On every news medium we are reminded of the carnage in global markets. Banks are collapsing, governments are making epic financial contributions to the private and public sector and job cuts are increasing. Commercial and personal financing is harder to source and the amount and terms are sharp compared to the past few years.
Confidence is low and inflationary pressures have - until now - been driving up energy and food prices. People are naturally concerned about getting through it and the next few years are clearly not going to be an easy ride.
The economic reality is inescapable. However, whilst doom and gloom may be the flavour of the month - and for many months to come - that is not the only thing I see. A recession can provide a platform for innovation and economic growth, through entrepreneurialism and creative thinking.
I am not suggesting that there are no hard challenges ahead: we are all suffering. Firms will continue to suffer and the insolvency practitioners are clearly going to be kept busy for much of 2009. A difficult economic climate requires considerable ingenuity and the ability to look at things differently. And in doing that, the reality is that there are many opportunities out there — opportunities not just for new business but also for improving existing businesses.
Along with the other sectors taking a beating, real estate is suffering. Bankers are calling in loans and new-build flats are being offered at heavy discounts, with house builders desperate to unload stock. Empty Property Rates, arguably one of the most damaging introductions by the government, who appear not to have looked at the history books before introducing yet another new tax, are causing enormous distress.
With thousands of sites standing empty around the country and Empty Property Rates hitting landlords, owners must think how they can generate revenue. What can they do in this climate if there are no tenants, if a sale is unlikely or if a development is currently not going ahead?
Parking, one of the areas on which I am focused, is one such alternative use which can create cash flow from idle assets. This traditionally overlooked area of income generation is now receiving more attention, in a climate where creative owners look to work every angle on their site.
I am constantly reminded that there is an element of luck in finding those opportunities - although as Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn famously put it: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
The message is to be cautious - but don’t be inward and conservative. Look outward and look differently at your assets, your job remit and/or your skills, and work hard to seek out where the prospect lies.
A former investment banker at NM Rothschild, Emma Sinclair is the Chief Executive of Target Parking, which manages UK parking sites for private and public sector clients