Are you swayed by size when choosing a firm to outsource services to in your business?
When looking for a professional service provider, whether it be an accountant, solicitor, PR, HR or other specialist firm, I hear it said many times that a big name in the industry is a sure bet – safe, secure and reliable.
Whilst I understand that confidence in a supplier’s abilities is of utmost importance, I can’t help thinking this can be somewhat short-sighted. It might be true that big-name corporations deliver what they say they will, but the big name can come at a price – and I don’t just mean financially.
There can be huge benefits to working with a more petite but nonetheless perfectly formed business. So, in my opinion, size shouldn’t matter – because bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Of course you still need to do your due diligence to ensure the smaller firm is up to the job, but if they have the skills and experience you need, here’s how I think smaller providers can offer big benefits to your business.
As an accountant, it’s my job to help companies look after the pennies and my advice would always be – just because you can pay top dollar, that doesn’t mean you have to. If financial savings can be made, it’s worthwhile investigating alternative, cheaper suppliers.
What are you really paying for when you’re charged top rate by a top firm? Yes, there’s the gravitas and experience, but there’s usually a city-centre postcode and oodles of overheads to boot. They need to cover higher bills, pricey pay packets and a big marketing budget. A smaller firm will have a more modest outlay, which means they can afford to charge a lesser rate for an equivalent service.
The most important thing you should consider isn’t necessarily the cost, but the value you’re getting for your fee.
You can be sure that larger companies will deliver what they say they can, but do they ever go over and above their service level agreement? If they do, chances are they’ll charge over and above your payment agreement too.
Smaller firms give you more bang for your buck, offering added value by going the extra mile because your business is of greater value to them.
There’s a lot to be said for being a big fish in a smaller pond. Larger firms will have a larger database of clients, which means your work might not always be at the top of their to do list.
It’s great to know you’re an important client and be treated as such. That’s a status you’ll enjoy with a smaller firm and you know you’ll get the attention you deserve.
And, rather than being assigned a junior account manager, chances are you’ll be dealing directly with the directors or senior staff with all the knowledge and experience that brings.
Choosing a local firm rather than opting for a big London or city-centre based company can also pay dividends. It’ll save you time and hassle getting together for meetings and, chances are, they’ll be more amenable to visiting – or even working from your premises.
Knowing you can pop in at short notice for a face-to-face chat or ask them to call round is not only convenient, but will make relationship building much easier too.
Communication and rapport
Communication and building a rapport with service providers is a key element in setting and maintaining a productive relationship. Regardless of whether you’re outsourcing a service, you want to incorporate whoever is doing the work for you into the team. You want to get to know them, and for them to know and understand you and your business.
There’s a big difference between them working with, or working for you, and this involves two-way, open and honest communication, trust and professional camaraderie. This can be much easier to achieve with a smaller firm, where there’s a lower turnover of staff and, generally, the same person available to you throughout your working relationship.
With many of my clients I fulfil the role of finance director and, as such, I consider myself an integral part of their management team and communication and rapport are vital to ensure the smooth running and future growth of the business.
There’s lots of ways a smaller firm is able to offer flexibility in the way they work with you, whereas an employee of a larger firm is limited in doing so and can often only tow the company line.
SME owners can tailor what they offer, refining their service to fit you and your company’s individual needs, rather than working to set packages that suit a bigger, corporate set-up.
Some examples of this include creating flexible payment plans to fit in with your accounts system or to help with cash flow. They might be more amenable to working on a project basis rather than on a monthly retainer, so you can access their services only when you need it. They can also work on a timetable to suit you.
Making a difference
Sometimes, it’s also nice to know that you’re making a difference. When you work with a smaller company, you can be sure that you’re making a big difference to their business as well as your own. You can feel a part of their story, more so than being one of the crowd in a larger company. You have an impact and that’s something to feel good about.
For me, making a difference to the companies I work with is one of my main drivers. I enjoy seeing them achieve and get great satisfaction from playing a part in their success. I feel privileged to work as part of the team with my clients and their businesses become as important to me as my own.
So, next time you’re looking to outsource a service, don’t simply plump for the name you’ve heard of. Give a smaller supplier the opportunity to show you what they can do. They might surprise you on so many levels.
Get Smart can help your business become more profitable, so YOU can fulfill your dream. Take the first step today by telling us what you would love to achieve here.