Overall it is clear now we are in the grip of a severe downturn in which no business - even a dynamic category busting business like ours - is immune. We are currently running spend and profitability figures which are pretty flat (+4% year on year) which in a normal business would be cause for champagne but given our huge growth historically is not quite as exciting. I am not looking at any market stats in this piece but these are the significant changes i have witnessed in last 4 months from my comments then
- Some of our day to day contacts have changed in both client and supplier communities. This is due to 1 reason - redundancy. When a client needs to reduce costs/headcount - they do not need as many recruitment managers - hence these individuals are cut at quite an early stage. Media owners all need to cut their cost base - hence headcount reduction. We are clearly trying to help where we can - keep our eyes open for any opportunities that may help people we became close to over the time of our working relationships.
- The gap between proposal and sign off gets longer - and some proposals sit out there - never being turned down but beginning to yellow at the edges. Caution and postponement become the name of the game - and i understand that perfectly.
- The argument about successful adoption of new techniques to reduce cost per hire etc has been won - however if there is no recruitment occurring - the decision to go online does not necessarily elicit any short term activity
- Some of our retail clients really inspire me by their determination to sell their way through these problems and carry on recruiting and expanding - yes they are more cautious but they see a big opportunity to grab m/s in this period. We try and have by and large been successful at OME in following this mantra.
- I am extremely thankful for the government work we have got involved with in mid last year. It is both great in terms of quality of client and interest of projects and also i know my taxes are not going to be wasted for too much longer long term by huge adverts every week in nationals and locals.
- However, Sean (my co-founder) and I used to have this 100% strike rate of meeting to some degree of spend/activity - for last few months all meetings are more speculative and tentative again understandably and i think our previous urgent almost impatient approach would be the wrong tack for the next few months. I made sure everyone at OME from Jan 2 knew the score and what was expected of them in terms of service and hard work etc but that should never come across as being over aggressive in any of our relationships with suppliers (and clients)
- Every media and agency one talks to - when asked the inevitable question "hows business?" repeat the same answer - "it is tough out there but we are doing OK and out-performing market" - presumably not everyone is telling truth but then would you - if the answer was "absolutely shockingly - at this rate we will all be down the dole office including me"
Finally - i think in October i did not really know anyone who was out of work - i now know of at least 8-10 senior-ish people who are - and none of whom tell me there is much out there at all in terms of exciting opportunities.
Anyway hopefully this was not too glum - as one advantage of being a bit older is i have been through it before and it passes and it can pass quite quickly - and ultimately there will be big big winners from this period of change - just make sure you are in the winners camp!