Geo Week News

December 27, 2011

Dr. Jekyll, Meet Mr. Hyde

As we greet the last week of the year, many of us find ourselves trying to take stock of the year that is soon to be behind us. I think that I speak for all of us when I say, “Good Riddance!” 2011 may not have been the worst economic year of all time but it is looking like the final numbers will verify that it was one of the worst economic periods during my lifetime. That’s right; I’m now one of those people that miss the “good ‘ol 90’s”! Then again, perhaps I should be happy to have made it through to 2012 in one piece.

As a service provider I often feel as though I have to have both a Jekyll and a Hyde disposition in order to be successful. Bouncing back and forth between being an eternal optimist and a hard-eyed realist is an absolute necessity; and never more so than when taking stock and looking toward a new year.

Considering how many RFPs one must go through for each successfully acquired purchase order, it takes a lot of optimism just to stay in the game. Beyond that, it takes even more to keep the troops motivated, the contractors invested and the other team members believing. And you still need a little left over to rub off on the clients as well! However, while an abundance of optimism is necessary, a bit too much and cash flow problems will become a frequent companion.

Knowing when, where, and how to best allocate resources is an exercise that requires discipline and a pragmatic approach. If there is one aspect of our business that every service provider I know laments it is the “feast or famine” nature of project timing. When you are trying to maintain well trained personnel, six-figure hardware, and software that costs as much as a field hand’s annual salary, the lack of steady cash flow is a killer. The result is that a large percentage of my time (unbillable, by the way) and attention is devoted to monitoring expenses. Feel a bit too optimistic, spend that hard earned money too quickly, and you will be out of business before the next check hits your bank account. My Father used to tell me that, “Keeping money is a lot harder than making it.” I just thought it was the gripe of a man that was writing a lot of checks each month. Turns out he was spot on. However, if you don’t spend any of it you won’t make any more either.

Allow me to suggest that you make two lists as you take stock and prepare for the coming year. First make one that spells out what you want for next year. Think of it as the “if everything goes right” list. Next make the one that spells out what you need and think will happen given past performance. Think of this as the “past performance with a bit of pessimism” list. Use the “Wants” list to direct R&D and marketing but before you spend any money or take on any new commitments check back with the “Needs” list. It’s not a lot of fun but it just might save you from overdoing it when gear lust becomes particularly strong!  

So, here’s hoping you find your attitudinal sweet spot this coming year; your golden mean between optimism and pragmatism. Something tells me we’ll need them both. 


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