Entrepreneurship is a business trend which for the last 30 years has gone mostly undetected. It is advancing more today than ever before in American history and is not likely to diminish as the country retools for the new economy. It might be helpful to understand something about entrepreneurs if you want to join their ranks.
The New Oxford Dictionary defines entrepreneur as “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Most business schools are still geared to the BIG corporations, so the typical MBA can’t make a small business work. Fortune Magazine now publishes a small business edition; banks are creating special departments for small business, etc. It might surprise you to learn that women are the fastest-growing segment among entrepreneurs, and Hispanic women are the fastest-growing of all.
When Did This Trend Really Start?
One answer might go like this. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they didn’t come ashore looking for jobs. They were America’s first entrepreneurs. They went into the business of raising crops, building houses, hunting and trading with the friendly Indians. They created a new kind of life, which became a new kind of country that has changed our world.
Our Founding Fathers were entrepreneurs who financed the American Revolution to back up their principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and the freedoms of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They never considered Americans would ever be composed of anything but independent business people.
In the early days, there was no assembly line and no automation. Notwithstanding that our forefathers engaged in slavery and a few bigger businesses took root in major cities, the majority of Americans were in business for themselves and our country was dominated by entrepreneurs who tamed the West.
When Did Things Reverse?
Beginning with the Industrial Revolution around the time of the Civil War, we slowly started moving toward being a country of employees. As this trend continued, people moved into large cities to be near the big factories and the companies that serviced these workers. Our school systems started to focus on training people to be employees and our schools began to resemble factories, starting and ending the children’s “shift” with the ringing bell.
However, this trend unexpectedly reversed during our lifetime – a change that has confused economists for decades. Perhaps the major business trend in the US since 1975 has been the steady move of Americans going into business for themselves. Americans have been going into business for themselves at an unprecedented rate since 1975. There was a time in American life when the major corporations ruled. No more – today they employ less than 20% of the work force. By the early 90’s the majority of US exports were produced by firms with fewer than 16 employees! Interesting that the corporate workforce is the most vulnerable in the new economy.
Generally, people become entrepreneurs to pursue a passion in life and to control their own destiny, but a lot of entrepreneurs have joined the movement simply to be free of the confines of being an employee.
Unfortunately, people start a business of their own, often without a workable business plan. Worse, they fail to clarify their purposes. They don’t set adequate clear policy, which kills them as they try to expand. The errors and mistakes cascade from there. The end result is that new entrepreneurs start out running their business and end up with their business running them. Their lives go out of balance.
There is a common reason for this. Most people who take the leap and go into business for themselves are skilled at only a few of the things a business owner has to know. There is a lot to know to make a business work; skills in leadership, personnel, sales and marketing, finance, quality control and PR are all required in addition to expertise in the company’s products or services. This could also be the primary reason that a high percentage of new businesses go under each year – not “under-financing” as frequently gets the blame. But it is true, when the economy gets tough, as it has recently, the things one doesn’t know really become a threat and funds to make a go of it can become very scarce without careful management of the business.
There are systems that can be learned to deal successfully with the problem areas, and if you use them, you can make entrepreneurship a very rewarding activity. Perhaps the happiest and most successful businesspeople around are those who manage to master each of the skills needed to run a successful business. Accomplishing that, they are free to concentrate on what they like to do most. Sound enticing? For some, I will wager nothing could be better. It is up to you.