Why we don’t have an office there
Someone recently asked why it was that, as The LUBRINCO Group got larger, the number of offices we had got smaller. Even in places where we have people on the ground, we have generally found no practical need to have offices. In fact, we have fewer offices today than we did a decade or so ago. The reasons for this are threefold.
For a start, in the sixteen years we have been in business, nobody has ever come to any of our offices. This is not a big surprise, as the nature of our clientele, and nature of the things we do for them, is such that there is no reason for them to come to us. In fact, the reason that none of our offices has a listed telephone number is that people who need our services don’t look for them in the phone book.
In addition, virtually all of our work is done in the field, which means that for years we had offices which our clients never visited. Neither did our employees. We thus had to decide whether we wanted the prestige of empty offices, with prices commensurately higher to cover the overhead, or the lower overhead of not having them, with commensurately lower prices. We opted for the latter.
Because of this, we have physical offices in one of two situations. The first is where there is a legal requirement to have an office, generally for some licensing purpose. The second is where we actually need to have staff present, for example to do background investigations and database searches, or back-office tasks requiring a computer and a brain.
Finally, often the work we do is dangerous, and it is not good for us to be needlessly visible. This editor remembers a time when it was strongly suggested he not be photographed, or do television appearances.
How has this worked out? In general, well. While we are high in capability in the specialized areas in which we work, our prices are lower than they would be if we had greater overhead, allowing our clients to benefit without our losing money. In addition, we, like all others in our field, have strategic partnerships with our peers in selected areas, where we subcontract specialized work to them there, and where they have us do work for them in other places. On the other hand, we occasionally lose business because of this. In some cases, we have lost jobs to competitors, who have then subcontracted the work back to us!
As another example, we recently lost a job because we didn’t have a local office in a country in which we specialize. As it happens, most of the actual work on this job – which was a fairly typical job in that country – would have actually been done in the U.S., where all the business and legal records could be obtained, already translated and in machine readable form, and at a lower cost than could be had locally. While there was in fact work to be done locally, it would have been done by a trusted local associate. While the client will probably not get a lower-quality job from our competitor, we suspect it will be at a higher price.
We are a very specialized firm, and we do not provide a wide variety of services. There are a lot of places in which we don’t provide services at all. But what we do, we do very well, whether or not we have an office there.