I sometimes like to make the first post of the year something that relates to whatever exciting plans I’ve made for my business for the year. They aren’t New Year’s resolutions, where I insist I’ll make my business “lean” or “shape up those tax forms” but more just a set of goals I’m going to work to reach. Sometimes, it has to do with specific things I’d like to learn, other times with new business ventures I’d like to make.
I have put off making the first post of 2014 because I just don’t have anything like that to talk about. For 2014, I can’t come up with anything new I’d like to do with my business nor in any other exciting plans. I don’t know if it’s the cold, grey, snowy, windy days or if I’ve just been in business so long that I have become a bit jaded.
Normally, I end up having many phone calls and e-mails with other consulting firms at the end of a year, as we all realize we want to catch-up with each other before the holidays start, then with another rash of communications in the New Year, because we want to start the New Year with better plans for keeping in-touch. 2013 and 2014 have been no different from other years, in that respect.
At the end of 2013, the conversations with other consultants led me to believe that the era of the small consulting business like mine was at an end. It seems that so many small businesses such as mine have closed up shop with their owners taking permanent positions with the customers, that I wondered if I would end 2014 all alone, as the single small consulting firm left in the United States. But, then, 2014 started with several customers and friends asking for advice on or discussing how they are starting their own consulting businesses. Maybe I won’t end up 2014 alone, after all.
As usual, the preferred vendors lists do tend to make it difficult for the smaller businesses. For example, for the customer who did want me on their list but whose requirements were a minimum of one million dollars in sales per year, while I appreciate that they did want me on the list, there was just no possible way my business would qualify unless I started charging them truly obscene and ridiculous charge rates.
When I started my business in 1996 (I can’t believe it’s coming up to 18 years in business — where does the time go?), the preferred vendor lists weren’t as popular or strict as they are, today. There were more small businesses like mine here in the US. But one issue, even back then, was that customers would sometimes get sold on services by their software vendor or larger consulting firm who didn’t have enough resources to fill all their sales and, if there weren’t the resources to do the work, the customers would just wait and wait, hoping that they’d eventually get a resource, usually just not getting their work done for the year if they ran into that situation. They would not consider using available resources from other places, such as the smaller firms. That is still the case, today. When we talk about shortages in the market, what we usually mean is that there are shortages with whatever firms customers are trying to get people from, not necessarily the entire market. Almost every time my own business has been slow, I’ve heard of customers with unfilled needs who thought there was a shortage. For them, there really was a shortage, just not in the market. So, as I’ve said, before, shortages are often subjective.
So, the question is whether or not small business can make a go of it in 2014? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve now been in business almost 18 years and I hope to make it to year 19, but it bears consideration that things change every year. 2014 might be “the year of the small business” or “the year we killed the small business.” Thus, I will leave the question mark in the title of this post. By the time 2015 arrives, we should all know what it stands for.