Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Post-crash white collar businesses?

Dear Fernando,

First, thank you for publishing your book. It was worth every penny. I will recommend it to select family and friends.

I seek your advice on the best post-crash, white collar businesses. I am a technical writer and trainer, specializing in software. I have a day job as a software training manager.

I have a side job writing technical books. I don't get rich from them, but they take the place of my wife's salary, now that she is a stay-at-home mom.

I am concerned that after the dollar has crashed (notice I am saying "when" and not "if"), that these types of books will not sell as well. My market is worldwide, but most of the sales come from the USA. Also, you can't really grow a business by being a solo author. To really grow, you need other people working for you. This rather lengthy introduction brings me to my question:

In your experience, after the crash in Argentina, were there any kinds of consulting or teaching services that businesses suddenly needed (and were willing to pay for), to help them survive the new economic conditions?

At this point, I'm really trying to decide between writing more books, and just letting the books go and switching to a consulting or training business. I'm thinking specifically of a company that would offer consulting and training in:
  • Using Moodle for e-learning. This is the subject of two of my books.
  • Dealing with information overload. How to be a more productive knowledge worker.
  • Using open source software for small-to-medium size businesses. Office applications, human resources management, accounting, customer relationships, social media for sales and marketing.
Was there any demand for these kinds of business services and training in post-crash Argentina? I'm trying to imagine the kind of consulting or training that a company will need in these difficult times to stay in business. Something targeted specifically towards the message, "Times are tough and if you want to stay in business, we can help by teaching you how to_____." It's that blank line that I'm having trouble filling in.

Thank you again for your book, and your blog. I very much value your advice and hope that you can give me a little insight to help me plan for my family's future.


Hi William. You seem to be on the right track. Please note I’m not into finances, all I can give you is my humble advice based on what I’ve seen.

As you probably read in my book, if I recommend for example, starting a daycare center or even a private school later on, its because I’ve seen it done successfully enough times that it makes me notice that.

You know who fails after an economic crisis/collapse? Those that freeze and fail to act, those that stay the same waiting for things to go back to be the way they were. To get through it you need to understand a few things.

First, the rules of engagement have changed. You can no longer expect the old ones to apply, you can’t expect people to react as they did, they way they used to spend money, they way people and companies didn’t research each product or service in detail. You need a good product/service AND good marketing.

And second, investigate and understand that new market. Discover the new niches.

As time goes by, I firmly believe that there’s a new, post crisis niche out there for every activity, every line of work you can think of.

Teachers for example, for years it has been a poorly paid job and still is. Yet a teacher that finds his way into a nicer, bilingual school will do better, and in some they can send their own kids for free or considerable discounts. It’s no longer just the salary, you save on school payments as well.

Hey, I used to work on telemarketing. English speaking employees got paid twice as much as those that did it in Spanish. Same job, twice the salary because you have more tools than the other guy.

While musicians do poorly, there’s a local kindergarten teacher here that has a nice voice and is good enough with a guitar, so she recorded CDs for babies and small children, made contacts with stores that sell baby clothes… so that these stores would play her music, and offer the CDs for sale as well. As far as I know she’s now got a big contract and is selling her music in every Spanish speaking country, including Spain.

Being able to sell world wide is an advantage, you can maybe aim for UK market, learn what’s getting done there, what programs they are using. Working from the USA and getting paid on Euros would be nice.

There’s more than enough people in Argentina that saved their business by doing partnerships with companies form abroad, selling services to US and Europe.

Again, if there’s an economic collapse, you’re already ½ way there William.

When unemployment became rampant, no one was selling anything, the first few months you could see the economy was totally frozen.

I kid you not people wouldn’t hire the neighborhood’s kid to paint a fence, no one wanted to spend a single buck.

After a few months when things calmed down after the initial shock, those getting laid off or getting their salaries cut to half, they all wanted to go independent.

Being already self employed, even though partially, already gives you an edge the guy that did the 9 to 5 thing all his life doesn’t have and is suddenly attempting to swim in unknown waters.

I have no knowledge of your line of work, but I’d orient it to that new guy, the guy that lost his job recently, or the one that is smelling the coffee, knowing that even though he still has a job he could be the next one.

There’s millions of unemployed right now. What do you think they are doing? Their trying to get busy! What programs would they need, which ones are sought after?

Again, not my thing but for example, classes, and courses that taught CAD and design programs suddenly became more popular. Many studios were doing jobs for abroad as I mentioned before, and they needed to hire workers. Who were they going to hire? Young kids who they could pay less of course. Those young adults (or unemployed older ones) needed some formation.

Another example. As prices for import goods goes up, local production gets more attention. That means more local machinery being build, and software for CNC machines and workers is required.

Your own question has the key to the answer: help them survive the new economic conditions.

Whatever it is you offer:

*It must be useful. Worth the little money people and companies now have. Before, they would through money at anything, just in case. Heck, people would even sign up for classes or courses and not even show up. Not any more.

*The potential benefits your consulting or teaching business offers must be clear to see and understand. Example. If you pick the newspaper and ½ of the design related jobs are asking for people that know 3D Studio, anyone with half a brain will get it that after he/she takes your course, they are ready for a line of work in demand.

Buying books or training, they can both be profitable for you. Personally, in your situation, I’m slightly inclined to exploiting the training opportunities if you enjoy that more than writing.

Writing for an emerging market can work ok, but I’d satisfy the need for training for the new employment challenges. Explore the aspects of the new jobs on demand, what kind of training they are requiring.

The unemployed guy reads you ad, an article or finds your website or reads about you at the local paper. Will he have better tools to compete on the job market if he receives your training? Will a struggling company become ready for the harder times thanks to your consulting?

Diversify, maximize resources, reach clients abroad/worldwide, minimize cost, cut unnescesary expenses, multitask your employees. These are all words that could fill in your blank.

I hope I at least gave you a few more things to think about and consider.

Take care.



Anonymous said...

Hi Ferfal,

I'm in the nonprofit world here in the states. I'm not sure how the nonprofit sector works in Argentina. If you did have a nonprofit sector, how does it look after the crash?

CapnRick said...

Good response. This is why I read this blog. FerFal takes the time to expand on the question... and, we learn something useful. Most people would have referred the question to some previous posts. Thanks

dc.sunsets said...

One suggestion: "Everyone" now believes the dollar is going to collapse in a hyperinflationary spasm as the USG tries to pay off everyone (including creditors) with depreciated dollars.

When "everyone" believes the same thing, history proves that they are simply fully invested in a trend that has reached its end. Those who are buying gold in anticipation of a dollar collapse are doing the mirror image of what people in the US did in 2001. Gold is dead, the headlines told us, and there was no worry about inflation. To estimate the future, reverse this.

Jack said...

With the internet, you can find a niche to buy and sell your skills all over the world.

I have used computer programmers from Argentina, India, and Europe from here in the U.S. The site I used was rentacoder and I always had good results. Picking a programmer is made easier because you rate them like you do on ebay. (I don't have any affiliation with rentacoder).

Find a website that deals with what you have expertise in and market your services to the world. As the dollar crashes, services paid in dollars will seem cheap to people in booming economies.

If you can't find a website that covers your field, create one. That way you could provide a service for your whole industry, and sell your services at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I would add this advice: find multilingual people to translate for you. When you can list your books for sale in other languages, you expand your market tremendously. Right now, English is the language of the elite, even in non-English-speaking countries, but only because America and Europe have been dominant. If China ascends to dominance, people will learn Chinese to serve the new master with money and markets. Chinese consumers maybe can't afford much, and they're copyright violaters par excellence, but if you can make a buck a piece off 1 percent of 1.3 billion people, that's a few bucks (about 13 million of 'em).