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Business Strategy

Are Professional Services Firms Creating Enough Value?


In addition to the horrible things that are going on in this world today, there has been much recent talk about the economic climate, and the cutting, pausing, freezing, and so on. If you listen to the news or talk to leaders within professional services, there is frequent reference to less demand and contraction. This got me thinking: Is there less business out there, or are professional services firms not creating enough value?

As I think through the many conversations I am having with executives and senior leadership clients, I find myself pondering value creation and what that means. To me, value creation has always begun with listening, then cogitating, then solutioning. When the economy is roaring, most default to less listening, less analyzing, and more racing to solutioning. In robust times, solutioning can be easier to spot by both value creating professional services firms and those who merely focus on transactions. However, when less favorable news is flying around the right solutions are tougher to see. Why is it tougher to see? Because there is not enough listening or contemplating on the potential solutions.

The right solutions for any buying customer, in any industry, are always changing and evolving, especially when there are economic concerns. So, my hunch is that value creation is not happening enough for a very specific reason – the bulk of professional services firms never made it a priority or part of their DNA. Now many professional services firms find themselves with less work, but it’s not because the work is not out there. On the contrary, it’s because their clients are not giving them an opportunity to listen because they weren’t listening well enough when things were roaring.

The current climate is an ideal time to analyze how good one is at listening and cogitating to truly create value for their customers. Bonus – if your customers are still sharing their pain points, you did a great job creating value before economic uncertainty arrived. If you’re not hearing from your customers, they are avoiding calls and emails, all is not lost. There is always time to start creating value, but it’s important to remember that solutions that worked before, likely so-so solutions, will not satisfy your customers today. Economic uncertainty brings new challenges that need unique, well thought out solutions, to be viewed as a value creator by your customers.

As we persist through horrific world events, economic uncertainty, post-pandemic aftershock, I continue to work with my team to perfect our value creation recipe. We talk daily about what we’re hearing from our customers and whether we are hearing or listening while appropriately processing what they truly need. I often reflect on the times when I reinvented my professional self, and as I do, it comes to mind that many of those reinventions occurred during “tough times.”

The business is out there for anyone selling anything. But what do your customers need in these times? Listen. Cogitate. Solution.