The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. If you’re interested in checking out our previous “How I Work” interviews they get compiled here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Rick Miller from Richard Miller CPA, who has provided accounting and financial planning out of thinkspace Redmond for almost four years. Prior to working for himself,  Rick provided tax consulting and accounting services for small businesses, estates/trusts and individuals working as Sr. Tax Manager for Nordberg, Hammack, Kolp & CashPS.  When not with family, Rick can be seen on his bike cycling both for fun and to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  

Name: Rick Miller

Current Gig: Sole Owner of Richard Miller CPA

One word that best describes how you work: Holistic

Current mobile device: iPhone

Favorite verb: moving

Grit Score: 4.1 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here.)

How do you recharge or take a break from work? I ride my bike; an average ride will be about 30 miles.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? Geologist

Sunrise or sunset:  Sunrise

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I was a geology major at University of Idaho, and it just became clear it wasn’t. I looked at college as a trade school and knew I wanted a degree in something that you could actually get a job at. That’s how I got into accounting. I worked for an entrepreneur, an accountant by trade, and learned that I could take accounting and take it anywhere in business. I didn’t want to work  at a large firm and gravitated to small firm accounting and it fit me well. I was always a small business guy. Two years in Baker, Oregon turned into 10 years. We moved to Washington to be close to family and I ended up on my own since 2004.

Number of unread emails right now? 40 that are important, then probably a lot of junk.

First thing you do when you come into work? Look to see if anybody has sent an email overnight. I try to start each day with correspondence.

What is your email management strategy? I don’t have folders or anything like that. If I have an assistant one day I’d have each client with a folder. Currently, I pay the extra space from GoDaddy and sort junk and clear deleted emails. If I can deal with an email in it’s entirety, great. Otherwise I flag it and it becomes my task list. Whoever thought to create the “unread an email” option is a genius.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  I have to embrace that there are days that there is more work that comes in that I can do, and that’s okay. I keep a list and prioritize it or ask who is the squeaky wheel that I don’t want to deal with if I wouldn’t get it done. I know afternoon isn’t the time to start a big project, so that’s when I can choose things that will be easy to get from A to Z on. I to to find a way to find momentum.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’m still on that journey to tell you the truth. My clients all go through the same projection. They are grow, grow, grow, and I take on a lot of work. Then companies hit a second stage of how to make the same amount of money, but work less. The third phase is asking how much income do I actually need and how to cut back. Looking for that transition is stage four. I don’t know too many successful people that just stop.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success?  Yes, answering correspondences first thing in the morning usually; and working on simpler, less complex tasks during the day when there are many interruptions.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My creative solutions cloud, which contains most of my tax and accounting related software programs.

Last thing you do before leaving work? Look at the next day’s schedule.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?  Mainly clients and their bookkeepers. Good communication as to what I need to do my work is critical.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? Tackling something that I’m not 100% sure about, or that is new to me – which will involve a learning curve. I try to block out some uninterrupted time to deal with these.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I just finished Dan Abram’s book about Lincoln’s last trial (before being nominated in 1860 for President). I’m also about 1/2 way through H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? Todd Flynn, CPA CFP at Soundmark Wealth MGMT; Brian Bircher, CPA at Martin, Bircher, Thompson, CPAS; Richard Cash, CPA at Novogradoc CPAS; Doug Purd, CPA (RETIRED).

What is your working process like? I work alone; no employees on all planning and implementation projects. I heavily rely on client correspondences during an engagement. ‘ Out of dialogue comes truth.”

Describe your workspace?  Single office in Redmond; C-shaped desk; good sound system with computer for Pandora and Youtube Music while working.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack? Not needing to keep everything or scan every single piece of paper that comes my way. Get your work done: scan what’s truly important. 

How do you keep track of what you have to do?  To do lists, project tracking features in my tax software.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The only person who is ever going to make your life better is you. Like the Great Steve Harvey has said, “You gotta jump.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? It’s cliche, but I do get my best ideas for helping clients or “thinking outside the box” when doing something totally different, like riding my bike or mowing the lawn. It’s important for me to get away from my work in order to do my best work.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!


If you could work from anywhere, where would you go?

Stay at home? Go outside? Coworking? Work and travel? Coffee shop or restaurant? The library? 


Whether you decide to stay at home in your pjs or get outside for a meeting, it can definitely be nice to get out of the office to get some work done. Last week, Peter and I spent the afternoon at 5 Stones Coffee Co and got more done on our project in three hours than we did the entire week before! It can be really hard to focus with the many interruptions that happen throughout the day: phone calls, emails, kids and other things that just come up. Sometimes, all it takes is a new location and a fresh perspective to crush your goal!

Kate_mythinkspaceAs a team, we’ve been taking a few hours each week to work from somewhere new and see how it affects our productivity and happiness at work. Follow us on instagram for more great photos @thinkspace.seattle and share your own! #mythinkspace

IMG_1335I know, I sure am! With this 88 degree weather, it is impossible for me to stay inside so I am extra thankful that I got to spend yesterday afternoon out at the park. You may be wondering, “how do you get work done in the park?” Luckily, I had plenty of work that could be done offline, but I was also able to set up my phone as a hotspot and be totally connected to email and my colleagues. Different jobs, will of course, have different limitations but try going somewhere new. I think the results will surprise you.  Now, we want to know where you get your best work done;

where is your “think space”?

Personally, I love traveling, so any time I get the opportunity to work on the go, I take it! Check out #mythinkspace favorite from last year here and share your own!

Xx Allie

standing_ozy-2Last week, I axed a weekly meeting.
The three other people in on this weekly meeting are incredible, and I’ve learned a lot from our time together.  But, besides enjoying their conversation, there was no reason to keep on meeting.  What we had set out to achieve had been accomplished.
Canceling this meeting got me wondering, if I hadn’t cancelled the meeting, how long would we have still met, simply for the sake of meeting?

Meetings are effective and necessary. But not all of them.

When deciding to accept or decline a meeting – run it through this checklist first.

  1. Agenda: Does the meeting have a planned agenda? If it doesn’t, consider opting out until one is established. I’ve attended way too many agenda-less meetings that could have been accomplished in 15 minutes instead of 60. Consider responding by saying something like: “Thank you for inviting me to this meeting. I’d like to attend, but before I accept could you provide me with an agenda of what will be discussed? As a rule, I only attend meetings that have objectives for what’s to be accomplished.”
  2. Content: Are you having the meeting to make a decision? Decision-based meetings are necessary. If no decisions are being made or discussed, there’s a good chance the meeting isn’t worth your time.
  3. People: Are the right people in the room? Only the people needed to make a decision should be invited. People attending to just be in the informational loop should be dismissed. Having the right people in the room makes for quality conversation. Having too many people in the room makes for a quantity of conversation.
  4. Brainstorm: Is the meeting a brainstorming session? Creative meetings are fun, and are meant to be less-structured and more free-flowing. But beware brainstorming sessions that are completely unstructured. So, run it through #1-3 first – make sure the meeting has some objectives (agenda), ask what outcome is needed from the meeting (content), and make sure all who needs to be there is present (people).

Do you have other criteria for accepting or declining meetings? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

So, I gotta be honest.  Up until writing this post, I actually didn’t know the history behind Labor Day.  Why question a 3-day weekend, right?  For the majority of my teens and twenties, Labor Day was simply the weekend I saw Dave Matthews at the Gorge before heading back to school.
But the history behind Labor Day is as interesting as it is empowering.

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 (pictured: a lithograph of the parade in New York City on Labor Day).  In 1887 it was established to be celebrated yearly on the first Monday in September to honor the American Labor Movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country (source).  A group of the key players within this movement called themselves The Knights of Labor. The Knights believed in the unity of the interests of all producing groups and sought to empower not just laborers but everyone who could be truly classified as a producer (source).

For most of us, work is a commitment that takes up most of our time.  But, though work dominates most of the hours of our week, it is also the one thing that we can routinely do week in, week out.  Think about your work week rhythm.  Now replace your work with something else.  Can you imagine doing something else for 40-60 hours, week in, week out?  Exercising?  Watching television?  Reading books? Playing golf?  I’ve heard people say, “When I retire I’m going to play a lot of golf.”  But 40 hours a week of golf?  Or television?  Try keeping that up for a few weeks.  We aren’t made to do that.

But we are made to work.  We can handle work in large quantities of time, unlike other activities.  We are made to be creative.  We are made to produce things.  Just like the Knights of Labor believed in the late 1800s, the movement wasn’t just for laborers, but anyone who produced anything.  I have a friend who is a project manager, but her passion is baking cupcakes.  She spends time dreaming of flavor combinations to try.  She carves time out of her schedule to carefully craft and decorate them.  And then she lets me eat them.  She is a “laborer” (project manger by day) and “producer” (cupcake creator by night).  You take away her labor and she is still a producer.  Take away what she produces, and she’s still a laborer.

The point is this: we are made for work.  We are made for Labor Day.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

mug“Twenty years ago, you’d go to a company and they’d tell you your [career] route.  Today, it’s on you” (Jody Greenstone Miller, CEO of Business Talent Group).

You are your own boss.

People rarely get promoted because they wait to do what they are told.  No.  People get promoted because they have the “I’m my own boss” mentality.  They know that they can decide their own career path, so they take ownership over their skills.  They are open and adaptable.  They constantly look for ways to improve or change the way they work.  They try new things and think outside the box.  And most of all, they have learned to be agile.

Agility is a job skill that Miller states shows someone that will be successful, and quickly.

If you’re 50 years old or younger, you may already be familiar with agility (by force or choice).  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those 50 years old and younger will not only have 11 different jobs, but 11 different careers.

I guess when you’re your own boss, you know when to stay and when to go.

What do you all think?  How important is agility?

On LinkedIn there are millions of users but not all profiles are created equally. Many are a direct reflection of their resumes, but at a recent pilot event held in Capitol Hill, LinkedIn instructed the crowd  to think of their profile as a “living, breathing” way to get a new job, customer, or even volunteer opportunity. That can be accomplished by adding rich media, from pictures to videos to links of your work.

To help those in attendance achieve those goals LinkedIn brought together a panel of experts to speak about how LinkedIn has helped them grow their brand. It included: Peter Chee, CEO and chief pot stirrer at thinkspace; Carol Vecchio, founder of Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal; and Alexis Baird, Product Manager for Profile at LinkedIn. It’s the first time the San Francisco-based company held an event like this one. They chose Seattle because of the large number of startups here and the diversity of the city.

Personality Prevails – “Talk about what you are passionate about.”

LinkedIn panel

“People do business with people, not businesses,” Peter told the crowd. “Find ways to connect on a personal level.”

That wasn’t the only time the eager group of nearly 200 entrepreneurs, small businesses, and students were encouraged to show their personality especially on a professional website. Alexis explained the importance of sharing what you are passionate about. Adding your hobbies could lead to a professional ice breaker.

When talking about how LinkedIn has worked for him, Peter described what he called his “Alex from Target moment” a few months ago. It began with posting a long form blog on his LinkedIn page late one night titled “Questions To Ask Before Quitting Your Job To Work At A Startup.” It was part of an event promotion aimed at helping those wrestling with the same decision. Several hours later the post had 3,000 views and eventually ballooned to more than 92,000 views worldwide, hundreds of comments on LinkedIn, and it helped sell out the event. Peter said the post “created value” for the event, making it a bigger success than he initially anticipated. It’s the perfect example of using personal experience to connect with your audience.

Actionable Tips

So maybe you’re not an established business owner with an expansive network and more like me. I’m in the midst of changing the course of my career and need help with the transition. Peter provided other actionable tips.

For example, after meeting someone at a networking he suggests including “why you enjoyed the conversation” in your LinkedIn message. And don’t procrastinate.

Experts suggest:

1) Tailor your profile around what you want to be doing. It’s not necessary to list every job you’ve held.

2) Avoid job titles and use statements instead.

3) Show examples of your work whenever possible e.g. pictures, links, and presentations

The LinkedIn team also offered profile makeovers. I found this one-on-one time to be invaluable. Crystal Braswell offered me tailored tips that I utilized as soon as I got home. They included changing my profile picture because she said I looked younger in person. (Yikes!) The changes instantly made my page look better. I’ve already received positive feedback which let me know I was on the right track.

Crystal Braswell gets her makep done

Whether or not you think of yourself as being photogenic the experts say don’t ignore your profile picture. The LinkedIn team converted a small area into a professional photo shoot complete with make-up artist. All night this booth had a continuous line. Your profile picture is one of the first things people see and taking the time to ensure it’s representative of who you are is important.

LinkedIn photoshoot

By the end of the event I felt rejuvenated. Receiving usable tips and being in the company of others who are working on improving their digital footprint helped recharge my career batteries. Change isn’t always easy but events like #RockYourProfile showed me that improvement isn’t an insurmountable task.

Here are more Growth hacking with LinkedIn tips from Peter Chee.

frontierIf you live in downtown Redmond, this week you’re all-too-familiar with “closed” or “cash only signs.”

Saturday, September 20th, was the first day of what has been a massive Internet, Phone, and TV outage.  How did this happen?  Frontier Communications has reported the following initial cause: IMCO Construction ripped up 1000’s of feet of fiber and copper cable near the street at Bear Creek Parkway and Redmond Way.

Now, on day 7 of this outage, many are still experiencing outages.

My own family household experienced a mere 2-day outage, which meant having to pay cash for our traditional weekend Zaw pizza and relocating to watch the Husky and Seahawks game last weekend.  Annoying at most, but nowhere near the level of frustration others in downtown Redmond are facing.  Redmond businesses are facing an impact on an entirely different scale.  Businesses have lost phone services, directly affecting their computer and credit card access.  Because of this, many businesses have closed or scaled down their work hours.  On top of that, some businesses continue to pay employees despite closures.  Which boils down to businesses losing money.

This outage has had a negative impact at thinkspace, as well.  As a company that provides professional phone answering services, Peter Chee (CEO of thinkspace) posted earlier:

“My company has 200 DID’s (phone numbers) and we are answering phones for many small businesses and startups. It’s impacting our ability to take phone calls from prospective customers and provide customer support for our existing customers. It’s very disturbing that Frontier’s engineering team is unable to temporarily move us off a PRI (copper) onto fiber (FIOS).”

Chee and Sami Dyer (Customer Experience Manager) have been providing the community at thinkspace with multiple daily updates on their outage.  Unlike Frontier Communications.  Many customers have tweeted, posted, and commented how the outage is causing an outrage because of Frontier Communications’ unnecessary lack of communication.

On day 5 of the outage, Chee and Dyer both attended a community meeting run by Frontier at the Redmond Community Center.  During the meeting, Chee challenged Frontier by asking the following question on behalf of small business in Redmond: “What will be done to take care of businesses that have lost money?” To which the Frontier representative replied: “I don’t understand what you all mean by losing business but I don’t have an answer for you.”  What an OUTRAGEous response.

The last word from Frontier – which like local business revenue has been severely limited – was that they expect another 72 hours until all is repaired.  Which would tally 10 days for this outage.

One Facebook user brings up an interesting perspective and comments: “The City as a whole has bitten off way more than they could handle by allowing all the construction to go this way. It’s ridiculous. Too many apartment boxes at once and too many streets torn up. And who monitored the construction companies with the utilities locates? Grade F goes everywhere on this goat rodeo.”

What are your thoughts on this “goat rodeo?”  Is this an outage or an outrage?  How have you been affected?




thinkspace---4thOffice space in Redmond – and at thinkspace – is a valued resource.  Startups and employers are drawn to Redmond’s corporate environment, and as businesses continue to grow and expand, thinkspace has made the decision to grow with them.  In order to meet the needs of our community, thinkspace is excited to announce that a fourth floor will soon be added its Redmond location.  Currently, the three floors at the Redmond location are full of thriving and energetic members.  But as more and more startups and companies move into the area seeking office space and an entrepreneurial community, the decision was clear.  An addition of a fourth floor will start this summer, and its completion is estimated (weather permitting) late fall of 2014.

Current thinkspace members located on the third floor will need to work elsewhere during this construction and transition.  They will be encouraged to work at neighboring coffee shops and parks.  Thinkspace will provide them with wifi connections wherever they decide to work from, and personally deliver incoming mail and packages to avoid any major inconveniences.

Thank you for celebrating with us as we expand!

And yes, if you haven’t figured it out yet…this is an April Fool’s joke!!!
Because haven’t you heard?  We have expanded to Seattle!  That is our “fourth floor.” :)

***Can you find the “Nap Room” in this fictional floor plan?

workplace2This past November, I attended a Humanizing Work conference in New York City.  Mark Crowley (well-known writer for Fast Company) gave a compelling and challenging talk regarding leadership in the workplace.   He commented that during the past few years, worker’s needs have changed, but their leaders have not.  This has resulted in workers being dissatisfied with their jobs.  And Crowley believes this is a leadership problem, not the worker’s problem.

As we welcome the New Year of 2014, as workers and leaders we must resolve to humanize our work.  What I mean by this is that as managers, we must listen to the needs of our workers.  And as workers, we must vocalize our needs to our managers.  Because the way you manage matters.  And the way you work also matters.

In his book, Lead From the Heart, Crowley lists the top five things that people look for in a job:

  1. to work for a company they respect
  2. to have a trustworthy and engaging boss that advocates for them and helps them with career growth
  3. variety in their position to make use of their talents
  4. to be valued and recognized
  5. the pay (this doesn’t rank hire than 5th anywhere in the world!)

If you want to humanize your workplace – simply look at your motives as well as what is motivating your workers.  It’s not as much about the  money as it is about believing in a common cause and respecting those around you.  May your 2014 involve more humanizing work than it does dehumanizing work.  Happy New Year, everyone!

don't let it haunt youDon’t let your past haunt you.

I’m a fairly positive and forward-thinking person.  But hiccups along the way usually involve dwelling too much on the mistakes of my past and trying to remedy and re-remedy them.  Even though most of the time they’ve already been dealt with.

We’ve all been told that mistakes are helpful, because we can learn from them and move forward.  And that last part is key – learn from them and move forward.  It’s impossible to be fully present when your head is stuck in the muck of the past.

So if you want to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past.

Think about someone that you look up to.  A mentor perhaps.  If you’re anything like me, your mentor figures don’t have a perfect past.
They’ve been there.
They’ve had hardship.
They’ve failed at something.
They’ve gotten it wrong.

But instead of covering up their mistakes or trying to have a better past, they’ve moved forward and made it part of their story.
A rich story with the ability to overcome.Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today.

So what’s in your past?
A failed relationship?
An unsuccessful startup?
An unproductive career?
Your future will only get better when you let go of the past.

Honor it, acknowledge it, but don’t let it haunt you.

Happy Halloween!