Many years ago I started my own business consultancy practice and was very fortunate to be able to secure two or three client’s business in the first couple of weeks.
Looking back I am not really sure how this happened but it served me well and for the first several months I was kept very busy.
However, to coin a cliche, all good things come to an end and the contracts did the same leaving me with happy memories and not much else.
In something of a panic I went to see my Bank Manager (remember when we had Bank Managers?) who looked at me with some surprise and said: “What’s your problem?”
I explained that while I had been gainfully employed for the past several months I would be short of work in the immediate future and this was an initial warning.
Much to my amazement he brushed my concerns aside saying that if I could again secure business like I had then he would have no issues. This cheered me up and reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
Of course, I wasn’t doing the right thing. I had fallen into the trap of unwitting complacency and that can be the death of small businesses.
The one thing that I had done during my busy and productive activity was to forget the great lesson that sales and marketing can’t just be turned on and off like a tap whenever we need business. It is a never stop activity and needs to be viewed as such especially when we are busy.
A great friend of mine (George) was a partner in an engineering design business in Liverpool and was also regarded as the person who generated new business.
However they were always in the complacency trap and that resulted in his partners, early one Friday afternoon, pointing out with some asperity that all the work was running out and they had thirty or so mouths to feed.
Suitably admonished, George made immediate arrangements to go to see one or two of his major contacts to see what could be achieved.
His first visit was successful. The contact told him that they had been trying unsuccessfully to design some tooling and as George reassured him that they could rely on their experience to solve the problem he happily passed it on.
On his way back to the office George popped into the library and took out a book on tooling design that could help with the project, one that was completely new to them.
Of course, it was successful and the client was delighted as were the partners to have such a prestigious contract.
Luck? Of course it was but just consider the alternative. It was a situation that could have been a disaster as easily as a triumph.
Last minute solutions made under pressure are usually undesirable mainly because the decision is likely to be made emotionally rather than rationally.
It strengthens the realisation that one of the most desirable attributes of any company is that of a sensible pipeline of orders is very desirable. It removes or at least diminishes the feeling of panic that results from an uncertain future.
I recall an occasion when a possible consultancy client called me in to discuss their difficulties. I asked him how the problem manifested itself and he said:
“The phone has stopped ringing”
and that summarised the whole position. There was no conventional marketing, they were unaware that Far Eastern competitive imports were flooding the market, they had no promotional material or indeed any formal sales activity and overall were in a downward spiral. They just sat and waited for orders to come in as before and they didn’t know what to do when they didn’t.
The answer is to be thoughtful and rational. It is not sensible to undertake a strategic plan without an underlying marketing plan. It is that which will consider and hopefully establish the sales line of the strategy which seems to me to be a fairly sensible starting position.
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