Businesses are living, breathing entities. In fact, they are not that much different than the human body. Like the body, businesses have core functions (e.g. the equivalent of the “heart”) and they have supporting functions (e.g. the equivalent of “arms and legs”). Now, in the event of a negative incident, (e.g. an accident), the body’s focus immediately shifts from “business as usual” to “preservation mode” and it does so by harvesting a majority of the blood from other parts of the body to core functions so to ensure they remain active and functioning – even at the expense of its supporting functions. Why? Because the body knows that if it can’t keep its core functions operating, it’s a matter of time before death is its only option.
Well, business is no different. In fact, dealing with “negative events”, in some form or another, is a reoccurring theme. Now, top that off with the “domino effect” where many activities are inter-dependent therefore when one thing goes wrong, other items tend to wrong as well! In the end, businesses usually end up taking a financial hit and as a result, they need to go into “preservation mode” and that typically means cutting costs! Unfortunately, when the topic of cutting costs comes up, reducing employee headcount is usually one of the first items to be discussed because it’s the easiest thing to do and yields larger results than other, more involved, options. The illustration below serves as an example of a negative incident.
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Focus on getting into the inner circle!
For this example, let’s assume the above illustration represents a technology company. At its core, the company values Sales (produces revenue), Engineering (produces the product), and Q&A (tests the product to ensure that it works and customers will love it). Now, in addition to its core functions, the business operates supporting functions for other non-critical business activities. Referencing the earlier condition, assume that this business has suffered from an “accident”, needs to go into preservation mode (cut costs), and as a result, is considering reducing employee headcount as a quick way of saving some money. Where do you think the company will cut from – its core functions or its supporting functions? Well, nine times out of ten, I would venture to say, its going to be from the supporting functions.
So, how do you get into the inner circle? Well, let me start by saying that if you add tremendous value to the company, it may not matter where you are in the organization. Unfortunately, the converse also applies – if you don’t add value even when you are in the inner circle, you could risk losing your job!
Second, it’s important to align your skill set with a company that will treat what you have to offer as a core function. For example, in high tech companies, certain aspects of Marketing including Product Development may be incredibly important and therefore, could be regarded as a core function. Other focus areas, however, including promotion or marketing communications may not be as vital; hence, they would be classified under supporting functions.
Third, developing new skills and attaining a new position could project you into the inner circle. While this may be more difficult to do, in today’s economy, it’s unfortunately not that uncommon as people are starting over in fields they have no real experience in. While other options do exist, the above serve as references for your consideration.
For now, I leave you with the following two questions for you to think about:
Q: Are you in the inner circle?
Q: If not, what can you do to get into the inner circle?
To your continued success…