How small business owners survived the Great Recession

How small business owners survived the Great Recession

As COVID-19 rattles small businesses around the country, inspiration can be drawn from the stories of those who survived the last financial crisis. “Worst since 2008.” It’s a phrase we’ve seen a lot of in recent weeks, as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and shutter vast swaths of the economy. We’ve seen the volatile stocks , the 16m+ unemployment claims , and the double-digit GDP drop projections. Some anticipate a crisis “deeper and more severe” than the Great Recession. The situation we’re in now is fundamentally different: It’s the result of an external factor, not financial vulnerabilities — and our ability to “reopen” thousands of businesses hinges on controlling a virus. But most crises share certain commonalities and universal lessons. As thousands of entrepreneurs sit at a standstill, we thought it might be helpful to glean some encouragement from those who made it through tough times in the past. Last week, we sent out a survey and received more than 200 responses from small business owners who survived the Great Recession. We’ll highlight a few of these stories in this article, focusing on the range of strategies that were employed. But first, a few bigger-picture takeaways The average small business in our survey was around 8 years old and had 16 employees at the time of the 2008 recession. We heard from folks all over the world, in a wide range of industries: A cattle rancher in California, a boat builder in New Zealand, a crab shack owner in New Jersey, a hedge fund manager in New York, a family physician in Tennessee. Some companies had 2 employees; others had more than 100. The businesses we surveyed weathered the Great Recession by adhering to one of two overarching approaches : Promotion focus: They made primarily offensive moves that provided […]

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