The analogy of feast and famine in business might have been invented by commercial integrators.
When bandwidth to do another project seems impossible to find, three customers are ringing your phone with high-margin projects to do yesterday. But once you hire to right-size for this demand, your entire client base suffers from budget cuts and a bad case of indecision.
This may be a slight exaggeration. But getting your operation just right takes more than a little intuition and a business degree; seemingly it takes a miracle. However, we have no choice but to carry on and even when times are tough, we need to hunker down and run our operation, ideally to a profit, but sometimes with the intention of minimizing loss.
The ways to accomplish this might be different than you think. If your business is suffering from a case of the tough goings, then it might be time to think differently because there are no bail-outs in our business. So grab a shovel.
1. Get Lean, Get Smart. Smart companies don’t get fat. It is easy to slip into a few habits of spending unnecessarily, however. Reviewing your expenses from operations to personnel should be done often.
Companies may have expenses each month that aren’t required and over a year it impact cash flow. With volatile businesses like integration a smart idea is to think about fast-scaling resources.
For instance, I love outsourcing portions of jobs like installation and programming. While control of resources may be problematic, an invest-ment of time to find the right partners can allow your company to be elastic during times of boom and bust.
2. Re-focus Sales and Marketing. The dumbest strategy is to start cutting sales and marketing efforts during lean times. I suggest looking everywhere else first. Now this doesn’t mean keeping salespeople around who aren’t selling, but when things get tight selling should be the ultimate focus.
For instance, integrators are generally horrible at staying connected with old clients who aren’t in the middle of projects. Continually staying in touch with your clients should be core to any integrator strategy — showing them new technology, discussing their service needs and learning about their business technology goals.
This can be done via a smart marketing campaign using email and social as well as a steady push to sales to stay in front of their clients.
3. Work with Your Vendors/Banks/Partners. While it may be an ego killer to have to admit that you are struggling, your partners are only really your partners if they are willing to help.
I have found that vendors, banks and customers are often willing to work with you for faster payment, better terms or extended credit. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.
The mere pressure of evolution can be a hassle. We are asked to deal with changes at a breakneck speed and some of them frankly aren’t that familiar to us. Convergence sounds nice, but it means lower margins and different services.
Having said that, there are ways to reorganize and get the ship right, even if it seems like your heading straight at the iceberg. So pick your head up, get your eyes on the road and start doing what it takes to say “yes” more when times are booming so those slower times are more palatable when they come around.