Operating: 5 years
Leader: John Jones
Location: Sydney – Australia
Six years ago John Jones was an Enterprise Architect working for Sun Microsystems. When the company began outsourcing these roles, John and two former colleagues formed their own company to partner with Sun in the delivery of its products.
The partners knew that there were gaps in the way that their new company was doing business
Qubit Consulting was immediately successful in that its three consulting partners all won significant amounts of work, achieved great results for their customers and won repeat work. They were making money! On the other hand, the partners knew that there were gaps in the way that their new company was doing business.
The partners had an initial meeting with Jon Dale of Small Fish Business Consulting and after Jon had done some preliminary analysis of how their company worked, the partners agreed to appoint Dale to a coaching role for a trial period. This trial ended up lasting for years!
It was through the coach’s problem solving and communication skills that real progress was made
Dale spent a significant amount of time asking questions and raising issues with John Jones and his colleagues. Jones described Jon’s role as an observant outsider (someone not blinkered by the norms and standards within the information technology industry) who could ask the hard questions, facilitate the discussions that needed to be had, probe for solutions in problem areas, make original and worthwhile creative suggestions and hold the partners accountable for the actions that they agreed to perform. Even more importantly to Dale’s success as a coach was his outstanding listening skills. Through active listening and probing questions he was able to zero in on critical issues very quickly. It was through the coach’s problem solving and communication skills that real progress was made.
The partners and Dale agreed that the service delivery and project management aspects of Qubit’s business were operating effectively and did not really need the benefit of Jon’s coaching. On the other hand, it was agreed that sales and marketing were a significant priority. John Jones himself admits to having said derogatory things about “sales people” over the years and that he and his partners had dedicated very little time to the acquisition of new business.
Sales and marketing needed to change in two ways. Firstly, the partners agreed that specific time and people resources had to be dedicated to this critical function. There would be no business growth without actively looking for new customers. Also, Qubit needed to communicate why their potential customers should choose them over often significantly cheaper competitors (in the IT business it is common for operators to underquote and then add elements onto their contracts at a later date thus putting Qubit at a pricing disadvantage).
Qubit were a “safe pair of hands” and that this, in a very unreliable industry, was a great benefit to customers
Jon Dale spent some time quizzing the partners on why a customer should choose Qubit Consulting. After some discussion and analysis it was agreed that in an industry where IT project failures were very common Qubit delivered successful outcomes on budget, on time, with a minimum of fuss and in a way that both customers and Qubit operators actually enjoyed. John Jones explained that, in effect, unlike so many competitors, Qubit were a “safe pair of hands” and that this, in a very unreliable industry, was a great benefit to customers.
The “safe pair of hands” concept became the Qubit mantra that backed every sales and marketing initiative from that point on. It not only drove business proposals, promotion pieces, presentations and the web site but it also became the driving philosophy behind all company communication and even influenced staff selection decisions.
Five years down the track the company has grown. It now has between ten and fifteen employees (depending on how many jobs they have on) and is generating enough revenue to justify John Jones focusing on the sales and marketing function rather than billing IT work.
He really just likes things the way they are going right now… so why would he want to move on?
According to Jones, Qubit is now in a pretty nice place. He explains that it is making good money (revenue is growing), it is evolving in different and interesting directions, it is offering work that all of the employees and partners love and that it is keeping its customers happy and winning significant repeat work. While early on the partners had made a goal to grow the company to around forty staff and have an organization in place that would be saleable, John is no longer sure that he supports this plan. He really just likes things the way they are going right now… so why would he want to move on?
This mantra now drives almost every aspect of their business
John Jones and the Qubit team have always been good at delivering successful information technology outcomes for their clients… not something that every IT services company can boast. The problem was that they did not know how to get this message across to new potential customers. The Qubit team were outstanding technical performers and project managers but if their company was to succeed and grow they not only needed to built an effective sales and marketing function but they needed to make their marketing and service delivery efforts reflect the fact they were the industry “safe pair of hands”. This is the critical fundamental transformation that Jon Dale and Small Fish helped Qubit Consulting achieve. This mantra now drives almost every aspect of their business and rightly so in an industry where customers and deliverers alike miss out on a lot of sleep because of projects gone wrong.