Consider this scenario: Your firm has just completed a project that involved assessing your client’s status with regard to OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and making recommendations to close its gaps.
The good news? Your client is so pleased with the outcome that they have asked you to repeat the project, within the next 60 days, for all their U.S. facilities.
The challenge? Your relatively small, and definitely local, health and safety staff is overscheduled for the next two months and can’t possibly travel to all locations to conduct the gap assessments.
The Challenge: Small firm, complex or geographically diverse project
One of the issues facing small to medium-sized EHS consulting firms is that while their staff may be technically and geographically limited, some of their clients have complex projects that span multiple geographies. How can a local or regional EHS firm compete with the large international organizations for these projects? How can they continue to be the trusted, “go-to” EHS and/or SR (social responsibility) resource for their local clients who have out-of-state or out-of-country facilities?
Meet the challenge, extending your reach: Small- to medium-sized firms have a couple of competitive advantages that are critical to their success. Typically, overhead costs for such firms are lower than for the larger, international organizations. Clients also appreciate that senior staff from smaller firms most often are quite involved in performing the technical work, not just in negotiating contracts for such work. A small to medium-sized firm that is able to network to other, similarly sized firms, across technical specialties and across different regions of the globe, has a “larger footprint” than it otherwise would on its own. Networking can allow this firm to provide its clients with the benefit of lower costs and senior technical expertise - even for the client’s most complex, global projects. Keys to effective networking Sourcing: An effective network provides small- to medium-sized firms with another competitive advantage. They can now offer to help their clients by eliminating the hours and days their clients would spend to track and locate the appropriate expertise, in the global region required for their project. The client can simply go to the EHS consulting firm they already trust; this firm can readily reach out and tap the appropriate technical resource, pre-qualified and available in its network database. As one firm engaged in such a network describes it, “It’s like having satellite offices around the world… but only when you need them.”
Quality: Networking can only provide its advantages if firms are confident in the quality of other firms in the network. A strong vetting process is essential to the success of the network. The Phylmar Group is an organization that has an established network of more than 500 environmental, health, safety and social responsibility consulting firms in more than 50 countries around the globe. These firms have applied to become a part of the network and have been vetted by the Phylmar Group, which received an award from the Environmental Business Journal in 2005 for this innovative business model. Phylmar pre-qualifies each network affiliate and then guarantees the quality of the affiliate’s work with its clients.
Continuing to grow and extend its model, the Phylmar Group recently established an “Inner Circle” membership, in which qualified, participating network affiliates (now Inner Circle members) have access to the entire Phylmar network.
As one member put it, “The Phylmar business model allows us to have the geographic and technical reach of large global firms at a fraction of the cost.”