What is Your Why? | AccountingWEB

What is Your Why?

Jay Shepherd is the founder of Shepherd Law Group, blogger at The Client Revolution and Gruntled Employees, VeraSage Trailblazer, and (I'm honored to say) author of the Foreword to my forthcoming book, Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms.

Jay sent me a thought-provoking email that he has graciously given me permission to share.

Needless to say, when the subject line reads "a mental breakthrough" from a thinker such as Jay, you have my undivided attention.


Hey, Ron,
I was just reviewing Chapter 16 of your manuscript. (Love it.) This weekend, I had a mental breakthrough that really originated in part from something you've been saying for quite some time. Let me explain:

First, in early May, I was blown away by Simon Sinek's TED talk on starting with why. I found the Start With Why concept a game-changer. I immediately downloaded his book [Start With Why].

For the past three months, I've been struggling to figure out what my and my firm's "why" was.

At long last, I think I finally found it.

My "why" is "to fix the practice of law." My firm's "why" is "to innovate (in fixing the practice of law)." Everything we do, everything we're about is grounded in relentlessly innovating. Looking back, that's the message of both my blogs--The Client Revolution and Gruntled Employees.

Fixed prices is just a "how," under Sinek's framework. I've been making the same mistake that TiVo made--selling the "how" instead of the "why."

Fixed prices is an important "how" for us, but it's not the only one, and it's not the thing that's going to make companies bang down the door to sign up with us.

But if we instead focus on the "why," it not only helps us stay on message in our marketing, but it also identifies whom we want to market to. Innovators. To paraphrase Sinek: "If you're the kind of company that's all about innovation, boy, have we got a law firm for you."

And bringing it back to Chapter 16: I once wrote a post or article or something in which I mentioned that law firms didn't really start using hourly billing until the 1950s or `60s. My point had been to challenge the notion that hourly billing has "always been the norm."

In a comment, you pointed out the research that you discuss in Chapter 16 of Implementing Value Pricing: that law-firm hourly billing was started in 1919. Since that didn't really mesh with my point, I've kind of ignored that fact. But now, suddenly, I get it.

"If you're the kind of company who's all about innovation, why are you using a law firm whose billing model was invented in 1919?"

I think this was the point that I was missing: that hourly billing is antiquated. I'm going to start incorporating this notion in my writing and marketing right away.

Best regards,


We are defined by what we believe, not what we know

Jay's breakthrough is absolutely correct. Value Pricing is merely part of a larger change in business models, which is driven by a firm's strategy and positioning, which ultimately is driven by a firm's "why" (or purpose, if you prefer).

For as valuable as knowledge and education are, it is imperative to bear in mind that man is guided far more by his beliefs than his knowledge.

In a business context, this is Simon Sinek's point when he says "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

Indeed, all enterprise is an act of faith, a faith in the future, faith in the ability to humble yourself before others and solve their problems, create real value, investing in an unknown future where predetermined returns are uncertain--supplying before you can demand. 

This is what George Gilder means when he says "Knowledge is about the past; entrepreneurship is about the future."

Your Why should start with "I believe..."

We'd love to hear your "Why," and have the opportunity, like with Jay, to post your mental breakthrough.

This blog

VeraSage Institute is the most revolutionary think tank for professional knowledge firms-we challenge the professions to break free of practice methods that hurt the professions, undermine their purposes, and fail their clients. Among our quests: burying the billable hour and archaic timesheets; pricing on purpose; recognizing that professionals are knowledge workers, not machines; and improving the professions for posterity.

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