Are You Being Commoditized?

The bells and sirens should be going off inside your head every single day as a consultant or in fact, any type of professional.

You may actually have this big target on your back. Don't try to turn around and look for it - as you'll look paranoid, or look like you're checking to see if you have dandruff.

But you should feel as if you have this target on you. You are an expensive item to keep around on the warehouse shelves. You are unsold inventory. The only unsold inventory that makes sense to keep around is something that actually contributes to making something for someone to buy. And the higher the price they want to pay for your contribution the better. The higher the price means the more they see you as a valuable asset - and this is all for the better.

However, we - as professionals and consultants - may not recognize the signs of our disintegration of value.

Here are several signs you should watch out for that can be the fortune teller for your fate or demise:

Is it harder to get clients to listen to you? Do they already seem to know the answers to your questions? Have they already mapped out the probable cause of the issue?

Are clients sending you RFPs? Are you finding it harder to get into meet with the key people to help them uncover the problem? And by uncovering the problem, help shape the requirements for the solution? Are you dealing with procurement people more and more?

Are there firms you have never heard of, in your account, vying for the business? Are these smaller, more nimble, less overhead type of firms?

Is the work you typically compete for, being split up, parceled out, sectioned off, into smaller and smaller chunks? Was the work you were doing - one big pie before - and now you are getting slices of the pie?

Are you looking for cheaper and cheaper people for your practice, in order to deliver the work? Are you becoming a little reckless in your hiring approach by looking for people with 80 percent or 70 percent or even 60 percent of the required skills? Are you hiring more temporary labor because you cannot guarantee that the employees will all have positions after this gig?

Do you feel you are underwater most of the time because of the amount of work you are taking on and shouldering because in order to meet the profit targets, you couldn't hire the full team of people you needed? Or the people you hired and brought on are not capable of the work, because you went "cheap" to meet the client's budget and therefore you are doing the work that they were supposed to do?

Do you fantasize about the life you used to have? Or could have had? But you now see your family less and less. Even when working from home - does that feel like a distant hotel room now? Do you now consider staying the weekend at the client site in order to get "caught up?"

Are you now looking at adjacent markets and solutions? And are the adjacent markets - not really adjacent? They're really nothing like what you do?

Are the terms and conditions onerous? Are the timeframes crazy and insane for deliverables and completion? Is the client continously trying to categorize you and your firm as a general provider? Is it harder to distinguish your "value add" and describe it to the client? Is the client yawning, playing cards, or reading profiles and counting the number winks they received on Is the client looking at Facebook half the time you are presenting to them?

Finally, are you becoming shorter and shorter with the people you work with? Because you don't have the time to deal with issues and problems? And are you finding that the afternoon jog is now a continuous run of conference calls, from one to another? Are you now looking at the guys and ladies in the Residence Inn lobby as possible competitors for your business? Are you paranoid they are vying for your business - especially because they look "foreign" - and you are now equating "foreign" with "cheap?"

Well - then - good luck to you AND at the same time - welcome to the club.

PS - don't go to football games. Because in the huddles - they are planning your demise.

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