During a Recession, Entrepreneurs Are in the Driver’s Seat

UPDATED: September 2, 2022
PUBLISHED: September 2, 2022
During a Recession, Entrepreneurs Are in the Driver's Seat

OK, first let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: the recession. We will likely soon be in one. It’s frustrating and sometimes scary to think about. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the real issue: you.

You are where you are today because of your choices. Sure, recessions, layoffs and stock tumbles have happened before and will happen again. Jobs end. Recessions come and go. Life happens, and it isn’t always easy. But what you must understand if you want to thrive while everyone else around you is floundering is that you have choices, and those choices create your reality.

Mel Robbins, international best-selling author and motivational speaker, calls attention to the recession mindset. “Maybe it’s the words: recession, depression, collapse, layoff. They’re very powerful words,” Robbins says. “Powerfully depressing. And we hear them all day long. They dominate the news.” 

But there is some good news. Changing your recession mindset is a matter of choice. “If you have the right mindset, it simply doesn’t matter what the market does,” Robbins says.

Waiting for the nation’s financial health to improve before you focus on your financial health is folly. You determine where you are in life, not the government or the stock market or the boss of a company you don’t own. As Robbins says, “Your mindset controls everything.” You are the one with the power to change your financial health—and now is the time to change it.

What’s the solution?

If you’re ready to turn around that recession mindset and make the choice to prosper, you’ve got to consider your options. Get another job? Find a risk-free investment? Borrow money from family? None of these sound very promising.

The bottom line is that if you want to take control of your income during a recession, you have to take control of your income source. As Jack Welch, business guru and former chairman and CEO of General Electric, said, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” People who control their income sources are entrepreneurs who, just like you, decided to stop opting out of their financial choices and take control of their destinies.

Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad book series, said entrepreneurs who break away from typical jobs and create their own sources of income are in the best position to weather an economic storm. They aren’t dependent upon a boss or the economy to determine their annual income—they determine it.

Statistics prove Kiyosaki right. A 2019 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy found that “the median net worth of self-employed families at $380,000 in 2019 was over four times that of families of workers ($90,000).”

Small businesses aren’t only beneficial to their owners—they’re integral to their communities and job markets as well. During a White House event in February 2021, President Biden said, “Small businesses are the engines of our economic progress; they’re the glue and the heart and soul of our communities.”

During another event in April 2022, after the passing of the American Rescue Plan, President Biden expanded on the benefit of small businesses. “Small businesses typically account for more than 40%… of the gross domestic product of the United States. They create two thirds of all new jobs. And they employ nearly half—nearly half of all the private sector workers,” he said. “And today, thanks to the economic strategy, more… small businesses are being created, and small businesses are creating more jobs faster than ever before.”

So why wait to take your shot? Being an entrepreneur, especially at this crucial time in our history, is not only a choice for your prosperity, but a choice for the country’s as well.

Why now?

But isn’t becoming an entrepreneur right now too risky? No. The truth is that starting a business carries risk no matter when you make the leap. The conditions during a recession may actually make entrepreneurship a safer bet. In fact, according to an article in Republic, “Because startups and other private investments have such long time horizons—five to 10 years on average—they… typically aren’t impacted by the ups and downs of the public markets.”

So let’s take a look at the economic facts—not to dwell on what you already know, but to illustrate how even in the worst financial times there is opportunity for growth.

The U.S. was in a recession from December 2007 to June 2009—the longest since World War II, exceeding the recessions of 1973-1975, 1981-1982 and 1990-1991.

Executives, middle managers, administrative employees and blue-collar workers were all at risk. Even the healthcare industry, often considered a safe zone, trimmed areas of its workforce. And companies that weren’t cutting jobs cut benefits, from retirement funds to healthcare coverage.

Does it really make sense to bet on a traditional job when job security is so clearly a thing of the past? World-renowned economist Paul Zane Pilzer saw a dramatic shift in mentality for many workers. The conventional career structure is being replaced, he said, with a new, entrepreneurial mindset: “The traditional wisdom in the second half of the 20th century was this: Go to school, get a good education and go to work for a large company. The idea of going into business for yourself was most often regarded as risky. Admirable, perhaps, but risky… and maybe a little crazy. Today, it’s completely the other way around.”

If the idea of becoming your own boss and taking control of your income appeals to you, but you’re not sure if it’s the right time, consider some facts:

  1. If your finances are stable, now is a good time to invest in real estate. If your company is based out of your home, you have plentiful tax benefits, including tax-deferred savings and multiple deductions.
  2. New web tools make starting a business easier and more financially feasible than ever, and simple design templates allow an entrepreneur to have a web presence in no time. Social media sites provide endless opportunities for marketing, networking and support from other professionals in your industry.
  3. As your own boss, your income isn’t based on a salary cap or an education requirement; it’s based on your activity level, on how much you’re willing to put into your new business. Plus, the freedom and flexibility to work where you want and when you want are priceless.

Where to start

If you’ve been spending hours figuring out ways to save money, why not spend that time on figuring out ways to earn it instead? There are countless small-business opportunities, depending on your industry, your interests and your investment.

In many ways, it’s become easier to start a small business than it was in the past. According to Bank of America’s 2021 Small Business Report, “62% [of small business owners] have adopted new digital tools/strategies in response to the pandemic,” which included interacting with both customers and employees virtually and utilizing social media. The virtual approach can allow businesses not only to reach more customers, but to expand their search for employees. 

Additionally, according to the UPS Store® 2021 Inside Small Business Survey, “majorities of both the general population and small business owners (56% and 67%, respectively) indicate that they’ve made plans within the past year to buy more products or services from small businesses.” Despite economic challenges, consumers are still rallying around small businesses and the services they provide. 

Online classes and increased opportunities for networking and learning also benefit new entrepreneurs, allowing them to learn the skills necessary to start—and succeed at—small businesses with greater ease.

Pilzer agrees: “The greatest opportunities today are to go into business for yourself as an entrepreneur.”

Why wait?

“Can you imagine the possibilities for yourself, in your business and your home, if you could become excited by the opportunities created by this recession?” Robbins asks. “How different would your life be? What a game changer.”

But every aspect of life is steadily growing more expensive. 64% of Americans were living paycheck-to-paycheck as of January 2022, according to LendingClub and PYMNTS’ 7th Paycheck-To-Paycheck Report. In Rich Dad Poor Dad, Kiyosaki warns of the long-term effects of this kind of lifestyle: “Financial struggle is often directly the result of people working all of their lives for someone else. Many people will have nothing at the end of their working days.”

We’ll all be affected by the recession in one way or another, so finding a reason to start your own business is as easy as turning on the news. But why not turn off the negative messages and start focusing on your positive plan for the future? When you are in control of your income source and your time investment, your money goes further, your attitude is better and your future is more secure.

You’ve always wanted to be your own boss. So what are you waiting for? Stop telling yourself that it’s too late or that you’re underqualified. Stop listening to people who tell you that it’s the wrong time, and instead, pay attention to the experts who say that now is the best time to start a business. With your passion and the willingness to work hard, you can bring your dream to life. Now is the time to take control of your destiny.

This article was published in June 2009 and has been updated. Photo by Vadym Pastukh/Shutterstock

Amy Anderson is the former senior editor of SUCCESS magazine, an Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of Anderson Content Consulting. She helps experts, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs to discover their truth, write with confidence, and share their stories so they can transform their past into hope for others. Learn more at AmyKAnderson.com and on Facebook.