OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects

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FIVE REASONS MID-SIZE SERVICE FIRMS NEED A NEW LEADERSHIP OPERATING MODEL

LESSONS LEARNED FROM 25 YEARS OF COACHING SERVICE FIRM LEADERS

Over the last 25 years, I’ve coached leaders at more than 70 mid-sized service firms, those with 25-100 staff. A top goal for all of these leaders has been to grow revenues, profits, clients, headcount, geographies and service lines. But as they’re growing their businesses, they’re also trying to raise families, maintain a healthy marriage, stay connected to aging parents and keep long-term friendships vital. They also want to enjoy the fruits of their labors and take a vacation now and then.

Almost every leader I’ve coached has come to a crossroads at some point on their journey. They feel like they have to choose between growing their business or having a good quality of life with those they love. They suspect that they cannot achieve both at the same time. I’ve come to believe that’s a false choice. You can grow your business and have a great quality of life. But to do this, you’ll need to upgrade your leadership operating model.

What Is A Leadership Operating Model?

A Leadership Operating Model, or LOM, has to do with the set of practices you use to lead the business. This has to do with:

  • Who is on the leadership team and how they came to be there.
  • How aligned you are, as a leadership team, about the future.
  • How often you meet, what you talk about and where you focus your energies.
  • How you make decisions and establish priorities.
  • How you communicate goals and values to your staff.
  • What you will, and will not, tolerate behaviorally.
  • How you handle strategic planning and what happens when thing don’t go to plan.
  • How you practice accountability for leaders and the rest of the team.

My message is simple. If you want to grow your business and have a great quality of life, you need to upgrade your LOM. Why?

  1. Stall-outs are a virtual inevitability.
  2. Pushing through stall-outs is a team sport.
  3. You need to make more decisions faster.
  4. You need organizational health to compete for talent that fuels growth.
  5. You need more effective strategic planning.

Stall-Outs Are A Virtual Inevitability

Most professional service organizations can grow pretty consistently and often what feels like effortlessly up to a point. Usually, in my experience, something changes about the time they hire their 35th employee. I’ve come to call this TP35: tipping point 35. Once an organization hits TP35, stall-outs are a near inevitability. Why?

  • Communication with the entire company becomes much more cumbersome and challenging, especially with a highly distributed remote workforce.
  • Information doesn’t flow as quickly or easily as it used to as evidenced by leaders sometimes being the last to hear about certain events.
  • Competing ideas for where the company is going and what the company is trying to achieve show up in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, ways in meetings and conversations.
  • Certain behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to the business become much harder to spot and more difficult to address.
  • Silos form between different teams, like finance, marketing, sales, delivery and others.
  • Proliferation of client contracts and engagement phases make it much more challenging to track overall client satisfaction.
  • Frustrations mount as people begin to say about other teams—I just wish they would do their job—as if they know what their job is.
  • Rolodexes run out. In some instances, organic growth stemming from the networks of key people is no longer consistently yielding new clients, leading to feast-or-famine cycles.
  • Leaders openly disagree. For some firms, leaders struggle to agree about an array of important topics, which means decisions are delayed and once made, often poorly implemented with little gusto. 

Pushing Through Stall-Outs Is A Team Sport

The most important thing about stall-outs, as you can see from the list above, is that they are multi-faceted. There is rarely, in my experience, a single root-cause problem that can be fixed by just one or even two people. In virtually every mid-size service firm I’ve served that did push past stall-outs, an entire team of leaders were involved. It takes a small tribe to do this.

You Need To Make More Decisions Faster

In smaller organizations, decision-making is often pretty straight-forward. A single leader or two can make most of the decisions, usually because there aren’t that many decisions to be made. But once you add more staff and form departments, LOTS of decisions need to get made. It is virtually impossible for one or two people to make them. If those decisions don’t get made in a timely basis, a stall-out will happen. Guaranteed.

You Need Organizational Health To Compete For Talent That Fuels Growth

To grow a professional service firm, you need talent. It is virtually impossible to break through to your next level without attracting great new people. But today’s professional service worker has plenty of attractive choices with other firms, big and small. You may not be able to compete on salary and benefits. But you probably can compete on culture. I define culture as “what it feels like to work around here.” I’ve come to believe that culture can be the single greatest competitive advantage for mid-size service firms to attract talent.

This is ultimately about organizational health. When your existing employees love working for your company, they’ll tell their friends and pretty soon the word will spread that working for your firm is a real joy. That’s what it takes to compete in today’s labor market. Leaders ultimately determine what it feels like to work for your company. This is why your Leadership Operating Model must prioritize organizational health.

You Need More Effective Strategic Planning

Most mid-size service firms engage in annual strategic planning that probably looks a lot like this:

  • You get your leadership team together for a couple of days to talk about priorities, usually during an off-site meeting.
  • You review your previous year’s results and identify what you want to do better next year.
  • You establish a short-list of objectives you want to accomplish.
  • People on the leadership team sign-up for one of these and commit to an action plan. One-goal equals one-goal-owner. The goal owner is responsible to achieve the goal, usually by themselves.
  • During quarterly meetings, people report on their progress. In the first quarter, things are going pretty well. By the second quarter, energy is waning and progress has stalled. By the fourth quarter, it’s clear most goals will not be achieved.
  • You get together to plan the next year and everyone talks about how much they learned from their attempts to achieve the objectives and how much better positioned they are to actually achieve them this year.
  • Rinse and repeat—year after year.

This approach will not work. It is a recipe for staying in stall-out mode for many years to come. How many strategic priorities from last year or the year before are on this year’s strategic planning list? That should tell you something. Adopting Collective Objectives is a much better approach.

Next Steps

I’ve written a great eBook that goes into much greater detail about how to adopt a Leadership Operating Model that produces meaningful growth while maintaining your sanity and quality of life outside of work. If you liked the ideas in the article, you’ll love the eBook.

About The Author

Randy Shattuck is a seasoned entrepreneur who works hand-in-hand with senior leaders of mid-size professional service firms to grow revenues, acquire clients, open new markets, increase profits and effectively position their brands.

OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects