If you’re looking for a flexible, fulfilling career, working in business services might be the right path for you. It encompasses many different industries, including IT, advertising, marketing, staffing, consulting, facilities management, waste management, shipping and security. Business service professionals can work from home or the office, making it easy to get started in this industry.
A profitable service business requires the same two things as any other business: a product to sell and customers willing to pay for it. But there are important differences between the way a product business and a service business manage people and processes.
Successful service businesses understand that the key to profitability lies in building a system of four critical elements: people, process, technology and culture. The best way to do this is to train employees to act as both service providers and consumers, recognizing the value of each role and its impact on the entire system.
This approach, which I teach in my class at Harvard Business School, provides a framework for understanding the challenges and opportunities of managing a service business. The framework helps managers understand why some service businesses fail and others succeed, even when they employ the same principles of management.
The most important ingredient in a profitable service business is finding people who are willing and able to provide the service. Often, this involves a mixture of training and experience. People with a strong sense of personal responsibility and excellent communication skills are most likely to be successful in this type of business. In addition, they must be able to work independently and solve problems quickly and effectively.
Other qualifications include being able to work in teams and meet deadlines. Many people who work in business services have a bachelor’s degree in an area such as finance, IT, human resources or marketing. Some have a master’s degree, while others have a graduate certificate in a specific subject.
Process: This includes creating and documenting a system of repeatable tasks, including accepting online bookings, quoting work, scheduling jobs, invoicing clients and getting paid. It also includes setting up an employee handbook and training new hires. A good process can help a business run smoothly and efficiently, making it more attractive to potential employees.
People: Employees in this type of business must be able to work with and motivate people from a variety of backgrounds, including those who may not speak the same language. A good person can build a cohesive team and create a positive workplace environment. This is especially important in a service-based industry such as retail or hospitality, where relationships are crucial to success.
Technology: This includes providing computer support, training, education and assistance with technology procurement. It can also involve providing information and communications systems, such as email or intranet.
A comprehensive business service can include forming a company, registering for sales tax and filing paperwork with local, state and federal government agencies. This is a valuable tool for small business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to navigate the complex legal requirements of running their own companies. A service like BizFilings can help by providing an all-in-one, one-stop solution.