You are a start-up or a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME).
You have been trading for around 5 years and things are going from strength to strength.
You have a healthy turnover and your company employs less than, say, 20 staff. Everyone you employ has been selected personally by you, not only because of their skills and experience, but because of the values you share with them and the enthusiasm they have for your company’s future.
The product or service that your company provides is innovative, is attracting the right levels of attention and is scalable.
Your Board or senior management team is made up of the founding Directors, supplemented by a set of interested supporters and/or investors.
You now need to expand your customer base and provide your offerings to a broader set of clients such as government departments or other tightly regulated sectors and organisations which demand high levels of governance and compliance.
If this is you then you might already know that the UK Government has committed to ensuring that at least £1 in every £3 it spends, is with smaller businesses by 2022. In practice this means that your company should be viewed favourably by both the Government and those who sub contract to provide products and services to it.
Similarly, large UK companies are under increasing pressure to contract with the 5.7 million UK SMEs as they make such a significant contribution to the UK economy. Smaller businesses employ 16 million people across the UK and account for £1.9 trillion of UK turnover.
This has the UK Government’s attention and it therefore features heavily in the deliberations, strategies and plans of large UK companies too.
Whilst this is all great news, theoretically made more so by initiatives to make contracting directly with the government less complicated, there is a dependency on smaller businesses to make sure that they are correctly configured to do this work; this requires structured governance, accreditation, through-life support and compliance.
The further great news is that we can all list young, innovative and energetic companies with exciting, possibly even game-changing, products and services right now.
You might be one.
You have very attractive offerings but you might need significant assistance to move forward. This assistance can be with strategy, the identification of risk, leadership and management issues, business development, or putting in place the governance regimes such as ISO, safety, security and integrated logistics support that will enable you to grow your customer base in the way you wish to.
Typically smaller businesses don’t contain these different skill sets however. You have quite rightly been focussing on the development and delivery of your products and services. As a result there are few choices.
As a start-up or SMEs you can employ new full time employees to take these projects on. You can engage a large consultancy to do it for you, or you can appoint Non Executive Directors (NED) who oversee governance, advise and can take on these specific projects.
Whilst these options will generally achieve the aim, they can be expensive and can sometimes deliver a sub-optimal result. There is also the fear that a new, senior hire could dilute your Board’s or senior management team’s decision-making processes which has served you well so far.
There is an alternative. Think small.
Small, agile consultancies are fantastically well-placed to provide advice and guidance to companies which face these issues. Often these smaller consultancies are staffed by people who have a wealth of real-world experience across different sectors and have felt the pain that their clients are feeling.
Smaller consultancies are themselves SMEs and often contain people who have had extensive client-side careers and are able to offer this perspective too. Far from being formulaic, they offer hands-on, practical advice and guidance. They do not judge and, most importantly, they roll their sleeves up and deliver what you need them to, when you need it.
They understand the value of a proper job delivered on time.
This in no way criticises the approach taken by larger accountancies and consultancies, nor does it devalue the vital role of a dedicated NED. It simply offers an alternative to smaller companies who do not yet wish to go down this route for whatever reasons.
Be it an integrated logistics support solution for your product, cyber resilience, a training management plan to ensure your customers are able to use your services effectively, or just a second opinion on a staff incentivisation scheme, this is a great time for start-ups and SMEs to engage in these activities. There is considerable UK Government focus at the moment and there are many smaller consultancies just waiting to assist you.
So if this has described any of the issues you are facing. If you want meaningful, long-term relationships with approachable, current and knowledgeable consultants who will not alter the composition of your already successful team. And if you are attracted by reasonable fee structures that do not include a long-term remunerative commitment.
Then at least consider thinking small.