What Is This Service?

Our Principal Coaching service empowers leaders of mid-size service firms to develop clarity of purpose, make decisions with confidence, explore complex situations to uncover the best path forward, become a powerful and effective coach and simply get more done. This service impacts the entire business by guiding principals to use their focused energy in the most effective manner possible.

The old saying is that it’s lonely at the top. Nowhere is this more true than in the mid-size professional service firm. For more than two decades, The Shattuck Group has worked closely with hundreds of leaders of mid-size service firms, those with 25-100 employees and 10-50 million in revenue. In many instances, we’ve worked closely with an owner-founder who put their own capital and career on the line.

Other times, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with one or two leaders who are usually C-Level executives. While they may not be the primary equity holders, their personal net worth and career success are often tied to the performance of the company. Over the course of time, we’ve seen principals really struggle, even those who are highly accomplished and very successful. What situations cause them to struggle? 

  • Pressure: It’s the principal’s butt on the line. The buck stops with them. They bear total responsibility. Their employees’ families rely on them for income to pay their bills and the principals feel that sense of obligation. They are responsible for every decision and every outcome the business experiences—even if they had nothing to do with it.
  • Blind Spots: Principals rarely have perfect information and often lack clear visibility into the future. How can someone make good decisions they won’t regret if they’re drawing upon imperfect assumptions and information? This often makes principals quite uncomfortable.
  • Team Performance: Many of the principals we’ve worked with ask these questions: “Why does it seem like we never actually get done the things we’ve prioritized? Can I really ask the team to do more? Is that reasonable or will it hurt morale? Are my expectations unrealistic?”
  • Public Examples: Big businesses and small businesses get the press and get formally studied. Mid-size service businesses fly under the radar, which means that public examples and case studies that can guide decision-making don’t really exist. The principals of the companies we’ve served feel like they’re constantly having to invent the wheel with little to no guidance.
  • Expectations: Everyone expects the principal to have the answers even when they don’t. Sometime the expectations placed on principals are completely unrealistic, both from employees and clients. This is quite frustrating for principals.
  • Decision-Rights: Many principals struggle with decision-rights. Who, besides themselves, can they trust to make important decisions for the business? How do they tier decision-rights across the business? What happens when an employee makes a decision that does not turn out well? How should they respond in that situation? Managing decision-rights is quite challenging.
  • Team Retention & Performance: Principals often wonder how they’ll retain their best employees? How will they keep them motivated and focused on the tasks that produce the results that matter? How will they keep morale high and maintain a healthy culture?
  • Alignment: Principals often struggle to get their top-most people in alignment with each other and with the goals that matter to the business? They struggle to get team leaders to act autonomously but also in unison with each other and with priorities. This feels like herding cats.
  • Compensation: Principals, especially owner-founders, often wonder how much money they should take out versus leave in the business? How will this impact the growth potential of the business and their net worth? How will it impact cash-flows and operating capital? Finding balance can be really challenging. Because most mid-sized service firms are private, there is very little reliable public information to guide these decisions.
  • Experience: Many younger principals, or those who’ve never held executive responsibility, face issues they’ve never seen before. To whom do they turn to for guidance and advice in these moments? Where can they get trustworthy and competent advice on a wide range of issues?
  • Projecting Confidence: Many principals know that they need to project confidence, even when they don’t feel it. But this is also a fine balancing act. Project undue confidence and employees will deem it suspicious. Project too little confidence and unproductive hand-wringing and anxiety will sap the focus of the team. It’s a real challenge.
  • Discipline: Principals know that discipline falls to them. But most leaders of mid-size service firms, in our experience, have almost no background in this area. The result has often been discipline that is too harsh or that is too little, too late to make a real difference for the business. Keeping values and behavior in line with the mission is a real challenge.  
  • Liquidity Event: Principals must provide clarity for the rest of the business regarding the future and why everyone is working. Here is a question that we believe principals must answer: are we growing a business of transferable value or are we capitalizing on income opportunities for a handful of people at the top of the organization? This is a key decision-point and communicating the reasoning behind it has huge ramifications.
  • Formal Leadership Training: most mid-size service principals are subject-matter-experts in their fields. Their formal education trained them to deliver services. This means that their experiences and role models for leadership often come from parents, former bosses, sports, books they’ve read and instinct. Most principals have never been formally trained in leadership.




This service addresses all of these issues by empowering firm leaders to:

  • Gain perspective and insights from a coach who’s been there, done that in professional services.
  • Bounce ideas off a coach who understands the uniqueness of the mid-size service firm.
  • Fill in experience gaps by leaning on a coach with a lot of experience.
  • Make sense of complex situations by seeing the constellations in the starfield of chaos.
  • Become a great coach to their teams, instilling trust and inspiring autonomous action that is in-line with business goals.
  • Take definitive action with confidence, purpose and swagger.
  • Set a strategic vision for the business and put plans in place to make that vision a reality.
  • Get more done.

To learn more about how we do this, please click on Our Approach above.

Who Needs This Service?

Professional service firms who:

  • Have hit a plateau that they can’t seem to break through, no matter what they’ve tried.
  • Are concerned about retaining their top talent.
  • Have leaders who feel overwhelmed most days by all the decisions they have to make.
  • Struggle to get everything done that they feel like should be done.
  • Want to benefit from information and ideas that are not publicly available.
  • Have young leaders who could benefit from a mature coach.
  • Deeply desire to build a strong, healthy and dynamic business culture.
  • Want to become better leaders with more effective business outcomes.