In a recent interview with the Cambridge News, our CEO Alan Richardson commented on the fact that Cambridge Consultants is set to double the size of the business over the next few years and outlined his strategy for growth. Naturally, central to this is our ability to offer exciting careers to top-flight engineers; with 30 job offers made and accepted in the first few weeks of this year alone, it looks like we are well on track to achieve our ambition.
Sitting in on the interview, I couldn’t help wondering what was behind this success, especially when other product developers are either struggling or – at best – standing still. Cambridge Consultants used to be thought of as a ‘bellweather’ for the wider economy – the type of company that would be first into recession (as companies started to batten down the development hatches in the expectation of tough times ahead) and then first out (as companies recovered their confidence at the end of a recession). So what’s changed?
The one word that we believe is key to this success is relevance. As someone who specialises in cutting-edge and technology-led product development, we often used to be asked the question: ‘can you…?’ “Can you take this piece of IP we have sitting on a shelf and turn it into a viable product?” Or, “can you develop a new product for us in an adjacent market? If you can, we might move there.” Ideas that would potentially make a company very successful if they came off, but not critical to the company’s future survival, future strategy or future growth.
However, over the past decade our business has changed. Of course we still get asked whether we can do innovative things with technology, but by being focused on key markets we really do understand what is important to our clients and why what we are doing is important to their future. More often than not the work we do is core to their future success. They rely on us to deliver innovation that will set them apart from challenging competition in a difficult market environment. Clearly to get to this position you have to have a track record of delivering (no mean feat when often what we get asked to do is the type of things others within a client’s industry have described as impossible). But with that trust comes great reward; both for clients and the engineers and scientists who work here.
Being relevant means we get to deliver amazing projects to clients that delight them and help build their success. And it also means we get to work on interesting, challenging, and demanding projects which is just the kind of thing that interests brilliant engineers and gives them truly varied and exciting careers.
So is product development a luxury? We would argue that no, it isn’t. Not if you’re doing it right.