By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech
More than a few job boards and talent technology companies have now adopted a well-worn strategy for weathering today’s choppy economic times. They’re hunkering down and hanging on. And, that’s a mistake. I’ve observed the TA solutions industry during three economic downturns, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that a far better approach is to lean forward. But, what does that mean? Well, what it doesn’t mean is to try harder.
Big companies do it. SMBs do it. Even nonprofits do it. The situation reminds me of Cole Porter’s classic song, “Let’s Do It” … only he was talking about a far more pleasant activity than managing your way through an iffy economy. His inclusive perspective, however, is applicable to the TA solutions industry. An awful lot of the companies that offer TA products and services are now cutting costs, staying home and avoiding every possible risk.
While such practices may seem financially appropriate, they are in fact the organizational equivalent of paralysis. When a company hunkers down and hangs on, it stands still. And in the world of business, that kind of restraint is a prelude to disaster. Standing still is actually the first step on the pathway to falling behind.
So, what’s the alternative?
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Some will tell you that the only way to beat a bad economy is to work harder. Do more of what you’ve always done, and then do a whole lot more. I suppose that’s a form of leaning forward, but it’s an application with two serious flaws. First, it exhausts your staff, which undermines their ability to see new opportunities and recognize business-building innovations. And second, it ignores the fact that when an economy reaccelerates, it never looks, acts or generates profits the way it did before the downturn. So, working harder is simply an exhausting way to look backwards instead of forward.
A better way to lean forward is to work smarter. I know the phrase is a bit shopworn, but it does accurately describe the best way to prepare for the future. It involves an organization doing two things: first, whether it’s a job board or a talent tech company, it must accept a very different business goal from that of working harder, and second, the company must then embark on a tripartite strategy to reshape, retool and reenergize itself for the new economy that will emerge after the downturn.
Though never explicitly stated, hunkering down and hanging on is a strategy for just trying to make it to tomorrow. The company’s goal is to survive. The goal of working smarter, in contrast, isn’t to survive, but to prosper. It is to position the company for a much more lucrative future.
To that end, the tripartite strategy encompasses both aggressive data collection and continuous analysis and an unflinching commitment to thinking outside-the-box. It requires the testing of old assumptions and the acquisition of alternative and even disruptive perspectives. All unflinchingly focused on goal accomplishment.
Such a strategy also involves a no-holds-barred self-assessment in three distinct areas. These areas are listed below, along with a couple of the questions each should address. The questions are meant to be illustrative not comprehensive, as each organization’s analysis must be tailored to its particular situation.
A Strategy Audit
• First and most importantly, are you in the right business? And, the right market? As basic as these inquiries may seem, it’s not uncommon for a company to discover an alternative pathway forward that has greater potential than the course on which it originally embarked.
• If so, do you have the right business model to achieve sustained revenue and profit growth? This question probes everything from a company’s go-to-market plan to the way it prices its products and services.
A Market Audit
• Are you targeting the right customers and avoiding those which consume an inappropriate share of time and resources? These questions help you assess whether you know which customers are potentially the most lucrative for your company and if you’re sales efforts are focused on them.
• Is there any risk of near-or-midterm disruptions in the market? Are there any untapped opportunities? Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect, but these questions ask you to look around the corner in your business and evaluate the potential dangers and untapped upsides.
An Organizational Audit
• If you’re in the right business and the right market, do you have the right talent in the company to achieve your business goals? This question, of course, hits close to home, but is just as critical to your business success as it is to your customers.
• Do you have the right partners to achieve your business goals? This question asks whether you have extended your internal resources with a web of external partnerships that can expand your sales with current clients and your opportunities in new markets?
Unlike in the movies, you can’t go back to the future in the world of business. If you want to come out of an choppy economy ready to capitalize on the future, you have prepare for it right here, right now. You have to lean forward.
Food for Thought,
Peter Weddle has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.