Quebec professional services firms ask provincial government for support

13 May 2020 3 min. read

A collective of 80 independent, Quebec-owned professional services firms are asking the government for enhanced support as the industry attempts to weather the pandemic.

The group of small, interdisciplinary firms – including management consulting, operations, public relations, engineering, recruitment, and technology firms – have launched the site, which includes a B2B services portal, to showcase their expertise to Quebec decision makers in the public and private sector.

The group – Regroupement des firmes de services professionnels independantes (RFSPI) – is asking the Quebec government to provide temporary and specific subsidies to businesses for advisory work provided by local consulting and services firms, while incentivizing major contractors to continue with large consulting projects. The group is also asking the government to prioritize the use of local Quebec professional services firms in government tenders.

The initiative also hopes that large corporations will more readily consider the services of small, independent firms for their professional services requirements.

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The pandemic is challenging the consulting sector, as a range of industry clients scale back or outright cancel their advisory projects. Job cuts have already been arriving at large professional services companies, such as Deloitte and KPMG.

However, large firms are likely to fare better than small consultancies in a downturn, as they usually have longer-term projects that clients are more reticent to cancel. Large firms also have the ability to cut their rates to pull clients from smaller companies, as well as greater infrastructure resources for effective remote work.

The established brands of larger consultancies are also a benefit. In economically turbulent times, clients are likelier to invest in consulting if the work is delivered by a major firm. Executives can insulate themselves from criticism by enlisting a McKinsey or a Bain advisory team – if the initiative fails, they couldn’t have called in a more expensive or well-resourced advisor. If a pivotal project from a boutique firm fails to achieve its goal, however, the executive can be lambasted to for cheaping out or cutting corners. As the saying goes, "Nobody ever got fired for hiring McKinsey."

As such, the small independent firms are not optimistic, given the current business environment. One-third of the surveyed 80 companies in RFSPI believe they will be unable to survive beyond six months if the current situation persists. Forty-four percent think that a return to pre-crisis levels will not be possible for 6 to 24 months.

The group reports that independent professional services firms are an essential part of the Quebec economy, employing more than 127,000 people in organizations of 10 people or more, and contributing approximately $12 billion to GDP.

"We want to play an active role in Québec's economic relaunch and that is why we have come together to offer a collective response to the issues facing decision-makers," said Olivier Laquinte, president and founder of Talsom, one of the firms in RFSPI. "We are bringing together a complete range of expertise and professional services to enable executives to become the leaders that the Québec economy needs to make it through this crisis."