Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Consulting In the Decline of Abundance

As Americans, over the course of the last two decades we have seen unprecedented growth and abundance in business and our standard of living.  We can point to many reasons for this growth and success, but today that very growth is on a decline.  It's clear our country's economy (and the global economy for that matter) is in turmoil, but despite this massive pull back is there is a silver lining?  Rather than looking outside our neighborhoods, cities and states for solutions, maybe all we need is right here within reach.

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Peggy Noonan a couple weeks ago where she reminisced about the age of abundance we lived in from the 80's, 90's and on through to about a year ago.  When living in an abundant world, all things "big" tend to get the most attention (and the money).  Her article culminated in a summary that described the state of our world today - pessimism.  There is a genuine lack of faith in our economy, our leaders, our culture and our institutions (those that are big - or once big).  The dynamic sense of abundance we so enjoyed has suffered a severe blow, but despite all this it is the spirit of abundance that lives on in the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs - like consultants, for example.  The implicit trust we once had in all things big may be gone, but the future, according to Ms. Noonan, is a shift toward going local.  On a local level, it's hard to be affected by pessimism when focus is placed on the dynamism of the people living and working where you too live and work.

The shift to a local approach in business is really an effort to simplify.  If you reflect upon your business and see a local approach potentially beneficial to you, now is a good time to examine your business and marketing plans once again.  If I may be so bold as to borrow from a local colleague, Tac Anderson at TechBoise, treat this evaluation as if you were abandoning a job search and starting a new business from the ground up.  This fresh perspective may yield surprising results and you accomplish it by taking a simplistic view, cutting out all the noise and obstacles thinking on a global level may bring.

This is not to say that working on a global scale is bad.  Some day soon you may be able to step back on the global stage with your business, but if you are feeling the effects of economic turmoil, perhaps coming back to the safehaven of your local community is a good way to reset and recharge so you are ready for the upswing once things pick up.  One thing is for certain. The economy will rebound. When it will rebound is hard to determine so businesses must do what they can to survive.  I think consultants are in the best position to thrive in this period of economic uncertainty.  While many businesses are letting staff go and even closing, those hanging on are surviving by leaning heavily on independent professionals to fill the gaps.  While they may not be able to hire full-time staff, business needs still exist and they must be addressed.  The key, as consultants, is that we must make ourselves visible and demonstrating our value.  Whether in times of abundance or decline, we can be successful.

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