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The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services


Praise for The Firm of the Future

"In The Firm of the Future, Paul Dunn and Ron Baker create an intellectual challenge for firm leaders. They are truly two of the best critical thinkers today. Together they provide the reader with a wealth of thought-provoking ideas. This is an intellectual masterpiece."
—August J. Aquila, PhD
Managing Director, American Express Tax and Business Services
Coauthor, CPAs That Sell and CPA Firm Merger Strategies That Work

"Paul Dunn and Ron Baker have done it again. Living up to their reputation for challenging conventional wisdom, Dunn and Baker present a new paradigm for the professions to understand the dynamic forces at play in the professional practice of the twenty-first century. The Firm of the Future is a brilliant work that adds a new dimension to the old formula for success in a professional service firm. Dunn and Baker clearly lay out a new road map to help leaders understand the differences between leveraging people and leveraging knowledge; between billing for time and pricing for value; and between doing things right and doing the right things. This new paradigm for the firm of the future will help professionals more accurately plan and structure their firm in a way that acknowledges and capitalizes on today’s marketplace, technological opportunities, customer expectations, and human capital needs. Any practice leader who wants to ensure success for their organization should be compelled to read The Firm of the Future."
—Michael Platt
President and CEO, AccountingWEB

PAUL DUNN continues to be at the forefront of management and marketing on a global basis. He formed The Results Corporation, a marketing organization, and from there Results Accountants’ Systems (RAS) which focused on accountants in public practice, and founded the "Accountants’ Boot Camp" Process. He is in high demand for his marketing and speaking skills, working with major corporations worldwide.

RON BAKER, CPA, is the founder of VeraSage Institute, a think tank dedicated to teaching Value Pricing to professionals around the world. He is a frequent speaker and a consultant to professional service firms on implementing Total Quality Service and Value Pricing. He is also author of the bestselling marketing book written specifically for the professions, The Professional’s Guide to Value Pricing, Fourth Edition.




About the Authors.

How to Read This Book.

1 Introduction.

2 A Flawed Theory.

“Analyzing” the Predominant Practice Equation.

Summary and Conclusions.

3 A Paradigm Worthy of a Proud Profession.

Why Are Professionals Successful?

Cognitive Dissonance.

Why Are We in Business?

Study Success: It Leaves Clues.

What Business Are You In?

Where Do Profits Come From?

Summary and Conclusions.

4 Intellectual Capital: The Chief Source of Wealth.

The Physical Fallacy.

The Scarcest Resource of All.

The Three Types of IC.

Is All This Stuff Good?

Summary and Conclusions.

5 Human Capital: Your People Are Not Assets, They Are Volunteers.

Becoming a Lightning Rod for Talent.

Retaining Your Firm’s Human Capital.

The Importance of Continuing Professional Education.

Rewarding Your Firm’s Human Capital Investors.

When Human Capital Turns Negative.

Summary and Conclusions.

6 Structural Capital: If Only We Knew What We Know.

Leveraging IC and Creating the World’s Second Largest Currency.

Converting Tacit to Explicit Knowledge.

Knowledge Lessons from the U.S. Army.

Summary and Conclusions.

7 Social Capital: Man Is Not an Island.

Is There an Accounting for Tastes?

Leveraging the Social Capital in the Firm of the Future.

Reputation, Brands, Referral Sources, and Networks.

Suppliers and Vendors.

Shareholders and Other External Stakeholders.

Joint Venture Partners and Alliances.

Professional Associations and Formal Affiliations.

Firm Alumni.

Consider Creating a University.

Putting It All Together: The Concierge Service Model.

Summary and Conclusions.

8 You Are Your Customer List.

What Do Customers Really Buy?

The Value Proposition.

Moments of Truth.

What Is Beyond Total Quality Service?

Is Being a Trusted Advisor Enough?

From Zero Defects to Zero Defections.

Why Do We Lose Customers?

Customer Complaints.

The 100-Percent Money-Back Guarantee.

Bad Customers Drive Out Good Customers.

Adaptive Capacity.

Firing Customers.

The Forced Churn.

Thoughts on Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

Summary and Conclusions.

9 You Are What You Charge.

A Tale of Two Theories.

A Better Theory of Value.

Cost-Plus Pricing: Epitaph.

Deleterious Effects of Cost-Plus Pricing.

Lessons in the Subjective Theory of Value.

Professionals Subject to the Laws of Economics.

The Four Ps of Marketing.

Are Professionals Commodities?

The Five Cs of Value.

Fixed-Price Agreements and Change Orders.

Fixed-Price Agreements.

Explaining the FPA.

Change Orders.

Negotiating Skills.

The TIP Clause.

The Wrong Mistakes.

Value Pricing and Self-Esteem.

Value Pricing and Ethics.

American Bar Association’s Commission on Billable Hours Report.

Summary and Conclusions.

10 Measure What Counts: Effectiveness over Efficiency.

The Gospel of Efficiency.

Frederick Taylor Enters the Professions.

Economists Posit Theories.

Accounting Is Not a Theory.

It’s 12:41 A.M.: Do You Know Where Your Package—and CPA—Are?

KPIs for the Firm of the Future.

Selecting the Right KPIs for Your Firm.

KPI Summary.

Refuting the Efficiency Defense for Timesheets.

Refuting the Cost Accounting Defense for Timesheets.

Is There One Best Economic Denominator to Track?

Summary and Conclusions.

11 The Timeless Practice.

Paradigm Drives Vision.

Vision Drives Leadership.

Leadership Drives Internal Quality.

Internal Quality Drives Team Happiness.

Recasting the Roles.

Would You Want Your Son or Daughter to Work There?

Core Ideology = Core Values + Purpose.


What about Strategic Planning?

Summary and Conclusions.

12 Some Words on the Future.

Is the Audit an Edsel?

Financial Model Reform.

Substituting Government Failure for Market Failure.

Multidisciplinary Practices.

Summary and Conclusions.

13 Epilogue.

What Is Calling You?

Continuously Develop Your Intellectual Capital.


Leaving a Legacy.