Dec
09

Are You an Entrepreneur? … or Maybe Not?

By

I recently read an extract of a book called Never Get a Real Job written by Scott Gerber.  If you would like to see the extract, click here.   While I appreciate the fact that Scott is direct and honest about the challenges of entrepreneurship, I do not care for his tone or the way he “devalues” what he refers to as a “real” job.

Scott believes that for Gen Y, working for someone else is a fool’s game.  Not only do I disagree, I feel it is extremely short sighted.  He paints both Gen Y and entrepreneurship with too broad a brush.

I’ve personally seen both sides of this equation, working for a company and working for myself.  Both have a myriad of pluses and the minuses.  There absolutely is something great to be said about regular hours and a regular paycheck.  There absolutely are jobs, roles, projects that people enjoy where they aren’t working for themselves.  Scott doesn’t seem to think so.   

Entrepreneurship is a 24×7 role, particularly at the start.  Did you know that up to 90 percent of businesses fail within the first five years?  It’s important that you think long and hard before you invest your precious time, money and energy.  You must be committed mentally, emotionally, and financially. 

There are times in your life where it’s likely a better “fit” to be an entrepreneur than others.  If you care about individuals outside of yourself – say a spouse or children – the impact to their lives also must be factored in.  That “real” job that Scott dishes so badly can provide lots of time for your family that you won’t have when you are trying to start your own business. 

To me, the decision to start a business should be based on desire, personality, drive, and interests, not your generational group.  Being an entrepreneur is not always better than working at a company.  It’s simply different.  It’s a different choice that either does or does not make sense to the individual, and only at that point in time.  You might reach a different decision at a different point in time.  

I worked in the corporate world first, for nearly 20 years.  Now I work for myself.  As the owner of a small consulting firm, my business builds on everything that I learned over the last 20 years.  I cannot see doing the type of consulting that I do now as a recent college graduate, MBA or not.  It would not have made sense.  The experiences that I gained working for Accenture and Deloitte are priceless in reaching the point that I am today and doing the kind of work I truly love, high impact Strategic Change and Lionhearted Coaching.

There can be great value and great reward in “real” jobs.  In fact, there are many individuals for which entrepreneurship is simply not a good fit.  

Something I particularly disliked is Scott’s reference to the cliché that “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”  I have many more years, challenges, and experiences that tell me this is not always true.  Real life lessons, from the trenches, both in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur.  To me, sometimes the greatest strength comes from saying No, this did Not make me stronger…but that’s OK and I’ll move on.  It’s the moving on that is critical.

In my experience (both personal and observed), this cliché can add to individual’s feelings of failure when they don’t feel, believe, or have the ability to come out stronger.  It can, in the end, make a situation worse rather than help the person if you hold to tightly to that belief.

Part of my root concern regarding his books is that that there may be social pressures for Gen Ys.  That they may feel they “ought to” be an entrepreneur.  You should be an entrepreneur if there is something that are passionate about.  If you have the internal drive and motivation to do so, not because it’s what your generation does.  Isn’t that really the same as Boomers working in traditional structures because that is what their generation does?

It’s about who you are, what you are passionate about, where you feel you can make an impact, and yes, balancing all the dimensions of your life.  Priorities change over time.  Make sure you are doing the right thing for you at the right time, not just doing what you feel you “ought” to.

For my money, I’d wait for Carol Roth’s book, The Entrepreneur Equation to come out.   It’s due out March 8, 2011, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon.  Carol is a straight shooter and will help you do the  math to find out if entrepreneurship is right for you.  Here’s a link to Carol’s web-site if you want to find out more about who she is, her advice, and her new book. 

Carol’s book can help you answer more than just “Could I be an entrepreneur?” but rather “Should I be an entrepreneur?”   We all probably can be if we wanted it bad enough.  If we threw enough time, energy, and money at it.  However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  You can jump off the roof of a house, but should you.  It’s your choice.

Comments

  1. Scott Gerber says:

    Faith,

    I have to say. This is spoken like someone who truly has no understanding of what nearly 20% of Gen Yers are experiencing today–MASS unemployment. (That’s not to mention hundreds of millions of others worldwide that are underemployed). My tone aside, we must move into a society that teaches the values of creating a job to keep a job. Simply “sending resumes” hoping for a job is a passive exercise that in no way is productive or helpful to moving my generation’s career forward. I receive thousands of emails from young people all over the US looking for an alternative (even one today that has sent over 250 resumes with an MBA that cannot find a job after 2 years).

    Plain and simple: if we keep telling Gen Y to keep searching for jobs, and not look towards entrepreneurship as a valuable alternative, we are doing them a disservice.

    If you want to see more of my argument about this topic, read this recent BNET article where I further explain my position: http://bit.ly/eKoJZC

    Scott Gerber

  2. Faith Fuqua-Purvis says:

    Hi Scott – Thanks for spending the time to come and respond as well as providing the link for all of us. I promise I will go read your writing further.

    Let me reiterate, you have some great observations about what it really takes. That’s critical. Thank you for being honest and direct about the hard facts.

    There are three key points that raised real concerns while reading the extract and Jonathan’s comment.
    1 – “Real” jobs should not be devalued. They are an important part of our economy. They are the right choice for some people.
    2 – There are many critical factors that should be carefully weighed and evaluated when making this decision. Being unemployed may provide nice timing, but it is only one factor that needs to be evaluated. My concern is for those that jump in with entrepreneurship as the “final solution” when maybe it is a blended approach, a short-term solution, or something else. Depending on the business, individuals could end up in a worse financial situation than they were before. This does happen – more frequently than many realize.
    3 – That it’s not just a Gen Y thing. I would absolutely hate for someone to feel like they were “suppose” to be an entrepreneur because that is “what their generation, Gen Y does”. This can feel like social pressure. Again, make the choice based on what is right for the individual, where they are in life, their goals and objectives.

    I absolutely do understand the unemployment challenge, absolutely. It’s not just a Gen Y issue, not even close. People with MBAs and years experience can’t find jobs. I have many, many friends and colleagues on the hunt and have been there myself. I myself have dealt with being laid off, the resume game (which is absolutely demoralizing), and starting up a business. I thought long and hard about it and sometimes still question if it was the right choice.

    I agree with your plain and simple statement, that to not look towards entrepreneurship is a disservice. My message is rather that it is critical that you understand what you are doing, make an educated choice, know the benefits, costs, and alternatives. Don’t just jump on the entrepreneur bandwagon because that is what Gen Y does.

    ALL generations should be considering entrepreneurship. We need more entrepreneurs and to stoke the bricks and mortar of the nation.

  3. Jim Estill says:

    Great post and thought provoking.

    My experience is entrepreneurs who start businesses due to a burning passion for their business and those with a “I must work for myself” attitude tend to succeed (and enjoy the process).

    For me, entrepreneurship is much more work for much more reward.

    And if work is passion, it does not seem like work (although some days I could do with a bit less passion)

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