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Top 10 Takeaways from Managing The Professional Services Firm

Find this Podcast “Top 10 Takeaways from Managing The Professional Services Firm ” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


In this Podcast, Top 10 Takeaways from Managing The Professional Services Firm, we discuss…

 

MinTopic
3:011st Takeaway: Three Types of Client Work
5:552nd Takeaway: Importance of Leveraging
10:143rd Takeaway: Under Delegation Problem
14:524th Takeaway: Client Purchasing Process
19:285th Takeaway: Practice Development ~ Sales and Marketing
24:006th Takeaway: Quality Work Doesn’t Mean Quality Service
30:287th Takeaway: Why Existing Clients are Good Prospects
34:148th Takeaway: What It Feels Like to Be a Buyer
39:379th Takeaway: Hunters vs. Farmers
43:3010th Takeaway: Asset Management
45:30Bonus – 11th Takeaway: Mission Statement – Service, Satisfaction, and Success

Digital Workplace Briefing

Danny Ryan:It’s Friday, September 6th, and today I talk with Tommy Ryan about a book called Managing The Professional Service Firm by David Maister. We talked about what are our top 10, maybe plus one more takeaways from the book. Enjoy.

 

Hi, and welcome to the Work Together Better Podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan. This is ThreeWill’s official podcast about enterprise collaboration, how people, process, and technology combine to help organizations, departments, and teams work together better.

 

Today I’m sitting down with Tommy Ryan. How’s it going Tommy?

 

Tommy Ryan:It’s going well. Yeah, yeah, it is. Looking forward to another Clemson football weekend.

 

Danny Ryan:Oh, rub it in while it hurts..

 

Danny Ryan:I know. Tommy, our teams did play last week, and Tommy’s team did wipe the field with a Georgia Tech’s players, and it was kind of tough, but I’m glad that we were able to help you guys get off to a good start in the season.

 

Tommy Ryan:It was a wonderful scrimmage. It was wonderful.

 

Danny Ryan:We’re just here to help buddy, we’re here to help. So, today we’re going to be talking about a book called Managing The Professional Services Firm. It’s a book that was sitting up on my bookshelf, and sitting there for quite a while. It was one of those that I always wanted to get to, but never did. And I figured once I picked it up, maybe for accountability reasons, just structured it for the company to go through it, and go through it together. And reflect on where ThreeWill is, and what we can learn from the book. It’s done by a professor who studies different organizations, in particular in the professional services industry.

 

And so, we picked it up, framed it up and every week got together for, over the last maybe two or three months and had discussions about the content of the book. And so, what I’ve done for this discussion is to say what my top 10 takeaways are from the book. What will be interesting is, we’re in that time of the year, where we’re getting ready for 2020, and doing a little bit of planning. I think at the end of this conversation, Tommy, I’d love to just talk through what are your takeaways? What do you think? What do you have that sort of action items from this or what things should we think about considering to do for the upcoming year?

 

Tommy Ryan:Well, this talk will inspire me to think about it.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome, awesome. The first thing, first takeaway that we have is that there are three types of client work. And this is fairly early on in the book. And so, he describes the three types of client work. There’s brains, which is hire us because we’re smart. There’s gray hair, which is hire us because we’ve been through this before, and we have practice with solving this type of problem. Then there’s procedure, which is hire us because we know how to do this, and can deliver it efficiently.

 

So, with the three types of work, this got me thinking right away sort of like what types of work does ThreeWill do? I think we’ve had each one of these three. I think a lot of our work is gray hair work because a lot of the larger companies that we work with, they’re looking to hire us because of some sort of experience maybe that we’ve had with other clients. And we’ve solved the problem before, and for a risk standpoint, they would rather hire an outside firm to come in, take care of it, make sure it happens, and not have to learn the things that you learn the first time you do something. A lot of our work is gray hair.

 

There are some parts of our work, which is brains where it’s nobody’s done it before, and they hire us because they know we’re smart. They know how we work as an organization. They can’t find somebody who’s done it before, and so having somebody like ThreeWill that they trust is someone that can bring in to help out. Then some of the projects that we’ve been doing for many years end up converting over from a gray hair over towards more of a procedure one, which is one where we’ve done it so many times that we can really do it efficiently. So, thoughts Tommy about the three types of client work.

 

Tommy Ryan:I do think we do all three, and one of the things that I was grappling with as we were going through the book is do we need to make sure we’re doing one of those and stay focused in that lane so we can maximize? Organizationally, how do we deliver? I think a lot of what I heard from the book is trying to push things down the chain into more procedural because that’s where it becomes more efficient for your organization, more profitable for your organization. At the end of the day, we have so many experienced people. The makeup of the team, I think pushes us up more in the gray hair and in brains activities. It works well for us, but I think as a challenge to our organization is finding ways to have more procedural type engagements.

 

In your top 10 giveaways or takeaways, no free prizes here. You get into things like under delegation and those types of topics. I think those are some areas that we can learn, and grow, and move in that direction of having more procedural type work.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. Number two is the importance of leverage, which I think we’re getting into right now, which is he says successful leveraging of top professionals is at the heart of success of a professional firm. So, leverage is like, when you have… It’s really getting the most out of the high end professionals that you have. And really trying to focus in on how do you build out an organization where everybody… You don’t have all top high level, highly experienced types of folks, but how do you grow people under it? The leveraging is taking somebody who’s very experienced and having people leveraging their experience so that you’re able to build out an organization, to grow an organization.

 

He says that some of the key roles of leverage is when you consider new projects to take, it’s usually more profitable for the firm to engage in one similar to a recently performed for a previous client. So, something you’ve done before. While it’s the best interest of the firm to do repetitive engagements, it’s not often in accord with the desires of individuals involved. So, just like you know, a lot of people like to take on new types of projects, and really like more of the brains types of projects. He’s pointing out here that the solution is to convert these past experience and expertise of the individual into expertise of the firm by accepting a similar project, but utilizing a greater proportion of junior folks. So, people who are not as senior on the second or third time projects.

 

And so, he’s saying, okay, you go deliver this killer project for X organization. He’s like, I know you want to go do the next killer project for Y organization. But can you do a similar type of project for Y organization in what you did for X. In that next time that you go do it, you’re going to be able to utilize more junior people to go make it happen. He’s just pointing out that, that’s where you get efficiencies out of the professional services firm. That’s where you’re able to get… to really to be able to have people grow, to put lower cost resources on the projects and get higher margins. Those types of things he’s really saying are important things as professional services organization.

 

One more thing, I’ll let you comment on this, Tom. He says it should be immediately stressed that high leverage is not always good. As we’ve already observed, having high leverage is completely inappropriate if the firm has a high level of brains work. So, if you’re doing brains work, and that’s all you’re doing he’s saying you can’t do this. It’s more of like where you’re moving from gray haired over towards more procedural type of work. So, thoughts on leverage, Tom.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think we’re challenged with this. This is definitely a tough nut to crack for us. A lot of the work that we do, we’re usually taking working on agile, custom work. A lot of the things that we seek are in that area, and that tends to lend itself to more brains and less procedural operational work. The work that we do with migrations, we’ve also found that there’s always new challenges in “a repetitive project.” So, the way we’re trying to address how can you take some of that and make it procedural is to have a shared service that is the underpinnings of the repetitive parts of what you do in these types of projects. And that way, we can have some agility to what’s different in the project and covered by more of the gray hair brains. Then some of the procedural things that are repetitive to the migration activities have that, and a shared service that services the project teams that are interfacing with the clients. That’s something that’s fairly new for us. We look at it as a way to be more efficient, and effective. And that’s good for our customers when we can find ways of doing that.

 

Danny Ryan:Great. The third takeaway is the under delegation problem, which we were getting into. It’s like, what percentage of your professional time… And this is a key question, what percentage of your professional work time is spent doing things that a more junior person could do? If we got organized and train the junior person to handle it with quality. The reason why this is a problem is because it impacts profitability, it impacts skill building, it impacts morale, under invest in the future. And so, we know that this is something that everybody fights against.

 

He said it’s very prevalent inside of professional services engagements. While there is clearly a variety of personal factors at work, which is I prefer to do it myself, or I have confidence that it will be done correctly, if I do it. I’ve learned that the bigger [inaudible 00:11:09] is provided by the measurement, and reward systems of most firms. We have what’s being, as with most professional services firms, we’re monitoring things like utilization, and these other things which might be counter to. Am I going to be spending my time getting somebody up to speed on something versus the time that I’m spending on building a project or learning a new technology, or these different types of things.

 

He’s just pointing out, typically, it’s a systemic problem that is the reason why we under delegate. And unless you either… This gets into the follow ups from the book, he’s like, unless you measure something that has something about skills transfer, he’s like, you’ll always have this problem. This is just going to be a prevalent problem because your systems, what you’re monitoring do not align with delegating. They don’t align with taking the time to go do this. Thoughts?

 

Tommy Ryan:A lot of thoughts on this one. I mean, definitely your behaviors come out of what you measure. There are base values, and core raw material good people that you bring into an organization, but at the end of the day a lot of your behavior is based on what is measured. And so, if you do measure something, you have to have, I think some counter balances to keep things in check that you’re doing the right thing overall. And if you measure one thing, typically, that one thing can’t always be the perfect measure. That there has to be other measures that keep you balanced, and working on the things that are going to create the right health within the organization. What I think it can be a challenge is, sometimes you say, well, at the end of the day as a business it’s the net profit of the organization. But you want to have people connected to that. What part do I play in being able to drive a healthy financial economic engine for a company?

 

We picked utilization because it was a very closely correlated. I know if I put in the hours that I’m scheduled for the project, I’m helping the team. What I think we’re missing, and this is one of the things emerging for me out of the book is, is there a way to show financial health and have that calibrate itself with the utilization? And how do you do that in a way that does promote a learning organization that pushes knowledge down to the newer people in the organization, and creates an environment that you can bring on newer people? I think we’ve been challenged that we tend to hire the gray hairs. We have a hard time hiring those junior people that have, I think, a wealth of opportunity to work at ThreeWill. It’s just finding how do you support and create a systematic way to bring those people in and have them be successful? Tough problem to solve.

 

Danny Ryan:It is, it absolutely is. It’s good to hear that a lot of people have the same problem. It is one of those outstanding problems for any professional services organization. Number four is about how clients choose. He points out the single most important talent in selling professional services is the ability to understand the purchasing process, not the sales process from the client’s perspective. Professionals traditionally view their practice development task as divided into two stages. Marketing, which is generating the lead, and selling which is converting a lead into a sale.

 

From a buyer’s perspective, these two stages are experienced as qualification and selection. Can you do it changes to do I want to work with you? I think this was a really good, important one for us to point out, which is try to understand, I think in sales, try to understand what that purchasing process is. Thinking through the eyes of the other person is real… This is what comes through very crystal clear with this. And also just realizing from a buyer standpoint is doing a little bit of when’s the last time that we as individuals have hired someone for professional services? And what was our initial question? Yeah, can you do it? Is this someone who’s competent, and has the experience to be able to do this?

 

Then before we… We might find a couple people who are able to do it. Then the question converts to do I want to work with you? Is this the type of person that I want to work with? Are they going to see it through to the end? Are they the type of person who, as soon as I changed my mind, they’re going to make me pay for it? Or all these sorts of things? You really try to think of things through the other person’s viewpoint.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. What I liked about this is that, do I want to work with you, question. The can you do it? I think we put so much energy around engineering the way we can estimate things, making sure that we’re technically correct in what we’re doing. Making sure we’re covering all the angles from the block and tackle of delivering it. What I find is an area growth for us is how do we create the activities and interactions that makes them feel like we’re taking care of them beyond that. That we have some of the softer skills of empathic listening, trying to role play. What is it going to look like when you engage with us by bringing in some of the disciplines that we see in a delivery project into the sales process.

 

I’ve heard you say this is, we want to try to have them experience what our delivery will be in the sales process. We’re not just trying to sell them this, but actually show them how we can do this, and that goes a long way where we make and keep commitments, try to break down risks and impediments, and show some constructive, moving the ball forward in things like action plans with our customers. That I think falls in that area of do I want to work with you? Do I feel like there’s discipline there to take care of me? And not only can you do the technical things is, do I enjoy working with you? You’ve got another takeaway later on in the deck that I think speaks to that is what’s that quality of service?

 

That’s probably the thing that I feel that I would like for us to hone in on is how do we raise up that quality of service? That’s something where I think we’ve got great potential, because we got great people. And it’s just not, there’s not as much focus on are we doing the quality of service. We have great quality of service, but I think there’s opportunity for improvement. We think of it from not just the delivery work, the quality of work, but how do we give them a better experience. That will speak to this do I want to work with you?

 

Danny Ryan:We were actually… That’s number six, let’s hit number five, and then I do want to jump into that one, which is a great one. Number five is about practice development, which is a pseudonym for him for sales and marketing. He points out… It starts off in this chapter with talking about what does marketing mean to most folks. He ends up talking about five main categories of activity with regards to practice development. He calls it broadcasting, courting, super pleasing, nurturing, and listen. Within these he says, my observation of professional firms in general that they tend to over invest in non billable practice development times in categories mentioned first on my list, which was broadcasting and courting. As a rule under invest in those activities lower on my list, ones like super pleasing, nurturing, and listening.

 

In large part I’ve learned this is because firms tend to assume that the last three categories all occur naturally during the conduct of matters or i.e unbillable time, and hence do not warrant any extra investment of non billable time. This in my experience is an incorrect assumption. He’s pointing out things like… I like this idea of super pleasing. What he’s saying here is you have a client, we’re wrapping up a project with one of our clients. And he would say go back in, and do stuff that would just knock their socks off. This whole idea of super pleasing would be like, “Oh man, they did things I had no expectation of them doing.” Imagine spending that time, and then that would lead towards more project work, or that would lead towards, “Well, why don’t you guys go look at this? Maybe you guys might not have experienced with this, but I’d like for you guys to go look at this.”

 

And so, I think it was really interesting, I think for us where it’s always sort of like, okay, wrap up the project. And all of a sudden, we’re broadcasting to the world about what we can do and trying to find that next client or courting somebody. I think it was good to he pointed out some of the activities that we make the assumption we’re doing on projects, and so we don’t have to worry about them outside of projects.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think we do a decent job in some of this in terms of super pleasing where we try not to put the client in situation where we’re going back, and technically we could get a change order. We end up let’s find a way to get it done within the constraints. I think I’ve seen examples where like on a recent project went and put in a whole bunch of non billable time, in between a project where he knew a technology was coming into play, and showed a lot of progress that “wasn’t built to the client,” but got them ahead of the game. People love that. Just think about the experiences you have with people that come “serve you” as a customer in your general house projects. A plumber comes over, and now while he’s there, he fixes the flapper on the side doesn’t charge you. It took took him five minutes, but he could have technically charged you for that activity. But he’s looking at ways of how can I exceed expectations, and make them want to call me next time?

 

Danny Ryan:Yep. Yeah. I like this idea of super pleasing. It’s seems like it’s a… What he’s talking about is really, like there was one part of the book where he was saying, what are the things that you would do if you had either like an hour of work or $1,000, where would you spend the money to find that next thing? It’s like some of these things, it’s like with that… I don’t think this comes out in the top 10. But really the importance of repeat work with existing clients is a very prevalent message within this book. He goes through all the reasons why, but it just tells me continuing to develop these relationships, and looking for things as opposed to just moving on to the next client, and just calling it a day.

 

The next one that we have, and you’re ready for this one, quality of work doesn’t mean quality of service. I think this was one that… Man, and it seems like this is… If you’re snoozing through this right now pay attention. This is the important one. This is a really important one. Whether logical or illogical, sensible or not, even the most sophisticated client will come to focus more heavily on the quality of service than on the quality of work.

 

What they look at… What this means is when you’re looking at whether who to choose, who do you want to work with, you end up saying this group of people probably can solve my problem. So, what ends up really becoming important to you is what’s the quality of experience, the quality of service that I’m going to get when I’m working with this person? As much as, if you’ve ever worked with somebody who’s like, they’re the best in town, or they’re the best in the world at doing something. I mean, you might put up with it, but you come to, with a lot of different types of projects work, even though we think everything is only we can do it in the world. The fact is there’s a lot of other organizations who probably can do it, but what puts you over the top is going to be the quality of service.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. This really opened my eyes a bit. Because I think we definitely care a lot about the quality of work. I think a lot of what’s ingrained into the team is high integrity, high responsibility, and religious, making sure that we don’t leave behind something we wouldn’t be proud of. I don’t think you want to sacrifice your quality work, I think. But it’s that sense of don’t gold plate that work, and be consultative around where you take shortcuts. Where you decide that this is good enough, and then putting the energy in the areas of let me think a couple steps ahead for the client. Kind of put myself in their shoes, and break down some of the upcoming impediments. Just thinking of ways that you feel like they’re not just doing what I tell them to do. They’re actually understanding my problem, empathizing with that, and taking this on as it were their own problem.

 

We like to say that in our commitment. In the three Cs. We truly try to instill that into people’s hearts of let’s really care about are we showing that we’re thinking of this in ways that makes their life easier. I think quality of service is all speaking to that. I do think we have room for growth. I think there’s some consultative skills that maybe have waned a bit since the beginning of the company, and finding ways to reenergize that to be sure we’re coming in as consultants not developers. At the end of the day, people want a consultant not a developer.

 

Danny Ryan:He pointed out a part of… an archetypal situation where he would go around, and be at different companies. He would say that he would always be concerned at the companies where he heard these phrases, and he heard it quite a lot, which was, we could do great work. He says, I’ve heard frequently, if the client did not keep getting in a way. That’s someone who’s saying that it’s all about the work that we do, and the client just is like, they’re getting in the way. That’s someone who’s really highly focused on the quality of work, and the quality service…

 

But I think where this ends up playing out is we had a good discussion around this, around where you bring your automobile to get fixed. I know you have a Tesla, so this never happens to you anymore. But for the rest of us who do have a mechanical car when you think about bringing it into get service, like I bring it into Corey’s, and the reason why… I’m sure there’s a lot of different places you can bring it to, and in my mind there will be places that will be better than others. And I want to check the ratings and all that sort of stuff. But the reason why I bring it to him is the interaction with him. It’s his following up with me. It’s the… what’s that?

 

Tommy Ryan:At Corey’s that’s where we take..

 

Danny Ryan:Yeah, Bruce is awesome. It’s that interaction that I have with him. I assume he does a great job, and it’s even the things like yeah, he’ll fix something and just say, “Oh, it’s this and that, no charge, don’t worry about it.” I’m like, it’s that interaction that he understands, and is the reason why I’m going to go back to him. Because I want to work with him. Because while it’s like where else would I want to take my car? This guy is going to take care of me. And so, you do need to have that quality. If he messed up my car, and I brought it to some other place, and found that he wasn’t doing a good job, that’s a problem. But in the end, I’m really looking at him because of the quality of service that I’m getting from him, and his organization.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think some of that is a natural ability within people. But I do think it’s a maturity thing too where kind of foundationally you want to have good disciplines that drive the quality of work. Then where you can grow beyond that is saying, how can I look at this from a quality of service perspective. That’s what’s going to move the needle. That’s what’s going to make the lasting impact at the end of the day. The quality of work is a little bit of table stakes. It’s behind the scenes in a sense. Quality of service is how you represent how you’re getting that done.

 

Danny Ryan:Lucky, lucky, I thought I didn’t add this in. This one is in which is number seven, which is why existing clients are good prospects. I’m glad that I’ve got this one in here. Because he’s really pointing out some key things, which is just naturally, I think people like winning new clients and going after new work. But he points out some obvious and not so obvious things, which is, the odds of winning existing client business are better than new clients. The marketing costs for similar volume of business are lower. Follow on projects are more profitable because you have the potential, like when you’re doing a brand new project with someone you’re not going to put your juniors on that project. As you develop the relationship, and they’re comfortable with you, and they realize all your people are great, whether they’re a senior or junior, then you have the potential to add more juniors.

 

It provides opportunity to do new types of work. I mean, right now we’re experiencing this where existing customers, I would argue, understand the quality of service that they’re going to get from us and are okay with us going after new types of work because of the way that we deliver on projects. And so, it even gives us the opportunity to build out new types of work for us when we work for that existing client. You and I don’t want to do the first project, a brand new type of project for a brand new client that’s asking for it.

 

Tommy Ryan:Right. I think with this one, the challenge that you have is when there are new leads that come in timing is everything. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And when you get an opportunity that comes in the pipeline to work with a client, if it’s a new one, I think you tend to put energy towards that, not just because it’s new, but because there is an expressed interest to do something. Existing clients, I think we don’t turn away or not put the equal or even more energy towards pursuing a lead that comes to us that’s from an existing client. I think where we’re challenged at times is how do you find more work that’s out there, but it’s not coming to you, you have to find it. I think that’s where you have to take an approach of how do I work my relationship? How do I go into account, and use the equity of I’ve done great work here to get references.

 

It’s kind of asking that question of do you know others that would need similar work done that would appreciate the quality of work that we do. That’s not as easy to do at times. It feels like you’re begging for some things versus delivering is exciting. It’s easier to deliver versus ask for a favor. I think that’s where sometimes the challenges, and it’s something that you have to be a little more thoughtful, and a little bit more experienced of how do I work with an existing client to find emerging opportunities that are not brought to my attention directly?

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. Number eight reminds me of the Covey principle, seek first to understand then to be understood, because it’s what does it feel like to be a buyer? I think this is really important when we’re talking about the practice development, or sales and marketing, and understanding what does it feel like to be on the other side of the table. The fact that with professional services firm, they are going outside of their internal teams to bring someone from the outside to go do something. He points out the different feelings that someone might feel as a buyer, and I think a lot of these are like… So sure you can relate it to your own experiences, and when you might have hired somebody to do some professional services work or the house or whatever, or back to the automobile example, which is what does it feel like to be a buyer?

 

Number one, I’m feeling insecure. I’m not sure how to detect, which of the finalists is the genius, and which is just good. I’ve exhausted my abilities to make technical distinction. Number two, I’m feeling threatened. This is my area of responsibility. Even though intellectually I know it’s outside expertise. Emotionally, it’s not comfortable to put my affairs in the hands of others. Number three, I’m taking a personal risk by putting my affairs in the hands of someone else. I risk losing control. Number four, I’m impatient. I didn’t call someone at the first sign of symptoms or opportunity. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Number five, I’m worried by the very fact of suggesting improvements or changes, these people are going to be implying that I haven’t been doing it right up to now. Are these people going to be on my side?

 

Number six, I’m exposed. Whoever I hire, I’m going to have to reveal some proprietary secrets not of all are which are flattering. I will have to undress. Oh, my goodness. Number seven, I’m feeling ignorant, and I don’t like the feeling. I don’t know if I’ve got a simple problem or a complex one. I’m not sure if I can trust them to be honest about that. It’s in their interest to convince me that it’s complex. Number eight, I’m skeptical. I’ve been burned before by these types of people. You get a lot of promises, how do I know which promise I should buy? Number nine, I’m concerned that they either can’t or won’t take the time to understand what makes my situation special. They’ll try to sell me what they’ve got, rather than what I need. And finally, number 10, I’m suspicious. Will they be those typical professionals who are hard to get hold of? Who are patronizing, who leave you out of the loop, befuddle you with jargon, who don’t explain what they’re doing or why or who who.

 

In short, these people who are dealing with me, will they deal with me in a way that I want to be dealt with? Thoughts Tommy.

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah, these are great things to think about as you’re working with a prospective customer. I look at these are a lot of things that I think about when I’m working with someone, and trying to find ways of being able to mitigate those risks that they have, and concerns that they have. So like I was saying before, I’d like to take the sales process and turn that into a delivery process where making and keeping commitments, and being responsive, thinking about would I be concerned about what would I like to see to put some my concerns at risk. Then also just acting as a bigger team. I always like to put it in the perspective of we together, not you and then us, but we. There’s a greater team here, and we know to be successful we have to work as a team, and have levels of transparency.

 

It can get tricky in a sales process, especially when it’s a competitive one, where there’s other consulting firms that are involved where they can have an advantage if you’re too transparent. Where they just can’t shake out what is true, and what is false until they really get into the thick of the project. In that sales stage, there’s a bit of you can only be so transparent without being negligent I’ll say, with the client. I try to have a good balance. So, they know that we’re human. We’ll making mistakes. There’s things that we’re not going to be the best at but in whole we can solve this problem for you, and this is why. I think you do want to have a level of humility, but a level of confidence, and we call it humble confidence. We try to display that, again in the sales process, so they know what they’re going to experience when we deliver for them.

 

Danny Ryan:Number nine is one that, it’s hunters versus farmers. I thought that he was actually, this was going to be covering something different. But for this… Because in sales, you have this concept of hunters versus farmers. This is sort of like characterizing your organization, and what type of organization that you are. He describes two different types. One where it’s a hunter type of organization, and where it’s a farmer. Of course, there’s pros and cons to each of them. It’s not like he’s saying, you have to be one over the other. But each has its benefits out of it.

 

If I look at the hunter organization, this one, the central principle around the hunter is individual entrepreneurialism. It’s it focus is management style, it’s bottom line numbers. The self image is street fighters. The leader for the hunter organization is whoever the best hunter is. The decision making is decentralized, so its autonomous. It’s really, the key strengths for that type of organization is around diversity is for flexibility. It’s an organization that basically wants to go out and find work, and go find that next big engagement, almost regardless of what it is.

 

Then you have the farmer organization, which is really the key principle there is firm wide collaboration. Its key strengths are around focus strategy. Its internal atmosphere, whereas for hunters it’s very competitive, for farmers it’s more collaborative. The management style is not around the bottom line numbers, it’s more around values and mission. People’s self image inside the organization is more about being a team player than a street fighter. The leader is the high priest versus the best hunter. The decision making is coordinated. It’s interdependent, as opposed to being decentralized.

 

Of course, when I read through these, I’m like ThreeWill is definitely more of a farmer type of organization. That’s who we are. But I think as we grow we’re also wanting to encourage the hunter type of mentality about… We always… With like coordinating efforts, and going out to the market with a set of service offerings and anticipating the problems before we even know them. We do a lot of things that are very coordinate… Are well thought out, and we’re trying to think through things. But then there’s also the benefits of just going out, and hunting down. Finding places where people need help, and they need somebody to come in and really to be able to be flexible, and they might not have a specific service offering around that, but they’re coming in, and they’re helping you solve that problem. So, thoughts on this?

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think we definitely need more hunters within the organization.
Danny Ryan:Okay. It’s okay. It’s all right.

 

Tommy Ryan:I definitely think there’s an element, and we’ve had some discussions around this. Around entrepreneurs, and I think from a growth perspective, having a few more entrepreneurial thinking people is going to be good for diversity in the environment, and to grow different practices. And to just kind of spread the responsibility of thinking about how to be successful from a business perspective. I think a lot of the farmer mentality works well for something that’s established, and you need a team to just get it done after it’s figured out, that works well. But you have to have something to farm. And so, you need those hunters out there in the organization that help push to the next level. We’ve talked about this. Growth is healthy, and it’s something that gives us the ability to use more of our gifts, and to be able to have some diversity of things that we can do as an organization. So, it’s not going to be done by a bunch of farmers, we’re going to need more hunters to do that.

 

Danny Ryan:Number 10 is from the last chapter, and it’s asset management. He’s basically pointing out, if there’s any one major theme in this book it is the key to ensuring that any professional firm’s future is wise management of two key assets. Its inventory of skills, talent, knowledge and ability, and then its strength of its client relations and reputation.

 

Tommy Ryan:I think we’ve got a great reputation, and that’s biased, of course. Why would I not say that.

 

Danny Ryan:If it wasn’t you would need to resign today, right?

 

Tommy Ryan:Right. I think we get good comments around that.

 

Danny Ryan:Sure.

 

Tommy Ryan:I think it’s something that has to do with how much we care about of quality of work. And the way we’ve approached growth, we’ve been really conservative in that. So when you are conservative with your growth, you’ve got the opportunity to keep a strong reputation. They know that’s something that we always worry about as we grow is keeping that reputation doing great work for our customers. And there I go, I say great work versus great service. Then the skills and talent, I think we’ve got great people, and our challenge is how to bring in more junior people and spread that love of knowledge, and foster an environment of learning. We’re doing a lot of great things towards that. We have some great practices that are done internally to continue to share things with others. It probably is going to need to get more intense as we get people to have a larger skill gap that need to be ramped up and nurtured appropriately to be successful.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. I have one… I have an 11, which I have to throw… I have 11 that I have to throw in here-

 

Tommy Ryan:I don’t see it in the slides.

 

Danny Ryan:It’s not on the slides. I’ll add it to the slides afterwards before I upload them, which is actually the first… It’s the first couple paragraphs of the book, which is what got me going on this, and I think what… But like me, I usually read the first couple of paragraphs of a book before I buy it. I just found this really interesting, and important. He says one of the… I’m just starting out in the beginning. One of the most interesting discoveries of my consulting work has been the fact that apparently, every professional service firm in the world has the same mission statement. Regardless of the firm’s size, specific profession or country of operation. With varying refinements of language, the mission of most professional firms is to deliver outstanding client service, to provide fulfilling careers, and professional satisfaction for our people, and to achieve financial success, so that we can reward ourselves and grow.

 

The commonality of this mission does not detract from its value. Simply put, every professional firm must satisfy these three goals of service, satisfaction, and success if it is to survive. Management of a professional service firm requires a delicate balancing act between the demands of the client marketplace, the realities of the people marketplace, the market for its staff, and the firm’s economic ambitions.

 

Tommy Ryan:Cool. Yes, yes. Those are… it’s a good way to look at it, and a good way to assess what is important. What rises to the top to be able to be successful as a professional services firm. I just want to thank you Danny for bringing this book in as a book club. I think it’s one of those things that at first, I thought it was going to be some really kind of basic common sense stuff. But I think this book has some really good challenging concepts. You can tell it’s well thought out, and well researched in terms of what are the things that are important to look at, and how to look at it. I think it’s going to feed us for the next few years of ideas on how we can grow as an organization. So, I appreciate you-

 

Danny Ryan:Absolutely.

 

Tommy Ryan:… bringing this in, and taking the time to lead us through.

 

Danny Ryan:Absolutely. What would you say would be… I think I’ve picked up on it, which sounds like the quality of work versus the quality of service. Do you think that’s the big… What’s your big takeaway from the whole book if you could summarize it in one or two takeaways, what would you say it would be, Tom?

 

Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I would say that the two top things… I know we like to say three, but I’ll bring it down to two. To me the two top things are quality of service, and thinking of ways that we can drive more satisfaction through quality of service. That includes being more consultative, and having some of the more softer skills in working with our clients. The other one is the ability to grow junior associates at the company. I think we’ve always been interested in that. I think it’s going to take quite a bit of work to do that work and investment. But I think what it does is it feeds an economic engine.

 

We have our clients listening to this, and probably other professional services firms. You want to have a healthy economic engine that allows you to just do more things. Have more impact, and if we’re thinking of ways to be more efficient and effective, and not being “top heavy” with a bunch of very senior folks, it makes us more competitive in the marketplace. Able to provide no great service at good cost to our clients. And if we’re not putting the energy and work towards being able to bring in more junior folks, then we’re in a sense could be overcharging people. I hate to say that. That’s a vulnerable thing to say, but at the end of the day, we should be trying to challenge ourselves to have a good mix of people.

 

That speaks to the under delegation problem. It speaks to know are we putting the right measurements in place to reward things that will drive us to grow with more junior folks, and also deliver with quality of service. I think that quality of service, and being able to do more procedural type work is going to be healthy for us. I think it’s something that is exciting to do and I think our organization, although they want to do the “new things” I think when you start doing things, and you’re doing very well, we just have to point the team in the right direction of things that we can do very well, and repetitively. And we’ve experienced some of that. We just need to find more ways to grow through finding work that we can repeat, and over exceed the expectations of our clients.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. Thanks Tommy for taking the time to do this. Thank you everybody for listening, and have a wonderful day. Thank you. Bye bye.

 

 

Danny RyanTop 10 Takeaways from Managing The Professional Services Firm

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