Do Recession Clouds Have Any Silver Linings?

We speak to two Chiswick companies about opportunities the economic downturn presents

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ROAD and MSS has fully serviced office space for up to 6 people with everything required to get a small or start-up business off the ground - plus advice, support and encouragement if required. Call Paul Jarman on 020 8995 3948.

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It’s impossible to escape the effects of the recession whether you’re a business owner or an employee and there's no denying that a downturn is a terrible thing. However, there are some that believe every cloud has a silver lining even during such times which can be seen as advantages if, as one economist put it, “you cock your head and squint a bit.”

For example, in times of recession the business wheat does tend to be sorted from the chaff, so it’s very likely that if a business does employ unscrupulous or ineffective practices, now is when they will come to light.

Companies are also being encouraged to invest in training their staff to boost resources and maintain high levels of service at a time when customers are most demanding. The government recently announced funding of £350m to support small businesses (SMEs with fewer than 250 employees) through the recession stressing that such companies are "an important engine of our economy and we must make sure that we support them during tough economic times".

Chiswick is home to many such businesses. Local resident and managing director of PR and communications specialists ROAD Paul Jarman believes that the silver lining of the current recession is the opportunity redundancy or business re-organisations present to the brave few to start up for themselves. For those Chiswick residents in such a situation, what better place than right on their own doorstep?

“When I started ROAD I had very clear priorities as to what I wanted,” said Paul. “One of those was the environment in which I worked. We looked at offices in Soho and other media centres. But the trade off for a Soho address was always a pokey office, name above a bell, and the daily grind of the commute. We then looked locally, found the old Lamb brewery with its huge office units and amazing river views and there was an instant feeling of ‘this is it!”

ROAD is a consulting business now employing 10 staff and numerous locally based freelancers.

“Consulting requires little or no investment to start, there are no barriers to entry – if you have a client – you have a business. My advice to anyone thinking of starting up is to ask themselves the same questions that I asked myself – what do I want out of life, do I really have anything to lose, can I commit?

“Once the mind is in the right place there are then the practical considerations – can I do this on my own? (of course you can, but you may like to look for a mentor or partner), what do I realistically need to live on as basic subsistence (you’ll be surprised how little once holidays stop, the car is sold and pensions get cancelled).

“Then there’s the most difficult part once you have your plan – the first big step! So what do you do? Ask for a favour. Ask an existing or ex-client or even your existing employer if they would be your start-up client. You might just be amazed by their response.”

Quentin Boyes is MD of Marketing Software Solutions and shares the same riverside offices as ROAD commented, “Chiswick is a great incubator for small companies and there is a strong network of like minded people about. As your company grows look no further than the local Chiswick community for investors, businesses and freelancers allied to your own.”

We asked both MDs what they thought was the best thing about running their own business.

“Eventually you’ll get to take a holiday – and it’ll be the best holiday you’ll ever have because you’ll know that you earned every penny of it!”


April 22, 2009