Starting a business during a recession?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but the economy is in limbo right now. Stores and businesses are closing, and companies are having to furlough and lay off employees.  Maybe you’ve been laid off from your job. If you are in that boat, then know that this could be your chance to work for yourself. 

In fact, some of the biggest tech companies in the world were founded during the 2008 Great Recession. Instagram, Pinterest, Square, Slack, Venmo, Uber, and Dropbox are just a few. 

We’re likely entering a down economy due to coronavirus or COVID-19. Starting a business in a recession is scary! But it could also be your chance to start over. Here’s my story and my advice to budding entrepreneurs who want to get started on their entrepreneurial journey. 

What to do when the economy changes

2007 ended with a bang. After a five-year run leading a multispecialty ophthalmic practice that resulted in 300% growth overall and even greater growth in elective surgery, the world looked clear and bright. Being recruited to the industry’s #1 device platform as a consultant helped fan the flames of optimism and excitement about the future.

Then, Thanksgiving 2008. A phone call that wasn’t supposed to come. A result that wasn’t supposed to be.

Laid off!

There had been signs of economic trouble and recession throughout the year. A few decisions the company made pointed to turbulence on the horizon. But, one thing they never teach you in business school is how your education, effort, and experience aren’t Great Recession proof.

It was a turning point. I faced a decision I’d never even conjured would confront me in this way. Go back to executive management or scratch my entrepreneurial itch. I decided to scratch that itch. With the encouragement of surgeons I’d been coaching for 10 months and a strong mix of excitement, fear, doubt, and optimism, I took the plunge. My consulting practice was born.

Days and weeks passed with promised contracts going unconfirmed. The temptation to go back to working for someone else was real. 

Down to my last few dollars of severance and savings and resignation to take that job, the phone rang. I’d been knocking on all the doors I could think of with no success. Out of nowhere, my first client came from a terrible promo mail piece I’d made myself (and I am perhaps the worst graphic designer ever). Like that one good shot in a round of 18 holes of golf, I felt like there was a real chance of becoming what I thought I could be. I was right!

I’m still not a great golfer, though. 

I was lucky to have the economy force me into entrepreneurship.

Thanks to chasing hope and having the guts to go for it I can look back on the Great Recession and, with gratitude, view a significant economic setback as a gift. 

It’s been 12 years since that fateful day. The path has been full of ups and downs. But, I wouldn’t go back and rewrite the story. There have been years of leanness and years of plenty. I’ve taken risks that have paid off handsomely and risks that have kept me awake at night in fear. Taking all into consideration, I was lucky to have the economy force my hand.

Should you start a business in a down economy?

For our friends that are facing a similar turning point—wondering what comes next—this may be your moment. You may have already experienced a disruption to your work and income. You may be concerned it is imminent. If so, now may be the time for you to take the leap and chase your dream.

Consider my top ten lessons if your entrepreneurial itch needs scratching:

  1. Surround yourself with successful, trusted advisors
  2. Think, research, and plan—then, plan again
  3. Play to your strengths, and only your strengths 
    1. Other needed strengths can be acquired, outsourced, or merged
  4. Budget and take risk, wisely
  5. Utilize all resources at your disposal
    1. Coworking communities, Meetups, small business groups and forums, federal and state programs, etc.
  6. Execute
  7. Track everything
  8. Don’t lie to yourself—the numbers and your financials will tell you whether you’re meant for entrepreneurship very quickly
  9. Invest in marketing appropriate to your circumstances—success favors the BOLD
  10. When in doubt, move forward, carefully

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It takes resolve and guts. My faith in God and free markets, as well as my business experience, provided the right conditions for me to venture out.

In many ways, I feel as if COVID-19 is round two. This is another cycle of opportunity to take my own advice and restructure my businesses on the top ten, emerging stronger, better, and more effective than ever.

Find a community and a workspace

Work in Progress is here for you as you start your entrepreneurial journey. We have mentors available to all members at no cost, and our community of members is diverse and inclusive. If you are ready to make this move, then try out Work in Progress. Contact us and we’ll help you decide which membership option is best for you. 

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