The Search for Meaning, Money, Creativity and Control
Breathes there an ambitious achiever – male or female – forced to methodically function in a bureaucratic hierarchy who hasn’t fantasized about cutting the umbilical cord and starting their own business? The pleasure & pain of owning one’s own business is rapidly becoming the focus of countless Americans. As a coach, you are probably working with clients who want to take direct control of their career and are dreaming and planning to be independent. Millions of Americans – three time more women than men – fueled by choice or necessity are starting their own businesses.
The Trend Letter (“Building on a Prayer,” 1998) reports that the number of small businesses in the U.S. has grown 57 percent, to about twenty-three million, since 1982. The major trend is from the corporate world to a start up! They also reported that over six million U.S. households, or 5 percent of the total, have home-based businesses and this is growing rapidly.
The Entrepreneurial Research Consortium (ERC), made up of twenty-seven universities, surveyed what percentage of American households, which include someone who has started, tried out, or helped fund a small business. They anticipated that answer would be 10 percent, but were stunned when the answer showed 27 percent, or about 1/3 of American households are involved in entrepreneurship. “New and small businesses are a far more integral part of American life than anyone anticipated,” according to Paul Reynolds, the ERC coordinator, a professor at Babson College at Wellesley. Entrepreneurship has exploded: small businesses are more and more the creators and the driving force of the new economy.
As coaches we will be seeing not only the mature boomers, but also the younger generation as prime candidates for the entrepreneurial itch. Facing increasing competition for shrinking management position in industries they have little interest in corporate cultures where leaders enjoy stepping over dead bodies, or working the hours of an extra month per year.
Many caught in the golden handcuffs of high income are asking themselves. “Can I ever use my creativity and ability in this organization?” and then, “Do I have what it takes to build my own business? Could I cut it on my own?”
What does it take? There is no quick quiz to determine success in one’s own business, however, from my years of helping countless clients become successful entrepreneurs, they seem to share the following traits:
- Don’t fit, not comfortable in the conventional organization; feels displaced, disengaged, fired or pushed out.
- Have strong need for control, not over others, but freedom over our own destiny and the quality of their product or service.
- High sense of responsibility and accountability for setting challenging, but obtainable goals.
- Stamina, energy and good physical and mental health for handling the pressure of competition and irregular income.
- Need for personal achievement to build or create something one owns.
- Versatility, tenacity, self-confidence and determination to succeed in spite of any obstacle and the necessity to juggle many functions.
- Low regard for the traditional organizational way of accomplishing results, yet able to work in the system as necessary, but with high ability to set own standards to be different.
- Understanding of numbers, a desire to make money, a healthy respect for it, but low interest in investments out of their control.
- Tendency to work erratic hours when creative mood hits.
- Moderate calculated risk-taker – not gamblers: conservative in games of change, confident/daring in games of skill.
- Moderate interpersonal skills: may not delegate, manage or supervise well: may believe they can do most things better and faster than others.
- Tend to be overcomers, may establish difficult barriers (ie. debt) to motivate themselves.
- Realistic: can make rational decisions where heat is on.
- Low need for trappings of status.
- Conceptual ability to cut to heart of a business problem; to identify the core issue.
- Can hedge their bets.
Many of my clients moving from the “40 year Womb to Tomb Career Model” to the current YO-YO Career Model, which is “You’re On Your Own” respond to their entrepreneurial itch. CDA serves as a catalyst to encourage and promote this process.
Take the “Free Agent/ Entrepreneur Characteristic Indicator” quiz developed from my work with entrepreneurs and from the literature. It provides some indicators to gauge the independent characteristic traits of adults clients. However, I am most cautious in labeling individuals as having or not having entrepreneurial characteristic, since these traits can evolve.
One rule I give my clients – Don’t go the independent or the entrepreneurial route unless you can feel passionate about what you are doing!
The Achilles’ heal of the entrepreneur can be:
- Language: not speaking the language of the accountant, lawyer, etc.
- Regulated environment that requires much attention
- Facade/substance: losing sight of their purpose and direction
- As they get heavily committed, forgetting that a business is people
- Not having and using a timely financial report
- Not flexible enough to juggle all the roles. The small business owner must be chief executive officer, accountant, treasurer, lawyer, personnel manager, product supervisor, marketing specialist, advertising agent, etc. . .No wonder tens of thousands of businesses fail each year.