Should I deviate from my business plan?

How to choose the right contracts and avoid being sidelined

About a year ago I came up with a new design for a hybrid motorcar engine, which I have now patented and hope to start manufacturing for clients in the automobile industry. However, I have recently been approached by an independent client who wants us to start converting fuel engines to our hybrid technology for him to sell. He is talking about pretty sizable orders and I can’t say I’m not tempted, but this was never part of my business plan. How can I choose contracts that best benefit my business and avoid being side-lined?

Christian Arno, founder of translation services provider Lingo24, writes:

This can be a tricky line to tread, between being flexible enough to adapt your business plan and grow when new opportunities come along, and being careful not to spread yourself too thin. You don’t want to commit to new projects for which you aren’t prepared and run the risk of the project not being profitable, or worse, not delivering on the project.

I encountered the same issue myself a few years ago, when I made contact with a potential client who had a massive project in the works. The project itself was outside of our core competencies at the time – it was something that we could do, but that we did not at that stage have the infrastructure in place to support.

Although I was sorely tempted to try and quickly upscale our operations to take on the project, I decided in the end that it was best for Lingo24 to let the project pass and to concentrate on growing organically. The client appreciated the honesty and we stayed in touch, and now, a few years down the line, we do have the infrastructure in place and are talking again about taking on their project.

This was my experience – I’m not saying this will be the best choice in every scenario, but it holds true that the best thing you can do is to look realistically at both your capacity to complete a contract that may be outside your business plan, and the benefits of taking such a contract on.

If your service or product truly has a unique selling point, then you will always have a niche audience and can reduce the risk of being side-lined by not taking on contracts for which you’re not particularly suited. And while big dollar value contracts are of course the most tempting – and useful for your businesses’ growth – don’t discount the smaller contracts which may force your company to grow in unexpected ways that can be beneficial down the line.

To summarise, it all comes down to the infrastructure of your business – if you’re scalable enough to take on projects which are outside your core competencies without stretching your operations too thin, then by all means jump in. But if taking on that contract would put your operations in danger of self-imploding, then you have to ask yourself, is it even worth your time to tender for a contract which could do your business more harm than good? My answer would be no, it’s not.

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Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, one of the world’s fastest growing translation agencies. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has more than 150 employees spanning Asia, Europe and the Americas, and clients in over 60 countries. In the past 12 months, they have translated over 40 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.



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