The myth of size (in the professional consulting business)

A common behaviour of buyers of business services, in certain markets, is “If we buy services from a big firm, we’ll be OK.”  The logic is a larger company has undeniable credibility, superior skills and endless resources for the contract. This view, assessed from personal experience, is false.

In practice, the larger service provider will have a few senior people included in their bid, at commensurate rates. These people convey trust, capability and confidence. Then there are the junior staff, who will assist. Juniors will complete most of the work and the seniors will conduct a brief review and approve for submission, rarely knowing the full details. I would be surprised if you had not heard this before.

Another consideration when looking at the commercial proposal of larger organisations, is finding out who they have locally, and regionally, to employ on the work? More often than not, global organisations are a group of affiliated regional or national organisations. They are managed primarily in a ‘siloed’ local profit centre / accounting basis. That’s a bit different to what one might expect. The common thought from and external Client is access to a multitude of people with the skill sets being sought,  available and ready to support this proposal, just in a different timezone.

When receiving deliverables from large firms, one often reads them and is surprised by the number of mistakes, omissions, or shallow treatment of the matters requiring attention.  Having received such results, and observed others doing so, the question from the knowledgeable service recipient is: “Is this really what we paid for?” The answer is quite obvious.

Smaller organisations and independent practitioners rely wholly on their brand and reputation. There is no latitude for unsatisfactory service. Loss of a client is a disaster with long lasting consequences. Service and client satisfaction is everything to these smaller organisations. They trade and exist on their integrity and quality of output.

A smaller organisation will often put a lot more effort in to supporting their client to achieve the desired outcome.  Often this will mean willingly teaming up with other small organisations to bring in particular experience or knowledge to meet the immediate challenges of the contract brief. It may also mean spending much more time with the client than shown in the proposal, to better understand the problems being addressed, or the challenges the client faces in say to day operations. These behaviours are often the hallmark of a small consultant that really wants to deliver successful outcomes for their clients.

If you make these decisions for your organisation, consider the benefits of a small consultant. They must be competent enough to go it alone and stay in business. Can you really afford to overlook a smaller, more responsive service provider’s offer?

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