Why Right Now is the Right Time to Start a Small Business

It’s a tough time to be an entrepreneur. Businesses are closing across the country, from retail giants such as Circuit City to mom-and-pop stores.After years of being flush with cash and discretionary income, consumers have cut back on spending —and everyone from retailers to service industries are feeling the pain.It’s enough to make a small business owner throw in the towel and take the next 9-to-5 gig. But, there’s probably no better time than right now to launch your business.Why? Hard times equal opportunity.I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Right now is the right time to become a business owner. Nothing has changed about the state of our economy: Homeowners are grappling with record falling home values and much of the country is in a recession. Employers are slashing jobs at a record pace.What has changed, though, is opportunity.Don’t Listen to NaysayersTurn off the news. Stop reading the financial pages – at least the negative news. Forget about the value of your stock portfolios for just a second. There is no denying that there’s gloom and doom; have you seen unemployment figures and the number of foreclosure filings lately?But just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to make it your reality. You’ve got to keep focused on your vision. And in these economic times, you’ll need tunnel vision to be a success. Don’t concentrate on the negative. Keep focused on your business goals, instead.And step up your game. You’ve got to plan, plan and plan again. No matter the economy, people will still spend money. It might be less money than before, but it’s money nonetheless. So figure out what people are willing to pay for and give it to them.A bad economy isn’t all bad. Maybe you can profit from the foreclosure mess by starting a business that cleans foreclosed homes. Buy liquidated merchandise from closed retailers and sell it on eBay for a profit.Or, open an automotive shop because people are more willing to fix that old clunker than buy a new car. There are business ideas out there that could make a fortune; you’ve just got to be more resourceful to find them.Figure out how you can profit. Existing business owners may have to cut their prices. Or offer more services to stay competitive. But some money beats no money any day.The ‘Old’ Rules No Longer ApplyA year ago, no one probably ever guessed we’d be dealing with the economic crisis that we’re in. And so it’s changed the business game — forever. Conditions aren’t the same, so you can’t do business the same.For so long, if it was open, customers came. And came they did. But those rules no longer apply; they’re old-school, and if you follow them, your small business will probably be the next one to close.Now isn’t the time to bury your head in the sand; it’s time to become pro-active. You’ve got to tweak everything about your business, from how you market it to how you retain customers.Your customer has to work harder and longer for every dollar – and so do you as a business owner. It’s tough enough being in business these days, but now you’ve got to give customers even more reasons to patronize your business.So give it to them! Maybe you offer competitive pricing. Or superior customer service. Or fast fulfillment. Whatever it is, figure it out.Hard Times = OpportunityI know it sounds crazy, but the lousy economy has created opportunities for small business owners. Have you taken a look at how empty many commercial buildings are these days? Seen those new retail strip centers without any tenants? If you’re looking to lease office or retail space, there’s no better time than right now.Developers are desperate to fill those empty offices – and they’re willing to cut deals to do it. My husband and I are in the market for office space. Nothing big, but just enough space to house our companies, Mercer Media Group (mine) and Mercer Executive Protection (his).We found a 150-square-foot office about for $150 a month – with no security deposit and a month-to-month contract. This price includes electricity, high-speed Internet service, and access to a kitchen, conference room, fax and copier. It’s a steal.It’s not big, but it’s enough to meet our needs right now. And if we were willing to spend more, we could get a three-room suite with a large receptionist area for just $400 a month. The owner needs to lease the space and he’s willing to pro-rate the rent to $400 for three months, $600 for three months and $800 a month after that.Again, no contract required. And this space would have normally rented for $1,200 a month. But the owner needs to fill the space. The office isn’t brand new, but it’s in an older building in fast-growing Forsyth County, Georgia.There are plenty of other deals out there; you just have to ask. And be open to opportunities, even during a recession.