I think I have read all of David Maister’s books. Of course, Managing the Professional Service Firm is the book I still recommend most for any professional who is managing an accounting practice. I also recommend that the managing partner give every new hire a copy of True Professionalism by Maister when they first arrive at the firm.

Several years ago Maister was a keynote speaker at the Association for Accounting Administration National Practice Management Conference. I found the following on Maister’s website that refers to his AAA presentation. I like the “Maister-isms.” Just fyi, David Maister is now retired.

Memorable Maister-isms: Quotes From The Master

Nobody can turn a phrase quite like David Maister, Boston-based professional services consultant, former Harvard Business School professor, and author of five books, including the classic, “Managing The Professional Services Firm.” Here are some gems from his three presentations at June’s national symposium of the Association For Accounting Administration in Phoenix.

“I’m not a people person. I have no social skills. Everyone always told me, ‘That’s OK.’ Then I left education and made a terrible discovery: The world is full of people. I needed to learn how to deal with people, and it wasn’t optional. There’s no intelligent substitute for understanding how people work.”

“The worst way to get someone to change is to criticize them. Throw away every performance appraisal system you have. These systems say, ‘Let me tell you what your weaknesses are and what you owe to the relationship.’ We know how to change behavior in our personal lives, but not in our business lives. Why do we think they’re so different?”

“It’s not hard to find smart people. It’s hard to find people who inspire and motivate.”

“People at accounting firms are starved for appreciation.”

“The only way you motivate people and change them is one-on-one. Everything else is window dressing.”

“What could you accomplish in three months that you would find fun and that would help the business? Whatever it is, do it. Evaluate and set new goals when the three months are up.”

“Most accounting firms aren’t good at creating energy, enthusiasm and excitement, but they are extraordinarily great at destroying it.”

“The way you get rich is don’t get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don’t like.”

“Most accounting firms never met a billable hour they didn’t like. Report in terms of profit per partner, not in terms of hours. It’s profit that matters, not hours billed.”

“The amount of energy left in Big Four partners barely exists. The passion has just been beaten out of them.”

"The job of a manager is to make other people successful, which is why you rarely see good management at an accounting firm. We use the wrong principles for choosing managers."
David Maister

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Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She is a former shareholder and administrative partner in a successful, regional CPA firm and has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations. She works with firms across the country focusing on people, partners and internal management issues.

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