You don’t have to start a company to be entrepreneurial. What is an entrepreneur? Entrepreneur is defined as someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it. Over the last 30 years the image of an entrepreneur has been one of Stephen Jobs building a computer in his garage, finding venture capital and starting Apple Computer. More recently, in the Internet craze, the image was of a bright 20 something from Stanford starting a company to fill an unidentified online need, getting venture capital, going public and becoming an instant millionaire. Most of us didn’t fall into this category, much less have any idea what business would be a good one for the Internet and so we sat on the sidelines and watched. And we decided we were not entrepreneurs.
The reality is everyone needs to be entrepreneurial. This is instark contrast to the lives our fathers had and we aspired to. In their days there was a very autocratic management style. They were told what to do and they did it. Often time’s employees were not asked to be decision makers. Then people worked 30 years for one company and at retirement got a gold watch and a pension. Do you remember when IBM, Delta Airlines, Boeing and others had never laid off an employee? Well those days are over. Today there is very little corporate loyalty. Most companies are driven by short-term profits because the markets demand it. Further, most people can now expect to have three to four differentcareers in their work lives.
The Jobless Recovery and the Free Agent Culture
In this past recession companies increased their profits by down sizing. As we come out of the recession companies are reluctant to hire back those they down sized. The recovery has been called the “jobless recovery”. In December 2003 there were still 8.4 million people out of work, 1.7 million for more than 27 weeks. Are all of these people out of work or do we have an outdated way of classifying what work means?
We have become a “Free Agent” culture. What many employers want is contractors that can come in and fill a particular need and when they have finished their project leave without an ongoing obligation from the company. It is imperative that free agents have entrepreneurial skills.
Nobody’s job is safe. Professionals from India and other countries are delivering services such as computer programming and technical phone support. Recently West Law introduced a test to have Indian lawyers do court case review and documentation. How far are we from an Indian lawyer trying a case from Bombay by videoconference? General Motors just announced that it plans to increase its spending on white-collar workers from overseas from 3.5 million in 2003 to 48 million in 2004. George Colony of Forester Research predicts that 3.3 million jobs will go offshore by 2015.
According to Tom Peters “ You don’t belong to any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any job function. Starting today you are a brand. Being the CEO of yourself sounds silly only if you believe that means special treatment. Once it was a luxury, now it’s a survival strategy.” Today thirty million adults, one in six, work outside companies. In a recent article in Fast Company it stated that by 2020 it is predicted that 40% of the white-collar sector will be working in a Free-lance or independent capacity.
Today thinking like an entrepreneur and acting as a free agent isn’t a luxury in a culture of change, it is also absolutely critical to your success inside a company. Everyone in corporate management is being asked to do more with less. We have become much more of a self managed work force. Managers are much more democratic. They don’t have time to think of all of the new ideas or be aware of everything happening in the marketplace. Managers are looking for decision makers. What they want are employees who are willing to take business risks. They need employees with a vision of how to make their job, products or service they offer better. Workers with entrepreneurial skills are what managers are looking for today.
The popular misconception is that you need a certain personality type to be an entrepreneur. Some maintain that you can’t teach entrepreneurial skills, that you are either born with them or you wont have them. There’s no personality type for an entrepreneur, anyone can take the actions and master the skills that will make them an entrepreneur. Peter Drucker notes, ” Anyone who can face up to decision making can learn entrepreneurial skills and behave entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is a behavior rather than a personality trait”.