A memorable poster hung in my 11th grade English class room. It was a cartoon illustrating a group of panic stricken hippos piled high in a rowboat. Water was lapping at the top of the boat’s gunwales as additional hippos prepared to jump in from a nearby dock. The poster caption boldly declared, “More is not always better!” Our teacher, Mr. MacDonald, constantly stressed that in writing, fewer words were often more powerful and effective than abundant verbiage.
The same might be said regarding pursuit of abundant opportunities. More is not always better. Over the past several years, it seems like a day hasn’t passed without LDG staffers reporting on new and exciting opportunities for innovative engineering, architecture or surveying services, particularly relating to the Marcellus Shale resource that exists within our geographic market region. You might wonder, “What’s wrong with pursuing abundant opportunities associated with the Marcellus boom?”
The many opportunities themselves aren’t the issue, and LDG is pursuing its share of them. But, an indiscriminate “feeding frenzy” on over-abundant opportunity is a threat. History has given us many examples of how boom and bust cycles have negatively affected the long term sustainability and welfare of companies that develop “mono-vision” on opportunities that suddenly no longer exist. Take the recent housing boom and bust as a great global example.
I’ll suggest that there are a number of symptoms that might indicate if an organization is suffering from a feast on opportunities. Questions that I’m asking at LDG are: Is the organization moving away from its core strengths without adequate depth to support new services? Are we deriving a disproportionate percentage of revenues and cash flow from narrow, niche markets? Is there substantial stress on our staff or firm resources? Has our responsiveness decreased? Has the quality of our work remained high? Are we taking uncontrolled risks? And most importantly, are we delivering high value to our clients?
To remain diversified and simultaneously pursue growth, LDG is taking a disciplined approach with regard to the Marcellus natural gas boom. We’re working to develop a broad portfolio of clients and services within this emerging energy market, but we also continue to aggressively pursue growth in all the core markets that we have served for the past quarter century. That way, in the event that any one market sustains a sudden or protracted slowdown, the firm will remain strong and be positioned to shift resources to other existing and emerging opportunities.
You may recall this old Alka Seltzer commercial – a fellow is hunched and suffering on the side of his bed the morning after a big dinner party and repeatedly says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” And his wife responds, “You did. You did eat the whole thing!” For him, more was obviously not better.
At LDG, we’re equally convinced that more of any one thing is not always better. Putting this thought into action, we seek to avoid potential “hangovers” associated with excessive, unbalanced pursuit of hot market opportunities. By applying discipline and diversified resource allocation across many markets, our goal is to maintain a sustainable, high-performing firm through boom and bust cycles that will inevitably occur.
I’d enjoy hearing how your firm, organization or community is addressing abundant or even limited opportunity and how you are making the most out of that situation.