There's been a brutal shakeout over the past few years in the entrepreneurial world. As of March, there were more than 1.5 million fewer self-employed people than there were in March of 2007, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But looking on the bright side, the business owners who have survived have gained some useful skills that will likely continue to pay off as the economy improves. Here's the upside of making it through the downturn:
- Less overhead. Nearly every company that made it found ways to cut fixed costs, whether from downsizing office space, moving to a cheaper building or going virtual.
- Sharper marketing. If you didn't know how to market your business before, I bet you know how to do it now. Entrepreneurs who'd always made it purely on word of mouth had to learn new marketing skills in the downturn, and now they can be used in the improving economy to earn even more.
- Buying smarter. From office supplies to insurance to phone service, costs got scrutinized and better deals were found. And even though the economy is starting to improve, there's no reason to switch back to more costly providers -- helping you keep your lower cost structure.
- More flexible workforce. Many companies switched to contract labor or outsourced tasks to specialized providers to save money. Unless demand picks up so much that a full-time staffer is needed, you can keep on using contractors.
- New products. Maybe your own products didn't appeal to newly frugal shoppers, so you changed them or introduced new ones. Now, you can reap the benefits of your more diverse product array.
- New markets. If your current market wasn't buying, you may have found new customer segments or moved into new geographic areas. Consider building on that expanded base.
- Stronger relationships. Whether you teamed up with other businesses in your town to do marketing, or got closer to your vendors, those who've come through the fire together have formed unique bonds. Now, you can leverage these relationships to grow together in the good times.
What did your business gain from the downturn? Leave a comment and let us know.