“Professional services” means different things to different people, but to us, the term refers to consulting. Meaning, people from outside a company are invited to come in and provide advice or services on everything from business strategy and go-to-market campaigns to IT systems and human resources functions.
In our experience, certain categories of professional services firms have been steady users of Lochlin’s executive search expertise:
Government and IT Services
Companies in this group are heavily regulated businesses operating under the strict guidelines of federal and state contracting rules. New and recurring revenue opportunities typically are derived through a formal RFP process. Government contractors are growing organically and through consolidation, with most of the major firms aggressively pursuing M&A strategies. Generally, these market areas tend to recruit from within the federal services or government markets, with CEO, COO, CFO, sales and business development roles generally requiring such “inside” experience. We’ve seen a heavy orientation toward IT services, systems integration, insourcing, outsourcing and consulting.
IT Services and Consulting
A category that touches almost every other in this list. It is dominated by the Big Four (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG) plus a handful of other prominent players. These firms are seeing increased competition from Indian consultancies who are establishing bases in the US and charging lower fees than the Big Four. The senior ranks of these firms tend to be filled with a mix of “homegrown” professionals who have worked their way up the pyramid and outside talent brought in to enhance the team’s skill set.
This category is also dominated by a few distinctive firms. McKinsey, Booz & Co., Bain, AT Kearney, and Boston Consulting Group represent the top players whose strategy work and new market development is conducted for C-level management or board-level clients. Partners tend to be highly compensated, hard to reach, and often have preconceived notions about other firms in their space. They are also hard to recruit, especially when it comes to negotiating terms and conditions for transition.
A number of firms in this group (IBM, EDS, Perot, CSC, etc.) take on “non-core” functions for clients. These functions often fall under IT headings—system maintenance, data center administration, desktop support—but can also include call centers and other operational processes. The marketing pitch almost always involves some variation of “better performance, lower cost” and clients have been more receptive to outsourcing as a way of trimming budgets.
Select firms in this group like Towers Watson provide professional services to their clients in the areas of staffing and recruitment, compensation and employee benefits, training and development, interim management, risk management and outplacement, among others. It seems incongruous that HR consulting firms would ever look to executive search firms to fill senior roles, but it happens. In our experience, they welcome the outside perspective and the time and effort we can commit to the search process.
This growing field encompasses a number of business functions that clients often choose to let “someone else worry about.” Accounting, finance, travel, and general office management are the most popular functions that business services firms offer. As in the other categories, success and growth in the industry has led to shortages in experienced, skilled executives to help clients and manage the business. Lochlin Partners can help.