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How Economic Cycles Affect Business Owners & Employees

By Jeff Bevis

The economic cycle is a perpetual ebb and flow of economic activity. It is often characterized by four distinct stages: expansion, peak, contraction, and trough. The economy will inevitably pass through each of these stages at some point during business ownership.

But the effect of economic cycles is profound on businesses and their employees, shaping strategies, decision-making, and overall well-being. Let's explore each stage of the economic cycle and examine how it affects both business owners and employees.


The expansion phase marks the early recovery from a recession or trough. During periods of expansion, gross domestic product (GDP), employment rates, and consumer spending show positive economic growth. This is a period for business ownership, since it is full of opportunity and optimism. Increased demand for goods and services leads to a rise in sales and potential for expansion.

Business Owners

  • Expansion presents an ideal environment for entrepreneurs to launch new ventures and grow their existing businesses. With access to credit and investor confidence on the rise, securing funding becomes more attainable.
  • Business owners may experience improved cash flow as consumer spending increases. This allows for strategic investments in equipment, technology, and marketing to enhance competitiveness.
  • Demand for skilled labor grows during this stage, creating a larger talent pool for businesses to recruit from.
  • Companies can leverage expansion to gain market share, establish a competitive edge, and solidify their position in the industry.


  • The job market becomes more favorable for employees as businesses hire to meet increased demand. Job opportunities expand across various industries, offering greater employment stability and improved wages.
  • Existing employees may see salary raises and benefits enhancements as companies compete for top talent.
  • Career advancement prospects improve as businesses expand and create new roles, providing avenues for growth and development.


The peak is the phase where economic activity reaches its highest point before transitioning into a contraction. In this stage, the pace of growth starts to slow, and signs of potential overheating become apparent. While businesses continue to operate at maximum capacity, the risk of overinvestment and inflation looms.

Business Owners

  • The peak phase can be a double-edged sword for business owners. On one hand, they may experience record-breaking profits and heightened demand. On the other hand, they must navigate the risks of overexpansion and heightened competition.
  • Rising costs of labor, raw materials, and financing during this stage can squeeze profit margins, leading to challenges in managing expenses.
  • Business owners must exercise caution and financial prudence to avoid excessive inventory buildup.


  • The job market remains robust during the peak phase, providing numerous employment opportunities.
  • However, the risk of job insecurity increases as businesses may resort to cost-cutting measures to maintain profitability.
  • Employees should be vigilant about the potential for a forthcoming contraction, leading to layoffs or reduced working hours.

RELATED CONTENT: Finding Job Security in Today's Economy through Franchising


The contraction phase, commonly known as a recession, is characterized by a decline in economic activity. It marks a clear turning point in the state of the economy. GDP contracts, consumer spending drops, and businesses face reduced demand. This stage can be particularly challenging for both business owners and employees.

Business Owners

  • During a recession, businesses encounter reduced revenue, making it harder to run a business. They may struggle to meet financial obligations, including loan repayments and operational expenses. Small businesses may even have to close.
  • Access to credit and funding becomes more restricted, limiting the ability to invest and grow the business.
  • In response to economic uncertainties, businesses may implement cost-cutting measures, including workforce reduction, to survive the downturn.


  • The contraction phase is the most difficult for employees. Layoffs and job losses become prevalent as businesses downsize to cope with declining demand.
  • The job market tightens, making it challenging for unemployed individuals to secure new employment. As a result, unemployment rates increase.
  • Employees who manage to keep their jobs may experience wage freezes or reductions as businesses strive to control costs.


The trough is the bottom of the economic cycle, where economic activity reaches its lowest point before starting to recover. Businesses face challenging conditions, but there are signs of stabilization, offering hope for future growth.

Business Owners

  • The trough phase is characterized by decreased consumer spending and a lack of demand. This puts a significant strain on businesses.
  • Business owners may need to reevaluate their strategies, focus on cost-cutting, and explore new revenue streams to stay afloat.
  • Adaptability and innovation become crucial during this phase. Businesses must find creative ways to navigate the downturn.


  • Employment opportunities remain scarce during the trough. It can be difficult for those who lost their jobs during the contraction phase to find new employment.
  • Existing employees may experience increased workload and limited wage growth as businesses attempt to maximize productivity with reduced staff.

How Franchising Can Create Stability

Throughout these phases of the economic cycle, being part of a franchise as a business owner can be largely beneficial. Not only do you have the support of your franchisor and other franchisees, but the franchise system itself is more stable than independent businesses. This stability is achieved through several key factors:

  • Proven business model: Franchisors typically have well-established brands with proven business models. These brands have weathered various economic cycles, making them more resilient to economic downturns.
  • Established brand: Consumers tend to trust established brands, leading to more stable customer bases and steady revenue streams for franchisees.
  • Support and training: Franchisors provide comprehensive training and ongoing support to their franchisees. This support includes operational guidance, marketing assistance, and access to experienced mentors. During economic downturns, franchisees can rely on the franchisor's expertise to navigate challenges effectively, increasing chances of survival and success.
  • Shared risk: Franchising allows for shared risk between franchisors and franchisees. The franchisor invests in the development and refinement of the business model, while the franchisee invests in the local operation. This shared risk can be beneficial during economic downturns as the franchisor has a vested interest in supporting its franchisees.
  • Economies of scale: The collective purchasing power of a franchise network allows franchisees to procure goods and services at lower costs. This cost advantage can help franchisees remain competitive during challenging economic times.
  • Resilience of services: Certain franchise industries, such as home care, provide essential products or services that are more recession-resistant. People still need to eat, seek medical care, and maintain cleanliness regardless of economic conditions. Franchises operating in these sectors are better positioned to withstand economic downturns.
  • Adaptability and innovation: During economic cycles, franchisors can adapt their business models and marketing strategies to respond to changing consumer behavior. This adaptability can help franchisees stay ahead of the curve and maintain relevance even during challenging times.


The economic cycle's stages have a profound impact on both business owners and employees. Each stage presents unique challenges and opportunities, influencing their decision-making, growth prospects, and overall economic well-being. Understanding the dynamics of the economic cycle is vital for businesses and individuals to make informed choices and prepare for the inevitable fluctuations in the economy. And franchising can help you weather the economic downturns and increase your chances for success.

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