When David contracts with Goliath

The potential rewards of working with large organisations are obviously enormous. Many members of The Consultancy Growth Network spend years pursuing and cultivating these contracts. But these lucrative deals can serve up pitfalls too.

Bidding for contracts with large companies

In this webinar, our founder Marc Jantzen and John Woodhouse, partner at Wallace LLP, offered their expert insight on how to work with big corporates. Because if you get it right, the rewards can be enormous.

However, there are plenty of scare stories for consultancy owners to take note of too. In the webinar, Marc related stories of members wrangling with major firms for unpaid fees amounting to six figures. And John told us of a consultancy that misread the contract and ended up having to void their fees.

Contract terms with big companies

The primary lesson from John was that once your work has started and the contract has been signed, then the horse has bolted. You need to be crystal clear on what terms you’ve agreed to. Big corporates are complex organisations, with their own unwieldy bureaucracies. Once you’re on a track, it’s very hard to get off.

In his presentation, John offered some key do’s and don’ts for consultancies aiming to work with big firms.

Do:

  • Push your own paperwork – if you have T&C’s or an engagement letter that you have developed over time that you’re comfortable with – push it! You’ll be surprised by how large firms are often willing to accept your terms.
  • Review your documentation – this is probably one of the scarier ones. The master services agreement you’ll receive may be a stack of papers. It can be intimidating. But remember: if things go sour, any conflict will be resolved by some variation of ‘What’s in the contract?’
  • Take advice – large corporates have a squad of people to look after their interests. As a consultancy owner, you’re a lot more exposed. A good contracts lawyer can make all the difference. It’s an expense, sure – but it can save your bacon down the line.

Don’t:

  • Just sign it – this is an obvious one, but it’s surprising how many people still fall foul of this. Take your time and don’t be pressured into making rash decisions.
  • Be intimidated – big firms will throw a lot of things at you in the negotiation stage. You need to stand firm and compose yourself. Ultimately, they want to work with you because of your skills.
  • Swallow the rhetoric –  As John pointed out, he’s only known one non-negotiable contract: it was with a Saudi sovereign fund. In reality, there’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ contract. Don’t be fobbed off by ‘no other supplier asks these questions.’

It’s often said that good fences make good neighbours. In a similar vein, a happy working relationship with a major organisation starts with defining the parameters of the work in advance. Get it right and you should find yourself doing lucrative and rewarding work.

The full recording of Marc and John’s presentation, along with recordings of all our events, is available to members via the Growth Hub.

If you would like to join our next webinar and you are not a member of the network, try us out by registering for one of our events for free. If you would like to join us and scale up your business, become a member or contact George to find out more. We’d love to welcome you to our community.

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Article | Operations Strategy and Leadership

Written by

Ali El Moghraby

Head of Marketing

The Consultancy Growth Network

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