Business Growth – AFAB Is a Four-Letter Word, So Say Focus Instead

Willard Rich

AFAB (A-fab) noun:

1) a sale of “something for a buck” in purchase to create profits and hold billable personnel chaotic

2) a organization condition which can impede enterprise development, differentiation and/or earnings

3) in far more mature firms, a symptom of lack of focus on precise merchandise or provider offerings


Having said that you outline it, AFAB (anything for a buck) is a situation, which usually impacts a small business at some stage or points in its lifestyle cycle. It is important to figure out when your company is suffering from AFAB in get to acquire corrective steps. Failure to do so will impression your organization via lower gross margins, amplified possibility costs, and absence of model and solutions differentiation. Even superior, find out the warning signals (e.g., flat revenue development or constantly needing diverse capabilities to team projects) in buy to steer clear of the problem whenever feasible.

The remainder of this posting addresses organization advancement and where AFAB can take place, AFAB’s results in, signs and treatment, and the added benefits from minimizing AFAB in your organization.

Business Development and Maturity

The expansion cycle of an IT specialist solutions firm encompasses four phases. A lot of corporations hardly ever expertise the comprehensive cycle, which does not say they are not profitable. It just suggests they almost certainly did not get to their full likely. Also, it is possible that a firm can jump into the marketplace with a exclusive featuring and rocket by means of the advancement cycle. This predicament would obviously be an exception.

The four phases of expansion typically take place in the following sequence:

1) Organization Initiation

In this phase the business enterprise is just receiving began possibly from scratch with some sort of small business strategy or seeded by one to two original accounts you have by now presold. Notice is provided to advertising and marketing and sales pursuits and high-quality of undertaking supply. Scope of services is centered on what your staff is familiar with greatest, but to continue to generate revenue you promote what you rationalize you can provide, even if you have to use third party contractors.

This is the most typical situation for AFAB. It is straightforward to justify, and it helps you deliver revenue to fund the business enterprise. On the upside, you may well start off to develop some long-expression customer interactions. On the downside, you have difficulties differentiating by yourself, for the reason that it is challenging to define what you do in terms other than the breadth of systems you use. To potential purchasers, you sound like absolutely everyone else. In addition, you typically undervalue your companies based on the value you can command.

2) Exercise Advancement

At this level you identify that there are some designs to your technologies work. You have distinct emphasis on sure distributors and their solutions, so you make a decision to increase the firm’s depth of encounter in these number of critical systems. Observe administrators are assigned to guide the enhancement of answers, the administration of people in just their procedures, improvement of partnerships (e.g., merchandise suppliers and teaching providers), and eventually the profitability of the methods them selves.

It is for the duration of this stage that the organization begins to grow to be identified for its technological expertise. Most, if not all, of the company’s get the job done is accomplished in the community marketplace. Your specialized know-how starts to slender down the level of competition some, but differentiating the business is nonetheless fairly complicated.

3) Organization Expansion

This stage is characterized by progress into business methods and/or geographic enlargement. Just as you acknowledged specialized specialization in the previously phase, your firm now has a pattern of performance in industries (i.e., verticals) and business features (e.g., gross sales, human assets, and so forth.). The intersection of a technology and just one or both of these other parts will allow you to aim in on specific business enterprise methods. For each and every a single you assign a exercise manager as you did for your technological know-how methods.

These organization remedies begin to give the business true differentiation. You slender the subject of opposition down noticeably and can commence to command higher fees for the do the job you supply. In addition, as you grasp these more exclusive choices in the neighborhood current market and are recognized for your skills, you are afforded the opportunity to acquire them to regional and national markets, specially these you watch as being underserved.

4) Constant Enhancement

Your business is rising, financially rewarding, differentiated and recognised in the market. The opposition is aiming for you. You require to continuously re-assess all areas of your company from services choices to marketing and sales to shipping to operations. Usually, the two most significant areas necessitating concentration are changing your offerings to fulfill industry needs and improving upon efficiency in delivery and guidance services.

This is a time when you can more confidently introduce new means to supply offerings to your present and focus on purchasers such as managed products and services (e.g., software guidance or community infrastructure) and SaaS (i.e., software package as a provider).

AFAB is commonplace in the 1st phase, Small business Initiation. It can also arise in the other phases co-existing with precise practices or enterprise remedies. In some instances, AFAB can be justified on a momentary basis. For case in point, if your business is completely assignments-based mostly and you are dealing with the down side of the “roller-coaster” product sales impact, then you could possibly want to acquire action to enhance utilization by accepting operate exterior of your standard scope. In this case, trying to keep a frequent eye on resource allocation is important in order to lower the time AFAB is widespread.

Triggers of AFAB

There are numerous motives AFAB can surface area in your organization.

  • Remaining in the Business Initiation section of your firm’s daily life cycle (where AFAB is a typical occurrence)
  • Not defining your scope of companies and just assuming that above time it will determine alone
  • Lack of attention to company scheduling and examination of outcomes – you are active operating in the enterprise and unable to devote the time essential to function on the company
  • Unassigned billable consultants on the bench
  • Somewhat lean income pipeline
  • Having a very good administration workforce, but lacking someone with the encounter to proactively deal with your providers portfolio

Signs and symptoms

The warning indications of AFAB are numerous. The challenge is acquiring controls in place to recognize them as before long as doable. Amongst the signs and symptoms are:

  • Revenues are flat or are increasing at a lowering charge around time
  • Every single job you provide is a one particular-off (i.e., unique exactly where you have not completed the do the job prior to) or is a further variation of prior perform – there is minimal repeatability in shipping
  • You under no circumstances seem to be to have the right personnel to fill the available job roles
  • Gross margins are flat or reducing thanks to raising expense of shipping – you are employing additional third get together consultants at a larger than budgeted price tag
  • Gross sales cycles remain reasonably lengthy and crucial chances are bunched together below the very same sales phase or two
  • Capable guide technology is inconsistent (e.g., limited marketing action) signaling one more roller coaster wave in the gross sales cycle


Eliminating AFAB and preventing foreseeable future business enterprise plateaus have to have prognosis of the ailment, cure and preventative steps intended alongside 3 concepts:

1. Target

  • Evaluation historic data on initiatives (i.e., numbers and profits) to establish designs of systems made use of, industries served, and organization capabilities and problems dealt with
  • Evaluate historical consumer info (i.e., numbers, earnings, industries, company sizing, purchasers, issues, size of time as a client, etc.) to recognize an perfect target account profile
  • Variable in existing revenue pipeline action and information of other spots (e.g., pending variations in technological innovation, likely marketplace variations, and many others.)
  • Refine your expert services portfolio to incorporate the choices that most effective help the way you established for the business
  • Establish and assign observe administrators to guide just about every spot in further more enhancement of options, administration of their consulting teams, advancement of partnerships, profits assist, services delivery, customer marriage administration, and developing favorable economical final results

As elementary as it sounds, it is astonishing how many IT expert services companies do not complete an assessment of their initiatives and customers to ascertain this crucial information and facts.

2. Alignment

  • Guarantee that the firm administration group is in sync on the route of the enterprise and decisions created all around your solutions portfolio
  • Present obvious definition of targets and aims to the enterprise places that will assist the methods, in particular internet marketing and recruiting
  • Talk the newly refined company strategy internally, then to the market when completely ready

3. Metrics

  • Improve your month to month effectiveness dashboard to consist of indicators of a opportunity AFAB predicament (e.g., developing use of third social gathering contractors)
  • Handle the gross sales pipeline to discover the ebb and movement in new qualified prospects, delays in closing opportunities, and many others.
  • Build effectiveness reporting for every follow to improve the manager’s means to operate his/her company

Each and every of these a few areas (i.e., target, alignment and metrics) calls for ongoing notice as element of leadership’s accountability in just the company.

Benefits of Minimizing AFAB

When AFAB has a position in the Organization Initiation stage of a company’s lifetime cycle and can be justified at other instances on a short-term foundation, you must create the discipline to handle AFAB to a minimum amount, which usually means studying to say “no”, an unpleasant point to do. The likely benefits of avoiding or limiting AFAB by establishing options addressing specific industries, organization functions and systems in your company include:

  • Improved differentiation of your provider choices
  • Greater option to operate with shopper executives when you sell small business-oriented alternatives
  • Increased repeatability of assignments and perform factors
  • More productive projects, so lower expenses of delivery
  • Decreased hazard on tasks
  • Better pricing prospects primarily based on differentiation
  • Enhanced revenues
  • Improved gross margins
  • Extra successful on-boarding of new consultants

These gains are serious and do not need significant incremental financial commitment in your organization.

Do you undergo from AFAB?

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