Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Guided Tour of the Market 3

Business Services

Because the business services sector is so varied, we divide it into three major subsectors based on how companies set up their businesses to make money. Specifically, we look at technology-based, people-based, and hard-asset-based subsectors.

Outsourcing makes sense to many business owners because it usually saves time and money, removes the hassle of dealing with noncore tasks, and allows management to focus on what's really important to the success of their company.

In business services, size does indeed matter. Companies can leverage size to boost both their top and bottom lines. By expanding the range of services offered, companies can increase total revenue per customer. By handling more volume – especially over fixed-cost networks – companies can lower unit costs and achieve greater profitability.

Size impacts the industry through branding as well. Often, brands play a major role in a business outsourcing purchase decision.

In general, technology-based businesses [...] require huge initial investments to set up an infrastructure that can be leveraged across many customers. These huge investments are a barrier to entry for new competitors.

Another desirable characteristic of technology-based businesses is the low ongoing capital investment required to maintain their systems. For firms already in the industry, the huge upfront technology investments have already taken place.

As a result of the high barriers to entry into technology-based businesses and long-term customer contracts, firms in this subsector tend to have wide, defensible moats.

The people-based subsector includes companies that rely heavily on people to deliver their services, such as consultants and professional advisors, temporary staffing companies, and advertising agencies. Investments can be attractive at the right price, but the model is generally less attractive than that of the technology-based subsector.

Brands, longstanding relationships with customers, and geographic scope can provide some advantages relative to competitors. But within most people-based industries, there are usually multiple competitors with similar strengths in these areas, and they tend to compete aggressively with one another.

Companies in the hard-asset-based subsector depend on big investments in fixed assets to grow their businesses.

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