Small Business

Swamped by Ripples, Buoyed by Hope


By Nicholas Hall By now, I think it's apparent to everyone that we're in a recession. The ripple effect of September 11 continues to impact our service-focused economy.

My business was one of the first to go. I was focused on arranging discount tickets for high-tech events. The event business was already having problems before September 11, so I had thought it was a good time to try some alternative marketing approaches. Now, high-tech events are being cancelled left and right. Conference organizers are reducing the number of events they handle -- or closing up shop altogether. After all, it's extremely difficult to make a living by marketing events that don't exist.

DEEPENING CHILL. A few friends of mine involved in service-oriented businesses are suffering a similar fate. One friend in Silicon Valley has seen the prospective clients in his pipeline go from lukewarm to freezing cold. Another friend, this one in Europe, had a business that arranged education tours to the U.S. for high-tech executives. A year ago, she thought she'd be hiring people in 2001. Now, she's struggling to stay afloat.

This may sound dire, but I choose to look for the silver lining. Heck, forget the lining, I'm looking for silver clouds! For me, the circumstances of September 11 provided the opportunity to reflect on what is truly important in my life, where my passions lie. It would be easy to get caught up in the economic effects and cry "Woe is me!" However, if I take a second to look at my surroundings and ask myself what I truly need, I realize that the majority of my setbacks don't have a material impact on the quality of my life -- or my ability to enjoy it.

Don't misunderstand me. I appreciate my car with leather seats. I dig my flat-panel monitor. I like the convenience of my wireless headset. However, I think most of us, when push comes to shove, can afford to do with much less -- and this could possibly provide us the opportunity to enjoy life more.

CLEAR PICTURE. I can now see September 11 as both a tragedy and a gift. The people who lost their lives did not die in vain. The heroes have given all of us the chance to reflect on the importance of life -- and an opportunity to make a difference. I'm still in the midst of reflection, communicating with friends around the world, and I'm beginning to see a clearer picture of my future.

The success of my Web site Startupfailures took me on a wonderful journey that I will always cherish. Now, September 11 is putting me back on a course of creating a business that is an expression of my passion -- helping people design lives that they love. Nicholas Hall founded Possibility Productions, a company that sold discounts tickets to high-tech conferences. Before that, he was president of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs and founded Startupfailures.com.


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