This book was recommended to me by a friend and fellow member of HTG, Raja Pagadala, from The Final Step (TFS) in London. Sitting in a bar at the end of a busy peer-day of understanding each other’s businesses, the topic shifted to ‘Read any inspiring books lately?’. I offered up the Snowball Effect and Raja suggested I get naked. I know him fairly well, so why not?
To take you back to my day at The Final Step, Raja explained his business model and how his company doesn’t sell “IT support” and doesn’t commoditise its offering. The basic premise is that TFS, ultimately, sells “trust”. He explained that he is interested in life-long clients who appreciate a highly tailored approach which puts the client’s interests at the centre of the equation. This requires transparency (or getting naked). Fundamentally, in a true partnership, the client’s and supplier’s interests are very much aligned. Culturally, TFS and BCS are more similar than any other company we have met with, which was reassuring. I just couldn’t get my head around how the commercials of his business work and from discussions with other people in our peer group before my meeting with Raja in December, I was not alone. TFS’s pricing model is not formulaic – tailored services can never be – and understanding the lifetime value that the client has received is what drives it.
Now to the book. It is written by way of a parable. I quite like a story to help the absorption of the knowledge being presented and the book kept me engaged for the few hours it took to read it.
The essence of the story is the conflict caused by the differences between a small consulting company (Lighthouse Consulting) and their larger competitor (Kendrick & Black). When the opportunity comes for K&B to buy and absorb Lighthouse Consulting into their operation, Jack, the hero of the story comes to the painful realisation that they could not merge the small company into the larger one, without taking the lessons provided by the smaller company and making fundamental changes to the way the larger company operates. K&B, the larger company, were not ready to make those changes so facilitated the resale of the smaller company onto another similar sized consultancy company, losing Jack from their team in the process.
The book concludes with a summary of the ‘getting naked’ model. I must say, I preferred the story to the summary, but it is a useful reminder of the content.
What I gained from this book splits into four sections.
Reassurance – The way BCS handles new business ‘sales’ is already almost identical, putting the focus on the client from the start. Since the middle of 2016, we actively stopped chasing new business entirely and now just focus on allowing suitable new prospects to find and come to us. The section about fear of losing business is a lesson we have already learned and I know we turn away more unsuitable clients than we sign up. We report openly to our clients about our performance, ask seemingly stupid questions (in the hope some are useful) and make seemingly stupid suggestions (with the understanding some of these may be the catalyst required for discussion and beneficial change). We are already naked!
Understanding Raja – I am pleased our conversation moved to suggested reading, as I understand better now where Raja is coming from. His business goal is for less customers, but keeping only those that understand and value the quality service his team delivers in abundance. Seems like a pretty great goal to me.
Next Steps – Knowing we are already on the right track at BCS, I will be encouraging our leadership team to redouble their efforts to add value to everyone we work with.
Exiting BCS – Arlin Sorenson, the CEO of HTG talks about ‘unnegotiable negotiables’ when planning a business exit. As I read this book it got me to thinking about this topic, as in due course whoever takes over BCS would need to be a good fit as we are already more like Lighthouse Consulting than Kendrick and Black. If they don’t understand why they need to be getting naked with us in front of our clients, they wouldn’t make a good job of running our business, supporting our team or providing value to our clients. Points very well noted.