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Following the customer. How we can learn a thing or two from Alphabet and Meta

Insights May 4, 2022

Bev White, CEO, Nash Squared

It’s a staggering fact that up to half of the world’s largest companies will not exist in ten years.

Driven by digital, the world is moving at an increasing rate, and even if a company is highly profitable and successful right now, if it stays still, the chances are that customers will find other products, services or technologies that can satisfy their needs in the future.

This constantly changing focal point of how and where you can add value is now a permanent feature of the world.

Big tech platform expansion

The provision of a portfolio of products and services that can meet the changing needs of customers has been behind the remarkable growth of digital platform businesses – the tech giants like Meta and Alphabet. They both started out as one primary service (Facebook, Google) and then began to expand into other, related services, always with the view of keeping the customer central to what they do. It’s a model that can unlock significant opportunity and growth. For example, research from MIT Sloan found that digital platform companies were twice as profitable and were more than twice as valuable as their conventional counterparts.

Following the customer

This ability to ‘follow the customer’ and provide clients with relevant solutions across a connected portfolio of needs doesn’t need to be confined to ‘pure’ tech. It’s something we are adapting into our business model at Nash Squared – our new enterprise-wide brand name, launched today, for what was the Harvey Nash Group.

Like Meta and Alphabet, businesses often start out with one primary service – in our case, technology recruitment (Harvey Nash). Altogether, there are now six Nash Squared businesses that are linked in what they do through the theme of technology. We can provide people, technology, or people to advise on technology.

For businesses in or connected to the technology sector, having the agility and nimbleness to match services to customers’ changing needs is essential. Cyber security, for example, has become a major area of need that is hampered by acute skills shortages – so we have developed a virtual CISO practice in response. 

Through adopting this model and developing a platform of related services there is a greater opportunity for rapid growth. This is why we have an ambitious plan to more than double our headcount over the next five years, from 2,500 to over 6,000 people.

A culture of collaboration

Most important of all is to build a common culture and purpose amongst your teams, that is founded on collaboration in the interests of the customer. That culture comes through a myriad of things: communication from the top, good line management, and operational (and social) interaction. When staff feel that they belong to one uniting organisation then teamwork and collaboration will naturally build between the component parts.

The point you want to get to is where team members are not asking themselves, “How can I sell more of X to client Y?” but rather, “What issues and challenges is client Y trying to solve – and how can we help them from across the services in our businesses?” Collaboration between business teams – workshopping, brainstorming, activity planning – can then bring the best of each service line to create solutions really focused on individual clients.

More than the sum of the parts

A business that has a culture aligned to its clients’ needs and that can bring the power of its different brands into play to help meet them will achieve more success and grow faster than a mono-line organisation centred around just one capability.

I believe that this is one of the secrets behind the growth of the giant tech platforms. They know that when you work together to solve things, the power is exponentially higher. That is certainly our aim.

Whatever specific line your business is in, think about what ‘following the customer’ means for you. What are your customers’ lifecycles, what needs do they have and at what different stages – and how are you innovating to service those? Develop a portfolio that can flex and adapt to meet customer needs, and strengthen the coherence of your offerings by building collaborative work patterns amongst your teams. You may never achieve the extraordinary market penetration of an Alphabet or a Meta, but you could propel your business on a faster trajectory of growth.

Welcome to a growing trend of the future – leaving (and continuing) from a platform near you.

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