A friend of mine (we’ll call him Tim) worked until recently at a startup near my old home in New Jersey. As any student of business will tell you, startup life is hit or miss. For every TweetDeck (acquired by Twitter for $40 million to $50 million), there are thousands of others that sink without a trace. Tim’s startup is one of those. Funding is drying up and the company’s product, while promising in theory, hasn’t gained sufficient traction for it to continue.
The startup will be closing its doors soon. But Tim is smart enough to have seen this coming and, even before joining the company, took steps to ensure that he could hit the ground running should the worst happen. And his contingency planning holds a real lesson for small business owners.
Tim did the following:
- He set up a simple yet professional website about what he does, not his company.
- Firmly established his presence on major social media sites.
- Kept in contact with those in his industry, including oft-neglected in-person lunches. (Social media is no substitute for grabbing a beer with a potential client or colleague.)
- Continued to hone his technical skills so he could pick up project work during his transitional period.
Small business owners would be wise to follow Tim’s approach, even if things seem stable for the moment. How many of you are entirely confident that your company will be around in two years? The 90-percent failure rate is often bandied about, although there are those who believe the number to be bunk.
What are you doing to hedge your bets?
Lest you think that your company has plenty of cash to go on, what if:
- Your company fumbles a key product or service launch.
- The owner decides that s/he wants to sell the company.
- You start to lose key customers and accounts.
- A bigger company moves into your real or virtual space.
- The market for your product or service changes.
And I can think of dozens of other reasons that you might not be in the same job in a year.
The question becomes, What are you doing to hedge your bets?
Look, we’re all busy these days. Many companies are overstaffed and you might not even have time to consider doing what Tim did. But what happens when you suddenly find yourself out of work? The worst time to look for a job is when you need one, right?
Agains that backdrop here are a few tips:
- Register a domain now. It’s not expensive and you would be smart to get in on the land grab. (I really wish that I had registered philsimon.com ten years ago but I was too late to the dance.)
- Get a website built, even if you don’t launch it right away. It’s not hard to make a site private and invisible from search engines if you’re worried about privacy.
- Keep your networks (real and social) alive. Better to have it and not need it than the opposite.
What say you?