Forget about the politicians in Washington and don’t count on Corporate America to get our struggling economy going — it’s America’s entrepreneurs that will prove to be the saviors. American entrepreneurs, through their creativity, innovation, and willingness to embrace risk, are the real engines that power our economy.
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So often we look to the huge, multinational corporations as the drivers and guardians of our economy when the truth is the millions of small businesses across America deserve the credit. A strong, vibrant economy is the result of America’s entrepreneurs embracing the risk of self-reliance and venturing out to create their own opportunities. New small business startups create over three million new jobs each year. The solution to getting this country back on its feet and moving in a positive direction won’t happen because of the government. It requires the fruitful minds and determined drive of everyday citizens who enthusiastically embrace risk and begin the entrepreneurial journey.
Want to be part of the solution? Here are four ways that entrepreneurs can help revitalize our sagging economy:
1. Now is the best time to launch your dream
I have some great news: anyone can be an entrepreneur. The idea that entrepreneurs are only post-MBA whiz kids whose goal is to create the next Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is as much a fallacy as the existence of Bigfoot. Real entrepreneurs are all around us. They are our next-door neighbors, friends, relatives, and complete strangers standing next to us in the grocery checkout lines. They blend into the fabric of daily life, unnoticed; yet their impact on our American Way of life is formidable. Real life entrepreneurs look like you.
Chances are each of these entrepreneurs did not wait for the most perfect conditions to take the leap of faith and start a new business. History is filled with business success stories of companies who had their start in less than ideal conditions. The desire to follow an entrepreneurial dream drove them to take action and realize that the best time to leap is NOW!
When I started my first business with my siblings back in 1983, the economy was terrible. Yet the thought of double-digit interest rates, rampant inflation, and a lethargic economy was never a concern. In fact, it was because the economy was so rotten that we decided to leave the corporate world and embrace the risk of self-reliance. After over 30 years this company is still thriving and has become a leader in its industry.
So when is the right time to take the leap of faith and pursue that entrepreneurial dream? NOW!
2. Take the Risk: Innovate and Expand
The idea that risk and entrepreneurship are connected is usually thought of as the risk it takes to start a business, but that is only the beginning of entrepreneurial risk taking. No business can remain relevant if its leader is satisfied with the status quo. Long-term success requires leadership that has the courage to embrace risk everyday. Risk is always connected to opportunity.
To meet the competition and consumers ever-changing demands, businesses must keep moving forward. They must innovate and expand, which entails embracing the risk of change, the most formidable risk for any leader. Yet without change we are putting our business in danger of becoming irrelevant and jeopardizing its survival. A failed business is not going to help the economy.
Just as our bodies require essential vitamins and nutrients to remain healthy, a business also requires essential risks to maintain its health. The most essential risk is change. When a business leader avoids change, he or she is missing out on the benefits of opportunity.
3. Don’t let difficult times stop your drive toward success
Sure the economy is sluggish. People are cautious and they have all the right to tread carefully. But what’s your competition doing? Are they coasting along waiting for the economy to improve? If so, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to grab some market share? Now is not the time to retreat; this is an opportunity to keep pushing forward even harder than ever. Take the offensive and whatever you do, don’t cut your marketing budget. This is the biggest mistake businesses make when things get sluggish. Marketing is what brings customers, so don’t stop marketing.
You may be thinking that it’s a logical strategy to be conservative during these trying times, but that is playing not to lose when you should always play to win. When you play not to lose, you cease looking for new opportunities because you are now in protection mode. You no longer have the courage to embrace risk.
4. Reach out and help someone else launch his or her dream
There are thousands of individuals within a short drive of your community that need the encouragement, guidance, and experience of an entrepreneur. First and foremost, not every new entrepreneur has to create the next Facebook or killer app. The world still needs people to fix, build, cook, bake, sell, install, supervise, protect, and hundreds of other “traditional” businesses. Plain and simple, the Internet cannot fix your car or bake a killer cupcake. We may all be thinking digitally but humans are ultimately analog creatures. The world needs these traditional businesses as they still provide necessary products and services.
Reaching out to help a would-be or newborn entrepreneur to launch their dream is a way to pay it forward while making a definitive contribution to America’s economic recovery. Many would-be entrepreneurs need only a little bit of encouragement to gather the courage to take the leap. Knowing they can consult with someone who has walked in their shoes before is all it takes. There are plenty of communities that have recognized that the key to building their local economies is growing local, small businesses. There is an ever-growing movement of public and private organizations joining together to create entrepreneurial incubation platforms. By volunteering to mentor, coach, or consult participants, you are not only helping to create new business activity but also contributing to the revitalization of America’s economy.
However, the importance of entrepreneurship extends beyond its economic impact. With the birth of every new business, the competitive landscape becomes more intense and therefore drives entrepreneurs to be more innovative, productive, and responsive to consumer needs. We all benefit because of the ambition of a vast collection of risk-taking entrepreneurs.
What you can do for your country is follow your dream, embrace risk, and create your own opportunity for success — be an entrepreneur!
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Tom Panaggio, author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge, has enjoyed a 30-year entrepreneurial career as co-founder of two successful direct marketing companies: Direct Mail Express (which now employs over 400 people and is a leading direct marketing company) and Response Mail Express (which was eventually sold to an equity fund, Huron Capital Partners). As a result, he can give a true perspective on starting and running a small business. His practical approach to business concepts and leadership is grounded in the belief that success is the result of a commitment to embracing risk as a way to ensure opportunity. Today Tom lives in Tampa with his wife, Shemi. When he's not speaking or advising entrepreneurs and small businesses, he's spending time with his family -- his three daughters, Ashley, Christine, and Elizabeth, are all pursuing their college degrees -- or he's out on a racetrack. For more information please visit http://theriskadvantage.com.