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It is Us May 19, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Can you imagine a time in which your predictions about the future were spot on?  What about completely off?  What if every prediction you made in the last six months about the next six was totally wrong?  Is your firm prepared to deal with the consequences?  How closely are you watching the outside world while keeping the firm going day to day?

SWOT analysis (or any similarly structured evaluation) can yield some surprising insights, especially when performed with an actively brainstorming group.  Objectivity is important, but if your firm struggles with strategic planning, groupthink may be an acceptable initial price to pay to gain some first-step ideas.  As I mentioned before, however, the external “threats” can often be a hard item to objectively evaluate.

With enough groupthink, it may even seem reasonable to say that the firm really doesn’t have any significant threats.  This can seem all the more likely if your organization has managed to survive the downturn and experience growth when others are flailing their arms in panic.

This should raise a big red flag that you are missing something.  No one is immune to external threats.  There is always the potential for regulatory changes, client breakdowns, or new opportunities that sap your working time.  But the one area that holds the most potential for surprising the firm leaders is competitors.

The first step is to know your competitors: who are their clients, where do they work, and how much do they charge?  If your own market does not present any readily identifiable threats, then why isn’t there more competition?  Are the barriers of entry high enough to keep out the riff-raff, are your own clients so happy with your services that there really is no chance of them going elsewhere, or is it just a matter of time (especially when others are scrambling for work) before someone decides to take one of your best customers to lunch?

The next step is to act on these evaluations.  Take the initiative to promote a new service, advance a particular method, or seek testimonials and referrals for your successful work.  Begin putting these items together into a marketing package and prepare for the unexpected.  As we have seen, change can occur more rapidly than some firms care to admit.

If we think we are safe from major changes in our markets and clients, then truly, the enemy is us.

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