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The Big D-word is being thrown around more and more often lately with all the bad news about the economy coming out all the time. Indeed, if the economic slowdown continues through to the end of 2009, the shear length of the recession will lend credence to the depression classification. However, there are a number of reasons that whatever we decide to call it and however long it takes to get through it, the severity will not rival what the world saw in the 1930’s. The economy has changed so drastically and our values have shifted so much that we as a people, believe it or not, have a greater ability to become self-sufficient.
1. Accessibility to information: 80 years ago, by the time you read anything in the newspaper or heard something on the radio, it often had already been a few days since the even transpired. These days, as soon as anything happens, news of the event can spread at near light speeds to anyone plugged into the news. Just today, January 15th, there was a plane crash in the Hudson River in New York City. Within minutes, no fewer than 10 people that I follow on Twitter had posted information on the crash. Some of these people were in NYC to report on the details as they unfolded. Information is being decentralized more everyday, enabling everyone to benefit. What if the news had instead been economic in nature? Savvy investors might read into the news and make decisions in minutes that used to take hours.
2. Small businesses: 80 years ago, the vast number of people were still employed at a handful of large corporations. The business of running a business was very labor intensive, with rooms of people at typewriters and adding machines, generating correspondence and performing calculations necessary to monitor a successful enterprise. These days, so many of the back office operations of a business have been either moved online with computers or outsourced to experts in their fields. This transition helped break the hold larger corporations had on America and the world and allowed people with the drive to make something for themselves to do exactly that and contribute more to society.
3. 401(k)’s and the like: 80 years ago, you went to school and did as well as you could so you could get into a good college and do as well as you could so you could get a good job and do as well as you could and let the company take care of you. They would tend to your needs with a salary commensurate with your skills and experience as well as medical care. After serving the company for a number of years, you’d receive a pension. These days, we know how the system works. Go to school, get a job, work. Put in your time as long as you want and hope that the company doesn’t decide that it doesn’t need your position any more. While you’re working, you’ll receive medical insurance that you will help pay for. You’re expected to contribute to your own retirement plan that the company may or may not help you with, the value of which is not guaranteed. After serving the company for several years, you earn a send-off party and maybe a gold-plated watch. While this doesn’t sound appealing at all when presented this way, it has forced the work force to think more independently, training us to always act in our own best interest and to look out for ourselves because no one else will.
4. Franchising: 80 years ago, if you wanted to start a business, you were required to prepare a business model and acquire the start-up capital. The capital might come in the form of a loan, which would have required a sizable amount of collateral, or in the form of investors, which would require people with money to invest. At the time, people inclined to start businesses did not have the collateral necessary for a loan, and (partly because of ever-changing government policies) people with money did not wish to invest it. These days are much more forgiving to potential business owners in that business models are sold in the form of franchises and banks have shown an inclination to lend to these proven business models with relatively little collateral.
5. Multi-Level Marketing: 80 years ago, in order to start your own business, you had to spend a considerable amount of time watching the numbers and operating your enterprise very closely. It was near impossible to build a real business while holding down a full time job. These days, part time businesses are common. The number of MLM companies for a potential business owner to choose from grows regularly. They range across a variety of different product lines and industries, each having a different method of compensating their workers. Bottom line, with an investment so small to be inconcievable during the last depression, an individual can purchase a business plan that can be executed in his spare time.
6. Affiliate Marketing: 80 years ago, if you were a salesman for a company, you typically earned a small salary, health benefits, and pension in addition to a commission. These days, with the advent and popularity of the Internet, it is possible to earn a living promoting other people’s businesses. Several big name stores opperate affiliate programs: Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc. By placing special links around the Internet in forums and on blogs that allow it, portions of every sale that result from someone clicking on those links earns the person who placed it there a commission. With no business plan and no capital outlay, it is possible to make money online.
7. 1-To-1 Marketing: 80 years ago, there was no franchising, MLM, or affiliate marketing programs, so there was no way to tie them together. Because even modern day affiliate marketing is only slightly younger than the Internet, 1-to-1 marketing is phenomenally new. Through the franchising process, someone who wants to run his own business has the ability to market other company’s products to earn a commission while participating in a mult-level-marketing plan to maximize earnings. Never in the history of the free world has such empowering tools been brought together in a simple, easy-to-use system. Such a system is a depression killer.