The Art of Managing Professional Services: Insights from Leaders of the World’s Top Firms
by Maureen Broderick
REVIEWED BY MARJANNE PEARSON
Maureen Broderick’s new book provides a comprehensive look at the world of professional services firms (PSFs) from the point of view of its own top leadership. The author and her consulting team interviewed 130 individual leaders in 86 firms that represent “the top brand names in professional services”— accounting, advertising/PR/research, architecture/engineering, consulting, executive search, financial services, and law.
When I first heard about this book from one of Broderick’s team members, I was skeptical about how A/E firms would fare among the other professional services disciplines. SMPS members know that, since the 1970s, A/E/C firms have been focused on improvement of marketing and business development as well as management of our firms; yet, it was hard to imagine A/E firm management comparing favorably against the top management consultancies. Luckily, our representative firms hold their own and, in many cases, shine. But perhaps more importantly, the book provides an intriguing look at our professional services clients—and particularly, the very members of the C-suite that we try to reach and influence.
As a framework for the interviews, the consulting team used the “Broderick PSF Leadership Model” with areas of focus that they hypothesized were “at the top of the leadership agenda in professional services.” They asked the participants to rank the importance of each area in terms of their own firm leadership, and book chapters follow the ranked order of focus.
We might anticipate that vision, values, and culture would be at the top of the PSF leadership agenda—those factors inform every aspect of PSF leadership, strategy, and operations. How do the other elements of management drive planning, growth, and innovation, as well as brand, marketing, and sales? The author covers each of the subjects in detail, using observations, examples, quotations, case studies, and summaries that clarify and enlighten. We can learn from each example, regardless of firm size or discipline. Some may be more relevant and some less so (e.g., outsourcing), but they all provide information that we can use in our own firms and to better understand our clients’ goals and aspirations.
With A/E representing only 12% of the participating firms, most of the 40 “Lessons from Leaders” in the book came from other disciplines; however, the five A/E case studies are not only illustrative but also relevant to a broad range of PSFs:
Black & Veatch Client Portfolio Mix
Black & Veatch Forecasting Process Metric Management at Gensler
Gensler’s Principal Evaluation Process
Style of Leadership:
Emerging Leaders Program at Dewberry
Marketing as an activity appears only once in the Table of Contents, as a description for Chapter 7, “Positioning: Brand, Marketing, and Sales.” However, there’s no doubt that marketing strategy underlies every aspect of management discussed throughout the book, including client experience and management (portfolio), brand management and thought leadership (positioning), and annual planning (strategy). As a matter of fact, the chapters on positioning and strategy are, in my opinion, among the best that I’ve read, including not only the outline of a process to build a thought leadership program (and an excellent case study from Booz & Company) but also “Five Essentials for Successful Strategic Planning.”
The Art of Managing Professional Services provides information that we can use today, as well as food for thought for all of us involved with management, marketing, and business development. It’s on my bookshelf, and I’d recommend that you add it to yours.
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Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Marketer — the Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services
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