Recruiting Magnets: Firms of the Future

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By Michelle Golden - There's so much more to this story than the recruiting angle. This story is about the future of professional service firms.

But now that I have your attention let me tell you about Brendon Harrex, a senior fellow of VeraSage Institute. He's another innovator turning the professional firm business model upside down!

Brendon, at the age of 31, became the first Chief Value Officer (ever) in his 100-person accounting firm. This means HE was solely in charge of ALL pricing. Read more about this in Ron Baker's post Who's In Charge of Value in Your Firm? where he describes Brendon's role:

If you worked at Ward Wilson, a four-office, ten-partner, one-hundred team member firm in Invercargill, New Zealand, your answer would be Brendon Harrex, who was recently appointed Chief Value Officer, responsible for creating and capturing value across the entire firm. Brendon, at age 31, is the youngest partner in the firm, and is an amazing visionary, bringing leadership not only to his firm, but our entire profession.

Then, at age 33, Brendon was elected chairman of Ward Wilson--the firm had amazing vision. But it also had aging partners who, apparently, were more concerned with their retirement than with the posterity of the profession (my words, not Brendon's!).

Ward Wilson sold to a consolidator. Brendon's window of opportunity opened and he bought out one of WW's offices, the one he led before becoming Chairman. Below is the e-mail he shared with Ron Baker and me about this.

His brilliant ad says:

"If you have get up and go and know you should have got up and left before now, consider the Harrex Group."

Now Brendon has a WAITING LIST of future employees who WANT to come work for him. Read on, the emphasis is mine:

Hi Ron,

Well, who would have thought 12 months ago that Ward Wilson would be part of the consolidator trend that appears to be gaining more momentum in our profession as the average age of qualified accountants continues to rise.

To paraphrase Tom Peters’ quote that you also used in “The Professionals Guide to Value Pricing,” I struggle to see how mating two dinosaurs would create a gazelle! This mating has provided me with the incredible opportunity to create my own gazelle known as the Harrex Group.

I have attached for your information a copy of our launching advert that ran full page in the local newspaper. The Harrex Group truly is a firm of the future, offering customers accountancy-led ideas, advice, and project management.

Of course, we operate without timesheets and this frees us to focus on the delivery of high value business solutions rather than assuming that all time has the same value (as long as it is productive of course!).

I have appointed a non-accountant CEO, Nicki Morsink, who is the former CEO of Ward Wilson. Unlike most accounting firms where the CEO is the person you blame when the committee (the committee = all owners as everyone must have their say) makes a bad decision, Nicki is a real CEO – she signs the cheques, drives the business and ensures we are all performing.

This works well as I am focused on the customer interface/selling, pricing and coaching.

Ron, I believe that the future of our profession lies in smaller accounting businesses led by innovative individuals.

I share Chris Marston’s concerns about the ability of large firms to implement value pricing – most have such a fear of reduced income that they cling very tightly to what they can measure (regardless of its relevance). I simply believe that many traditional accountants are incapable of operating without timesheets.

Upon formation of the Harrex Group, I was approached by the very best people who wanted to be part of a firm of the future and not a firm of the past!

We currently have a waiting list of talented people wishing to join us and this is certainly not a common complaint of the profession in our part of the world.

I believe the smaller, innovative firms will attract all the talented staff and eventually dominate the accounting world, as their innovative services and ability to respond to the market will become increasingly in demand by business.

Thanks for your fantastic support and energy, Ron – you don’t know how marvellous it feels to be in a business that is focused on the right things!

Regards, Brendon

I cannot say enough about how thrilled I am for Brendon. Baker has said for years, "firms of the future will pilfer your talent if operate like a 'firm of the past'." Chris Marston has interviewed many hundreds of extraordinary attorneys. Brendon is heading in the same direction.


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