Friday, April 27, 2007

Citizen Entrepreneurs

I’ve been looking for a way to describe my approach to entrepreneurship for a long time.

The business press is full of many competing descriptions. It can get confusing very quickly when you look into the subject about just what it is to be an entrepreneur. If you’re starting out like most of us, as small scale, big dream types, the official entrepreneurship press can make you feel pretty damn inadequate.

I’m not here to disparage any style of start up. The world is a big place, and there are uncountable niches for fitting your start up style into an available slot.

I am here to say that you should NEVER feel second rate for any effort you can muster. Entering the world of entrepreneurship is your right and a privilege that people living in the generations before us could only dream of.

It took getting mad to find the language I was looking for to describe entrepreneurship as I see it.

When I write about this stuff, I focus on positive aspects of the subject. As you can probably tell, I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of guy (because the glass IS half full). I don’t write about parts of this subject that tick me off because they are usually worth ignoring.

And yet, here is my first post focusing on personal anger management.

The normally wonderful Wisconsin Entrepreneur Network’s newsletter, entrepreneur@work dated April 25, ‘07 links to an article titled in a way that attracted my interest. “The frugal company culture: How to make your start-up last.”

Cool. We all need that.

Then I read my way into it. What should have made me smarter initially made me feel inadequate for what’d I’d done as an entrepreneur. However the more I stewed about it, the more it seemed like an April fool’s joke. Ha! “Gotcha. You thought we were serious didn’t you…”

Advice to the frugal start up: “Don’t hire 100 new employees.”

Why thank you. We start ups rarely worry about payroll. You’re right, I probably shouldn’t hire 100 new employees as a frugal start up.

Granted this is at written for dot-com start ups that have been over paid by private equity types. However, if you think most new enterprises live in this kind of world, stop reading this and go get the comics.

Also of great interest to frugal start up is storing their excess cash, “A money market is another conservative option. On $10 million, even 5 percent is $500,000, which could fund you for an extra month.”

Half a million dollars buys me another month. Great. High comfort level there when that’s your monthly nut and you’re struggling for that kind of cash flow. Count me in.

OK, this is certainly not my niche. When I re-read the article to write this post, I found it to be pretty cool for people operating in that economic space. Some advice in the article is good for all of us (especially the advice about using incubators).

However, I spent the time following my first reading feeling like I’d just never gotten far enough, fast enough.

Then the new May ’07 issue of Fast Company lands and the cover photo and story is, “The kid who turned down $1 billion dollars.”

In working through all that, here’s what I came to and here is the way I’m going to describe the kind of entrepreneurship I’m talking about:

The citizen entrepreneur.

It is your right and your privilege to enter the commons and participate constructively, increasing value in our communities in beautiful ways, small and large.

My kind of entrepreneurship is at the citizen level. The place in life where we have responsibilities to contribute and rights to participate freely.

The kind of world where problems get fixed, families get raised, friends increase, bills get paid, and you feel overworked and satisfied.

There is no level of legal entrepreneurship that you should ever be made to feel inadequate about. Do not accept it. Don’t compare your story with anyone else’s. You’re in charge of your story and you need to honor it and build it. It’s your story and your most valuable asset.

Citizen entrepreneurship means that all of us have the right to change the world. We all have the capacity to build small, effective organizations to support ourselves, and any others we choose to include.

Age does not matter here. To my boomer freinds especially, I say, 'Welcome to a great new phase in your lives!' Don't put this chance off any longer. Take the shot you've always thought about.

For all of us, there are not many hard and fast rules when it comes to creating new enterprises. You’ll need to learn those rules and never deviate from them. The rest of it is your blank sheet of paper to fill in.

You do not need to meet standards set by the biz media or anyone else. The size and shape of your enterprise is yours and yours alone to define and build. Let no one make you feel small or insignificant because you don’t meet the standards shouted from headlines.

Your enterprise has significance because it comes from your heart and it’s there to make the world better.

As a citizen entrepreneur, no one can take that away from you.

Good luck and go get ‘em, fellow citizens.

The Wisconsin Entrepreneur Network index page for their newsletter Entrepreneur@work

Article about keeping your $10 million start up frugal This article is meant for entirely different start ups than I’m talking about, so I don’t mean to disparage it. There is a very good reference to using business incubators, which I highly encourage. Incubators represent the biggest steal on the planet for entrepreneurs. Everybody in your town/region is contributing money to get you a place to work from. This model doesn’t happen a lot elsewhere in life. I highly recommend incubators and gratefully use this resource myself.