The coronavirus pandemic is changing the world of work. Thousands of people who have only ever been employed are now thinking of going it alone, perhaps using a redundancy payment to focus on a special interest or start the business they’ve long thought about. As jobless figures rise, though, many are having the choice taken out of their hands. Some may welcome redundancy; others may be worried as they have not experienced joblessness before.

Change is all around

Anyone finding themselves at a loss needs to recognise what has happened and think about the way the world is changing, says Andy Jackson, the bank’s entrepreneur acceleration manager.

“This extraordinary period of change is a real hotbed of opportunity to offer new products and services or access new markets or to offer existing products and services in new ways. Look at Uber. It didn’t reinvent taxis, but invented a different way of engaging with them,” he says.

The media often focuses on young business founders, especially in the tech field, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Most people who start new businesses are middle-aged, says Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneurs Network.

“The norm is people who have worked in an area using their insights and expertise to create something around the knowledge and contacts they already have. Others start something from a passion and this time can be a good period for people to make a success of that passion,” he says.

Setting up new businesses is the best route to reducing unemployment, says Salter, adding: “New employment comes from new, growing businesses. A jobs recovery will come from businesses starting now and not from older established firms.”

Mindset is everything

The first step for anyone dealing with unforeseen change and contemplating starting their own business is to throw off old beliefs inherited from others and find out who they really are, says Josh Winfield, the bank’s business builder manager.

“Your mindset can be your strongest ally or your enemy,” says Winfield. “Whenever you are dealing with change, you need to develop a growth mindset: one where you believe you can change through effort, application and experience.”

This extraordinary period of change is a real hotbed of opportunity to offer new products and services or access new markets or to offer existing products and services in new ways

Andy Jackson
Entrepreneur acceleration manager

Start with thinking about you, suggests Jackson. “What are your preferences? What do you really want for yourself and your family? What kind of business or organisation would you like to be involved with and what would you like your part in it to be? These are big questions but if you try to avoid them, then whatever you start won’t grow and develop,” adds Jackson.

Expanding choice

Many of those who started their own business in the last recession chose not to return to employment when the economy improved. Research shows there were three-quarters of a million more self-employed people by late 2014 than in early 2008.

As the economy recovers this time round, some of those who go it alone now will choose to stick with their own business. Others may decide they prefer to be employed. They will still benefit from having developed entrepreneurial thinking, explains Jackson.

He says: “The most effective corporates are now starting to recognise that this kind of thinking, or intrapreneurial activity, is invaluable in a constantly evolving world. If you start a business and after a couple of years think, this isn’t for me, you can take a lot back into the world of employment by having developed this mindset.”

There’s no perfect time to start a business, but the current circumstances offer the opportunity for people to take the risk, says Salter. He adds: “Starting your own business is a dream for a lot of people. And many of those who don’t but have thought about it, regret not having done it.”

Sharing as the path to success

The current recession doesn’t faze Franco de la Croix-Vaubois as he set up his business in the period after the global financial crisis. He was made redundant in 2010 from his post as a sales and marketing director in a London-based hospitality business and decided to move to Bath.

“In London I knew everyone – in Bath I knew no one,” he says. Surprised to find there was no local business networking group, he founded one, going on to set up the Event Organisers Network (EON) in 2012 and launching his own event management business on the back of this.

The events industry has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic but de la Croix-Vaubois has focused on staying positive, keeping in touch with EON’s members and looking for alternative ways to do business. He soon came up with the idea of running virtual events and helped produce Bath’s first online business festival in July, followed by a similar event for Bristol in September.

He started organising these events out of necessity – to promote his own business but also to give others the encouragement that opportunities are out there. “Business sectors can suffer from quite siloed thinking. But virtual events can help them go beyond this,” he says. “The solutions are out there and by coming together and sharing ideas, expertise and best practice across sectors we can boost economic recovery.”

Broadening your horizons

Here are seven simple areas to address that should help you to develop a growth mindset.

  1. Language: think about the words you use and how they affect you. This can make a big difference in thinking more positively.
  2. Reflection: take everything one step at a time and reflect regularly on how far you have come.
  3. Vision: be clear about the destination for your business before you start out.
  4. Triggers: identify the triggers to a negative mindset and how you can recognise if you are going to fall into them – knowing them will help you bounce back faster.
  5. Enjoy the journey: you can endure or enjoy the ups and downs – it’s up to you.
  6. Failure: learn from it. Thomas Edison famously “failed his way to success” – so can you.
  7. Excuses: take ownership of your attitude and don’t make excuses about things that are difficult.

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