5 ways to change during tough times

Business development leaders and individuals who refuse to change in difficult economic times risk significantly limiting their professional and personal growth. When the pain of change is less than the pain we are in, we will change, writes Bill Scheessele of MBDi.

If asked, most people would say they advocate change. They’ll share that a certain variety in life adds excitement and makes things more interesting on a daily basis. Whether it's the change of the seasons or a change in our personal and professional prospects, all of us take to something new. Unfortunately, we tend to bring a lot of our old thinking and ways to this new reality.

Computers and other devices have significantly changed the way we engage and communicate, and the rate of change is ever accelerating.

However, regardless of what we say, by our very nature, we sometimes fight change. We sometimes behave as though the act of change means something we consider irreplaceable and of enormous value is also being taken away.

People tend to be comfortable with the way they've always approached activities in their personal and professional lives. We are inclined to be apprehensive about new ways of conducting activities. That resistance can affect how we acquire business, particularly when our industry is in the middle of a major upheaval, which is true of federal government contracting now.

Even with award delays, program cutbacks, lost recompetes, trimmed budgets, flattened organizational structures and layoffs — which happens to some individuals more than once — there are still business development leaders and individuals who defy logic and decide to remain in a psychological and emotional comfort zone. They are too comfortable with the status quo. For example, they continue the traditional way they’ve always gone about developing business, resist new ways of thinking and fight against embracing new business development/capture processes. That defiance significantly limits their growth and potential professionally and personally.

We’ve often heard the phrase that complacency is a rut — and that rut is a grave with no end. However, we seldom embrace the real message of the saying. We rarely encourage other people to challenge us to change and even less frequently challenge ourselves to do so. Sometimes, it takes a major upheaval in our situation to force us to wake up to the reality of our world transforming around us. For business development organizations charged with growing revenue for their companies, that time is now.

Government contracting has changed, and the systems and processes that worked so well before are obsolete in this new reality. Expecting circumstances to blow over and return to the gushing mode of just a short while ago is not possible given a number of sobering conditions in the industry and national and global economies.

More than once, experts have drawn comparisons between the challenges that face federal government contracting and the angst experienced during deregulation of the communications and energy/utility industries decades ago. Both industries underwent radical transformation, reinvented themselves, and found that new opportunities driven by expanded technology and research and development breakthroughs rose from the ashes of regulation. Then, as now, it takes a different way of thinking and new approach to business development and revenue generation to survive and thrive under those circumstances.

A strategy of layoffs, early retirements and deep cost-cutting will only take an organization so far in the quest for stabilization and growth. Only through re-examining our thinking and reassessing how we approach business acquisition will we be able to continue to grow revenue. Recommendations for business development improvement include:

  • Assess the entire organization.
  • Embrace different strategies.
  • Re-engineer plans.
  • Update processes.
  • Add a strategic strike team.

Assessing the entire business development organization will reveal the present state of capability and effectiveness. Adding a strategic strike team can help locate new prospects and renew the pipeline. Only after addressing issues that are holding an organization back can we capitalize on the opportunities that suddenly appear, just as previous prospects decline.

Change begins from within. It is initiated when the situation becomes so challenging that the pain of change is less than the pain we are in. That is when we will change.

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