Shorn of the dead

How entrepreneurs can break free from zombie armies to defy economic gloom

This was first published in The Times on 3rd January 2012

Why do we love zombies? Every year brings a slew of new zombie-based entertainment. Indeed, to test the popularity of the genre, I just counted iPhone apps with the word “zombie” in the title. I gave up counting when I arrived at the game Farts vs Zombies. I’d got past 200 by then.

And why does it matter? It matters because of the time of year. I’ll explain.

You see, there’s an argument that the reason zombies figure so large in popular culture is that we share their pain. A zombie army tends to be controlled by an unseen force, to face a grim future and to be unsure who to blame for its predicament.

In the original zombie films of the mid-20th century, there was someone to blame — it was a voodoo chief. If the zombies could overpower the voodoo priest, they could reclaim their freedom. In other words, they had hope.

Alas, in modern zombie films there is no voodoo chief to overthrow. Thus, there is no hope.

Which brings me to the feeling I got from every 2012 economic forecast I read over the allegedly “festive” period. We are in for a grim 12 months (nay, even longer). No hope. No light at the end of the tunnel. Just varying shades of calamity. And worse still, there’s no voodoo master to overthrow.

Which means we must create a better future ourselves. For many of us, the only way to do this is to set up and build our own business. Entrepreneurialism will be our new year resolution.

Now we all know what happens to the average resolution, so here are ten tips to help you stay the course:

Don’t quit work prematurely. You don’t have to resign in order to start developing your business. In fact, you should try to keep the steady income for as long as possible while you work weekends and evenings to get your new business up and running.

Don’t get fixated on the frills. Spending your money on business cards and letterheads might make you feel your business is real, but you might win more customers if you spent the £50 on, say, google ad words.

Planning. In the enthusiasm of the rush to liberate yourself from the zombie army, you might forget to do the basics. Like making a plan. Break down your activities into manageable and measurable tasks.

Be realistic. Such is their fear of failure that some people get their excuses in early by setting unreasonable, “bound to fail” goals. As a result, they don’t really try; they already have failure baked in. Save yourself and everyone else the heartache. Keep it real! The “Smart” way to set yourself goals is to make them: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

Follow your passion. Actually, this is schlock: a few lucky people are driven by a passion to do a certain thing; most of us aren’t. Nevertheless, there is some truth to the idea that you will be better at pursuing what you enjoy. If you don’t know what this is, observe yourself. See what you do when your mind wanders. Do you dream up recipes? Do you buy extreme sports magazines? Do you find calmness or hell in spreadsheets?

Build a support team. Bring people with you on your mission. They don’t have to work with you but if they provide advice and morale, it’s surprising what a difference this can make. Experiments show that faced with a steep slope to climb, those who are surroun-ded by friends estimate the gradient to be far more manageable.

Don’t be a perfectionist. You can spend forever building the perfect plan, perfect product, perfect logo. The only way to test your business, your product or your service is in the white heat of the market. The sooner you get it out there and find what doesn’t work, the sooner you can make it better.

Remember the ticking clock. Time is short and races by while you procrastinate and deliberate. In the blink of an eye you will be watching next year’s Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. Make sure you escape the zombie army before that happens.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You might worry about what others will say about you and your plans. Truth is, though, they’re too busy worrying about their own issues. Since the dawn of time, 106 billion humans have lived and died. Maybe they all took themselves too seriously? And to what avail? Learn a lesson from them.

Start. Without which there is nothing. And by which we immediately change the status quo no matter what. And that’s the best way to fight back against the voodoo controller.

• Richard Newton is the author of Stop Talking, Start Doing: a Kick in the Pants in Six Parts and writes at You can downloadthe first chapter for free from