Last week I took part in a very interesting debate about the impact of the economy on interim managers and consultants at a London conference hosted by interim management company, Russam GMS. I joined fellow speakers Martyn Pellew, President of the British Chambers of Commerce; John Philpott, Chief Economic Advisor to the CIPD and Lucy Armstrong, Chairman of the CBI's SME Council to discuss if there were any opportunities within this flat and bleak economy.
One positive point that I noted was that the market for freelancers had grown by 12% this year, with an increase in over 60s and working mothers coming back into the workforce and freelancers now make up around a third of the working population. We all discussed the fact that government should do more to protect freelancers and not introduce punitive taxation and regulation that will make these even harder for them to operate.
Lucy Alexander stressed that opportunities for work for consultants this year would lie in family business if they can get over the cultural challenges - she stressed that such companies can be run by control freaks, they are often chaotic and hard to reach as traditional marketing routes don't work with them.
I see wider opportunities for consultants in the current market. Recruitment patterns have been shifting for some time. Businesses are increasingly hiring on a project by project by project basis - they don't want to take on permanent staff but they need specialist skills. However, I stressed that with the influx of new consultants into the market, differentiation is a must and professional qualifications will become an increasingly important way of setting people apart.
The debate covered other issues including the role of social media and Danny Alexander's review into long-term contractors and how this would impact interims. It closed with some tough messages. Lucy Alexander likened the recent behaviour of British companies like children playing ‘dead lions', displaying a strategy of doing nothing and standing still - complacency she warned that will kill businesses.