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Prospering in the recession: Preparation

That’s right, I’m going to talk about prospering, not just surviving. You know you have been in IT solutions too long when the current economic situation is not your first rodeo. This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen a downturn hit our economy in general and our industry in specific. And it always seems that people and companies that are prepared, focused and aggressive actually grow and prosper.

First, let’s talk about preparation. I am not an economist so I can’t tell you how far into the recession we are. (And I guess some people will even argue that regardless of whether or not we’re in a recession, times are getting tighter and they will likely get worse.) Now is the time to get ready; in fact, if you haven’t already started, you’re a little past due, so get right on this. As best you can, get your finances in order. Job 1 here is to retire as much debt as you possibly can, either personal debt or organizational.  As money becomes more expensive to borrow, you need to get rid of debt.

Second, get prepared to work harder, longer and a whole lot smarter. I know that everyone talks about working smarter rather than harder, but you need all three of the above to be successful.  During an economic downturn, you need to cast a wider net. Specialists give way to generalists. There are fewer opportunities out there, so you need to work harder to find them. How do you do this without losing focus? Well, there’s a difference between casting a wider net and making a whole new one.

If you are a systems guy, for example, don’t start a whole new offering; instead, expand your current one. If you’re a server virtualization guy, appeal to a whole new segment via some of the new products coming to the market; there’s a good example of such a product in my article on virtual storage appliances.

This wider net goes hand in hand with the next step in preparation, expanding your skill set. This applies to engineers, salespeople and owners. Engineers will need to know how to install the new sections of this wider net, salespeople will need to know how to sell them and owners will likely have new business relationships to build and maintain.

An expanded skill set goes beyond just understanding the new wrinkles in the business that a tighter economy will cause but also getting better at what you already do by increasing your knowledge. Engineers, for example, often get pigeonholed as “the backup guy” or “the SAN guy.” If you are in that situation, expand your role; do it on your own if you have to, spend extra nights in the lab (see working longer above) or have the organization help.

The same applies to channel salespeople; if you’re a salesperson, focus on improving and increasing your technical skills. Your organization may not be able to justify having technical resources available to you on as many calls. The more of the project you can carry yourself, the better.

Channel owners and management can improve on their management and organizational skills, but, most importantly, they can drive inefficiency out of the organization. A great place to start is by making your vendors more efficient… and that’s the subject of my next blog entry.

George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest integrators.

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