Take Your Firm to the Next Level: A Case Study

Win the Best Clients, Recruit and Retain Top People, and Increase Profitability

By August J. Aquila and Robert J. Lees

Take an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of how one firm confronts difficult questions, finds solutions, and sets a strategy to reach new goals.

With checklists, sample worksheets, flowcharts, diagrams, tables, illustrations, and guides for group discussions.

Browse all of August Aquila’s best-sellers here



By the acclaimed best-selling author of

Price it Right: How to Value Accounting Services

What Makes a Great Partnership: Just about Everything You Need to Know

Leadership at Its Strongest: What Successful Managing Partners Do

How to Engage Partners in the Firm’s Future


Browse all of August Aquila’s best-sellers here


Real-Life Problems. Real-Life Solutions


Join the partners of Samson, Boyd & Johnson, a mid-size accounting firm in New England, as they wrestle with how to take their firm to the next level – to become the firm of choice in their chosen markets. You may decide to be an observer watching the events and decisions of the partners as they unfold. Or you can become an active participant by adding your suggestions and proposals from your knowledge of your own firm.

Whichever you decide, you will find this book is written as more of a story than as a traditional business book. Our aim is to tell the story in a way that helps our readers understand the challenges of becoming the firm of choice and, critically, how to do it. As such, it contains a wealth of practical lessons and advice. You will be absolutely familiar with the challenges our firm faces. They are the challenges all firms have tried, or are currently trying to address, but which few firms have come close to resolving completely.

The Next Level

Every firm operates at a specific level. What it does, and how it does it, generates its revenue and, ultimately, its profit. Of course, firms can increase profit by adding profitable service lines to their offering or by reducing their labor costs, to name but two possible actions, but that is NOT what we mean by the next level.

Taking your firm to the next level means analyzing every aspect of the firm’s operations and improving the way they are carried out. Nothing is sacrosanct. Ensuring all of the firm’s internal operations and processes are aligned with what the firm needs to do to be successful in its markets becomes one of the key drivers. Also, the firm must have an absolute commitment to being the best. The next level brings with it a refusal to accept the status quo alongside a belief that the firm can always do better.

And, doing better is always relative. Being the firm of choice means always being better than your competitors. Making sure that you are the firm, that targets the right industries and clients, recruits the people who will make a discernible difference to the firm and its clients, and develops them faster and more effectively than other firms. In our thinking, becoming the firm of choice and continually striving to move to the next level are absolutely intertwined. Being the firm that people and companies want to come to isn’t a one-off. With competition getting ever tougher, firms must focus on sustaining that position – a challenge, which forces firms to continually reassess their position and to strive to be even better.

The Authors

August Aquila is an internationally known speaker, consultant and author and has held leading positions in the accounting profession for more than 30 years. He held several executive leadership positions with American Express Tax and Business Services, Inc.; was also a partner in a top-50 accounting firm in Chicago and regional marketing director for Coopers & Lybrand in Chicago. In 2004, 2007, 2009 to 2014 he was selected as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in The Accounting Profession” by Accounting Today. He is the author of hundreds of articles and several books on practice management, mergers & acquisitions and compensation plan designs. Recent books include Engaging Partners in the Firm’s Future (Bay Street Publishing), What Successful Managing Partners Do (Bay Street Publishing), Performance is Everything (AICPA 2012), Compensation as a Strategic Asset (AICPA 2007) and Client at the Core (John Wiley & Sons 2004). He can be reached at or 1-952-930-1295. For more information see

Rob Lees is a consultant to professional service firm leaders worldwide. Rob is a former global head of human resources for EY and director of EY’s global leadership center in Cambridge, Mass. He was also director of professional development at Morgan Stanley and head of professional development in EY’s UK firm. Rob is the co-author of the best-selling When Professionals Have to Lead: A New Model for High Performance published by Harvard Business School Press. He is also coauthor of the HBR article Managing Talent: The Key Challenge for Today’s Professional Service Firm. He also coauthored, with August Aquila, Engaging Partners in the Firm’s Future and What Successful Managing Partners Do. He has also published numerous articles on professional service firm strategy in both the US and UK. He can be reached at


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Take Your Firm to the Next Level: A Case Study