Start a Business Now? Are You Crazy??

Last month I made this outrageous claim: there’s never been a better time to start—or BUY—a business. The New York Times had a similar take on the subject. But I don’t think they went far enough.

Recently in my LinkedIn feed I saw someone saying they had “dodged a bullet” by backing out of a large multi-unit real estate deal at the last second. Their reason? “April and May rents were way below projections.”

Well, of course they were. With the entire nation shut down and millions out of work, foreclosures and evictions suspended, and everyone holding their breath to see what would happen, it’s no wonder those renters didn’t—or couldn’t—pay.

But to walk away? To not even try to price the downturn into the deal? What a lost opportunity. That entrepreneur mistook a temporary aberration for a permanent situation, and surrendered without a fight.

But it’s not surprising. “Buy low, sell high” is probably the hardest thing to actually do. You have to run towards the crisis, and buy when everyone else is selling. That takes iron discipline. But iron discipline is what separates the winners from the rest of the pack.

That closed storefront? Get it at a bargain price, and start something new.

Janeen Bolender and Shannon McNichol get it. Right when the market was bottoming out, they doubled down, starting their boutique real estate firm—specializing in luxury homes, no less—despite the fact that they couldn’t actually meet customers.

They are doing what entrepreneurs do: reinventing the industry. In their case, they are pioneering virtual open houses and video meetings to do what used to be done face-to-face. And against all odds, they’re succeeding. I’ve even mentored a few, myself.

History is a powerful teacher if you pay attention: Tim Chen founded NerdWallet when he got laid off during the holidays in the middle of the devastating 2008 recession. What did he learn?

  • Talented people become available. They’re suddenly on the street through no fault of their own, ready to take a chance on backing your vision.
  • Advertising has never been easier to do—and it’s more accurate than it’s ever been. Google AdWords brings an advertising guru to every entrepreneur, with access to tools only the biggest agencies used to enjoy. And media rates have tumbled—you can reach your audience in print, online, or on a billboard for less than ever before.
  • New ways of doing business are popping up everywhere. A website with a digital storefront is just the beginning. 3-D printing means any kitchen can be a factory. Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Teespring, Upwork…if you can envision a product or service, there’s a platform out there ready to help you sell it.

So, do you see a need that isn’t being met? Is your “side gig” suddenly your only gig? People with nothing to lose make history—and some of America’s biggest corporations got their start during downturns.

This time around there’s plenty of help out there. The Small Business Association just got an $10 billion infusion specifically to target low-income communities with financial products and services for local residents and businesses.

Reopening is happening, so the economy is roaring back and some of the crisis-driven bargains are disappearing again. But what did we learn? “The best time to invest in yourself was last month. The second-best time is right now.”

Bottom Line:

When the market is in turmoil, you’ll find opportunity. Be bold, and seize it!

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