Does Size Matter…to Pharma?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

Does Size Matter…to Pharma?
Many small Biopharma Consultants like us here at Marenon sometimes feel that we are competing against the ‘Big Boys’.  I’m not so sure that we are,  or even if we should. Consulting businesses with hundreds of areas of practice, thousands of people, tons of resources  and huge marketing budgets have a place in the world and that includes the Biopharma world as well.


The scale of these organizations is both massive and impressive and is sometimes needed to help even bigger Pharma companies deal with large transnational business issues. For example, many of these big Consulting firms have a global presence and can leverage their resources around the globe to match the geographic footprint of their Clients.

At Marenon, we believe that we operate in the different space than these ‘giants’. In a hyper-changing global environment like the one we live in today, speed, agility and adaptability are more important than sheer size. Just as there are certain projects that are probably best suited to large multinational consulting businesses, there are some that are ideally suited to small firms.

I’ve observed that small consulting firms seem to do a better job at:

  • Projects involving People and Processes instead of technology. It’s more than understanding cultural norms, it’s about understanding individual nuance.
  • Creating documents that need to be tailored and that are time-sensitive. Training materials are a good example here.
  • Providing geo-specific/regional talks and analyses.
  • Being competitive with pricing.
  • Being adaptable to compressed schedules.

If you have a small consulting business, especially in the Pharma space, how can you do a better job communicating your competitive advantage to the marketplace? What can you bring to the Client that is uniquely you? Many Principals in Pharma Consultancies have deep experience in a range of areas and can view problems more synergistically – understanding the subtle interconnectedness between areas such as Marketing, Product Development, Finance and Technology. They don’t necessarily need to bring in a team of people for each area.

There is another element to the small vs. big discussion that is often overlooked and that is entanglement.  Many large consulting firms attempt to entangle their clients into concurrent multi-functional relationships. They may have a Management Consulting Contract where they are helping the Board with strategy. They may have an IT contract where they are working with the company on a Technology solution implementation and they may have a Finance relationship. Now, you need execution on a quick Brand Support project and you have identified a great small firm that could get it done in no time, on-budget and on-target. The problem: You can’t hire them because there is a broader, entangled relationship that exists.

Small firms won’t try to entangle you, just give you great service. They are more likely to allow the success of their work to determine the breadth and depth of their relationship with you. At Marenon, for example, the scope of our work with a client is never based on our need to entangle only on our client’s need and our capability to deliver timely results.

What have your experience been with small consulting firms in any industry but particularly in Pharma? Do you find them competitive with the ‘big guys’? In your estimation, what could small firms do more of that would make them more competitive? Where do you see the industry heading?


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