The Entrepreneurial Attitude updates our three decades of research on the practices of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs – and then brings those proven practices to life through interviews with seventy high-profile Junior Achievement alumni across 35 countries. It’s all backed up by The Farrell Company’s experience in teaching entrepreneurship to over six million people – more than all the business schools in the world combined! The book opens with: “What do Mark Cuban, Steve Case, Sanjay Gupta, Donna Shalala, and Christina Aguilera all have in common? They are all Junior Achievement alumni who developed an entrepreneurial attitude about their life’s work!” They are also part of the global entrepreneurial revolution, which is producing the greatest outpouring of new entrepreneurs in history. Why is this happening? Read on . . . and you’ll see why it’s the best time in history to become an entrepreneur.
The Best Time In History To Become An Entrepreneur
Look around you. Seventy out of the next one hundred people you see are thinking about starting their own businesses. Fifteen of them will actually give it a go, and five will be successful on their first try. All of them—the dreamers, the doers, and the dazzling few—are part of the greatest explosion of entrepreneurship the world has ever seen. They all know that the rules of survival have changed in our downsized, digitized and globalized world. And they believe that the best weapon for surviving the economic challenges of the twenty-first century will be themselves—their labor, their knowledge, and their own entrepreneurial spirit.
There have actually been two earlier waves of important entrepreneurial activity. The first coincided with the rise of the industrial age, from the 1860s to the 1880s, which produced a few captains of industry and more than a few robber barons. The second, fueled by the promise of unlimited capital, occurred between 1910 and 1929 but was cut short by the Great Depression and then permanently eclipsed by World War II and the postwar rise of the MBA managerial class, which effectively drove entrepreneurship into second-class status for the next fifty years. Interestingly, these earlier periods produced relatively few entrepreneurs compared to the size of the workforce at the time. Even more striking, the entrepreneurial activity that did occur was largely limited to North America and northwestern Europe. While these earlier waves gave rise to some famous companies and an impressive array of new technologies and products, nothing in our history has prepared us for the current entrepreneurial revolution, which is simply unprecedented in size and scope.
I date this third wave of entrepreneurship to around 1985, the year Steve Jobs and his band of renegades made Apple the youngest company to ever land on the Fortune 500. From that historic entrepreneurial event, we are now at the point where we have some 100 million new entrepreneurs coming on the scene every year, from every corner of the globe. We’ve never seen anything like it in history. So, what’s really causing this? Here are the key factors we think are driving this unprecedented entrepreneurial boom.
- Seeking Jobs And Prosperity: Every economist in the world agrees that small, entrepreneurial businesses create about 80% of all new jobs. Our research shows that the people behind these job-creating start-ups come from every walk of life. Most of them didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. Some happened upon an unexpected opportunity, but more commonly they were simply trying to overcome a negative circumstance, such as being dirt poor, or full of frustration—or getting fired, which happens to be the number-one reason that people go into business for themselves. The USA example is instructive. In 1985 the three biggest employers in the US were General Motors, Sears and IBM. GM was the world’s largest producer of cars. Sears led the world in making household appliances and of course IBM dominated the world in computer manufacturing. They all offered high-quality jobs, great benefits and generous pensions. Today the three largest employers in the US are Walmart, McDonalds and UPS. Great companies all, but not likely at the top of anyone’s “dream career” list. Is it any wonder that entrepreneurship has become the last, best option for millions of smart, highly skilled, hard-working people who in days gone-by would be working for big companies? It’s called “economic entrepreneurship” and it’s the main driving force of our new entrepreneurial age.
- The World Is Your Market: You can be “in business” anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar of what it used to cost. If your grandparents opened a small business, they didn’t even think about selling their products and services beyond their town or county. Today, opening your own foreign office or finding willing distributors overseas is incredibly easy and inexpensive. From Australia to Chile to Ireland, it’s a piece of cake. Trust me, I’ve done it—fast and on the cheap. The total start-up cost in our UK office was $5,000, and we opened our Philippine office with the proceeds of our first $12,000 sale to Philippine Airlines—made by phone from the United States—fast and cheap!
- Huge Niche Markets Await You: Most giant companies can’t even think about markets valued at only $25 million; they’re just not worth it. Can you imagine Glaxo, Sony or Microsoft for example, researching and making a product for a $25 million marketplace? This obviously provides small, entrepreneurial firms with terrific opportunities. And thousands of them around the world are using their twin competitive advantages of low costs and fast action to steal market after market from the big guys.
- Start-up Capital Is Everywhere: The world is simply awash in entrepreneurial capital. With the average cost of starting a business around $15,000, start-up money isn’t a problem for most entrepreneurs. Between personal savings (still the number one source of start-up funds,) the $300 billion available from VC firms and angel investors, the Small Business Administration’s $45 billion portfolio, and the always-smart idea of lining up your first customer before giving up your day job, all you really need is a great idea and you’re in business.
- The Biggest Risk Of All: Most entrepreneurs today say the biggest risk is NOT becoming an entrepreneur and being forced to rely on a big company for your economic survival. The facts are on their side. Over the past 30 years, big corporations around the globe have downsized and shipped tens of millions of high paying jobs to low cost countries. Not having the confidence and knowledge to fend for yourself and your family’s economic well-being—and hoping your future employers will offer lifetime employment, big benefits, and a hefty pension—may indeed be the biggest risk of all.
- The Ultimate Meritocracy: At the end of the day, this may be the single most important point about entrepreneurship. It doesn’t matter what color you are, which country you come from, your gender, or even where you went to school—if you come up with a great product or service idea in today’s entrepreneur-friendly world, you cannot be stopped.
To repeat—there has never been a better time to give it a go. . .
The Farrell Company is the world’s leading firm for researching and teaching entrepreneurship. Over six million people, from universities, companies and governments, have attended the company’s programs. The Entrepreneurial Attitude is Larry’s fifth book. Peace Corps, Harvard Business School, columnist for The Conference Board Review in NY, advisor to Cambridge University’s Enterprise Solutions to Poverty project and China’s Vocational Education Association – Larry has personally taught entrepreneurship to more people than anyone in the world.