No, this isn’t a rant about how things were better before everything was digital. Rather, it’s an observation on how principals of creative firms have borrowed some of the wrong things from the cultures of technology businesses and startups, in particular.
“We never pitch.” It was a lie. We pitched all the time but I was getting tired of it. I’d seen this film before and I knew how it ended. I wanted to try to change the ending, even if I didn’t know what should come after my small act of defiance.
Some firms don't take project work at all, while for others project revenue vastly outstrips the income from their few ongoing clients. What's the proper role of project work in your firm, and what's the proper approach to pursuing or vetting it? In this article I lay out some specific guidelines on projects as a part of your overall client mix, and the rules of pursuing and accepting project work.
I imagined that there is a line among design-based businesses that separates those who see themselves as in the business of design from those who see design as just one of the tools they use, in the service of whatever business they are really in. I wondered if this line was moving, squeezing out the traditional design firm.
When I think of the firms that drive numerous inbound leads they all have one very clear thing they do. Their lead generation efforts are as focused as their positioning. They’ve resisted diluting their efforts across numerous channels, avoiding Warren Buffet’s admonishment that “Diversification is for people who don’t know what they are doing."
You've got choices to make. The future is coming at you fast, bearing down. If you spend all your time with your head being pulled down, the future is going to catch you standing still. It will rock you back on your heels. You will end up sprawling, stunned, wondering what just happened.
Are you being held hostage by a gorilla account that, if they left, would destabilize or even destroy your firm? The threat is very real according to David C. Baker at ReCourses, who quantifies these things. "One half of all firms that lose a client representing at least 35% of their revenue do NOT survive." You might want to get ahead of that.
I was working with a WWP client recently, and as we discussed a range of topics I heard a common refrain, one I'll call the entrepreneur's educational lament: "I train my employees, and once they learn all these skills they take them and go work for my competitors."
It takes a lot of work in fact to generate a steady stream of good referrals and it’s no surprise that very few firms ever get to this place where the business is sustained and growing entirely by doing great work for good clients and systematically asking for and following up on referrals. It is however the highest form of “marketing” that we should all aspire to.
First principles are the foundational truths from which all other principles or assumptions should flow. Over the last year or so I've been ruminating on the first principles of the Win Without Pitching way of selling.
The closer a principal gets to his target exit age, the less risk he takes. At some point, within the five year window, the firm quits evolving altogether, and just when he should be building something strong that will survive the transition to new owners and therefore be easy to sell, the firm begins to deteriorate. The last few years in the business are poor ones. If it gets sold at all, it’s not at the price hoped for. The result is underfunded retirement for a burned out entrepreneur who put all his eggs into the end-game basket. The journey was unnecessarily painful and stressful because of the decisions deferred, and the payout wasn’t there in the end. Lose, lose.
When we’re working with owners of independent creative firms on the positioning of their firms, we separate the exercise of choosing a focus, from the exercise of articulating a claim. The first is an act of sacrifice, which most people in the creative professions struggle with (even more so than the average business owner, I believe), and the second is an act of communication, something creative professionals revel and delight in.
Imagine a more detailed map than this for every new business development decision that you face like positioning, lead generation, dealing with RFPs and closing. And then add a peer group of other owners just like you going through the same steps and the helpful guidance of a Win Without Pitching coach. That’s what’s available to you in the Win Without Pitching program where we have numerous training formats to match your learning style and budget.
Take this simple test and consider putting it to your team members. It’s one question to which the answers reveal so much about the firm and the individual respondents. I love putting this question to people who do not have day-to-day business development responsibilities – people like creative directors, partners, CFOs and pretty much anybody else in the firm. Okay, here’s the million dollar question...
It's not for everyone. But if it's for you, you're ready. You're ready to transform your trajectory, your business, your career. You know that you're ready, at some level, deep in your gut. You're ready, you're hungry, but how?