I’ve been asked to comment on how to “make it through” tough economic times. For example, if housing starts are radically down, what do you do when Home Depot suffers and stops using consultants?
First, the preventive:
Your clients and prospects should be diversified and analogous to a good stock portfolio. That’s EXACTLY why I’ve never liked the “specialize or die” platitudes, which sound nice but make no business sense. You must develop an expertise, appeal, following, brand, and identity which transcends businesses, industries, and even cultures. Generalize and thrive. Specialize and agonize.
High-end cars, jewelry, and attire are going strong. Airlines are packed to the gills with paying customers. Pet foods and accessories are never going to abate, nor is the health industry, nor the alcohol industry. What’s known as “hospitality” is doing just fine—try to get a good hotel room in New York or San Francisco, or a table at an outstanding restaurant on a weekend. The ferries to Nantucket are already packed with reservations for next summer.
Oh, and hey, there are a couple of high tech firms that seem to be quite strong, some non-profits having great years, and some universities with record endowments. Then there are athletic teams, the travel industry….
My obviousity here is that you need to:
1. Diversify your pipeline through a diversified appeal.
2. Stop being lazy and dealing purely with long-time clients and easy referral business. It’s the Hymenoptera and the Orthoptera story, you know?
Okay, so you were the grasshopper, not the ant, and you focused on two large clients in the motorcycle sidecar business who let you go when sidecar insurance went through the roof because of petroleum prices in Estonia where they produce the rubber connection dohickies in farm collectives along the Baden-Flush Estuary.
How could you have known?
Here is what you do now:
1. Call everyone you know, tell them of your current (one hopes, BROAD) value proposition, and ask if you can be of help to them or anyone they know. In other words, ask for business and referrals.
2. Change your web site, collateral, and conversation to reflect the broadest, most diverse application of your services that you are remotely comfortable promoting.
3. Consider new products and services for existing and/or recent customers. Make sure they are value-laden, but don’t be bashful about introducing them. The less labor intense, the better.
4. Speak wherever you can, for free if you have to, in order to get in front of the maximum number of recommenders and buyers.
5. Use unexpected downtime to work on longer range projects, such as book proposals, and/or to relax.
6. Do not beat yourself up. But if you fail to take preventive actions a second time, then have someone else beat the hell out of you.
7. Consider using technology to reach out to overseas prospects and/or alliance partners.
This is a great time to be a consultant. This remains, in the US, a $14 trillion economy. Technology enables us to perform remote work across oceans and continents. The economy is never totally down, there are always bright spots. You have no constraints from a boss or board as to where you go and what you try.
Be bolder than ever. Blow your own horn. Understand that most people are intimidated by bad economic news.
That means it’s easier for you to stand out in a crowd.
If you’re confident enough to stand out there.
You’ve just received $10,000 of coaching advice. Imagine what would happen if you joined my Private Roster Mentor Program? (See, get the idea?)
© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.