We’ve all been there – you have that brilliant light bulb moment (while sitting in traffic or doing the washing up usually), you have a great idea, it will be perfect for your Business model, you’ve never seen it offered anywhere else – it is going to be that thing you have been looking for to put your HR Consultancy Practice on the map – finally. You can’t wait to get started.
So you draft out some preliminary ideas – you get even more excited and enthused by the possibilities and then the very next time you log onto social media there is someone else offering almost the exact same thing. It’s like magic – and not in a good way.
The truth is that there are very few genuinely original ideas out there – most things have been thought of and tried before. Also it’s like when you decide to buy a new car and all of a sudden you see that car everywhere, even though you had hardly ever noticed it before. The fact is that your ‘new’ idea probably has been in your news feed all along – it’s just that you weren’t tuned into it before.
When I decided that I would start my HR Consultancy Practice back in 2012 I knew that there would be other people out there offering the same things – I just wasn’t prepared for quite how many of them there would be – all of a sudden there were HR Consultants around every corner and I had no idea how I was ever going to succeed in finding clients when there was this much competition. Before very long I was wondering if I had made a horrible mistake, feeling like the market was already over saturated and the imminent failure of the fledgling business that I had been so thrilled to set up seemed inevitable.
Fortunately I had a few people around me who were able to give me some really good advice to pull me out of the pit of despair I was rapidly descending into…
- There is always enough business to go around – how many businesses with employees are within a 20 mile radius of you? Now think about how many clients you actually need for your business to be successful? It’s a tiny, tiny percentage of the potential market.
- Do something different – stand out. Don’t just offer what everyone else is offering or you will never be noticed in the crowd. I came from an entertainment and hospitality background so this was how I differentiated my services. It was really easy for me to focus on the characteristics and requirements of this market and show that I understood the specific challenges – before too long employers were coming to me because I specialised.
- Collaborate – it’s not about competition. Often my very best source of referrals was other HR Consultants. Either because they were already at capacity and couldn’t take on more clients, or because they were going into interim work and needed someone to refer their existing clients onto or because they didn’t provide the particular service a client was requesting. I also regularly referred people onto other Consultants myself – for instance I had a contact that specialised in TUPE work so any enquiries I got about that went to him.
- Don’t be too Corporate – there is a temptation to be as bland and faceless as possible in the belief that it makes us appear more ‘professional’ to potential clients. Employers are often really put off by that – they want someone who is going to relate to them, who is personable and easy to talk to and won’t just bark HR related jargon at them while telling them what they can’t do. Yes – of course you need to know your stuff but that won’t help you to stand out in a crowded market. You need to let your personality shine through.
So is the market already over saturated?
Yes and No – there are certainly a lot of Independent HR Consultants out there, offering what you are doing. But take a bit of time to identify what makes you different, don’t try to speak to everyone for fear of missing out on a Client, a lot of people are trying to do things exactly the same way so it really doesn’t take much to be a little different and get yourself and your business seen.