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Small Giants

As leader of an SME business, I was inspired by a book I read whilst on holiday with my family this summer. The book provided insight into companies that have become recognised for their exemplary customer service, their focus on building an excellent environment for their people and the positive impact they have on their neighbourhoods through a considered and sustained approach to localism and corporate social responsibility.

The main thrust of the book is that these companies have been recognised as best-in-class, and although they come from a variety of sectors and provide a range of services, they have one thing in common – they have all resisted growth as a measure of success.

Most companies come into being as a result of their founders believing that they have something different and better to offer the market place. Invariably, a new business starts with a small group of clients, if not a single client, who recognise the unique service offering and often support the growth of the business. In the early days it is essential for a business to become established and reach a critical mass in order to have a meaningful future, but as business leaders know, you cannot survive simply by standing still and before long, many are making plans to take over the World – or at least their little part of it.

In business, there is often an expectation to grow to be the biggest with the furthest reach providing un-paralleled depth and breadth of capability. This drive for growth is often at the expense of the original vision, which can quickly become overshadowed by a series of external forces. The leaders of the business can be easily influenced by outside pressures to grow the company from shareholders, investors and customers who want more of a good thing. The desire to expand can also come from within from its people who seek opportunities to grow and develop their careers.

It takes a level-headed leader not to succumb to these pressures and the perils that growth can bring – there is a different way. There are successful organisations that have resisted this strategy, opting for a more controlled and flexible solution, providing more localised and intimate services to their clients and maintaining a personal touch with their employees.

Small Giants, written by accomplished business author Bo Burlington, explores the trials and tribulations of 14 US firms and their unique, and at times stubborn, drive to remain small and in control of their business – sticking to their original vision and core values. The book provides insight into alternative ways to be successful in a competitive market. Although, the companies, with one exception, were unknown to me it was relatively easy to translate the stories into UK based companies that I am more familiar with, not least my own – CPC.

I wrote a blog back in 2012, which noted that there was a conscious consolidation of the property and infrastructure consultancy market with multi-national, multi-discipline organisations acquiring SMEs and other household brands in a drive to provide comprehensive services to multiple clients, across multiple sectors throughout the UK, Europe and around the globe. In my view this strategy was and remains flawed and I am frequently told by clients that a key frustration of theirs is an increasingly faceless and evermore transactional relationship with multi-national consultancy organisations.

I have always held a strong belief, reinforced by Small Giants, that service based businesses, like CPC, are built on strong and meaningful relationships with clients based on a thorough understanding of needs, common goals, a collaborative approach, mutual respect and implicit trust. It is imperative that a company in pursuit of growth, does not do this at the expense of these values and the very clients that helped the business become what it is today.

To this end, one of CPC’s strategic objectives is to get closer to fewer, so that we can continue providing intimate and exemplar services to our key clients, which is underpinned by our vision is to be recognised as the best, as opposed to the biggest, provider of programme and project management services in the UK.