Four Key Steps to Growing Your Professional Services Firm

By Fergus Gilmore, Managing Director, Deltek UK and Central Europe

Recent figures from a quarterly review of the industry by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and consultancy firm PwC, shows business volumes grew at their fastest rate since 2007 with 60 percent of firms reporting greater profits. Even better news is the prediction that this trend will continue with the majority of firms forecasting another period of rising volumes and profits.

So how can your Professional Services business capitalise on this growth in the industry? By building a more rounded view and bigger picture of your business via these four steps:

1.    Increasing and strengthening your clients and client relationships

2.    Using detailed analytics to optimise your service portfolio

3.    Understanding your business drivers and metrics

4.    Building your business into a metrics-driven organisation

Increasing and strengthening your clients and client relationships

Act now to increase your number of clients and the depth of your relationship with existing ones. Sounds simple enough, so why aren’t more firms doing it?

People are the bedrock of any Professional Services business and that includes clients as well as staff. Strengthening client relationships is essential to sustain a successful business as it will lead to retaining current clients and attracting new ones.

If you know your clients inside and out, including their likes and dislikes, you should find that you will exceed expectations by providing an above and beyond exemplary service. Firms that communicate regularly and meet face-to-face; seek feedback – good or bad – and act on it; and build a collaborative partnership based on ‘we’ not ‘us and them’ will undoubtedly have more loyal clients.

Using detailed analytics to optimise your service portfolio

Firms who use detailed project analytics can optimise their service portfolio to provide the most profitable and highest demand services. How?

By implementing a specialist system specific to the needs of your project-based firm, you will see a natural alignment between your staff, clients and projects. This increased visibility aids in revenue growth and profitability, as it ensures that staff resources are being utilised to their full potential and that all back-office operations are streamlined.

Understanding your business drivers and metrics

According to a survey from IDC Managing Your Consulting Firm for Growth, metrics and business drivers such as customer lifetime value, project profitability and revenue growth are fundamental for any business to measure if they want to stay ahead of competition.

So, focusing on your project lifecycle as a whole is one of the best ways to increase efficiency and profit margin, as it relies on getting rid of silos and spreadsheets and gaining full visibility of the project from resource utilisation, time from proposal to completion and time from completion to payment.

Your project lifecycle should theoretically determine how streamlined your front and back office processes are, allowing you to make adjustments where appropriate. This is why you need a system which is specifically built for your industry, i.e. with project at the core. Such a system is far more beneficial than a generic one, as it enables you to see all of your projects and resources in one place, giving you full visibility of each project lifecycle. 

Making your business metrics-driven

By using the knowledge and information you get from your ERP solution you are able to build a metrics-driven business you can achieve the much-desired 360 degree bigger picture. In short, IT can provide the bridge for a complete lifecycle view across your clients, projects and employees.

One of the most important factors of your technology is that it provides you with real-time data. There is no point reporting on data that is days out of date, or comes from the wrong version of a spreadsheet. It’s, at best, misleading and, at worst, could take your business in the wrong direction. Ideally, you want your real time data to help your firm more effectively manage business lifecycles and key metrics.

One strategy, four steps

To sum up, since growth in the Professional Services industry looks all set for 2015, businesses need to capitalise on this growth now. Not tomorrow, or next week, now.

Think one strategy – build the bigger 360 degree picture – and adopt a four-pronged approach to implementing it via client relationships, service portfolio, business drivers and metrics.