Updated 21 October 20
Desperate times call for desperate measures: everyone’s familiar with that saying, but it can be misconstrued. The desperate measures to which you might turn aren’t necessarily ill-advised, notably risky, or even harder than any alternatives. More often than not, they’re simply options that you don’t feel prepared to take but must take regardless due to tricky circumstances.
This bears noting as a prelude to discussion of the entrepreneurial boom driven by the global pandemic that has otherwise made 2020 the most calamitous year in decades. As regular businesses closed down and so many 9-to-5 jobs were lost, professionals of all types were left stuck in their homes with no clear indications of when they might be able to resume normalcy.
What were they to do with that time? Some just relaxed and trusted to furlough funding followed by a speedy conclusion, admittedly. Those who wanted to stay busy (or needed to make money) turned to the classic desperate measure of the average professional, though: that being self-employment. Starting your own business is complicated and requires a change in attitude and lifestyle, which is why it so often gets left in the background as a backup option.
Driven to desperation, a new wave of entrepreneurs rose up to establish their own companies, and achieved no small measure of success — but what comes next? As we emerge from lockdown measures and come to terms with living in a world with COVID-19, how can those entrepreneurs turn their operations into stable long-term businesses? Here’s how:
Putting a lot of money into marketing isn’t the best idea when your business is small and you’re still trying to figure out what you want your brand to be — but good marketing in the early days doesn’t need to stem from a complex paid campaign. Instead, it makes the most sense to concentrate on delivering customer satisfaction: impressing each customer so much that they’ll become loyal and want to spread the world about this fantastic new business.
A lockdown entrepreneur who does this must then execute the second phase of the customer loyalty plan: actively encouraging referrals (perhaps even incentivising them through discounts and special offers). One of the first things they should do for their business is establish a loyalty scheme that makes it clear how much the company wants people to stick around.
It will always be harder to find new customers than to keep existing ones, and no niche (however large) has unlimited prospects. By providing a truly exceptional service, any entrepreneur can inspire a groundswell of natural support that can drive major growth.
Software serves as the foundation of almost every modern business, and business software is typically available in tiers (each tier costing more but providing new features and enabling new functionality). Due to this, one of the best ways to lay the groundwork for business growth is to move up those tiers — or even embrace new software tools altogether.
Usefully, you don’t need to know all that much about the SaaS world to take advantage of it. There’s a simple process to business software deployment. A big developer like Microsoft creates systems, makes them available for licencing, then arranges deals with cloud solution distributors like ScanSource’s intY. Those distributors sell licenses to smaller IT resellers who package them up and offer their services to regular businesses.
Lockdown entrepreneurs, then, don’t need to figure everything out themselves: they can simply consult with trustworthy IT resellers who can make appropriate suggestions about which tools are worth investing in. It’s usually best to find a reseller who habitually serves the relevant niche (one with a focus on ecommerce, for instance, or on consultancies, or on event providers).
As much as solopreneurs can achieve these days, the step of bringing on full-time employees is one that’s quite inevitable for anyone who wants to take their ambitions as far as they can go. But is it a good idea in a world still suffering heavily from COVID-19? Well, yes — and it’s all due to the rise of remote working (it can reasonably be viewed as the new standard).
Hiring remote employees massively expands the range of options. Employers can source candidates from countries with favourable rates of exchange, allowing them to pay exceptional wages by local standards but still save money overall. They can also find the absolute best professionals when their candidate pools are essentially unlimited.
Factor in the existence of outsourcing sites (Fiverr and Upwork being popular examples) that can easily cover one-off projects (or just fill part-time roles) and it’s possible for a solopreneur living in a sleep village somewhere to assemble a top-notch team of remote workers without going hugely over their budget.