Speaking at Sage Summit in Melbourne, Australia

I am thrilled to announce that I will be speaking at Sage Summit in Melbourne, Australia which takes place on Thursday, March 2 and Friday, March 3 at the Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006.

Check back here for specific session times, but I know that I will be speaking on two of my favorite topics – Healing Leadership and Innovating Beyond Technology.

I am so excited, I decided to do a trailer video. Enjoy!

Innovation Beyond Technology

This session is dedicated to the possibility that innovation goes beyond just technological developments. Technology is important, but it is only a small part of innovation. For innovation to be more fully complete we must look at other areas including the internal processes of the organization and most importantly the very language we use. Innovating like this is hard work and not for everyone because it requires deeper thinking than is most often thought. If you believe you can attain this level of thinking, you are invited to attend this session facilitated by Ed Kless, Sage senior director of partner development and strategy.

Healing Leadership

This session is dedicated to the possibility that the majority of leadership thinking is wrong as it is ultimate based on manipulation – trying to “get someone to do something.” Coming to terms with this idea is difficult and not for everyone because it requires us to examine some of our most deeply held beliefs and either dismiss them or at least think differently about them. If you are interesting in having a conversation about healing leadership, you are invited to attend this session facilitated by Ed Kless, Sage senior director of partner development and strategy. This material is based on the work of Howard Hansen and Steve Geske, who have presented at previous Sage Summits.

Prediction for 2017

If you thought the celebrity death toll was a “bad” in 2016, just “wait ‘till next year.” This may sound crass, but in a very odd way the increase in celebrity deaths is a very good thing indeed. Please note this is not in any way meant to disparage or disrespect those that have passed on. I am always saddened by the lose of human life, well, maybe not for people like Fidel Castro, but I digress.

Two main reasons exist for this increase in morbitity among the (sometimes rich and) famous:

Demographics

First, it is simply a matter of demographics. The baby boomer generation, of which many of the famous are a part, has for decades wreaked havoc with many of society’s institutions. For example, many schools, now abandoned, were built to accomodate their ballooning numbers in the late 1950s. It only stands to reason that as this generation reaches their average life expectancy the number of those who die will continue to increase.

Economics

Second, and more importantly in my mind, is the increase in wealth and standard of living that have occurred over the last 50 years. Simply put, many of the celebrities including sports figures are famous because we have more discretionary income to create more fame. Despite all the the-sky-is-falling rhetoric from politicians of all ilks, we (as in all of us collectively) are much much better off than we were a few generations ago.

Furthermore, the increase in “healthcare” spending is partially due precisely to this same reason — we can afford to spend more on healthcare.

But back to my main point, if it were not for this increase in the world’s wealth, a goodly number of those we know as famous would have likely died in obscurity. So in 2017 when someone famous passes on, just remember it is partially a sign of our increasing standard of living.

And in a year from now when people are talking about 2017 being the “worst year” for celebrity deaths, remember it is only likely to continue to increase until 2032 and beyond.

My Sage Summit 2016 Sessions

Sage Summit 2016 invades the McCormick Center in Chicago next week. Below are a list of the sessions I will be participating in:

  • The Future of the Accounting Profession with Daniel Susskind. Monday, 2:30pm,  The Commons, 4th Floor, Room S404. Do not miss this one! If you are a mid-market Sage Partner and have multiple folks attending Sage Summit you might want to split up as this pertains to you as well.
  • Panel on The Future of the Professions. Monday, 3:45pm to 5:00pm, The Commons, 4th Floor, Room S404. In addition, to Daniel Susskind, I will be moderating a panel which includes: Ron Baker, Gary Boomer, Garry Carter, William Nahum, Doug Sleeter, and Joe Woodard.
  • Do you want fries with that? Fundamentals of strategic pricing. Tuesday, 2:00pm, Commons 304B, GN-7403
  • The invisible handshake: a new take on corporate social responsibility (with Ron Baker). Tuesday 4:45pm and Wednesday 3:30pm, Commons 305A GN-8498
  • Shut up and eat your french fries: asking effective questions. Wednesday, 2:00pm, Commons 305D, SA-7420 
  • Innovation beyond technology. Thursday 12:30pm, Commons 304C, GN-7419
  • Again with the trusted advisor. Thursday 2:00pm, Commons 302D, GN-8500

Your Cancer Is Called a Timesheet

Dividing cancer cells
Timesheets: the cancer of the professions

I stood silently among a group of a dozen managing partners of regional firms as I hooked up my MacBook to the projector to begin my talk about becoming a firm of the future.

They had just been presented a state-of-the-profession address by an MP of a Top 100 firm. I have heard much of the content of the presentation before at other gatherings of professional accountants.

The litany of “challenges” repeated the narrative that has been well documented and continues to grow for over the last decade:

  • While there are more people graduating with degrees in accounting, fewer of them are sitting for the CPA exam. This is leading to fewer new hires for firms.
  • The new hires they do have are “millennials” who desire a challenge and think they should be made partner sooner rather than later.
  • Attrition, especially at the mid-career level, is over 10 percent and is mostly initiated by the professional, not the firm.
  • The loss of people in the middle and bottom of the pyramid is eroding the traditional economic model. Non-equity partners are increasing and funding for partner buyouts is disappearing.
  • Cries of “We must become more efficient,” and/or, “We must embrace new technology,” and/or “We must hold people more accountable,” reverberate in meetings.
  • Compliance work continues to flat line and while new offerings are growing revenue, they are not growing fast enough. Worse still those that do this work are often not even CPAs!

After my presentation was successfully displaying on the projector – the modern equivalent of the campfire in this narrative. I paused to get their full attention.

“Here is what I heard,” I began.

“Our profession is sick, even dying. We might have cancer. We really don’t know, but it is bad.”

After another pause and with no one disputing my summary, I continued, “I think you are right. I think you do have cancer. The good news is, I believe I know the cause and it is curable.”

They all looked at me in hopeful, but suspect anticipation.

“Your cancer is called ‘a timesheet’ and you must cut it out completely before it kills you.”

There were a few barely perceptible nods and even some smiles and hushed chuckles from the two “younger” people in the room. The chuckles quickly morphed into coughs as they remembered their MP was seated among them.

I proceeded to dismantle all the arguments (there are only four) in favor of the timesheet before anyone else could say anything. I even went so far as to do something I rarely do in a public live event. In fact, I call it the nuclear option.

The brief exercise is so stinging, so devastating to the timesheet argument that I fear that it could cause emotional damage to everyone in the room. Because of this I usually reserve it for online anonymous events so that folks have some time to themselves to recover.

“How many of you have ever filled out a timesheet?” I boomed as I raised my hand in the air. All hands joined mine in pointing heavenward.

raised hands“How many of you have put down on your timesheet the incorrect number of hours you worked on something, be that too many hours or too few hours with full knowledge that it was incorrect?” As is the case everywhere I have done this exercise, all hands remained with mine in the air. One participant, I do not know who, meekly mumbled, “Every week,” under his breath but audible to all.

I paused again, then quipped softly, my hand still in the air, “The ethics session begins later today,” trying to make a bit of joke to relieve their inner guilt.

Why is this? Why, in one of the most ethical and honored of professions, is this not only the norm, but ubiquitous? Why are these good people, moral and upright members of the community, whose commission is, in part, to identify, correct, and in some cases, prosecute financial wrongdoing (aka, getting the numbers right) sitting before me all guilty of that same crime?

The answer, again, is the timesheet.

In my session on Trashing the Timesheet, I speak mostly of how the timesheet is suboptimal as a pricing mechanism. There is no doubt about this, it is beyond dispute. However, my argument goes beyond this mere deficiency in pricing. The timesheet, not the people who fill them out, is immoral and unethical.

Why? Because it – the idea of a timesheet – is based on a falsified idea known as the labor theory of value which was developed in part by Karl Marx. Time/value equivalency is a false notion that causes bad things to happen. As explained by my “nuclear” exercise, it is the timesheet causes otherwise moral people to do immoral things; it is the timesheet causes people in a highly ethical profession to do unethical things.

I realize this is a dramatic statement, but it is nonetheless true. Think about it no one has ever said they have behaved completely honestly. In addition to this reason, my distain for the timesheet and belief it is immoral expands when it is applied inside the organization to judge individuals.

People come to believe that their worth is actually in their hours they “bill.” They start to believe their hours have a specific “worth” not only to the firm but to them as if hours “spent” with children or aging parents must be evaluated against the hours “spent” at work.

Country singer Jamey Johnson recorded a great song a few years back entitled The Dollar. In the video for the song, scenes cut back and forth between a little boy and his father. When the boy asks his mother, “Why does Daddy go to work?” the mom replies, “Your Daddy’s got a job, and when he goes to work they pay him for his time.” The child then goes to his piggy bank and returns to his mom and in the chorus of the song asks:

How much time with this buy me?

Is it enough to take me camping in a tent down by the stream?

If I’m a little short, then how much more does Daddy need,

To spend some time with me?

Cue weeping.

It is my contention that this song illustrates what happens to people who record their time. Over years indeed decades it affects their internal belief system about who they are in essence as people. It robs them of their humanity. This is evil and it must be destroyed.

It is time the profession rid itself of this meddlesome method of malevolence.

On Feeling Safer (or how do you get cancer from a door hinge)

Last weekend, I gave myself a “honey-do” list item to solve a problem that was making me crazy.

In between our “formal” living space and our family room are two closets. One contains gift wrap, candles, out-of-season tchotchkes and the like. The other is a very narrow but deep closet that contains mostly toys and games that the kids play with. (Actually, they seldom play with them, and instead watch somebody called Stampy Longnose on their iPads, but that is another post.)

The kids do access this closet daily and I have already rigged up a motion sensing light inside the clost which remains on until no motion is detected for more than five minutes. The problem is the kids kept leaving the door open which a) impedes the hallway outside the closet, b) looks terrible, c) allows motion outside the closet to trip the motion sensor thereby illuminating the light, and d) makes me crazy to see a door open.

A few weeks ago, I had a brilliant flash of a solution – an autoclosing door hinge. I knew these existed, but I did not really know what might be involved in installing one. Fortunately, they are relatively cheap and only involve replacing one of the current hinges.

I went to Home Depot and found the hinge. Here is a photo:

You can see the cylinder in the middle a a bit larger than a regular hinge, but other than that it is normal looking.

What caught my eye however was the warning label.

You can see that according to the State of California I need to be concerned because, “this product contains chemicals known… to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Seriously, I ask you what would I possibly have to do with this door hinge in order to get cancer from it? Breathe near it? For how long? Lick it? Eat it?

I have to believe that many of the things I could come up with to do with the hinge would cause physical problems much quicker than the development of cancer.

Think about the expense that went into this company having to change their packaging and print this label on this product. It is beyond absurd.

Thanks California! I feel so much safer.

On Jesus and Redistribution

The following meme was posted on a Bernie Sanders Facebook site:

As a Libertarian and a church-going Catholic I see zero contradiction in this. I personally believe the best way to “justly distribute the fruits of the Earth and human labor” is via the free market or what I prefer to call “market tested innovation and supply” in deference to Dierdre McCloskey.

The Church is a private institution. As long as government is not involved, members of a private institution can work toward whatever goal they wish, so long as they do not impose this belief on others.

In the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-14) Jesus says:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

This is a pretty specific rejection of the notion that Jesus (or the Gospel writer) calls for “just redistribution” via coerce force.

Do we as a society have a moral obligation to help our fellow humans? Yes, we do. Furthermore, we get to decide what the best way to do that is for each of us.

Should government be the mechanism to insist upon this obligation? Hell, no!

On Supply-side Economics

This post began as a reply to a Facebook comment which excoriated “supply-side economics.” I took my reply and expanded it a bit for this post.

Supply-side econmics has been much miligned by pudits and popes as being about tax cuts and trickle down. However, it is the opponents of supply theory that have tagged it as such.

Real supply-side theorists never talk in terms of “trickle down,” but in fact, recognize that is really about a trickle up — of the wealth and value created by the individual.

There is no doubt in my mind that supply creates demand, at least initially.

For if demand created supply, Jamaica and Singapore would have similar GDPs because they have roughly the same number of people, therefore their “demands” would be about equal.

Singapore has grown more wealthy because it has decided to be an active participant in the “supply side” whereas, Jamaica and its leaders have chosen to just “demand.”

“What can I do that is of value to others?” is the basic question behind the system of market tested innovation and supply. Those individuals and companies and nations that as that question, are better off then those that say “I want some for me/us.”

On “trickle-down economics”

“Trickle-down economics” is not a real theory. It is a slur of sorts used by those who dislike the theory of supply-side economics. In fact, the phrase “voo-doo economics” was employed first by George Bush, Sr. (and immortalized in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Ben Stein) when campaigning against Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The reality is that supply-side economics has nothing to do with the trickle down effect of tax cuts. In fact, if anything supply side would be best thought of as trickle up, and not about taxation, but about ideas. The more you encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, the more new products, services and knowledge will be created and passed into the economy.

Simply put, supply side economics believes that without supply there is no demand. It is a modern manifestation of Say’s Law – Supply creates demand. Even Karl Marx understood this. Note that he wanted to control the “means of production” not the “means of demand.” Keynesianism, and all it modern manifestations, especially those that emanate from “The Krugtron” (Paul Krugman, PS – He called himself the Krugtron) is based on the exact opposite idea – demand creates supply. It is nonsense, unless you believe in fairies that deliver presents (aka Santa Claus) and big government.

Oh wait, those are the same thing.