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The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services 1st Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471264248
ISBN-10: 0471264245
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Editorial Reviews


For the Back Cover:
"In The Firm of the Future, Ron Baker and Paul Dunn 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, Ph.D.
Managing Director, American Express Tax and Business Services and Co-Author of CPAs That Sell and CPA Firm Mergers That Work

"When I first received my copy of The Firm of the Future I was intimidated by its size and began reviewing the table of contents for the sections that seemed most interesting to me. But, as I am prone to do, I began at the first page. I soon found myself pouring through the book, chapter by chapter. Paul Dunn and Ron Baker have compiled a work that has incredible depth, wisdom, and insight. What I enjoyed most, however, was the conversational tone that makes this book hard to put down. I feel like I have had a personal conversation with wise counselors who understand my business."
—Michael C. Knowles, Partner, Frank, Rimerman + Co., LLP, Menlo Park, California

For the Front Matter of the Book:
Praise for The Firm of the Future
"This is an absolutely must read for any business (and that includes accounting practices) who want to be in business in the future - written in a highly readable style and laced with hundreds of practical 'how to' notes and comments this book is a prerequisite business manual for any practitioner of any professional service organization. This really is a stunning book - I've thoroughly enjoyed the philosophy as well as the practical how to and why and will further refine our approach to the business - loved the style and class of the book."
—Peter Byers, Chartered Accountant, New Zealand

"Excited is probably the most appropriate word for how I felt as I read the book. Excited at the learnings, excited at the possibilities that opened before me, excited at what it would be like to work in a practice with no timesheets, value pricing, passionate team members and clients more than delighted with the "concierge service" provided by every team member. Ron Baker and Paul Dunn have clearly described what the firm of the future MUST look like. They clearly debunk all the old theories and practices of managing and operating an accounting firm and clearly explains the methods and FEELINGS that must exist in The Firm of the Future."
—Harry Rosenburg, BKR Rosenberg+Partners, Melbourne, Australia

"For many years now, I have utilized and professed within my firm, my working theory, 'Our next new client has to have a thirst for our knowledge and the willingness and ability to pay for it.' The Firm of the Future embraces this theory and provides readers with the sound fundamentals to capitalize on their intellectual, social, and human capital."
—Robert A. Gaida, Vice Chairman, BDO Seidman, LLP

"Without doubt the single most important book ever written for professionals. It will force the entire profession to question, rethink, and rework everything it does. It's a book that will change your practice and your life—for the better, forever. Thanks to this book the professions will never be the same again."
—Steve Pipe, Founder and Chairman, The Added Value Network (U.K.)

"I have no doubt that the revelations that Paul and Ron draw run a parallel. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but only to those not already under water that if they stood on their toes they could lift their heads above water, and it needs someone from outside the pool to see it. You have done this, you have the answer, and like all brilliant business findings it is simple, it is available to all, and it is practical. It requires only a willingness to accept, to change and to grow - a willingness that some have and some will never have, as like troglodytes they cannot accept change."
—Dr Chris White, Doctor of Business Administration, PhD, MBA, B.Bus, ALGA, CA, FCPA, CFP JP, Partner KPMG, Cairns

"For many years Ron Baker and Paul Dunn have been wonderful drivers for change in how professional service firms can become more successful. As a result of their collective wisdom, they have now co-authored a powerful and insightful book that should require many firms to reconsider their strategy. The true benefit of adhering to their New Practice Equation will not only be a more profitable firm but one that will also have a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. An absolute required reading for business leaders and managers of professional firms."
—Robert J. Gallagher, CPA, President - R. J. Gallagher and Associates, Inc.

"Like everything that challenges conventional thinking, this book takes time to absorb. There were many parts that I just had to 'read-over' so that I could filter through the brilliant combination of evidentiary and emotional interplay that Paul and Ron do so well and reveal the truth for myself. The book reads like the early conversations I was privileged to be privy to, and will be touted through the ages as a seminal work on the new evolution of the profession."
—Jason Johnson, CEO, Kipara Consulting

"The Firm of the Future imparts the accumulated wisdom of two key people who are helping to shape the profession, in a readable, and memorable manner. And wisdom a plenty Paul and Ron have to impart. The profession has a vital role to play if our capitalist system is to continue its enormous record of success, and to prove to the doubters that is universally the best system man has invented for improving the well being of all people on earth, not just those in the wealthy developed nations. Paul and Ron chart the course by which the profession can regain its significance and, more importantly, help achieve the bigger goals, both for the benefit of its own members and the wider world. I heartily recommend The Firm of the Future as a 'must have' guide for anyone in practice."
—David Hartley, Director, ElanElan Ltd.

"Between the covers of this book are more good ideas than you typically find in a dozen business books. Take notes: you'll want to remember these ideas for a long time."
—David Maister, author and consultant

"Paul and Ron have brought together their business philosophies under one cover of a book that should be the practice manual in every professional office. It truly is the answer of having the business do the things the professional used to do in a more effective and profitable manner. Who wouldn't want to work in the firm of the future described here?"
—Nicholas Newton CA, CMA, Creative Director, Frouin Group

"Ron Baker and Paul Dunn have put together the modern almanac of best business practices. Their firm of the future focuses on its intellectual, networking, cultural, and customer-focused capital to build wealth. They demonstrate over and over how making meaning, not just money, is the key to a leader's success. The book is an excellent read for those who want to learn the best-of-the-best business practices proven in the past decade."
—Sheila Kessler, Ph.D., President of Competitive Edge and author, Measuring and Managing Customer Satisfaction

"The Firm of the Future brings a huge number of great ideas together in one place to provide a road map of what a professional service firm must do to position itself for the future. The book provides key success factors any firm can follow in creating a customer-driven firm."
—William Cobb, Cobb Consulting, Houston, Texas

"Finally! A book that catapults professional firms to a more sophisticated, more effective approach to management, leadership, and providing value. Any firm that follows the theory and practical advice advocated by Ron and Paul can retain happy and qualified team members, assure growing and loyal clients, reduce the stress of public practice, and reap the benefits of significant profitability."
—Martha Sawyer, president of Hudson Sawyer, publisher of Bowman's Accounting Report

"It's refreshing to see a book that focuses the accounting practice on who we truly are - and more importantly, who we should be. We didn't learn this trade to have our services discounted and be held to a minute-by-minute gauge of value. Ron and Paul keep your focus on the ball rather than the scoreboard and clearly define our role as 'Intellectual Capitalists,' not bean counters!"
—Mark J. Koziel, CPA, Director, Dopkins & Company, LLP

"Ron Baker and Paul Dunn have done it again. Living up to their reputation for challenging conventional wisdom, Baker and Dunn present a new paradigm for the professions to understand the dynamic forces at play in the professional practice of the 21st 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. Baker and Dunn 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 & CEO, AccountingWEB

"Sometimes, this book takes your breath away with its ambition. Not content with burying a fundamental paradigm of the professions, it offers a new one that challenges all who think about, and care about, their profession to re-evaluate what they do—and why they do it. Brimming with ideas, Baker and Dunn constantly challenge accepted wisdom, but thankfully provide cogent alternatives for your choice. Quotes, illustrations and examples from all sorts of sources drive home points to ensure the book is a fantastic read and will have profound effects on your business—and the rest of your life. The future of the firm you inhabit will undoubtedly be shaped by The Firm of the Future. Ambition fulfilled."
— Paul O'Byrne, Partner, O'Byrne and Kennedy, Chartered Accountants, United Kingdom

From the Inside Flap

The professional service accounting firm is being threatened by a variety of factors: new technology, intense competition, consolidation, an inability to incorporate new services into a business strategy, and the erosion of public trust, just to name a few. At the same time, most experts agree that morale in the financial services industry is at an all-time low–an astonishing number of professionals respond in surveys that, if they had to choose their career over again, they would choose another line of work. What happened? How have the once distinguished and proud professions become so beleaguered, and is there any relief for those professionals who refuse to worship the capricious god of the almighty billable hour?

There is relief. And promise. And hope. In The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services, visionaries Paul Dunn and Ron Baker confront the tired, conventional wisdom that continues to fail its adherents, and present bold, proven strategies for restoring vitality and dynamism to the professional service firm. A cornerstone of Dunn and Baker’s program is conducting successful transitions to new services that customers value, treating functions such as consulting as extensions, not alternatives, to traditional services. This, however, is only part of a framework aimed at liberating professionals from mechanically pursuing billable hours ad infinitum. Dunn and Baker provide proven strategies for pricing in accordance with value and develop leading Key Performance Indicators that measure success the same way customers do. The authors articulate a new theory of the professional service firm that focuses on the real factors of leverage for the firm of the future, and which tosses the antiquated theory of leveraging people and hours onto the ash heap of history. Topics covered include:

  • Intellectual, human, structural, and social capital
  • Converting tacit know-how to explicit knowledge
  • Total Quality Service
  • Value Pricing
  • Strategic planning
  • Financial model reform

Readers will learn how knowledge has slowly but steadily evolved to become the most precious factor in creating wealth, and how firms can leverage this intellectual capital to their benefit. The authors include many real-world examples of firms that successfully transformed their operations from the traditional model into a variety of old and new services that customers value. Take up the mantle. The Firm of the Future dares its readers to not only assume responsibility for improving their own careers, but also for restoring their profession to its former glory.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471264245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471264248
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.1 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joe Gallardo, CPA on December 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After reading this book, you'll need to place it alongside your desktop dictionary, Thesaruas and Ron's first book "The Professional's Guide to Value Pricing. This is how strong of an impact their message has made on me.
After reading the first two editions of Ron's book, I didn't think he would be able to improve much on the message of switching to Value Pricing. Boy, was I wrong! He and Paul Dunn have done an amazing job of getting the reader to think differently. As with the radical theme of trashing the timesheet in "The Professional's Guide to Value Pricing", they do a masterful job of convincing you why the old "Revenue Equation" must be replaced with the forward-thinking "Profit Equation". They go on to introduce other new topics not found amongst professional services firms such as developing your Intellectual, Structural and Social Capital, emphasizing effectiveness over efficiency and of course Value Pricing. As is typical of Ron's writing style, and complemented by Paul, their reasoning for making this paradigm shift is well supported and well reasoned.
I've been using practicing Value Pricing for about 5 1/2 years now and I can tell you that it works. In my own firm, I've slowly begun implementing some of their new concepts but with a new perception. I'm convinced these principles will work for me and they can for you as well.
After reading this book, you'll definitely want to keep it handy as a useful reference guide!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A. Finneran on December 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Firm of The Future coordinates both the theory and practical application of pricing concepts AND business service models in such a complelling manner that Baker & Dunn give Professional services organizations permission to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

While the Firm of The Future is geared to the legal and accounting professions the message and vision is applicable to Advertising agencies, Consulting Organizations, Marketing service firms and professional service providers of all shapes and sizes.

Cost plus pricing is short sighted and intellectually flawed.The intense pressure on increasing billable hours and driving down costs is destroying the creativity and core capabilities of Professional Service companies.Baker&Dunn explain the flaws of cost plus and hourly schemes and identify a road map which outlines how to move a professional services organization and it's customers to a healthier, happier, more productive and more mutually profitable business process

A great read---Inspirational and practical

Tom Finneran

Executive Vice President

American Association of Advertising Agencies
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Sherman on February 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I first read this book about 2 years ago. I keep it within arm's reach of my desk and refer to it often, still.

I've read one reviewer who stated that this book was the modern almanac of best business practices. I agree completely.

I run my own small law firm. We have implemented many of this book's practices with great success and profitablilty. Primary among them is fixed fee agreements. Yes, we are a law firm that has trashed its time sheets, due in large part to the inspiration and impetus of this book. And, we will never go back.

An earlier reviewer suggested that this book would be more useful for CPA's and not for lawyers. I disagree. Though I'm certain the message of this book is critical for CPA's, I think that any person in law firm leadership must read this book. I think it is particularly suited to small firms and solos who will have the ability to immediately take action in implementing these ideas and making them a reality in their practice.

However, if you are one of my competitors forget everything I said above and do not touch this book. My firm and my family will thank you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Expanding on the principles discussed in Value Pricing, Ron Baker has teamed up with Paul Dunn to share their theories, insights and ideas on how professionals (in particular CPAs) view and price their services. The Firm of the Future is written around major themes and includes individual commentary from Ron and Paul.
Are you creating value for your clients and charging for the value you provide, or are you charging your clients based on the time you spend? If you are not thinking about the value you are creating for your clients, watch out! Every professional who reads this book will be thinking about the value they can add not only to their clients, but yours. What about fees? Do you think that you can match or beat my price? "Any firm can compete on price; it is truly a fool's game. In contrast, competing based on Total Quality Service, positive customer experiences, and transformations requires more thought, creativity and investment." This book could be your first investment in achieving Total Quality Service and differentiating yourself from the competition.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Moore Value on June 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The authors have immense experience consulting with accounting firms. Every accountant in the United States should read this book and apply its concepts. Then, and only then, will accountants redeem themselves from the scandals that the "Final Four" and "Andersen androids" delivered to us. Accounting has dealt with irrelevant matters for decades now. How telling it was when the authors point out that the last service innovation promulgated by the accounting professional body, the AICPA, occurred back in 1974-29 years and ticking.
So, what's the problem with accounting firms anyway? The list is endless. I can summarize the problem with a simple statement-no guts. An old joke describes accountants as insurance actuaries without the sense of humor. It goes deeper than that. Too many prefer to review the game and announce the winners rather than actually roll up their sleeves and help their selected clients win. Sure, that's sort of messy but that is where true professional satisfaction lies. Also, it involves making real judgments too, helping clients who deserve our help because we really care about them and want to help make them more successful. Sure, that requires making choices. If you don't like a client, why in the heck are you working for them anyway?
Too many accounting firms operate on this principle. An old joke says that accountants are the sort of people who after the battle, bayonet the wounded. I can add another corollary to this. Not only do accountants bayonet the wounded, they also strip the corpses naked with fees not tied to real value but to a rate per hour tied to what they want to make, rather than what the client really got. If you believe you deserve to be paid no matter what you really did to help, this book isn't for you.
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