Having worked in agencies for over a decade, from start up to plc level, I can say without a shadow of doubt the most dangerous period is when you’re doing well, the most worried you should be is when things are flowing and seem to be easy. New business is strong, results are great, and profits are up year on year; it’s around this time you should really start to hustle.
There was a point at Branded3 in around 2016 when performance was special, 5-6 good leads per week, 60% pitch conversion rate, strong profit margins and 30% year on year growth. Moreover, I had a crazy strong management team and each department in the business was delivering exceptional results for our clients. Inevitably the hard times came, turbulent markets, insolvencies, change in direction, personnel and company visions. This all has a negative impact on performance and trying to get yourself and an 80-man team from ‘good life’ mentality to a ‘hustle’ mentality is really, really tough.
Over the years I’ve worked with many businesses that fall into this category, they’re doing well, everyone is happy, they’re committed to investing but only at a ‘safe’ level. New opportunities, investment and markets are in front of them, but the risk is too much, the effort is too much; after all they’re killing it.
Of course, new competitors enter the market who want it more and are willing to invest. Customers change, technology changes and regulations change. They catch these complacent businesses flat footed and trying to change a deep rooted culture of complacency is impossible. The inevitable happens and these businesses struggle and shrink, unfortunately some don’t survive.
We’ve had a very good start at connective3, we’re performing above expectations. However, my message to the team is clear, we need to play like we’re five nil down. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the wins; it simply means we shouldn’t become complacent and sit back. I want us as a business to have a relentless focus on growth, being alert and willing to jump on new opportunities.
I would challenge all businesses out there to do the same, not to hold back because ‘things are going well’ but be open to investing in new opportunities and safeguarding against the next wave of competitors. The hard times always come, but if you keep a ‘five nil down’ mentality in the business you’ll be ready to meet them head on.