I have a good friend that works in the construction industry. We talk a lot about business, how his company is doing, and the future outlook. His company is doing quite well. They have projects locked in for the next 18 months. The outlook for this business is very good and for the next while and they seem not to have very many worries. In fact, with their line of business, and the margins are quite good, they are sitting in a great position, but for how long.
The interesting part is the future, looking past those next 18 months. Currently they are not working on any future business, they are not marketing much, they are not keeping the sales people busy. They are focused on the now and not going to worry about things until it gets close to a true need. You can say, well hey, they have 18 months, and yes they do. In fact, you can say they definitely have a good future, but they are acting like a small business. Using that small business theory of planning and thinking, or the lack thereof.
Now, even if they took this small business approach and said, we really do not want to grow much bigger, we really do not want to hire anyone, I would think that the current sales and marketing team would get bored and even worry about their jobs. There as well, I would think that the CEO would have a better vision than to sit idol and think that a storm will never hit. In every industry I have studied, there are always economical hits and industry fall outs.
At one company I worked at a few years back, the CEO always said that companies who hit hard times, typically shut down, hold the spend of anything until times pick back up. This CEO also referenced that in his day, the IMB model was to beef up spend when times got tough. Of course, this is the same CEO, that when tough times hit us, scaled back, cut sales and marketing dollars and watched his company begin to fall apart. The same goes with this construction CEO who is sitting on his hands enjoying the ride. Each of the current contracts he has is wonderful, and the future, but if one, just one of those contracts falls apart, maybe even two, then what? Then the sales team will be working at a hard and desperate pace. The reality is, he should have his sales and marketing team work hard now, bidding on everything they can, but bidding with the margins that are, well, very comfortable and lucrative. Imagine if they won a bid with high margins, with the ability to put that project into play on their time frame? Wow, that might be a perfect world.
Today we see the CEO, the person that is there to make the best decision, that provides the entire company comfort and job security, making choices that are almost sabotage. It is not intentional, but definitely inexcusable. To think that at anytime, any CEO would halt sales, lose market share, not add to the bottom line with additional customer spend, not take the chance to expand horizons in good times, versus trying everything in lean times. This is definitely inexcusable.
To the CEO things he might get too big, and he might not be able to handle the business, worried about growth pains. It is better to have that problem, than to have the opposite, needing business, cutting margins, layoffs and running to any job one can get.
CEO, take the time to keep each of your teams busy. Take the time to try new methods and ideas in bullish times. Be creative and have some fun experimenting, then watch the good become amazing. People work a lot better in a creative mode and not a frantic mode. It is in these times that your sales and marketing teams will impress you, being creative, resourceful versus reactive.
Here is a fun article called "Smarketing, Not Schmarketing" I stumbles upon that can help with this. It is a good short read and shares some good information.