By the time you start looking for more work, it is often too late. Here’s a solution to this challenge…
Feast or Famine: The Challenges of Keeping a Business Forward-Focused
Most businesses, especially ones that concentrate on Business-to-Business services, tend to operate in a feast-or-famine mindset. This happens in good times and bad, although it can get worse in times such as these, when economic indicators are worsening on just about every front on which they can be measured.
As a long-time consultant for companies big and small, this feast-or-famine mindset is something I’ve noticed more and more. The interesting thing is that companies actually operate more proactively in times of famine then in times of feast. The problems can start when business is booming, not when business is bad.
It works like this: you get a landslide of business rolling in, which sets your whole company into motion. From your administrators to your people in the field doing the work, your whole company is entirely focused on getting projects completed well and on time. There may even be numerous new jobs lined up, enough to keep you and your staff working overtime for months to come. The ability to grow and adapt to a swelling workload is, of course, the bedrock of any solid business. Not losing your focus, your cool, or the quality of your deliverables keeps your clients happy and your bottom line strong. I’ve seen this sort of adaptation in just about every kind of business, from construction companies to creative agencies to retail-oriented giants to pharmaceuticals. But hidden in this kind of approach are the seeds of a potential problem, one large enough to cause some companies to crumble when the workload begins to dry up. The result can be plunging morale, layoffs, pay cuts, or even bankruptcy.
The reality is that too often, when the workload begins to dry up and the owners and senior managers finally have some time to breathe, they realize there is little to no new work coming in. Suddenly next quarter earnings are in serious doubt. Another scramble must begin — contacts must be made, relationships developed, needs identified, but often the next few big projects can be far off in the future, leaving your company without active work for weeks or even months. This has an obvious impact on your bottom line, but it also affects companies in other ways as well. The sudden lack of work can be toxic to your staff, which can grow bored, develop poor work habits, or lose confidence in senior management. Worries about job security can leak in, and create a rumor mill that might cause some of your best employees to look elsewhere for a more fertile — and stable — company.
There’s an old adage in business: if your business isn’t growing, it’s dying. What I’ve found especially interesting is how truly successful companies take this adage to heart. It is something that is at once obvious and intuitive, and at the same time far more difficult to pull off than most of us realize.
The Role of Business Development in Successful Businesses
The obvious question is how: how do you keep your business growing when you are so busy that you hope for only a 60 hour workweek? One very effective solution is to have Business Development as an integral part of your business model. In many small-to-medium sized companies, the owner/CEO is responsible for this task. The only trouble is when that person gets too busy to focus on new business, and instead has to manage their current workload.
The solution is to hire someone whose only job is to do just that — find, create, and sustain new relationships that, when the time is right, the owner/CEO can help to mature. The job of a Business Development Executive is to go out and make new contacts for the company, especially when times are incredibly busy and the staff overworked.
The Role of the Business Development Executive
Business Development Executives have a reputation as the men and women who “wine and dine” potential clients. Hospitality is certainly part of what they do, but more than that a Business Development Executive needs to know your business inside and out. Just as importantly, they need to be able to self-generate contacts and leads in your industry. A good Business Development Executive will help to “sell” your company to more than clients who need your services in the short-term. The idea is to build enough relationships that as your potential clients grow and come across their own problems, the first company they will contact for help is yours.
This forward-looking approach is the most sure-fire way to keep your business growing, especially when you are too busy to put much energy into it yourself.
Solutions for the Small Company
Fortune 50 companies usually have the bottom line luxury of hiring a six-figure Business Development Executive to help grow the business at all times and in all economic conditions. But many small companies cannot afford that kind of salary output. One possible solution I have seen successfully implemented is to outsource this role to a freelance professional who knows your industry. This person can help you to continue to grow when times are good and your workload is too heavy to wine and dine every potential client yourself. A base salary can be attached to bonuses for any future contracts, which can help to keep things both fair and honest. A freelance Business Development Executive can help your company to continue to add clients even when you’re too busy to worry about it yourself.
“If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying.” My experience says this is true, which is why I’ve always worked with a Business Development Executive. Keep in mind that by the time it occurs to you to start looking for more work, it is often too late. A healthy business stays healthy by always challenging itself to grow and take on new projects. My last blog mentions some ways you can grow your business in busy times without having to hire new employees.