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The Amazing Story of High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firms

Today marks the launch of our new book, Spiraling Up: How to Build a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm. To say that the book is an accident is perhaps overstating the case. But this much is true: it is not what we set out to do three years ago. No, our goals were much more modest. We just wanted to grow our firm. And being marketers, we reasoned that the first thing to do was to look more systematically at our target client group.

That first study of 100 professional services firms started a chain of events that led to a book that describes an extraordinary group of firms that outperform their peers on almost every measure of success.  They grow 9 times faster, are 50% more profitable and command a premium valuation in the marketplace. And amazingly, they do it while spending less than average on sales and marketing.

We didn't start out looking for high performers, nor did we have any pet theories to prove. We just wanted to see what our target clients needed. But as we analyzed the data from the first study, we came across a group of fast growing firms. We isolated what they were doing differently, but were left with a big question: So what?

Growth for the sake of growth doesn't necessarily mean much. Are these companies creating value? To find some answers, we looked at the characteristics of firms that sell for premium valuations. What we found was very interesting. Many of the characteristics were the same. In both cases, the answer seemed to center on client focus. Time for another study. This time we went inside the brain of professional services buyers. What we found reinforced the lessons we had learned in the first two studies.

But we had a ways to go yet. We were curious about how to actually build a high performance firm. We were also in the throes of the (not so) great recession. Would these finding still hold when the going got rough?

Boy, did they ever. These firms not only held their own, they pulled further ahead of their peers. Talk about convincing. But, what really captured our attention was that the more we applied these lessons to our own firm, the more successful we were becoming.

The catalyst for our book was a presentation to the Northern California chapter of the Harvard Business School Alumni Association in the heart of the Silicon Valley. As we reviewed the results of all four studies in preparation for the seminar, a compelling picture emerged. Here was a group of firms that was acheiveing exceptional results by doing a few key thing differently. They weren't super geniuses. This level of success was both understandable and achievable for many firms. This had to be shared.

So we told the story as it unfolded. No fancy theory, no ax to grind. It's simply what works for real firms in the real world. It became clear that many firms could benefit from these insights.

We were then faced with the question of how to distribute this information to the firms who will benefit. The answer was simple — make it as widely available as possible. So while the book is available in all the familiar channels (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, etc) it can also be downloaded for free at our book website: www.SpiralingUpBook.com. Please enjoy it, share it with your colleagues and friends, and apply it to your own firm. Then share the results with us. That will make us happy.

 

Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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