2009 – We were 2 years into the “Great Recession”, Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as POTUS and Michael Jackson died. But if you were an Entrepreneur looking to start your own company, things were a lot easier than they are today. Here’s some of the things that you didn’t need to worry about back then:
- Twitter Storms – In 2009 Twitter had just over 10 million users. Today Twitter has over 320 million users, including a lot of entrepreneurs and whilst it can be a very powerful social media platform – think Donald Trump and the 2016 election tweets – Twitter can also get you in to a whole heap of trouble. A great case in point is Elon Musk’s Tweet stating that he was going to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The tweet was untrue and was supposedly an in-joke with his girlfriend, referencing marijuana. Unfortunately his “high”-jinks cost him $20 million in personal SEC fines.
- Finding Enough of the Right Employees – The gig economy is a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. More and more people are taking part in this economy (Uber and Lyft drivers, people renting out a spare room through AirBnB, freelance graphic designers and fractional CFO’s). The advantage for both “employees” and employers of these roles (they’re not really jobs) is the flexibility it affords, but for employers it can create real issues. You no longer have control over when the “employee” works, or even when they take their vacation. If they get a better gig, they are off. With over 70% of GenZ (see 5.) stating that they want to be their own boss and don’t want to be someone else’s boss either, the problems seem to be about to get worse.
- Different Payment Systems – You probably sell in US dollars, maybe Euros or even Yen, but depending on what you are selling and how sophisticated your market is you have also probably asked if you now need to accept BitCoin too. BitCoin is 10 years old this year, but I’m pretty sure that most people knew nothing about it until 2013/14 when the prices of BitCoins started to rise from $10 to over $100. Whatever your opinion on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency – and educated commenters have described them as everything from the future of money to an outright scam – it seems they are here to stay.
- Gen Z-er’s – Ten years ago management consultants were providing advice on the challenges of managing Millennials. In 2019 not much has changed, except that Millennials now probably make up the majority of your workforce, are rapidly taking over your management structure and almost certainly are the biggest part of your customer base. Now you have a new issue. Gen Z (sometimes called iGen). The oldest of this generation are now only 22 years old, have just graduated college and are heading your way. Some things you should probably know before they arrive. They are permanently attached to their cell phones – although they rarely use them to call anyone. They grew up with the internet and know how to use it – really well. They hate digital marketing, over half of them use Ad blockers. They watch hardly any television, preferring to be able to access what they want specifically on YouTube. Gen Z are the first truly global generation – your 18 year old in Ohio is likely to have more in common with an 18 year old in Australia or India than he is with your 65 year old neighbor or grandparent.
- Shipping Expectations (The Amazon effect) – There can be very few people reading this article that have never bought anything from Amazon. We love the fact that they have great prices, a huge selection and probably, best of all, 2-day shipping on many items. Hands up all those that have actually bought something on Amazon for more than you wanted it delivered in 2 days rather than a week? Yeah, me too. This culture of “I want it, and I want it NOW”, has now leaked over into all walks of life. As an entrepreneur, you need to be very aware of your customers expectations. If you have an online store and don’t offer 2 day shipping you could be sunk!
- Apple v Android – In 2009, Android was 6 months old and the iPhone was still an exotic animal for early adopters. If you wanted a cell phone for business you probably had a Blackberry. Today, you must decide whether to build your business infrastructure on Apple’s proprietary iOS system or on the Android family of products – a decision akin to going with either Apple or IBM in 1984.
- Social Media – At the end of the last decade there was no Instagram or Pinterest (that surprised me too), but Twitter was 3 years old and Facebook already had 250 million subscribers. Back then social media was mainly used to make personal connections, although Facebook had been selling ads for about 18 months. These days you don’t just need a social media strategy, you need a whole department (of edgy 20 somethings) to create original content, blog, photograph, Tweet, Snap and post. BTW if they tell you Tinder (or even worse Grindr) is part of your social media strategy DON”T BELIEVE THEM!