Episode 66 – The Hero Syndrome: A Dirty Little Secret About Professional Service Firms – Member Case with  Marc Beattie

The Hero Syndrome if left unchecked, will prevent you from scaling your firm. On this episode, we discuss how to overcome this problem by interviewing Marc Beattie, Founder & CEO at Wainhouse Research. 


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Boutique with Collective 54, a podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that don’t know us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community to help you grow, scale and exert your firm bigger and faster. My name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder, and I’ll be your host today. And on this episode, we’re going to talk about how a founder slash CEO owner replicates him or herself in his team so that they can scale. And joining me is one of our members, Marc Beattie. Did I say that correctly? Marc Beattie? 

Marc Beattie [00:00:54] You did Greg. 

Greg Alexander [00:00:54] OK, very good. I second guess myself there for a moment. So, Marc, if you would mind give the audience a proper introduction. 

Marc Beattie [00:01:04] Yeah. So currently I run a market research firm. So what that means, basically, is that we focus on sizing markets, forecasting markets specifically in the enterprise communications space, all the stuff that you’re familiar with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, things like that. And my background is coming from from tech, basically. I spend a bunch of years up in the Boston 128 area in the late 1980s and 1990s out in San Jose. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:32] So this is going to sound familiar to you, park your car and Harvard Yard. I grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, so you probably have heard a lot, lots of guys with my accent, you know? 

Marc Beattie [00:01:43] Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:44] All right. So let’s set this up a bit. So many times professional services organizations don’t scale as well as they could because there’s a bottleneck in the bottleneck sits with the leader of the organization. He or she feels as if they have to be in every meeting and do everything themselves, or it won’t get done right. There’ll be mistakes, et cetera. And at some point, scaling or scaling an organization is just too much work for one person. So this knowledge and skill that the leader has has to be replicated in other people in order for the organization to scale. And it’s not an easy thing to do. It sounds easy, but it’s not an easy thing to do. But if it’s not done, then the firm is going to scale as much as leaders going to scale. And eventually that’s that’s not going to scale at all because only 24 hours in a day and it’s one person. So that’s how we’re going to discuss today this concept of replication. So Mark, let’s start off with maybe just an explanation around this issue from your perspective. Have you run into this issue before and what are your general thoughts about it? 

Marc Beattie [00:02:56] Well, I think for many professional services firms and then specifically Sure hours, it’s an overwhelming issue. Yeah, it’s overwhelming from the standpoint that quite frequently you found the firm based on who you know, your expertize and they know you and they trust you as an example. And then when you go out to solicit business, it’s you out there, so to speak, that they’re buying at least initially and then trying to replicate that, that that reputation, trust and quality becomes a challenge when you take on people who you don’t know. And that’s that’s the from my perspective, that’s the only way you can scale. You run out of people, you know, pretty quickly. And then you have to start sourcing other people in the organization and that that process of, you know, qualifying them, training them and then subsequently trusting them just becomes a constant issue. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:51] You know, one of the solutions to this problem is this concept of employee certification, which is a big topic. I’ll do my best to summarize it. Basically, what the goal there is to certify an employee that they have two things. They have the knowledge and skill to be successful and let me distinguish between those two. So knowledge is knowledge of my domain. So for example, if I’m in accounting, you know, I understand the the gap requirements on accounting generally accepted accounting principles. That’s knowledge. A skill is something different, which is, let’s say I’m a consultant and I need to be able to interview an executive. Well, there’s a skill in doing that. You know, how do you open the interview? You know, how do you not lead the witness? How do you summarize your interview notes? That’s a skill, and there are two different things. And breaking down the requirements of a job like in Mark’s case, market research and everything that that might mean into knowledge and skills and certifying others is one way to solve that particular problem. It can be a lot of work, and if it doesn’t go right, it can be dangerous. But if it does work, it can liberate the firm and allow them to reach new heights. Mark, have you experimented with this concept of employee certification at all? 

Marc Beattie [00:05:04] I wouldn’t say certification. You know, we have a process in which we keep on refining over time. And the concern that we have is that other firms much. Larger firms than ours will typically hire students right out of graduate school, and then they’ll train them to run them to that program that you’re referring to. And we’ve taken alternative route whereby we take product managers in the industry and we pivot their careers to become an analyst, which means that in your frame of reference, they have knowledge, but they don’t have skill and they have industry knowledge. They have product knowledge, technology, knowledge, competitive knowledge. But what they don’t have is they don’t have the skill to write and execute products associated that were remain with clients, meaning market intelligence reports and then custom research. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:50] So that’s an interesting take. I can see why you would do that, especially in the context of what your competitors do doing something different. So then it sounds like they they walk through the front door with the knowledge and then you teach them the skill. 

Marc Beattie [00:06:05] Yes, exactly. Exactly. And it’s combination. It sounds strange, but it’s a community effort as far as teaching the skill. And so what happens is when a when a new product manager comes into our firm, there’s a group of other analysts that join alongside and want that person to be successful. And you can see them on the messaging other teams application as an example, where they’re always sharing best practices as an example. And then what happens is depending on where they come for about six months or so, they’re always paired, hit up with somebody else in all of the briefings that every single piece of work that they do. And so what happens is we’ve got programs and processes and then we’ve got templates. There’s places that they can go. They don’t start from the beginning at all. But still, it’s it’s a whole new career. It’s holding skill for them. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:49] Sometimes when I have this conversation with folks like yourself, they say they issue an objection to me and it’s some version of Greg. I can do this myself. I can do it fast. It’s free and I know I’m going to get it right the first time. So why would I pay somebody to do what I can do? It’s going to take them forever to do it, and it’s probably not going to be high quality. I’m going to have to micromanage them anyways. What do you say to that? 

Marc Beattie [00:07:18] Well, there’s been a lot of work out there, so it’s tough to say no to a job just because, you know you can’t do it as an example. And you know, it’s much more fun to work with a larger group of people. So unless you’re willing to kind of give something up, you’re going to end up working by yourself or with a limited number of people. So I actually view it in a strange angle. I enjoy the community. I don’t want to work by myself. And it’s a matter of fact. You know, if I was to work on a project for a client as an example, I almost grabbed. I must always grab somebody and bring them along. I’m not trying to do it by myself. I will tell you there is that concept of, you know, it’s got to be the standard as an example. And therefore, there’s peer review for everything that goes out of out of our organization, whether that’s somebody else or that’s me as an example. And so I mean, you know, I continue to remain in the loop from the standpoint of, you know, stepping in and monitoring the work as an example. And it’s hard. Sometimes you have to push back on somebody who wants to move forward and say you’re not quite ready or you don’t have it yet as an example, or you have to be super aggressive when you’re you’re editing it out with the day off. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:25] Yeah. So I agree. I love the community aspect. In fact, Collective 54 is a that’s what it is. It’s a community. And I think human beings are social animals and we get more fulfillment and job satisfaction when we work in teams, for sure. Plus, we can just do a lot more to your earlier point. You know, you don’t want to walk away from work because you don’t have enough capable people to do the job. I love the concept of the peer review. I want to I want to pick on that a little bit because I’ve never I’ve never heard that applied to this situation of replication. So as if I am a four year old, explain it to me very simply. 

Marc Beattie [00:09:01] Sure. So there’s there’s two primary products that we put out and what is syndicated. Market Intelligence basically reports that you build won’t sell many as an example. You put out a market sizing and forecasters state of the market report or landscape report of what’s going on in the industry as an example. And then many clients subscribe to a service that continue to receive those reports. It’s almost always each individual report is almost led by a single analyst, meaning they’ll do all the research around the report and then they’ll write that report as an example. That report can’t be published on our content publishing portal Intel. Another analyst, Sure, reviews that and says, Did you think about this or you know all the questions that you would expect, you know? Well, I didn’t see that in the report. That sounds like an assumption and not data as an example. And then there’s a grammatical structure, and a lot of times what happens is you’ll see the analyst pushing out the copyright ed because I don’t want to get beat up by a peer as an example. See that pushed out to a copyright editor for the grammar and the spelling first and the structure of the narrative. And then what happens is the peer review comes in and beats them up from the standpoint of, you know, is this clear thinking, you know, is this this narrative doesn’t seem to connect to this other piece as an example, there’s a second piece of work that we do, which is custom research. Think about things like a market entry analysis client has a hypothesis of a new product they want to put out as an example, the same thing. Usually one or two analysts will work on that, but the deliverable, which is often, you know, a presentation plus a PowerPoint presentation or, as an example, a market size and forecast opportunity analysis. None of that goes out until one of their other analysts peer reviews that and once again goes that exact same process. You know, are you thinking clearly and have you have you put forward a distinct message that that holds value as well? 

Greg Alexander [00:10:48] It’s a great, great idea. I wasn’t anticipating stumbling on this, but I’m fascinated by it. What I love about it, I’m always thinking about how our members you in this case can scale. And if you have to review every piece of work yourself before it goes out the door, that’s a limiting factor. It sounds like you’ve you’ve been able to push that down to the peers, which means you don’t have to do it all yourself. You have help. And what I love about that, it’s appears are probably I don’t want to say better than you at doing it, but it’s maybe their critique is more appropriate because it’s peer to peer. I mean, I know myself, I learned a lot more from my peers than I do from people who aren’t my peers. My tactical question to you would be, what’s in it for the peer? So if I’m the person who has to do the review, I’m busy. I got a lot of work to do. Why would I take the time to do this? 

Marc Beattie [00:11:40] I thought, You’re going to go there? So on and market intelligence. So each of the analysts has about 10 to 12 reports that have to publish each year. And so therefore, they’re looking for peer reviewers. So there’s there’s a requirement of every single analyst that they have the peer review 10 to 12 pieces from other people every single year, meaning that I won’t get my publication schedule out unless I get help from others and I won’t and others won’t get theirs unless I help them. So that’s of the incentive there. And then on the custom research, that’s a separate sort of big pay schedule versus the compensation that you make on the syndicated research and the. It might be a $500000 project as an example. And so the lead analyst is peel off money for the peer review. So you’re being paid dollars, pretty significant dollars to peer review that. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:29] That’s interesting. Well, so there’s actually monetary compensation tied to it in that particular case. That’s brilliant, that’s a that’s very, very wise way to do that. I want to go back to one thing and this will be the last thing we’ll talk about today. But the one thing you mentioned earlier as a new analyst comes in and for six months, it sounds like they’re being incubated in some capacity. When do you know? And how do you know that it’s time for that analyst to be let loose, take the training wheels off and get going? 

Marc Beattie [00:13:00] There’s a couple of leading indicators. One is one of the things that we focus on is when we’re with clients, whether it’s a briefing or it’s a client engagement as an example on the topic that we’re talking about, that we, you know, we should know about that we’ve often been hired to cover. We should be the smartest person in the room. And I can tell pretty quickly if somebody has a command of their their domain, it’s pretty easy. You know, they they either know it or they don’t know it. And a lot of it is that concept of I brief with, you know, 50 or 100 companies. And I’ve come to my own belief structure about this as an example. I’ve got enough data right now that I’m not buying the marketing angle at all. So when the product marketing manager comes on and says this, I’m not quite sure. I believe that because I’ve heard this from 20 other companies as an example. But here’s what I do believe. So it doesn’t have to be critically, you know, mean or bad, but it has to be critically reviewed as an example, as far as my knowledge base. So that’s that concept of what they know comes out pretty quickly. I just spent a week with a brand new analyst, which I normally would do in Santa Barbara at a client event, and it is becoming clear to me that they’re in their seventh, eighth month. They’re really they’ve got their own domain right now. Now the second piece of that is is, do they? That’s knowledge, you know? And then the other one is, is the skill. Can they execute that to a product that our clients want to consume as an example? And that’s just through the peer review process. I’ll I’ll get as we have a research, we have a valuation let out in Ohio as an example. And here’s my researcher will come along and say, you know, I did an evaluation with this. Other analysts and I had to raise some flags here because he’s concerned about the quality, the product that he’s putting out as an example. And so what happens is it’s not as though they’re telling one another, but they’re saying this is maybe this person needs someone to come alongside of them as an example. And I get that all the time. And I think other analysts get that as well. Can you help this person, et cetera? And I think that’s that’s that’s a very, you know, healthy organization that they’re able to come up and say that and then subsequently do that. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:01] Listen, this is fantastic. I mean, this is new knowledge for our community. The peer review idea is a brilliant scaling tactic. And I encourage everybody that’s listening to this to try to implement some version of it. Marc, if they have questions about how to do this, what’s the easiest way for them to get hold you? 

Marc Beattie [00:15:20] I just my email address Mbeattie@wainhouse through waimhouse.com

Greg Alexander [00:15:29] Okay, perfect. Then I’d ask the membership not to abuse that. Appreciate you sharing that to all of us and and hopefully the group will get in touch with you and try to implement this. OK, so for those that are listening, if you’re interested in this topic or others like it, pick up a copy of the book The Boutique How to Start, Scale and Sell a professional services firm. You can find it on Amazon. I’m happy to report that just became a bestseller and our little niche. And if you want to meet brilliant people like Marc, consider joining our community and you can reach. You can find us at Collective54.com and Marc on behalf of the members, just a big thanks for your contribution that you made today. Made a deposit in the knowledge back. I learned something and we’re lucky to have you, so thanks again.