As many of you know, Ric Payne and I have been engaged in a fierce debate over the value of timesheets, which started when I was on a speaking tour with Paul Dunn in Australia and New Zealand from February through April 2000. Paul and I would stand on stages around each country and say the timesheet was a cancer in the professions and they had to be eliminated. This was the genesis for the book we wrote together, The Firm of the Future. Meanwhile, Ric was back in the office getting inundated with e-mails from his customers asking why we are saying that when so many of the resources Ric had developed have time as an instrumental measurement.
This led to an exchange of e-mails between Ric and me, running probably over 20,000 words. In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say that Ric was always very supportive of my Value Pricing message, and how time did not equate to value. Where we disagreed was over the usefulness of the timesheet as a cost-accounting and productivity tool. We took some hard shots at one another, and Ric even equated it to a boxing match, where he stated, “Bruiser Baker is in one corner in the red trunks, and Thugger Payne is in the other corner with no trunks.” It was a fantastic exchange, always done with the utmost respect, and I even incorporated the full debate in my book, Professional’s Guide to Value Pricing, beginning in the Third Edition through the Fifth Edition. I removed the debate from the Sixth Edition in order to incorporate a new debate with other consultants to the profession. Also, I believe history has proved me right, now that we have many more firms operating without timesheet than we did in the year 2000.
Everytime Ric and I would converse, the topic always came up, and mostly my emotions would get the best of me, even to the extent of yelling in a restaurant in Lake Tahoe, throwing wine corks around (while Kerry and Paul nervously tried to carry on a normal conversation). I used to joke Ric’s was the only company to provide me with a 1099 denominated in hours. He once told me he was going to write his own book in defense of timesheets, and therefore refute my work. I told him I looked forward to reading it, and I’m sure I’d agree with every word—in the index.
But I owe Ric an enormous debt. Because he would never let me get away with sloppy thinking, or bad logic, he improved my thinking and my message. Ric is a towering intellectual, and a fantastic thinker, and you better be well prepared if you challenge him because he’ll destroy you with logic. It forced me to find examples, and become empirical. It was if I was in a graduate course where Milton Friedman would ask his students the two most terrifying questions you can ask any scientist: “How do you know?” And, “So what?” When I reread our debate, I can see the logical flaws in some of my arguments, and thanks to Ric I had to really hone my theories.
In any event, when Paul O’Byrne and I attended the Principa Practice 2020 Conference this May in Hamilton Island, Australia, Ric asked how one becomes a Senior Fellow of the VeraSage Institute. I replied: “Ric, you have to sign our Declaration of Independence. You have to renounce the validity of timesheets. And, you have to be blessed by the Lady of the Lake—unfortunately, Ric, I’m the Lady.
Well, now we have Ric’s response to Geoff Richmond’s firm trashing timesheets, which you can read here.
To continue the boxing analogy, I think Ric might be facing a TKO. But please do not think I’m gloating about this. As William Wrigley, Jr. [1861-1932] once said: “When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” And that is, I’m afraid, what might happen if Ric ever comes over to our side. I will become unnecessary, since we agree on practically every other issue facing the profession. I always would tell Ric I never wanted him to agree with me on this issue, otherwise I would become superfluous.
But it’s a risk I’ll take. When and if Ric publicly denounces timesheets, and signs our Declaration of Independence, we will welcome him with open arms as a Senior Fellow in VeraSage Institute, and our collective IQ will rise immeasurably.
Sophocles once wrote: “One must wait till the evening to see how splendid the day has been.” Ric, working closely with you has been the highlight of my professional career. There’s not an accountant I know who knows you and doesn’t have immense respect for you, your accomplishments, and the passion with which you have tried to better our profession. You have been my teacher, my debate partner, my colleague, and my mentor; but most important of all, you are my dear friend. Thank you, Thugger—a splendid day indeed.