Qualities of a Leading Service Firm
Professional service firms differ from other commercial enterprises as they generally don’t have the bottom line approach and also don’t have a hierarchical management structure (Løwendahl, 1997). Managing human resources in such firms has been described through many strong metaphors which are not on the same lines as the strong top-down leadership which conventional organisations are used to. The motto of professional service firms should be delivering a high quality and valuable service to the client. This would automatically improve the triple bottom line (O’Brien, 2016).
The qualities of a service leader firm range from managing talent to measuring all inputs and outputs. Taking the example of Ernst & Young (EY), which is one of the leading professional service firms in the world with offices across 150 countries, has been repeatedly ranked as one of the best professional service firms to work for and work with (“India’s Best Companies to Work For – Great Place to Work® India”, 2016).
The workforce is the most important element and attribute in EY and every service firm. Successful service firms have a working environment where they celebrate and cherish their talent and resources. Identification of training needs and professional development of the workforce is done not only on the requirement of the firm but also as what is required by the individuals for their own growth. Management is dedicated to the well-being of its employees and the correct allocation of resources to projects with importance given to employee satisfaction in order to multiply engagement levels (Maister, 1993). EY has this quality is embedded in their organisational DNA. Every activity of the individual is correlated to the business application resulting in a transparent system bringing forth the impact of the individual to the business.
Business development is a crucial quality of a service firm and is shouldered by the whole organization. Everyone is equally important- the ones who get the leads to ones who have knowledge of the market segments and are able to maximise the conversion of the leads to actual business engagements (Maister, 1993). In most service firms, like EY, projects are secured through a combination of resources and building relationships.
Customer satisfaction is also one of the most important attributes of a successful service firm, EY being no exception. By allocating the right resources on the right projects not only can firms ensure employee satisfaction, but more importantly it can also increase the levels of customer satisfaction guaranteeing successful project delivery (O’Brien, 2016). This also aids in decreasing the risk in projects. Transparent deliverables, shorter and more efficient timeframes gain customer fidelity (Sanz & Gamo, 2009).
Monitoring and measurement is vital to a service firm. Monitoring projects proactively and acting before and adverse effect on the project, customer relations or employee satisfaction can improve the industry standing of the firm (Empson, 2013). In tandem with monitoring, measuring is equally important. EY has brought out knowledge documents to showcase how organisations should incorporate monitoring and measurement in the core of the business operations (Sanz & Gamo, 2009) leading to an increased success rate. Such a firm can easily provide deep financial and economic analysis of important project-based data including other aspects of project management.
In conclusion, while the above have illustrated particular qualities of successful service firms, there are many more qualities associated to becoming a leading service firm, and can be broadly surmised by Damien O’Brien, Chairman and CEO, Egon Zehnder that leadership should stay true to its values, keeping debate and dissent as a core attribute of the organisation as well as having a clear vision of the company’s direction. Organisational leaders should facilitate building an environment where their colleagues aaspire and achieve their best (Empson, 2013).
Empson, L. (2013). Exploring Leadership Dynamics in Professional Service Firms (1st ed.).
India’s Best Companies to Work For – Great Place to Work® India. (2016). Greatplacetowork.in. Retrieved 12 July 2016,
Løwendahl, B. (1997). Strategic management of professional service firms. Copenhagen: Handelshøjskolens Forlag.
Maister, D. (1993). Managing the professional service firm. New York: Free Press.
O’Brien, D. (2016). Egon Zehnder – Corporate leadership: lessons from professional service firms. Egonzehnder.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016,
Sanz, B. & Gamo, C. (2016). Customer attrition: prove the efficiency of your customer retention management (1st ed.). Madrid: Ernst Young.