I often wonder, in these days of ‘Goliath’ consultancies swallowing up smaller ‘David’ SME businesses, how do the ‘Davids’ of the consultancy world survive… and not just survive, but in CampbellReith’s case and many others, thrive and grow in the face of such adversity. How is this possible? As a senior member of staff at CampbellReith, I am interested how it affects our business, our industry even, now and in the future and how we rise to meet this challenge.
CampbellReith is a well-run business, profitable, sustainable and growing. In the last 5 years (Financial Year ending 2012 to Financial Year ending 2017) we have managed to almost double our turnover from just over £7M in 2012 to almost £14M in 2017 (that’s roughly a 100% increase for those statisticians amongst us!) which was delivered by a corresponding 50% increase in our workforce over the same period, from circa 100 staff in 2012 to circa 150 staff in 2017 – pretty impressive statistics I would say!
This during a time when the large consultants are getting larger – Jacobs acquisition of CH2M Hill; AECOM’s acquisition of URS; SNC-Lavalin’s acquisition of Atkins and WSP’s acquisition of Parsons Brinkerhoff to name but a few – these are consultants of Goliath proportions and they dominate the global consultancy market. Smaller SME businesses are not immune either and many have disappeared from the consultant landscape in recent years, subsumed into larger organisations, with the most recent being the purchase of Peter Brett Associates (perhaps not quite an SME) by Canadian giant Stantec. Is the future identity of the consultancy market to be defined by a few names of huge proportions? And how does this affect recruitment for the rest of us? Should new recruits be choosing small or big, that is the question.
But all is not lost… and back to my original question, how does a business of CampbellReith’s size attract new talent so that we can continue to grow and thrive against this back-drop of world domination by the consultancy giants? This has puzzled me for some time and having viewed the question from many different perspectives I thought I’d offer a few of my thoughts.
When I’m feeling brave enough to ask my clients how they view our relationship (it takes some courage trust me!), I’m usually pleasantly surprised to hear words like “people”, “personable”, “innovation” and “agile” mentioned regularly which resonate in my mind when I think of the practice’s key attributes and what differentiates us from the competition. Strangely, I do not hear clients mention these words often when they talk of their dealings with the Goliath consultants, so we have a clear advantage here: We actually talk to our clients and spend time with them! Good old fashioned customer-care some might call it… An outdated concept to many in a world constantly measured by metrics but so important. I sometimes think we forget that our people and clients are not metrics, they are living, breathing people who appreciate human contact.
Believe it or not, we are sociable creatures us humans! I’ve got a suggestion to prove it. At the start of your next meeting, don’t get your phone out and fake interest in your email because it’s easier than actually talking to someone. Speak to the people present and engage with them, you will be surprised at how easy it is to start a conversation and they will probably remember you for it (and secretly thank you for breaking the silence!).
So what are the key attributes of the SME, of CampbellReith in particular, I ask myself? I believe there are 3 attributes that define us: People; Innovation and Trusted Leadership.
I think of our staff and I’m firmly of the opinion that our people and our management are the key to the success of the practice. Our talented people who daily perform minor miracles of innovation so we constantly punch above our weight, and who so carefully nurture and look after our clients… clients who keep coming back.
It is no coincidence that SME businesses like CampbellReith so often run innovation circles around the larger companies – size is not necessarily an advantage! Innovation is the life blood of the SME and a smaller consultant, like CampbellReith for example, does not have the vast pool of resources available to it that the larger companies have, so survival is a real concern. It is how well our people pull together to outthink a problem that makes the difference between success and failure…..how innovative and agile we are. A triumph of David over Goliath surely?!
And trusted leaders, those people who provide the protected environment, free from internal danger and conflict, that allows our people to focus their time and energy on the critical external factors that may impact our business, such as new work opportunities and of course, our all-important clients.
And so back to my original question… If anyone reading this is thinking about a career choice, a job move or even just a brighter future, and considering whether to choose the right size consultant… think carefully!
Goliath businesses have their place, don’t get me wrong, but those people who want to innovate, who want to be inspired and inspire others, who want to push themselves to climb ever steeper mountains and be part of a team going places, a career with a smaller SME business, CampbellReith for example, can be liberating, stimulating and ultimately hugely satisfying.
So join us, be inspired and make your mark and help us achieve great things together! David or Goliath… your choice. It should be obvious by now though?
Let’s redefine SME = Smart, Motivational and Exciting!
Chris Brady, Partner at CampbellReith