Friday, September 18, 2009

Plumbing for Joy? Be Your Own Boss

The title of this post comes from a Wall Street Journal article this week which I'll link to at the end. I'll also highlight some really important points this article make about sustainable entrepreneurship.

First some news from Iowa County Economic Development. The Driftless Foods project was awarded a $24,400 grant to help organize and launch. The train is leaving the station. Big, serious steps are ahead, but I have high hopes this wonderful project will power through them and emerge as an effective, reproducible model for doing local-foods entrepreneurship.

Speaking of local-foods entrepreneurship, the contractor is moving dirt at the new Innovation Kitchen that our Hodan Center will be opening next year in Mineral Point. Here again, I would like to help create a reproducible model for opening a state certified, community shared-use kitchen. Done right, a platform like this, operating at a regional scale can create literally hundreds of new jobs and help dozens of existing small food enterprises (SFEs) grow and prosper.

It is just a flat-out challenging and wonderful experience to be able help design these economic development experiments.

The Wall Street Journal article about entrepreneurship was written by Sue Shellenbarger. It opens with a great introduction the perils and motivations of entrepreneurship: "By economic yardsticks, Roger the Plumber should be feeling pretty low. Roger Peugeot, owner of the 14-employee Overland Park, Kan., plumbing company that bears his name, is part of a sector hit hard by shrunken credit and slumping sales. He has been forced to reduce staff and is battling new competition from other plumbers fleeing the construction industry."

"So why is Mr. Peugeot so happy? He genuinely likes fixing plumbing messes, for one thing, and despite the worst recession he has seen, "I'm still excited to get up and go to work every day," he says. He relishes running into people at the local hardware store whom he has helped in the past. And in hard times, he says, his fate is in his own hands, rather than those of a manager. "Even when things get tough, I'm still in control," he says."

(me) Whew… what that guy said.

Now, let's bring up your entrepreneurship possibilities under this scenario. I want you to get to that state of mind. Do you have to start with employees like Roger the Plumber? Do you have to quit your day job?

I would posit that starting a small business while you are still working for managers creates hope and an empowering taste of personal independence and control in people's lives.

"The WSJ continues: "As a business owner, Mr. Peugeot says, "even when things are out of your control, as they are with this economy, you're still in control of your relationships" with customers. Corporate managers and executives may "sit and wonder if they're going to be laid off, or get frustrated with the inabilities of management," he says. "If yo're the owner, you may have to say 'I screwed up,' but it's a lot better than saying, 'I didn't deserve that.'"

As an entrepreneur, you control your outcomes.

Entrepreneurship is also a path to more control over your time. The example the WSJ cites below is about a young mother, but there are seriously great life-improvements for people of every age group when you can take some control over your time.

" The freedom business owners have to control their schedules enables them to adhere more closely to their personal priorities, says Amy Neftzger, an organizational psychologist for Healthways. They have the flexibility to "make it to a child's play, or spend time with family," she says."

In Iowa County I'm doing my darndest to design and build some new platforms that will make this kind of entrepreneurship possible. I'm getting more confident in successful outcomes by the day. This is exactly the style of entrepreneur mentorship that the Small Business Center at WCTC let me create and teach.

Yes, entrepreneurship is a (not the) way to more self-control and personal fulfillment. It's also a ton of work (a fact I've been writing about since these posts started) so go in with your eyes wide open or don't go in.

From the WSJ:

"(Business owners) are more likely to work extremely long hours than people in any other occupation group, other Gallup research shows."

So how to deal with that? Start small. Start now. Make as many mistakes as you can as inexpensively as you can. Continue moving forward even in the midst of adversity. Then you can grow your business as your life allows.

What's totally, eccentrically fun about that process is that you can end up working prodigious percents of every day doing enjoyable, challenging, rewarding work, whose time-flow you control.

You can do it.

WSJ article, ' Plumbing for Joy? Be Your Own Boss', by Sue Shellenbarger. Wall St. Journal Sept 16, 2009

WCTC Small Business Center

I located this WSJ article through Tom Peters' great site

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