In search of excellence – and achieving it

Growing a successful service firm is all about having the 'wow' factor, claims author of Grow Your Service Firm, Robert Craven

When looking at the Professional Service Firm for 2010 Tom Peters came up with a series of key ideas that are crucial to the growth of the service firm.

High Value-added Projects

You should only be doing projects that really do add value to the client, over and above the standard norm. Clients will return if you ‘go the extra mile’; they will not tolerate you doing ‘just enough’. Just enough is never good enough for you or for them!

Pioneer Clients

Don’t just work with the easy clients where you do repeat work that you have done before. It is the really challenging clients that will improve the quality of your work. Pioneer clients will stretch you to come up with unique solutions that other practitioners won’t have considered – and all this can be fed back into your everyday work!

Wow Work

At its simplest, you need to be doing work that blows away your clients – if they don’t think that you are delivering ‘wow’ work, but just ordinary, bog-standard, run-of the-mill stuff, then they may well spend their money elsewhere next time!

Hot ‘Talent’

Employ the best if you want the best results. ‘If you pay peanuts then you get monkeys!’ Recently a (small) client said that they really wanted to grow the business so they sought out a ‘world-class’ managing director to take the business to the next level. It worked!

Adventurous Culture

Culture can be defined as ‘how we do things around here’. So how do you do things in your business? Is there a culture of adventure or is it all ‘business as usual’? Just how exciting is it to work in your business or to come into your business as a client?

Proprietary Point Of View

You need an ‘ology’, a way of doing things that belongs to you – you need it so that you have a systematic, measured approach to your work and your clients need it so that they have a sense of what it is that you do, how you do it, and a sense of your uniqueness!

Work Worth Paying For

Heaven forbid that you ever do any work that is not worth paying for because that is the time to stop, pack up your bags and go home. We must only ever do work worth paying for!

And when should this happen? NOW!

Score Yourself

How well would you score (marks out of ten) on delivering the headings above?

So… What can you do to create a better PSF? List five things right now.

What Else?

Everything and nothing has changed in the last ten years. On the one hand, everything is still all about relationships and how people talk about you. On the other hand, the huge range of new technologies and social media mean that people can talk like they never talked before, faster and to more people. Businesses exploit these opportunities.

In no particular order, think about how you can incorporate some or most (but probably not all) of the ideas below.

Look to:

  • Create subscription models; they beat one-off sales.
  • Create different offerings for the different customer groups (Gold/Silver/Bronze) so that you can treat them differently.
  • Create products/services/marketing that can be spread virally.
  • Create unique systems, products and offerings that are not easily copied.
  • Create legendary, remarkable services that people talk about – not just another cheap commodity service.
  • Create a loyal following rather than a cheaper product.
  • Create scarcity but act with abundance.
  • Create the voice, the back story, the wrapper, the brand.
  • Create a story.
  • Create a product/service that isn’t available cheaper and better on eBay. It is the 21st Century. Act like it is.

Robert Craven is an entrepreneur, businessman and author who has run Mastermind Groups and action-centred learning with Warwick Business School, Business Growth Programme and London’s Accelerated Growth Programme among others. His latest book is Grow Your Service Firm . He is managing director of The Directors’ Centre.


(will not be published)