05/05/09

Grasping the opportunities in a recession

Neil Anderson

I’ve just returned from the Real Business Entrepreneurs summit  www.realbusiness.co.uk, where I heard some great speeches from a variety of business leaders such as Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Mark Dixon (Regus), and Edward Wray (Betfair), all of whom have been through a number of recessions before.

In a particular, there was an excellent speech from Chris Rea, Managing Director, AESSEAL, whose business since April 1979 has grown from 14 staff (six of whom left the day he arrived!), to 1,250 staff and 80m turnover – what’s more it has survived/thrived through three recessions.  

How did he do it? Simple really attention to customer needs and successful delivery, with a smattering of innovation (often by taking other ideas and improving on them). Indeed, this desire to continuously improve was also important in staying ahead of the competition and responding to changing needs of the client. 

Change was a recurring theme across the conference; never has the resistance to change been so low because, as was often repeated, this recession is worse and very different to anything seen before (unless you are approaching 100 and were around in the 1930s). And bear in mind that entrepreneurs are normally an optimistic and positive bunch. 

But (and this was the key response) instead of been despondent, the general feeling was that recessions are an excellent time to grasp opportunities (many of the speakers had actually started their business in a recession). Good people are easy to find, assets are cheaper, and customers more open to positive/innovative solutions.  

So, the message was review/reappraise your business model, make sure it is agile and responsive to customers in order to survive for now, and prepare for the upturn. 

“Don’t just survive, reinvent!”
– Brent Hoberman, Mydeco (and formally Lastminute.com). 

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