|Author: Luke Johnson, Financial Times
Published: May 5, 2010
The hour is always darkest before dawn. I have a gut feeling that now might just be a great time to take the plunge. There is plenty of negative news about deficits and double-dip recession. But technology and global markets are creating real advantages for anyone tempted to give it a go. And a new concern will not be weighed down with the legacy issues like property and pension obligations that are holding back incumbent players. Among my reasons why now is the time:
* The internet has made it easier to experiment than in the past. Building an online presence costs less than it ever did. I just redesigned my website for less than £2,000 in a few weeks. With that you can reach the whole world. Yes, the web is crowded, but there are billions of consumers connected to it who might see your ads or buy your products. And if your idea fails, too bad – shut the project down and try another; it is cheaper and quicker to discover what works than at any time in history.
* The corporate life seems less appealing . Jobs for life have gone; occupational pensions have gone; and who wants to slog away in a suffocating hierarchy their whole career? The freedom and satisfaction of self-employment are hard to beat. Of course there are risks – but then you might get sacked anyway if you work for someone else. Starting a company gives you the chance to achieve independence and self-determination – and if it succeeds, you really will get the rewards of your efforts.
* The world needs entrepreneurs more than ever. New jobs and wealth creation spring principally from new companies. I predict governments will do more to encourage entrepreneurs in years to come – from lower taxes to a reduced regime of bureaucracy. Every policymaker I speak to understands that only private enterprise can tackle unemployment and generate the tax we need to deal with our problems.
* There is more advice and support than ever before. Books, online, agencies, magazines – you name it, there are hundreds of places to go to find ideas, recruit staff, secure premises, source IT, deal with legal and accounting issues and so forth. There are more clubs and networks – more ways to access funding, find partners and reach customers. There are many more role models and mentors around than when I started out in the 1980s.
* It is easier to freelance and subcontract than before. Virtual businesses are common. Almost everything can be outsourced – manufacture, R&D, fulfilment, logistics, administration, IT – you name it. And providing these services offers endless niche markets.
* There is talent galore looking to join in a new venture. Now is a wonderful time to recruit able staff. Big business and the state are shedding personnel – people will be more willing to throw in their lot with an emerging company than during the good times.
* Premises and plants are plentiful. Rents are lower, machines are in surplus – there is more choice than there has been for years in terms of premises and equipment.
* Redundancy should be a beginning, not an end. Thousands do seize the day when they lose their job – and while not all find it a pushover, for many it allows them to pursue their dream and follow their passion.
* Part-time is a way to get going. When I worked for others, I moonlighted for several years, participating in various schemes at weekends, evenings and during holidays. It gave me experience, confidence and helped generate capital – so I was better prepared when I left employment for good after a few years.
I recently became chairman of the Advisory Board of Fast Track, which ranks Britain’s fastest growing companies. There I am endlessly impressed by the vision and energy displayed by the founders of so many of the companies surveyed. They know it is worth it.
No one believes starting something from scratch is a breeze. But as Samuel Johnson said: “He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking has his fatigues first supported by hope and afterward rewarded by joy.”
Johnson, Luke. “Now is the Moment to Seize Your Opportunity.” Financial Times. N.p., 5 May 2010. Web. 5 May 2010. <www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3f720290-57dd-11df-855b-00144feab49a.html>.