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#952: We Can't See What We Don't Look For

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 29, 2008
My partner and I run a boutique consulting firm with essentially no competition. We are looking to expand and wonder what markets are likely to have similar low competition, sort of a "Blue Ocean" strategy.

Claims that "we have no competitors" are fairly common among small consulting firms. At first glance, this would seem to be because service quality is so exceptional and client access so robust, that no other firm could hope to break into this gravy train. What is more likely is that the market for services is so provincial that it is overlooked by any serious competitors.  This is not a bad thing, but shouldn't be mistaken for noncompetition.

Service commoditization, globalization, fast cycle mimicry of new services - all are trends that may make a consultant's small parochial market in danger of being invaded. Around the world, native species of plants and animals are being overwhelmed by invasive species. Most of these invaders have been ignored by most governments, despite warnings from biologists. Finally, after commercial losses have mounted into hundreds of millions of dollars, suddenly snakehead, kudzu, lionfish and melaleuca are household words to farmers, ranchers and fishers. So much for protected "markets."

Tip: If we presume there is no competition for our services, we will never see it coming when it does. Be proactive and ask your clients if they didn't use you to provide advice and technical services, who would they use. How would they go about finding another source, including insourcing, to receive what they receive from you. Conduct a survey in your space of what consulting services are most valuable for your industry. Then, ask how users of those services would cut expenses or increase speed or breadth of service delivery. If you think hard enough, you may come up with some troubling answers on your own. But don't presume you are free from competition.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  planning  sustainability 

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