My Industry is Consolidating, Now What?

We’ve seen it happen time and again: an industry, once growing like one of Jack’s magical beanstalks, has slowed or stopped growing.

But wait! There’s more!!! There are no new companies entering the industry, and the incumbents are merging to improve efficiency.

Okay, so now what do you do?

It’s a tough question that’s affecting many people. I wish I could say your industry will not be affected during your career, but the odds are, in a world where “disruption” has gone from watchword to buzzword to cliché, your business is all but sure to be affected.

Last week, I talked about how to tell if your industry is really consolidating. I called the post “It’s the End of the Semiconductor World as we Know it, and I Feel Fine,” but it’s worth going over again.

First sign: industry growth has been slowing from greater than 10% per year to 6% per year or worse. Second, there are very few new entrants. Combine the two, and you know your industry is going to consolidate.

When that happens, make no mistake about it. You are at risk of being consolidated out of your industry.

Okay, so let’s start with what not to do:

Don’t be complacent!

But you’re smarter than that. (Aren’t you?) You’re not going to be the one that assumes nothing bad happens to them. Bad things do happen to good people.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at what you should do:

  1. Assess how your company is doing. You know the saying that only the strong survive? Well, you are obviously in better shape if you are at an industry leader because your company is likely to be acquiring weaker companies. Usually, but not always, the employees of the acquiring company survive.
  2. Remember, you are a brand, so always be building your brand. Keep thinking of ways to improve your visibility inside and outside of your company and industry. It’s easier than ever in today’s LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook world.
  3. Remember the “And”. Many of your skills are transferrable from industry to industry. For example, accounting is transferrable from the semiconductor industry to many industries.
  4. Extend Your Brand. Keep looking for ways to make your brand transferrable to new industries. That might involve continuing education, really smart self-marketing, or just a whole lot of clever networking. Whatever it takes, find ways to open up new potential pathways for your career.
  5. Get Going. Don’t wait if you’ve decided you want to change industries. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will get to your destination.

What if I want to stay in my industry?

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that. Let’s use the semiconductor industry as a proxy. It is a $300 billion industry, but growth has slowed. It’s not going away anytime soon, but the go-go days of the 1990’s are well behind us. You have to assess what you want from your career. An ambitious, entrepreneurial-minded person, might want to explore other industries because starting a company in semiconductors, for example, might be difficult in this scenario.

Or, someone who is happy climbing the company ladder, might be very happy in this scenario. Of course, you never know when circumstances might pull the ladder right out from under you, so I would caution, regardless of your decision, to continue building transferrable skills just in case.

That’s all for now,