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- Gerber Hits a Nerve - November 1, 2011
As published in Costco’s monthly magazine The Costco Connection:
Some day in the not too distant future, people will look back on these recessionary times and say, That’s when the smart people did “xyz.”
At StartupNation, we believe that doing “xyz” means starting up your own business, right now. By our observation and experience, we’ve noticed that some of the best success stories are born in times just like these.
It’s true that we’re in the midst of an economic tsunami. But that only means more opportunity. After all, when everyone is down and out, their needs become more urgent. Any businesses that cater to those “screaming needs” may be perfectly poised to become recession-busters. Secondly, people are desperate for work. That means you can find higher quality people less expensively than ever before. Great people make great companies, so this could give you a huge edge. Thirdly, it’s less expensive than ever to get your business off the ground. Deals and discounts abound. You can hang the OPEN sign far easier and faster today than in times when vendors were fat and happy and offered fewer incentives.
Beyond the economic realities, technology has evolved rapidly to open up unprecedented opportunities for entrepreneurs. You can market your business effectively, efficiently and inexpensively like never before. For example, email marketing costs pennies per email and is one of the most direct, immediate and productive ways to drum up sales. With recipients’ permission, you can message them with your offers and provide helpful updates to stay top of mind during these distracting times.
Then consider another technology-driven game-changer – online social networking. By being active on sites like Facebook and using micro-blogging sites like Twitter (in addition to your own website’s blog), you can significantly expand your contacts and prospects and develop interaction with them that can lead to revenue with stunning speed and scope. It’s basically schmoozing without ever leaving your office.
Add to that the opportunities associated with search engine marketing, where you pay only for qualified traffic—referred to as “clicks”—to your website, and you quickly begin to realize that spending is no longer a guessing game with slow returns on investment. These days, you can generate instant results with minimal money at risk.
So, while your instincts might have you hiding under a rock right now, shed that conservatism and get your own business started. You can not only survive, but thrive in this economy.
Here are some business types that are particularly viable these days, keeping in mind that you should only start a business if you’re extremely passionate about what that business does. You’ll need that passion to sustain you and to make you contagiously exciting in the presence of customers, employees and financiers.
These are must-have services, typically. Think healthcare-related businesses, automotive repair, perhaps IT support for residential customers, financial planning – all businesses that are required—not optional—in order to conduct life normally.
Screaming Needs Businesses
Think of things that people urgently need in this economy. If you can help people spend less, you’re onto something. For example, if people need their fashion fix, maybe you can supply fashion accessories less expensively or be an information resource for discounted items. We know of one entrepreneur who provides discounted parking to people who purchase city parking through his site.
No Downside Businesses
We’re referring to monetary downside here, so any business requiring minimal upfront cost would qualify. A home-based business with an online store fits the bill. You can sign up for a template website on a pay-as-you-go basis very affordably. What you do have at stake, of course, is your time and the opportunity cost of having chosen not to pursue a potentially lucrative alternative path.
Proven Formula Businesses
Franchises are generally lower risk because they’ve been proven to work. This formulaic approach to running a small business may be perfect, especially if you’re spinning out of the corporate world and don’t have much experience as a wily entrepreneur. While it’s a less “innovative” path, opening a franchise location can give you all the other benefits of running your own show.
In these times of uncertainty, one thing can still be counted on – small business isn’t going away. It’s still at the heart of the American economy and our country’s culture. If you leverage the many advantages available to entrepreneurs today and start a business that fits one of the attractive categories mentioned above, you have good odds for success, even today.
Bonus Section: 5 Simple Steps to Get Your Business Off the Ground
Take these 5 simple steps to quickly replace confusion and fear with information, confidence, a clear path forward to get your own business off the ground:
1. Play to Your Passion
Figure out what turns you on – if you’re passionate about a business idea, your chances of success go way up. That passion will help you get through the tough times. See Life Planning at StartupNation, the first of 10 Steps to Open a Business.
2. Take Stock
No, not shares of the company. We mean take stock of what your skills are, the resources you have available, the track record you might be able to leverage from a marketing perspective.
3. Commit to Your Concept
Create a short but clear statement about what your business idea is. Force yourself to distill the idea into a brief statement that’s clear to any third party (money people, customers, partners, employees, web designers, etc.)
4. Google Like Mad
To collect some quick research, immediately start Googling for anything associated with your idea. The faster you become an authority, the faster you’ll be able to define your business strategy, including pricing, target markets, milestone timing, operations and more.
5. Test Drive
Find a few people who’ll be a sounding board for your ideas and strategies. This helps you avoid buying into your own hype. And don’t be afraid to ask people who have no relationship with you. In fact, you can ask someone who runs a similar business in a non-competitive geographic market to be a mentor.
Want more of Rich’s advice? Check out his blog, and learn more about successful startup strategies!