Be successful! Get rich! Run your own business! These and other clarion calls to financial independence, power and success have been around for a long time. But have you noticed that they are more frequent now? Are you, too, finding them more attractive and enticing? If so, you are one of many people who are leaning toward entrepreneurship. There are dozens of magazines, organizations, networks, seminars, workshops, and even university and college level courses devoted to encouraging people to go into business for themselves and showing them how to do it.
As usual, Americans seem to be further advanced in this direction than Canadians, but Canadians are catching up. Newsstands and bookstores are carrying more and more titles on the topic as the demand increases. For example, the American Entrepreneur’s Association publishes a monthly magazine called Entrepreneur: The Business Magazine. In addition, there are Success: The Magazine for Achievers and In Business For the Independent, Innovative Individual. If you are looking for more how-to-do-it information, there is any number of helpful books. One visit to your local bookstore will keep you reading for days to come.
This move to independence and wealth is not confined to the general public. In the last few years educational institutions have begun to offer both credit and non-credit courses for the budding entrepreneur. The University of Waterloo has been offering an eight-week non-credit course for the past two years: Starting Your Own Business. The cost is more than $200 per person, but the course has attracted more than 200 people each time. American universities have been offering credit courses for would-be entrepreneurs for some time now; and some universities such as the University of Southern California, have complete entrepreneurship programs. Business and industry are very supportive of this kind of innovative activity, in one case, even encouraging it to the point of establishing a chair of entrepreneurship at Wichita State University in Kansas.
But why is there this sudden increase in entrepreneurial activity and how can it affect you? The reason for the push for entrepreneurial independence is simple. People are bored with their jobs and tired of being cogs in a machine, with little or no control over what they do and how they do it. In some cases, they are burned out and desperately need a change from what they have been doing. Others are fed up with working hard for someone else and receiving little or no appreciation for their efforts. They want to make sure their hard work will benefit themselves directly. Still others have reached midlife or mid-career crisis and are asking themselves, “Is this all there is? How can I make the greatest impact and get what I want in the productive years I have left?” Coupled with this job dissatisfaction is the fact that we have raised a generation of young people who have a solid belief in themselves and what they can accomplish on their own. Some of them are the children of parents who were part of the anti-Establishment crowd in the ’60s. Some have been convinced by parents and educators that they can be anything they want to be and that they can aspire to anything.
The second reason for the increase in entrepreneurial activity is that our track record for coping with economic recessions is terrible. Big businesses are reducing staff, introducing austerity measures , and are neither growing rapidly nor creating new jobs. However, more than 30 per cent of all new jobs created come from the private sector, from new, entrepreneurial ventures. To be sure, the success rate of new business is poor but 20 to 25 per cent are successful beyond their creators’ wildest dreams. Small businesses are the backbone of our economic system, providing new opportunities, new products, new jobs, new wealth, and new challenges. It’s no wonder that being an entrepreneur is so attractive.
There is probably another reason that applies to both groups of would-be entrepreneurs: many people are possessed by an optimistic conviction that they could make a fortune if they were in business for themselves. “After all,” they reason, “the people who started McDonald’s Canadian Tire, and other well-known successful operations aren’t that different from me.” Quite possibly, they are right! Ray Kroc, the chairman of McDonald’s, was selling milkshake mixers when he started the restaurant chain – and he was 62 when he began. A quick glance at any of the popular entrepreneurial magazines indicates that they are filled with stories of apparently normal people who had good ideas, drive, and the ability to turn their ideas into fortunes.
Now what about the rest of us? What does this entrepreneurial movement mean for us? Regardless of whether you are an employee, a manager, or an owner, you are going to be affected. Even if you are unemployed, in school, about to enter the work force, or on the point of retiring from it, you are going to feel the effects of this movement. Established businesses have realized the need to allow – and even to encourage – their employees to be entrepreneurial within the framework of the existing organization. Employees are attending seminars and workshops to learn how to develop their creative talents and put them to work designing new products, services, methods, and processes for their firms.
If you are in school or about to enter, you may find yourself considering a degree – or, at the very least, a series of courses – in how to become an entrepreneur. If you pick your school correctly, you will find there are companies that will support your entrepreneurial ideas financially and help you set up a business. At the very worst, you will learn how to run a business; and it is more than possible that you will start your own business, thus creating your own job before you graduate.
Many people thinking of re-entering the work force are becoming entrepreneurial instead. Having learned how to select, start, and run a business, they are doing just that and enjoying profitable jobs in the process. Women in particular are taking this route to self-fulfillment and profit. The number of self-employed women entrepreneurs has risen 124 per cent in the last 25 years, many of them operating home-based businesses. And lest you think that is a drop in the financial bucket, consider this fact: in the direct-sales area alone, women account for 30 per cent of sales – that’s more than $400 million a year in Canada and about 100 times higher in the USA. People who have retired are also getting involved as entrepreneurs. After a period of well-deserved relaxation, retirees often find that they want to do something useful and/or they learn that their pension plans just don’t go far enough. They, too, are getting into their own businesses. A small business brings income, freedom, challenge, tax benefits – and it’s fun. What more could anyone want?
What about you? Do you have the makings of an entrepreneur? Would you like to have your own business? Think carefully before you reply. Your answers may change your life, your outlook, and your career.