When I got the brief for the August edition of the 3rdi magazine as is usually the case, I took a wee while to think about it. Sometimes I get inspiration for an article right away. Sometimes it takes longer. I have to admit I struggled with this one. We were asked to be truthful about how austerity is impacting on our business so here’s my tuppence worth.
The work I do falls into three main categories:training, coaching and facilitation. The order I talk about them usually depends on how much of each I am doing at the time. In the early stages of running my own business (nearly 10 years ago now) I was advised to ensure I had a portfolio of offerings, so that when times were tough for one the others could cover. Good advice of course but not always easy to do.
My business has grown organically building on my skills and experience and adapted to the needs and demands of my clients. Some of those clients worked with me for one reason in the past and subsequently came back to discuss something different at a later date. This has given me some insight into their organisations.
Inevitably discussions around services and fee levels over the past few years have been coloured by sources of funding, or lack of it.
Let me share a story to illustrate.
Over the past five years or so I have had the chance to work in schools, leading public speaking skills workshops. Up until recently one major programme was funded by a corporate sponsor and there was no cost to the school. Feedback from the teachers was overwhelmingly positive and they expressed the wish that they could have more but everyone I spoke to about it said that there was no way of funding it from the school budget.
At about the time I started running these workshops I also took a maternity cover Business Manager post in an Edinburgh primary school. In that role I was responsible for reporting on the school finances. I had a real, hands-on experience of where the money went and it gave me a valuable insight into the challenges senior management teams in schools have, to manage their budget and make the most of what they get. I have no real sense of whether budgets have actually been cut or they are being asked to do more with the money they have. Not matter what the situation is though, it’s tough.
There are a couple of areas of my business that are growing and I think this might be because of, rather that in spite of, the current economic climate.
For some time now I have been offering coaching for clients during career transition, ie while they are looking for a new job. Not surprisingly for some, over the past few years, that has not been their choice and for many that meant that they left jobs that they had had for many years. Very often I have had an urgent call from someone who has been successful in getting an interview and is panicking because it’s so long since their last one.
In the time available we look at how they can make a persuasive case for being hired and how they words they say and their body language will contribute to that. Some got the job they went for, which is great. But the others who were not successful used what they had learned from what was essentially, both a practical and a confidence building exercise, to make some choices about how the future will look, eg to change career paths or start up on their own.
The second example of a growth area for me is in the number of businesses who hire me to facilitate workshops for their teams. In some cases they need a team to perform better than they are currently and in others it is about learning more about the untapped potential of the people they already have. I have had bookings to work with creative teams to help them come together and look for new ways to develop business potential. All of this is fed by the current need to do “more for less” or “more with less”.
Looking at tough times through the lens of my business I think there might be some balancing out happening. The organisations that hire me as a facilitator mainly want to use the capacity they have more effectively. Amongst my HR colleagues I hear a lot of talk about being smarter about how people are developed, identifying learning needs that, when filled, will have an immediate positive impact on business, rather than the old methods of sending people on courses, regardless of how appropriate or relevant they were at the time. Often the manual or course notes ended up on a shelf and there was no evaluation of the benefit.
Having said all of that every client engagement won is a small triumph for me. None of the bills I have to pay are going down and choices about investing in business development have to be carefully considered. As it looks like more with/for less will be here for a while yet it looks like something I will be getting used to.
If you would like any information about anything I mentioned above just get in touch for a no obligation chat Jackie@consultcameron.com
Jackie Cameron is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.