One of the trends we've been seeing with the proliferation of independent analysts, bloggers, consultants, journalists and other pundits, is for many of these characters to launch their own "firms", when the product is, really, just them. Or them and a few freelancers they could tack on to their website to make them look like an actual company of people.
Now, if an individual was actually planning to grow a company over time - and genuinely adding real staff which does more than organize their mailshots, calendar or spell-check their reports, they can be forgiven, however, there are far too many people out there masquerading as company CEOs when they really don't have a "company" to run. It's just them. And some freelance admin person.
When I saw my old friend, Chris Lewis, announcing an exciting conference "The Great Telco Event" he is running in London this November, I was amazed at the sheer number of "companies" I have never heard of from a pretty impressive collection of individual speakers (many of whom are telecom analysts who found themselves going independent after that market commodotized and their firms couldn't make enough profit out of them). Now, I have heard of most these experts as individuals, but these weird company names? I mean, why bother? Aren't they just confusing their clients and prospects?
Aren't we in a new generation of individuals promoting themselves? Isn't the real brand equity in their personal brands as opposed to some obscure name they trumped up? And credit to Chris - one of the great all time telecom analysts, who has recently branched out as "Chris Lewis Insight". Now... when prospective clients want to hire Chris, they want him and his services - and his handsome face. So why not brand his venture under his own brand?
"But didn't you do the same thing Phil?" I hear you ask...
Kind of - I wanted to use a successful blog as the initial platform to grow a research firm, and that is exactly what we achieved, and it quickly culminated with us abbreviating the blog name to HfS to sound more corporate (try getting meetings with CFOs when your firm is called "Horses for Sources"). My friend Ray Wang had a vision of assembling a "constellation" of star analysts, and that is what he has achieved with some great additions like Holger Mueller and Peter Kim at Constellation Research. Now, if myself of Ray had never actually bothered to build genuine companies of experts, we should just call ourselves "Fersht Inc.", or "Wang and Assocs LLC" (or whatever). And if the whole of HfS decides to quit on me tomorrow and I decide I can't be bothered to replace them, I'll probably do just that!
The Bottom-Line: We're in the era of creating our individual personas - it's time for people to exploit that
When you go on LinkedIn these days, it reminds me of those market scenes in historical movies and paintings, where people are selling their services and wares openly to all the town (B2C) and the other merchants (B2B). People are marketing their skills and competencies before their corporate identity. In fact, I find I have to click on someone's actual profile and scroll down a couple of screens to find out who employs them these days. Who cares if you are an SVP at Blah Blah Bank... I want to know what you're good at! And on twitter, many people do not even bother to add their company name in their profile at all.
I believe careers are now going in that direction - corporates want to reduce their core and contract for expertise as and when they need it. At the same time, an increasing number of individuals are shunning the corporate treadmill to enjoy the fruits of being self-employed - either as themselves or their pretend company. And those individuals are picking up new skills - often without realizing it - that makes them more valuable professionals - they learn how to market themselves well, how to hustle for clients, how to think outside of the box, how to differentiate their ideas and personas...
We can lament the shortage of Digital talent within corporations, but maybe that's because the next wave of "Digital" skill and creativity is coming from outside of the creaking corporate firewall.