Jonathan Slain is the Founder and CEO of Recession.com, an author, a highly respected keynote speaker, and an expert on recessions & why business owners don’t need to fear them.
Jonathan spent the last Great Recession huddled in the fetal position on the floor of his office. He borrowed $250,000 from his mother-in-law to survive. Jonathan paid his mother-in-law back and is now a highly sought-after consultant (and, yes, he’s still married!).
Jonathan understands not only how to prepare your business for the next major recession but also how to turn it into a profitable opportunity.
- Who is Jonathan Slain?
Much of Jonathan’s life has been spent in the metaphorical Batcave, doing the research and preparing for whatever it was that he was working towards. Deep preparation has been the common thread in Jonathan’s life all the way back from high school. Studying people who were successful during major recessions is what drew his attention and his experience during the recent Great Recession is what put him on his current path.
Jonathan is also a recovering investment banker, studying different companies and economic indicators for 100 hours a week over the course of two years. He learned that as entrepreneurs, we all always have a recession coming, even if it’s not an economic recession. There are a number of personal events that could put your business into a recession and Jonathan’s focus is on being prepared for the next one, whatever shape it happens to take.
- How does one plan for things we can’t control?
One major change recently in California has been the recent regulations around single use plastic. These regulations are going to have major impacts on many different kinds of businesses. In these situations, there will always be a few entrepreneurs who see the signs and put themselves in a position to take advantage of the coming changes.
There have been 11 recessions since World War 2 and they last an average of 11 months. When they do come around, they create a massive amount of disruption in the market that also comes with a number of opportunities. Every business can do things to prepare and position themselves for the major recessions.
- The Next Recession
We should be looking forward to the next recession, it will happen eventually so you should be prepared. All it really takes is a little forethought and some work upfront that will allow you to pounce when the recession hits, instead of spending the first few weeks or months of the recession trying to catch up.
Every major recession shares some common elements that you can look at historically and predict what may happen in the future. Marketing dollars go extra far during a recession, can you put some money aside now that will allow you to take advantage of this? What if you had a war chest available to buy distressed businesses and assets?
- The #1 thing to do to prepare right now
The first step is to assess where you are in your recession readiness. You can go to recession.com and take the free survey to get your recession readiness score. It will also let you know which areas you need to start improving.
The second step is to tune up your personal and business finances. How much debt are you carrying right now? Do you have a line of credit available to you so you can take advantage of opportunities that come up? Can you eliminate your personal guarantees on any loans you have right now?
If you’re going to be prepared for a recession, you need to start doing it now because these options don’t exist once the recession is all over the news and the economy starts to tip.
- What are some mistakes you’ve made?
For Jonathan, his biggest mistake during the last recession was not being diversified at all. What would happen to short term rental owners if there was a major scandal with Airbnb? What is a hedge that you can build into your portfolio now that has an inverse relationship with a recession so that when part of it goes down, other assets go up.
You need to have an emergency break so you know when to stop borrowing. Set your limits before the crisis so not all your decisions will be emotionally based.
Check your vendors and start building up additional channels for customer acquisition. Don’t just rely on Airbnb. Short term rentals are not likely to go away in a recession but you do need to add a little insurance to your business by removing a single point of failure.
- Is there something that smaller companies are more vulnerable to?
The number one vulnerability for small businesses and entrepreneurs is the balance sheet. How many months of operating expenses do you have available in the event that business dries up and you need to survive? Plan for the event that your monthly revenue starts to decline and think of expenses that you can cut at certain thresholds. Have those difficult conversations now before they become absolutely necessary.
Another tip is to think of the niches that bigger businesses can’t take advantage of. What things will people still spend their money on during a recession that you can look to and benefit from?
Reference: Rock The Recession, Jonathan Slain
- Jonathan’s Takeaway
The first thing and the most technical starting points you can begin with is bench marking. Take the assessment and find out where you are right now and what you can do to get prepared today.