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The luxury of choice – why looking for your next opportunity is an everyday task, not a one-off event

Frustrated with your job and thinking about making a change?

Is your customer putting you under continual price and service pressure (and also, equally importantly, being a royal pain in the ass all the time)?

The problem you have is not a bad job, or a bad customer. The problem is that you are opportunity poor.

Think about it – would the commute to the office seem so bad if you knew that you could walk out and get another, equally rewarding (or hopefully better) one whenever you wanted? Would you feel as stressed about that difficult customer if you knew that, ultimately, you could fire them and take your pick from a number of other attractive alternatives?

[caption id="attachment_497" align="aligncenter" width="252"]Do you have the luxury of choice? Do you have the luxury of choice?[/caption]

I know that feeling. Early in my career, I struggled with a very difficult consulting client, who was both very demanding, negative in her overall attitude to consultants, and had a budget that was almost, but not quite enough, to meet my sales target.

I spent months trying to find the right way to please this client – everything from ensuring that we arrived before her and left afterwards, to one-to-one discussions on everything from the project itself to her own personal aspirations. We had produced slick reports, presented to the board on her behalf, everything that we could think of. Nothing worked.

I wanted, more than anything, to be able to fire her as a customer (or at the very least, to reduce my team’s involvement and allow her to realise for herself that, without us, she wasn’t likely to achieve her objectives). But I felt that I couldn’t, because I had a sales target to meet and, unpleasant as the client was, I didn’t have any better alternatives available to me.

I realised that the central problem here was not the client. There are always good and bad clients, and good and bad projects to be involved in. The real issue was that I did not have any better options available that would enable me to withdraw and still meet my own objectives. I had failed to invest in maintaining and improving the pipeline of future business, and now I was dependent on this one client for my own success. Unless or until I could break that dependency, I had to carry on despite the great stress of the situation. I didn’t have the luxury of choice.

It took three months of prospecting, sales meetings and networking before I was able to build my pipeline up to the point where I was confident that I could cut the ties to this very difficult customer. But do you know what? In the event I didn’t. I just stopped being so worried and needy all the time, and as a result she stopped making unreasonable demands (there’s a bit more to this story, but that’s for another time). After a period of adjustment, I ended up with the best of both worlds – a client that was easy to do business with, and an advocate for our work – AND a pipeline full of new and interesting work.

Since then, both when in full time employment and when working for myself I have focussed a significant percentage of my time and energy trying to ensure that I always have more options available to me than I can use. I measure my performance very simply: I should be producing at least one more opportunity each calendar month than I can manage.

Have you got the luxury of choice? What would it mean to you if you were able to choose the job, choose the customer, that you were going to next week?