Profitable Expectations
An Accountant Rising to the Challenge

Profitable Expectations: An Accountant Rising to the Challenge

About the Author

Douglas T. Hicks is a consultant, writer, speaker and educator who has spent thirty-five years helping accountants grow into value-adding members of their company’s management. During that time he has served over 200 clients, authored three books on management accounting, written scores of articles for professional and trade publications and spoken at nearly 400 professional events.

Other Books by Douglas T. Hicks


Profitable Expectations: An Accountant Rising to the Challenge is a the story of a thirty-something Controller with a traditional, financial accounting background who successfully makes the transition from an efficient “bean counter” to an effective “bean grower” and meets the challenge and expectations of her CEO.

After a stint in public accounting, Marcella DeCou had been the Controller of PlumbCo, a $20 million manufacturer and distributor of plumbing products, for three years when retired Admiral Alex Johnson took over as CEO. His view of a financial executive’s role was quite different than that of her previous boss. Alex expected his Controller to not only be a highly effective accountant, but also a dynamic, value-adding member of PlumbCo’s management team.

The story follows Marcella as she works with other members of the company’s management team, as well as with an elderly ‘muse’ she met through the Institute of Management Accountants, to better understand her company’s business processes, build trusting relationships with her peers, develop valuable leadership skills, use causal modeling to gain a deeper understanding of the economics that underlie PlumbCo’s business and become a decision leader who plays a major role in guiding her organization into a more profitable and sustainable future.


Profitable Expectations includes a link to the Excel-based worksheet created by PlumbCo to measure the activities and costs resulting from their causality-based cost model. You can download the model to “play along” with Marcella and her assistant, Jim Stinson, as they use the model to support the company’s decision making processes, enhance your own understanding of the principles involved and, perhaps, adapt it to fit your own organization.


  • Accountants in industry who hope to become valued members of their organization’s management team.
  • Business executives who want to increase the value they receive from their internal accounting organization.
  • Management accounting students who want to see how the theories they’re being taught can add value in real-world situations.
  • Independent accountants who seek new ways to add value for their clients.



“Douglas T. Hicks captures the spirit of our IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) founder, Major J. Lee Nicholson, along with our core values as an organization. The true camaraderie among IMA members and our willingness to help one another on our professional journeys are portrayed very accurately in this fun-to-read story with real value-add business applications. Among the highlights is the story of controller, Marcella DeCou, being promoted to CEO due to her intelligence, business acumen, accounting technical knowledge, leadership capabilities, appreciation for others’ contributions, and ability to truly practice diversity, equity, and inclusion. An excellent must-read with many practical management accounting insights for any manufacturing or warehousing organization. It also includes an Excel download to help readers practice the value-add model described.”

Ginger White, CMA, CSCA, MBA, MSSF, SSBB, SSMBB & Global IMA Chair 2018-2019.

“Number-crunching, model building, predictive analytics: who could ask for more from a story of a successful controller? In this age of automation and digital transformation, we should all ask for more, and this story delivers. It showcases the value of complementing the quantitative skills with those soft skills of open-mindedness, inquisitiveness, and collaboration that have become so highly valued. Not since The Goal have I considered using a novel like this in my classroom.”

Paul E Juras, PhD, CMA, CPA, Vander Wolk Professor of Management Accounting and Operational Performance, Babson College & Global IMA Chair 2020-2021.

“I have followed Doug and used him extensively in the past 20 years to assist me in getting a grip on the “True Economic Value” of my companies. This latest book “Profitable Expectations: An Accountant Rises to the Challenge” comes at a perfect time to transform the thinking of my newest company. The story line has made it very easy for my CFO and Controller to understand the complexities of our organization and not be intimidated from non-accountants like myself. The book has served as a reference and new set of tools to break through the paradigms in their education and experience. I have made the book required reading of my operations managers to get both groups aligned and thinking collectively. What a difference this is making.”

Kenneth P. Oberholz, President/CEO Lincoln Manufacturing Inc.

“This book has thorough coverage of a wide range of accounting topics and is very helpful as an accounting refresher of how we as accountants need to rise to the emerging challenges. Well-written and easy to understand without technical jargon, it’s a valuable compendium of accounting knowledge. Highly recommended!”

Liv A. Watson, Sr. Director of Strategic Customer Initiatives, Workiva, Inc.

“This book fills a need in both general business and accounting literature. For too long the ‘Pygmalion principle’ has been applied to accountants; decision makers' limited expectations have kept accountants from becoming value-adding resources to their organizations.”

James Ayers CMC, Principal, CGR Management Consultants LLC

“’Profitable Expectations’ is an outstanding tutorial on the critical role of managerial accounting wrapped around in whimsical storytelling that makes it simple to understand. The book drives home a point that the role of an accountant is not only to count the beans, but also to help grow them.”

Chris Domanski, Senior Manager – Direct Sourcing and Optimization, Nexteer Automotive & President of the Society of Product Cost Engineering and Analysis (SPCEA)

“’Profitable Expectations: An Accountant Rises to the Challenge’ is a surprising read which led me on a path transforming my view of how to successfully grow a manufacturing business. As I followed the story through the kinds of discussions and meetings in my career in industry, my mental journey was similar to the one traveled by the central figure, an experienced yet open minded financial executive. This book will entertain and inform any executive seeking truth, not just tradition, enabling sound decision-making to quickly guide company financial performance to next-level profitability.”

Edward Potoczak, President and Director of Professional Services, Oakstone Group, LLC

“On several occasions I have had the honor of experiencing Doug Hicks in one of his lectures on Managerial Costing. I have read his book “PROFITABLE EXPECTATIONS. An Accountant Rising to the Challenge” with the same enthusiasm. It is fascinating how Doug talks about the career of his protagonist Marcella. The combination of professional depth, a glimpse into the maturing of Marcella's insights, and a pinch of humor inspires the reader of the book. Almost unnoticed but captivating, the reader is immersed in the world of the controller and learns the art of cost modelling along the value chain of PlumbCo. With the book “PROFITABLE EXPECTATIONS” Doug confirms my conviction that financial executives heavily influence the role an accountant plays in an organization. It is the information requested by decision makers that allows financial controllers to provide valuable input beyond traditional accounting information. This book is enlightening and a recommendation to all accountants as well as decision makers.”

Rüdiger Stern, Vice President Professional Services | President FACTON, Inc. (North America)

“In today’s business environment of big data and countless transactions, identifying relevant business data is critical to decision-making. In Profitable Expectations, Doug Hicks provides an alternative to the checklists and templates commonly used to identify and solve the issues faced by accounting and finance in providing relevant and actionable costing information through a story – similar to the groundbreaking book, The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt – of a mid-sized company controller faced with those problems. The story highlights the benefits of mentoring, building relationships, developing staff, and focusing on the organization's goals and objectives when solving business problems. A welcome and fresh approach to management accounting for everyone, both accountants and non-accountants alike.”

Gary Kapanowski, Contributing Editor, Journal of Cost Management

“Profitable Expectations is a superb case proving the unique value a management accountant provides to a company. It demonstrates how a corporate controller serves as a strategic partner with manufacturing, the CEO, and marketing to provide cost leadership because she understands cost management and how to tailor the concepts to her company to improve profitability to gain competitive advantage. It is an inspiration to management accountants showing the path to executive leadership through successful cost management. It should be a must read for all management accountants”.