Every so often it's worth the risk to break the fourth wall and talk about why we're all here. Thanks to American Express Open, folks like me, and Anita, and Guy, and many others, get a chance to step outside our everyday lives and think out loud about business. For Guy and Anita, this is somewhat second nature. For me, however, it's not - I've been part of starting nearly a dozen businesses, but until American Express asked me to think (and write) about it, I was pretty much focused on my own world - presently, that means running Federated Media, itself a small business, by pretty much every definition but my own.
Today marked another shift in the way I think. The folks behind this site asked me to weigh in on the ongoing financial crisis, what it meant for small business, and what advice or thoughts I might have. I'll admit, I'm captivated by the events unfolding in Washington and across the world - but what might *I* have to say about it? Turns out, I have a lot to say, and I bet you do too. So consider this post an invitation - I'll tell you what's on my mind, but in return, I'd really like to hear what's on yours. Then we'll fold that input into this site, and see where it takes us. I think we're living in pretty remarkable times, and ... wait for it ... remarkable times are when people like you and me can make a real difference.
So back to my thoughts. As CEO of FM, I don't just run a small business - we have 80 or so employees - we run a small business that creates opportunities for about 175 other small businesses. FM is a media company that represents independent website owners, each of whom run their own businesses. We provide them revenue, largely in the form of marketing. And when the world starts to fall apart, well, I start to worry. A terrible economy means marketers pull back on their advertising spend. And that affects not just FM, but the 175 or so businesses we represent. In short, I don't just have one dog in this fight. I have nearly 200.
So what do I see? So far, FM is managing to continue to grow in this terrible economy. I think this is because we're well positioned - we are in the online media space, where innovative brand marketers are still investing. And the sites we represent have passionate, engaged communities, communities that are important to those marketers.
But that doesn't mean I don't wake up in the middle of the night, worried about what might be coming next. Many of us in the Internet industry are veterans of the last big bust - 2000-2002 - and we can still feel the pain of losing it all (as I did with the Industry Standard), or at the very least, having to cut back to the bone and wait it out. And this time, something feels different. This crisis is not limited to an overinvestment in telecom and Internet, this time our entire financial system has been brought to its knees. How can you not be worried when Congress is in an extended session to determine the best way to spend nearly a trillion dollars, money that, in fact, we don't actually have (we'll be borrowing it, given our national debt)?
It's a well worn saw that as goes small business, so goes the economy. If all of us start laying off employees and cutting back expenses by a third, our economy will go into a deep funk. If, on the other hand, we all declare faith in the future and start acting accordingly, our businesses will become the engine of economic recovery.
So what do we all need to move away from fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and toward faith and optimism in the future? I'm really eager to hear your thoughts and stories. What are you doing to deal with the current economic situation? Given your business and industry, what actions do you want government to take? What stories do you have to tell about how today's environment is changing your business outlook? Perhaps if we start to talk about this, and share our knowledge, we can start to effect change - one story at a time. Please, login, comment on this post, and keep coming back to this space, we'll be focusing on this story diligently in the coming days and weeks.