Dealing with Business Cycles
It’s spring. Things are a bit quieter. Sometimes this time of the year is slower and sometimes it is not. Yet, as things get slower, I use the opportunity to reconnect with business associates and friends that I have not spoken to in a while. In truth, reconnecting allows me to allay some of my doubts about my own business – making sure that I am “top of mind” if something does come up. So, I make my rounds talking to people and seeing what they are up to and what their sense of the market is. While I am talking to people, it occurs to me that people deal with their “slowness” differently.
Some are more matter of fact about it. They just come out and say that things are quieter, their clients are still cautious, and their hoping that things will begin to turn. Others are more optimistic – they tell you everything is fine at first – and then, more is revealed when the discussion goes on. The difference in approach is understandable. We don’t want to seem too eager or desperate for new business, but at the same time, we want to get the message across that we have capacity for and are open to it. I struggle with this balance all the time. For me, this also comes up as I seek to diversify my client base – things may not be slow, but as I develop new contacts, I want to further the relationship by seeing as a potential service provider for such new contacts. However, at the same time, I don’t want to turn someone off. In other words, how do you ask for business without being awkward or overt?
In thinking about this, it occurs to me that the best way to handle this is to try to be direct about this – but positive. The focus ought to be on what type of business you are looking for; rather than you are slow, for example. Talking to people about the type of work you want to do, the type of contacts you are seeking, and the type of client you are trying to cultivate, is more conducive to a positive conversation leading to how others can help you. Telling people you are slow or have more capacity can potentially create awkwardness in the conversation. Also, be sure to ask them the same questions about their business. In fact, I often start with that when I meet people. I find that networking is like providing service to my clients – not only is the result important, but so is the experience while you are going through the process. If the networking process is not positive, it is not likely that someone would refer you or recommend you. So, I figured out long ago that being affable, positive, helpful, and engaged are all qualities that are critical. You want to be confident about your capabilities, but not boastful – and more importantly, be a good listener. As we deal with the ups and downs of the business cycle, it is important to move forward, not sweat so much, listen, be helpful, engage, and most of all – be the person that others want to do business with. If they don’t perceive you as someone they can do business with, there is no way that they will refer you to their clients or contacts.
It’s spring – so out out and mingle and spend some time getting to know others. As we communicate and converse with others more, we are more likely to find and achieve the balance in our perspective and approach as we deal with the down cycle. I have come to realize that the cycles are inevitable, but how we handle it is not.