Mining Client Information for Valuable Ideas for Your Own Business

Professional services providers, such as law and accounting firms, have evolved into complex and sophisticated business enterprises as competition from similar firms and other companies using new technologies has threatened their traditional positions in the marketplace.  Law and accounting firms, as well as consultants and engineers, generally begin their client relationships with the collection of information about the business activities of the prospective client and the key leaders of the client (i.e., the founders, outside executives and key employees).  In the first instance this information is used to develop a profile of the professional needs of the client and drive discussions regarding the scope and terms of the professional relationship between the parties.  However, professional service providers should not ignore ancillary uses of the information collected from clients, always keeping in mind that such information must be maintained in confidence.  Information provided by clients regarding the markets in which they are engaged can assist service providers in developing new services that might be useful to participants in those markets.  In addition, understanding how clients have structured some of their key business relationships can provide service providers with ideas that they can use when providing counseling to other clients, assuming of course that the information received from clients can be used in a manner that does not compromise trust and confidentiality.  Finally, professional service providers can benefit from observing how their clients choose to organize and manage specific functions and lay out and monitor their own strategic business plans.

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