What’s in a name? Over the years, people have used the word professional services, corporate services, and consulting interchangeably. Based on this it has become one of the professions you have to ‘explain’ as people will never know what you mean by just saying the name. Having worked in this industry for over two decades, I have had the experience of watching it evolve through my eyes, those of my colleagues globally, the experts and the research. So we can dare to ask: “What has been the cycle of evolution of this industry and what is the future of the professional services industry?”
The world of professional service has changed aggressively over the years, from the 80’s and 90’s till date. In the era of technology and disruptions, we now realize that to operate as a professional in this industry, you will need to have some fundamentals that lean towards soft skill sets and that add value to hard skill sets that have always driven us. When I began in the industry 20 years ago, hard skills i.e. technical skills were key to business development. Today, there is a shift which is centered on connections, emotional experiences and high performance.
Tech Target defines a professional service as “an intangible product that a contractor or product vendor sells to help a customer manage a specific part of their business.” Since professional service providers have specialized knowledge about niche areas of interest, such as law, marketing or accounting, they allow the customer to focus on core business concerns. Some of the key parts of professional services include audit, tax, actuarial, financial advisory and consulting; working with businesses to reduce costs or reorganize for maximum efficiency. “The real business of professional services is the expertise of their people, so a lot of emphasis is put on personal and professional development as you work, in order to make you a more useful, and marketable member of the team.”-Bright Network. Clearly, the industry requires a greater amount of soft skill fundamentals, a deeper nurturing and revolutionizing of one’s mindset and inner workings.
Although most entrepreneurs find themselves selling a tangible product or the provision of a service when they begin their entrepreneurial journey, there is a gradual evolution in the running of the systems in the world of work. Statistics by the Small Business Association (SBA) show that over half of new businesses offer something else – personal professional services, including consulting, business coaching and advisory services. It is getting obvious that the professional services industry is experiencing a surge in popularity, demand and value, however, it still suffers basic business challenges. In this case, there are some challenges when it comes to defining what product one is actually selling and pricing fairly for intangible products and services. Despite the disruptions, the Business Research Company in its 2017 Professional Services Global Market Report states that the market is forecast to register a 5.4% growth rate from 2016 to 2020, reaching almost $5 trillion. The value was split by design, research, promotional, and consulting services, legal services and accounting segments in the ratio of 71:17:12.
With the swift and rapid disruption of technology, the professional services moving forward would have to align itself with the 4th industrial revolution by staying knowledgeable and continually elevating their standards and their expertise. Right from searching for clients to managing them, engaging them, serving them and keeping up with competitors, technology can play a key role through the use of social media. This is an understandable step forward since the global web content, search portals and social market grew at 13% in the historic period, and it is forecast to register an 11.8% growth rate from 2016 to 2020, driven by the increased number of internet users worldwide and by people’s attitude towards new ways of communication through social media. (Market Research).
Now that we have established the trends and possible future turnouts of the industry, how can you prepare to partake in this journey? What makes your professional service distinct from others? Are you on the path that will challenge your perspective and elevate your delivery? How can you transform your passion to serve into a profession that will fulfill purpose while earning you a befitting income? Whether you are a veteran, a middle man or a new man in this industry, the fundamentals simply do not change. We have to evolve with the times, align with the opportunities and transform for the future. Here are my thoughts on 4 keys that will continue to be relevant for this industry.
OBSESSIVE CLARITY: Since it is a professional service you have to be obsessively clear about your area of expertise within consulting. Discover it, build it, latch onto it and continually seek to upgrade it. That is how people look for you. They find you through your expert place. Not surprisingly, the most common way buyers find a new firm is by asking another person. In fact, this happens 71% of the time. The next most common approach (11% of the time) is to search for a firm online. (Hinge) There needs to be a strong connection between building the overall brand and, importantly, positioning specific individuals — the visible experts. Without that, firms and their executives miss the personal connections that are at the heart of any professional services business. (The Washington Post) A survey of 50 multinational companies, carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes, has found overwhelming support for Ireland’s professional qualifications and standards. Professional skills and expertise emerged as the single most important factor for multinational companies when choosing a professional service provider in Ireland.
KNOW YOU, THEN YOUR MARKET: You need to work on YOU first before you touch the market. I can never get tired of talking about self-awareness and internal clarity. Until you are clear about the value you bring in terms of image and substance, each time you get to market, confidence is lost by you or your market. To be able to align yourself with your expertise, your internal compass must be in check. When you know yourself, you improve your judgment skills, tend better to the desires of your clients, increase your sense of purpose, communicate effectively and most importantly influence your clients positively.
COMMUNICATE YOUR PROOF: Professional Services business and work is reflected in the proof. It is intangible so if you are an expert or a resource person for instance, you prove your work through every single communication. It must be a mirror of you. It must be a distinct business brand and a unique personal brand. You must utilize every possible channel available and position yourself to be found. You cannot sit back and wait, you must keep communicating and even in difficult times, you must be consistent and committed to your craft.
GET ONBOARD: Professional Services is a ‘service’ business, hence you must serve! Tag along others in your field, role models, friends, associates and serve! These groups become the ones we look to as consortium partners, bid teams, and outsource experts when we do not always have the ability to scale or bring on full time teams. They also enable us to be efficient and always be in learning mode. In professional services partnerships are critical. Give value even when it has to look like it is free initially but it is not! If you do it right, it will come back through relationships, recommendations and resources! Here is a quick reminder: professional services is a ‘long haul’ occupation with ups and downs but can be very rewarding so just make one decision. Do not give up!
Your ability to grow and scale in professional services which is an expert led field that hinges on the 2R Code – Relevance and Relationships. So at every stage keep building your deck of collateral in personal impact and professional development, and dig deep enough in you to develop the best relationship and networking skills. They are the bedrock of acceleration. Professional Services is a growth industry and if it is your path please make the decision to grow with it.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Certified High Performance Coach, Global Speaker, Media Personality and award-winning Entrepreneur.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; the mother company that holds Dzigbordi Inc. & Allure Spa in The City. These brands provide services in Personal Impact & Development, Corporate Consulting, Wellness & Grooming.
Her coaching, seminars and training has helped many organizations and individuals to transform their image and impact, elevate their engagement and establish networks leading to improved and inspired teams, growth and productivity.
Her area of focus is Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power (H.E.L.P).