I read a book recently that has been challenging my thinking. Am I too conservative as a business owner? Am I constrained by the smallness of my vision?
Since I can’t afford to hire an expensive management consultant to advise me, I figured instead I’d think out loud in this article, and seek the advice of some industry experts – i.e. you all. So stay tuned – I have some questions for you at the end.
The book is called The Leverage Equation by Todd Tresidder, who asks readers what constraints are limiting the growth of their businesses. This challenged me to imagine what the business could or should look like if we weren’t limited in terms of resources or reach or expertise.
There’s a lot to unpack in that thought experiment, but it struck me that one angle on the question was the range of products and services that we offer.
What consulting services do we offer?
The majority of our engagements to date have been focused pretty tightly around the core skills we originally learned as Metaswitch support engineers.
- Providing hands-on assistance / escalation for Metaswitch configuration and troubleshooting issues. In other words, “a Metaswitch expert on your team” as I wrote in the headline of our website.
- Helping to launch new VoIP products off a Metaswitch – especially hosted PBX, but in general helping telcos make the most of the features of their Metaswitch deployment.
- Providing guidance on switch migration projects.
This has been a great business for us so far – it’s a small niche admittedly, but the benefits of a tight focus are that it’s (relatively) easy to gain a reputation and of course our expertise in these areas runs deep.
What consulting services could we offer?
Looking to the future however, I’m thinking about how we could help our clients in areas adjacent to the current focus. We already help clients in some of these areas from time-to-time, but should we add these to the standard offerings we discuss with potential clients?
In the diagram above I’ve grouped these adjacent services into three broad areas:
We generally focus on technical issues, but we have occasionally helped (or been asked to help) clients with everything from corporate strategy to sourcing of new technical talent to market analysis for UCaaS.
This kind of work is fun for me, and certainly has potential to be valuable to our clients – the only question is whether the trust and credibility we have built in our core service area still applies when someone needs help with a business rather than a technical problem.
Adjacent Technology Expertise
While we spend most of our time working on Metaswitch products, our clients have similar needs relating to the technical infrastructure supporting these products (virtualization, IP networks, SD-WAN) as well as 3rd-party products in the voice network – and of course software development using the Metaswitch APIs.
As above, we dip our toes into these waters when someone needs help, but it’s not our primary focus and we don’t advertise these services as a core part of our offering. I’d love to have a network of contractors with a wide range of technical expertise that I could draw on here and there for specific projects, to make sure that our clients could always get the answers they need from us.
Routine Support Services
This last area is a little different – in that the skills involved in running a NOC, or executing a migration or provisioning subscribers are exactly the same skills as we use for our core services… it’s just that these are routine activities, performed at scale.
Currently if someone asks us to migrate hundreds of trunks or provision thousands of subscribers I generally decline, because we are priced as experts, not as a pair of hands – so while we could do this kind of work it doesn’t feel like a great use of our time or our client’s money.
But… this is a fairly arbitrary constraint. If there was sufficient demand for this kind of thing I could expand the team with people better suited for more routine work, with the more senior consultants used as an escalation path.
Questions for you
So… dear reader, I’ve laid out my thinking, and now I’m hoping for some input. I’ll ask a few specific questions, but feel free to give more general input – all help is appreciated.
Here are my questions:
- Do you prefer to work with a lot of highly specialized consultants / contractors, or would you rather build a deeper relationship with one firm who can serve a broader range of needs?
- Do you currently use outside help (contractors / consultants) for any of the ‘adjacent areas’ described above? If so, which areas?
- If we broaden the scope of services offered where should we start? What do you see as the most valuable or most closely adjacent service from those listed above?
- What have I forgotten? What service do you wish we provided, but is missing from my list?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do you currently trust us in each of the 4 areas listed above (Metaswitch products, Business consulting, Adjacent technology and Routine services).
Please know that I truly appreciate anyone who writes back – whether we’ve worked together before or not, all input is very helpful. Feel free to send me an email if you want to respond privately, or add a comment on the website.