Losing a Contract

I almost wrote this post on my Jason Alba blog, which is where I’ve started to write more about entrepreneurial stuff.  You can subscribe to get those posts, which are written less frequently than these posts, but have a different flavor.

I remember one of my first days of work at a building maintenance company, there was a weird feeling in the air.  I soon learned we had lost a 5 million dollar contract.  This was a huge contract, perhaps one of our largest, and I was suddenly scared.

Surely, people who worked at those facilities would have to be let go.  That’s the way the building maintenance world works – it’s easy to find new maintenance professionals, which means it’s easy to let them go when you don’t need them.  I wondered if they would regret hiring me as their first IT manager, with a salary higher than they wanted to pay.

I walked into my boss’s office to see what might be different.  I was shocked to see him happy, whistling an upbeat tune.

It was like any other day at the office for him.  No big deal, regardless of losing this huge contract.   When I asked him about it he responded:

“We get and lose contracts all the time.  We have for the last 40 years.”

I was reassured by his confidence, and this perspective. Here we are, more than nine years later, and I find his perspective still has an impact on me.

During the next six years at that company at that company I indeed saw contracts come and go. I heard a rumor they recently lost a contract worth around $100M.  How do they react?

Restrategize.  Reorganize.

There are a few lessons we can learn from this volatile business/industry:

  1. Stuff happens. They lose contracts, we lose jobs.  We lose contracts, life goes on.  Business goes on.  You think there are companies or industries out there who don’t have to face this?  And find me someone who hasn’t lost their job ever… it just happens, and it’s okay.
  2. Attitude matters. Of course, we all know this.  In this situation we can go into the corner and cry for a while, or get mad and take it out on someone or something, or we can move on.  Hopefully we can figure out how to cope with this change and move on quickly.
  3. Opportunities abound. If others are losing contracts, that means there are new contracts looking for service providers.  If others are losing jobs, hopefully there are opportunities for us to pick up where others left off.  If companies aren’t hiring now (it’s freaking EXPENSIVE to hire someone, isn’t it?), perhaps they might look for a short-term contract.  Perhaps YOU can be the person to provide contract services?
  4. Keep on keeping on. Before they lost the contract, they were doing good marketing and operational stuff.  They had laid foundation for new contracts, and they just kept this up – it’s important we have a system and foundation in place before we need it… right?
  5. Restrategize and reorganize. Maybe it’s time to consider switching professions, or industries, or rethinking the amount of money you “need” to make.  Perhaps it’s time to move, or downsize, or sell a car.  Companies do this, sometimes they even do it strategically and well.  Why can’t we do this?  Oh yeah, perhaps if you were there for 40 years you get the golden watch… STOP!  It ain’t happening – stop thinking like that.

We need to be able to think like a startup – nimble, flexible, quick, hungry.  Not like a big company – slow-moving, unwavering.  We can’t afford that… we must be proactive and reactive… this is OUR career, we are CEO of Me, Inc.

Lost your job? Lost a contract?

It’s okay.  You will get through it, just like my old company did.