Book Club: Managing the Professional Services Firm, David H. Maister

It is my (Abbie, that is) turn for the HMA Book Club – had gotten a couple recommendations and finally settled on Managing the Professional Service Firm. Our client, Brad Preber, managing partner at Grant Thornton, had it displayed prominently in his office and let me borrow his copy.
The book addresses such issues as staffing your firm, performance reviews, growth and expansion, collaboration and networking. I was most interested in the information related to new business development.
We get hired for three primary reasons:

  • We’re smart
  • We’ve done this before and have experience with similar situations.
  • We know how to do this and can deliver what the client need effectively and efficiently.

The client holds the power; it is up to the service provider to be cooperative, responsive and adaptable. It is how we will keep current clients and win new ones.
New business marketing tactics that “illustrate” your expertise (speeches, seminars, bylined articles) are more powerful that those that “assert” your expertise (brochures, direct mail and cold calls).
Where does new business come from – most firms will say from their existing clients but don’t have formalized plan to go after it. We tend to focus our efforts on “new” new business. There are some definite advantages to dedicating some time to both. With current clients, there is already a trust and a proven-track record of your abilities. New clients take some time to get to that level.
Given the regular and ongoing face time with existing clients, there need not be a ton of non-billable time spent in gauging new business opportunities here.
We can all agree that new clients bring a different kind of motivation to the work place. It is fun and exciting to start on new projects. This is not to suggest that one is better than the other, only that we should be cognizant of the opportunities that exist.
How many of you have a formal client feedback program? Maister outlines a 30-question form (pg. 85-86) discussing such things as approach to work, creativity, accessibility, keeping client informed of changes, understanding of the client’s business, openness and honesty, among others. We’ve done this a few times (should do it more often) and always come away with valuable information. And we also learn of additional opportunities within the client’s business that we might not have uncovered during our regular client meetings.
The book is several years old, but the principles discussed still ring true today.

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at Oct 6, 2010

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