Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Entrepreneurial Revolution

Jeff Cornwall has posted the text of a speech he gave recently on the entrepreneurial generation that he sees coming of age. We are all well aware of the technological revolution that has been going on for a while now, but the entrepreneurial revolution that Cornwall talks about will have a tremendous impact on our society as well. The 20th century was characterized by centralization and consolidation throughout society, but with our current technological and entrepreneurial transformations the 21st century may be characterized by decentralization and the pushing of authority out to the edges. This transformation would contribute greatly to the health of our free society.

We are here today to honor a group of entrepreneurial small business owners for their individual successes. I am here to talk briefly about the economic revolution that they, and those who will be following them, are leading in the American economy. We are in the early stages of an entrepreneurially-based transformation of our economy the likes of which we have not seen in this country in over 100 years.

The American economy today is being driven by entrepreneurs. Small businesses now create 50% of the US Gross Domestic Product and 50% of all employment in this country. There are two groups, more than any other segment of our population, who are leading the Entrepreneurial Economic Revolution.

One group with high rates of entrepreneurial activity is my generation -- the Baby Boomers. These Entre-boomers, as they are sometimes called, are certainly important for our economy. But they are not the group who will be leading this Entrepreneurial Economic Revolution. The true foot soldiers who will lead us to economic victory in this Economic Revolution are those in the Entrepreneurial Generation.
So who is this Entrepreneurial Generation?

- They are those born between 1977 and 2002 -- they range from the young people who are just now graduating from college, to those who are just entering primary education.
- Studies show that about 50% of today's college students have business ownership as a primary career goal.
- They are more financially savvy -- 37% of today's college students already thinking and planning for retirement.
- They are independent thinkers
- They embrace change -- and they view entrepreneurship as a career path that will allow them to use the changes that are occurring in our current world to their advantage.
What does the Entrepreneurial Generation think about work?
- Work is important
- They seek high levels of achievement -- many university Entrepreneurship programs like ours at Belmont now see 40-50% of our students arriving as freshman with profitable businesses already operating.
- They want their work to make a difference and have meaning.
- But, they do not want it to become all consuming -- They see entrepreneurship as a career path that will give them more control in their lives and the ability to create balance.

One of my students put this way in a comment she placed on my blog site:
My generation is really focused on keeping family first, even before career. Some say that this is because we watched so many baby boomers screw this whole family thing up. My take on it is that because the baby boomers sometimes grew up wanting, they determined in their minds that their families would want for nothing. Unfortunately, my generation has all they want, but grew up with workaholic parents who were absent in their lives. I believe we're searching to find that balance between family and career.

And how does the Entrepreneurial Generation view the World they will soon be leading?
- They do not trust large institutions -- be it corporate or government institutions
- They are politically independent, but leaning toward a more libertarian philosophy
- They are concerned about our culture, our society and our economy -- and they view entrepreneurship as a way to make things better.

I received an e-mail from a student recently after a recent talk I gave on our campus at Belmont University. She was reacting to my comments on how the Entrepreneurial Generation wants to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle not only for economic gain, but for making a positive social and cultural change in America:
You described the desire I've felt so accurately; "to make a difference in terms of our culture." I have never heard a professor speak about the HEART of my generation. I want to thank-you for renewing my hope and giving me the "nod of approval" to really dig in and change the world. I will hold on to your words as I try to make connections and find other compassionate, like-minded "movers and shakers."

The foot soldiers who will lead the current Economic Revolution are those in the Entrepreneurial Generation. And I believe we are in good hands.

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