Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please wake up and Smell the Recession

I spent three hours working hard with someone this morning who walked out of the meeting with nothing. Therefore I walked out with nothing. What is the point of trying so hard to help someone inject some strategic thinking into their business if they refuse to take any of the suggestions on board?

Pardon my tone of dejection but it has been a while since I met such an ostrich. No offence to any real ostriches out there reading this here blog ;o)

It is a long time since I've seen such an enthusiastic approach to head-burying.

Take a business, over 20 years in operation. When they started up they were pretty much the only operators in their field - well done, blue ocean etc., marvellously opportunistic.

5 years on, the Celtic Tiger arrived and the business grew organically by word of mouth, and has continued to do so since then. (Cue thoughts of "is that it? Could they not have grown some more?" and yes I would agree but I'll get back to today...)

They have never had to go out and look for business in their life - not once. It has all sort of just landed on their doorstep - OMG what luck.

And what happens now?
They are now not alone in their market. Lots of other - business hungry - people have entered their area of expertise over the last 20 years and what's more, they're good at it.

What ever about the alarming fact that this morning's "business" person did not even know who their closest competitor was (how have they survived!!) - my main worry was providing them with the basic tools they need to survive from here on in. They need to drastically change their strategy and start listening to their customers. At the moment they are manufacturing product and simply waiting for the clients to come along and buy it, without finding out if they want the stuff in the first place!

A bit of research, a bit of listening, a bit of reflexion wouldn't go amiss. This morning was just soul-destroying: at every opportunity the business person turned around and told me all about how they have operated in business up to this point. They are worried and stressed all the time, haven't paid themselves a wage in over 12 months and called me up asking for help. If they had the good sense to ask for help, why wouldn't they listen? I was so confused...

I think I have it now though. I just don't think their heart is in it. Looking for work now is too much effort for them - they have only survived because running a business until last year was easy for them. Rethinking strategies, networking, doing a simple competitor analysis, a SWOT on their own business, looking at trends in their marketplace - all too much like hard work, not at all appealing.

My goodness. It really is a wonder they got this far!

Rant over, apologies one and all...

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