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Downsized entrepreneurs

Workforce reductions will lead to new ways of working and opportunities for small businesses. The New Entrepreneurs Workforce reductions will lead to new ways of working and opportunities for small businesses. By Maggie Biggs

The e-mail message glared across Joe’s computer screen: “We regret to inform you that you are part of a workforce reduction plan we are carrying out today. Please come to the conference room immediately.” Joe, like many other hard-working employees, was downsized during the 1980s and is once again being laid off in our latest economic downturn.

What is different these days is that employees are getting tired of the uncertainty of being on staff. Employee morale is low at many companies, and employer loyalty is also on the decline. Many of those let go or still on staff, but uncertain for how long, are choosing a new route–controlling their own destiny by doing traditional contract work, e-lancing, or starting their own small businesses. Leaders at existing small businesses should view this trend as a golden opportunity in two ways.

First, many of those former full-time employees are now working on a per-project basis, seeking specific tasks for a specific time period, for a specific fee. If your small business needs resources to address a particular issue, this is a great time to create a project on one of several sites where contractors and e-lancers look for projects. Check out sites like www.guru.com, www.allfreelance.com, or www.elance.com. You’ll find the talent you need, and usually prices are negotiable.

You’ll find another silver lining in the cloudy economic picture, too. Other former staffers have decided to start their own businesses. This can be helpful to your small business. How, you ask? Well, keep an eye on your local newspaper for new small-business announcements. Visit portal sites that relate to the type of products or services you offer. Note any new small-business arrivals on the scene that might offer complimentary services to those you offer.

Then, think about partnerships or about co-owning specific projects. By forming partnerships or jointly tackling work, your company can become stronger, and you’ll also give a new entrepreneur a leg up.

We certainly can find plenty of negative things to note in these uncertain times. However, if we view skilled talent as a positive (and it is!), the current shakeup will make the small-business scene a much stronger marketplace in the long run.

Contributing Editor Maggie Biggs has more than 15 years of business and IT experience in the financial sector.

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