In times of crisis, such as the world has experienced this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, many potential entrepreneurs choose to abandon their search for a business idea. They feel that there is no point in pursuing opportunities or starting a business when there are economic challenges or while other businesses are struggling and closing down.
I want to challenge that mindset. I believe that tough times are the perfect time to identify and test new business ideas and to find the one that is right for you.
In this blog, I am going to give you five reasons why a crisis can be the best time to find your business idea and get to work on making it a reality. If you already have a business, these five reasons might inspire you to develop your business further.
This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.
1. Some of the world’s most successful businesses were launched in the middle of an economic crisis.
Here are some great examples of businesses that were started in a crisis and used it to gain momentum to succeed.
Airbnb and Uber were launched during the financial crisis of 2008 and now who hasn’t heard of them!
Also in 2009, two existing businesses Mailchimp and Slack had to pivot in response to the financial crisis and as a result, both experienced explosive growth!
Why does this happen? How can some businesses experience sudden success in a crisis? What can you learn from them to help you find your ideal business idea?
The answer is that during a crisis new needs emerge. For example, online tutoring As many parents got overwhelmed by homeschooling during the pandemic, they did something they would never have considered before and hired online tutors.
Another example is Zocdoc. This online tool initially provided a way for consumers to find doctors in their area and set up an appointment. They pivoted during the pandemic to provide tools to allow doctors to hold virtual consultations with patients – something that neither patients nor doctors would have considered doing before.
So you can see new needs emerge during a crisis. The question for you is to identify which new problems and challenges you can solve with a business idea.
You might be thinking that these examples are all big companies with the resources to allow them to try new things and that as a solopreneur or a small business, you cannot do what they have done.
In fact, the opposite is true. It is easier for you to grow and achieve more. You can much more flexible, and react more quickly than a larger business. When I look at some of the businesses that I have seen grow in the last few months of this pandemic, there are many small businesses and solopreneurs including online tutors, yoga instructors, and food planners, to name just a few.
The key thing is to look around and ask yourself what problems you can solve with a business idea.
If you can answer this question, you will probably find a list of ideas for you. Don’t look at how you can fix them just yet, just identify the opportunities. Think big and don’t limit yourself. Once you’ve got a list, then and only then, you can begin to think about how you can respond to them.
2. There is less competition during a crisis.
A lot of your competition will be thinking that this is not the right time to launch a business or even to promote their existing one.
Many small business owners will not have the courage to show up during times of crisis. This means that there will be less competition for you than ever before. Don’t be the one who shies away or backs off – whether you are looking for a business idea or already have a business, this is not the time to be quiet. In fact, quite the opposite, this is the time to take the opportunities to build a business that is really relevant to the new needs emerging. This is also your opportunity to get noticed more easily and more quickly, while there is less competition for your customers’ attention.
Even if you can’t launch right now, you need to get to work so when the timing is right, you are ready. If you get to work now, you will already be ahead when your competition gets back to work as the market starts to recover.
3. Consumers don’t stop consuming, they are simply changing the way they consume.
This is critical. It is not that people stop buying during a crisis. They continue to spend but they do so in very different ways.
For example, like others in the hospitality industry, the pandemic had a huge impact on Airbnb. They experienced a huge and scary 80% drop in their revenue within weeks. However, what they realized was that as the shock of lockdowns and travel restrictions began to pass, people started to book again but in a very different way. Consumers began to look for different leisure experiences. Many wanted to get away from cities, to spend time in nature, and to find more remote places to stay. People also began to realize that they could work remotely from anywhere and that they did not need to stay at home. In addition, Airbnb saw a change from short breaks to longer stays of weeks or months as consumers wanted long term moves. Their response to this is helping them recover from their earlier losses.
The lesson here is to pay attention to the changes around you. Look for the new problems emerging but also the new habits and consumption behaviors that are emerging for you, those around you and the people you want to serve.
4. Starting a business takes time – use the downtime to build the right foundations and be ready before everyone else when things get better.
Maybe during the crisis, the market is not right for you to launch a new business However, it is still the perfect time to start because it does take time for a business to suceed.
Use this ‘down time’ to build great foundations for your business. There is so much work you can do to be ready for the time when the market begins to pick up which I think will be sooner than you might imagine. You can research your ideas, build your audience and relationships, develop systems and processes so that when the market starts to pick up, you will be ready to go. You will be ready while your competition is still gearing up to re-open!
Also if you are cautious and do your market research properly, you will have better insights into how consumers’ behavior is changing and what new needs are emerging. However, you need to start now to think about this, along with your expertise and what sort of business you would like. If you wait for the market to get better, you will be left behind by others with similar ideas to you who have used this time to prepare or who have already built strong foundations for their business.
5. Now more than ever, any business can be portable allowing you to work remotely from anywhere.
When I first started Tandem Nomads five years ago and even recently, I had a real challenge convincing people that any business could be done remotely. There were some real barriers to virtual and online businesses.
Those barriers are all gone now. Now more than ever any business can be virtual and you can work anywhere! This is so important for expat partners who want to build a portable business that you can always take with you, and where you can have more flexibility, which has been so important for parents managing homeschooling during this crisis.
Consumers are getting used to and embracing virtual solutions for their problems. Zocdoc is a great example of this. Zocdoc is an established business that helps consumers find doctors and set up appointments with them. Although it was created in 2007, it just started making profit in 2019. With the pandemic, doctors’ and patients’ behavior and needs changed. By introducing a tool for doctors to allow them to offer virtual consultations with patients, they have experienced a real transformation, showing just how acceptable it is now to work with someone remotely.
I was able to get a virtual consultation recently, even though technically I was out of lockdown, I was just so busy that a virtual consultation was so much easier. It was just more convenient, and time-efficient to talk to my doctor remotely. Only a few months ago, I am sure my doctor would not have been willing to do this as an initial consultation.
This willingness to embrace doing business virtually or remotely is so exciting. More than ever before, your customers will be willing to embrace your offer, whether it is online or offline but especially if it is virtual. Even as things return to ‘normal’, consumers now fully understand the benefit of virtual solutions and so the market is waiting for new online opportunities and choices.
So this is your time! Don’t lose this opportunity to find the perfect business idea for you. If you do there will be other people already ahead of you when the market starts to recover.
What should I do next?
I don’t want you to lose out on the new opportunities that are emerging right now. Whether you are launching soon or working on building the foundations for success, the time to act is now.
Start by taking my short test on whether the time is right for you to launch a new business