One of the scariest parts about running a business is the possibility of an unexpected downturn. After living through various financial crisis such as the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s and the Great Recession of 2008, I often wonder what will happen if my industry—or company—takes a nosedive.
After consulting dozens of entrepreneurs, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to stop worrying. I can’t control what I can’t control—but I can take steps now to ensure that I stay afloat. Here are the biggest steps that I’m taking to ensure that I survive an unexpected storm.
I’m diversifying my customer base
One of the earliest decisions I made when taking my business full-time was to grow my number of clients. Rather than focusing on two or three large contracts, I quickly grew my client base to more than 40. Each customer represents a very small proportion of my revenue, which means that I’m never worried about a company losing its budget, changing directions, or churning for any other reason—I can focus on results and building the best possible relationships with the people I come across.
Even though my customer base is concentrated in one industry, I work with a range of customer types: mid-size businesses, startups, and enterprise organizations. Some of these companies are thriving with a proven track record—others are up-and-coming.
My plan isn’t fool-proof, but I do feel comfortable that it’s a step in the right direction. In the next few years, I’ll be growing my customer base even further—particular in fields that I expect will grow, like health, data science, and IT.
I’m embracing the moment
One of my biggest life dreams has been to start a business with my significant other, to bring value, and build a product—technology or otherwise. I never expected, however, that my moment of opportunity would be right now.
Rather than hesitating or waiting for a ‘later’ that might never happen, my partner, CTO, and co-founder and I are taking steps to make progress on our goals now. We are being careful—making sure that we focus on the ‘right’ problem and that we tackle a true need in the market.
We’re not waiting, and we’re not preparing for doomsday either. We’re taking our biggest steps now—even though we are only a year-and-a-half old as a business. It’s riskier to wait than to seize this moment of opportunity.
I’m pacing market demand
In addition to focusing on my business now, I’m also making sure that I stay close to emerging market opportunities. Personally speaking, I’m working on growing my skillset in two areas: data science and design, as I expect these areas to continue to grow.
I fully expect that market conditions will change—which is risky because I’m running a skills-based business. Rather than letting my skills stagnate, however, I’m continuously exploring opportunities to grow.
Even if my business become obsolete, I’m making sure that my skills, passions, and interests stay relevant.
I realize that there are some setbacks that I’ll never be able to control—and I’m fine with it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the roadblocks that I circumvented. The fact is that things haven’t always been in my favor and that every time I’ve reached a dead-end, the experience has felt like doomsday.
As much energy as I devote to planning, I’ve also learned to embrace the unknown. Hopefully, when the ‘inevitably’ happens, I’ll have refined my reaction time to land on my feet.