Recession also creates opportunities

    The worst recession in decades might seem like a strange time to start a business. But there are opportunities out there for professionals looking to strike out on their own.

    Call it a leap of faith, call it misplaced optimism or just plain naivety, but this might just be the best time for the entrepreneurial spirit to prevail.

    No, the Obama administration isn’t likely to come through with an economic stimulus package for a small contract public relations firm like mine.

    And no, I’m not unaware of the dangers of starting a small business even in the best of times.
    In addition, I suppose now seems like a bad time to invest in all of the infrastructure requirements of a small business at a time when entire fortunes are being wiped out.

    But this might just be the time to make a move.

    Take the public relations industry, for example. As a seasoned public relations professional in the Milwaukee market with a background in traditional PR as well as political campaigns and government affairs, I know how tight things are for all businesses, not just for public relations and advertising agencies. I also know that marketing budgets, especially public relations, are usually the first to be cut.

    That doesn’t mean public relations functions aren’t needed. In fact, that’s where the opportunity lies. Companies may cut deep into their communications staffs, but PR is needed now more than ever, especially when budgets for paid media – advertising – are withering.

    A contracted public relations professional carries no overhead for companies looking to continue their marketing communications efforts. They offer valuable outside perspective and a world of experience with no drama, no office politics, no benefit strings attached.

    Forming a business relationship with a contracted public relations professional allows businesses to continue their PR function without the overhead of a full-time employee.

    That’s why I see opportunity. Public relations is not dead just because of the recession.  Surely the same holds true for other business sectors.

    Starting off on a new venture can be scary business. There’s risk involved. Major risk.

    According to a 2007 pre-recession story in The New York Times, new businesses have a 50-50 chance of surviving five years. According to the Times, "an estimated 671,800 small businesses with employees opened their doors in 2005, the most recent year with statistics available, even as another 544,800 were expected to close theirs that year."

    That was long before our current economic distress. Lord only knows how many small start-ups have gone under this past year.

    Still, 50-50 seems like pretty good odds in the current circumstances.

    So as the recession rages on, we can all wait for the big turn-around in the economy. As for me, I’ll be open for business.

    Bill Zaferos is the president and CEO of Zaferos Communications. Additional information is available at

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