Last year shot by in a flash, and like many others, I imagine it will be a year that won’t be forgotten in a long while. But there’s good news ahead for the design and branding industry, with evidence that this year could well be more prosperous if you’ve played your cards right.
I’m in no position to preach, but for those design groups that have prepared themselves well over the past 12-18 months – which has inevitably meant making tough decisions, reducing overheads including staff, realigning their business and having a clear vision and business plan – this year and the next should grow in the right direction.
High client expectations
Tighter or reduced client budgets have had a huge effect on many groups, and we’ve seen a big change in the way they’ve had to cope with smaller headcounts, while still juggling and managing client servicing and creative delivery. On the whole, many had to work very hard last year to get on a pitch list, let alone try to win it, and it’s not been an easy year for their staff, be they creative or client services, as expectations from clients have remained high.
However, creativity has been on a high and I applaud you all, because the bar was definitely raised last year. There’s some fantastic work out there so keep up with the fabulous ideas.
On that note, if you’re running a consultancy in 2010, you have to be thinking about what matters most, and that should be those key staff who remain in positions of leadership or influence. Investing time and training with these key people will ensure you’re better equipped to drive your business forward with the revised upturn ahead of us, rather than putting your business at risk by going on ‘standby’.
Empower your managers
I feel passionately about this, and, as a recruitment consultant, I can see how consultancies are at risk of being too overstretched to deal with what they have already or seize new opportunities. I believe that a consultancy must empower its managers to lead and nurture its teams – it’s the only way to ensure its own success and that of individuals. It’s a strong PR tool, both for attracting potential staff, and showing clients you have the pulling power to do the work with the best talent around.
Last year saw a big shift in the way consultancies used freelance staff or contractors. With work much thinner on the ground, consultancies have understandably exercised greater caution before hiring, and have not always being in the position to confirm a project is going through.
Money will be tight
Again, the lid is slowly lifting – clients are beginning to show more commitment to work and budgets are being raised slightly, which allows consultancies to take on the core skills they need to make it happen. I predict that the freelance market will slowly bounce back in 2010, but consultancies will remain cautious about hiring decisions. It’s a question of money, and this will remain tight for the foreseeable future.
Clients remain cautious, but many are beginning to break out and invest in their brands, both on and offline. They want a lot for their buck. They, too, are being squeezed and need to see a fast return on their investment.
Advertising and marketing have been hit badly, but we can see how spend has been realigned into other areas to bring a brand to market, very notably within the digital space. A more unified and integrated offer to clients is where many consultancies are leading their business, but they need to truly understand how to deliver in all these areas. Never make a promise you can’t keep.
Take digital seriously
We are seeing a much larger interest in the more traditional consultancies looking for experts to come in and lead their digital offer. This is hugely encouraging, but it will only work for those that genuinely want this to become a part of their offer, and are not intimidated by it or view interactive design as a separate discipline. If you adopt a seamless approach, you will soon see the results.
This year is going to be about inspiring confidence, building on this, being tenacious, but sincere in your delivery, resetting your mental targets, getting your team on board and sharing that vision, breaking the ceiling, aiming higher and reaching those goals. It’s infectious, so spread the word and let’s look forward to reaping the rewards of our success.
Good luck in 2010 – it’s going to be a tough but exciting year ahead.