Small Businesses & Uncertainty– Nothing New Here, Mostly

June 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm 1 comment

The Huffington Post’s small business section has an article today from Gene Marks on the ubiquitous claim of uncertainty by small businesses. He makes some good points about how uncertainty is a part of the deal when you set out to open your own  business. He also asks, when have things been certain?

Let’s say you were running your business anytime in the past forty years or so. What, things were less certain in the early ’60’s? With the threat of nuclear war, the steel industry fixing prices, escalation in Vietnam, soldiers shooting at college students, politicians murdered almost nightly, black people hosed in the streets, massive protests, the Carpenters music playing everywhere? Those were uncertain times. And did things really get better in the ’70’s, with high inflation, long gas lines, terrorism, a president who was forced to resign, Sonny & Cher? Were things any less certain under the reigns of Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush? Exactly what was done with that cigar in the Oval Office anyway?

Of course, things are never certain. There’s never been an easy time to run a small business.

This is true. Politics, the economy, life, etc is never a sure thing, and taking that leap into the unknown is part of what makes a person an entrepreneur.

However, I would argue that for some, the level of uncertainty today might not be greater than it used to be, but different. Marks talks about the availability of capital — the “huge mountains of cash” that corporations have, but are unwilling to spend it. This is a significant factor in the uncertainty that many small businesses face. But rather than point to problem of small  businesses being unable to access it because of tightening markets, he says that “…uncertainty really has nothing to do with why they’re not spending more. These guys are not spending this money because there’s nothing to spend it on.”

Really? Maybe this is part of the picture. But for many small businesses, they simply cannot access the capital that they used to be able to. Therein lies the uncertainty. If there were banks and lenders that used to provide loans, but now don’t, where do these entrepreneurs go? If you’re an entrepreneur with a good idea and some business sense, who do you turn to for help in flushing out your idea, coming up with a plan, getting financing, and gaining the skills you will need to be successful? Who is going to take a chance on you? After all, if things have always been uncertain, then it’s both the lenders and the entrepreneurs who have to make the leap of faith.

So yes, there has never been a fool-proof time to be an entrepreneur. Uncertainty is part of the game. However, today’s economy presents new challenges for many entrepreneurs, making today’s uncertainty different, if not greater, that yesterday’s. And navigating these new uncertainties can be a challenge in themselves.

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Entry filed under: Small Business. Tags: , .

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1 Comment

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