With the start of 2022, and the knowledge that we are finally putting COVID-19 and its mandates largely behind us, I do think the pandemic was a drastic wake-up call.
While this was true for businesses that were not in the habit of planning for change, it may have been truer for individuals—people who took stock of their lives and recognized it was time for a change.
With the initial layoffs, furloughs, and forced retirements, more people began to see how vulnerable dependence on employers can often be and how attractive independence can really be.
Entrepreneurship appeals to people who work hard and want to directly benefit from the impact of their efforts. They are attracted to the freedom that comes with running your own business, setting your own hours, and following your own dream.
Yet, changing from working for someone else to working for yourself can be quite a transition, and has quite a learning curve, which is why a good number of folks opt to open a franchise. In doing so, they get training as part of the purchase of a franchise business, which they don’t get if they open their own business.
New start-ups have to work hard for brand recognition, but a franchise already has that, along with the support and backing of an established business model. Plus, when choosing a franchise, the “standard operating procedures” come with the package, and so they just follow the proven process, in most cases, to be successful.
With that in mind, I think it’s of value to reflect on why 2022 will be a perfect storm, where the most important conditions are converging to support new-business success.
THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE U.S. ECONOMY
By opening a small business, you will literally and figuratively be in good company, as you will be part of the fire-breathing engine of the U.S. economy and on the leading edge of economic growth in your community and your nation.
Many Americans may not be aware that 99.9 percent of U.S. businesses are small businesses, and 46.8 percent of U.S. employees work for these 32.5 million businesses. In fact, in 2019, small businesses were responsible for exports of goods worth nearly $460 billion.
Without a doubt, small business owners excel at hard work and deliver on goods and services. As I like to say, we’re not in the reality business, we’re in the real-world business, and all indications are that things are picking up tremendously.
A RETAIL RESURGENCE
Wall Street’s dire predictions forecasting the demise of retail were as wrong as wrong can be. Major U.S.-based retailers announced 8,100 new store openings in 2021, flying in the face of the pandemic and a changed retail environment. This was helped by a number of broad and specific factors, from the indomitable American spirit to pandemic-related lease negotiations.
I strongly believe challenging economic times often bring more opportunities for new businesses, not less. Remember the innovation we saw during the recession that lasted between 2007 to 2009? Square, Venmo, Slack, and Airbnb tapped into a greater need for digital payments due to an increasing gig-based workforce, an enhanced focus on remote collaboration, and a desire to monetize unused extra living space.
During tough times, the opportunities out there are what I call “silver linings.” One of them is getting back to the basics, doing what made us successful in the first place.
BEAT BIG BOX AND MASS MARKET BY DOING IT BETTER
In the last few years, customer experience gurus have been promoting the idea that businesses must “delight” their customers by surrounding them with all sorts of CX bells and whistles.
While there is some wisdom in the slogan “The customer is always right,” pandering to customers with unreasonable demands and arbitrary whims is not the best foundation to base business practices. That being said, small businesses are in a unique position to deliver excellent customer service and highly knowledgeable assistance, along with the quality products or services they sell.
Look at the level of specialized help a customer can get at a local neighborhood hardware store, customized printing shop, health-food store, or bookstore compared to the frustrating and dizzying experience of trying to get help at the local monster home improvement or contracting supply store.
Small businesses don’t need to directly “take on” big chains or mass-market operations to be successful; in fact, trying to do so based on price alone is a losing proposition. Just focus on the relationship factor. Small business owners who focus on developing relationships with their customers have been, are, and will continue to be the winners. People like to give business to people they know, so making relationship-building a priority is what will grow business and great ratings.
DO AND DARE
While starting a new business can be a little bit scary, it’s important to keep in mind that fear of failure is a good thing. Why? Because it motivates people to really work hard and ensure that the investment they made pays off.
Remember, to start a business, whether a franchise or not, takes investment, commitment, and involvement. Whether people have invested their personal nest egg, received help from their family and friends, or taken out loans (or all the above), the stakes are high. They are taking a risk, and making it work is personal because they can’t let those people down.
As the great Dale Carnegie famously said, “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.”
Ray Titus is the CEO of United Franchise Group, a family of affiliated brands with over 1,600 franchisees around the world.