For me January 2012 is much more than just the start of another new year. It’s the beginning of an entirely new world and a completely new business culture and a time (and licence) for everyone to think very differently indeed about what we do and how we do it.
It’s OK – this is good news…I just need to set the scene!
It’s been coming for some time. I saw things really starting to hit in 2008 with the impact of the credit crunch. It knocked the automotive industry for example, for six. The “cost of money” meant that the big buyers of fleets, like hire companies, simply didn’t renew their fleet. So what? Well manufacturers didn’t stop making cars. So that meant cars where being shipped across the globe to sit on huge airfields with no customer in sight and were depreciating daily. I remember sitting with the commercial Director of a big automotive operator. He showed me a spreadsheet of the assets (his cars) and their daily depreciation. He then directed my attention to the enormous “car park” that was the airfield behind his office.
It wasn’t just the car industry of course, it meant that companies of all sizes simply couldn’t afford to borrow in the way they used to and a lack of liquidity in the market knocked all sorts of businesses out.
Since then it’s been a slow and painful death with 2010 seeing the first of the real impacts, 2o11 following suit and I’m sorry to say that post the Olympics I don’t hold out much hope for growth once the “Olympic economic bubble” has burst either in 2012.
Doom over onto the positive bit..
So that’s the economic reality and few of us have any option but to live and work with it and through it. What can and should we be doing differently then? Where are the benefits and what are the opportunities that this era of economic gloom provides?
Let’s be clear, I am very far from being an economist. I am however an optimist and I do spend each and every day talking with and working with businesses of all sizes in a wide range of industries. So here are some of the things I see happening and changing and that might be useful for you:
1. Anything and Anyone is “possible” – In times of riches people follow form. When things are going well, it’s hard to get people to accept new ideas, new companies and new approaches. Right now, all bets are off. Companies know that what they did previously is either no longer effective or in some cases no longer affordable. And that means that it is perfectly reasonable to expect a very large organisation to be interested in working with a tiny start-up ( I know, I do it every day). That means you can be “daring” and audacious in your thinking and your ambitions. A tiny bit of research will confirm that some of the world’s leading brands were born out of recession, for this very reason. So whether you’re starting a new company, a new career, or pitching a new idea to a new audience, be bold and you will be surprised how “open” people are to change. (That doesn’t mean that can afford it so….)
2. “Budget” is not where the money is – If there are budgets in organisations they are considerably smaller and a good deal more “controlled” than they have been for decades. The level of sign-off and discretionary spend is tiny. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t money to spend it just means getting at it is harder. Of course there are other ways to get what you need. Even big businesses are willing to discuss trades, so spread invoices across 12 months rather than a lump sum (it comes out of different budgets!), for example. Sometimes by breaking your invoices into smaller amounts means you come in under discretionary spend and therefore 5 x £5K for example will get through more easily and a big bill for £25K. If you’re really smart, you’ll avoid “budgets” all together and look for those with P&L authority. Why? People with budgets are surrounded by people who want to get at them. People with budgets are also prone to having their budgets cut. So, if your competitors are running after the department or decision maker with a budget….let them get on with it…look instead for the people and departments that budget holder serves. They don’t have budget…but they do have money – if you can’t work it out call me/drop me a line and I’ll fill in the blanks!
In part 2 we’ll look at the “new economy” – getting what you want and need with little or no money. New ways of working (Neardesk) and why they’re going to change the world and some other ideas for thriving in this brave new world.