Business Services Sector
Companies in the sector provide support services to businesses, such as office administration, hiring and placing of personnel, security services, travel arrangement, cleaning, and waste disposal. Major companies include Allegis Group, Automatic Data Processing, ManpowerGroup, and Waste Management (all based in the US), along with Adecco (Switzerland); Randstad (the Netherlands), Thomas Cook (the UK), and TUI (Germany).
Europe and the US are the primary markets for business services. Worldwide demand in the sector is driven by new business growth, job growth, increasing corporate involvement, and increasing disposable income. As a result, the industry can be expected to grow fastest in emerging economies in Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. While large companies may operate globally or within a specific region, many business services firms serve smaller geographic areas near their headquarters.
The US business services sector consists of about 410,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual sales of about $770 billion.
Providers of business support services may face competition from customers or potential customers, as these services in many cases can be undertaken in-house. Most segments of the industry feature low barriers to entry, as little capital investment is required to start businesses such as landscaping, pest control, or staffing firms. The low barrier can result in intense competition among small companies, which not only compete with each other, but also with much larger, established companies with more resources.
Large companies are better-positioned to win national accounts. Small companies can compete effectively by offering highly specialized services or focusing on a single geographic region or local market; they typically also have less overhead, which allows them to charge less. The US business services sector is highly fragmented: the 50 largest companies account for less than 25% of sector revenue. In most areas, no single company has a dominant share of the market.
For many business services, newer technologies have also increased competition, forcing traditional providers to adapt to survive. For example, in recent years online services such as LinkedIn (career-related social networking) and Indeed (online job postings) have transformed the personnel staffing industry, while companies such as Airbnb (alternative lodging) and Google Flight (price comparison and booking) have upended the travel arrangement industry. In order to compete with these types of industry disruptors, established companies may need to upgrade their own technologies and provide superior customer service.
Multi-Channel Marketing -- To stand out in a crowded market, smaller companies may benefit from effectively using low-cost marketing techniques such as social media sites, recommendation sites, and neighborhood newsletters or message boards. Other options include internet search ads and ads in local or regional business journals.
New Technologies -- Companies that can adopt new tools, or adapt to technological changes, have the upper hand. For example, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) has lowered the cost of long distance phone calls, enabling telephone call centers, collection agencies, and business service centers to use workers in remote locations and reduce costs.
Superior Customer Service -- Customer retention is important for providers of pest control, janitorial services, and landscaping because of intense competition. The travel industry also faces high expectations from customers, who are more likely to stop doing business with a service due to poor customer service relative to other industries, according to a recent industry survey.
Industry Specialization -- Smaller companies can compete with larger ones that have more resources by offering highly specialized services. A company can develop expertise in a particular area, such as a travel agency that offers custom African safaris or a staffing service that caters to IT professionals, to target a specific type of customer and provide a higher-value service.
Products, Operations & Technology
Major services provided include employment services (about 35% of US sector revenue); services to buildings and dwellings, including landscaping, pest
Sales & Marketing
Finance & Regulation
Regional & International Issues
Also includes the following chapters:
Quarterly Industry Update
Trends and Opportunities
Call Preparation Questions
Glossary of Acronyms