Subject: Innovation in Small Professional Service Firms (SPSF)
Question: In a highly competitive environment, in what ways can small professional consultancy firms innovate to gain competitive advantage? What are the experiences of small business owners on the sustainability of such strategies?
John Luther commented on Innovation in Small Professional Service Firms (SPSF)
While I may be in a different business than your firm, I strongly believe that the real experience I have is reliable and trustworthy. My business is design - build residential and light commercial, land planning and development, and I have been qualified as a construction expert and expert witness. I have been dedicated to my industry, and the ongoing educational process since 1971. Consulting in all cases is certainly a ongoing part.
In any business, large or small, the most important thing (without a doubt) are the (your) employees, from the receptionist who answers the phone to (you) the CEO.
Given great employees and management, small has its advantages if wisdom is applied. Our Mission Statement is a key goal: "Do to others, as you would have them do to you." We add and make it known that we practice another goal to "go the extra mile.
Large firms and their capacities can be intimidating, so confidence from the small company must be present. These competitive mis-matches can be won in a sort of David vs Goliath way, where David (in spite of Goliath's intimidating presence and smack talk) had overwhelming confidence, did not conform to the battle standards, projected the victory, and realized confirmation of his confidence and consequent "marketing" claims.
So, what do you do? Knowledge is power. Know your business, study, be diligent, especially in continued study, and areas that are related, but new or limited with regard to your knowledge and experience. Keep in mind that large companies must feed the beast of proportional overhead and profit. In many cases their operations are so large that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, so ideal and excellent client attention can be lacking.
Be a type of custom boutique operation, with personalized attention to new and established clients. Do not take on more than your firm can handle, and you can personally oversee, such that the attention each client needs and deserves can be provided. When spread thin, it is time to say, "No" to new clients, or that you will be available when the dust settles from current obligations. Establish your company with excellence, such that there is a rumbling news in the industry, or local market that your company and services are excellent.
If you have success, and become an important and recognized community figure, do not let it go to your head. Remain humble and approachable for all. Communicate, communicate, communicate, with clarity and detail, and provide status updates as appropriate with current and potential clients. If you were seeking information, and asked 10 questions, each with their own significance, would 5 answers by acceptable? Is the customer always right? No, it is the response to error that must be right, and by polite, diplomatic, kind, and substantiated explanation.
Future quantity and growth comes from quality and excellence today. In reference to ancient writings and wisdom, "if you are faithful in the small things, you will be given charge over big things". In the slightly edited version of another piece of great wisdom, I add (not discounting future growth), the following: "do not be overly concerned about tomorrow, as today has it's own obligations and responsibilities that need your dedicated attention."
Ask yourself, in the years to come, would I rather sell 100 widgets for $35.00, or 12 for $350.00. Quality, excellence and out of the box exemplary service performed now, will put you in a position where your widgets are worth $350.00 each. Why is a fast food hamburger meal $5.00, and a gourmet $13.50? Why a 30 – 45 minute waiting time to pay three or four times the cost of a Taco Bell dinner, at Pappasitos Gourmet Mexican Restaurant, when Taco Bell is around the corner with immediate service?
Be an honest and truthful man of excellent character, and emphasis this within your company. Judgements will come from all directions pertaining to standards and expectations. The "extra mile" will help, and draw the curiosity and attention of others. In all of your social interaction "put on" love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. A reliable source says "against these very things - there is no law"
Be active and socialize in your community, give and you will receive a return. In contrast to typical goals: "There is a man who gathers to, and is overly concerned regarding himself. This man is never content. There is another who freely gives and is always satisfied."
If this advice seems lengthy and exhaustive, we have only scratched the surface of what gives advantage, to include substantiating and current - real life - personal David vs Goliath victories.