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Why entrepreneurs will thrive in a challenging year

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Lynn Anstett, founder and CEO of Stett Transportation, Inc. 

Chair-Elect of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. 


There is no escaping the reality that businesses around the world are in for a bumpy ride this year. Entrepreneurs may feel more exposed than most. 

The ongoing tech exodus, alongside layoffs from companies like Goldman Sachs or McDonald’s, are signs of a troubled economy. But it is in times like these when entrepreneurs prove time again to be at their most resilient. We find opportunities where others see only problems. 

From the 2008 financial crash to the COVID-19 pandemic – coupled with the war in Ukraine and its global ripple effects on fuel and supply chains – entrepreneurs have demonstrated the art of navigating turbulent times. I believe this comes down to two key traits entrepreneurs possess: adaptability and resilience. 

As a long-time member and now Chair-Elect of the global membership network, Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), I regularly see these qualities in play. 

These observations are not just anecdotal. A growing body of research has explored entrepreneurs’ psychological resilience and our ability to push through adversity. In in 2022 study, published in the Journal of Small Business Management, researchers noted that key personal attributes like self-efficacy, an insatiable curiosity for learning, and most importantly, an ability to reframe problems into opportunities – are all linked to entrepreneurs’ psychological resilience. 

An earlier study, from Concordia University Business School, showed that there’s a strong correlation between entrepreneurial resilience and business survival based on how founders perceive a challenge. Successful entrepreneurs are often more proactive, facing into headwinds rather than turning away. We have a tendency to view the glass as half-full. 

That’s where adaptability comes in. Business owners and founders alike are used to operating in a state of near-constant flux. Every day there’s a hurdle to overcome, a new target to meet or fresh funding to secure. It is our unique ability to adapt, to find solutions to problems, and to stay steady no matter the storm, which ultimately sees entrepreneurs meet the task at hand. 

These characteristics are particularly powerful in the hands of entrepreneurs who lead, not alone, but with the support of a community.

Last year, as the war in Ukraine began, we saw how quickly entrepreneurs rallied together to aid the humanitarian effort. One EO member from Poland repurposed his expo site in Warsaw to host war refugees. By harnessing the connections and can-do spirit in his peer network, he built 40 permanent apartments for those torn from their homes by the conflict. Another used his knowledge and experience to move care supplies through a sticking point at the Romania-Ukraine border to reach warehouses in cities under siege.

This is the sort of thinking that makes entrepreneurs able to rise to any challenge; to design solutions that inspire positive change and move the world forward. More often than not, it is in times of crisis that we uniquely see possibilities.

In my 27 years of founding, owning and managing a logistics transport company, the times that I’ve grown the most as a business owner have been during periods of significant adversity. 

During the pandemic, for example, my business faced an existential threat. As the owner of a logistics company specializing in liquid bulk freight, the most common products we transport were chemicals, which is used to make hand sanitizers. The demand for these chemicals suddenly far outpaced supply, and we couldn’t keep up. Our team had to quickly adapt and find new sources or supplies that were essential so we could carry on operating. We ended up switching up our operating abilities, opening the door to transporting new and different cargo. This included shipping hospital gowns, covid test kits and other supplies for medical facilities.  

I learned a long time ago to be diverse in the types of commodities we ship, avoiding significant downturn in business performance. By adapting to the markets’ need we were able to find a solution to the challenge we faced. My team and I were able to carry on, enabling us to keep and gain new clients while retaining our people during a period of intense cutbacks. 

Attributes like resilience and adversity can only go so far, though. The success of my business is in part due to the learning experiences and ongoing support I’ve found within the entrepreneurial community. We make continued learning a priority in our journeys, whether focused on entrepreneurial strategy, public speaking, leading other leaders, or other areas. That investment in personal and collective growth, even when time is tight, yields long-term rewards. 

Similar to when entrepreneurs came together to support refugees from Ukraine, it is this strong sense of shared experience that helps us succeed in times of adversity. Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you about the camaraderie and collaboration they have found among fellow business owners.

That’s why close networks and communities like EO have proven to be a vital resource for founders and business leaders alike. It is in trusted groups that entrepreneurs can share knowledge, insights, and concerns about the challenges we face, finding strength to plot the path forward. 

That is not to say that entrepreneurs don’t, and won’t, struggle. We are human, after all. This is also not to say that businesses won’t fail in the coming months. Some will. 

But as history has shown, we will get up again and run to the fire. We will learn from our mistakes. 

Whatever speedbumps lay ahead for us in 2023, they are just another test of our resilience. As we have done in past, we will drive innovations and action forward. So, buckle up because this will be the year of the entrepreneur.