• Gary Williams

Six things to do this year to win a bigger slice of a smaller pie

Commissioned by New European Economy February 2021

Economic forecasts are predicting a tough year for most sectors in 2021 – with many suggesting we will not reach pre-pandemic levels again until the end of 2022. So, in the face of a shrinking 'business pie', how can companies carve out a bigger slice for themselves in the coming months?

The unprecedented scale and global reach of the coronavirus pandemic means businesses don't have a template for how best to survive the disruption – let alone thrive in the face of such a catastrophe. But the global financial crisis of 2008 taught us that organisations prepared to be proactive in terms of business development and client experience management are the ones most likely to emerge from a crisis faster and in better shape than their ‘ostrich-like’ competitors who stick their heads in the sand to avoid facing reality.

There are six key things you can do this year to increase your chances of winning a bigger slice of the smaller business pie.

1. Get focused

Have a laser-beam focus on your target market. You need to be able to clearly and confidently say to your clients – existing and new – “this is how we help you achieve your goals”. Too many businesses are ‘scattergun’ in their approach to marketing and when the pressure mounts in a difficult market they tend to get worse. Those who really know their sweet-spot and stick to it are more likely to succeed.

2. Have a plan

A three-year vision is crucial, with 12-month objectives and rolling three quarterly actions. Having clarity about the destination and the journey will make decision-making a lot easier – When someone asks – “Should we do X”…“If it doesn’t take us towards our goal, the answer is no”.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Talk to your people, tell them where you’re heading, explain your plan for how to get there - and how you can’t do it without everyone playing their part. If you earn buy-in from your employees and have everyone collaborating towards the same goal you can achieve incredible things. Remember – a sense of purpose is the number one motivator.

4. Take care of your people

As Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher used to say, put employees first and customers second. His view was that if you treat your employees well, they treat your customers well – and that means your customers come back and your shareholders are happy. So put a 'virtual arm' around your workforce – ask people how they’re doing and tell them how much they are appreciated. They are how you will survive and thrive this year – and every year.

5. Get the right people in the right roles

Release your work winners from the shackles of utilisation, ensure you have strong leaders in leadership positions. Hire for attitude, train for skill. In his famous book – Good to Great, Jim Collins taught us about having the right people on the bus and then to make sure they are in the right seats. Do not put someone in a leadership position unless they have the skills and behaviours to carry out that role effectively. Too often we see people promoted due to longevity – this is not a good reason!

6. Develop necessary skills

Everyone who is client facing is selling the business, whether they know it or not. So encourage them to improve their business development and client relationship skills, confidence and behaviours. For example, there are many technical people who might also have an introvert personality type. This is not a limiting factor as to how good they can be at winning work. A simple equation – the more people you have who are confident, proactive and effective the more opportunities you will uncover.

Although this is likely to be a tough year, there will still be business out there. Whether you are targeting the public or private sector, there will be opportunities. What you have to decide is how you are going to win your share of the pie.

Written by Gary Williams, founder and CEO of professional services business development coaching consultancy BD Coaching Hub