Turn me on, turn me off

In February this year, I found myself staring into an abyss. Here I was starting my own data planning consultancy in a downturn. There were two principle reasons for me starting a business. One, very simple, called survival. The other, which has a more strategic feel to it, was that I felt there was a need in the market place.

When I was at HS&P, I started a company called data.HS&P which, among other markets, sold data planning consultancy to agencies. But many agencies were nervous about working with a company allied to a competitor. Fair enough. So here we were in a recession, agencies keeping their headcount down, but still needing to field teams for new business pitches and work on current business. So why not use freelance resource for short-term engagements?

I met with an ex-colleague of mine, who is a planning director, about the suitability of such a consultancy selling to agencies. From those meetings, the seeds of a bigger The Marketing Planning Practice 2.0 were born – a group of big planning brains to work on your big business challenges.

So while this is good for me, providing me with gainful employment, what about the agencies and clients? You could argue that this is in fact a shift of knowledge out of their organisations to a third party. But I do not see it that way.

In the same way a company might outsource the manufacture of the boxes their product goes in before being shipped, freelance resource should be seen as a specialist skill that you tap into when required. In my case, specialism in a range of planning disciplines and sector experience that you turn and off as required.

Anything a freelancer does for you, the knowledge should be transferred back to the agency/client, either by means of a handover or having key members of your team working with the freelancer, so they know what is happening and and how to use the results. I think it is a good thing for clients and agencies and, while you may have your data planners in-house, there is no harm in bringing additional skills and knowledge as when you need them.

Out of recession, new businesses are born and the business model is changing. Through the business web site, LinkedIn, I have found a team of planners covering a range of specialist disciplines and skill sets who are running their own businesses. I have bought them together under the umbrella of The Marketing Planning Practice.

We can each run our own businesses, we have no staff overhead, the relevant skills are assembled for specific briefs. Virtual networks and collaboration are with us to stay. So everyone is a winner.

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