While the official unemployment fluctuates around 10%, the real rate is much higher considering those who are no longer counted (e.g., benefits having run out) and people struggling with part-time work. Many economists feel there will not be a significant surge in jobs before 2012.
What to do? Perhaps its time to take a closer look at starting your own business.
Small business is actually the backbone of America.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small firms generate 60% to 80% of all new jobs. For almost every one of the last 10 years, the birth rate of small businesses has exceeded their death rate, while for large firms the death rate has been greater than their birth rate.
Small business expert and author Pat McHenry Sullivan has been counseling potential entrepreneurs for more than 15 years. Through her workshops and individual consultations, she has helped hundreds of people write business plans which launched successful and satisfying enterprises. I asked her assessment of the current economic times. My questions are in bold; Pat’s answers are in italics.
Is this a good time to start a new business?
If you have the need now, and the passion now, and your products or services are needed now, then now is the time to do it. Historically, many of the most enduring and profitable businesses began in an economic downturn. Starting to explore by writing a business plan can be valuable for 3 reasons: a) to see if your idea is feasible; b) to discover the best ways to turn your idea into reality, including having a clear vision of your market and how you can best serve them; and c) discerning whether or not you really want to follow your fully-fleshed business idea. Also, if you start planning now, you will be ready to launch or expand when the economy improves.
Where is the opportunity in this chaos and suffering?
Right now, you can get terrific deals on work space, great employees, etc. Friends, family, and potential business partners who are also unemployed have more time to brainstorm with you. And you may have more time to see more clearly who you are and what you want to do with you life now that you are free of the daily grind.
What is the new economic framework? How is it different from the old which nearly brought the collapse of our whole economy?
A lot remains to be seen, especially if Obama can lead a return to solid regulation of the banking and financial industry. Here are some trends that affect everyone:
- People are saving more, buying less, so you need to be much clearer about what you offer, who needs it, and how they will benefit from what you sell.
- People are more concerned with value they can see and touch
- People want something they can trust — which means they want more authentic communication from you.
- Traditional small business lending is way down, though it might ease over the next year; creativity and resourcefulness are required to overcome minimal capital.
- People want more ownership in the economy; many are shifting from the larger banks to community ones.
What are the new rules that can rebuild our lives and the economy?
The more your business is anchored in your deepest values, the more solid—and successful—it will be. Here are some ways to do that:
- Cooperate more with others — e.g., build alliances with people you might think of as competitors; look for win-win solutions everywhere.
- Think respectfulness with clients and employees — this will draw and keep them with you, and not cause legal or other problems.
- Know and live your values in everything. Do what you say, say what you do.
- Take full responsibility for your own choices.
- Build sustainability into your company. Look for role models, support, and practical tips in the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).
Are you intrigued but a little timorous? There are lots of places to reach out for help.
Comments from Ellen: The SBA website is full of useful information, including a basic business plan outline. SCORE is a national association whose purpose is to help small business owners form and grow their businesses. SCORE has 364 chapters in the U.S.; their volunteers have been involved in all aspects of business.
You can also reach Pat Sullivan, President of Visionary Resources, at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-530-0284. Her free webinar, “Inspired Strategy: How to Turn a Vision into A Practical Plan,” given Feb 10 through the William & Mary Alumni Association, is archived at http://www.wmalumni.com/?jan2010_webinar_vid
This interview by Ellen Augustine, M.A., originally appeared in the Bedford Ohio Standard on January 29, 2010 and is reprinted with permission. Ellen is a speaker and author on national currents and the emerging sustainable economy. She may be reached at email@example.com, 510-428-1832, www.storiesofhope.us.
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