Fear can give you an edge

17 November 2008 by
Fear can give you an edge

There's no doubt that times are tough, but a recession can also bring opportunities. Faced with redundancy in 1991 - right at the height of the last recession - it didn't take long for me to realise that I was being presented with an opportunity.

It didn't feel like that initially. My husband Tim and I had just moved house and taken on a larger mortgage. Next thing, I had a £2,500 redundancy cheque, a bruised ego and little heart for joining another large catering firm.

But there's nothing like a knock to focus one's attention. I decided to go it alone and set up Charlton House in our spare bedroom. It may have seemed like lunacy at the time, given the economic climate and our lack of financial security, but Tim and I looked long and hard at it and had a clear vision of how we could make it a success. That's important. There's no point building a flawed business, so get it right from the start.

When a recession bites, the focus changes completely. Companies scrutinise the finer details. They want value for money and demand the very best for that outlay. In short, it becomes a buyer's market.

I was driven by the conviction that a fledgling Charlton House could be more responsive, creative, innovative, agile and keener to please than more established players.

Many entrepreneurs start out in business during a recession. It's a good time to get into a market and create a competitive advantage while other people may not because of the increased risk. That little edge of fear can go a long way.

Think about it. What do you have to lose? Make a niche in a bad time, and if you hang on to your core values and survive the early years, you'll reap the benefits when the economy picks up.

Charlton House prospered in hard times because adversity brings out all the necessary ingredients for success such as tenacity, problem-solving, planning, budgeting skills and perseverance - not to mention blood, sweat and tears.

I truly believe that it's difficult not to do something well if you enjoy it, credit crunch or not.

From little acorns: contract caterer Charlton House emerged during the 1991 recession and was run in its early days from founders Tim and Robyn Jones's spare bedroom. Nowadays it boast contracts such as the Royal Institute of British Architects building (above)

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