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Managing the Professional Service Firm (PSF)

Master of International Management (MIM-HSG) programme, 1st year, 2nd semester, April – July 2002 8 SCP
Prof. Dr. Müller-Stewens (the University of St. Gallen)
Prof. Dr. Drolshammer (Homburger)
Dr. Lechner (the University of St. Gallen)


PSFs are among the fastest growing firms in the modern business world. On a global base, they generate a sales volume of 700 billion USD, employing about 17% of the total workforce in the industrialized countries. With names such as The Boston Consulting Group, Mercer, Grey, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Egon Zehnder or Baker McKenzie they represent a specific type of firm which operates in diverse businesses, ranging from strategy and information technology consulting, law, auditing to executive search, advertising, etc..

Due to their high growth rate, young professionals start increasingly their careers with PSFs, sometimes attracted by their reputation and high salaries, sometimes disillusioned after their first experiences, sometimes devoting their whole careers to them.

Despite the surge of PSFs in recent years, our understanding of this type of firm is still quite limited. What are the actual challenges confronting PSFs? How do their «economics» work? Which strategies do they pursue? What organizational structures are appropriate for them? Which impact has legal issues? How do they engage in the «war for talents»? How do they manage their client relationships? Why is knowledge management so important for them? What is the impact of branding and reputation?


The integrative seminar will focus upon the above-mentioned questions. It will offer a broad range of topics concerning the Management of PSFs, covering the wide spectrum between theory and practice. The seminar strives for

  • a detailed, theoretically based understanding of the «operational mode» of PSFs,
  • «real-life» experiences with PSFs and their representatives,
  • the development of skills such as research, teamwork, leadership, case-study learning, presentation, and writing, based on the fact that many skills only add value when applied in combination, and
  • challenging research projects, leading to theoretical excellence as well as managerial relevance.

Organisation and Structure

The seminar will be carried out in ten sessions, accompanied by an on-going business project. One session will take place in ZŸrich, the others in St. Gallen. Several managers of PSFs will be invited as guest speakers. Also, a business simulation game will be conducted in co-operation with Mercer Consulting, one of the largest global strategy and information technology advisers. For the seminar, a reader will be given with the readings and supportive texts. That material has to be read and prepared before each session.

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