Build an Empire or Drive Innovation?
Many professional services businesses provide services to their clients on an hourly basis, delivering outcomes on schedule of rates. Some firms build empires, feeding a group of staff with a consistent workload and expanding [or shrinking] the number of bodies in their organization to fulfill the demand for their services in the marketplace.
Other firms take a different approach. They innovate, finding new ways to provide their service in a well-established market. They listen to their customers and really understand their needs. Then they look long and hard at the services in demand, seeking ways to innovate them, building repeatable processes into systems and programs that can be practiced time and time again by less expensive resources, or IT. They strive to build efficiencies, and keep their organisations running “lean”. And they constantly seek to find new ways to look at an existing service within a proven market.
Traditionally, there are a couple of enormous difference between these two styles of business.
Their Operational Pressures. Innovation is almost always done on top of a full-service billable workload, with key members of the firm taking on extra responsibilities in their spare time to research and prove up new solutions to client problems. Innovation cannot be done if the firm is not fully billable, so it takes a hungry team to actively pursue it.
Their Management. It takes dynamic management to drive innovation. Limited thinking and traditional, slow moving corporate structures can be a wet blanket for innovative thinking and growth-oriented investment, putting out the fire and energy required to seek new opportunities.
Their Margins. Whilst services businesses can be enormously successful, they are still restrained by the margin they can charge on their people. Repeatable processes and systems, on the other hand, can be sold as a products and “outcomes” changing the whole pricing and margin model.
One of the surest strategies for creating a talked-about business is to put the emphasis on innovation and build a business that will drive your target audience to you in search of that something that “nobody else does”.
So, whether you think about it from the perspective of your firm, or your personal brand… think about how you are innovating, and building a unique process or approach to doing business that your customers will actively seek out.