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New at the top: Driving value amid disruption

My first job out of college was as a consultant at Arthur Andersen, and 27 years later I retired.

That firm became Accenture during my time there. I lived through all the change. I was one of the first 3,000 people hired in the consulting division in the United States. When I left, there were 250,000 employees working worldwide. I lived through the period when the company split and the initial public offering.

I always had a technology bent. I was always the one pushing the envelope to try new things we could take to clients, including developing outsourcing for utilities in the United States.

At Accenture, I was born and bred for driving value to our consulting.

I was made for it.

Keith Mueller. (Courtesy of Keith Mueller)

The world wants everything to be very simple, but it’s actually very complex. Businesses are built around different people, cultures and products. I love figuring out how to put all those disparate pieces together.

I also worked very hard. I never felt I had the pure brain power that other people had, but I always felt that I could just out-work them.

I don’t think the answer is to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Anyone can put in a 60-hour week. The real answer is to grind it out every day consistently for a long time. That’s what I did.

My career at Accenture took off when deregulation for utilities started in the U.S. I led an effort to strategize how we and our clients could navigate through that change.

That was when everything started to click.

The result has been that most of the systems that run the grid today were developed by Accenture.

After spearheading that initial effort, I became the head of the U.S. and, eventually, the global utilities practice.

There was a point where it was very important in the utilities industry to break away from receiving almost all of our revenue from one place. We could see that one source would eventually go away. I was able to accomplish that diversification while also focusing on growth.

Let’s say we were making $200 million doing one thing at 15 different companies. We ended up making $300 million doing five things at 100 companies.

That was a big change. That changed the dynamic for that industry for years to come.

When we went through the IPO, we had tremendous knowledge of how to drive value to clients. A number of us started doing a lot of investing.

One group we invested in was BookKeeping Express. No one is out there supporting small businesses with everything they do, particularly around bookkeeping and cash management. We thought BookKeeping Express could provide that service.

There is a radical change going on in the world. Every industry is going to be changed because of the cloud and new architectures and mobility. If people don’t think that, they don’t know what’s coming their way.

I can see a vision where our clients would not spend days upon days doing their books. It should be minutes a day, and it should be cheap.

It was a perfect fit to come back into the business world. It fit what I learned perfectly — disrupting a process and adding value to customers using technology and people.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

Keith Mueller

Position: Chief executive of BookKeeping Express, a McLean company that provides bookkeeping and cash management services for small businesses.

Career highlights: Managing partner, Accenture.

Age: 54

Education: BS, finance and economics, Illinois State University.

Personal: Lives in McLean. Has two daughters, Carlyn and Hayley.

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