Small company security

A few weeks ago, I was involved in making a proposal to a bank for a consulting gig related to business intelligence. Although we had an inside track on what they wanted, and we proposed a team that could deliver the goods, they decided to go with one of the big management consulting firms, in part because they felt that the larger firm presented a lower risk.

I fought against this prejudice for years when I ran a small (40-person) systems integration company, and were shut out of some opportunities because of our size. Customers who did hire us realized that small is good: we tended to attract a better quality of team member, keep them well-trained, and motivate them appropriately through the right combination of profit-sharing and foozball tables. From the customer standpoint, they held a great deal more leverage over us than they would over a larger SI because they were a larger percentage of our business, and we were very motivated to make them happy, repeat customers who could be used as references. Our reputation was our main marketing asset, and the only way to make that work was to out-perform the big guys.

These days, given the abysmal track record of a couple of the big firms, I find it hard to believe that the myth of “big company = low risk” is still alive and well. The last time that I was involved in a project with one of the big SIs, it was more than a year late (at last check) and I’m assuming that it’s also way over budget. Also consider some of the recent layoffs announced at big companies, including a whopping 13,000 at IBM. Do you think that they considered the impact on your project before they laid off a staff member who works with you, or supports the project in some way?

Risky business, hiring these big companies.

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