Money talks. In fact, it shouts loudly in your face (you know that sort of stinging, acrid feel).
Those people who can turn a buck, or a few HUNDRED thousand, are the ones, right now, who will hold sway (“For God’s sake don’t upset them…!). The market is simply too precarious, and (possibly) about to fall off a f__________ big cliff (Spain etc).
This is not an excuse to allow any type of (nonsense) behaviour but I am sure that a few things will be allowed to slip through the net, provided there is an abundance (or any…!) of cash.
As I have made abundantly clear, I am driven by a intense desire to see a landscape where every person is the most of anything, but I recognise that money still has an important part to play in self-fulfillment. That said It is easy to be deflected by sexy clients, the ones which you think have the biggest purchasing spend and can sustain the business into the next decade. But acting for the most lucrative clients does not always result in people being self-fulfilled, motivated or happy. Please remember that no matter how tight things get your greatest asset is your people.
Right now your decision-making path is replete with too much choice but not enough certainty. Almost without exception, every market you previously picked would have unearthed a predicable stream of revenue. Now there are simply too many imponderables. If anything, the competition (pool) is likely to grow to a point that unless you have the largest spend, you will find it almost impossible to compete.
To make money in the current market requires strong leadership. And the variety of leadership that is prepared to risk the brand/business and not just tippy toe forward.
I can’t stress it enough but thinking BIG is the only way to play your cards. It is clear as day that anything less will leave your strategy so ameliorated as to not matter.
Just imagine that you were starting from scratch with a bottomless pit of resources. Would you expedite the procurement of new business in the same way as now? Not on your life. It is likely, if you had any sense, that you would do more than a wash and brush up with the brand but instead look to develop and leverage a brand that had the biggest scope. You may decide that one brand cannot dutifully span all practice areas, and sub-branding was the way forward.
To make money in the current market, absent deep pockets, you need to focus on:
1. Understanding your ideal clients. Forget the mindset that says we will act for everyone who crosses the threshold. Understand your market. You cannot continue to be all things to all people;
2. Make sure that the brand is fit for purpose (who even knows about you outwith a 10-mile radius?) in terms of retaining your existing clients, growing the number of service lines and understanding the capability of the brand to win new and improved clients;
3. Finding out who you work with currently and making sure that they remain intensely loyal to you, and you try to sell as many additional services as possible;
4. Setting your stall out as regards the ideal model client and the sort of spend/profitabilty you are expecting;
5. Deciding the sort of work that you ideally want and going after it like no tomorrow;
6. Dropping those clients who do not fit your brand values;
7. Ensuring that every person in the business has a clear sense of where you are going. If it is backs against the wall don’t hide it from them but at the same time show your hard-core metal and tell them what needs to be done;
8. Stop managing day-to-day and take a long term view. Try and see the big picture and how you would ideally like things to look;
9. Hire the very best people you can but don’t make promises you can’t possibly fulfill;
10. Cash is King, Queen and the whole bloody Army. Unless you are collecting the cash you won’t be around to worry about any of these issues. Stop worrying about upsetting your clients. Like I have always said, would Tesco give your clients 9 months credit and not charge them the appropriate rate of interest;
11. It’s a war out there. I am not suggesting you inject an air of desperation but don’t sugar coat things either;
12. Excellence abets Excellence. Start defining what an Excellent firm looks like. It doesn’t look like yours across every department. If you need to raise the bar, then aim for 100 feet not a few inches;
13. All work and no play makes Jack dull beyond measure. Loosen up from time to time and allow people to be themselves;
14. Finally, stop harping on about the good old days. Things will never be the same again and you have to fashion your business accordingly.
The question is can you make money? In short yes. But you will have to have immense self-belief, an over inflated sense of your self-worth a burning desire to succeed. I have no doubt that this will jar with you but if you are aspiring to be the best in your neck of the woods then start acting like it.
I am a great believer in the power of faith and perseverance. You need to understand that you are not alone in doubting the market, the nature of your offering and still be around in three years to compete. You have to have the self-belief to rise about the flat market, and intense competition and stop playing down your ability to compete.
Remember: your biggest strength is You. People buy from people and no matter how cheap the service becomes or how sophisticated the on-line provision gets, there will still be value in the connection of dealing with real people. In time it will come at a premium.
But just because the fruit has practically fallen off the tree doesn’t mean to say that it will never return or you cannot turn a buck elsewhere.