There is no doubt that 2009 has been a hard and worrying year for business owners and, with recent figures showing that GDP has contracted for six consecutive quarters for the first time since reporting began, the outlook might quash even the most ambitious entrepreneurs’ tenacity and enthusiasm.
So what do we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? The current economic climate doesn’t have to result in businesses looking inward and focusing purely on survival: quite the opposite in fact. Historically, recession has proved to be a good time for company formation and growth – the Great Depression, the longest, deepest and most widespread recession of the 20th Century, spawned innovations such as the beer can and Rice Krispies. Recessions are always followed by periods of boom and, although no one can predict when this will come, if your company survives and grows during a down turn, you can very well expect to reap rich rewards as conditions improve.
Now is the time to look beyond the safety net of local markets and trades, and set our sights on what the global marketplace has to offer. The weakness of the pound makes the UK’s global exports much more tempting to foreign buyers, increasing the competitiveness of British products and boosting sales overseas. In addition, advancements in technology mean that communicating overseas is easier now than it ever has been and therefore global trade is infinitely more possible.
Expanding into global markets no longer needs to be the daunting task that it once was and start local, grow global is no longer true. The Internet has become one of the greatest communication tools in history and the growth of its population means boundless potential for businesses, especially those offering products that cannot be obtained in other countries.
Aside from technology and monetary values, consumers are open to, and looking for, an antidote to the stress of the recession years. Growth and expansion is about making the most of this, to help drive us into an upturn. People are looking for better value and goods and services that relate to a changing world. A business can be built by responding to this creatively, offering new solutions and innovations.
I set up TopTable in 2000, during the dot com boom years, and have since survived the crash of what made me, as well as the current recession. We now represent around 5,000 restaurants in 12 countries and announced the launch of our French-language version earlier this year. I’m not denying times are tough and restaurateurs are suffering but we make it possible for people to continue to indulge when money’s tight, whilst driving business to our clients. We are counter cyclical. Restaurants and consumers need us more at times like these. It is about researching you market and responding to its cycle to provide the service required.
I strongly believe that businesses born in the hotbed of a recession will emerge stronger than ever before. There are so many opportunities waiting to be tapped in to and now more than ever we need entrepreneurs and enterprising people with the vision, guts and tenacity to drive their ideas forward.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week which is all about finding the fresh thinkers who can spot opportunities, apply their talents and overcome obstacles to make their ideas happen. It’s not easy but I, and many other supporters of the Week, are living proof that success can be achieved in the face of adversity.
Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009 takes place from 16-22 November. The Week will shine a spotlight on the role that entrepreneurs and their ideas can play to help spark economic recovery in communities, towns and regions nationwide.
Find out how you can get involved at www.gew.org.uk
Karen Hanton is CEO of TopTable