People usually ask this when their own business is hurting.
It’s likely they want some comfort in knowing whether a fellow competitor is experiencing the same thing.
My experience is that most of the time when you ask this question you get a bullshit answer.
Last week I was coming out of Starbucks and two guys behind me were exchanging this pleasantry. When one asked “how’s business” – I didn’t even need to listen to the reply (though I did). The response of course was “Good, doing good”.
Personally I hate getting those types of responses. I’ve been to my share of conferences where a colleague who I’ve known well has told me how phenomenal her business was and how much she loved it. Fast forward a year at the next conference and she’s telling me that she sold out and is now an employee working part time.
The moral of the story?
You hardly ever get a straight answer to “how’s business”
If you do get an answer, automatically disregard the one or two sentence replies that start with “good”. Instead look for answers that explain the market in a little more detail.
Instead of repeating myself over and over to people who write (or are perhaps not so bold as to write) – here’s my verbatim response from yesterday which I think summarizes the state of the consulting marketplace.
Warning: This is a boring read for anyone who isn’t in the business of consulting
There are three types of consultants:
1. Those doing poorly
2. Those standing still
3. Those lying about how they’re doing
In our business we are largely driven by the amount of projects our clients take on. I’ve never in 20 years felt I’ve been able to “sell” someone on buying accounting software or starting up a new project.
They either need the software – or they don’t.
They’re either expanding and need additional consulting work – or they don’t
In my opinion this “need” is driven by several things:
1. Growth (including new business startups)
2. Mergers and Acquisitions
3. Anticipated growth
In this environment (and I don’t think this is totally recession related) I don’t see many companies in one of the three above categories.
Consulting and accounting software is a bit like putting a roof on your house.
Nobody roofs their house until:
- they see shingles coming off,
- they’re moving and a new owner demands it to be re-roofed
- they are remodeling
I’d say our new business inquiries are still happening. The quality of them is much poorer.
They’re also less likely to close (much less likely).
The problem with the new inquires:
1. They’re not simple installs anymore – we see more people than ever moving off niche packages (very tough to replace)
2. They’re comparing mid-market solutions to QuickBooks level products
3. They’re not realistic in their analysis of effort or cost to migrate to a new accounting system
4. They’re shopping on the Internet and looking for do-it-yourself solutions
Existing client projects have slowed the last few months. I still see inquiries though definitely not on the level that would happen when the economy is growing and our clients are expanding.
I’m working hard to get out of the race to please any vendor. My priority has always been to keep clients loyal and coming back. The only way I’ve found to do that is to keep them happy with exceptional service. So that’s my focus for the next few years.
How’s that compare to your corner of the earth?
Schulz Consulting, LLC
160 Oak Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
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voice: 860-657-8544 – x: 701 // cell: 860-416-6932 // fax: 860-760-6165
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