Last week I had an interesting discussion with partners of a boutique firm. They were exploring the idea of doing the opposite of what most consultancies are doing now and hire aggressively, increasing staff to support growth.
By coincidence, yesterday I came across this quote from Alex Steffen:
More is not better. Better is better.
This is true in our private lives (that's the quote's context), but so in business. Bigger is not always better. There's a "right size" for each one of us, depending on our goals and constraints.
I learned this first when I ran Singular Reach, a marketing agency for consultants. Having a team of 10 specialists seemed better than hiring 2 or 3 generalists. Except that it wasn’t.
The "right size" for us was smaller, and as we moved beyond that the entire business had to be restructured. Fixed costs rise. Operations require new systems. Those leading the company must change their focus and behavior to drive growth.
To generate that growth you need to take on more risks, and at some point every consultant is confronted with the real question: “Do I really want this?” More seemed better, but then you're not so sure.
This is a lesson I’ve personally learned, and every one of my clients knows I take that idea seriously: Growing too big, too fast, is not the way.
A small firm running well - with effective marketing, predictable pipeline, and high standards for project delivery and client experience - is superior, in every way, to a large firm full of internal issues, less profitable, that operates without proper control.
There is a "right size" for your consulting business right now. You can try to grow fast, creating disorder and financial risk. Or you can mimic nature, who grows slower but in a sustainable way.
What's your call?