Professional service firms differ from other business enterprises in two distinct ways: first they provide highly customised services thus cannot apply many of the management principles developed for product-based industries. Second, professional services are highly personalised, involving the skills of individuals. Such firms must therefore compete not only for clients but also for talented professionals.
Drawing on more than ten years of research and consulting to these unique and creative companies, David Maister explores issues ranging from marketing and business development to multinational strategies, human resources policies to profit improvement, strategic planning to effective leadership. While these issues can be complex, Maister simplifies them by recognising that 'every professional service firm in the world, regardless of size, specific profession, or country of operation, has the same mission statement: outstanding service to clients, satisfying careers for its people and financial success for its owners.'
In this admirable study, Maister argues that professional businesses (those of attorneys, doctors, architects, etc.) are, as he quotes a partner in a major law firm, ``managed in one of two ways: badly or not at all.'' Why? Such firms, he suggests, attract individuals who have a ``strong need for autonomy. . . . The professionals have more than their share of people with an aversion to taking directions.'' Maister, a consultant, outlines procedures for bringing solid business practices into the workplace of professionals. He discusses training, time management, delegation, unchecked growth, attracting new clients and keeping existing ones. His suggestions for the development of associates, overseeing ineffective partners and compensation systems are also superb.