I heard an interesting statistic in a webinar recently: In the 1950s, 25% of Americans were business owners. Today, just 7.8% own a business.
Less than 10% of Americans are pursuing one of the greatest freedoms we have: The ability to be our own bosses.
Statistics like this could imply the majority of us would rather work for someone else. But, we know that’s not true! A recent Gallup poll shows 70%+ of Americans don’t like their jobs. In fact, plenty of studies over the last 10 years support the rising rate of employee dissatisfaction.The number one reason given? Employees don’t like their manager. But, could it be that no manager will ever be good enough and the real problem lies in people not stepping up to business ownership?
Is the death of small business to blame?
We know part of the problem lies with the rapid growth of mega-stores like Wal-mart and other large companies that crushed local businesses, i.e. “mom and pop” hardware stores couldn’t compete with the Home Depot and Lowe’s down the road.
But, is that really the only reason? I don’t think so.
We actually all own small businesses…
There are no “employees” anymore. Gone are the days of working for one company for a lifetime. Every job is temporary and you are a business-of-one that chooses to work with one customer at at time. Today, even if you stay at a company for 20 years (which is highly unlikely), you will have many different jobs there. With each new job, you have to sell your services. More importantly, with the exception of unions, the majority of us are at-will employees, meaning the employer can fire us at any time. What we often forget is at-will employment works both ways. You can fire the employer by quitting at any time – we just don’t do it because we need the paycheck.
A “business ownership” mindset is the only thing that can stabilize your future.
Besides needing the steady income being an employee provides, many people will argue starting a business is risky – with good reason. But, focusing on finding financial security in the form of a full-time, long-term job with a company is just as risky because it no longer exists.
For all those people dissatisfied in their careers, I see two choices:
1) Take back full ownership of your business-of-one. Build up your service offerings, do your market research to find out what you’re worth, and create a proactive, on-going marketing campaign to connect with people working at companies you want to sell your services to. Don’t know how to do that? Take courses and learn to sell your business-of-one effectively. Your future financial security (and happiness) depends on it.
2) Start or buy a business. This one is a bit tougher since 75% of start-ups fail. However, you can diminish the risk to some degree if you can afford to buy an existing business or a franchise. You could also decide to be an independent contractor and freelance. You just have to decide if you have the ability to manage yourself successfully. If not, then the first option may be better for you.
Both of these aren’t easy. However, I do think we are at a critical time and no longer have a choice. Here’s why.
We are in a ‘New Era’. Those that don’t step up will suffer greatly.
Early this year, I wrote about the coming of a Professional Emancipation. We even constructed an “Evolution of the Employee” infographic to show people how America’s various ages (i.e. Industrial Age, etc.), have progressed and how we are in the middle of one right now that is taking us back to the need to embrace our business-of-one status. Past ages created opportunities for us that no longer exist. Those that continue to work off of an outdated approach to career will find themselves underemployed – and deeply unhappy. (This article on the significant increase in underemployment in America explains what’s happening.)
Stop looking for a job, start looking for a problem to solve.
For those that fear becoming obsolete (and that should be all of us), the solution lies in shifting our mindset from an “employee” who looks for a job, to a “business-of-one” who looks for a problem to solve. When we see employers as customers, we can focus on their needs and how to solve them.
You have the skills, you’re just not marketing them properly.
In an annual study conducted by the Career Advisory Board, year-over-year the number of hiring managers who feel they can’t find the talent they need in today’s workforce has increased. How is that possible when unemployment remains so high? Simple. Job seekers don’t know how to market their skills to employers. They aren’t acting like businesses-of-one. The result is an increasing group of employers who feel they can’t find the skilled employees they need. (A great example of this is the resume. Read this to see why you have just 6 seconds to get an employer’s attention.)
How are you taking ownership back of your business-of-one? I’d love to hear from readers what you are doing to avoid the upcoming “underemployment crisis.” It’s very real – and quite scary.
P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also the founder of a popular career advice site, CAREEREALISM,and currently run the job search and career development company, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!