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It is difficult, and scary, these days to look up from what is right in front of us at the larger environment. Recent headlines have screamed, “Government Shutdown Looms,” “Contractors Expect Slow Quarter,” and “Administration Lauds Reduced Contract Spending.” It takes courage to keep your head up in this environment. Many companies do not. Heads are down and focused only on the immediate.
And yet, we know that to be consistently successful, your company has to keep its head up. You have to have someone, preferably a team of them, looking constantly at what’s happening from side to side and over the horizon. Without that function your company can get caught flat-footed and become the corporate punch line of the old joke, “I was wondering why the ball was coming toward me so fast, and then it hit me.” Simply put, there is no benefit to receiving a corporate black eye because everyone in your business is looking only at the straight ahead near-term.
Now, such people certainly do have a place in your business. There is no way your firm can successfully close opportunities or keep its cash flow positive without professionals who have a laser focus on capturing near-term opportunities. I have run two small businesses. I get the need to ramp up business quickly and get money in the door.
This is not, however, the problem I see with most companies today. It’s the ability to look out beyond the current quarter or fiscal year to strategically plan. Fewer and fewer companies will make investments that do not promise immediate results. While these companies may turn a profit today, their long-term prospects are far less certain.
What happens to these companies down the road? I would argue that the pipeline dries up pretty quickly and new business becomes increasingly difficult to get. For example, the Federal market trend in commercial IT and services is toward indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts. If your firm was not looking at important opportunities at the time these contracts were formed, you may find yourselves shut out of business you thought would be yours.
Also, the services or products you offer may no longer be relevant to what’s happening to your future government customer. Only someone with their head up and looking around can see new developments in services and changes to government organizations that give your firm the time and ability to keep pace. You do not want to sell WordStar in a world where word-processing is now brought in the cloud.
Long-term market intelligence and a broader participation in Federal market events and/or organizations costs money. It’s also current money that cannot always show a pay-off by the end of the quarter. I get it. No one has infinite resources to spread around. Not dedicating any resources to the future, however, many put the future of your company in doubt. Smart, wise investments in the future are expenses that no serious government contractor should go without.
Don’t be the company that gets smacked in the head with a ball from the outfield and is knocked out.