Investing in R&D in a Downturn

Posted by Paladin on April 09, 2009

I travel frequently.  Sometimes too much, but the one thing that I look forward to is my time on the plane.  I catch up on items that have not received enough attention during the week, spend time strategizing, work on my Japanese, and my most favorite pastime – reading the Wall Street Journal.  There is something soothing about reading The Journal cover to cover, being informed and leveraging ideas from others’ successes or failures.

This last week I was sitting in coach (no complimentary upgrades this week) and began reading an article in the WSJ that intrigued me.  In between the moments where the man next to me was bumping my arm the entire flight, I began reading an article that discussed R&D in down economies.  I was drawn in by the article, not by the discussion of realities in a down market, but the confirmation of investing in your business in the downturn for the acceleration of your business when the market turns back positive.  In our day-to-day grind to churn out profits, this can sometimes get lost in the mix.  Additionally, the article (targeted mostly at product companies) discussed previous success stories of outcomes of R&D in a downturn – such as the iPod – that clearly reinforced the message.


As I pondered this article further – it made me think about non-product organizations (such as my own).  What does this message really mean for services companies, plus how does this tie into my day-to-day message that I preach to my internal team.


Hiring Up:  In a services industry, your resources ARE your product.  Look for those great strategic hiring opportunities that are going to give you the edge in the recovery.  Make sure they are the best products on the market.  This is a good time to ensure that you have the top talent in your market or industry and this will carry your brand forward when companies begin buying once again.

New Service Offerings:  In this fickle economy, one size DEFINITELY does not fit all.  Looking for ways to expand your service offering is key.  If you sell bicycles, do not go and start selling asthma inhalers.  Expand your service offering next to what you are currently doing.  A complementary service offering.  For example:  Paladin recently announced an expansion of its staffing service line that includes larger scale staffing outsourcing.  This give clients more options to pick and choose what model that best fits their organization.

Positioning Yourself for Success: The two above result in point 3 – Positioning. In my market, many of my international, national, regional and local competitors have been struggling and we look to seize on those opportunities.  Not to embarrass the unfortunate, but to capitalize on their missteps to ensure we are positioned for accelerated growth.  I use the word “positioning” in about every other sentence these days as it is littered throughout my internal communications and speeches.  You must stay aggressive and position your organization, your account, your product, and your team for accelerated success as things begin to turn.

Happy Selling.

Matthew Childress, President – Paladin Marketing Resources

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