I’ve been privileged to share my thoughts in the Business Leader for over two years now. During that time, we’ve shared about custom websites, cloud services, and even “how to fire your IT guy” (one of our most popular articles, oddly enough). As I prepared to write this month’s column, I found that one of our recurring topics involves the balance between tightly focused and specialized IT services and their relationship with the overall vision of the company and how technology plays a part in it.
Modern technology is filled with specialists. Technology startups are told that they must be laser focused or they’ll never get off the ground. Small businesses like yours and mine wind up with multiple technology vendors who are each focused on their sweet spot, and we’re left with a fractured environment where one technology vendor doesn’t know what the other is doing, and eventually something breaks down – communication, integrations, and even system operations as a whole.
Over the years, my own business has retained a very different approach. While our team may be filled with specialists – help desk technicians, web designers, and mobile app developers – our picture of what an “ideal client” is one with a wide array of integrated services. It’s our aim to be a broad value-added technology partner, not just another specialized organization focused on meeting one quadrant of a business’ technology needs.
This approach has been one I’ve often struggled with and had a hard time being comfortable with. All around us are businesses laser-focused on areas we can help our clients with, but there is no nice neat box that we can wrap our services up and sell. I’ve considered shaving off entire lines of profitable business so that we could hone our services to meet a single specific need. It’s exciting to consider how this could allow us to scale, grow, and to leave behind the uncertainty of knowing what the next client engagement will look like or if we’ll have the expertise to deliver what we promise in a way that excites the client.
The truth is, though, that’s not who I am. I’ve been a generalist ever since I started working in technology over 25 years ago. I’ve programmed, I’ve built servers, and I’ve helped business owners bring technology solutions to life that had no connection to anything I’d ever done before. My team may be full of specialized technicians, designers, and developers, but our business continues to be specialized in being a “generalist” when it comes to the services we provide. That is our focus and the value we bring to our clients.
Every business has different technology needs. There are many that need specialized vendors for specific systems and platforms because of their complexity, but there are others that would benefit from a technology partner that can provide or facilitate the broad majority of technology needs. There is no one-size-fits all approach, but there is an approach that fits your unique business. Finding that match is an intentional process that will do you well.
Written by Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader