I have owned a small company for almost seven years now. We began as an Internet development firm, but as many businesses in the daily fight for survival have done, we have adapted. We have seen ‘dot coms’ come and go along with many Internet technologies and services. Our clients needs, and our need for new clients have driven much of our change but our success is the result of something else.
I attribute a great deal of our success to what I call business liquidity. Traditionally liquidity in business is defined as “a company’s ability to meet its obligation when and in the event they fall due. If a firm is unable to meet its obligation in time, the company is in danger of insolvency.” [WikiPedia] I refer to a “liquid business” as a company, large or small that can adapt and change to meet new demands placed upon them by their clients, or the market overall. Those businesses that are able to adapt have a much greater chance of survival.
Part of being a liquid business is openness to the environment. A firm must be willing to look beyond themselves into the market to experience trends, to observe innovation and to be ready to move, change and react when appropriate.
Openness is also the willingness to collaborate and build strategic network teams of partners and resources. I credit with most of my company’s success is due to collaborating or team building. By creating a network of trusted resources, we are able to offer clients many more services than we could if we stuck to what we could accomplish in house. For example, I have a client that is a non-profit organization, we have built them a web site that presents their message and offers users the opportunity to donate online. In talking to them, we realized that they have no other active fundraising efforts, and we see this as an opportunity.
By pulling together writers, printers, fulfillment services, list brokers and mailing services I can collaborate on the creative with writers in New York, produce graphics in Connecticut, and have things printed, assembled and mailed out of Iowa.
More Than Outsourcing
By using, a “high-performance project team” we are accomplishing more than merely outsourcing services. There are obvious bottom-line benefits; lower overhead due to specialization allows for low pricing for the client and greater margins, this also give us a competitive edge over would be competitors.
There are some services that outsourcing can solve, or that don’t require a team approach, but for large projects or initiatives it is crucial to success that you have the investment of more than just time from your team members. You need member investment and member accountability.
In the example that was mentioned earlier some team members are more active in the creative process; writers and graphic designer, while others do take on more of an outsourcing role: list broker, fulfillment house, and printers. However, each is equally invested in the success of the project.
Getting investment from all parties is essential to project success and the responsibility to instill and foster this investment falls on the project leader. [source] As the team leader, I need to show for example, the broker that success in this project means further involvement in future projects. If they help me to produce a qualified list of names, based on criteria that we define, and the mailing is a success, then they know that their resources and brokering methods are valid and accurate. With every success, they help with their value goes up and the more we will use them, as well as others. This is true with other parties as well. The benefits of a successful project in a “virtual team” environment are multilayered.
As independent parties, working as a team, we benefit directly through fees for services, but we also benefit indirectly through building a strong reliable, trustworthy network. In the viral, word of mouth business environment of today, which is almost money in the bank. I would estimate that almost 90% of my clients have come to me by referral from a network business partner.
Small Fish, Big Pond
Through strong team working networks as small businesses, we can pool resources and expand our service offerings. We can appeal to a larger client base, can operate more efficiently and be more competitive… be more liquid.
The best companies outsource [team build] to win, not to shrink. They outsource to innovate faster…” -The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman, pg 360