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Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

Starting A Business in A Challenging Economic Climate, Part 2 (Limiting Risk)

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    In Part 1 of this series, I talked about why now is a good time to start a business. But without Part 2, Limiting Your Risk, you may be setting yourself up for problems. Now is a great time to start a business, but part of starting a business in this kind of economy is playing it smart.

    How You Can Limit Your Risk:

    When you start a business in challenging economic times, you’ll want to limit your risk as much as possible. There are several ways to go about this, but here are my top recommendations:

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    Get it right at the beginning. A lot of budding business owners skip crucial steps on their way to a business launch. I can’t tell you how many clients have come to me, a year or two into their businesses, without having set up their companies with the Secretary of State, the IRS, or having met with an attorney to help them set up their operating agreements. These are things that could get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t do them the right way.

    There are other steps that won’t necessarily get you into trouble, but may cause some headaches if you don’t get them right. Branding is an excellent example of one of the most-missed (and most misunderstood) steps in entrepreneurialism. It’s also one of the things that can make or break your company.  Choose a generic business name like “ABC Consulting” or create a brand that doesn’t intrigue your target market and you’ll start your business heading down the wrong path.

    Choose an industry that’s hot or one that’s a “need.” Generally, you want to go with the industry you know best, but at the same time, you can’t ignore what most business experts define as the wave of the new future. Currently, the hottest trends are green businesses, health care, natural beauty, discount retail and luxury, credit and debt management, and technology. If you can find a way to spin what you already know into one of these hot business areas, you’ll take advantage of the coming upsurge in these industries.

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    On the other hand, I also believe in going after the “needs” of your consumers. For example, I once worked with a guy who was a chimney sweep in the winter (something people need) and a custom SUV builder in the summer (a luxury people want). His winter need-based business was one that provided enough income for the whole year, just in case his want-based business waned in the summer.

    Start with a low-risk business model. When I work with a client to design a new business, we typically use what I call a “leap-frogging” or “dovetailing” approach. This is where you start your business using a low-risk business model and build from there, using the income from the first model to fund expansion and growth into more complex business models. This approach almost always allows my clients to start their own businesses without seeking any type of funding from lending institutions, venture capitalists, or other investors.

    Plan ahead. If you lose your job, there isn’t much you can do about that. And in this economy, you’d have to work a part-time job in addition to your regular full-time job to save up enough for the six to twelve months of living expenses I generally recommend when clients want to start a business they can work full-time from the beginning. But if you can keep your job and start your business part-time, you’ll reduce your risk substantially. This allows you to maintain a steady income while you’re building your business, and eventually, you can make the transition to being self-employed, full-time.

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    Market research can save you a lot of time and heartache. Before you head into any business startup, you want to know your market inside out. More than that, you want to know your target market. There are lots of ways to do the research. You can do your own research (called “primary research”) or you can use information compiled by others (“secondary research”). Both have their pros and cons, but the questions you want to answer are:

    • Who is my target market?
    • What do they want?
    • Can I deliver it to them?
    • If I deliver what they want, will they buy it?

    Leverage free and inexpensive marketing methods to build your business. A lot of new entrepreneurs develop complicated, expensive marketing campaigns before realizing how many ways there are to get the word out about their businesses without spending a fortune. And with the power of the Internet literally at our fingertips, it’s easier now than ever to build awareness for your brand. However, that doesn’t mean you should go out and build a giant Twitter following. There are so many online options, but all of them may not be appropriate for your target market.

    Get the right help. Before you launch a company, you want to find professionals who can help you start on the right foot. There are countless people out there calling themselves “consultants” and you have to be careful who you choose. The ideal business consultant for you is someone who understands a lot of different business models, especially the low-risk ones, and who can help you figure out the model that suits you best. You want someone you find personable, someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone you can trust.

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    In addition, make sure they don’t make promises that are too good to be true. A lot of business “experts” I’ve seen lately offer what amounts to “get rich quick schemes,” while others offer such vague information that you’re compelled to keep buying more books and products to get to the “real” information….which never actually comes. Instead of wasting your time on these folks, find someone genuine, real, and honest, who may not promise you the sun, moon and stars super-fast, but who can help you build a solid, stable income with real growth potential.  Work one-on-one with them to develop a sound business model and a strong brand with a viable marketing strategy that you can easily implement. A good business consultant will know how to work with whatever budget you have and tailor solutions to your needs. Plus, they should have an army of other professionals who can also work within your budget, but still offer high quality work.

    Build your team. Speaking of other professionals, you will need your own little army. In addition to a business consultant, you’ll also want an accountant, an attorney, a graphic designer and a web designer, and you may also want a virtual assistant and some other consultants, most of whom your business consultant probably has access to.

    Starting a business in an uncertain economy can feel risky, and it certainly has stopped a lot of people from moving forward with great ideas. But if you look at history and remember that some of the most solid businesses today were started in just such an economy, mitigate your risk factors and hire the right professionals from the start, you’ll give yourself a fantastic leg up on your competition, and set yourself up for success.

    More by this author

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

    So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

    While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

    Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

    What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

    How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

    But what does being productive actually entail?

    Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

    Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

    It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

    Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

    9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

    1. Avoid Multitasking

    Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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    Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

    If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

    2. Turn off Notifications

    According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

    Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

    The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

    Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

    3. Manage Interruptions

    There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

    Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

    If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

    By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

    4. Eat the Frog

    Mark Twain once famously said that:

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    “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

    What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

    We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

    Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

    5. Cut Down on Meetings

    Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

    You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

    The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

    But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

    If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

    6. Utilize Tools

    Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

    If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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    And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

    Some examples of tools that could be used:

    Communication
    • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
    • Samepage for video conference software.
    • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
    Task Management
    • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
    • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
    • Wekan for an open source option.
    Database Management
    Time Tracking
    • Clockify for a free tracker.
    • TMetric for workspace integrations.
    • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

    You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

    7. Declutter and Organize

    Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

    Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

    Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

    Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

    8. Take Breaks

    Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

    As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

    Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

    Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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    9. Drink Water

    Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

    Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

    Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

    A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

    If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

    You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

    The Bottom Line

    The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

    After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

    In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

    A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

    Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    More About Boosting Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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