Can you clear the hurdles to organic growth?
Most companies today are performing full-court presses to generate organic growth especially since our industry transitioned from a bull market to a bear market years ago. Operations people are beseeched weekly to ‘grow the business’ meaning get more revenue from an existing customer. Unfortunately, this mantra to grow the business has big flies in the ointment.
One type of organic growth simply means to add people to the current contract or add services that are within contract scope. Most project managers are aware of this objective and actively seek to add FTEs to their respective contract(s). Of course contract funds have to be available, the customer’s concurrence is necessary of course and an opportunity to actually do so must be in place. Regardless, obstacles to achieving growth exist.
Having managed projects and program managers myself, I have met employees who do not view ‘growing the business’ as their responsibility. Their job is to deliver the work based upon the contract and business developments’ job is to win new work. Worse, they do not see why helping win new work is in their best short- and long-term interest. They have always worked on customer-funded projects and expect to continue to do so while avoiding “extra duty”. Besides, when they worked weekends on that proposal last year, they never received a ‘Hello’ from management let alone a tangible reward. Not my job!
Have your account delivery teams been educated in terms of (1) why organic growth is their responsibility, (2) why it is in their career interests to support achievement of organic growth, and (3) how to actually go about securing organic growth? If the answers to the questions are pretty much a “No”, then what do you expect them to do?
A second type of organic growth means to be in a position to deliver new technology services to an existing customer. These new services might be acquired through an existing contract, stretching the contract’s scope, or acquired through a new contract vehicle. The point is that your customer wants your company to perform the work for them because you have performed well on your existing contract. But obstacles to achieving growth still exist.
Type 2 organic growth is predicated on your account team knowing its company’s range of services and how they specifically apply to their customer’s needs and environment. Meaningful customer insight is based upon perceiving the customer’s needs well beyond the current contract. It means paying attention and engaging in proactive listening for new opportunities pertinent to your company or alliance partners.
When asked by the customer, “What else does your company do?” or “Does your company have this kind of expertise?”, on-site employees are seldom prepared to answer these questions accurately.
If achieving Type 2 organic growth is challenging for a company, Type 3 organic growth may not be attainable at all. Type 3 organic growth requires winning new work in a brand new area of an existing account relationship… like winning a new customer except you have an exiting business relationship with this agency or department. How do you capitalize on having an existing relationship with an agency and successfully pursuing new business in the agency in an area where you are not known as being a trustworthy contractor? Obstacles to success still exist.
The overly short answer to the previously posed question is – referrals. However, in research conducted by Hinge Research Institute (2013) of 1,300 buyers and sellers of professional services including government, 72 percent said that they did not give referrals because they ‘have not been asked’. This is amazing considering that 69 percent said they were willing to give their contractor a referral. Wow! Separately, 20 percent said that they had “insufficiently experience” with the service provider to give a referral. I translate this language into they did not know the company well enough beyond their account team. Sorry, I digress.
When you discuss organic growth with your account delivery team(s), keep the three types of organic growth in mind and consider how you can empower your team to achieve organic growth.
Bob Davis has over 35-years’ experience in the federal information technology industry. He has held senior positions with products- and services-oriented, high-tech IT companies during his career. Bob has successfully worked for large- and medium–sized companies, and small businesses. Leadership positions have been held in business development, marketing, and program management. Bob has a doctor of management from the University of Maryland University College. He works for a medium-size company in our industry.