Robert Davis

OPINION

Time for management to manage

Waiting for clarity isn't an option in today's market

Our industry is in turmoil. Market turbulence is at an unprecedented level. This market chaos is adversely affecting the careers and work status of many people; people we know. “I do not know where I will be working in 2014, if at all”, is a commonly heard refrain these days.

Companies want numbers, numbers and more numbers, now. Mergers and acquisitions are a relatively easy method for companies to put “lipstick on the spreadsheet”, a panacea for instant growth. As someone said years ago, “Those who cannot strategize, acquire.” Unfortunately, M&A activity often masks the sins of management.

Strategic thinking, innovation, employee skills development, internal research and development, developing sustainable competitive advantages and old fashion value creation through higher quality service are occasionally discussed but seldom performed. Many companies say that they are waiting for sequestration to be resolved, budget stability, a Congress that works together, or more market clarity.

I say, “Wrong!”

While we wait for more clarity in the market’s direction, technology is changing, competition is getting tougher, institutional knowledge is walking out the door, at the government and industry, and business risk is increasing.

Waiting for wisdom is not a strategic position in the midst of evolving market forces.

Examples of non-stop market and industry forces are:

  • Companies can perform more work today with fewer employees than in the past.
  • The value of the productivity gains created by having less employees accrues to the owners of the business and not the long-term, well-being of the firm.
  • Many firms have high levels of cash that used to be reinvested into increasing the firm’s long-term competiveness.
  • Companies that used to perform regular employee skills training, for the company’s needs, are hoping government will pay for this training.
  • The gray ceiling has replaced the glass ceiling, which adversely affects employees’ opportunity for promotions or job mobility.
  • Technology infusion, across our society, replaces workers at a rate of 1-2 percent per year; more in some industries.
  • As robotics had a dramatic impact on blue-collar workers’ employment the past 30 years, so will artificial intelligence applications impact white-collar workers.
  • Globalization will continue to offer companies the appearance of less expensive labor alternatives.

These and other market forces are hammering employees, the backbone of every company.

Traditionally, management served as a buffer between the firm’s external environment, i.e. the market chaos and the employee’s day-to-day activity.

No more. Today, employees are aware of external market forces with or without management’s interpretation. Management owes its employees a candid discussion concerning its view of the market, our industry, the firm’s direction and how it will remain competitive especially given decreasing internal investments.

It is time for management to manage.

Reader Comments

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 Me B BD

Time will wound all heels. You may or may not get to see it, but rest assured that the weak-minded drones that turn the handle on the RIF machine will ultimately get pulled into the same stupidity toaster that they serve. Depth and capability is no longer regarded. Friends and family rule among these people. The government has recognized this -- especially among large Primes and finds cause to place it's trust increasingly with small firms intent on success. If I put on my shareholder hat, I would have to condemn any leadership that believes that they can save their way into profitability in Federal contracting. If they could, we all better recheck our incentive payments for quite a few missing zeros.

Mon, Mar 11, 2013 Eileen Kent

Short Sightedness is the #1 Failure of Federal Contractors. The Revolving Door of Sales Executives Ruins Your Corporate Reputation with the Federal Customer. It takes 12-24 Months to win business and if it's an IDIQ contract, the sales team is still needed to uncover and win the tasks. A BD executive's job is never done. But, cut backs are a reality and the management teams have to pick up the ball - but they don't know the customer and they don't know how to sell - leaving the company in a sinkhole. As the Primes spin their wheels with cut backs and losing their "edge" new companies with trained sales teams are entering this marketplace by hiring experienced federal sales strategists for a fraction of the cost of a full time federal "insider" BD exec. We are performing a competitive analysis and building focused winning sales strategies for these new companies. The owners and managers of these companies are now getting involved so they don't miss a beat if their sale team members leave or fail. These companies are also requiring their sales teams to provide intimate details of customer relationships and contracting preferences so the work goes on despite the market conditions and their possible loss of position. By getting the sales team, the managers and the owners understanding the entire sales "game" in federal contracting, then there will be a better understanding this is a relationship-based sale and they'll think twice before letting go of their trained, strategic, intel-sharing sales execs. The time to enter this marketplace - is now - while the primes waste time licking their wounds, laying off people and losing their inside track.

Sun, Mar 10, 2013 Kathy Minchew Ashburn, VA

It is harder to plan for success and execute on it than to just blame it all on your salespeople. I love it when management says their salespeople are not delivering. Have you ever met a sales person who does not want to sell? So why is management not asking them what are the barriers to selling you are encountering, I can help you overcome. I was the number 1 salesperson in a company and I kept saying to management why don't you ask me why I am so successful so you hire people like me in your sales team? It was like speaking to the deaf. They knew how to hire and what did I know. As always it all boils down to communication. If management does not take the time to understand what they need to do to help sales be successful, they will have revolving door of salespeople. If management does not take the time to interview for salespeople with the right skills vs. my favorite “who do you know” question in interviews, they will continue to hire what we in sales consulting call the meeting goers vs. true tactical hit the ground running salespeople. Again the bright side for me is I do tactical federal business development consulting and workshops so in the end thanks for creating an environment that gives me lots of your business.

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 Gambrills, MD

Unfortunately, precious few execs, especially in the "bigs" where it is most needed, will rise to the occasion. The system will keep repeating itself with more BD layoffs to protect bottom line in a down economy, rehiring when execs perceive it's time to hire again, and starting over with yet another brand new team. And do it over and over and over. Let's hope somebody up there is paying attention. Get off your butt and manage (I should really say 'lead')... earn the big bucks you're getting paid.

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 Jim Annapolis

Your comments are right on! Most mgt is only interested in the short term (what can you close in 90 days?) Most of these managers will not succeed

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