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Economics aside, this is what underpins entrepreneurship for me: freedom, independence and the ability to choose.
~ Luke Johnson at the UK launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week, 2013
Entrepreneurship. So What?
Does entrepreneurship matter? I ask this question of students the first day of class each semester.
The first answers to this questions are usually about the big picture.
Entrepreneurship matters because it creates jobs. Quite true. Kauffman Foundation research shows that if startups were removed from the U.S. since the 1970s, there would have been non net job growth since then, even as the workforce has grown substantially. Small businesses employ 80 percent of workers in the U.S., so take them out of the equation and there are serious problems. Large businesses are important and garner the bulk of publicity, but the real horsepower and dynamic for change in the economy comes from entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Entrepreneurship matters because it drives innovation. The innovations that define the modern world came from entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organizations. I type this post on a Macbook Air (Apple founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, 1976), using a WordPress application (WordPress founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, 2004), seated at HON desk and chair (HON founded by C. Maxwell Stanley in 1944), in my home that is heated and cooled by Lennox equipment (Lennox founded by David Lennox, 1895).
Entrepreneurship matters because it creates wealth. Entrepreneurs create the machines, methods, and systems that make us more productive, thus more wealthy. New businesses exhibit a ‘churn’ dynamic where innovative and successful firms grow rapidly and become a wellspring of jobs and economic growth, or quickly fail and exit the market, allowing capital to be put to more productive uses. Those with a mis-informed view of failure view the churn of startup firms as negative, but in fact this is the dynamic that represents progress in wealth creations.
Leaving the big picture behind, I ask students if entrepreneurship is important to them. Why might a university student care?
Typical answers from students include the attractiveness of being their own boss, the ability to earn more money if successful, the ability to design a lifestyle of their choosing, and the freedom to make an impact in markets they care about.
These answers are all good, but it draws them toward the idea that entrepreneurship may matter to them as young professionals because they should strive to live a professional life of impact and meaning.
Depending upon the source, more than one-half of Americans respond to surveys that they are not satisfied with their job. How bad is it that more than one-half of people report that they are unsatisfied with something that occupies the majority of their waking hours? At some point a person needs to take command of their professional life and make a change that positively impacts their satisfaction. Anything else is just excuse making.
Being an entrepreneur, starting a business, is indeed a powerful professional choice. Deciding to be entrepreneurial, however, is even a bigger one. It implies dedicating yourself to making an impact whether at your own business, someone else’s business, or even in a non-business setting.
Being entrepreneurial implies development of life skills.
- Critical thinking – The ability to ask the right questions. Knowledge and experience is valuable, but even more important is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.
- Creative problem solving – A natural instinct is to avoid problems. An entrepreneurial instinct is to seek deeper understanding of problems and then search for solutions.
- Communication – The ability to persuade is the ability to lead. The two most powerful words in English: “Follow me.”
- Teamwork and networking – A fundamental part of the entrepreneurship process is organization building. If a business is to achieve any scale and long-lasting sustainability, it needs to build a winning culture, team, and network of supporters, customers, and stakeholders.
- Persistance – The value of an enterprise is related to its knowledge, and that knowledge builds through overcoming mistakes, learning from them, and doing things better as time goes on. It’s a process that never stops, so persistence through the inevitable ups and downs involved in anything of consequence is key.
Why does entrepreneurship matter to you? What is your vision for building your skills to be entrepreneurial?