Sunday, February 22, 2009

Economic stimulus for the rest of us

Right now there are a lot of smart, educated and experienced people who are out of work. They may have been employed in the financial services field, worked in the auto industry, have been mortgage lenders or estate agents, or even retail owners or employees. Aside from doctors, nurses, government workers, teachers and auto mechanics – to name a few of the “safe” occupations – there are a lot of industries and sectors undergoing massive restructuring and downsizing.

While we await the results of the stimulus package, how else can we – downsized employees, baby-boomers not yet ready to retire, small business owners, and the next generation of workers (recent college graduates) – make a difference and jump-start the economy with our ideas, products and services?

The failure rate of new business launches is intimidating. Fewer than 70 to 80 percent survive the first year; of those that do survive only about half will make it to the five-year mark. I’ve been fortunate to be in business for 15 years, but this recent downturn is making it even tougher. I’ve had part-time employees and would like to hire again. Yet, due to business fluctuations, I continue to rely on talented and productive free-lancers.

Is there an easier way to launch an idea or drive more sales that doesn’t involve spending lots of time and money in getting it to market? Those who create new items or services often lack the business skills or desire to do sales, accounting, marketing, human resources and management – just some of the roles required in running a business. Is there a way for small endeavors to survive and grow relatively quickly with an infusion of smarts from a “go-to” source? I don’t think it’s the government that will or should provide this impetus. When I contacted the Small Business Administration years ago, I didn’t get much satisfaction.

I know of several small-business owners who have a product to sell but lack the knowledge or connections to gain ground in the marketplace. Is there a way to create a shared knowledge database that could pair an inventor or small business startup with a business-minded person to help the business take off rather than idle on the runway? If this process could be made easier, a slew of new industries would thrive.

I welcome your comments and suggestions!

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