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Service, Prosperity and Sanity; Positioning the Professional Service Firm for the Future Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1998
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"As a 'service' firm, I can identify with the problems - - particularly the 'sanity' part. Also, when your name is first on the door you can 'internalize' the success and more importantly the failures of those around you. You can turn loose of some of that if you will empower people and trust them to make their own decisions." -- Peter Winstead, Attorney - Winstead Sechrest & Minick Law Firm, Austin, Tx.
"Each semester, in my closing remarks to my students, I stress the need for them to balance their professional careers with other aspects of life. Maxwell's book makes it clear that if they choose their employers carefully they will succeed in doing so. Although a majority of them (especially the MBAs) aspire to jobs with the large consulting and investment banking firms, many share Maxwell's values. I would guess that they would jump at the opportunity to work for an organization such as Maxwell Locke & Ritter." -- Michael H. Granof, Ph.D. - Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting, The University of Texas at Austin.
"Service, Prosperity and Sanity are inseparable in the midst of turbulent times of profound changes and competitive challenges today. This candid and continuing personal story portrays what every truly professional service organization needs to face without delay. This book charts the new tidal wave that is reshaping organizations and societies more than we think possible or dare admit." -- August W. Smith, Ph.D. - Development Dynamics, Austin, Tx.
"What I like about Service, Prosperity and Sanity is it shows a business doing what professors and consultants talk about. It is one thing to talk about community, but it is another to have a business of more than five employees do transformation." -- Fred W. Miller, Media Producer/Consultant, Austin, Tx.
From the Author
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." One of my partners referred to this well-known quotation during a strategic planning session in early 1993 as we focused on our CPA firm's financial results since its inception in early 1991. The discussion that ensued had a profound impact on our firm, and fundamentally changed our business culture and operating systems. As we embarked on our journey, we could not find a case study involving a professional service firm that had fundamentally changed its business culture to better position itself for the future. We could not find a firm that seriously redefined its culture to incorporate the concepts implemented by manufacturing, retail and distribution companies. There were some isolated examples of professional service firms implementing certain concepts, but we found no firm attempting the systemic change that we believed necessary. Most reengineering efforts of professional service firms focused on converting the culture from one in which managers and partners took orders and relied on referrals, to a role in which they aggressively marketed their services. No one seemed serious about turning the traditional model upside down and implementing the systemic changes which were necessary. Professional service firms face a future filled with exploding technology, too little time and too much information. It's dangerous out there. The wrong moves can spell the death of your business enterprise. And the cost of doing nothing--well, nobody can afford that. We have not only chronicled our journey in this book; we share our story of how we learned principles and techniques which can allow a business not only to survive the future, but flourish. We encourage you to tap into our firm's experience, strength and hope on critical issues such as the changing nature of financial services, the emerging workforce, open book management, profit sharing methodologies that really work, and most importantly, the development of values in your workplace that change the lives of your associates. Preparing a professional service firm for the future actually means transforming your business from top to bottom. This book is the story of how a small group of people radically changed the traditional model of a professional service firm in order to position themselves for the future. It explains how our firm chose not to participate in the declining profit trends of the public accounting profession. Although this book is not a "how-to" self-help practice management book, it is full of concepts and ideas that you can adapt to your firm's unique situation. Finally, this book provides a benchmark from which to begin an internal process of change to allow the professional service firm to take advantage, rather than become victims, of the following external forces:
Increased Consumer Demand
Heightened Work Force Expectation
Technological Advances It is not the purpose of this book to convince anyone of the need for redefining the organizational structure of the professional service firm. It does not devote much space to the history that led to the rapid rate of change we are experiencing, nor to the changes that are ahead of us. I believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes that are ahead. This book does not provide the technical guidance that supports reengineering concepts. In this respect, it does not focus on the academics of management philosophies or organizational behavior. Instead, it refers to some of the books and reference materials which people in our firm read as we became convinced that unless we changed the model of our firm, we would be out of business in five years. This book is for business leaders who are already absolutely convinced of the changing environment, and of the impact those changes will have on their business. Prospective readers are already struggling with how to go about redefining their own professional service firm. The purpose of this book is to help firm leaders deal with questions such as: How do I convince my partners (especially the older ones) of the need to change?
How will our people react to these changes?
What will our clients think?
How many of our people are capable of making these changes?
How long will it take?
How soon can we begin to see positive results?
What can we expect to go wrong?
What kind of help will we need?
How do we begin? This book provides a practical guide to reengineering the professional service firm. If you are not in a leadership role but have access to a leader, you may want to read this book. I hope you enjoy the Journey!!!
-- Earl Maxwell
Top customer reviews
Can anyone recommend a more recent book about transforming the culture of a CPA practice?
The change process started for Maxwell Locke & Ritter when the firm was facing a challenging economic climate, with high levels of price competition and poor financial returns. Perhaps this made it easier for the author to persuade his partners to abandon the traditional way of running an accounting firm and try some radical experimentation, including:
* Raising the level of trust in the office
* Providing support for families
* Encouraging flexible working arrangements
* Getting involved in the local community
* Openly sharing information including financial reports
* Giving all employees some level of involvement in management of the firm
Some 14 years have elapsed since the book was published, and there have been vast changes in technology and the business landscape, but it is surprising to see how much of the content is still relevant. The inspiration for the original change effort was derived from the Total Quality Management movement - something which is largely forgotten today - but many of the issues discussed are still highly relevant, including competition, marketing, firm governance, work/life balance, adopting new technology, employee retention and profit sharing.
On the other hand, many professional service firms with toxic cultures and antiquated management structures have managed to muddle through the past 14 years while remaining reasonably profitable, so it is arguable that much of the fear of imminent disaster which troubled firms then and troubles them today may have been overstated. However, even if the transition to a less toxic firm culture does not result in a significant boost in profits, it does result in improved quality of life for employees and partners alike, which can only be a good thing.
In my view there are many useful lessons and ideas which can still be learnt from this book.
He too has read all the books you and I have read in our quest to understand and apply "good management" and "good communications" for the sake of our customers and employees. But Earl has stepped out of the crowd to give you a round by round story of his struggle to achieve what his soul was telling him.
Earl used Ed Deming's fundamentals as the springboard, but DON'T allow that to prejudge the jewels you will discover. He provides a no-nonsense account of what really happened - warts and all. He'll remind you about what worked and what he underestimated, mistakenly took for granted,thought was gospel and was not and the importance of truth, respect, patience, courage, and trust without preaching to you. He shares his values, which are the basis for our country's success. It's a piece of real life.
You can read it in a weekend and live it in a lifetime. He articulates what was, what is, and what must be for you and me, for our families, for our customers, and for our employees. He is a new friend and I am grateful.