The world is a very different place from the beginning of 2020. There are many people who began the year with stable jobs, staff at flourishing businesses now find themselves furloughed, redundant or with no business to return to. It’s not just physical health that has been impacted by the coronavirus, it’s economic health too.
The “Bull Dog Spirit”
In Britain, we’ve mastered the stiff upper lip, the wartime ‘make do and mend’ spirit, and instead of wallowing in despair, we’ve been looking at ways to turn our lives around and get back to work, one way or the other, when all this is over.
Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group
My business has been in the fortunate position that, with a strong online presence, many of our staff could work from home. I can also, due to the nature of my firm – a business broker, supporting the buying and selling of businesses – see that some people are planning for the future by taking control of their situation and buying a business to work for themselves.
Since the lockdown began, we have had a steady increase in customers enquiring about businesses for sale and making the first steps towards becoming their own boss. This is wonderful to see at a time when people could, justifiably, lock themselves away, sticking their head in the sand until the crisis is over. Many of these are people who have, sadly, lost their jobs due to the lockdown, but have turned it into an opportunity to pursue a different entrepreneurial dream.
It may surprise readers that we have had a great deal of interest in customer-facing businesses, like cafes and pubs which have been mostly closed during the lockdown. My theory is that people are thinking long term and are aware that the public will appreciate these services when they can reopen again, making the most of going out for a treat. I think people have also observed how these types of businesses have pivoted in recent months, offering take away and delivery services, or turning their attention to selling the bread they would normally make for sandwiches. We are seeing entrepreneurial spark every day, and others are saying “I can do that too!”
We’ve also seen an increase in interest in the shops that are enjoying a resurgence in popularity during the coronavirus climate – convenience stores and post offices in particular. The value of the humble corner shop has never been more apparent – they have become the lifeline to communities, as many supermarkets sold out of the essentials in the early days (lest we forget the empty toilet roll aisle) or have lengthy queues that can be daunting for the vulnerable or, indeed, someone who only needs a pint of milk. The hero of the hour, convenience store, once thought to be in danger of extinction at the hands of giants like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, allows quick and easy access to creature comforts. And when the restrictions are relaxed or lifted completely, people will remember just how convenient their local convenience store is.
Post offices have become popular for a different reason. They’ve become a way of showing love to our family and friends that we can’t see in person. Whether it’s posting a card or a gift for a birthday, or just a token of affection for someone who needs a pick-me-up, sending it through the post has been essential to many of us during this period. Post offices have long been established as a staple of the community, making them a great investment for someone who wants to run a small, local business.
You may think, why are these budding or inadvertent entrepreneurs looking to buy an existing business rather than come up with a great idea of their own? Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg are all household names because of their self-started companies and the success they brought. For some people, though, that’s not the dream. They don’t want to fire a car into space, travel round the world in a hot air balloon or buy a chunk of Hawaii. They just want to own and run a business of their own.
The big hitters, like Zuckerberg are also rare success stories. Sadly, more than 58 percent of start-ups fail within the first five years, according to the Office of National Statistics. Buying a business sees this risk reduced significantly, because existing businesses have a customer base, a reputation and previous financial records which prove it’s a viable asset. Having that little boost of confidence in your corner is particularly comforting if you’ve recently suffered the emotional blow of redundancy. It gives you some hope that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.
The world has changed significantly since we counted in the new year, but this change doesn’t necessarily have to be for the worse. Rather, we may have unlocked the potential of a new wave of entrepreneurs, ready to take control of their careers and establish their positions in the communities.