We all know the economy is shaky, and issues regarding bailout money seem to be more and more complicated and controversial everyday. Some of us have lost jobs and those of us who are still employed wonder how long our jobs will last. Some businesses are barely hanging on while others are thriving. It is hard to turn on the radio or the TV without getting depressed. What can a person do?
We can get some perspective and guidance from a quote by Dr. Alan Kay, an inventor and pioneer in the computer industry, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” It is time for us to stop focusing on the negatives and start looking for opportunities. Entrepreneurs invent their futures every day. We can all learn a bit from this approach to life. After all, many fortunes have been made in economic downturns.
Entrepreneurial activities, including small business activities, are recognized as vital components of the U.S. economy. Statistics reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2007 demonstrate the significant impact of small business: Small businesses generated 60 to 80 percent of the (net) new jobs in the last decade and produced 13 times more patents per individual employee when compared to large patenting firms. Further, small businesses produce approximately 55 percent of all new innovations. In the twentieth century, small businesses invented many of the things people use every day, including the airplane, the soft contact lens and the zipper.
We all benefit from developing and supporting entrepreneurial capacity and the innovations that come from these activities. Part of developing this capacity includes opportunity recognition and the ability to take risks, which is a wonderful freedom we sometimes take for granted as citizens of the United States.
We have a unique gift in the United States, and that gift is freedom. The Declaration of Independence guarantees all of us “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This means we are free to pursue our lives and our vocations in any way that makes sense to us. Freedom is what makes our country great. What we do with our freedom is up to us. It is our choice. Freedom is our grandest opportunity and should be protected, especially in challenging times. The importance of the freedom to choose is demonstrated by the story of Ewing Marion Kauffman.
After serving in World War II, Ewing Marion Kauffman started working as a salesman for a pharmaceutical company and was extremely successful. When he started making more money than his boss, he found that his sales territory was suddenly limited. Mr. Kauffman’s boss limited the sales territory on purpose. After all, an employee couldn’t make more money than the boss!
Mr. Kauffman made a decision after his sales territory and income were limited. He quit his job and vowed never to work for anyone else again. He started his business in 1950 in the basement of his home. He generated $36,000 in sales and $1,000 of net profit in his first year. By 1989, Mr. Kauffman’s business made over $1,000,000,000 in sales and employed over 3,4000 people.
Mr. Kauffman wanted to give back to the world and used his knowledge and wealth to form the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a foundation designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation. The foundation now holds approximately $2 billion in assets.
Dr. Carl Schramm, the current President of the Kauffman Foundation, wrote a book called The Entrepreneurial Imperative. In this book, he notes three things all Americans should remember in the face of gloomy times:
First, “never bet against the American system”
Second, know that being an American is your very best asset
Third, “never count on anyone but you to create your own destiny”
The American system is designed so that we can pursue our passions and dreams, especially in challenging times. Our ability to pursue our dreams and create our own destiny is what makes our country so great.
We all have the freedom to choose what to do with our lives, and we have the freedom to help one another. We have the freedom to pursue our ideas, our dreams and our passions. We have the freedom to create our own destiny.
Entrepreneurial individuals invent their futures. We can all be entrepreneurial, whether or not we start or grow our own business. Entrepreneurial individuals are innovative people who are open to change and recognize and pursue opportunities irrespective of existing resources, such as time, money, personal support, and/or technology.
We all have to be more entrepreneurial because we cannot and should not rely on any one else to create our future. The future is up to us. No amount of bailout money is going to create and entrepreneurial atmosphere in Southeast Nebraska. We have to work together and do it ourselves.
Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial individuals are vital components of 21st century communities and organizations because they have the ability to advance themselves, other people, their businesses or places of employment and even the economies and societies in which they live. We all need to be more entrepreneurial, and we need to support one another in this effort if we are going to restore our economy and our confidence in America.
Special Note: This article was published in the Nebraska City News Press on March 17, 2009