Is This a Bad Time to Be an Entrepreneur?
With a barrage of doom and gloom in the media, combined with all sorts of strange information flying around on social media, you could be forgiven for feeling that it’s a terrible time to be an entrepreneur. Maybe you've even considered updating your CV and applying for a few jobs.
I like to think in terms of “first principles” — fundamental ideas that can prove or disprove a theory without needing to rely on opinions or rumors.
Let’s run through a checklist of five fundamental questions to explore that relate to being an entrepreneur in 2020.
1. Is there money out there in the economy?
If there’s no money out there, then what’s the point? Thankfully, there is plenty. Most developed countries have been pumping money into the system at record speed. For example, the UK government has provided billions in the form of Bounce Back Loans provided to small businesses who now must spend it on things that improve their business (no cars or houses allowed). Larger corporations (with bigger budgets) have never been more open to ideas as to how they can meet their goals. Add to this other grants and discounts, and there is actually a fair amount of money in the economy.
2. Can you access large enough markets?
If you can't reach people, then your business can't survive. Fortunately, there’s never been more access to large markets. Thanks to technology and digital media, almost every business can be in communication with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential buyers per week. Businesses that can stop thinking about their local city and start addressing their time zone can increase their potential market by an order of magnitude. Everyone has just had a three-month push to buy everything online, and it's changed the way we expect to interact with a business. Many businesses that believed their products and services couldn’t be offered remotely can be assured that, with some smart changes, they now can.
3. Can you access talented people to work with?
Business is a team sport. If you can't assemble a decent group of people around you, there's not much of a business to speak of. This is the most exciting time to recruit a cofounder or key employee in your business. More than ever, great people are available to work. Not only that, people are also often happy to work part-time, using their own equipment. In times of disruption, it’s a great opportunity to access a dream team that would be unattainable.
4. Are there real problems that need solving?
This one is easy. There are massive problems that need to be solved everywhere — and problems create opportunities for entrepreneurs. Almost every business in the world has to change the way it operates, governments need to fix broken systems, corporations need to make fundamental shifts to their supply chains, businesses need effective marketing, employees need training, and the list goes on and on. At a consumer level, people need to regain their fitness, they will need to buy new clothes, and there’s a desire to get out of the house and do things (when the time is right). Above all, there are the big humanitarian, social and environmental problems that need solving. We need better packaging solutions, we have millions of people going hungry, cities must become more sustainable, and the legal system needs to be made fairer. There’s simply no end to the problems that we need to urgently solve.
5. Do you have the experience and insights to solve a valuable problem?
Having worked with thousands of entrepreneurs, I have come to discover that most people are standing on a mountain of untapped value. Their networks, insights, stories, methods and experiences form a huge platform to credibly innovate from. The problem with standing on a mountain is that you can’t see it when you are up close to it. Most people overlook their own mountain of value because they are focusing on what someone else is doing. Doing a deep dive on your own history, your passions, your experiences and stories will often yield a lot more than taking a course on a tactical approach that’s working for some guru in California.
Looking at the answers to these five fundamental questions should make you feel that this is certainly a great time to be an entrepreneur if you are willing to find a market, identify a problem and get creative in solving it.