If you’re a fancy finance boy thinking of taking a jump – well, go right ahead. For the rest of us, says Greg Verhoef, the game is survival and that means preparing the ground for a soft landing
I recently received an email that included a picture that some angry Yank had hung on a lamppost outside Wall Street. It read: “Jump you fuckers”.
But whether you jump or you are pushed, what do you do when the global downturn means your career goes into freefall? I am sure many of my employees whose jobs are now at risk would like to see some of these fancy finance boys jump. It doesn’t seem to have happened yet – in fact, a few of these flashy dudes have gone off into the sunset holding on to their massive bonuses leaving nothing but a heap of wreckage.
According to the BBC, enquiries to the UK’s teacher recruitment agencies have jumped by 44% – seminars are packed with ex-bankers and financial services staff all seeking a career with some security to pay their mortgage.
Yes, sure, they won’t be receiving lottery jackpot-sized bonuses, and a Ferrari may not be the most practical car to keep in a school car park, and maybe the luxury holidays won’t exactly be affordable on a teacher’s wage, but it is a more respected profession. Still, let’s just hope they stick to teaching sports and home economics and leave the maths to those who know what they are doing.
If the work dries up and our order books become leaner and leaner, then many of the UK’s skilled stonemasons are going to have to think about alternative careers to bring home the bacon.
But it is not just the financial services industry that is affected by the economic climate – we are all going to feel the pinch, and that worries me. If the work dries up and our order books become leaner and leaner, then many of the UK’s highly skilled stonemasons are going to have to think about alternative careers.
And then what? What happens when the market picks up? Buildings will start coming out of the ground, the jobs will roll in but the qualified masons may have moved to more active markets or they may not be working as stonemasons any more. We will then be left with a huge skills deficit.
We have to do whatever it takes to keep these skill staff in order to prevent long-term damage to our skilled labour resources. Otherwise the pain and suffering caused by reckless decisions in our banking sector could have long-term repercussions throughout the real economy.
So what will we do? We plan to ride out the storm by cutting costs and unnecessary expenditure wherever possible. We will have to improve the value engineering for every job and maximise efficiency – this, combined with a solid reputation for quality, should stand us in good stead.
Many small firms are being faced with a dilemma: either turn down the marketing campaign and cut costs, or go hell for leather.
I believe communication is key in a market like this; articulating what it is that sets your business apart from your nearest competitor is crucial. We in the natural stone business are now facing this challenge more then ever – how do we distinguish ourselves in the mind of our clients, especially if we are being undercut by some cowboy contractors whose craftsmanship and working practices leave much to be desired.
So, many small firms are being faced with a dilemma: either turn down the marketing campaign and cut costs, or go hell for leather and increase the marketing budget to ensure that the firm is well represented. In either case, make sure that where you are on-site, managers are communicating properly and efficiently with the client, whether that’s a main contactor or the client direct. Marketing is just as important on site through communication and most critically through actual delivery. As they say bullshit walks, action talks.
One company that is still ploughing money into marketing is Microsoft. It has recently kicked off its long-awaited $300m (£160m) advertising campaign with an advert featuring founder Bill Gates and US sitcom star Jerry Seinfeld. The advert has been criticised by many for its lack of reference to computers or IT – instead it features the two men shoe shopping and then going on to discuss the likelihood that computers will one day be edible. Innovative or insane – you make up your own mind.
Bill Gates was recently reported to have said: “We are in an economic downturn but an innovation upturn.” I suppose he is right, because this economic environment will sort the good from the bad – only the fittest will survive and they will have to adapt to do so. Taking time to stop and consider your business model, restructuring and streamlining operations is an opportunity not to be missed.
So, as we all batten down the hatches to weather this storm, those in the construction industry who do choose to pursue alternative careers should be sure not to jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Greg Verhoef is director of Szerelmey