managing prof svc firm

Author: David Maister

Summary: To manage a professional services firm you need to align the types of clients, projects, and staff otherwise these will forever be at odds with each other, pulling you and your business apart


  • Every firm has the same basic mission statement: great client service at a place where people can learn and grow
  • 3 Types of problems: “brains” problems that haven’t been solved before so clients look for the smartest firm/people, “grey hair” problems that have been solved before but are complex so clients look for the most experienced people/firm, and “production” problems that have a known problem and known solution where clients look for the firm with the greatest efficiency (leverage of staff)
  • “Super-pleasing” as business development: set aside time as part of your marketing budget in order to provide something extra to clients to help secure further business or a referral
  • Leverage ratios of senior to junior staff determine the business model and profit margin. They are different for each type of project, impacting what you need to charge

Discussion Takeaways:

  • Growth is required in order to create the postions for people to move up into, or else people are either bored or you have high attrition (or both)
  • No firm can be purely brains, grey hair, or production oriented – you need a mix of projects in order to sustain your company, but you can have a dominate type of project that influence your margins/business model
  • Ideally there’s no line between doing the work and selling the work. Both are targeted and require strategy as to what the client gets
  • Client Satisfaction Surveys can be great way to get feedback, initiate a conversation and understand your value