Lyndsey Simpson has co-owned the talent management outsourcing company – The Curve Group – since 2007. Before that she enjoyed a stellar career at Barclays, becoming a director aged just 23. The Curve Group has grown fast since Lyndsey joined, progressing from a £900k turnover to a £13 million turnover in seven years.
1) I look for recommended sector experts
When hiring professional services firms, the first thing we seek are people who understand our industry. So our first port of call is our industry association, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), to find out which firms it recommends. Eighteen months ago when looking for a law firm, I went to APSCo; six months ago when appointing a new auditor, I went to APSCo. By doing so I find out straight away which firms are tuned-in to our industry.
Desktop research is my next port of call to find out which clients in our sector the APSCo-recommended firms work for. I then make contact with the managing directors of a few of their clients to see if they would recommend them and what they feel are their strengths and weaknesses. People are generally very forthcoming when asked for a testimonial, it would just seem that not many ask for them!
2) I want a single point of contact
We recently appointed an audit partner. After getting down to the final two firms – price was irrelevant at this point – I asked: How are you going to save me time?
They listened and developed a time-saving model for us by providing a single contact for everything. Our contact said: “I will be your sole port of call whether you need tax advice, audit help or whatever, and I will bring in the right expert when I need extra help.” The firm that lost out offered us a team of eight who all needed to be dealt with separately.
3) I need added commercial value
The winning audit firm also said they would invite me in for face-to-face conversations when something crucial was about to come up in our sector. In addition they promised to invite us to networking events and to introduce us to companies that might be interested in our services and vice versa. They knew this was important to us because they’d listened to us telling them that The Curve Group grows by creating relationships.
4) I want fixed pricing
Another important factor in choosing professional services firms relates to charging. Cash flow is hugely important so we always try to smooth out fees. For example, we know we’re going to need an audit, some telephone support, help creating employee benefits and assistance putting a pension in place, so we map out the year. Then we ask for a rough idea of what all that will cost, divide it by 12, and suggest that figure as a monthly retainer.
We are a business services firm ourselves and believe in partnering with organisations rather than running a transactional supplier mentality. More professional services firms need to switch to this mindset to be an extension to their client’s business rather than simply a reactive resource.