How To Start A Business During A Crisis

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You might think it is crazy to start a business in the middle of a crisis, and I am sure many would agree with you, but let me give you a different perspective and show you how it can make sense.

Before we go any further, let’s identify what a crisis is. The dictionary says the following:

“A Crisis is a time of intense difficulty or danger.”

In short, it is about uncertainty and fear. We don’t know what will happen, but it looks very much like nothing good will happen in the foreseeable future. That’s the conventional view.

Let’s have a look at the other side of things. What is a person in a crisis looking for?

Let’s list a few:

  • stability
  • security
  • a solution to a problem
  • a person to talk to
  • a way back
  • a way through

Could you think of a business idea that might cover some of those points?

What is the Base of a Business?

In its essence, every business is based on providing at least some of the points listed here. It might not always be so obvious, but almost everything in our life and nature itself is about stepping out and facing new challenges.

Most challenges or crisis are not life-threatening, but constructs of our mind and based on a dim outlook of our future. Even if you take such a simple business as selling fashion, it is based on providing a solution to a problem.

You might feel you don’t get the attention you seek if you don’t have that perfect dress or the perfect suit for the occasion. Depending on your situation, this might be a crisis for you. In addition, well-targeted advertising magnifies that aspect even more, which can, at least in your mind, put you in a very tight spot.

And there are many businesses out there trying to solve precisely that problem. You can take this into all areas of life. My example of fashion should only show how even a basic thing like what to wear can cause a crisis.

Put this into a real crisis situation like the 2019 Pandemic and you will get the full platitude of a crisis in one go. But even in this extreme crisis situation, people are looking for a solution and if you’re the one who can provide it, you have a business.

Not all services and products out there are designed for everyone. That takes us to another part of creating a business:

Understand How a Business Works?

As we already mentioned, a business is based on fulfilling a “need” or a “want”. As it is almost impossible to have a single solution for everyone, you will need to decide who you want to be in business with. You need to decide on your target market.

By identifying who you want to attract with your business ideas, you can create the best possible solution for that group. As smaller the group as more specific your answer can be. But at the same time, you are reducing the number of people for whom your solution would work.

You might think that you’ll need to find that middle way that allows you to sell enough of your solution while being specific enough to be the best solution around. However, in my experience, it is hard to be that specific that there are not enough people to sell to.

So don’t worry too much about it. Instead, focus on creating the best possible solution for that single person you have in mind.

The Long-term Outlook

A person in a crisis situation is taken far out of their comfort zone. They are in unknown territory and that is what scares them. It’s like moving to a new place or country. At the beginning, it’s all new and it can be quite scary, especially if everybody around you tells you so. Many people get homesick which is just another way of our mind to push us towards the known, the current comfort zone.

If you’re long enough exposed to your new environment it becomes part of your comfort zone and the fear and uneasiness diminishes. You have grown and extended your comfort zone to new levels.

For your business, this means, your target market might no longer have the need for your services or products. When starting a business, you need to take this into consideration. How can you build your solution so it can survive the recovery phase of a crisis?

This is where you need to think more long-term. How can you turn your solution into a long-term solution? Or better, start with the long-term view and split it into stages. This is the most challenging aspect of starting a business during a crisis.

You can see this in the current COVID 19 pandemic. There is a very big need for medical staff, nurses, doctors, and supplies and there are many companies out there building a business around this. But what happens after we recovered from this crisis. Will those businesses survive? Will those nurses and doctors still be seen as important? Will we still buy the supplies?

If you create a business that does not live of a crisis, but supports the recovery and can be pivoted at a later stage to support different needs without too much effort, you have build a long-term business.

Keep this in mind.

The Advantages of Starting a Business in a Crisis

The points mentioned above are always valid, if in a crisis or not. But during a crisis they are much more vivid and in everyones face. You just need to listen to other people to figure out what they want or need. Everybody talks about.

This makes the process of identifying the needs and wants very easy.

Because of the situation, you won’t struggle much to find people to work with you. A crisis often comes with a high unemployment rate and buying external services and products is much easier as well and often linked to better prices.

You will also find that if your services or products really help, the eagerness to buy is much higher.

I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the picture.

What is the Best Business to Start During a Crisis?

That depends very much on the type of crisis. Your services or products need to help your potential customers to find a way out of the crisis and see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is always valid.

Another question is the business model you could use to run your business and that depends on the situation. If you think about starting an online business, but your target market lives in an area with a very bad and non-existing postal service, you will struggle to get it of the ground. No matter the product.

Don’t mistake your solution with the business model. Anyone telling you that the best business during the COVID 19 pandemic was an online business, does not understand business. Selling online relates to your business model not your business.

Make sure your business works for your intended market and creates real value. That is the hard part. The business model is what can be pivoted and adjusted to the different requirements and situations.

To answer this questions, ask yourself:

Does my idea fulfil the needs and wants of my target market?

If you can answer this with a clear yes, you’re on the right track. Keep going.

What Else is There to Know?

Of course, there is much more to starting and running a business than what I described here. I only focused on the crisis aspect. If you want to learn more about starting your business and the best ways to make it a success, sign-up to our newsletter and check out our website.

We constantly write and talk about entrepreneurship and business, helping you to find the best way that works for you.

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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