What Does 2010 Hold For The Astute Entrepreneur?

Members of Nashville’s Entrepreneurs Organization offer  predictions and advice for the New Year.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 31, 2010 – This is the time of year when business owners are looking both forward and backward in hopes of figuring out how best to position themselves for the coming year. Will 2010 be a good year to start a new business? Can we expect a better economic climate or more of the same? Where should we focus our efforts in the new year to ensure stability and success?

Seeking answers to these questions, we turned to people who represent the real engine of our local economy – young, successful entrepreneurs, who, more than most, are intensely involved in the search for unmet needs in our marketplace and probing new ways meeting these needs. To find them, we went to the Nashville chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), which represents young business owners under 50 years old whose companies gross at least $1 million annually.

Below is the perspective on 2010 of this elite group of entrepreneurs:

The trials of 2009 have better prepared businesses for the challenges that 2010 may bring.

“Last year was like the first round of a boxing match,” said Matt Davis, CEO of Freedom Communications USA, a telecommunications company based in Dickson. “We absorbed the first few blows the recession threw at us and made adjustments. The market slow down is still here, but we know what we’re up against now. Next year will be the time to work our strategy going forward.”

Brad Barnett, president of Barnett Financial Services, said an entrepreneur has a natural advantage during difficult economic times, as he is not hampered by the bureaucratic mindset that pervades large corporations.

“During the last 18 months, I have been amazed at how quickly large, well-known companies have disappeared into bankruptcy. The focused entrepreneur avoids the big business virus of multi-layered, ineffective, costly and non-committed management personnel,” Barnett said. “While there are certainly hard-working, committed people in big business, many large corporate employees do little more than provide sufficient work and mark time between paychecks.  By contrast, the entrepreneur with character and a close-knit team create a superior product or service for the client.”

Possible new challenges mean new opportunities for agile businesses.

Dan Hogan, owner of Doctor’s Associates Home Health, a provider of in-home health care services, believes that 2010 represents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground.

“I think you’ll see more capital available for start ups in the new year,” he said. “A lot of leading economic indicators are reflecting a far more positive financial climate in 2010 and I think that will translate into good ideas getting funded.”

Cullen Douglass, owner of Douglass Financial Services, agrees that 2010 presents opportunities for entrepreneurs, who are more adept than most people at turning lemons into lemonade.

“One man’s challenge is another man’s opportunity,” said Douglass. “In 2010, I’m going to be opening up an office in Green Hills to recruit people to being self-employed and running their own businesses in the financial services industry. I think 2010 will present our firm with great opportunities to offer solutions to people who are unhappy in their current situation or people looking for new challenges.”

A realistic assessment, not a rose-colored perspective, is key to seeing real opportunities for competitive  advantages in 2010.

Clay Blevins, owner of Comfort Supply Inc., an HVAC Systems distributor, said he believes the first half of 2010 will look a lot like 2009 in terms of consumer confidence. Efficiency will be the name of the game as entrepreneurs learn to do more with fewer resources, he added.

“Consumer sentiment may start to gradually pick up in the second half of the year,” he said. “We’re not predicting much change in ‘new home starts’ in 2010. However, because the challenges of 2009 have turned us into a more efficient organization, we’re better able to profit in what looks like an unprofitable environment to most. We’ve continued to grow at about a 15 percent rate during the recession, and we see this trend continuing n 2010.”

The best time to sprint ahead is when the crowd is pulling back. Smart businesses will invest in growth strategies in 2010.

Promoting businesses will play a major role in entrepreneurial plans for 2010 as many EO members mentioned increasing spending to pick up market share while competitors are cutting back.

“We are going to spend more on marketing and be more aggressive,” said Davis. “We offer some discounted and government subsidized programs to consumers that we will make sure they are aware they can take advantage of.”

Barnett said he plans to grow his firm in 2010 through three strategies: expanding laterally into new industries, adding at least one new revenue stream and strengthening his firm’s online presence.

Entrepreneurs have a distinct advantage in the current business environment – and in the expected environment in 2010.

One thing everyone agrees on is that entrepreneurs have an advantage in the current business climate over corporate America.

“Big business can get financing, but will likely attend to their existing lines of business that are under pressure due to the recession,” said Dan Cook, president of Cook-Land, a real estate development company. “Big businesses are less creative, nimble and optimistic than entrepreneurs, and despite their access to capital they are much more risk averse.”

“Smaller companies have the ability to adjust on the fly and take advantage of the opportunities a slow market creates,” said Davis – a sentiment shared by Hogan who added that what big businesses have in resources they lack in agility.

“Entrepreneurs are almost always first to a new market and usually are the ones creating them,” Hogan said.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global network of like-minded business owners who have founded a company with annual revenue of at least $1 million before age 50. For more information about EO Nashville, contact Sameera Lowe, executive director, at (615) 309-1755.