Big or Small? How do you choose?

Cadenza Business Solutions Limited

How do you choose whether to engage an established, glossy, branded service provider or a smaller, lesser known one which has been personally recommended?

Recently, when I booked my ageing car in to the glossy, large-brand car dealership I use for its free MOT I mentioned an infrequent squeaking noise I had heard.  Their recommendation? A very large, expensive repair. 

“Sorry Mrs Edwards, but these older cars do tend to have wear and tear and yours IS a sports model.”

Faced with getting rid of my pride and joy I complained to friends and got 4 recommendations for a local garage.  This small, independent, garage looked over my car for no cost and gave free advice and recommendations with these reassuring words:

“Caroline, it is a slightly older car, but I can keep it going for as long as you need it by only replacing small parts individually rather than replacing whole areas of the engine at once.”

This experience got me thinking about 5 arguments raised when choosing between large and small consultancies:

Argument 1: Big is better.  Hundreds of years of experience and they employ the cream of the crop.

Counter-argument:    Really? Your business deserves the best – but will you get the best, or the most readily-available consultant?

Small consultancies:   More likely to have worked in industry before starting as consultants so have a good idea of how life is on the “doing” end! And they are empathetic to your budgetary requirements!

Argument 2:   I know what I am getting when I engage a large Company.

Counter-argument:  Will you get to choose? Or will you be sent the resources?

Small consultancies:  You will most-likely select these yourself – often from personal references from your existing network.  You choose them because your referrer chose them.

Argument 3:  They know what they are doing.

Counter-argument:   Who are you seeing on site? Managers? Or foot soldiers who refer to senior managers for advice and guidance?

Small consultancies:  often the Butcher, Baker and Candlestick-makers.  They’ve done the hard graft, they know what works – and they work directly with you!

Argument 4:  They have delivered for X, Y, Z large companies – so they will be ideal for me!

Counter-argument:  Will that really work for you?

Small consultancies:  Listen to what you need – and prescribe a package tailored for your business, drawing on their personal experience in that field.  Result: an individual offering, not one which has been pared down from a multi-million-pound programme. 

Argument 5:  I don’t have to manage them – they know what they are doing.

Counter-argument:  It’s your money – and value for money requires direct engagement with your consultant.  There can be a tendency to leave large consultancies to deliver because “they know what they are doing”

Small consultancies:  many business owners feel it is more straightforward to ask for frequent updates from individual consultants.  There is a more intimate approach and often a better rapport because, after all, you chose them yourself!