When unemployment numbers rise, the truth starts to ring home: All jobs are temporary and people can be let go at any moment. People suddenly realize that neither the government nor corporate America can truly look out for their best interests 24/7, so they step up to make things happen on their own.
Is starting a business risky? Sure. Is it hard? You bet. Is it worth it? That's up to each person to figure out for themselves.
I remember hearing two co-workers talking after hearing a rumor about layoffs. One of them had decided to quit to open her own pizza parlor. The guy she was talking to said "That's going to be a lot of hard work." Her reply? "I'm already working hard."
Many people don't have that insight until they're faced with the possibility of a layoff. They say self-employment is too risky. Interestingly, many entrepreneurs view "employment" as risky, because layoffs can happen without warning.
Granted, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) act says a company must give two months notice before cutting a workforce or closing facilities, but it only applies to companies with more than 100 employees, and it doesn't apply if a layoff involves less than 50 people.
Companies are also exempt from WARN if they believe notifying workers would scare away a potential lender, or if an "unforeseen business circumstance" occurs (which could be anything). In other words, the loopholes in WARN are many and most workers can be laid off at any time.
"People get lulled into a false sense of security," says Greg Sigerson, the principle at Wisdom Factor, Inc., a consulting company in Eastern Idaho.
Sigerson advocates people live to the fullest, and he views entrepreneurialism as an option people should consider. To that end, Sigerson interviews successful entrepreneurs and then turns those interviews into podcasts so others can learn from them.
A similar approach comes from Dr. Jeretta Horn Nord, author of A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneur's Spirit. Nord is a Professor in the Departments of Management Science and Information Systems and Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Her book contains the stories of 53 entrepreneurs from five countries, each explaining what drove them into business for themselves and what they've done to achieve their success. For anyone who's considering starting a business (and for those who've already done so), her book is a recommended read.
For those who are already entrepreneurs, a bad economy is no reason to throw in the towel. When Orville and Heidi Thompson's business hit tough times after the terrorist attacks in 2001, they rethought their business approach. They bought out another company – Scentsy - and turned it into a direct sales company that now has over 34,000 independent consultants.
According to John Curtis, Director of Public Relations for Scentsy, the Thompsons started carrying the wickless candles as just another product in their booth at fairs and homeshows, but eventually realized Scentsy was about an "experience." They believed if people could experience the product, it practically sold itself. So, in July of 2004, the couple bought Scentsy and turned it into a party plan company, giving other people an opportunity to be in business for themselves, too.
Direct sales companies such as Scentsy often thrive in a down economy because it doesn't cost much to get such a business started. Jus International is another example. After launching last year, Jus (pronounced "juice") is growing between 10 – 40 percent each month.
Their product is listed as a State-of-the-Art Superfood beverage and the world's most powerful anti-oxidant drink. It has attracted such names as Mandi Kramer from the TV show "The Biggest Loser," and Tom Mitchell, the 2007 World Challenge Champion (the competition for the strongest man in the world).
Kramer, a hairstylist by trade, says that being an independent business operator with Jus is giving her a chance to build her future. "I love cutting hair, but it's hard to build a retirement on it," she says. "Having my own Jus business allows me to build security into my financial future."
For those interested in starting their own business or strengthening a business they already have, startupnation.com is a great place to visit. This website overflows with tips and "how to" aids to help entrepreneurs launch and succeed in business, including this advice: You don't have to take a plunge into full-time entrepreneurship. You can start part time or you can position yourself for a later entrance.
Norris Krueger, an expert in how to develop entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial communities, is affiliated with Entrepreneurship Northwest, ESTech, and the Max Planck Institute of Economics. To people thinking of starting their own business, Krueger says "network like crazy. Find your way to people who can help you understand how to get your business going and help you understand your industry."
Krueger also says people will be surprised to find out how much help is available with a simple Internet search.
Will starting a business be risky? Sure. Will it be hard? You bet. Will it be worth it? That's up to you.