Opportunities in chaos

Times of technological and structural economic change can throw up the chance to start a business, argues Sara Williams, founder of Vitesse Media plc.

A year ago, when I met up with friends who are business owners or self-employed, all the talk was of investment and some new recruitment. The mood among them this year is much more downbeat. Now the conversation is about building cash reserves and looking to reduce staff. Also, of course, there is quite a lot of anger at the cynicism of US politicians and the incompetence of their European counterparts, which have conspired to conjure up a potential downturn from the teeth of a reasonable recovery.

This downturn, apart from being deeper than usual because of the financial disconnects, has been accompanied by major waves of technological and structural economic change. Waves have been caused by innovation or disruption to sectors that are in the throes of major disturbances, such as retail or the media sector (courtesy of the internet and Twitter sphere) or education and health sectors (courtesy of the government).

But the encouraging aspect about disturbances and technological change is that they can throw up winners as well as losers – and these sectors in the midst of turbulence can provide healthy opportunities for new businesses to be founded and to flourish.

The decisions of individual business owners, multiplied thousands of times, and the announcements of global business leaders imply that unemployment will continue to rise over the next year. But many new, innovative businesses can be founded by people who experience redundancy. While a very important factor for success in a small business is previous knowledge of the sector and business that you start, turbulent sectors can be another fruitful searching ground for opportunities that could provide the kernel of your idea for a business.

As someone who was last employed by the Consumers’ Association as a financial researcher more than 30 years ago, I can tell you that I don’t regret for a minute the decision to turn my back on ‘secure’ employment. If you’re currently faced with unemployment, let the extensive team at SmallBusiness.co.uk hold your hand to help you make a success of a new business venture in 2012.

Sara Williams is executive chairman and founder of SmallBusiness.co.uk parent company Vitesse Media plc, which she started in 1997.

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