This is National Entrepreneurship Week. an artifical construct created to recognize all entrepreneurs. To me, this week will be like remembering someone you love on Valentine’s Day–you should remember them all year long.
I spend all my days with entrepreneurs. I love them. To a person, they are intelligent, interesting, talented, and fun. But more important, they are dreamers. They actually think they can get something accomplished, and in doing so, change the world.
Some of them believe they can change the world in a pretty big way, like Michelle Hanna, whose company (Ribomed) develops detection technology for anthrax or cancer. Some of them, like Mona Lou Callery, think they can help women domestic violence victims resume normal lives (SEEDs). And some of them just want to make your life a little easier by giving you a better website or a way to make your online information more secure.
Very few of them want to “make money” as a major goal, although all of them hope their ventures will be successful and they will be able to (at least) support themselves. None of them think life will be easier because they are entrepreneurs. They all expect to put in the time.
In my experience, entrepreneurs don’t “retire.” Because their work is their passion, they often sell one company and go on to build another. Or they go on to mentor younger entrepreneurs. Or like my good friend and mentor Ed Robson (Robson Communities), they continue to go to the office every day long after the economic need to do so has vanished, because they love what they do.
Entrepreneurship defines people in a way that corporate “jobs” never do. Along with all the problems of not making payroll, having to fire friends, being embezzled by your controller, having the landlord raise the rent beyond what you can afford, and watching outsourcing alter your market forever, entrepreneurship seems to give its proponents a sense of commitment, a sense of self-worth, and a sense of responsibility.
America was built on entrepreneurship, just as it was built on immigration. The Pilgrims and the Puritans didn’t find corporate jobs when they entered Plymouth Harbor. Instead, they knew they would have to create their own jobs, their own means of survival. To them, this would be both possible and preferable to religious persecution.
So they weren’t in it for the money. They were in it for the freedom. And by the way, all the entrepreneurs I know are in it for the freedom even today.
I have never been a good employee. At times in my life (once between college and grad school, again for a short stint at Intel, and for a year at an environmental technology company started by an entrepreneur friend of mine), I have been employed, but none of my employers would want me back, I’m sure.
Why was that? Because I am always in it for the freedom, too. I’m a born entrepreneur, even though I didn’t realize it until I went to Intel. I will always thank Intel for giving me this epiphany.
In the 21st century, more people will be entrepreneurs. And more people will be forced to become entrepreneurs almost against their wills. here’s why: there won’t be enough “good” jobs.
The era in which most of us grew up, 20th century America, was not the norm for the work environment. The high paying corporate jobs of the mid-20th century are but a blip on the historical screen if you look at the history of mankind. In most centuries, those who worked for others were either outright slaves, or, as in the novels of Dickens, low-paid workers who spent long hours bent over something or other making someone else rich.