Your Service Business-“Islands” or “Partners”?

January 16, 2007

One of the most difficult tasks facing any small to mid-sized consulting company is transforming itself from “islands” to a true “partnership.”  Without this transformation, I believe a consulting company cannot survive long term and, as importantly, its “products” will not reach their maximum value for their clients.

So, how do you accomplish this transformation?   In the beginning of a personal services business there is the founder(s).  They work to get clients, deliver with excellence and hopefully, get more business.  They basically operate as islands.  As the Company grows, it hires more consultants who fundamentally do the same thing.  Get business, deliver with excellence and, hopefully get more business from the same clients.  If the Company is well managed, collaboration will be mandated to ensure the products delivered are of the highest quality and not simply the thinking of one person.  Over time, the intellectual capital of the Firm will be collected so that future projects can benefit from the thinking of past, similar projects.

However, in a high ego business like consulting, getting consultants to act in the best interests of the Firm verus acting as “islands” is most difficult.  Particularily if bonus plans are structured in such a way as to reward individual productivity.  This “island effect” is neither good for the Firm or for the Clients.  From a Firm perspective it would be as if a player on a football team ignored everyone else on the team and ran his own plays.  Without a TEAM, everyone will lose.  No intellectual capital will be developed.  AND, clients will not receive the best the TEAM has to offer.

Perhaps the best person I know who has dealt successfully with this very issue is David Maister.  David’s blog and information can be found at  David is a master at this subject and was of enormous help to my Partners and I as we made a successful transition from Islands to Partners.


Bizvice:  Strategy, Marketing & Entrepreneurship


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