Owners, principals and partners who plan for recovery are the ones who accelerate revenue growth during and after recovery. If you did $2 million in revenue before the recession and are now at $1.4 million, you want to get back to $2 million and beyond. If you plan for it, returning to your old revenue level will take only a few months. If you wait until recovery is at the top of the news, it is too late. It will take 6 to 18 months to return to your old level. It might take even longer if competitors were prepared for opportunities before you.
This is not theoretical. Management here at BQE Software have owned, managed and consulted with many professional services firms. The pattern of recovery and growth is not new. Moreover, we watch the economy closely, just as you do. We all know that most general economic gauges are lagging indicators rather than predictive. Reviewing our own activity as a company, our customers, and the economy overall during the last three recessions, we developed internal predictive indicators. We used them to prepare BQE for the most recent downturn, and have been using them for months to prepare for recovery and expanded growth.
For the past quarter our indicators have grown steadily in strength. We believe the 4th Quarter will see increasing growth, starting after Labor Day. This may not be the headline in the Wall Street Journal, but we all know journalism focuses far more on negatives than positives.
So, the management of BQE Software recommends the following.
Make positive assumptions for increased demand for services. One of those assumptions should be that you win more opportunities because competitors have waited for the recovery to be all but over to staff up, invest in technology (upgrade, purchase), and train their people (technology, procedures).
You may be able to handle the initial workload increase with current staff (regular and overtime), but that will max out quickly. Plan to hire more people. Place ads in the coming weeks. Professionals and support staff with exceptional credentials are in the market. Take your time to review them; several weeks if necessary.
Also, take time to work out their Ideal Bill Rate based on your assumptions and past experience.
Upgrade Key Software
Look at all your key technology – the software, hardware and associated procedures. Upgrade to the latest versions for accounting, time & billing, CAD, scanners, printers, etc.
Equally important train new and existing staff on all the technology and procedures. This includes company policies and procedures like timely recording of hours worked and expense reports, along with reinforcement of policies with regular feedback reports. You want to automate the reporting processes and monitoring of reported hours too so that productive and billable hours are maximized. Same for other technology. In other words, when your people they hit the ground, it should be with no dead weights around their ankles. They should sprint past competitors, impress clients, and drive strong revenues and profits.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Think about not only the value you bring to clients today and what you did in the past, but what you will do in the future. Think about it from the point of view of your clients. They ask: What’s in it for me?
What are the primary business reasons that customers would use your services? What do decision-makers really care about? Low cost is typically not the first one on the list. Quality, timeliness and other benefits and attributes of your work may carry higher value than simply being the lowing cost supplier of professional services. (In fact, if you don’t value your services highly (your fee), then why should a customer?)
Customers won’t change unless what you offer is significantly better than their status quo. How are you going to move them? Think in terms of words like increase, accelerate, strengthen, cut, reduce, improve, enhance, grow, save, eliminate, minimize and maximize.
When you write out statements to articulate the answers to these questions, quantify the value you bring. Think in terms of time frame, dollar amount and percentages.
In the end you will have a simple statement called a Value Proposition. (Try out your value proposition on a few customers and prospects. Refer to it as a Research Call (see the series Top 3 Things to Start Off for more).
After this, ramp up tactical marketing activities. Send direct mail to existing clients and prospects. It might be a letter or postcard. Email them. Network with them. Tell them what you stand for and what you deliver (value proposition).
Most important, get into the habit of regular follow-up with no excuses. Schedule time every day to make at least one call to a customer or prospect (15 to 30 minutes first thing every day). Nurture existing client relationships as much as you develop new ones. You want to stay top-of-mind with customers and prospects.
Your goal is to fill your pipeline with opportunities and keep it filled. This ensures work in hand is strong and growing. With your resources (employees and technology) ready for action, plus consistent execution of basic marketing, you will be the superior competitor.