When searching for the ideal professional services partner, it can be tempting for businesses to assume that bigger will be better.
But choosing a major well-established name isn’t the only option. Big things can also come in small packages.
Operating on a smaller scale can be a substantial strength. One that delivers agility, breadth and depth of knowledge, and a personal approach that’s difficult to replicate within a large company.
And when it comes to overcoming bias and assumptions about the connotations of the term “small”, businesses can easily be persuaded that this needn’t be a negative.
As Gartner says in their report about the benefits of partnering with a smaller provider: “If your value proposition is sufficiently compelling, if you can articulate and deliver it well, and you can prove it with good customer reference stories laden with quantified substantive evidence, then your size will usually prove immaterial.”1
Here we explore some of the key differentiators between the big names and the smaller but just as mighty players. Differentiators that can deliver exceptional results for your business.
- Emphasis on Agility
Whether technical, operational or commercial, agility can be embraced by businesses large and small. There are however fewer obstacles to achieving it and excelling in it for emerging providers.
For example, according to Gartner, “Faster release cycles, less corporate inertia, doesn’t have the “millstone” of an archaic technology stack to drag along behind it. Solution sets that have organically grown over time often include a mishmash of technologies. Accommodating the requirements of a legacy architecture can lead to inelegant and inefficient solutions that take longer to build and test.”2
1,2Gartner, Market Insight: The Top 12 Benefits of Being a ‘Smaller’ Provider and How To Use Them, 2018
It can also be argued that a legacy customer base can inhibit innovation and the subsequent advantages. And of course, less bureaucracy will always boost the positive effects of embracing agility.
Among these smaller providers is REPL, global technology consultants with over 300 experts working from bases in the UK, US, South Africa, Japan and Singapore.
CEO Cerys Johnson said: “Agility is absolutely central to what we do. We don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach and will always tailor our service to client needs.
“This results in a more personalised service, based on choosing the right people with the right functional skills as well as cultural ones. We take the time and care required to get that absolutely right.”
And when it comes to solving unique business issues, agility takes centre stage again. One high street retailer didn’t believe it was possible to automate card payment testing. But REPL rose to the challenge.
Working with a robotics provider, they built an auto-payment robot linked to automated testing software. A unique example of agility in action.
Cerys added: “When faced with a problem like this, we don’t just say ‘Sorry, that’s not the kind of work we do’.
“Instead, our team innovates and creates to resolve important issues for our clients. You wouldn’t necessarily find that level of agility in a larger company.
“Proof that this commitment to agility works is that the majority of our customers do repeat business with us.”
- Enjoy a Personal Approach
More often than not, the owners/founders of smaller enterprises are still very hands-on in everyday operations. You’ll find them in a meeting room rather than on a golf course.
Their personal commitment and involvement in the company delivers big benefits for clients, as described by Gartner: “The ‘blood, sweat and tears’ that were invested and the personal sacrifices that were made by those involved with getting the business to its current position are never forgotten. Personal pride and a desire to see the fruits of their labours succeed are powerful motivators.”3
This care and passion is reflected at REPL where founders Mike Callender, Chris Love and Thomas Quinton are actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business, as Cerys explains:
“Our founders work very much in the business. They work in partnership with clients on a day-to-day basis, getting first-hand feedback about how teams are performing and what those clients most need.
“Having these decision makers working so closely with customers means the company can better anticipate and respond to future client needs.”
- Benefit from Responsiveness
Connected to this personal passion is a higher level of responsiveness, an innate desire to make things happen and resolve any issues swiftly.
Reducing the number of degrees of separation between client and provider can supercharge proactivity and delivery speed, as seen with REPL’s automated payments robot solution.
Cerys said: “Clients don’t want to have to make their way through a sometimes-impenetrable structure to reach the right person. They’ll know who can solve their problem and be reassured that they can make a difference very quickly.”
When it comes to communication efficiency, and subsequently saving time and energy, a smaller operation is hard to beat.
- Harness Commercial Relativity
Gartner cites commercial relativity as one of the key benefits of working with a smaller business:
3 Gartner, Market Insight: The Top 12 Benefits of Being a ‘Smaller’ Provider and How To Use Them, 2018
“The relative size of customers in comparison to the size of the provider’s business means that even smaller customers matter more than they would to a larger provider. The revenue associated with each customer will prove more material to the survival and growth of the business, and consequently, by definition, each customer means more.”4
This naturally fortifies the personal approach that smaller operations pride themselves on. For REPL, this means using locally based teams who understand not only the clients’ business but also the cultural nuances and economic imperatives of their country.
As Cerys explains: “The people that our clients meet at that first meeting will be the people they work with in the future. What we don’t do is gather all the information from the client and then offshore it all to someone they’ve never met.
“So, a US client will have a team based in the US, a South African client will have the same. It not only enables the personal touch but also provides more opportunity to offer value-added services because we understand the business and have met them face-to-face.
“This means it’s easier to forge an enduring relationship which is the basis of all successful projects and of course repeat business.
“Our ongoing work with some of the biggest retailers in the world proves the value of this approach.”
- Work With Dedicated Teams
Gartner’s insights also highlight the importance of committed team members: “Emerging providers tend to carry less “dead wood” and cannot tolerate mediocrity simply because they cannot afford to. In a smaller organization, it is necessary for every employee to make a significant contribution if they are to justify their place. As a result of this, employees within smaller providers are often far more engaged and have a greater understanding of the broader business.”5
Cerys agrees: “In a smaller company, you don’t have room for people who are just there for the ride. It becomes obvious who is contributing and who isn’t.
“The people who are there become more accountable. As a consequence, if they’re not performing then things get dealt with a lot faster. If they are performing, irrespective of age, position or gender, they’ll be recognised sooner.
4, 5 Gartner, Market Insight: The Top 12 Benefits of Being a ‘Smaller’ Provider and How To Use Them, 2018
“Our team drives our success. That’s one of the many reasons why we treat them as individuals: to motivate them and get more out of them for everyone’s benefit.”
- Take Advantage of Commercial Flexibility
The ability to more easily agree mutually acceptable contract terms is another bonus to partnering with a smaller provider, along with the opportunity to enjoy deferred payments and extended terms.. As Garter states: “Commercial flexibility is much more compelling than mere margin-eroding discounts”.6
“Because we’re privately owned and self-funded,” says Cerys, “We don’t have short-term targets that we need to reach.
“This enables us to establish partnership relationships with our customers based on longevity, as opposed to needing to get the money in and make a fast return.”
When it comes to making that big decision, your provider options will come in all shapes and sizes.
Don’t discount the smaller guys. With their unique set of business-boosting benefits, it’s small wonder that so many of them are thriving.
6 Gartner, Market Insight: The Top 12 Benefits of Being a ‘Smaller’ Provider and How To Use Them, 2018