Monday 29 March 2010

Lessons from the recession

I was approached today by a senior manager I worked with some years ago, asking my advice about freelancing.

I suggested that now was not the best time to leave the comparative safety of a permanent job. A combination of the recession and the impending - and somewhat unpredictable - General Election makes an assured monthly pay cheque something that should not be abandoned lightly.
But I did advise him to increase his networking activity and his web presence.

One thing I have become firmly convinced of over the last fifteen months or so is that the interim market will never be the same again. In my experience, freelancers fall into one of two categories; they either select a handful of reputable agencies and rely on them to come up with suitable contracts, or they spray their CV around like confetti, forging no lasting relationship with any agent and being content to take work from anyone who can deliver it.

Both models, I would suggest, are now fatally flawed.

If the hard times brought on by the recession have taught us one thing, it is the value of networking. Of course, recruitment agencies will always be major players in the interim/freelance market, but when times are hard the pressure increases to get appointments right first time, and the value of personal recommendations comes to the fore.

I've always tapped into my personal network to learn of potential assignments for myself or to pass on potential assignments to others. Now, even that is not enough, and the interims who survive are those who up their networking game and build solid business relationships.

I've dabbled with various networking groups over the last nine months, in a bid to find one that is right for me. Some were dominated by small, local businesses, so I felt they were not the best place for me to commit time and money. Others seemed more like money-generating schemes for their originators. Not scams - that would be too harsh by far - but perhaps a little opportunistic.

I've now settled on two where I feel I can forge the most promising business networks - the Institute of Directors and the Interim Managers' Association. I've yet to attend an IMA networking event, but the IoD ones have started to yeild results, with people I have met really "getting"networking.

I've also, with the help of a handful of like-minded colleagues, started a micro-consultancy - The Freelance Network, which is designed to be in part a networking community but, more importantly, it affords each of us the opportunity to add more value for our clients because of the collaborative nature of the organisation and the good blend of skills and experience within the membership.

I firmly believe that the business relationships forged now, while the going is tough, will be the ones to endure, and as the economy revives more and more interim assignments will be carried out by people introduced through personal recommendation.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Data Backup

I'm fanatical bordering on obsessive when it comes to backing up my data, so when I inadvertently deleted huge swathes of important stuff yesterday I wasn't too worried.

Twenty minutes later it was all restored thanks to the excellent backup software I use.

However, I had a folder containing around twenty files that I hadn't backed up, as they were comparatively insignificant and I was going to get round to "sorting them out eventually". Now they're lost forever. Feels quite cathartic really. 

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Worldwide Recession

Golfing in Spain last week really brought home the effects of the recession.

OK, so it was early in the season, but the (three) golf resorts we played at were almost deserted. Great on the courses where you could enjoy a leisurely round, but the bars and restaurants at night were practically empty, leaving the place with no atmosphere.

Returning home, the market for interim programme managers remains quiet, but there are signs of the private sector waking up.

I think things will remain pretty flat until a General Election produces a government - of whatever hue - with a working majority, and if the polls are to be believed that could be some way off.

Monday 8 March 2010

Golfing in the sun!

I have a couple of things on the go at the moment, bu thtings in general are quiet, so now is a good time for me to go off to Spain for a week to play golf with the sun on my back!

A few tidying-up activities plus an IoD networking event this week, then I'm off!

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The threat of a hung parliament

I think that the threat of a hung parliament is making the private sector as cautious as the public sector.
the public sector will kick off very few initiatives when there is so much uncertainty about who will form the next government. The private sector minds less so, but when the UK runs the risk of a hung parliament, and therefore an ineffectual government, even the private sector becomes nervous.
A hung parliament will be dreadful because it normally leads to another election about six months later, which means uncertainty for the whole of the country until 2011!

Currently, the only exceptions to the trend seem to be banking - particularly investment banking - and the NHS. The banking sector needs to regroup after the huge number of redundancies a year ago, and the NHS seems to be in a permanent state of flux so no surprise there.

The only frustrating thing for an interim like me is that, in the current buyers' market, the banks can be extremely precise about what experience they require, and the NHS totters along trying to introduce change but insisting on interims with extensive NHS experience. If you want change, you need a new broom!