Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“A Bad Economy is a Great Opportunity”
A pessimist sees the difficulty’ in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
—Winston Churchill, prime minister, United Kingdom (1940-45, 1951-55)
Times were good. No, they were great. My company had just passed six figures in revenue, and it was headed to break the seven-figure mark. My team grew to almost twenty people, all of whom were passionate about the business and exceeded my expectations. Various local and national publications were calling me to secure an interview so that they could highlight me, a young entrepreneur with great potential. I even received a call from a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual who saw me featured in a magazine and thought I would be a great client. We met, and he handed me a three-ring leather binder with a detailed plan that would enable me to retire comfortably by age forty. I was barely in my twenties.
Fast-forward a few years to now. The glory days are long gone. As President Barack Obama puts it, we continue to face the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Since 2008, my company revenues have dropped. Sometimes it feels like the challenging financial times of our start-up days. The team no longer consists of twenty people, and some of our best and brightest have moved on to other ventures. If I appear in any publication or on television, it’s rarely to showcase my success. Instead, it’s more likely to give advice on how to stay afloat during this economic maelstrom. My financial plan needs adjustment. Retiring by age forty is not going to happen. Despite the gloom, I know that the glory days will be back soon. History and experience. tell me so.
Many of the biggest companies in history—and smaller ones, too—thrived during a had economy. For example, Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, was started during a recession in 1975. During that time, unemployment was high and gas prices were through the roof due to OPEC’s decision to increase prices drastically. A few other companies founded during difficult economic times are Disney, IBM, and General Motors. Similarly, many companies already in existence have made comebacks during challenging financial periods. Perhaps the most familiar and recent example is Apple, which began its resurgence in 2001 during the dotcom bust and the effects of the September 11, 2001, tragedy.
As I reflect on companies that weathered the storm, I remember that I started my company in 2000 during the time of the dotcom bust and brief recession. In fact, I vividly remember major news media reporting on the huge number of unemployed college graduates. The signs of an impending, severe recession were multiplying, especially after the 9/11 attacks. Despite the bad signs, I was fortunate that my youth and temerity enabled me to see the world through a positive lens. I knew that hard work would pay off, no matter what the circumstances. It certainly did.
In short, entrepreneurs do not allow a bad economy to hold them back from accomplishing their goals. Ironically, poor economic conditions often have the opposite effect; they motivate entrepreneurs more and propel them to success even faster. Times are not as great as I write, but entrepreneurs ignore the zeitgeist and create positive circumstances. They roll up their sleeves and get to work, anticipating the next growth period. That’s where you want to be: ready to grab the bull by its horns and ride.