How Entrepreneurs Are the Heroes of Economic Development

entrepreneurship economic development

How is entrepreneurship and economic development connected — especially in times of financial upheaval? Let’s take a step back.

For most of humanity’s existence, people believed that the planets and stars revolved around the Earth. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Copernicus announced that the Earth revolved around the sun, and even then, it took more than 100 years for that idea to gain wide acceptance.

Transfer this concept to yourself, your job, and your career. Perhaps, like most people, you always thought your work revolved around a company. Well — Copernicus, call your office — the worker is now the center of the universe.

We’re at the beginning of a worker-centric era accelerated by the recession. Entrepreneurial activity grew by 60 percent in 2011, with more than 12 percent of working-age adults starting or running a business. Moreover, these young firms are leading the creation of new jobs.

Even those who aren’t starting their own businesses are changing their work habits and their mindsets, expecting their jobs to give them autonomy, opportunities for innovation, and flexibility — rather than just a paycheck. Entrepreneurs and companies that practice entrepreneurial management are the heroes of the economy and the key to job creation.

The Roots of the Revolution

entrepreneurship economic development
Photo: nd3000, iStock

Entrepreneurship is the next mega trend in American business for three reasons:

  1. The people are there. In the wake of the recession, too many people have been dislocated and no longer fit the old employment model. Only 43 percent of young adults hold a full-time job, and fewer older workers (ages 25 to 54) are working or seeking work. In addition, many people who feel stuck in their current jobs are beginning to reach out and test the waters in new enterprises.
  2. The money is there. Crowdfunding provides new enterprises with an opportunity they’ve never had before to raise capital. Since the launch of Kickstarter in 2009, 5.3 million people have pledged $898 million and funded 52,000 creative projects. Crowdfunded projects have included everything from video games to 3D printers to high-tech light bulbs.
  3. The desire is there. The recession killed off 223,800 businesses that employed 3.1 million workers, so the pent-up entrepreneurial urge in this country is huge. The University of Denver and other higher education institutions have responded to the growing interest in entrepreneurship with undergraduate and graduate degree programs that teach young people how to start and run their own businesses.

The New Worker

entrepreneurship economic development
Photo: svetikd, iStock

Workers are becoming free agents. We’re seeing a rise in the number of freelancers and independent contractors, indicating a workforce that is more empowered and entrepreneurial than ever before. One study by software company Intuit suggests that 40 percent of the American workforce could be freelancers by 2020.

This entrepreneurial trend has the potential to disrupt the American workforce, changing the way people look at employment options forever. Below are four ways today’s workers can flourish in the worker-centric workforce.

  1. Hone in on your unique strengths. Write down five unusual endowments, special gifts, or talents that are unique to you.
  2. Know what you’re passionate about. On another piece of paper, write down five things you are passionate about — the causes, activities, or goals that feed your soul.
  3. Find where they intersect. Compare those two pieces of paper and look at where your strengths and passions intersect. Finding a cause or activity that you have a talent for and are passionate about is key to excelling in the entrepreneurial space.
  4. Position yourself for success. Once you identify your unique combination of strengths and passions, find the industry or market sector that best suits that combination. For example, someone with a passion for hockey and a knack for writing could market himself as a writer or blogger for professional NHL organizations. It’s all about unique, independent positioning in the new world of work.

Entrepreneurship & Economic Development
The New Company

entrepreneurship economic development
Photo: jacoblund, iStock

The new, autonomous American workforce is also making way for a new kind of company — one that’s entrepreneurial at its core. The “rank-and-yank” system present in current corporations will not survive much longer. These companies will be data-driven and results-driven, which will allow employees to become legitimate stakeholders in the enterprise, no longer dependent on bureaucratic processes.

This new way of looking at the workforce will be as disruptive as Copernicus’ insight about the proper place of the planets. It will take some adjustment, but businesses — and the talent that fuels those businesses — will be in the proper place.

Entrepreneurship is the life-giving engine of our country’s economic development. It’s fitting that they’re experiencing a renaissance. Recent college graduates and veterans of the workforce alike should embrace this new worker-centric era of grassroots independence. It’s how we’ll put America back to work again — no bailouts needed.