big and small photo

When it comes to choosing to work with big or small suppliers (say a global advertising agency versus a local web developer), businesses tend to swing in cycles.

Say a business is looking to set up their website. They may choose to go with a large global agency for the sake of “safety” and stability.

Over time they come to realise that the large agency has policies and practices which get in the way. Because of their size, they are not as responsive to requests for help. The account manager was keen to help but could not actually do the work himself.

The agency pitched Wow ideas, but fall short at the execution and operations end. The delivered website was beautiful but impractical. Request for changes took a long time to happen. Bugs remain unfixed for months and months. Maintenance costs skyrocket.

Worse still, the website did not integrate with internal processes, requiring lots of manual workarounds, labour intensive reformatting and re-entering of information. Even the critical, frequently changing information were impossibly difficult to change.

So the business start talking to a small web developer. They are much more responsive. The business could now directly access the very people doing the work. Things got done quickly. There was more palpable personal responsibility in the work.

As the business gained more confident with the web developer, they starter working improvements to the site. Keen for the work, the developer took time to understand the business’ needs, and delivered upgrades that better dovetailed the site with operations. Suddenly, the website became an integrated. useful and usable part of the business.

When time came to revamp the site, the local web developer was chosen over the large ad agency. It was only logical. And given the relationship built up over time, issues of safety and stability became less significant.

After a period of time, the cycle swings back again. A change in management personnel, or corporate strategy may trigger the seeking of new perspectives. Managers are suddenly being taken out to expensive lunches by a big ad agency. The agency started pitching Wow and fresh ideas – ideas which are quite different from what the incumbent small web developer’s been delivering. Suddenly, the big ad agency seemed cooler, more fun, more “creative”. The operational pains were forgotten. In any case the new managers were keen make a mark, a big splash.

So the account moves back to a big ad agency. And the cycle starts once more…

This cycle of switching between large and small suppliers probably applicable to other services too. Like graphic design, legal, and so on.

Is this a healthy way to inject new thinking to the business? Or a waste of time and effort? Is it possible

Have you experienced it in your industry?

(The above is just an anecdotal example made up from various real real-world scenarios. I am not saying all ad agencies are unable to deliver great looking websites that work well with business requirements, or that all small web developers are saints of customer service. )