Professional service firms (PSF) are an extremely important sector in western economies due to the unique contribution made to client’s businesses. Lees, Aquilla and Klyhn write:
Whether the influence comes through strategic advice, legal opinion, transaction origination and support, tax minimization, or an audit opinion, every business we know is reliant, in some form, on the opinion of a professional service firm. In addition, and at least as important given the move away from self-regulation, there is the critical regulatory role of the accountants and lawyers tasked with ensuring the probity of the world’s financial markets. All of which makes the task of ensuring that each of the firms is a role model of its profession’s expertise, values and ethics absolutely key.
The leadership of PSF’s comes from the managing partner (MP). Most MP’s are professionals whose career progression was marked with technical excellence and expertise. Most have had little background or training in leadership and management of large, complex organizations. Lees, et.al describe this situation:
And yet, every managing partner we know admitted that they took on the role without any real understanding of what the role entailed and without being sure if they had the capabilities to do it effectively. They also described how the typical high need for achievement culture within professional service firms, with its intolerance of perceived failure, made it almost impossible for them to ask for help when they needed it and for their colleagues to offer it.
This lack of preparation is clearly present in rapid growth for a part of a practice which has been in decline for several years. Creating breakthroughs as part of executing a growth strategy is a foreign concept for most PSF partners. It was just such a setting into which KingChapman was hired.