Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's Us vs. the Economy

The other day I received a positive comment about a blog post I wrote last June titled "The Great Debate - Employee vs. Consultant".    The recent events in the economy with layoffs and project cancellations has made it an even more relevant topic today, although some people might not find much choice but to do contracting/consulting due to the lack of full time employee positions available.   To be more specific, there are a lot of jobs available but even more candidates (competitors) for those jobs.  

The past 12 months have shaken even the most die-hard consultants and employees.  For us techies, it hasn't been as bad as 2001, but for those who have lost their jobs, that's not a very comforting thought.  The economy has pressured DI some, but we're all staying busy and producing revenue which is always a plus.  The positive thought is that those who can survive through this recession have a great shot at coming out on the winning side in the recovery.

Part of every recession is a drop in projects (i.e. work) and billable hours and rates.  From my perspective, clients are being much more cautious with their money and scrutinizing hours and expenses much more than the past few years.  Part of DI's value proposition is that we try to always think of the customer, as I did tonight when choosing a dinner entree at the local TGI Fridays, I opted for the wrap instead of the more expensive steak.   That might be a silly example but it's the expenses at the margin that make a huge difference overall.   Our consultants are also taking more time than ever to work directly with client managers to ensure we are providing the maximum value.   Rates clients are willing to pay haven't changed much for us, but we've found some of the competition willing to undercut rates in a major way to drive revenues.  In the end, we do not expect any negative long term effects from this behavior and believe this kind of competition will end later this year.

One major casualty of the economy has been the training market.  Inquiries from training had been a decent part of the business but have become a very minor part.    I expect the training business to be very poor well into the recovery and probably not good until we're nearing full employment, when companies will once again use training as a perk to attract and keep employees.  Right now, people are just thankful to be working and not necessarily concerned with getting professional training.    

At the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to continue moving forward.   In the next couple days I'll be doing an update to the "Employee vs. Consultant" post that is more relevant to the current times, so stay tuned.

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