Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Balance Beam: Coherence Premium and Small Companies

The Coherence Premium article focuses on efforts to remain relevant in a changing world while still tied to the strategies and internal processes that made a company successful in the process. This tenuous position is directly tied to the internal mission and focus of organizations looking to maintain or grow in any industry. This strategic thinking can be applied to small business development in the same practice as for larger companies. How can smaller, more nimble, businesses consider growing their portfolio of opportunity while still reflecting on the strengths that they hold internally? Looking at my experience at a small consulting company (“Company”), I will apply the principles discussed in The Coherence Premium from a smaller, younger company’s perspective.

Way to Play
Are we clear about how we choose to create value in the marketplace? Are we investing in the capabilities that matter?
Small business and new business development depends highly on initial market outlook and personal characteristics of the founding team members. In the case of Company, they were able to enter a small market in Pittsburgh for community and economic development services and become a niche company. By focusing on tailored and non-cookie cutter approaches to client needs, Company was able to position themselves as a more personal option to larger, more entrenched development firms. This was helpful in the national context, where small to medium sized contracts and forward thinking clients wanted tailored projects, rather than boilerplate language that could be fit into any situation.

Capabilities System
Can we articulate capabilities that describe what we do uniquely better than anyone else? Can these be built upon and realized?
Company’s largest issue is sustaining their capabilities system on a short term and long term basis. As a small but national company, Company must retain clients and projects that have small, medium and large scopes to maintain a strong financial income for prolonged periods. Because of this focus, Company must focus more on chasing projects, rather than creating opportunities based off of the work proposed in the “mission” described above. Operationally, because each project receives new focus and a clean template, significant time is spent at the beginning of each project to focus the approach and outlook, based on the specific needs of the client.

Product and Service Fit and Recommendation 
Have we understood our specified product and services niche? Do our services fit with capabilities system?
My analysis from the above sections points to a mismatch of focus and capabilities. Although Company has significant brainpower and interest in creating unique projects for all clients, internal processes do not yet support this type of consulting, and significant work is rehashed every time a new client is onboarded. I would assume that this is a common issue among new or smaller businesses that have to contend with different issues than larger, multi-national companies. However, by thinking more strategically about internal coherence and relevance to internal operations, I believe that Company and other similar organizations have the ability to become more focused in their mission and more profitable in their outcomes. 

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