I own a technology consulting business. I’m often asked, “What kind of consulting do you provide, exactly?” This has always been a tough transition to my elevator pitch because the answer of “almost all of it” doesn’t open the door to a specific, exciting, and easy-to-pitch discussion in 30 seconds or less.
Generalists are a rare breed nowadays, and it’s not just in the technology world. Look around as you drive down the street and you’ll see transmission shops, brake shops, and oil-change shops. The “one-stop-shop” is becoming harder to find, whether you’re looking for a place get your car repaired or a business to partner with in your technology endeavors.
As I network with technology business owners, I find more and more of them are focusing their efforts on specific lines of work in a manner that makes them experts and specialists in that area. This allows their business to trim costs as they require a narrower set of tools and training, and it makes it easier to scale, since each employee can be plugged into a nice little “system” and get right to work.
I’ve thought about taking my business down the road of a specialist shop or even a pure consulting company where we simply consult and “advise.” We could double our rates, settle on a few specific tools instead of a home-grown mix we’ve managed to make work together, and probably find a nice niche in database consulting, software development, or managed IT services.
What is it that keeps a business like mine, or maybe like yours, “focused” on serving such broad needs, when companies all around us are specializing and scaling beyond what we could dream of? Why do we continue to deal with not knowing what type of service we’ll be asked to provide tomorrow or exactly what skills the next project will require?
To me, it comes down to two things – service and trust. It’s rare to have the chance to truly partner with another organization in such a vast realm as technology. These opportunities open the door for shared vision, great collaboration, and open communication. They facilitate trust you’ll never find in a vendor / customer relationship and open doors for both sides as new opportunities arise.
Not all businesses will find a one-stop-shop a good match. Some organizations have their own staff in place to perform key duties and are simply looking for a specialist to come in and focus on a single project or weak spot. Others may be able to take care of their own needs 95% of the time, and simply need a specialist for that one area they lack. There are lines of work a one-stop-shop will never be an expert in, yet a well-connected one will know their limits and call in reinforcements when needed.
In the end, the decision of whether you consider technology and investment will guide you. If a business truly does see technology as an investment, a true asset to the bottom line, its leaders must approach every outside relationship with care, whether they are filling a gap with a specialist or bringing in a partner to help shape the future of their business.