#267 – How Anne Gannon Went From Elite Pro Golfer To Accountant

Thomas Green here with ethical marketing service. On the episode today, we have Anne Gannon. Anne, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Yes, so I’m the founder of the Largo group, we specialize in accounting for business owners. Really trying to reinvent the way that accounting works for business owners so that it’s a more collaborative approach because I think the traditional way accounting is done doesn’t Work for people who don’t know our business, it’s just too long between time you talk to your accountant and then you know, especially the last few years with COVID, you know, there’s a lot of changes from one year to another. So our approach is really being proactive like looking at where you are today and you know where you want to go in the future. So I founded this in um you know I’ve been in public accounting like 20 years, I found a bloody group in 2016. Um but before that I was playing professional golf, I grew up as a golfer and what I really loved about that journey was just you know, getting to travel all over the United States and meet so many people and what I realized is all the a lot of the people that I met along the way or entrepreneurs like just tends to be that a lot of entrepreneurs play golf.

So what I realized in my golf journey is that I was more interested, you know their stories, their businesses, like watching them create things that I was about like the technical part of the golf swing, right? So when I turned pro, it was kind of like, well golf is great, but I love like talking to these people, like how do I do that more? And um what I realized is, you know, my passion was elsewhere and so you know, went back to school for an accounting degree and then ended up at the larger group. It is one thing that jumped out at me and I’m not gonna lie, professional golfer turned accountant has a certain thing about it, but from a story perspective, there’s a lot of just me, but I’m sure you’ve had people ask you about it. So I guess to start off with, you were quite young when you started golf, is that right? Yeah, so probably 10 or 11, I really started to take it seriously in high school, my parents moved to Florida. So all of a sudden called could be done around or before I have lived, you know, in the northeast where you have winter, but also I think when anyone who’s been to Florida, you know, you see a lot of like high level athletes down there, right?

Like it’s not uncommon, you know, the, the Williams sisters were in west Palm, like, you know, there’s lots of great athletes and what you realize is, you know, golf is one of the sports that, you know, the more you work, the better your results are like really golf is, I don’t think a lot of like, you know, born with it like natural ability as much as it’s one of the sports that you just, the harder you work and the more diligent you are, the better get. And so um I’m my strongest qualities were catholic and so what I realize is like if I practiced harder than everyone else, like I’ll get better and, and improve and I kind of like that it was sport and so you know, that’s really what my journey all through high school and then when I went to college, you know, same thing kind of realizing that, you know, if I work extra hours and I work in the winter when no one else is working, then you know, you’ll, you’ll get the result in the spring, there’s already a lesson there to take away. So have you said the phrase, the harder I work, the luckier I get.

That is so true in golf. Yes, I think that is one of the truest things in golf, but there really isn’t luck, but yes, practice does. So you start off at 10 or 11 at what point do you think? Yeah, I think I could get really good at this. So it really wasn’t until college. I mean again in in florida, like you have the best people in the nation coming down to florida to play golf so you can feel like I’m not that good because these kids are really, really good and, and you know, the other thing with golf, my parents didn’t have a lot of money so I didn’t have the resources that a lot of the people that I was playing and stayed in high school. So when I went to college it was opening because all of a sudden as a college athlete, you get all the same resources, everybody else, right? It’s less about like what your family has and more about what your school provides to everybody. So the minute I was in college, I’m like, well this is amazing, right? Like I have a practice facility now and I have a trainer if I wanted, like I have all these things that you know, growing up, my parents just couldn’t afford to do.

I mean I used to take the bus after school to like a local beauty course get off with my climate, it was so bad compared to these other kids who had like so much more, but in college it was the Great equalizer and all of a sudden I’m like, wow if I work really, really hard this winter because coming in, I was kind of like the lower end, like I was lucky to get on a D one team and you know, I was happy to get whatever I could just to have that opportunity and then that first winter I practiced every day and nobody really did at that time. I mean I was like the joke that I was sort of like the tiger era where golfers didn’t realize you could practice a lot and get better. Like he was just starting to come up and like revolutionized cause you know, laughing aside like the golf team wasn’t required to go to the fitness center, like the other teams were in my generation. I mean now it’s so different, but back then it was like we practiced like three days a week and then you know, we’ll play a couple of tournaments but it wasn’t really organized or you know, really intense And so I thought, well if I add that intensity that I see these other sports doing and now that I have the resources like anything can happen.

And so by my sophomore year I had one um our championship for our division in college, it was really starting to see um, you know, some, some better results. And so that was probably when I prepared to think like this is something that’s not good at. And at what point do you actually turn pro? Yeah, so my story was my sophomore year in college, I won like our division championship and then actually, you know, a few months later my dad passed away who had been my mentor and so I really went into kind of the questioning of, am I going to play again like this, you know, I’m an only child. And so it was really like mentally tough time to say like is this something I want to pursue anymore? Like he used to come to all my events and then I was really thankful to find code, I ended up moving back home because my mom was in florida and just to be closer to her and um, I was really fortunate to find a coach who said again, you know, my parents didn’t have a lot and he said, if you come, when I tell you to come and you do what I tell you to do, I will never charge you.

And that was huge. I mean, probably one of the biggest life changing things because he was, he was at a great course. And so that’s what I did. I was like, I would wait by the phone and then I get the call, but I’m not gonna go, you’re gonna go to my lessons, like, you know, whatever he told me to do I would do. And so he was, you know, so great because he knew I was kind of a mess emotionally and he said, well, you know, you’re probably not going to be playing great for the next 12 months because he had lost his head when he was young and he said, all right, so we’re just gonna rebuild your golf, Make it the best technical swing we can. So when you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go and and so by my senior year we kind of had built around, like not really worrying about the tournament because we knew I was okay, I could do it right from my first two years. And so by my senior year, I was ranked third in the state of Florida and then I was eventually ranked 11th nationally and all of a sudden had this great technical swing that would hold up under pressure. And so then that was really when like, all right now we’re gonna turn pro and see where this goes. I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Um, the reason you think that, um, he offered to teach you for free was because he empathized with your, with your situation.

You think that is why that happened? Yes, definitely. I think, um, you know, he was such a great guy and really, um, you know, I think it was to see that I had the work ethic right? Because I think there’s a lot of people who say they’ll put in the work and then they don’t. So I definitely think that he, um, more than anything I saw that I really would show up every day and I was like crazy about, like we called, I was just like, drop everything. So I never took advantage. I never took for granted what he was doing for me and I think that’s what made it a really good partnership, is that, you know, even, you know, four years in truly appreciated every hour that he gave me and um, was just eager to learn whatever he would teach. So I think that was a huge part of it. And then obviously understanding, you know, the mental part of, of losing a parent, We sort of dropped into the conversation casually that you were third in Florida, third in the whole state and then 11th nationally, like it was like, it’s no big deal.

How did that feel when you found out that metric for lack of a better term? Yeah, I mean, it was huge because I think it was the first time where you really saw, you know, the years of effort, you know, paying off because in golf it’s like you have a great tournament that you had tournament great, you know, it’s so mentally taxing just because you’re constantly putting yourself out there and then, you know, you can have a bad results and good results. It’s hard to see that you’re improving, but my senior summer when I actually end up winning one of the larger amateur championship, which is the Women’s Eastern, there’s, you know, back then there were like four majors for women’s amateur golf and so winning the Women’s Eastern really put me out there, you know, in front of the rest of the, you know, great players. And so that really felt like it was okay, you know, I belong here now, I’ve kind of proven that I belong here. So would you say that that was the, the competition that really stands out for you in terms of accomplishments?

Yes, yes, even though it’s probably my proudest involved, it’s great to hear about it, but I’d love to hear more. Are you, how many rounds is it for that competition? 54 Hole Stroke Play. Okay, so would you say you in the lead in the last, last day? I was leading by four, which is probably my most terrifying day and what’s going through your mind before you tee off on the last day? Yeah, so just, you know, I think the thing with golf that you, you know, even that there’s just so many life lessons is just trying so hard not to get ahead of yourself right, knowing that you just have to play every shot for that shot and not think about, you know what the result is, and, you know, also being out in front because I was in the lead pairing, because I was leading going in, which was very, you know, I had not been in many, like lead pairings going into the last day, so just, you know, I think the biggest left in there was, um and overall, I think in competitive sports is just that, like, if you question your belief in yourself, it’s a lot harder, so you really have to go in thinking like I belong here, there’s no difference between me and these other players and just really own it right, Like own the situation and say that I’m gonna enjoy it and and see what happens.

So I wouldn’t say I was perfect at that, but that was the mindset, you know, going in and and just, you know, trying to feel comfortable because I think that was the other thing that my clothes are so good at. Um I was just trying to say like, you know, this is just the last, this is the last time you want to be in the situation, right? So like you have to learn from it and be more comfortable every time you do it. So just looking at it as a learning opportunity and as you’re playing the last round, are you aware of, is there like scoreboards up? Are you aware of how you, you kind of know because you knew mathematically there were only like a couple of girls that were probably like four or five I could really win. Um just based on, you know, the scores, you kind of knew like the girl in my group and I think there were two in front of us, but um yes, you knew that you needed to play okay, just to make it happen. And do you mind telling the story of the last hole of that round? Yeah, my hands were shaking and then yeah, and then I basically hit the ball on the green because there’s like tons of people watching at that point and they had like a balcony area members that showed up.

And so I remember my my platter, it was just shaking and I’m like, all right. I think as long as I three, like three, but our worst, right? Like this or three better, better. Um But ideally you want to make it. So I ended up two putting, but I remember my mother was just shaking and there was nothing you could do to calm down at that point, but ended up okay, and that was it. And what happened after that? Yeah, so I won which is really exciting. Um And then, you know, I think what was interesting is it again just kind of changed how I knew of inner confidence, right? I think that event gave me such inner confidence in anything I really did in golf after that, because you always knew like I was incredibly nervous, it was terrifying, but I didn’t write and I think that was the biggest lesson I do want to um sort of go over what you mentioned about the fact that at some stage you do think about, you know, I don’t know whether this is for me anymore and you start thinking about accounting, but whilst we’re on like the high of your golf game, I’d like to know if there’s anything which you learn from gulf which you use in your life, any lessons that you’ve taken away, definitely.

I mean, I think, you know, when I first left golf, I tried not, I tried to keep them very separate, right? It was like, all right, I’m not in the golfer, like I just want to go and be an and and find out what else I want to do with my life. Even when I went into accounting for the first time I worked at a firm, you know my first couple of jobs where you know larger accounting firms and I always just wanted to be an and I think what I realized was that my background has been so different, right? Like I really hadn’t been, you know doing internships or all the things that like other accountants have been doing because I’ve been off doing golf and so for the longest time I kind of looked at that as like, you know, I have catch up to do, I have to work harder than everybody else if I wasn’t doing those things. And it really wasn’t until Covid that I started to put the two together, which is, I don’t crazy ever, but you know, for us, I mean we specialize in restaurants, so hospitality and our business model that I built intentionally was monthly billing, right?

So my clients pay us monthly. And so when Covid hit, you know, in March 2020 we were as impacted as everybody right because I have 90% of my clients that I don’t know if they’re going to pay us in april and I don’t have long term contracts. So I was completely exposed. And I remember just thinking those early days because it was so shattering to have to put on a brave face, talk to our clients, like say, oh it’s gonna be fine, you know, we’re gonna figure it out when you don’t really know if you’re going to write, you’re trying your best, but everybody’s world is shattered and I remember thinking this is so mental, right? Like this is so mental of my set because it would be so easy, just like a bad round, it would be so easy, just completely go down that rabbit hole of like this is horrible and you know, and I remember watching the clients that were able to get on the phone and be like, you know, there’s gonna be opportunity, like I know this is gonna be great and then there are people who just couldn’t see the forest through the trees and I’m like wow, like this is just like a bad round of golf, right?

Like if I can’t clear my head, I will not get through today, but I will not have a good day, I will not perform and all of a sudden it was like, wow, like I know how to do this, right, I know all the steps, so if we can all do this and educate my clients on my set and all that matters is today and making sure you’re looking ahead, not looking behind those are the same lessons that you have in sports and so you know all of a sudden it was like wow, like I might not have been doing internship, but I know how to turn around a bad round of golf, but I think if we do those same here, we could have the same result. And so that really was the first time that I was like, wow, I think I think I do have a very unique approach and sort of owning that rather than feeling like you’re the outlier, it’s a great analogy. I do have to ask though, do you think that there are some restaurants alive now because of the fact that you helped them through that? I mean I think obviously anything did it on their own, but I think the, the mindset, the discussion of mindset, the awareness of mindset.

Yes, I do feel like I was a lifeline for some of our clients. I mean there were people who, I literally would talk to the same time every week and we wouldn’t really have much to talk about. You know, we have like the basics, but it was more just like checking in like talking, talking them up right, like just staying in their ear like it’s okay, like this week’s gonna be better. I mean I had one client who when he first started they were down like they were the revenue was 34% of what it has been the year before, they were in like a tourist area. All the tourists have gone home, Everybody was canceling their trips and that really historically has been, you know, their sweet spot was like March and april of the year and that kind of carried them on for the rest of the year. And his mindset was so good because he was, he didn’t get frustrated, I get angry, I would be so easy to be angry, right? Like he’s invested his life, he’s been doing this 20 years like now, you know, this is the the month that carries you cash flow wise for the whole year and it’s gone and he’s like, you know what Our goal is, by the end of the year we’re gonna be back to 75%,, that’s all we’re going to focus on and every week he would have it and it would get a little better and a little better and all of a sudden like by the time he got october november, like they were right there and and they hit it and it was just like watching him not be mad and not let the frustration get the best of him and just, he stayed positive for his team and he never let them see him sweat, right.

He always just had like it’s okay, we’re working on this, we’re gonna be fine and I mean there was such a lesson in just, you know, my set and really setting that goal ahead rather than getting frustrated about the past. Well well done anyway, I’m glad that a bad game of go for a potentially bad game of golf has helped many, many restaurants um so why is it that you get, I don’t know in terms of why you leave golf to go and do accounting? Would you say that it’s because your passion is accounting or would you say is because you got tired of what you were doing? No, I think I knew um probably even before I turned pro that golf wasn’t something I could see myself doing forever. I mean I just, I never had the technical love like golfers are like scientists, right? Like you really had the people who are great at golf for for the most part, right? The pros are so into like the technical movement of the club and angles and I just was never like that, like I loved playing the game and I loved the, the journey of the travel part of it and getting to go different places.

I love the challenge of trying to be the best, but fundamentally like the idea of that being your life and that’s all you’re talking about, you know, really was not um in my gut something that I wanted to do forever. So I think, you know, it was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had was with my pro like uh teaching for who to say that after one year I was walking away because I think to him it was like well why not try for five years, right? Like you don’t, obviously there’s gonna be a huge learning curve, you can’t judge it after year one. Um but to me it was like I know I know that feeling in my gut and to me another year would just be wasted because I just don’t, I don’t love being out here and spending six months grinding to get better anymore. So you know, I think when I started to look back on what I did because that was a huge decision because everything I have done has been golfing and I used to take my classes in college at night, it’s like practice during the day when I had done had changed my life for so long.

Um but you know when I first started thinking about, okay, well what do I like to do? Well I really always loved business, I you know I used to listen to CNBC or what, you know, I always was interested and you know, stories of entrepreneurs and um so you know I kept thinking about that and then one of my professors in college actually great advice where she really said, you know accounting is very much like economic because my undergrad has been in economics, but you just like it’s just a skill if you can learn the accounting skill with the love of economics that really can give you a tool to go and do whatever you want and so once I started getting into the accounting classes I realized if you really dig into accounting that’s what it is like you’re just learning you know the language of business but if you’re interested in the business and not just the accounting you’ll be a great account because a lot of accountants just get into like the technical part but miss the big picture, but if you can see the big picture and know the technical part then you you really can you have the key right?

So I realized like the economics wasn’t such a bad thing and um you know and then when I got out into my first public accounting job you know I had a great mentor who had a partner at the firm who kind of thought like me, he had been an economics major first and so seeing there was somebody else, I’m like all right like this, this can work, I’m excited about this and at what point do you decide to sort of go out on your own? Yeah so I mean I loved working, you know it was a great experience to be in a firm and to be in public accounting but you know I quickly realized that it I like the small business clients right? Like a lot of people who go into accounting like corporate, right? The corporate structure, the bigger jobs, you know public jobs that are out, you know trading on the stock exchange and to me I love the owner like having the relationship with the owner and the smaller job and that you know I realized those jobs need so much more attention than the bigger jobs that have accounting staff or have a CFO.

And so to me at the in the larger public firm you really can’t spend the time with the owners on smaller jobs because then their margins don’t work right like fundamentally in accounting, they billable hours. So the whole goal is that you spend the least amount of time on the job, get it done and then move on. And and I really wanted to develop more relationships and be able to help people get better right make their business better because to me it’s such a disconnect that the billable hours you’re not allowed to really spend time with those jobs and yet if you did they might have a better result next year. So I just felt like there’s such a disconnect with the you know entrepreneurs or small business owners and it’s really an underserved group of people. So to me being able to go out on my own um I wanted to have kids too and you know and in public accounting kids, it’s hard so it was sort of a good time. I was pregnant with my first time and I thought you know what, I’m going to just spend a year or two with the clients that I had at a few times that I was working on by myself at the time and just said, let me explore what does this different way look like, because, you know, everyone thought I was crazy, even my husband and I’m like, you know, it can be done differently.

He’s, You don’t even know, like you’ve been there like five years, people have been there 20 years, like, how can, you know, it can be done better? And I’m like, I know I can’t, like, I see it, I know you can just figure it out. And so that was really, you know, kind of the first couple of years with my son at home and then um you know, really seeing that it was working and then, you know, just started to kind of grow a niche of people who were looking for the type of accounting that I wanted to provide. And what would you say your biggest wins are? I would say, I think um you know, I joke now that I was talking about cash flow before Covid, but I would say in business our biggest win was Covid, because we didn’t sit back. I think a lot of people in the accounting community and rightly so, again, the more technical, you know, we’re sat back and we’re waiting for guidance from the government and my stance probably because we had to, because we were as exposed as anyone was like, we’re all in this together and we’re going down to like we are gonna fight to get out of this and that’s exactly what we we went all in.

We did weekly webinars to whoever wanted it. We had, you know, thousands of people signing up at the beginning because they were all at home and they didn’t know what to do. And just we were very honest, very transparent like, hey, nobody knows right? Like anything, everything online, nobody knows, no one knows how long it’s gonna last. No one knows if there’s going to be government help, but let’s talk to it, let’s figure it out, let’s let’s all brain storm. And you know those first eight weeks were liking to everyone right? We really found a group that just worked together to figure it out. And then with that, you know, we really just started to completely reinvent our model. We used to be pre covid, like monthly accounting, we send out monthly reports, we still to this day send out weekly because monthly it’s just too long to wait, they have to have information about their business every week. And so we transformed, we were transparent about it. We were open to doing it. You know the way our client wanted, if they want to see something then we’ll get it to you because at the end of the day, our lesson to them was because you can’t even be waiting for us, right, this is your business and you have to know exact exactly where you are every week in order to be the best business owner you can.

So my job is to get you that information but your job is to look at it right and like you have to own your role as much as I own my role as your accountant and I think that was the biggest win for everybody and for the model that we’ve created was just there’s ownerships on both sides were working together but we’re not gonna let a week go by without knowing where we are and what’s next for U. N. I don’t know. Well I think you know what’s exciting is the model lives beyond covid right? Because originally it was just like we’re doing weekly for a little bit and you know that turned into like two or three years. But you know I think what’s next for me is helping obviously I don’t think in many ways now is just like covid for the restaurant now I’m sure other industries would have a different story to tell but for restaurants this is really as challenging as covid with inflation. And so um I feel like the next few months for me are getting back out there to them and and letting them know that you know that they’re not alone because there’s an incredible amount of frustration with the inflation with, especially on the labor side, I mean they probably on average they’re probably spending six or $7 an hour or more for every employee.

So if you have 50 employees, that’s an incredible amount of money that you weren’t spending two years ago and In restaurants, you know, your customers have a price that they’re going to pay for pizza. That’s probably not $15 more than it was two years ago. So it is, the entire model has shifted and I think there’s a lot of independent restaurants mostly who we work with that. You really have to figure it out for yourself. You don’t have a brand, like a chick fil a or Mcdonald’s is gonna figure it out for you. Like you have to figure out your model in order to survive. And unlike Covid, I mean it’s scary as Covid was, once you got through initially, there was always the hope of, okay, we’re getting better. Like it’ll, it’ll get better. We just have to wait it out and you know, kind of improve every week. And I think right now we don’t see that right? Like nobody really knows when the inspirational subside or what happens next. So to me, I think it’s really turning to your clients and coming up with solutions as we get to the end of the year so that they’re not just waiting around for things to improve, but that they’re proactive as we go in the next year, there’s a lot of good stuff in this episode, lots of learnings.

So I appreciate the value in terms of as a question I asked everyone that comes on and the question is what does success mean to you? Yeah, that’s a good question. I would say to me, I think success is um you know, loving what you do every day. And I think um and what I realized in Covid, because you know, I had the moment just like everyone else, I think any business owner had, which was why am I doing this right, was incredibly hard and it just became a lot harder, you know, and I just meant to walk away, Is this it for us? And you know, I think what I learned out of that and that I hope that even, you know, everything you want to remember is that if you got through that moment and realize you love what you do, then we just have to find a way to love it in any situation and not feel like it’s beyond our control, right? So to me, I think the successes that you wake up every day and you love what you do and and that you’re trying to get better every day. And based on that criteria, would you say you’re a successful person?

Yeah, I think, yes, but similar to golf, I think the lesson is we all have to think that we’re successful, right? Like I think sometimes as entrepreneurs where like you shy away from the words be successful, right? But I think one thing that I definitely learned in golf is you have to own where you are, right? So if we don’t see ourselves in the final group then we’ll never get there. Is there anything I should have asked you about today? No, this is great. Any closing thoughts? Yeah, I would just tell every, you know, business owner, entrepreneur out there that um, you know, I think the biggest lesson is owning every week of your business, you know, like forget the news, turn off the news, forget the, that everyone says is happening and really focus on your journey and improving every week. I loved hearing about your story for those people who want to connect with you or hire you. Where do they go? Yes, so check out our website, the larger group dot com. We offer lots of resources. We have free rev in ours every month and we’re also on social media as well. And thank you for being a great guest today. Thank you