2008 through 2013 were very challenging both personally and professionally. As a lifelong entrepreneur with ventures in various industries including consulting, the internet (Liquor.com), real estate (Bold Development), and personal development (Author of What Is Your WHAT? Discover The ONE Amazing Thing You Were Born To Do; Internet Prophets: The World’s Leading Experts Reveal How to Profit Online; Journey To You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming Who You Were Born to Be and founder of The Reinvention Workshop), during these four years, to put it mildly – I got hammered (and, no, I’m not referring to overindulging on the fine products found at Liquor.com).
As they say, “sometimes you’re the nail and sometimes you’re the hammer.” There is no doubt that, throughout this period, I was the nail… and it hurt.
Money went out. More money went out. And, little money came in. The faucet that I had come accustomed to drinking from had not only gone dry, but I’m convinced that someone snuck in during the middle of the night and removed the spigot.
In late 2007, my real estate portfolio of commercial and residential properties was worth more than $50MM and produced a net annual cash flow of nearly $250k. By early 2008, however, the market’s shift towards the trenches was in full swing.
In the subsequent three years of pain, the value of my holdings dropped by more than 60% and many properties, which once reflected viable cash cows, were now grazing aimlessly and draining funds on a monthly basis. Internet sales and supporting ad revenue came to a screeching halt. And, my six-figure personal development consulting business that used to represent my monthly bread and butter (and we’re talking a nice, thick, crusty bread with homemade, whipped, pure, creamy, salty, delicious, buttery goodness) came to a virtual standstill.
What I came to learn from these tumultuous times is that, with each obstacle, alternate routes of travel are opened. However, in order to take advantage of the shifting marketplace and potential gains found in uncharted territory, personal and business reinvention was required… and inevitable.
Aside from the obvious, such as tightening the belt and shifting focus to that of what our customers actually need as opposed to that which we felt they wanted, we retooled our entire business and began to shift from profit being the sole motive for our existence to that of not only making a living doing what it is that we are compelled to do, but also heeding our personal and professional responsibility for improving our community, our environment, and our world.
By the end of 2012, it became clear that the Recession offered three specific opportunities that are simply not available when times are good. Historically, these recession-based keys to success have been leveraged to create more sustainable, game-changing businesses that have generational impact than have ever been created during times of prosperity.
The three recession-based keys to success are:
1) Affordable Resources. During boom times, it is a simple economic tenet of supply and demand that things are more expensive. Real estate (both for sale and for lease), infrastructure, equipment, durable goods, etc., cost more and their price tags reflect the peak of the value cycle.
When times are tough, however, landlords are virtually giving away space for lease. Banks are desperate to dump REOs (properties they’ve taken back from owners who have not paid their mortgages) off their balance sheets. Computers, cars, office equipment, machinery, etc. can be bought for pennies on the dollar as sellers need to raise cash. And, financing big-ticket items and negotiating beyond the point of relative discomfort is commonplace.
In our business, we were able to lease office space for less than 50% of the landlord’s asking price for the same space just two years prior, purchase computer equipment at ridiculously low prices, and hire service-oriented companies at rates that would have previously been considered laughable.
2) Cheaper Labor. When times are tough, people are more accessible, both in terms of desired compensation and availability. Unemployment is higher, skilled/high-end labor are often the first people let go when cutbacks hit, and folks that used to make $100k during boom times are now happy to accept $50k just to have money coming in the door. (Whether or not they were actually worth $100k in the first place is a debate for another day.)
In our business, we were able to negotiate fantastic deals with a number of very skilled personnel. People that, frankly, we would not have previously been able to afford were open to discussions, sold them on our vision, and are now onboard for the duration with the understanding that, as our business grows, their compensation will grow accordingly.
One of our current key team members who was previously making $125k/year, joined our crew for less than $50k. While the short-term pain to his pocketbook is apparent, the long-term potential for contributing in a meaningful way to a game-changing organization is, in his words, “priceless.”
3) Availability of Financing. Believe it or not, financing has been widely available for the right business models, teams, and ideas during the recession. The banks that got us into this financial debacle are receiving huge pressure from the Feds to open their purse strings and get us out of this mess. Angel investors, venture capital funds, and institutional monies are quietly being stockpiled and are ready to pour into “the next big thing.”
While it may seem counter-intuitive, when times are tough, money sits idle on the sidelines and the right opportunity can quickly land financing. During boom times, money managers compete with one another for the same investment options yet, because there are so many investment opportunities, terms for the borrower are actually less desirable then when fewer investment opportunities exist.
Therefore, when times are rough, there are fewer entrepreneurial pioneers willing to launch new businesses and put their necks on the line. Given this, and the fact that money managers only get a return on their investment when they actually write checks, borrowers are able to negotiate more aggressive terms.
It has continually been proven that the best time to launch a new business is when everyone else is petrified to do so. This period of time, where the business can test its model, try various initiatives, and build momentum, gives the business a meaningful head start when the market “turns” given that their wheels are already in motion and they’re in position to take full advantage of the upswing.
In our business, we were able to open meaningful lines of credit (more than $500k for our real estate business), attract angel and institutional investors for Liquor.com ($1.25MM), and carve out desirable terms that would not have been available had we been competing in an environment of multiple investment options.
Business, like life, is all about perspective. The recession holds a big, fat, silver lining that can substantially benefit your endeavor, if you choose to capitalize on, and pursue, the pending opportunities.
When times are good, the glass is half-full. When times are bad, your glass can overflow… Cheers to your future!
Steve Olsher is America’s Reinvention Expert and has taught thousands how to NICHETIZE!™ by identifying and monetizing their WHAT—that is, the ONE thing they were born to do. His singular approach for realizing permanent, positive change blends his own proprietary methods with ancient wisdom and revolutionary lessons from modern thought leaders and forms a proven system for ultimate achievement in business and life. Grab a FREE hard copy of his new book What Is Your WHAT? Discover The ONE Amazing Thing You Were Born To Do at www.WhatIsYourWhat.com.