Every professional service provider – whether a consultant, lawyer, engineer, doctor or accountant – is in the business of selling time. The ideal model is to maximize the value of that time (or expertise) to the client or individual in the most efficient way possible. This lays the foundation for value-based billing instead of hourly rate billing and increases profitability.
As you build a team and firm, you spend less time on the delivery of the service and more of your time leveraging the time of others or creating pathways to allow others to maximize their time such as Business Development, operational processes, training, etc.
In ten years of consulting with service firms and having grown my own firm CREW, I’ve found three critical areas where a leader needs to focus his/her time – regardless of the stage of the business.
- Methodology Development. What do I mean by this? It’s your “method” for how you provide your service and is the foundation of differentiation. For example, any lawyer can put together the legal document for selling a business. However, how that lawyer does it, the processes and procedures involved that lead to an amazing client experience and best outcome would be considered the methodology. This area will ultimately determine success and a leader must establish it, train others in it, build upon it and continually refine it.
- Relationship Building. Professional Service providers are usually very good technically but don’t always love networking, meeting new people and building relationships. This is why most marketing strategies attempt to build credibility, familiarity and lead generation for firms. However, a leader wanting growth and increased profitability can’t escape this activity. You’re in the business of building trust and that can only occur through relationship-building. Spending time creating new opportunities for prospective clients, strengthening relationships among current clients and forming new strategic relationships with partners and suppliers are core activities. This amount of time given to this area grows as the business or organization grows.
- Thought-Leadership. This area is becoming more critical as communication channels continue to evolve with advances in technology. Providing a service means leveraging expertise in a specific field to create value. How are you learning? More importantly, how are you using that learning to educate others, especially the audience you serve? This can be in the form of speaking, writing (for example blogs, white papers, books, etc.), video development and/or social media posts. The key is to stay with it because this process develops the other two activities, meaning stronger business development and more advanced methodology.
I’ve found these activities lead to the greatest amount of leverage and results for our company when I can stay focused on them. I’m still fighting my calendar to ensure these activities remain a priority as I can so easily slip back to being a technician. Take an inventory of your time and where it’s going and determine how you can make these activities a greater percentage of your day or week.