In A World Turned Upside-Down, Six Reasons Why Small Is Beautiful
COVID-19 has turned everything upside down. Businesses and their leaders face unprecedented challenges, and are having to make tough and unpalatable decisions just to keep things afloat.
Small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) have undoubtedly been disproportionately affected, but larger organizations have not been immune. Mass furloughs and layoffs have been common, and many well-established companies have gone to the wall, while others will never look quite the same again.
Many business leaders are being forced to think the unthinkable, in terms of restructuring, reorganizing, or otherwise reimagining their organizations – and they are right to do so; if ever there were a time to think the unthinkable, this is surely it. With unemployment on a scale previously unimagined, the economic fallout from the pandemic is likely to be felt for a long time to come. There is no ‘riding out the storm’ and there will be no ‘return to normal’. It’s adapt or die.
Typically, when large organizations are faced with market challenges that require some kind of transformation, they call in a management consultant. The outside perspective and deep expertise that consultants provide can be extremely valuable in helping to chart a new course, and there are plenty of examples where this approach has paid dividends.
But management consultants do not come cheap. And if there’s one thing that every business affected by the pandemic has in common, it’s a sharp decline in revenue and a need to control costs. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars – or even more – on a big management consultancy firm is probably not on the table.
And, yet that outside perspective and expertise are still valuable – arguably necessary.
How do you square that circle?
Time To Think Differently
This is where some business leaders are beginning to think laterally, think differently.
The argument goes something like this: I need outside advice to help in this time of crisis, and to re-set the organization’s vision and direction for the new normal that will follow, but I need to control costs. I need a management consultant, but maybe I don’t need all the bells and whistles that are part and parcel of going with one of the big firms. In other words, can I get what I need for less?
The answer, of course, is: Yes. Yes, you can!
There are plenty of management consultants beyond the ‘big four’ firms that we could all name, and plenty of reasons why many business leaders are going down that road. Here are just six:
- Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better: The big management consultancy firms undoubtedly bring a lot to the table, but mostly what they have is scale. And is that always necessary? Think about it: Every firm, no matter how large, is made up of individuals, and the way any professional services firm makes money is by selling high-value services and ensuring that as much work as possible is carried out by junior consultants, those with the lowest billing rates. What you’re buying is the brand, but what you’re getting is for the most part produced by hardworking juniors. What if you could have a partner-level consultant working on your business, at a fraction of the rates charged by the big four? What if you had a call on that person’s time, their wisdom and experience, on an exclusive or almost-exclusive basis? What if you could have that kind of personal touch? Wouldn’t that be better?
- What’s In A Name? I’m going to share a trade secret: It is not uncommon for the big firms to sub-contract certain projects to smaller management consultancy firms. So clients wind up paying more for having a big name logo on work that is actually carried out by a boutique outfit. As we all try to cut out unnecessary costs, this kind of mark-up should be the first to go: Cut out the middle-man and think laterally about who your partner should be.
- Big Firm Experience Exists Outside The Big Firms: It’s very rare for anyone to stay with one firm for their whole career, and the world is full of people with years, even decades of experience gained within one or more of the big management consultancy firms, people who are now applying that knowledge and experience on their own terms. What’s more important, the experience or the brand name?
- There Is More Than One Way: The big firms are renowned for the rigorous way they train their consultants, to create a homogenous culture. The danger of this is that group-think emerges, and the idea of there being a set way of approaching business challenges can suppress divergent thinking. Consultants who choose the spread their wings and maybe do their own thing are more likely to embrace different thinking – which is exactly what is required right now.
- Management Consultancy For Everyone: Let’s not mince words, hiring a big management consultancy firm is expensive. It is outside of the realm of most businesses. But start-ups, and other small and medium-sized businesses can still benefit from the outside perspective that a consultant brings – and they should be able to benefit from that. Thinking beyond the big four, and engaging a firm that has more flexibility in its rates and the way it works, puts that realistically within reach for many more businesses.
- Where Do You Want Your Dollars To Go? Finally, there is the question of who benefits. Hire a big firm and you will almost certainly derive some value; but the fee you pay, even if you are a big company, is a tiny proportion of that firm’s income. Hire a smaller firm, and you are likely to make a big difference to another small business, one that is probably local to you, one whose principals are entrepreneurs like you. Wouldn’t you rather put your dollars there, rather than inflate a corporate consultant’s already-burgeoning bonus?
So yes, there is another way, one which more and more businesses are realizing. This alternative model is lean and flexible, without any of the massive overheads associated with the big firms – and enables business leaders to obtain the input of senior partner-level consultants with decades of experience, who will roll up their sleeves and work with them to develop practical solutions for the challenges they currently face, at a fraction of the cost.
That’s the model we operate at Mythos Group. And many businesses are turning to us, and others like us, to help solve their business challenges at this critical time. We may not have the brand or the scale, but we’ve got the skills and expertise.
In this topsy-turvy world, maybe it’s time to think differently.