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Absolute Certainty by John Haylock

The full title of this book by John Haylock is

Absolute Certainty: How to give your clients exactly what they want“.

In my review at Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a rating of Four Stars. This means I think it is good.

Here is my book review.

Ideas for improving service businesses contained within a novel

This is a book about improving service businesses with the ideas dressed up in a novel.

The main character in the story is an accounting partner from a local three partner firm. It’s doing OK but everybody is very busy. He meets with a client who has a design business that has made some fundamental changes in the way it works after getting feedback from customers that they were not happy but the firm was getting the work because the other designers were just as bad.

The designer explained that she had changed her focus to throughput and getting jobs finished by changing the way the work was done. This meant that they’d started to give fixed date commitments for finished projects and also started to give fixed price quotes, meaning that clients received “absolute certainty” from the business.

The story goes on to share other learning experiences for the accountant and then how he had used those ideas to convince his other partners that they need to change the way they work. To stop focusing on busyness and to start focusing on throughput where the partners themselves were the main constraints in the business.

The book therefore contains two main streams of learning:

  • – the Theory of Constraints (TOC) as applied to service businesses. If you’re not familiar with the ideas, it was developed in manufacturing to help deal with bottlenecks within the production process and was made famous in the business novel called “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt.
  • the benefits of fixed price agreements and regular payments.

Neither of these ideas are particularly new but they are still not widely adopted.

The story itself starts well enough but it is clunky in places and the dialogue in particular feels false. It’s also a story where just about everything goes right and opportunity after opportunity falls into the laps of the enlightened few.

At the end of the book, the author tells how he applied these ideas within an accountancy firm which ultimately became part of PricewaterhouseCoopers in New Zealand. His sources of inspiration were Goldratt and “The Goal”, Christopher Hart’s book “Extraordinary Guarantees” and Ron Baker’s book “The Professional Guide To Value Pricing”.

The strength of giving business training in the form of a novel is that it’s much easier to keep reading than a standard business book.

The weakness is that the lessons are embedded in the story which makes it harder to go back and find them. While there was nothing in here that was new to me, I think many readers would benefit from having a more “textbook” style summary at the back of the book outlining the key points. Even better would be more guidance, in this book or a follow-up, on how to apply the ideas.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.


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