Create Your Own Job
Paul Maidment, 12.09.08, 06:00 PM EST
Recessions are usually great times to start a business–and this one might be better than most.
“I grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking ’til he found it.”
So said Norman Tebbit, former U.K. anti-labor union employment minister under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s, in the wake of Britain’s urban riots in 1981, which were widely attributed to the worsening unemployment caused by de-industrialization.
Though the remark was made to a party supporter and not to someone who had lost their job, as popularly supposed, the hard-line employment secretary thereafter became Norman “On yer bike!” Tebbit, and “Get on your bike and look for work” became the Thatcher-era admonition to the unemployed.
A quarter of a century on, and with an employment-destroying recession again with us, the best thing to do if you have lost your job is not to get on your bike (except to tout your green credentials), but to stay in your garage.
Stay in your garage, and start a new business.
Recessions are arguably the best time to start a business. Certainly the roster of recession-founded companies contains some illustrious names, among them the Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS – news – people ), Johnson and Johnson (nyse: JNJ – news – people ) and a raft of tech companies including Cisco Systems (nasdaq: CSCO – news – people ), Compaq, Hewlett-Packard (nyse: HPQ – news – people ) and Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT – news – people ).
And this may prove to be the best recession of all to start a business. Not only is human capital cheap and plentiful–one positive side effect of rising unemployment–but also the two defining trends of the decade–digitalization and globalization–mean it has never been as possible to start a business with so little financial capital. Given the credit crunch, that is a fortunate happenstance, of course.