Shop or Specialty Shop?

I was driving around Portland this weekend looking for a place to stop for lunch. The first restaurant candidate that appeared was a Chinese restaurant. In large block letters the outside of the shop told us


While variety is great and diversification is important, there’s a time and place for everything. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure there are a few very different things that go into making great Chow Mein as opposed to a great Club Sandwich or Fish and Chips.

I see the same thing when talking to development shops.

“We can do everything and anything! What’s up?”
Shouts the small, green, firm eager for work.

“We’re not taking on anything until 2013, and we only do {insert programming platform} now” Moans the over-booked specialized firm.

Ask yourself why. If a firm is trying to provide tons of services, and they’re not a huge agency with different development departments, ask yourself, How can they do it?

Here’s some different ways firms do that, and let’s continue to use the restaurant example, because it’s fun.

Sub-Contract: “Someone ordered Sushi? Do we know any sushi chefs?”

Re-Train: “Someone ordered Pho? What is Pho? Ummm, let’s Google a recipe.”

Outsource: “Someone ordered a hamburger? Does McDonalds deliver?”

Just like you wouldn’t expect the best steak or linguine at a buffet with 20 different cuisines; You can’t expect the same level of quality from the “We can do everything firm” than you get from the “We focus on one thing, and we do it very well”.

+Speed: What is your time worth? Whether it’s setting up a DIY system or playing phone tag with a freelancer, your time is better spent elsewhere. A specialized shop with experience gets your project done in the fastest time possible, letting you focus on the next big thing.

+Expertise: Specialized firms provide support, strategy and suggestions throughout the development process. It’s their space; they know what to do there.

+Focus: Specialty shops have a sole focus. While these shops can often be smaller, they are more than not filled with industry experts and leaders who’ve chosen a specific direction or language to build and code in. That’s all they do, and they’re very good at it.

+Experience: Many shops are beginning to offer new technologies like Mobile. Mobile development is challenging and requires experience; don’t let other companies cut their teeth on your business

+Quality: Often F500 companies and large ad agencies look to smaller specialty shops to collaborate for the highest quality end product.

When choosing a firm to work with, sometimes more and bigger doesn’t mean better. Finding a firm that knows your situation, how their technology helps it, and the best way to implement said technology is the goal. More often than not, these end up being specialized firms.