5th January 2009

As we start a new year – which may be the most difficult in memory – how do Enterprise Agencies ensure that they survive and help our target market? Just before Christmas I heard from three different agencies that are either closing their doors for good or close to doing so. This is very sad news indeed and should be a wake up call for many of us – as if we should need it! In speaking to some of the individuals concerned I asked how they had come to this point. In each case they had predicted such a scenario up to 12 months earlier but had held on in the hope that “something would turn up”. I am afraid that I find this mindset very difficult to understand.

We would never advise clients to cling to forlorn hope or divine intervention and yet this is what several agencies are doing themselves. In the life cycle of every business there are downs as well as ups and it is how we cope with these that differentiates leaders from managers. I am returning to a subject that I have raised before but it amazes me how many agencies seem happier to close down rather than merge with neighbours or seek a “hub and spoke” type of arrangement to reduce operating costs.

Whilst some agencies are facing difficult times I am encouraged by how many are going from strength to strength and diversifying activity and income streams. Taking a football analogy – and don’t forget that I support Norwich City – agencies could perhaps be categorised as Premier League teams, Championship aspirants and Conference amateurs. This is not meant as any disrespect to agencies or individuals or that “Big is good, small is not” statement, merely an honest appraisal of where we are now.

It is incumbent on each of us – executive and Boards – to seek partnerships, explore joint working or merge rather than preside over decline. We have a proud history and I believe a glorious future but it needs people with vision, strategic direction and passion to deliver this. So are you an Arsene Wenger, Glen Roeder or a Mike Bassett? Have you built a strong team to propel you up the league or do you manage a group of overpaid, fading stars?!

One of the most pleasing things about being part of the NFEA is that there is so much mutual support, advice and assistance available when you need it; so my plea is that if the future is looking uncertain then speak to sister agencies or the NFEA at an early stage. The need for our services now is as strong as ever before so let’s ensure that we are fit for whatever challenges come our way.

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