What if Picasso had been an Accountant
Guest post from Paul Dunn, B1G1
It’s a beautiful Spring morning in the centre of the equally beautiful French Provencale small town of Mougins in 1969. The locals have gathered for their morning café and croissant.
A visitor sits down, orders a café au lait and can’t believe her eyes. There, sitting just two tables away is Pablo Picasso. And not only is the great artist sitting there, he has his sketch pad and materials with him.
She can’t believe it – what an opportunity this is. Somewhat breathlessly, she flips her hands through her hair and sits down next to Picasso. In her faltering French she exclaims how she can’t believe her luck and she wonders if Picasso could quickly sketch her.
“Bien sur – of course” says Picasso, “I love nothing better”.
So the woman poses and Picasso studies her with the eye of a great artist. He then quickly sketches and shows her the completed piece. “Oh my God,” she exclaims, “I must pay you for this!’
“Indeed you must,” says Picasso. “that will be 400,000 Francs.”
“WHAT! I! That took you just 90 seconds to do, that’s way too much.”
“No, Madam, you are incorrect – it did not take me 90 seconds at all; it took me my whole life to know how to do that.”
Picasso understood value pricing (sadly, in this case, he forgot it is critical to get agreement on the pricing before you start the job!) And he understood clearly that pricing, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
We’ve been talking about pricing on value for more years than I care to remember. Yet curiously, some professionals still don’t get it. They stick to their multiple charge-out rates and their time sheets. And they don’t understand that doing that de-values them.
Yet those same people gladly walk across the road to get a haircut from a barber who cuts their hair well (or who they know well or who they know will share the latest funny story with them) – someone from whom they get the value they want in that moment. They won’t base their decision on anything other than the value they receive. That’s how they live their lives as buyers.
But when they turn ‘sellers’ everything changes for some perverse and peculiar reason. And again, it’s devaluing them and, just as importantly, it devalues those around them whom they employ under the same system, forcing them to account for every six minutes of every working day.
And it does even more.
All of us who serve clients seek to do one important thing. And that’s to connect.
That’s true whether it be me in B1G1 serving Accountants around the world, or the team at Xero doing the same or, for that matter anyone who runs a professional knowledge firm (you might be more familiar with the term ‘professional service firm’ – we prefer ‘knowledge firm’). Whatever we do, we seek to connect.
We seek to connect with who we are as human beings. To connect with our team so that they feel truly inspired and purposeful. And, of course, to connect with our clients; notice that, not to communicate with them, not even to simply serve them but to actually connect with them.
Given that depth of understanding, then surely it’s easy to see the massive disconnect that happens when we measure and charge by time. As my friend and colleague in the Verasage Insitute, Ron Baker, so eloquently points out, “The only people who should be measuring time are those that are serving it – in prison.”
There now is no doubt (see this piece by Professor Andre Spicer of CASS Business School – http://bit.ly/QS9oBQ) that measurement of and charging by time is seriously flawed.
Accountants will do well to consider the real value they bring. They’d do well to look down at their MasterCard and consider the concept of ‘priceless’ moments – the moments they create for their clients that give their clients greater freedom, greater control, greater security, greater piece of mind (and keep the Government off their backs!). Priceless (and I would add ‘time-less’) indeed.
Paul Dunn is Chairman of Buy1GIVE1, or B1G1, a company that has ‘reimagined business giving’, creating over 15 million giving activities around the world with a new ‘platform’ to enable impactful, habitual and ‘connected’ giving. Paul also created the Accountants’ Boot Camp process, enabling over 3,500 accounting firms and 17,000 accountants worldwide to work with their clients in new ways.
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