While being niche can separate you from the competition, the key to really being able to service your clients is having the ability to adjust to their needs.
Unfortunately, as many entrepreneurs have found to their detriment, it can be costly adding an employee or even department for ad hoc client work that’s outside your core offering.
Natalie Baty and Joanne Hutchinson, founders of OffCentre Des!gn, a graphic design, corporate branding and eventing company have approached this problem by looking to their wider network.
“My expertise is client management, while Jo is the creative side of things, but we’ve kept our team small,” says Baty.
“One way we’ve managed to do this is to be very open to forging relationships with other entrepreneurs.”
While some of these entrepreneurs have businesses whose core disciplines overlap those of OffCentre, others complement Baty and Hutchinson’s own offering.
“We’ve learnt over the years to not only include our own expertise in pitches, but also a range of possible additional extras that we can manage on behalf of our clients as well,” says Hutchinson.
This significantly expands OffCentre’s offering without the additional overheads. “Entrepreneurs need to support each other,” says Baty.
“We’ve found a select group of trusted providers who we not only work well with, but are very comfortable recommending to our clients. They of course do the same for us, and the result is that we can all add extra services on a per project basis.”
Another plus point is that entrepreneurial businesses tend to be flexible, focused on fast turnaround times and are lean and mean in their operations.
“Because we all operate in similar ways, we don’t have a lot of management levels within our businesses. This keeps us very fast and flexible. We also know that to ensure future work we need to deliver on projects and not let each other down,” adds Hutchinson.
This is not to say the business partners don’t have fun doing what they do, or collaborating with others.
“We live on tight deadlines, that’s the nature of our work,” says Baty.
“It’s made choosing the right partners incredibly important. You need to know you can work with those businesses under pressure, create a great product and emerge on the other side with your sense of humour intact.
“Price is one thing, but great partners come through honest, open relationships based on shared values.”
The secret to staying lean
Keeping overheads low means that these savings can be passed on to clients too.
Choosing to outsource elements of a project keeps OffCentre’s team small, but Hutchinson and Baty have also made a few other conscious decisions along the way.
“We’ve learnt to focus on design and strategic thinking,” says Baty. “We don’t spec the most expensive paper or choose the most expensive partners for example.
“We work with people like us: Interested in getting a job done well, on time and at a highly competitive price. It’s engendered great loyalty from our clients.”
- Players: Natalie Baty and Joanne Hutchinson
- Company: OffCentre Des!gn
- Est: 1998
- Connect: www.offcentre.co.za ; +27 (0)11 794 5034