Lost a job lately? Worried about that?

Most of those effected by today’s economic conditions are hunkered down waiting it out as best they can. But this does not have to be. There are important alternatives to this wait-and-see approach. Not least is the need to support the American spirit of enterprise.

When economies rely primarily on Big Business for employment and economic growth everyone is dependent on the well being of corporate enterprise. We’ve seen the consequences of this dependence. And we’ve observed, with varying degrees of dismay the havoc that results when Business fails to adapt or, worse, runs amok. General Motors, Chrysler, Washington Mutual and A.I.G. come to mind.

For generations Americans celebrated our nation’s industrial and corporate giants as proof positive of American savvy, initiative, organizational brilliance and, for some, moral superiority: The perfect melding of Democracy and Free Enterprise. But then, by the latter third of the 20th century, this conviction was challenged repeatedly by failed military and diplomatic initiatives, the rise of Japan and Europe as industrial and economic rivals, and the threatened demise of business icons General Motors, I.B.M., Sears, and the American steel industry as a whole.

Many of these “intimations” of American business mortality came to a head in the crises of the last few years, beginning with the near melt down of the banking industry and the coincidental collapse of the housing market. As with our military escapades in the Middle East, American business adventuring had come home to roost. And now we appear to be awaiting a resurgent business climate to set things aright, to put people back to work so they might once again resume their traditional appetite for consumer spending.

The Case for Enterprise– Now

In the two decades prior to the turn of the century, the 1980s and ‘90s, U.S. Department of Labor studies of new jobs creation showed entrepreneurs and small business created virtually all the jobs in America. 21 million during the 1980s and 15 million during the ‘90s. Given that precedent, why should we hope for American business to both rehire and expand jobs creation in any meaningful way?

Another alternative is to do everything we can do, right now, to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Every one of today’s highly touted business giants found their beginnings in the entrepreneurial impulse of, in most cases, a single visionary founder. The struggles today of these corporate Goliaths simply testifies to the distance they’ve traveled from their high energy entrepreneurial roots. These dynamic, creative up start business organizations were, in time, co-opted by a new, inherently conservative, managerial elite. Their decline may be directly attributed to their loss of entrepreneurial vision and behavior.

According to author and international business consultant Larry C. Farrell(1), these once dynamic, creative up start business organizations were in time co-opted by a new, inherently conservative managerial elite. These companies’ decline may be directly attributed to their loss of entrepreneurial vision and behavior.

Farrell cites four practices, or behaviors, fundamental to the success of the world’s great entrepreneurs–

1. Sense of Mission. Entrepreneurs truly believe they are doing something important, creating value.
2. Customer/Product Vision. Successful entrepreneurs are at heart Craftsmen. They have a single, integrated vision of customers and products. Steve Jobs was quoted as saying, “The computer is the most remarkable tool we’ve ever built... but the most important thing is to get them in the hands of as many people as possible.”
3. High Speed Innovation. The entrepreneur is always sensitive to the changing needs of the marketplace and understands the very life of his/her business depends on the ability to respond quickly. The trick is to keep this sense of urgency alive in the business. When that responsiveness is gone so too is the business.
4. Self-inspired Behavior. The greatest difference between bureaucrats and most professional managers. Entrepreneurs love what they do, and they constantly try to get better at doing it. They’re inspired to win and not lose because they face consequences, reward or punishment (by the marketplace) for success or failure. For them, Accountability is a Good Thing.

At its core, the Urban Rehabber Program is about Entrepreneurship. Housing just happens to be our product. Our success is pinned to our commitment to the four practices of successful entrepreneurs. #

1. See Farrell, Larry C., The Entrepreneurial Age (Allworth Press 2001)

Click here for audio discussion of this article (or hit "refresh" to stream only)–

For further discussion, see: "Small Businesses Might Not Be the Key to Economic Recovery," by Stefan Deeran. The Comments on his piece are particularly interesting.