, I think if you look at public accounting, if you look at the profession as a whole, the players come and go, and if you’ve worked in a public accounting firm long enough, you know that. There’s just sort of this natural coming and going of people that is part of it, as people develop. The rules are changeable, you know. The tax rules are constantly moving and evolving, and this year is gonna be a big year for that, at least that’s what we’re gearing up for right now.

And in a successful career, and I’ve heard this said to me a number of times—that it’s, you know, it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint—and it’s true, because I mean, there is no defined end point, per se. You’re not going to actually “win” tax. You’re not going to win a career in tax. You’re just on this journey. And I think so to get to your question, “Where do I see myself in ten years?” You know, I think it is probably more conceptual. Really trying to live on that “helping others,” like you said. And I think just leaving things better than I found them. Somebody once told me a strength of mine is I’m the extra 1% on things like just helping to try to make it better. And when I’m at my best, I feel like that’s what I’m doing.

So I hope my vision for myself is, you know, ten years, whatever timeframe down the road, is that I truly make things better for the people that work with me, that I have the honor to work with, you know. Whether it’s somebody that’s a first day or, you know, somebody that’s had a long career. To leave my family better—I really am focused right now, I’ve got twins that are six, and I just, I love every minute of just watching them grow up, but just really focusing on how can I leave them better? How can I help them accomplish what they don’t even know what they want to accomplish yet? How do I help them with that? How do I make them better? That’s really, I guess, the kind of leader I aspire to be both in my family and in the office.

Yeah. And Damien, that’s something that, too—when you when you start peeling back the layers in, you know, you look at the world we live in today, and I think there’s a lot of people, a lot of professionals that have that same driver, that same fire to leave things better than where they found it. And you know, sometimes you see what’s going on in the world, and I think some of that is, now you look at how communication happens, whether social media or whatever it may be, that’s separating the natural conversation. And sometimes fear or separation, it comes from, you know, a lack of understanding or a lack of education. And one thing that I see that you’re doing by your podcast platform, you’re having a conversation, just like you and I are doing today. I know I’m not involved in the day to day, and I don’t see as much as I used to, but you’re well on your way to reaching those goals, so it’s great to hear.

For our last couple minutes here, Damien, we’re gonna flip kind of the focus of our conversation, and have a little little fun here in our last few minutes. If you had one person that you could have on your podcast like that guest that you’d just be so excited about, kind of the guest you’re probably like, “There’s no way in the world that I could get them on my show,” who would that be?

Oh! That’s a really good question. You kind of stumped me here. I don’t know who that would be at the moment. Yeah, I’m not gonna be very fun here and I don’t have anybody at the moment that I would say is a slam dunk, because I think in part because I just had some you know, I’ve had those people and and then I’ve ended up having them on.

Like for a good example. And probably one of my favorite early-on episodes, I had a chance to interview and he’s a frequent guest now: Tony Nitti on the podcast. And, talking about being famous in the profession and really giving back to the profession. I mean, Tony’s the the epitome of that. I have to tell you, I mean I was just like “tax geeking out” when I got an opportunity to have Tony on the podcast. I was like “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m talking to Tony, like, am I qualified to talk to Tony? I don’t know, is this right?” You know, it’s evolved into, you know, being able to trade messages back and forth on technical issues and things like that, which has just, it’s been really great.

And I’ll say that maybe the chains kind of keep moving on that one and evolves. So I don’t know if I’m taking the cop out answer here to say that I don’t know who that is at the moment. I mean, I guess the easiest one to say, you know, was it was you, and then I had you on the podcast. But yeah, we kind of came at a loss for who that person would be.

Well, if you think over the next minute or two, please feel free to share it. And what you described as having someone on where you’re feeling kind of like, “Am I qualified?” – that’s the imposter syndrome. I see that in launching new services or on the partner track. You know, people ask themselves, are we qualified to do this? And you are. It’s just having that faith and drive to do that.

And one last kind of more fun question. What’s your most memorable episode that you’ve done on your podcast?

I think, and it was sort of, in the spirit of having some fun—we did The Night Before Christmas, basically a story to mark the one year anniversary of the tax cuts and JOBS Act, and rewrote the story. Kind of following the meter and everything, that kind of looped in a number of episodes that we had. And I have to give, I mean, I would be remiss if I talked about the podcast, and I don’t mention Aaron Ferris who is a producer I work very closely with and we just sometimes set out to try some really fun and different things. And that was a really good example, where we just did the partnership of working back and forth to kind of do that. and actually, it led to—and this isn’t necessarily an episode—but again, another favorite thing that I’ve done—is we actually did create a short film about a tax topic, Section 199A, it’s called The Missing Deduction, and just again, had a lot of fun.

And it really made me feel good, because I mean, you can probably get a sense—I think Aaron is an extremely talented person. And we have some very talented people on the team, as well. To be able to do that and highlight that and create something in a format that would allow us to be able to show that and shine that was truly rewarding for me. And it was a lot of fun from, again, from a tax perspective, and just overall achieving our goals.

Again, if you’d asked me, I don’t think I’ve said this yet, but if you’d asked me four years ago, if I’d be hosting a podcast, I would have told you, “Probably no.” If you’d asked me if I’d end up you know, directing and producing and even maybe making a little appearance in a short film about tax, I would have told you “Not a chance.” So yeah. It’s been a lot of fun. And I think that’s the key to it, is just following that.

Yeah, that’s awesome to hear, Damien. And one last question is, one thing we like to do with Upstream, and you mentioned a couple throughout, but providing our audience various resources. What’s one either book or podcast or just a resource, something that you would highly recommend to our audience?

Yeah, you know, what is interesting is, I have—it sounds like, I don’t know if you’ve obviously been on the podcast for a while as listener, because I have become a big, just fan of podcasts as part of really this journey that I’ve been on to hosting a podcast, and there’s just some really great stuff out there. And I would just encourage anybody to become a listener of podcasts. But this is probably not exactly what you’re going for, but I guess I’ll say “yourself,” because this is something I’ve kind of found recently, again, taking that moment there of self education and taking the pause. That’s something I’ve really focused on lately. And I think I found a lot of the answers and the resources and things like that, in my head. I mean, again, you have to be filling your head with things like the podcasts and books and all that that’s out there. And again, I always defer to you, in fact, because you and Jeremy have just such, like, fantastic lists of things.

So I would just encourage that and, and maybe it’s maybe a movie along those lines, that kind of introspective type thing is, again, I have kids so you have to bear with me that the movies I’ll have all seen are of the animated nature lately, but Soul. Disney’sSoul. Watch that. And then just again, kind of thinking about the you know, the answers even in that case—the answer to what he was needing, the main character there, was sort of inside him the entire time. So again, probably not what you’re looking for here, but since we’re since we got a little introspective there, I thought I’d maybe land it there.

Well, out of all the interviews I’ve done, that’s the first person that I’ve talked to that’s referred to a resource from a kid’s movie, a Disney movie.

There we go!

And I can relate with you because we’ve watched that one multiple times in my household as well, with a soon-to-be four-year-old and eight-year-old.

So Damien, I’m going to try to do my best here and summarize some of our key points. There was a lot of them throughout, but I’ll try to hit on these fairly timely, but you know, just the whole concept of taking an idea and building it and growing it. It kind of goes back to that thought around grit—of trying new things. And then having that, you know, that passion and willingness to fail. And failure is something that we continue to learn from. And, you know, at some point in our lives or careers, you know, I think we hit a point where we think failure is not an option. And that’s, that’s simply not the case. We have to learn from that. So, you know, I would encourage others to, you know, if you had that idea, that burning desire to try something new, talk to your coach, talk to your firm leadership, whoever it may be. And maybe it’s not even in your professional career, but in other areas, talk to others. Learn from that.

Then, you know, going back to, I asked Damien to fast forward ten years from now. That’s not an easy question to ask yourself, but it’s one where, if you’re thinking about your vision, and then work backwards, it’s an easier spot to get to. And, you know, that’s a very powerful exercise.

And one of the other things we talked about: time management. That’s something I think we all struggle with. 


And you know, honestly, I don’t think there’s a perfect answer. But are there things you can pass on to others. It’s not just passing on or delegating—it’s career development opportunities for those that you coach.

So those were a lot of things that I took away from the conversation with Damien. And Damien, I know you have a lot on your plate. We got into some of those things that you have going on in your career in your life. That’s why I do—I greatly appreciate you taking some time to be on our show and sharing your insights. It was a great discussion. I hope, maybe we can reconnect and do this again in the future, but I, greatly appreciate your time. So thank you, Damien.

No, thank you. It was a fun conversation—I think you summarized it way better than I ever could, what are the threads were there in there? But no, it’s been a lot of fun. And thank you for having me on.

All right. Well, thanks, Damien. And thank you everyone listening in. Have a great day, great rest of your week, and I look forward to talking to you all soon. Thank you.



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