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  • Writer's pictureColin McArdle

A life in units (Part 1): Driving revenue creation in the professional services sector

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

At the end of each day, I religiously look at my fitness tracker to see how many steps I’ve taken and whether I’ve hit the magic 10,000. Who set the 10,000 though? Word on the street suggests it’s a random target thought up and set by one of the fitness tracker companies.

Can the same be said for the 6 minute unit? Where did the 6 minute unit come from? Is it still right for professional services firms and does it is still serve them and their clients or do we simply work in 6 minute blocks as it’s what we’re programmed to do?

When you consider time records, can you honestly see what each minute within each unit shows across your team? For meaty pieces of work it may be relatively clear, but in some cases could the reality be that six minutes is actually a two minute email or call? If so, where did the other four minutes of fee earner time disappear?


The time sheet may beautifully tally up with the working day, but how much lost revenue opportunity is in there? Can you honestly say what a typical day looks like for your team and how productive they are being? When you truly understand the detail of a typical fee earner day, practices can be identified to remove waste, increase productivity and create the opportunity for pricing to be sharper.


Through understanding and mapping processes, with the involvement of the fee earners themselves, a business can get a full picture of what a day actually looks like. It’s not unusual to find that time sheets only provide a partial view of capacity and utilisation. The team may be busy, but often issues are uncovered such as tasks sitting with the wrong level of fee earner.


Time wastage through re-work, double checking, unnecessary admin and duplication of resource are also all matters that lead to time loss. In a world where each lost unit is a lost billing opportunity, the small things matter. The maths are also simple – the bigger the team = the bigger the opportunity. How do you get to the detail though?


Understanding specific business challenges, the skills footprint of the organisation, process times and organisational objectives, allows capacity creation experts identifying and implementing new standardised ways of working, so you can do more with less.


Creating a solid foundation upon which to understand true capacity provides the opportunity to develop standard pricing and the true confidence to offer retainers that are attractive to clients whilst generating real revenue for the firm. For those that are prepared to take a leap of faith, it’s also possible to reprogramme that ‘watch’ and move away from the 6 minute unit – after all who set that target?

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