Why accountants need to have an ‘other’

Have you heard about the heavy metal band that is 75% accounting professionals?

A professional podcaster in a casual white tee, engaging with his audience through a microphone in a cozy studio setting.

Accountant burnout comes in many forms. Often it’s a result of the workload you place on yourself and the inability to have what we’re now calling life/work balance

One of the clear ways to stave off that feeling of hopelessness has little to do with the amount of hours you work or ‘bad’ clients you have. 

To have true life/work balance is about actually having activities in your life that require your focus and energy, and, importantly, that take your mind away from all of the things that drag you down. In other words: you need to have an ‘other.’

This ‘other’ can come in many forms. It can be the art or poetry you create and share, if you so choose. It can be the charitable work you do for your community. It can be that you coach youth sports and structure your time to travel with the team if need be. Those who know Dawn Brolin, CPA are aware that she works hard in her three-person firm, using modern tools and a strict balance of her time in order to be able to coach clients and youth women’s softball.

Here are some other real life examples of accounting professionals finding fulfillment in their ‘other’.

Math and metal

Maybe you are also a musician, like three quarters of the members of Canadian metal band KEN Mode who go to work every day as professional accountants.

They’ve been a band for over 20 years, have toured, and produced multiple albums. They also work in successful accounting practices.

The group’s founding members, brothers Shane (drums) and Jesse Matthewson (guitars and lead vocals), as well as their newest member Kathryn Kerr (saxophone, synth, piano, percussion, backing vocals) work in tax and accounting practices. 

Shane, a CPA, CA, and Jesse work at their family firm MKM Management Services out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The firm provides business management, finance, accounting and income tax, business planning, and grant writing services focusing on full time artist/entertainment/music companies. 

Kathryn, a professional bookkeeper, is the owner of Tonic Financials (also from Winnipeg) where she focuses on monthly bookkeeping essentials, tax prep, bookkeeping setup work, and financial consulting to artists and musicians.  

All of them claim that they’re able to have a life/work balance that allows them to be full-time accountants as well as professionally touring and recording musicians. When they’re not behind the desk helping fellow musicians, artists and those involved in the music industry, they are playing some of the angriest and heaviest music around. 

Seeing KEN Mode live or listening to songs like ‘Doesn’t Feel the Pain Like He Should’, ‘Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick’, ‘The Ugliest Happy You’ve Ever Seen’ and ‘The Desperate Search for an Enemy’, the word ‘accountant’ would be the last thing you’d think of.

Here’s one of their latest videos to give you a good audio and visual representation of their ‘other’.

'A Love Letter' by KEN Mode

For Jesse, his ‘other’ came first. The band was always his passion and having a career in accounting, while essential, was more of a means to an end.

“Accounting is by far an ‘other thing’ for me,” he explains. “I only got a business degree in the first place because I knew I wouldn't be able to excel at anything because music will always be my number one.”

“So, I had to develop skills that could be applicable to the industry, and hopefully allow me to secure gainful employment. Somehow I knew, based on the genres I love, I would never make much money playing, so I [essentially] needed a side hustle to provide more security."

Kathryn, who joined the band in more recent history, also noted that her music career came well before accounting. But, it does allow her to have a career outside of music which, much like Jesse, is her passion and the whole point of having an ‘other’ in her professional life.

"For me, my bookkeeping career was born out of a necessity for a job that could support me, be flexible enough to tour, and be something that I enjoyed doing as a bonus,” she says. “Most of my clients are musicians, small businesses or entrepreneurs, so I still feel connected to the creative industry even when working. Finding a niche can be really important when starting a bookkeeping business and I was lucky enough to already be ingrained in one!"

From business planning to beats

While an accountant’s ‘other’ needn’t be music necessarily, it does seem to hit a chord with accounting professionals. Take Scott Scarano, a professional accountant who is also President of Padgett North Carolina

His practice specializes in business and individual tax planning, IRS and local representation, full service payroll, and bookkeeping. He found his ‘other’ through rap.

Known as ‘OKR’ (short for ‘OK Rapper’), Scott regularly raps about what he knows: accounting. He has created raps and accompanying videos around the subject for his own accounting content hub, Accounting High, as well as for live events in the US including QuickBooks Connect, Scaling New Heights, and Tri-Merit Group’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ conference. You can see some of Scott’s videos on his YouTube channel.

In a recent interview, Scott defined why his ‘other’ exists: “It's harder to be agile if you have an established business. In my firm, I can't be as agile because there are a lot of moving parts, clients, and employees,” he said. 

“As a business owner, I'm restarting again with this other brand [Accounting High]. I'm able to do different things with that because I've grown and evolved since I started my firm. I've talked a lot about it in my raps and everything. It's finding that intersection, but then always keeping the audience in mind. It's still hard to create unless you go with a specific intent.”

The power of an ‘other’ 

In the end, it’s not about having music, art or anything necessarily creative in your life as long as there is an ‘other’—something that helps keep you grounded, and maybe even helps you be a better accounting professional. Perhaps it’s that one thing that you look forward to at the end of a day or week, something that truly adds ‘life’ and balance to your life/work scenario. 

So, be like, Scott, Shane, Jesse, Kathryn or Dawn…or don’t. As long as you have an ‘other’ in your life, you will more than likely connect with why you do what you do.