Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Home-Based Entrepreneurs

I was talking to some potential business partners in Chicago yesterday who, much like my business partners and I, set off on their own in the publishing world earlier this year. They left their company (a major publisher in the Chicago area) about the same time we were starting up. They took the same approach -- work the idea until it just can't be worked anymore without taking the big, entrepreneurial leap of faith. Luckily, their company isn't competitive to ours -- in fact, it's very complimentary, and they play in some great international spaces.

After telling our respective start-up stories and getting very excited, we talked about life working out on our own. We agreed working from home was much better than we thought it would be. In fact, with the technology available to us for collaboration, file sharing, and task management, it was much more efficient than working in an office. At home, I can work 8 *real* hours a day -- not interrupted by meetings, people stopping in, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and general distraction. I tend to work straight through only getting up for coffee, snacks and the bathroom. Interruptions from a boss popping in are replaced only by interruptions from colleague calling to get something done on a deadline or even just checking in. That said, I don't think of our little enterprise as a home-based business, but I suppose it is. It's interesting to see how the connotation of "home based business" has changed in the past few years.

A site called the Small Business Advocate (via Small Business Trends) sums it up in part:

As the century of the major corporation -- the 20th -- evolved into the century of the entrepreneur -- the 21st -- two things converged to make operating a business from home not only socially acceptable once again, but as it had been for thousands of years, professionally sensible and practical.

1. The official death of the job security illusion.

2. Technology.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, downsizing as a way of corporate life created professional and family emergencies for millions of American workers who were conditioned to rely on corporate employment. Whether as a complete alternative to seeking employment, or as a part-time income supplement, those who were laid-off, as well as those who feared such a prospect, started looking for ways to work from home.And if being sacked was the stick that motivated these would-be entrepreneurs to strike out on their own, surely the carrot was technology.Technology made it feasible again for millions of people to literally set up shop at home, as their forebears had done for millennia. Actually, the home-based business silver bullets were powerful personal technology hardware and software, both delivered in bite-size increments and pricing, and of course, the Internet.

As I think more about the changing workforce, they missed a big category -- and ultimately, it's the category I think fits the majority of people I personally know starting businesses today: genx/creative professionals who have become disillusioned with corporate life and its inefficiencies and think they see a better way. Maybe it's a hallmark of my generation or maybe it's a characteristic of my age (late 30s) but I think it's more than just corporate job insecurity that drives entrepreneurship, and drives what ultimately is a creative process.


At Thu Oct 13, 05:11:00 PM, Anonymous suzanne said...

As someone a little older (50s, gasp!), I can attest that working at home suits all age groups. I worked in offices for many years after working as a freelance writer for many years before that. I wondered how I'd adjust to working outside the structure of an office after so long. I fell right into it. I love not being distracted. I don't miss the social aspect. I'd much rather choose who I hang out with and I find that I appreciate my time with friends more now. My ideal would be to never be office-bound again.


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