I did a presentation today to some lawyers and an architect at the PM Forum in Nottingham and it was great fun, but in doing the research for it, I was able to learn an enormous about and now feel confident making a prediction for the future structure of professional services businesses. So here goes.
Over the next five years, many creative companies, architectural practices, website producers, project managers, QS’s, writers, translators and any individual who is able to essentially sell themselves directly to their contact list, will do just that. There will be a huge splintering of bigger firms to create hundreds and thousands of sole trader/micro businesses. The excuse may well be more time with the kids, but it will be as much to do with security. Taking the responsibility for earning your own income and choosing your own work.
I also believe that the legal profession will work counter cyclically. When the effects of ‘Tesco Law’ come into play in October 2011, there will be a race to create bigger and bigger firms to be able to compete with national priced legal businesses such as Quality Solicitors. As was discussed today at the PM Forum, this will be far more scary to those lawyers who sell to consumers, but the effects and the price knock-on will doubtless hit the B2B market too.
So in five years time, the law firms will probably begin breaking up again understanding that consumers want a more personalised service. The little splinter businesses working from home will realise that they are working mainly with one or two key partners and will join forces to create micro companies again. This will trigger a new wave of mergers and acquisition in all these sectors. Big firms will be back, but not until 2016.
There will be huge opportunities for branding and creating differentiation in every sector and it won’t all be about logos.
It should be an exciting ride.