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Managing The Professional Service Firm

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,033 ratings  ·  54 reviews
International expert and consultant David Maister offers a brilliant and accessible guide to every management issue at play in professional firms.

Professional firms differ from other business enterprises in two distinct ways: first, they provide highly customized services and thus cannot apply many of the management principles developed for product-based industries.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 9th 1997 by Free Press (first published 1993)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  1,033 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Deniss Ojastu
This was one of best business management books I have ever read so far. Although based on research articles published mainly back in the 1980s-1990s, it is a priceless collection of well-structured thoughts on how to manage people, clients and organisation of a company providing professional services (such as law practice, accounting, management consulting, custom software development, training etc).

There are so many questions discussed that a manager of a professional service firm (or a
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
This book is a business classic. Written in 1993, this book is almost 100% relative to professional services firms today. (With the hilarious exception of the few times he talks about how firms can use *computers*! The future is now!)

Maister walks through almost every part of running a consulting firm, and discusses the management strategies and challenges. He focuses a lot of effort on people issues - hiring the right staff and then growing them into the professionals you need. He also spends a
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read while serving a organization!

The book did cover concepts that are relevant to the service industries in general. This read might make sense only while serving in an organization, which otherwise if read would just appear as advice without established contexts.
I liked the comprehensive nature of the writings. The author having researched numerous service organizations seemed to provide a very detailed view and scenarios which might be eminent in any service industry. It is a must read for
Jan 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
To be fair, this rating is specifically how I felt about this book, not how good it is for what it was. I read this for work, and while it had some interesting points and things I will attempt (and have attempted) to implement at my job, a lot of it was totally irrelevant to me and my life. But again - I'm not really the intended audience for this, so take my review with a grain of salt. I think it was very interesting to learn how much is still relevant from a book that was published more than ...more
Siobhan Hypatia
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this when I had long left the professional service firm environment and found it an illuminating practical manual for getting a group of people to provide a service as a common goal and to grow that provision. I enjoyed the dispassionate (read: soulless) way that the achievement of efficiency is discussed across the various dimensions of running a professional service firm. It's the 'other side of the coin' from the community initiatives and spiritual group endeavours I take part in. ...more
Hugh Mason
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
In its day, the bible for anyone seeking to build a successful business based on selling the time of experts. While still a recommended starting point, the real examples in the book are starting to feel dated. The models proposed need updating for an age where Artificial Intelligence will replace much of the grunt-work that once supported stellar Partner drawings and younger incomers are wiser about the dollars being earned from their long hours.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of those books I wish I'd read 10 or 20 years ago. Does a fantastic job articulating and clearly laying out things I've learned the hard way, and introduced a number of concepts I plan on immediately applying to my work. Published in the '90s but the advice is evergreen for anyone who does consulting or works for any other organization structured in or like a partnership (law, medicine, etc.). Pretty readable for how dense it is, but it still took me a few months to finish.
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
In relation to running a business that sells a service - this is the best book I have ever read ever.

Reading it once through has been thoroughly enjoyable, it has insights into every aspect of a service firm. It's written with lawyers in mind but can be easily translated to agencies.

I will be picking it up again and again in the future as a reference book.
Mark Hoener
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
The first couple chapters were amazing and applicable. Unfortunately the last quarter of the book devolves into multinational cross Branch drum beating and doesn't really apply to anyone anywhere. I work for a 80,000 person engineering firm and the last few chapters felt like I was wasting my time looking for valuable information.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t think there’s any book I’ve made so many highlights in. This is jammed full of useful information for running a partnership. It feels dated in places, but the key ideas seem adaptable to current times.

I’ve not finished the whole book as I don’t c need to dig deeper at the moment. Wish I read this 5 years ago.
EJ Blanchfield
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Written 20 years ago but still applicable to any professional services firm. My copy is dog eared and annotated and I’ve purchased copies for colleagues as well.
I just gave a biz book 5 stars. Probably my first and only.
Colin Jones
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Despite its age (which shows in several ways), there were *many* direct lessons here (applicable across industries and time!) that I’ve burned time learning the hard way. Clear, practical advice along with alternatives and tradeoffs.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-business
A ton of great practical information and very helpful, uplifting, and guiding as I start my career in professional services.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Indispensable! I'll need to refer back to it while my business grows.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A timeless classic.
"per partner profit" rings true.
Juan Gonzalez
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very practical reading

This books is like an arsenal of tools to form and grow a professional service firm. Examples and cases are rich and helpful.
David Fitzpatrick
Jan 20, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelving for now. More of a textbook than a readable document.
Gumble's Yard
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Very straightforward and practical guide to a Professional Services firm.

The underlying themes include: that real professionalism is about serving clients, associates and yourself as best as possible and that this will also maximise success as well as being the ethical thing to do; that individuals and firms should concentrate not just on generating as much work as possible but on generating the right type of work – firstly (more for individuals) the types of work they want to do and the type
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! A must read for anyone who wants to spend their career working in a professional service firm. Despite the date it was written, this book remains very relevant today. The first few chapters focus on ‘leverage’ for firms, with which it is actually referring to employees, and what balance between partner/employees that the firm should have. It compares the employees at the firm to leverage with a company in a different industry. The middle of the book is about marketing, where it ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an excelent book for anyone effectively running or working or even considering hiring a professional services firm. The book is extremely structured. It begins with the basics, the fundamentals of the business model, defining concepts like leverage, classifying the engagements by types, etc. After the basics are established, it goes through the most important elements for defining success: client, people etc. It is an excelent book, and after reading it, you don't need much more than ...more
Kevin Gross
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book, explaining as it does many of the mechanics of running a professional services company. In its style, it reminds me of Porter's Competitive Strategy in that it is fairly dry yet lucid and convincing in making its points.

Maister devotes a number of chapters to the care, feeding, and growth of a consulting firm, describing the seemingly difficult trade-offs to be made between the long term health and growth of skills, people, market offer versus near term sales and
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although a bit outdated this book was very good. I typically don't enjoy reading books that have to do with work but this book provided some insight that is very useful in managing a professional services firm. In particular the notion of improving the leveragibility of existing/junior staff as opposed to hiring externally can generate revenue and increase margins. Also, the mix between the types of professional services firm provides insight on who/what the firm is that is insightful in terms ...more
Joost Brouwer
Although outdated (1993), I picked this book up after a recommendation by one of my collagues. Maister provides an overview of all aspects of a professional service firm such as managing clients, people, strategy and performance. All chapters are short, well-structured and provide practical tips and examples.
The best way to read this book is to select one topic of your interest (f.a. systematic underdelegation) and spend some time to make the link back to your own work. In this way, it remains
Todd Webb
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
To my technical friends: Creating a successful software development consulting business isn't really about the tech. As in any startup, it is about building a business. This book provides a good grounding in the challenges and common approaches that succeed in professional services. If you are starting a small technical consulting firm you should read this just to get a better idea of what you will be thinking about most of the time (hint: not technology).
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
A collection of articles originally published in HBR, this volume has become, for good reason, the standard handbook for anyone in a leadership or management role in a professional service firm: consulting, law, accounting, etc. Each chapter provides a solid introduction into the most important aspects of firm management, from practice-building to compensation to how to lead other professionals.
Jan 28, 2013 added it
Great book if you are working in the professional consulting services sector. I read it quite a few years ago but putting it on my list now. Clearly and concisely explains the mechanics and financials behind professional consulting, how it works and how it should be managed. A must read for anyone in the profession.

I did not read this book on my amazon kindle, I read it on paper.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
So happy to be done with this book! ugh, reading it was painful. My CEO recommended reading it to get familiar with consulting. Maybe this is part of the reason I don't get excited about my job most days.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
For me this was a great introduction in how to manage a services business. I was recommended this book by my manager at the time.

I like the models/metrics the book introduced. For example, I liked the explanation of the Dupont formula and how to apply it to a services firm.
Richard Podsada
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Although a little dated (social media wasn't even on the radar when this was written), it contains some great nuggets of information. In particular, Chapter 10, "How clients choose" is a must-read for anybody in high-value sales. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Brent Davies
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Great content. Eye opening in how and why firms are managed the way they are.
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