Be Your Own Boss, Apr 05 | Entrepreneurship is Alive & Well


WHEN I LEFT COLLEGE in the 1960s, most of my classmates wentto graduate school or to the armed services or found jobs at corporations withfringe benefits and retirement plans where they thought they would spend therest of their lives in security.

Their lives were fine until the era of corporate downsizing began. To paretheir payrolls, corporations began offering employees early retirement plans.

My discussions with employees who took those early retirement plans and theirpersonnel directors revealed that the best and the brightest took advantageof the offers, and most of them established second careers for themselves.

My younger son Adam, who was graduated from college in 1993, has had an interestingseries of job experiences. After leaving school, he got a job with fringe benefitsand a retirement plan. When his company felt the need a few years later todownsize, it found an excuse and let him and some other employees go.

Adam, who lives in Los Angeles, then went on an employment odyssey. It wouldstart with him finding a job, usually as a “contract” employee.When the work declined, the “contract” would be over.

On one occasion, Adam found a job with all the bells and whistles, and laterwas notified that his so-called permanent position was now a “contract” position.Some time later, he was without a job.

This happened so often that I thought a form of hell was being an audio engineerin Los Angeles during a recession.

However, there has been an upside to Adam’s experiences, and it’stwofold: 1. He has learned to tend bar, and he’s found that sidelineis something he can fall back on while he looks for “a real job.” 2.He has found a network of other “contract” employers, both in andout of work, whose skills blend with his.

They tend to be artists who can use his skills, and Adam in turn finds peoplewho can help him with his first love—writing, playing, and recordingmusic.

Let’s look at the job situation from another angle: It used to be thatcorporations could have their pick of the best and the brightest from collegecampuses. While this is still true to some extent, the graduates by and largeare not looking for the corporations to take care of them for the rest of theirlives. They know the news about corporate layoffs.

Instead, what I am learning from talking with recent graduates is that moreof the best and the brightest are going into business for themselves.
I found two recent University of Iowa graduates, Kelsey and Stacey Marshall,now married and living in the Seattle area, who majored in sociology and psychology.They are buying special coffee beans, roasting and grinding them, and sellingtheir products over the Internet.

Some recent graduates are taking corporate jobs—but only until theycan save enough money to start those businesses they want.

After working for a large corporation for more than a decade, Andy Marshallof Urbana has become a specialized computer consultant. When jobs become scarce,he and his wife Becky live off her income at a corporate job with benefitsthat cover him.

I have met with others who have borrowed money from parents, friends, andother relatives to start businesses.

I have also spoken with several recent graduates who have bought franchisesto establish local outlets for national businesses. No matter what form ittakes, the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well.

So, if you are unhappy in your career or think you may be downsized, now ishe time to act. Your employer may not always have your best interests in mind.Update your resume, start networking, and think about becoming an entrepreneur.If you decide to become one, you will need three things:

1. A competent attorney.

2. A respected accountant.

3. A business plan. The University of Iowa’s Small Business DevelopmentCenter or SCORE, the small business advisory service, can help. If you wantto start your own business, you will also need a compelling idea and a powerfulcompulsion to be your own boss. Good luck.