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.

New eBook Available (with a chapter by moi)

I am honored to have a chapter in this new free eBook. Here is more from the press release:

Entrepreneurs starting their own businesses now have a little more help. Start with a Profit: Best-Practice Tips for New Entrepreneurs from Top Accounting Industry Leaders is the latest guide to helping new business owners become successful. 

Editor Sandi Leyva, CPA, asked fellow accounting industry thought leaders one question:  “For someone who wants to start a new business from scratch today, what is the most important strategy or tactic you’d tell them about to help them succeed?” One dozen thought leaders along with Sandi provided their answers.  Co-authors include:

  • Alison Ball, Senior Manager of the Global Influencer Program of Intuit, Inc.
  • Sharada Bhansali, Co-Founder of AccountantsWorld
  • Randy Johnston, CEO of Network Management Group, Inc.
  • Ed Kless, Senior Director of Partner Development and Strategy of Sage
  • Sandi Leyva, Founder of Accountant’s Accelerator
  • Monika Miles, President of Miles Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Clayton Oates, Chief Solutions Officer of QA Business Pty Ltd.
  • Edi Osborne, CEO of MentorPlus
  • Leslie Shiner, Owner of the ShinerGroup
  • Doug Sleeter, Founder of the Sleeter Group
  • Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder of Boomer Consulting
  • Geni Whitehouse, Countess of Communication of Even a Nerd Can Be Heard
  • Scott Zarret, President of CPA Academy

“To my knowledge, it’s the first collaborative work of thought leaders in the accounting industry,” says Sandi Leyva.  This is Sandi’s 30th book and her first collaboration as editor. 

Although each author’s contribution is quite unique, a few client-centric themes emerged, including how to market most effectively, how to build customer relationships, and how to interact with clients.  Others focused on business models and pricing.  Still others urged the entrepreneur to embrace their passion and their “why.”

 

On Airquotes Firm of the Future Thinking

Firm of the Future BookYesterday, a former colleage of mine sent me this piece by Jim McGinnis of Intuit. In the interest of full disclosure, and as many of you already know, I work for a competitor of Intuit’s, Sage. Please note this is not about me slamming a competitor from a product standpoint, but rather I am calling out errors in Mr. McGinnis’ thinking. I have never met him and I am sure he is an affable fellow.

This is not an attack on him, but the ideas presented (or lack thereof) in the post.

Mr. McGinnis proposes a three step process to becoming a “Firm of the Future.”

  1. Get on the cloud.
  2. Become a trusted advisor.
  3. Get connected.

Needless to say, I find this listicle a bit, err, lacking.

For example, the first sentence of the first paragraph of his first step is:

In the cloud, you can meet client expectations, stay relevant through improved efficiency, achieve greater collaboration, realize more time savings and lower your costs.

Oh where to begin.

Let me offer a listicle of my own as a critique. I shall entitle it Five Ways This Sentence Completely Misses What Being a Firm of the Future Really Is About. (I know, my headlines suck.)

  1. “In the cloud” – The “cloud” is just a technology. It is not a change in a business model which is what moving to The Firm of the Future really is. It is a change to how the organization creates value for and captures value from its customers. Admonishing folks to “get on the cloud” is a akin to saying “use pencils instead of quill pens” or “use Excel instead of an adding machine.” Yes, it is important to do, but it is not a business model innovation.
  2. “Client expectations” – As advocates for The Firm of the Future, both Ron Baker and I suggest using the word “customer” not “client.” Why? Well I wrote whole blog post on that one.
  3. “Improved efficiency” – Customers do not care about the efficiency of a firm, they care about the firms effectiveness. Ask yourself this, if you have a brain tumor, do you want an efficient surgeon or an effective one? Clearly the latter. At VeraSage there is an entire blog category dedicated to the topic of efficiency versus effectiveness. We call it the “Eff’ing Debate.” I believe that great business strategy is the art of staying one step ahead of having to worry about being efficient.
  4. “Time saving” – Time cannot be “saved.” Time is a constraint to which all of us who live in this time/space continuum are subject; it is not a resource. Our time is not “worth” anything. There is not a single customer of a professional firm who wanted to buy an hour of time; they wanted the results of the hour. Peter Drucker said, “Sell what your customers buy.” DUH! Yet, professionals keep putting “hours” on invoices. Nobody wants hours. In addition, when one is billing by the hour what exactly does “time saving” do? It reduces your price. The more efficient you are the less money you make. What a terrible model! Some argue your rate will go up. Perhaps, but the reduced time it takes is sometimes a factor of ten or more. Nobody’s “billing rate” increases by a factor of ten, perhaps even over the entirety of their career. The author even acknowledges this later in the post.
  5. “Lower your costs” – Beside the above mentioned “and your price” if you bill by the hour, this  is simply not true. Costs do not change much in any professional firm since they are overwhelmingly fixed. Cost allocation might change, but again, customers do not care how you allocate your costs. Have you ever walked into a Starbucks and thought, “Gee, I hope these guys have their costs allocated correctly.” I doubt it.

And that is just the first sentence of the first step. Other errors:

  • Using “Trusted Advisor” I do a session on why professional should not use this term in the marketing. Short form of the argument – Saying “I want to be your trusted advisor” to a prospect is like asking “How many kids do you want to have?” on a first date. Quite a bit forward don’t you think. Oh, and another blog post.
  • Use of the phase “flat-fee pricing.”
  • Use of the phrase “value billing.” Again, a post on this subject from 2009.
  • The the choices of “low medium and high” are not meant to be target at “small medium and large clients.” There’s that word again.

I got more, it is an entire two day class.

On the Enterprise Software Podcast

espodcastAt Sage Summit 2015, I had the honor of being interviewed by Bob McAdam, Todd McDaniel, and Darcy Boerio, hosts of the Enterprise Software Podcast. They “talk all things enterprise software a couple of time each month.”

Specifically, they wanted me to talk about value pricing, but the conversation ranges from hanging out at the Mint Lounge (now known as the Spirits Lounge – see photo below) in the Holiday Inn in Fargo, ND to the best pizza place in Allen, TX.

spiritsYou can tell by listening that I was pretty amped up on adrenaline from being at Sage Summit. In fact, I blathered on so long they had to break it up into two episodes. That said, I think I did a pretty good job of sharing some of the basics of value pricing including why timesheets need to be trashed, the need to “move off the solution,” and how to work through Mahan Khalsa’s Five Golden Questions in order to extract the understanding of the value to the customer.

Have a list to both right here:

Part One

Part Two

Sage Summit 2015 Session – Leadership in the age of the quick fix

This is the second in a series of three posts I will be doing featuring slides and audio from my sessions at Sage Summit 2015. Sorry that the audio is not quite the best.

Leadership in the age of the quick fix

Leadership thinking is is often based on manipulation – trying to “get someone to do something” which isn’t necessarily effective. 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 interested in rethinking the way you approach leadership, you are invited to attend this session.

Slides

Listen

Sage Summit 2015 Session – Measure what matters

This is the first in a series of three posts I will be doing featuring slides and audio from my sessions at Sage Summit 2015. Sorry that the audio is not quite the best. 

Measuring what matters (to customers)

Do your performance metrics reflect what’s truly important to your customers? This session explores the ways companies can increase financial performance by changing from inwardly facing measurements to measurements that extend outside the firm. Changing these metrics often requires firms to think differently than they have in the past. If you’re ready to think differently about your company’s measurement systems (or think you might be ready to think differently), join this conversational session facilitated by Ed Kless.

Slides

Listen

My Sage Summit 2015 Sessions

Sorry I am a bit late with this, but I have had a few requests for me to do this post even at this late date.

Here are the sessions I will presenting at Sage Summit 2015:

SageCity Live: Increasing user adoption – Tuesday, July 28th, 11:45am – 12:30pm – SageCity Live

This will be an intimate conversation on a topic I will presenting more formally on Thursday (see below). I hope to gather more stories for sharing and maybe even provide some advice to a Sage Customer or two that they can use back at their office.

Measuring what matters – Tuesday, July 28th, 4:30pm – 5:15pm – Learning commons 5D

Do your performance metrics reflect what’s truly important to your customers? This session explores the ways companies can increase financial performance by changing from inwardly facing measurements to measurements that extend outside the firm. Changing these metrics often requires firms to think differently than they have in the past. If you’re ready to think differently about your company’s measurement systems (or think you might be ready to think differently), join this conversational session facilitated by Ed Kless.

Creating strategy in a small business – Wednesday, July 29th, 11:45am – 12:30pm – Learning commons 4C

Even small organizations can create and execute meaningful strategic plans. Creating a well-defined strategy is hard work and not for everyone, as it requires us to begin to say “no” to stuff we usually say “yes” to. You are hereby invited by facilitator Ed Kless, to open a dialogue about how best to go about creating a strategy for your small business organization.

Creating Shared Vision in a Small Business 
– Wednesday, July 29th, 1:30pm – 2:15pm – Learning commons 4C

Have you defined a vision for your company and shared it with your teams? A shared vision enlists others in the work and provides guiding principles for day to day activities. Creating a shared vision can be hard work because it requires you to examine goals and beliefs and weave them into a cohesive picture of your future. If you’re ready to start this work on behalf of your organization, join Ed Kless to make this part of your 2015 action plan.

Leadership in the age of the quick fix – Wednesday, July 29th 3:30pm – 4:15pm – Learning commons 4D

Leadership thinking is is often based on manipulation – trying to “get someone to do something” which isn’t necessarily effective. 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 interested in rethinking the way you approach leadership, you are invited to attend this session facilitated by Ed Kless.

Increasing user adoption – dealing with resistance – Thursday, July 30th, 11:45am – 12:30pm – Learning commons 4B

Has your organization’s productivity or effectiveness been challenged by employees that are resistant to change? Perhaps you have new processes or tools you need them to adopt? This session is dedicated to the possibility that we can increase the level of adoption of new systems, processes, and tools in our businesses by changing the way we interact with our teams. If you are interesting in joining this conversation about dealing with resistance, you are invited to attend this session facilitated by Ed Kless.  

Changing conversations by asking better questions – Thursday, July 30th, 1:30pm – 2:15pm – Learning commons – Learning commons 4B

This session is dedicated to the possibility that professionals can greatly increase the value they provide to their customers if they hone their skills at asking better, more effective questions. Developing and enhancing this skill is not easy because it requires us to rethink and relearn conversation habitss. If you would like to learn how this questioning approach can strengthen your customer conversations, join Ed Kless us for this discussion-based session.

The Soul of Enterprise Live!

In addition, Ron Baker and I will be broadcasting live three episodes of our radio show The Soul of Enterprise from the Broadcast booth each day from 2:00pm to 3:00pm. We will be featuring Sage Customers and Partners, as well as Sage Summit Speakers and even a Sage Colleague or two. Come on by to listen in or even heckle some!

Book signings

Ron and I will also be selling ($20) and signing copies of our new book, The Soul of Enterprise: Dialogues on business in the knowledge economyat both 5:15pm on Tuesday and 3:15 on Thursday. All purchaser will receive a free Kindle-only edition of the book should they desire.

On public versus private sector receipts

Yesterday, I went to the United States Post Office location here in my hometown of Allen, Texas. I needed to send a package to a friend in Petaluma, California.

Upon arrival, I noticed a self service kiosk, so I decided to give it a try. The first step was to “Touch the screen to begin.” Okay, fair enough. Boop.

Up came a menu of five or six choices of service, “Send a parcel” being the top choice. Howver, underneath the description it said, “I am sorry I am unable to complete this type of transaction now.” Curiously, under all the choices it read the same. Hmmm, to the line I go.

It being after Christmas there was only one person ahead of me, so I waited only about five minutes since there was only one clerk working. I handed over my package and answered the needed questions and paid via my American Express card. 

No sooner had I put the card back in its proper slot in my wallet then did I receive a notice on my iPhone that a purchase of $6.65 had been made on my card. It came up so quickly that the receipt pictured below had not even finished printing. You can see why. It is so long that my scanner would not scan it in one pass, I had to cut the paper in half becasue it was perceived as a paper jam.

Does Algore know about this?