23rd December 2008

Now is the time to radically restructure the Enterprise Agency movement. Bold, ambitious, misguided, impossible – all of these may be true with regard to the previous statement. But has the time come for us to take a good look at what we do and how we do it? I believe that the answer to this is a resounding yes. For the past 25+ years we have performed an important role, helping to perpetuate one of the longest periods of economic stability through careful nurturing of new businesses. The world is changing however and unless we adapt – in a radical way – we will not be around as a group for too much longer.

We are undoubtedly threatened but at the same time there are wonderful opportunities opening up before us – do you have the desire, will and ability to grasp them however? Too often I see people in the industry trying to defend impossible positions and then shouting loudly when things do not go their way. Change is painful but necessary throughout the life of any business and we are no different. Complacency and entrenched positions are our biggest challenge not competition.

On more than one occasion I have been told by agency executives and Boards that they would rather run down their reserves and close up shop than do what is necessary to change and survive – be that personnel changes, product offering, merger etc. To me this is the ultimate betrayal of the Enterprise Agency movement, where selfish and narrow interests take precedence over the needs of the clients that we serve.

I do not pretend to have a solution to meet every need and indeed it may be that in some cases there is no workable solution. What we must do though is look to continue our movement and enhance its strength through clear strategic thinking and with an open mind. Surely this is not beyond the ability of each and every one of us?

What I have just written may be seen as doom laden – I believe that this is far from the truth – we have many talents within the movement and they will ensure its survival. What I want to see though is more than mere survival – a thriving, innovative and effective Enterprise Agency movement. This needs urgent and open discussions to take place at a local, regional and national level to determine the best way forward in each of the sectors and areas in which we seek to be a major player.

The “new” network may be different to what we have now but the intention should be to help more people. If we do that then the structure, size and governance of agencies is a by product. I make no judgement on the best way to deliver our services; it could be through bigger and more efficient agencies, smaller but niche deliverers, a franchise arrangement or any other method. What I do urge however is that every effort is channelled into adapting to meet the challenges facing us rather than bemoaning our fate. If you lose a contract look at the reasons why you lost rather than seeking to lay blame elsewhere. If you do that and change the way that you do things then you have a good chance of winning the next contract and not making the same mistake!

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