IT suppliers, and especially recruitment companies, this one is for you. Here you are, in the middle of another boom and bust cycle. The big question is, how can you break out of it, and ensure that your people and organisations thrive during good times and bad.
There is a way - and it has nothing to do with process, product or projects. It has everything to do with perception, with what people think of you.
People buy from people, they always have and they always will. They dislike being sold to but they love to buy; they object to being told what they have to do and they love feeling free to make choices; and above all they hate to feel trapped by a supplier.
Many industries and professions have perfected the art of redefining what should be a negative perception, including:
- Estate agents
- Double-glazing salesmen
- Some IT suppliers
- Most IT recruitment companies.
And we are learning this, in spades, during the present economic slowdown. At this time, a company's attitudes come back either to help it, or to haunt it.
While there are one or two notable exceptions to this, most IT recruitment companies have built such a negative image they are the first to suffer.
Just as companies suffered the backlash from people as a result of business process re-engineering, continuous improvement and other wasted initiatives, so many IT recruitment companies are suffering now.
Last week I was with the IT director of a FTSE top 50 company. He said, "IT recruitment companies have been driving us out of our minds for some time, and this approach has now driven many of them out of the business." And I swear he was smiling.
But it does not have to be this way. IT recruitment companies, indeed suppliers of services everywhere, must now make a fundamental change to their approach, attitudes and offerings.
At the heart of these are their values and, widening this out, there are three values which, when placed at the nub of everything we do, say and are, will transform the way we are perceived. They are:
- Contribution - giving first; putting others first; helping first; seeing the world from your customers' eyes. Build an ethos that you are here to serve others.
- Integrity - being as one in everything you do, everything you say and everything you are. This includes turning down work you cannot deliver on, being open about costs and margins, and never running down your competitors.
- Enlightenment - living each and every day in the grandest version of your grandest vision, always keen to learn from others and impart knowledge without an invoice attached.
Whoever you are, these will serve you well. And with absolutely no apology to IT recruitment companies I say this: adopt these values now, before it is too late - time is not on your side, and neither are most of your former customers.
David Taylor is president of IT directors organisation Certus