Pandemic has been named Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year, while 2020 has seen spikes in the use of the word unprecedented. The coronavirus crisis has, understandably, dominated much of people’s focus this year, and the impact has been felt across the globe in a whole host of forms.
Last month, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak warned the “economic emergency” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had only just begun.
It’s expected that the UK economy will shrink by 11.3 percent this year, and not return to its pre-crisis size until the end of 2022.
Furthermore, the government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), has said it expects the number of unemployed people to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of 2021.
It would mean the unemployment rate hitting 7.5 percent – its highest level since the financial crisis in 2009.
Millions of Britons have felt the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis this year.
However, there’s been suggestion a covid year has inspired some to become their own boss.
That’s according to Carl Reader, the UK’s leading business influencer and start-up coach and author of new book BOSS IT, who recently spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk on the matter.
“As we start thinking about the year ahead, many of us trying to make a living are facing the same challenges right now,” he began.
“Soaring redundancy figures have led to mass unemployment, and getting a job is becoming harder than ever.
“If you’ve had a relatively safe job, it might come as some surprise if you are now struggling to even get the ear of potential employers.
“You might also be worried about children or grand children coming out of school or university, as they struggle to find a traditional career.
“Don’t worry – you are not alone. And I believe that there has never been a better time to think about doing your own thing.”
The start-up coach continued: “It’s really not as difficult as you think. The world of work is changing, and more than ever, being self-employed or setting up a small business is a way of making sure that you are in control of what you do and how you do it.
“I’ve advised thousands of business owners over the last 20 or so years, scaled my own business to a multimillion turnover, and helped household name brands communicate with the small business market.
“From starting as a YTS hairdresser at the age of 16, I’ve sat on all sides of the table – as a business owner, as a business influencer, as someone looking for funding, and as an investor.
“I’ve had a fairly rounded view of what is going on in the business world, and I’ve seen a couple of recessions along the way.”
Although the current “economic emergency” isn’t like what’s been seen in the past, there are still many challenges, Mr Reader acknowledged.
“Whilst this isn’t a typical recession, it still won’t be easy for everyone,” he said.
“Changes that were happening before the crisis have actually been accelerated over lockdown.
“Remote working is becoming the norm, as is flexible working. And whilst technology has been available for online shopping, banking, and working for some time; even the least tech savvy amongst us has been forced to use the technology – and when there is big change, there is big opportunity.
“Perhaps the biggest change that I see is a change in what people want from life. Many of us have been given a taste of control of the way that we work in some way – we’ve been able to work from our own homes, and often with flexibility around the times that we are working as we juggle other commitments. Plus, we’ve realised– given the nature of the very real public health crisis that we’ve all faced – that we only have one life.
“According to the World Options Survey in 2017, 68 percent are either self-employed or thinking of going self-employed; and if there has ever been a time to consider it, now is better than ever.”
So, according to Mr Reader, which ideas will do well in a post-COVID world?
“Clearly there are some types of businesses that will struggle to adapt to the new normal,” he said. “Those owning nightclubs might find that customers are nervous to be in such a densely packed environment, likewise, office landlords might find that the new way of working leaves them with more properties than tenants.
“However, here are some of my picks of ideas that will flourish post COVID:
“This has been a trend for some time, but now that all of us are more comfortable with shopping online, there will be a space for those in traditionally high street-based shops to compete with the ‘big boys’.
“Customers are now looking to shop small, and will want to help those in their area, especially if it doesn’t involve a visit to the high street.
“We live in a world of automation, and despite the disruption to the banks and the private funding markets, this is still an extremely exciting time for any tech business, particularly if the technology helps people adapt to the new normal.
“A trend that was happening before, at home care for the elderly and vulnerable will continue to be attractive to an aging population, particularly given the recent challenges that care homes have faced with COVID.
“Anything that can add a bit of magic to someone’s day – whether a monthly subscription to a treat, personalised gifts, or at-home pampering experience will be sure to go down a treat.
“Not to mention my current favourite – at-home wine tasting and cocktail classes.
“If you’ve been in the workplace for some time, you’ve gained a load of experience. Why not share that experience with a few different companies? Each of them might not be able to take on a full timer, but you’ll be able to give them the benefit of your experience and be able to build in flexibility and variety into your diary.”
For those ready to take the plunge and become their own boss, the start-up coach has plenty of tips.
How do you be your own boss?
He said: “Getting started can be really daunting. Whether you have just been made redundant and feel you can’t re-enter the job market or are helping an adult relative make their first step into the world after full time education, starting up a business can seem far more complicated than it actually is.
“In my new book, BOSS IT, I share a few tips to help anyone get started, as often the business world is made to appear more complicated by those who feel that they can solve a problem for a fee.
“For anyone looking to make that first step, I would suggest that they consider their own position first.
“Are they comfortable with starting and growing a business and employing people, or would they rather be self-employed and doing all of the work themselves? There is a big difference between the two, with a business owner being in the business of running a business, whereas a self-employed person will be actually doing the trade.
“They should also consider their personal position – do they have support from their family, and have they got sufficient financial resources to start? It might be wise to investigate a Start-up Loan if they will need more money than they have available.
“Next, it is important to evaluate the idea. Is it viable? Is there a market for the products and services? Who else is doing similar, and how will you compete with them? What is the unique selling point that will attract people to do business with you, rather than your competitors?
“Once you have considered these two areas, it’s time for my ‘Dream, Plan, Do, Review’ model.
“You need to have a compelling dream for your new venture, but on the flip side it mustn’t be too abstract. Often those who start up set their dreams too small (e.g. to set up one burger restaurant) or too big (to overtake McDonald’s).
“By having a dream which is a stretch, but is wholly achievable, you will motivate yourself to get out of bed every day, even when things are not going to plan.
“The old saying is that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. The problem is that most potential business owners think of a plan as a formal business plan document, rather than an actual plan of what you are going to do!
“Whilst you need a formal business plan to get funding, more important to you is a step by step plan of what you are going to, by when, and how, to ensure that your dream can be converted into action.
“This is where I’ve seen countless people starting up go wrong. They waste time designing websites, printing business cards, and sit by their phone aggressively waiting for it to ring.
“The reality is that you have to go out to find new customers. Whilst this might be virtual nowadays, you need to ‘wear out the shoe leather’ and find work, rather than hope for it to find you.
“Finally, you need to review what you’ve done in all of the above areas. What worked and what didn’t? What needs changing, and what could you do better?
“It is virtually impossible to plan everything precisely and to the penny – you have more chance of winning the lottery – so this is a vital step in making sure that your business adapts based on what you learn along the way.
“Finally, my last bit of advice is to remember that business isn’t complicated, and it shouldn’t be scary. It might be hard work, but it’s not complicated. They say that the best thing about being self-employed is choosing which 18 hours per day you work – but you’ll be building something for yourself, and almost every business owner I know would never go back to the day job.”
BOSS IT by Carl Reader is available to purchase now.