You might have read on our website the words ‘professional services firm’ when we describe who we help, and wondered what exactly that is…

A professional services firm (PSF), also known as a professional services business (PSB), has a number of definitions depending on who you ask.

The most formal definition is that it constitutes a firm of university-trained and licensed professionals, including lawyers, accountants, doctors, and engineers. This definition is supported by Wikipedia:

Professional services are occupations in the service sector requiring special training in the arts or sciences. Some professional services, such as architects, accountants, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers, require the practitioner to hold professional degrees or licenses and possess specific skills.

Wikipedia – ‘Professional services’

We don’t find that definition particularly useful, however. Taken literally, a professional services firm has two definitions that flow from the interpretation:

  • Firm: This is obvious. We’re talking about a business, not about individuals.
  • Services: Again, obvious. The firm is providing services (their time) rather than products (whether they be tangible, like a toaster, or intangible, like insurance).
  • Professional: Here is where things get complicated, as this word could be used in two different ways.

Firstly, the ‘professional’ could mean that the person providing the service is a professional. This could be as formal as the definition including only the traditional professions such as lawyers, engineers, accountants, and doctors, or less formal and include software developers, marketing and advertising consultants, management consultants, and so on.

Second, the term ‘professional’ could be used to describe the relationship between the provider of the services and the receiver. This would mean that all sorts of professions would be included (management consultants and advertising executives included), with the emphasis on a long-term, business-like relationship between the parties. It would most likely be a business-to-business or B2B relationship as well.

This is the definition we find most useful. In summary, a professional services firm is a business that provides services to another business.


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