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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Organic Growth Strategy for SMB in Specialty Trade Contractors Sector


Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Design Thinking to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, KPIs, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. We followed this management consulting approach for this case study.

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Consider this scenario: An emerging small to medium-sized business in the specialty trade contractors industry is facing challenges in fostering organic growth, with Design Thinking at the core of its strategic dilemma.

This organization is experiencing a plateau in revenue growth and a 20% increase in customer churn, attributed to an inability to differentiate in a highly competitive market and a lack of innovation in service delivery. Additionally, inefficiencies in project management and execution have led to increased operational costs and decreased profit margins. The primary strategic objective of the organization is to leverage innovative service design and operational excellence to achieve sustainable organic growth and improve customer retention.



The specialty trade contractors sector is undergoing significant transformation, driven by technological advancements and shifting customer expectations. A deep dive into the competitive landscape reveals a critical need for differentiation and innovation to stay relevant.

Industry Analysis

The specialty trade contractors industry is characterized by a moderate to high level of competition, with a mix of established players and new entrants challenging the status quo. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the market dynamics, an analysis of the primary forces shaping the industry is crucial.

  • Internal Rivalry: Competition is intense, with many firms vying for market share through aggressive pricing strategies and service offerings.
  • Supplier Power: Moderate, as numerous suppliers exist, but certain specialized equipment and materials have limited sources.
  • Buyer Power: High, due to the availability of numerous service providers and the low switching costs for customers.
  • Threat of New Entrants: Moderate, barriers to entry include the need for specialized skills and certifications, but low initial capital investment requirements.
  • Threat of Substitutes: Low to moderate, as the necessity for specialized trade services limits direct substitutes, but innovative technologies and DIY solutions are emerging.

Emerging trends indicate a shift towards sustainable and green construction practices, increased customer demand for digital and smart solutions, and a growing emphasis on service customization. These trends offer opportunities for differentiation and expansion but also pose risks related to rapid technological changes and increasing customer expectations.

  • Adoption of green construction practices: Presents an opportunity to differentiate and cater to the growing market segment focused on sustainability. The risk lies in the additional costs and expertise required to implement these practices.
  • Increased demand for smart home and building solutions: Offers an avenue for expansion into new service lines but requires investment in technology and training.
  • Customization and personalized service delivery: Can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty but may strain operational processes and increase costs.

Learn more about Customer Satisfaction Industry Analysis

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Internal Assessment

The organization possesses strong technical capabilities and a committed workforce but lacks strategic focus and operational efficiency, impacting its growth and profitability.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths include a skilled workforce and a reputation for quality work. Opportunities lie in expanding services to include green and smart building solutions, responding to market demand. Weaknesses are evident in project management inefficiencies and a lack of innovation in service offerings. Threats encompass increasing competition and rapidly evolving customer expectations.

VRIO Analysis

The company's skilled workforce and quality reputation are valuable and rare but not fully exploited due to operational inefficiencies. Addressing these issues could turn these attributes into sustainable competitive advantages.

Capability Analysis

Success in the specialty trade contractors market requires excellence in customer service, innovative solutions, and operational efficiency. The organization's strong technical skills form a solid base, but it must enhance its innovation capabilities and streamline operations to fully leverage its market potential.

Learn more about Customer Service Competitive Advantage Project Management

Strategic Initiatives

Based on the insights gained, the leadership team has outlined strategic initiatives to drive growth and improve competitiveness over the next 18 months .

  • Service Innovation and Differentiation: Develop and launch green and smart building solutions to meet emerging market demands. This initiative aims to position the company as a leader in sustainable and innovative construction practices, creating new revenue streams and enhancing brand differentiation. Resource requirements include R&D investment and partnerships with technology providers.
  • Operational Excellence Program: Implement a comprehensive operational excellence program focusing on project management and execution efficiency. The expected impact is a reduction in operational costs and improvement in project delivery timelines, enhancing customer satisfaction and profitability. This will require investment in project management software and training.
  • Customer Experience Enhancement: Design and implement a customer experience strategy that leverages digital tools for personalized service delivery and engagement. This initiative aims to improve customer retention and attract new business through superior service. Resources needed include CRM software and customer feedback systems.

Learn more about Operational Excellence Customer Experience Customer Retention

Design Thinking Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.


What you measure is what you get. Senior executives understand that their organization's measurement system strongly affects the behavior of managers and employees.
     – Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (creators of the Balanced Scorecard)

  • Revenue Growth from New Services: Tracks the financial impact of innovative service offerings, indicating successful market adoption.
  • Project Delivery Time Reduction: Measures efficiency improvements, directly correlating with operational excellence efforts.
  • Customer Retention Rate: Reflects the effectiveness of the customer experience strategy in enhancing loyalty.

These KPIs provide insights into the effectiveness of the strategic initiatives, highlighting areas of success and opportunities for further improvement. Tracking these metrics closely will enable the organization to adjust its strategies in real time, ensuring alignment with overall objectives.

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Design Thinking Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Design Thinking. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Design Thinking subject matter experts.

Design Thinking Deliverables

These deliverables represent the outputs across all the strategic initiatives.
  • Service Innovation Roadmap (PPT)
  • Operational Excellence Framework (PPT)
  • Customer Experience Strategy Plan (PPT)
  • Implementation Dashboard Template (Excel)

Explore more Design Thinking deliverables

Service Innovation and Differentiation

The team adopted the Blue Ocean Strategy framework to guide the development of green and smart building solutions. The Blue Ocean Strategy, renowned for its focus on creating uncontested market spaces and making the competition irrelevant, was instrumental in identifying and executing innovative service offerings. This framework proved invaluable in steering the organization towards unexplored market segments where demand for sustainable and technologically advanced building solutions was emerging but not yet fully addressed.

The organization implemented the Blue Ocean Strategy through the following steps:

  • Conducted a market analysis to identify untapped needs and opportunities in the sustainable and smart building sectors.
  • Engaged in cross-functional brainstorming sessions to ideate innovative service offerings that could fulfill these unmet needs.
  • Developed and tested prototypes of new services in selected markets to evaluate customer response and refine offerings accordingly.

As a result of employing the Blue Ocean Strategy, the organization successfully launched several pioneering services in the green and smart building domains, capturing new customer segments and establishing itself as a market leader in these niches. These innovative services not only differentiated the company from its competitors but also contributed to a significant increase in revenue and market share.

Learn more about Market Analysis

Operational Excellence Program

To enhance operational efficiency and project execution, the organization applied the Lean Six Sigma framework. Lean Six Sigma, known for its dual focus on eliminating waste (Lean) and reducing variation in processes (Six Sigma), was perfectly suited to address the company's challenges in project management and execution. This framework facilitated a systematic approach to identifying inefficiencies and implementing process improvements, leading to enhanced operational performance and customer satisfaction.

The Lean Six Sigma framework was implemented in the following manner:

  • Conducted a comprehensive review of existing project management and execution processes to identify areas of waste and variation.
  • Organized Lean Six Sigma training for key personnel to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to lead improvement initiatives.
  • Implemented targeted process improvement projects, utilizing Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, and monitored their impact on operational efficiency and project delivery times.

The adoption of the Lean Six Sigma framework resulted in a marked improvement in operational efficiency, with a significant reduction in project delivery times and operational costs. These enhancements not only bolstered the company's profitability but also improved its competitive position by enabling faster and more reliable service delivery to customers.

Learn more about Process Improvement Six Sigma

Customer Experience Enhancement

In the pursuit of elevating the customer experience, the organization embraced the Service-Dominant Logic (SDL) framework. SDL, with its emphasis on co-creating value with customers and integrating resources for mutual benefit, provided a comprehensive perspective on enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction. This approach was particularly relevant for designing a customer experience strategy that leveraged digital tools for personalized service delivery and engagement, aligning with the strategic initiative to improve customer retention and attract new business.

The implementation of the SDL framework involved the following steps:

  • Engaged with customers through various channels to understand their needs, preferences, and perceptions of value.
  • Collaborated with technology partners to develop and integrate digital tools that enabled personalized interactions and service delivery.
  • Monitored and analyzed customer feedback on the new digital experiences to continuously refine and improve the service offerings.

The application of the Service-Dominant Logic framework significantly enhanced the customer experience, leading to increased customer loyalty and higher retention rates. By focusing on co-creating value and personalizing service delivery through digital innovations, the organization was able to differentiate itself in a competitive market and drive organic growth through improved customer satisfaction and engagement.

Learn more about Customer Loyalty

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Launched innovative green and smart building solutions, resulting in a 15% increase in new customer segments.
  • Implemented Lean Six Sigma, achieving a 25% reduction in project delivery times and a 20% decrease in operational costs.
  • Enhanced customer experience through digital tools, leading to a 10% improvement in customer retention rates.
  • Generated a 12% revenue growth from new services within the first year of implementation.

The strategic initiatives undertaken by the organization have yielded significant results, marking a successful shift towards service innovation, operational excellence, and enhanced customer experience. The adoption of the Blue Ocean Strategy facilitated the successful launch of green and smart building solutions, capturing new market segments and establishing a competitive edge. This, combined with the Lean Six Sigma framework, effectively addressed operational inefficiencies, resulting in substantial cost savings and improved project delivery times. Furthermore, the application of the Service-Dominant Logic framework to enhance customer experience has proven effective in increasing customer loyalty and retention rates. However, while these results are commendable, the improvement in customer retention rates, though positive, was below the ambitious targets set. This suggests that while the digital tools and personalized service delivery strategies were on the right track, there might have been gaps in fully understanding or meeting customer expectations or in the execution of these strategies.

For further improvement, it is recommended to deepen customer engagement and feedback mechanisms to better understand their evolving needs and refine the service offerings accordingly. Additionally, exploring advanced analytics and AI could enhance personalization and predictive capabilities in service delivery, potentially elevating customer satisfaction and retention further. Investing in continuous training and development for the workforce to adapt to new technologies and methodologies will also be crucial in sustaining innovation and operational excellence. Finally, a periodic review of strategic initiatives against set KPIs should be institutionalized to ensure ongoing alignment with market demands and organizational goals.

Source: Organic Growth Strategy for SMB in Specialty Trade Contractors Sector, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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