Clate Mask June 19, 2023 Enterpreneur Magazine
There is a lot of uncertainty about where the economy is heading right now. But as someone who has served and observed small businesses through many economic cycles, I believe determined entrepreneurs can make it in any climate.
Yes, entrepreneurs must acknowledge and be aware of what's happening externally. But, I've also always believed entrepreneurs can create the outcomes they want despite challenging macroeconomic circumstances. To do so, they need to take advantage of the opportunities in the existing environment and work through the challenging aspects as they drive toward success.
To understand how folks are doing that today, I recently discussed these issues with a panel of small business owners I know and respect. Here are three trends that emerged from that conversation.
What the economy has been doing recently is what all of us who were economics majors call an "economic correction." Sounds a lot nicer than it feels, doesn't it? But in reality, these corrections are necessary to create a healthier economy. Of course, business owners struggling from economic setbacks aren't going to see them that way. At least not right away.
But this is why the first important entrepreneurial trend worth highlighting is a mindset shift. Instead of viewing the economy as a foe, successful entrepreneurs accept that the economic adjustment is happening and then figure out how to work with it.
For instance, when the economy — and lead acquisition — slows down, business owners are forced to become more efficient and get clarity about who they serve. By doing so, you can make sure you're spending time with the right customers in the first place. Then, you can meet them where they are, help them get through their own challenges during this time and keep your company moving forward.
Some of the business owners I spoke with mentioned that there have been both advantages and disadvantages in hiring talent recently. Ever since Covid, many people have branched out, come up with their own ideas and wanted to work for themselves.
This can make it more difficult for the entrepreneur to get the right full-time people in place for their team, but it also means that access to remote and fractional talent is greater today than ever before. So even if entrepreneurs can't find local, qualified personnel for a role , there are fewer geographic limitations today. All of the pandemic-induced and economy-fueled changes people have made have allowed business owners to bring on team members worldwide to fulfill their needs.
Since people are embracing more freedom in their work, small businesses can attract top talent by offering flexible work arrangements, like remote work options or flexible schedules. This can be attractive to employees seeking better work-life balance.
Additionally, small businesses can provide opportunities for employees to develop a wide range of skills and gain valuable experience across different business areas. This can appeal to individuals seeking professional growth and a diverse career path.
Of course, my small business owner colleagues and I couldn't talk about the economy and entrepreneurial trends without discussing artificial intelligence (AI). The economic landscape has driven an acute need for efficiency, which means getting comfortable using automation and technology. It saves time, reduces team members' workloads and helps them do more with less.
One of the owners I spoke with said his company has already fully embraced AI for its reliability, resiliency and ability to scale. They're using AI for various tasks that can be automated, like creating presentations in numerous languages and disseminating them worldwide, which frees their employees to focus on the more complex projects that require critical thinking and creativity. This keeps their costs down and their output high.
Whether entrepreneurs are ready to get as sophisticated with the technology as this company is or not, AI is here, accessible and useful in myriad ways. The companies that will make the most of the current time, despite the economic fluctuations, are those that use technology like automation and AI to get ahead.
There has been a lot of fear among entrepreneurs about the economy, and it's time for that narrative to change. Research firms, like McKinsey, have found that "the moves companies make now (during a recession) could account for half of the difference in total shareholder returns (TSR) between leading and lagging companies over the next business cycle."
In other words, what you do now matters. By refocusing your efforts to align with the state of the economy, tapping into new talent possibilities and getting comfortable with AI, business owners can not only ride this wave but even attain real growth throughout it.