Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How To Run A Brilliant Professional Services Firm (PSF)

Tom Peters, at the start of the century, spoke about the PSF (Professional Service Firm). He put forward a model for what these businesses should look like by 2010. Well, we’re past 2010 now and his PSF work continues to be challenging yet inspirational.

When looking at how the PSF might behave in 2010 Peters came up with a series of key ideas that are crucial to the growth of the business and could be encapsulated as follows:

High Value-Added Projects

You should only be doing projects that really do add value to the client, over and above the standard norm. Clients will return if you ‘go the extra mile’; they will not tolerate you doing ‘just enough’. Just enough is never good enough for you or for them!

Pioneer Clients

Don’t just work with the easy clients where you do repeat work that you have done before. It is the clients that really push you and get you to think about the solutions you are offering; this will improve the quality of your work. They may not be so easy to deal with, and you may hate them at times, but pioneer clients will stretch you to come up with unique solutions that other practitioners won’t have considered. And all this can be fed back into your everyday work!

‘Wow’ Work

At its simplest you need to be doing work that blows away your clients – if they don’t think that you are delivering ‘wow’ work, but just ordinary bog-standard run-of-the-mill stuff, then they may well spend their money elsewhere next time!

Hot ‘Talent’

Employ the best if you want the best results. The saying goes, ‘if you pay peanuts then you get monkeys’! 
Recently a (small) client said that they really wanted to grow the business so they literally sought out a ‘world-class’ managing director to take the business to the next level. And it worked!

Adventurous Culture

Culture can be defined as how we do things around here. So how do you do things in your business? Is there a culture of adventure or is it all ‘business as usual’? Just how exciting is it to work in your business or to come into your business as a client?

Proprietary Point Of View (PPOV)

You need an ‘ology’, a way of doing things that belongs to you – you need it so that you have a systematic, measured approach to your work; your clients need it so that they have a sense of what it is that you do, how you do it and a sense of your uniqueness!

Work Worth Paying For

Heaven forbid that you ever do any work that is not worth paying for because that is the time to stop, pack up your bags and go home. We must only ever do work worth paying for!

And when should this happen? 

Score Yourself

Score yourself on a scale of 1 –10 where ‘1’ means ‘never’ and ‘10’ means ‘all the time’.
  • We do ‘High Value-Added Projects’
  • We have ‘Pioneer Clients’
  • We do ‘Wow Work’
  • We employ ‘Hot Talent’
  • We have an ‘Adventurous Culture’
  • We have a ‘Proprietary Point Of View (PPOV)’
  • We do work worth paying for
What can you to do create a better PSF? List five things right now.

And in Practice – A Case Study

The board of JWT, an internet marketing agency employing 125 staff, felt that the whole business had become stale and had lost the entrepreneurial sparkle, verve and excitement that it had when it was smaller. Everything had become a grind and, to be honest, they were churning out a lot of mediocre work to some pretty unremarkable and pretty unchallenging clients.

With their hands on their hearts the board could not give themselves a score of more than five out of ten for any of the “Score Yourself” criteria above. This was a sad moment – a time to admit that they had sat back and allowed their need for security exceed their need for excitement.

As the MD euphemistically said, ‘decisions were made to liven things up’. A few staff left but on the whole everyone loved the new adventure to push the scores up as high as possible.

This was not just some silly exercise to make things more fun; in fact, for ‘fun’ read the word ‘risky’. With their new focus, they started to seek more challenging clients and more challenging work which started to separate them out from the competition and it allowed them to do more perilous but more profitable work. Their reputation blossomed and so did their order book (up 35% on the previous year).  

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