Services Is Growth Focus of Business

by RaeAnne Marsh

Many companies look at services as a strategy for growth and profitability — even companies whose business is built around a product. The Center for Services Leadership, established in 1985 at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, has involved many of Arizona’s biggest companies to study this growing trend. The Center’s recent creation of an executive committee of the board is a mark of its own growth and evidence of the continuing importance businesses ascribe to its research.

The inaugural committee is comprised of Bob Zollars of Vocera, Mark Wheeler of Abbott Diagnostics, Adrian Paull of Honeywell, Lee Scanzano of Cox Communications, Steve Church of Avnet and Parsu Parasuraman from the University of Miami — whom Mary Jo Bitner, professor and PetSmart Chair, executive director of the Center, describes as “people who’ve had a commitment beyond our center,” including hiring students from the school. At 60 companies and growing, the board’s size hampers in-depth discussion at full-board meetings; an executive committee is needed to help with key decisions between board meetings, says Dr. Bitner. Membership will be limited to the chair, vice chair, faculty and three other local companies “who know us well.”

The board’s diverse membership represent different industries — the idea being that, all focused on the value of services to their own company’s success, they can learn from the experience of companies in other industries. Dr. Bitner notes these companies are not direct competitors with each other but compete for customers in different sectors. Pet retailer PetSmart and electronics distributor Avnet, for instance, discovered a singular similarity in their strategic direction and began meeting with each other to discuss challenges and choices, Dr. Bitner shares.

The trend of companies placing an emphasis on services — even companies in non-traditional services businesses — has been growing for at least a decade and is accelerating. Says Dr. Bitner, “Customers demand more than the product; they want solutions. It’s almost into consulting and asset management.”

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