“When somebody shoots your dog, teach your cat how to hunt.” – Old Southern Saying
The bad news: Somebody shot my dog. The good news: I’m teaching my cat how to hunt. Let me explain.
The recession caught me between a rock and a hard place. First, my small consulting business crashed, losing more than 50 % of my business in six months.
Even worse, it caught me with my pants down. I was tooling along on autopilot until, all of a sudden: “Hey, where’d the business go?” I assumed that my business was fairly recession-proof. After all, it had been in the past. This time, no. Like trying to herd pigs in a cornfield back through a broken fence, I’d shore up one contract here, lose two there, as clients desperately tried to save their own businesses by cutting back. One 20-year client sadly told me, “You have to understand, John, I cannot submit ANY outside invoices this year!”
Definitely not business as usual. The game had changed (as it has for most of us), and I had missed the signs (as have many of us). Somebody shot my dog, one that for 20 years plus had been stirring up super business like a keen-nosed pointer in cornfield stubble crawling with quail.
The good news: I’m teaching my cat how to hunt … and it’s one smart, keen-eyed stalker of a cat. Poignant metaphors aside, I finally woke up. I didn’t know how I was going to retool my business, but I knew I had to and was going to. Here’s what I did:
- I studied what had changed in the markets. The biggest change: Customers were cautious. It wasn’t a matter of cutting costs. Instead, I recognized that, while they still had needs for my services, I had to do a better job of presenting the value of those services in helping them achieve their goals.
- I studied what had changed in my business … or for me, what had NOT changed. I realized that I was operating under a 1999 business plan and marketing mindset. Back then, my competitive advantage was that I was not only the best in terms of teaching clients how to maximize their profits by kick-butt marketing strategies; I was pretty much the only one in the markets in which I worked. That void had filled in over the last decade, and I was locked in keen competition with interlopers.
- I re-evaluated my competitive advantage. What made me special? Unique? I found two things: First, experience. I’ve been a blood ‘n guts business owner for 25 years. During that time, I’ve seen it all, experienced it all. Second, when I analyzed my records and talked to my clients, I found that, on average, my clients receive roughly a ten-fold ROI on my services. So, if my services cost $5,000, their direct return tends to be $50,000 in the first year alone.
- I set out to bang the drum long and loud, telling my story and connecting with clients old and new. I now summarize my top competitive advantages by telling my prospects and clients, “What do I bring to our relationship? ‘Twenty-five-ten.’ Twenty-five years of business experience that helps assure my clients a ten-fold return on the price of my services.”
- I plan to review my plan every year. I have no intention of getting caught flat-footed again.
So, somebody shot my old dog. Fortunately, my cat’s working out just fine. Plus, I have a litter of new puppies I’ll be training and turning loose in the coming months and years.
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