Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Introducing New Book, “A Prescription for SMART Growth for Small to Mid-Size Businesses”

I am pleased to finally announce that my second book, “A Prescription for SMART Growth for Small to Mid-Size Businesses”, is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle e-book formats.

The genesis for this book stemmed from an initiative from our local entrepreneurial support organization, CED, who challenged members to submit a Tweet to their “Start Something, the CED BlogTwitter Contest. I created a Blog Post on 30-Sep-2010 that included my recommendations for the right strategies and tactics to grow a business based on my experience over the past several decades and submitted my tweet.

“A Prescription for SMART Growth for Small to Mid-Size Businesses” describes several fundamental characteristics that position businesses to transition from a start-up phase into a successful mid-size business. The key elements of this model include leading a business that is Strategy-based, Market-based, Alignment-based, ROI-based, and Technology-based. The model also incorporates fifteen additional building blocks that require appropriate emphasis at the right time to grow your business successfully along with ten potential impediments that are illustrated that can potentially derail your growth trajectory while you are building your business.

Once I completed my blog post, it occurred to me that I had a decent outline for another book. The obvious challenge for most authors is where do you find (or make) the time to allocate the many hundreds of hours to actually conduct the research and pen your advice and guidance. Well, two and one-half years later, that included many weekends, evenings, vacations, and holidays, I was able to finally complete and publish this book.

My professional colleague and friend Chris Duke of Anna’s Gourmet Goodies provided me with creative direction and tremendous support over the past six months. I am also very appreciative of several colleagues who invested the time to read my manuscript and provide me with extremely valuable and constructive feedback.

For anyone interested in taking a peek at this book, you can visit my SMART Growth for SMBs website, my Amazon Author page, or the pages for the paperback and e-book formats.

Of course, if you are inclined to read this book I welcome your feedback via an Amazon Customer Review. Thank you for your friendship and support. I have already developed an outline for my next book and hope that I will be able to announce it before 2015.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The American Dream (Revisited): Part III

As we close out a very interesting, unique, and challenging year for many Americans, I thought it was appropriate to post another update on my reflections on “The American Dream”. Last fall, I outlined a set of expectations that I had when I launched my professional career several decades ago in my first posting on this topic. At that time I had the impression that:

  1. I could submit a resume and cover letter for an open position and someone would contact me on a timely basis if they believe I was a qualified candidate and were interested in scheduling an interview with me.
  2. I would have an opportunity to enter into a mutually beneficial “contract with Corporate America”.
  3. The investments I would eventually make in real estate would ultimately be my golden nest egg for my retirement.
  4. My children would be able to embark on their own careers in their early 20s after earning a college degree.
  5. I could look forward to transitioning from working full-time into retirement and recreation when I reached my mid to late-60s.

During the past year I have been contemplating this subject and have had to reset my expectations regarding career opportunities for professionals with decades of valuable business experience. As I argued in the first two postings, “The American Dream (Revisited): Reflections on Labor Day 2011” and The American Dream (Revisited): Part II; I think that is imperative that each of us take control over our destiny from a career perspective.

Reclaim control of your destiny

While the jobs outlook for 2012 appears to show some dim signs of improvement; the uncertainties of the US and European economies continues to present us with considerable uncertainly. I have already presented my case for entrepreneurial business opportunities in my previous posts and feel even more convinced at this time that entrepreneurs and small businesses will provide the requisite leadership for stronger economic times. As I have stated in the past…

NOW IS THE TIME to take control of your own professional career destiny. Embrace the reality that you do have multiple career options and that you are ultimately empowered and accountable to make your own career decisions. While you are waiting for the phone to ring or for an email from a recruiter or hiring manager – I challenge you investigate options to fulfill your own dreams and aspirations through launching your own entrepreneurial business venture.

NOW IS THE TIME to evaluate launching your own new business; engaging in an early stage business; or investigating launching a proven business with a franchise, distributorship, affiliate, or licensing business model. Recall that there are numerous examples of successful companies today that were launched during a recession including Apple, Microsoft, HP, Trader Joe’s, Disney, CNN, FedEx, IBM, and GE to name a handful. Each of these corporations started as a small business.

Included below are several dozen recent references as evidence of the new realities that executives are facing in the current decade.

Reality Check on the American Workplace in 2011

Unemployment and Underemployment in the US

·         “The U.S. unemployment rate took a big tumble in November, from 9 percent to 8.6 percent, according to the government's monthly jobs data. Still, it's probably too soon pop the champagne corks. A combination of forces caused the big drop, some good and some bad. … Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says the president might be playing it down because there's another reason the rate fell so much: 315,000 people gave up looking for work.” 2

·         Corporate financial executives aren’t filled with Christmas cheer about the state of the economy and remain Scrooge-like when it comes to hiring and investment. So reports the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in its quarterly “Economic Outlook Survey” of chief financial officers and other corporate finance executives…. With a mediocre score (50 indicates neutral), the AICPA concludes that the news isn’t really that good for people seeking work. “We saw improvements in every category of the index, including sentiment about prospects for the U.S. economy,” said Carol Scott, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government, in a statement. “However, serious concerns about the business climate remain, reflected by continued reticence for new investment and hiring,” she added…. “Fifty percent said their organizations do not plan to return to pre-recession employment levels for at least 12 months, and a third do not expect to reach that level again in the foreseeable future,” the AICPA said. “Yet one in four respondents reported their companies have too few employees, but remain reluctant to hire because of economic uncertainty.” 3

·         “Citigroup will lay off roughly 4,500 employees over the next few months, CEO Vikram Pandit said Tuesday, as Wall Street continues to bleed jobs amid tough economic times.” 4

·         “The financial services industry has lost more than 200,000 jobs globally this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bank of America alone has announced plans to cut 30,000 employees over the next several years.” 4

·         “Drugmaker AstraZeneca will cut roughly 24% of its U.S. sales force in an effort to curb costs, part of a company-wide restructuring announced in 2010. The British company said Wednesday that it will cut 1,150 employees, including sales representatives and managers. It employs 14,000 people in North America, with most of those working in the United States. Wednesday's announced layoffs are in addition to 400 cuts in AstraZeneca's (AZN) U.S. commercial business laid out in October.” 5

·         “McAfee Inc. has laid off approximately 250 employees, or 3 percent of its work force, according to a Thomson Reuters story on Tuesday.” 6

·         “[The good news:] The unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in November, the government said last week, down from 9 percent the previous month. That's the lowest rate in two and a half years. [The bad news:] Still, the unemployment rate dropped last month in part because more people gave up looking for work. Once the unemployed stop looking for jobs and drop out of the work force, they are no longer counted as unemployed.” 7

·         “The median forecast of economists is for scarcely any decrease in the unemployment rate over the next two years.” 9

·         “Remember, the unemployment rate is calculated by adding up all the people who tell government surveyors that they can’t find work and dividing it by all the people in the labor force—those either employed or actively looking. So if people give up searching, they’re no longer counted as unemployed, and the rate falls. In November about two-thirds of the improvement in the jobless rate came from people dropping out of the labor force and thus out of the calculation of the unemployed. Only one-third was because of actual job creation.” 9

·         “Two-thirds of chief executives of the largest U.S. companies say they don't plan to increase hiring or will cut staff in the next six months, mainly because of sluggish growth in the United States and financial turmoil in Europe. The Business Roundtable said Wednesday that about one-third of its member CEOs expect to add employees and spend more on large equipment in the next six months. That's little changed from three months ago. More than 40% plan to keep their work forces steady. About a quarter expect to cut jobs.” 11

·         “Nearly 8.8 million workers in America's 100 major metropolitan areas are currently unemployed. That's an increase of almost 5 million people from the lowest levels of unemployment recorded in those same metros during the past decade, according to an On Numbers analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The study compared raw unemployment totals for each October since 2001. Adding the lowest figures for the 100 metros yields a total of 3.85 million unemployed workers. The present number is 128 percent higher.” 22

·         “Just nine states and the District of Columbia managed to add jobs during the past half-decade. The other 41 states currently have smaller employment bases than they did at the end of 2006, according to an On Numbers breakdown of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study predates the recession, which officially began in December 2007.” 25

·         “Fewer than one quarter of hiring managers plan to take on new employees in 2012, although small businesses are more inclined to hire in 2012 versus last year, a new hiring survey forecast from job site CareerBuilder finds. Of the more than 3,000 human resource and hiring professionals surveyed, 23 percent said they’ll add full-time, permanent staff in 2012, down a notch from the 24 percent who said they planned to do so in 2011, according to CareerBuilder’s 2012 U.S. Job Forecast released today. Seven percent expect to slash head count in 2012, the same as for 2011, and an improvement from 9 percent for 2010. Fifty-nine percent anticipate no change in their staff levels, while 11 percent reported being unsure.” 30

·         “Morgan Stanley will slash 580 jobs in New York as part of a broader wave of layoffs underway at the bank, according to a public filing. Earlier this month, Morgan Stanley said it would cut 1,600 jobs, or 2.6 percent of its work force, by the first quarter of 2012. The bank plans to spread the round of reductions across all divisions, including investment banking and trading. The layoffs at Morgan Stanley are the latest round of severe cutbacks on Wall Street, which has suffered a year of humbling returns and enormous cost-cutting. Citigroup recently announced it would shed 4,500 jobs. Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have also begun carrying out major staff reductions. In June, Goldman told the New York Department of Labor that it would layoff 230 New York workers through March 2012.” 32

·         “3M Co. offered early retirement to about 4,900 U.S. employees to cut costs as electronics-related sales slow, marking the company’s first workforce reduction since 2009. The St. Paul, Minnesota-based maker of Scotch-Brite sponges, Nexcare thermometers and Novec electronic coatings, expects about 1,000 workers to accept the offer, said Jacqueline Berry, a 3M spokeswoman.  … The company cut its workforce by about 5,800 people in 2008 and 2009 amid the deepest U.S. recession since the 1930s. An additional 700 workers left under an early-retirement offer in 2009, Berry said.” 33

·         “U.S. agribusiness hulk Cargill Incsaid it would let go of 2,000 of the employees globally, citing the single after another diseased tellurian economy. Minneapolis-based Cargill, the single of the world’s largest secretly hold corporations, pronounced the pursuit cuts start 1.5 percent of the workforce of 138,000 employees located in 63 countries as well as will take place over the subsequent 6 months.” 34

Living the American Dream with the Contract with Corporate America (Revisited)

·         “Worse for workers, Silvia says, companies are getting better at expanding output without hiring. “We’re adding a lot more capital than labor to produce, and we’re changing what we produce,” he says. “That’s a challenge for our society”. 9

·         “It’s that time of year. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and year-end reviews salary negotiations are upon us at work. But with many workplaces facing the prospect of new salary freezes for existing employees, the prospects of significant raises are once again gloomy for 2012. What’s more, many workers feel uneasy making big-ticket demands of management in an environment still recovering from layoffs, meaning they leave reviews feeling uncompensated and even dejected. So much for holiday spirit!” 28

Living the American Dream by Finding the right Corporate Job (Revisited)

·         “Despite high unemployment rates, an estimated 21 million Americans are planning to change jobs in the next twelve months, according to a new survey conducted by learning and talent management software provider Cornerstone OnDemand (NASDAQ: CSOD) with Harris Interactive. When the cost of employee turnover can be up to 250 percent of the annual salary per exiting employee, U.S. employers who are unprepared can expect a steep price tag of an estimated $2 trillion on employee churn in 2012.” 23

·         “A Careerbuilder  .. survey of hiring executives finds 23 percent of U.S. companies plan to hire full-time employees in 2012, little changed from its 2011 forecast. … Companies also reported an increase in voluntary turnover in 2011, with 34 percent saying employees left to pursue other opportunities, seeking higher salaries and a lighter workload. Thirty percent of employers say they lost top performers to other organizations in 2011 and 43 percent are concerned top talent may jump ship in the New Year.” 29

Living the American Dream through Home Ownership (Revisited)

·         “Household wealth in the U.S. fell from July through September for a second straight quarter as the European debt crisis depressed stocks and home values decreased.” 8

·         ”Here are the 13 worst home markets in the U.S. based on the percentage of decline in home value for 2011: Las Vegas, NV: -15.2%; Boise, ID: -13.4%; Phoenix, AZ: -13.0%; Tucson, AZ: -11.1%; Orlando: -10.9%; Fresno, CA: -9.9%; Sacramento: -9.3%; Bakersfield, CA: -8.5%; Atlanta, GA: -8.5%; West Palm Beach, FL: -8.5%; Stockton, CA: -8.2%; Jacksonville, FL: -7.7%; Tacoma, WA: -7.4%.” 16

·         “Across America, recession-fueled foreclosures and plummeting home values have left countless properties abandoned and vulnerable to looting. As Scott Pelley reports, the problem has gotten so bad in Cleveland, Ohio, that county officials have demolished more than 1,000 homes this year - and plan to demolish 20,000 more - rather than let the blight spread and render nearby homes worthless. Chances are the home you're in isn't worth what it used to be. You may not have indulged in the real estate bubble with its liar's loans and Wall Street greed, but you were stuck with the bill. Home values have dropped so far, so fast, that nearly 25 percent of mortgage holders today owe more than their house is worth. And with unemployment so high, so long, many face foreclosure. If you thought your home value couldn't drop any more, have a look up and down the block. You might say, "There goes the neighborhood." The new threat from the great recession is the sudden surge in the number of abandoned houses. Vacant homes have become so ruinous to some neighborhoods that one city, Cleveland, decided it had to find a solution.” 20

·         “Americans bought slightly more new homes in November, but 2011 will likely end up as the worst year for sales in history. The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose 1.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 315,000. That's less than half the 700,000 new homes that economists say should be sold to sustain a healthy housing market. It's also below the 323,000 homes sold last year — the worst year for sales on records dating back to 1963. New homes account for just a fraction of the housing market, but they have a big impact on the economy. Each new home built creates roughly three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.” 21

Living the American Dream through Retirement (Revisited)

·         “An increasing number of people ages 50 and up are headed to community college — 388,000 were enrolled nationwide in fall 2009, the most recent data available from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). That was up 6% from 2007 and more than 12% from 2005. Nationwide, people over the age of 50 typically make up between 5%-6% of community college enrollment, according to AACC figures.” 13

·         “For many Baby Boomers and the generations that follow, 65 won't be retirement age. It will just be another year of work for those who have a job, and a diminished lifestyle for many of those who don't. Even now, the oldest members of the Boomer generation (those born in the 19-year span of 1946-64) can't collect their full Social Security benefit until they're 66; the cutoff for full benefits was bumped up from 65 as a result of the last attempt to fix Social Security, in 1999. Proposals to cut the federal deficit eventually could push the age for full benefits to 69.” 14

·         “At 100, Dr. Fred Goldman still makes house calls. ‘If they're sick and can't leave home,’ he said, ‘I go to see them.’ … ‘Work is life,’ he said. ‘I work on demand. … Fortunately, the demand exists. I feel I can still be helpful to people.’ He has not changed his approach to caring for his patients since he entered private practice in 1946.” 15

·         “The number of older Americans who choose to work later and later in life is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million Americans age 75 or older were working last year, up from 787,000 in 2001.” 24

Reality Check on the Prospective Business Opportunities in 2011

Importance of Entrepreneurs and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the US

·         “The young may have good ideas, but there is no substitute for experience. You aren’t born with the management, marketing and finance skills necessary to turn ideas into successful ventures. … We learned that the average and median age of successful founders was 39. Twice as many founders were older than 50 as were younger than 25. And there were twice as many over 60 as under 20.” 1

·         “In less than a decade, as employees “bring their own technology” with them, the workplace will shift to wherever an employee is located, according to initial findings from CoreNet Global’s comprehensive and futuristic look at the workplace, Corporate Real Estate 2020. The wide-ranging study sheds light on how technology is radically changing the nature of work and even transcending science fiction.” 10

·         “A big reason for the fresh optimism is a pickup in small-business hiring. In November, small-firm owners increased employment slightly for the first time in five months, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Small businesses also accounted for more than half of the 206,000 jump in private employment last month reported by payroll processor ADP. Many of those firms are start-ups, says Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial.” 12

·         “An overwhelming 92% of executives think that business travel is failing to improve, with almost half saying it is getting worse or even much worse, according to a survey by ON24, a web casting and virtual event firm. … ‘In today’s digital age, professionals increasingly prefer virtual events and webcasts to traveling to in-person events. Virtual event attendees can consume content conveniently and efficiently wherever they are — at their desks, on their laptops or with any mobile device. With virtual communication, there are no logistical barriers interfering with getting the information you need.’” 17

·         “In the past three years, the ability and willingness of Americans to move across town or to another state have fallen to their lowest level in more than half a century. An NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation survey examined mobility among the long-term unemployed and underemployed. Of those two groups combined, 40 percent said they would be willing to move to another state to find a job.” 18

·         “The Startup America Partnership, a private initiative geared to encourage the formation of fast-growing new businesses, is kicking into high gear. The group, chaired by AOL founder Steve Case and led by CEO Scott Case (no relation), held the first meeting of its all-star board last week and announced it had garnered the promises of services worth nearly $1.2 billion for emerging businesses from more established companies.  … ‘The next big push is to make the startups aware that the partnership exists and has resources to help them,” he said. “We have a goal of getting to 100,000 startups in a very rapid pace.’” 19

·         “After three years of Scrooge-like underwriting following 2008's financial crisis, banks have turned on the spigot, boosting lending at annual rates as high as 8.2% since July, according to Federal Reserve statistics. Lending had fallen from mid-2008 through this year's second quarter, deepening what became the worst recession since the Great Depression. The data seem to allay fears that making banks keep more capital on their books as a cushion against future downturns and loan losses will take away the cash flow businesses need to keep the recovery moving. Among the reasons: The economy is improving, while smaller banks have positioned themselves to pick up slack left as bigger banks remain cautious, says Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial.” 26

·         “The sharpest improvement has come in business lending, raising hopes that it can spur increased capital investment, the seed corn of business expansions. Commercial and industrial loans grew at an annualized pace of more than 20% in August and more than 15% in October, the best growth since early 2008.” 26

·         “I do know one thing for sure: it isn’t the big companies that create the jobs or the revolutionary technology innovations: it is startups. ” 27

·         “Kauffman Foundation has done extensive research on job creation. Kauffman Senior Fellow Tim Kane analyzed a new data set from the U.S. government, called Business Dynamics Statistics, which provides details about the age and employment of businesses started in the U.S. since 1977. What this showed was that startups aren’t just an important contributor to job growth: they’re the only thing. Without startups, there would be no net job growth in the U.S. economy. From 1977 to 2005, existing companies were net job destroyers, losing 1 million net jobs per year. In contrast, new businesses in their first year added an average of 3 million jobs annually. When analyzed by company age, the data are even more startling. Gross job creation at startups averaged more than 3 million jobs per year during 1992–2005, four times as high as any other yearly age group. Existing firms in all year groups have gross job losses that are larger than gross job gains.” 27

·         “If there was a bright note, it was with small businesses, which had more swagger for next year when it came to hiring new employees and retaining those already on staff. Among businesses with 50 or fewer employees, 16 percent plan to add staff, an increase from 15 percent that said the same last year. For businesses with up to 250 employees, 20 percent planned to add full-time, permanent staff, up from 19 percent last year. For those with 500 or fewer employees, 21 percent expected to add more in 2012, which was the same as last year, but those reducing head count fell from 6 percent to 4 percent.” 30

·         “Entrepreneurship is a serious career path right now” 31

·         Characteristics of entrepreneurs: “(1) Look for ways to make a difference; (2) Follow that overwhelming desire to take action; (3) Exert your influence as much as possible; (4) Help other would-be entrepreneurs.” 35

·         “Small business remains critical to the economy with the progress and success of entrepreneurs still a keenly watched metric. With the ongoing economic recovery and health of the current economy at stake, the health of small businesses will remain important for the foreseeable future” 36

Franchise Business Opportunities

·         “Nurse Next Door, a Canadian home health care provider, is fielding 100 inquiries a month from prospective franchisees in the USA, up from 20 last spring.” 12

·         Franchised businesses provide about the same number of jobs in the U.S. as the manufacturers of durable goods, such as computers, industrial equipment, cars, trucks, and planes. More than 825,000 franchise businesses support nearly 18 million jobs and generate $2.1 trillion of economic output to the U.S. economy.37


1      The case for old entrepreneurs, Vivek Wadhwa, The Washington Post, 02-Dec-2011
2      Behind Unemployment Figure, A Nuanced Outlook, John Ydstie, National Public Radio, 03-Dec-2011
3      Bad news for job seekers: Companies aren't looking to hire, survey says, Rick Smith, WRAL Tech Wire, 06-Dec-2011
4      Citi plans 4,500 layoffs, James O-Toole, CNNMoney, 06-Dec-2011
5      Drugmaker AstraZeneca to cut 1,150 U.S. employees, The Associated Press, USA Today, 08-Dec-2011
6      McAfee lays off 250 employees, San Jose Business Journal, 07-Dec-2011
7      New Jobless Claims Fall To 9-Month Low, Associated Press, 08-Dec-2011
8      Household Wealth in U.S. Falls for Second Straight Quarter, Timothy Homan, Bloomberg Businessweek, 08-Dec-2011
9      The Unemployment Rate Drops, but Economists Aren't Smiling, Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek, 07-Dec-2011
10     Workplace shifting to wherever employee is located, TechJournal South, 14-Dec-2011
11     Survey: CEOs foresee no hiring pickup next 6 months, Christopher Rugaber, Associated Press, 14-Dec-2011
12     Economic optimism grows, but risks remain, Paul Davidson, USA Today, 14-Dec-2011
13     Boomers heading back to community colleges, Matthew Daneman, USA Today, 14-Dec-2011
14     Working past 65: Boomers face job challenges in senior years, John Waggoner, USA Today, 09-Dec-2011
15     Ohio doctor still treating patients at 100, Cliff Radel, The Cincinnati Enquirer
17     Execs say business travel is a pain, TechJournal South, 16-Dec-2011
18     Willing To Sacrifice After A Long Time Out Of Work, Wendy Kaufman, NPR, 15-Dec-2011
19     A Startup for Startups, Kent Bernhard, Jr., Portfolio.com, 16-Dec-2011
20     There Goes the Neighborhood, Scott Pelley, CBS News 60 Minutes, 18-Dec-2011
21     2011 Shaping Up As Worst Year Ever For Home Sales, The Associated Press, 23-Dec-2011
22     5 million added to unemployment rolls in major markets, G. Scott Thomas, The Business Journals, 23-Dec-2011
24     Working at 60? Try toiling at 90, Zlati Meyer, Detroit Free Press, 24-Dec-2011
25     Nine states have added jobs since 2006, while 41 have slipped, Scott Thomas, The Business Journals, 26-Dec-2011
26     Banks boost lending as economy slowly warms up, Tim Mullaney, USA Today, 27-Dec-2011
27     Startups Or Behemoths: Which Are We Going To Bet On?, Vivek Wadhwa, 14-Aug-2010
29     Hiring outlook little changed for 2012, Jeff Clabaugh, Washington Business Journal, 28-Dec-2011
30     Who, Us Hire?, Teresa Novellino, Portfolio.com, 28-Dec-2011
31     The Biggest Idea of 2011: Think Lean, Kent Bernhard, Jr., Portfolio.com, 30-Dec-2011
32     Morgan Stanley to Cut 580 Jobs in New York, Ben Protess, New York Times, 28-Dec-2011
33     3M Offers Retirement to 4,900 in First U.S. Cut Since 2009, Thomas Black, Bloomberg Businessweek, 14-Dec-2011
34     Cargill to cut 2,000 jobs globally, Business News, 03-Dec-2011
35     4 Critical Traits of an Entrepreneur, Glen Bickenstaff; Inc. Magazine, 16-Dec-2011
36     Small Business Remains Critical, Small Business News, 28-Dec-2011
37     New Research Reports Will Forecast Growth of Franchising Industry, International Franchise Association, Dec-2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

The American Dream (Revisited): Part II

I outlined a set of expectations that I had when I launched my professional career several decades ago in my first posting on this topic several months ago. At that time I had the impression that: 
  1. I could submit a resume and cover letter for an open position and someone would contact me on a timely basis if they are interested in scheduling an interview with me.
  2. I would have an opportunity to enter into a “contract with Corporate America”.
  3. The investments I would eventually make in real estate would be my golden nest egg for my retirement.
  4. My children would be able to embark on their own careers in their early 20s after earning college degrees.
  5. I could look forward to transitioning from working full-time into retirement and recreation when I reached my mid to late-60s.
During the past year I have been reflecting and resetting my expectations regarding professional career opportunities for many of us who are more senior in our career. As I argued in the first post, “The American Dream (Revisited): Reflections on Labor Day 2011”, I think that is essential that each of us take control over our destiny from a career perspective.

Reclaim control of your destiny

I embrace entrepreneurship and the power and influence of small and medium-sized businesses on our economy including delivering the innovations that enable our country to complete on a global basis. Based on my own professional career, I believe that small businesses offer the following advantages versus large corporate enterprises:
  • Ability to maintain a long-term, strategic perspective on the overall business versus the distraction of focusing on quarterly earnings targets to appease the often unrealistic expectations of the financial market analysts
  • Ability to stay nimble and agile by anticipating and responding quickly to changes in customer requirements, competitive threats, and economic challenges
  • Ability to continuously focus on exceeding customer’s and your team’s needs versus dealing with distractions of internal political affairs
  • Ability to consistently feel empowered to truly make a difference in the world
While I have certainly been impacted from the economic challenges over the past few years, I continue to be optimistic and see my glass as half full. Challenges always create new opportunities and you can take advantage of the current economic environment today by being reflective, resourceful, creative, opportunistic, and capitalizing on vital lessons learned throughout your career.
While many executives and senior level professionals may be sitting by their phones and checking their email Inbox several times a day praying that a corporate recruiter or human resources representative will contact them with feedback on the last 20 or 200 positions in which they have submitted resumes – other professionals have yielded to their entrepreneur dreams and have decided to take control of their own destiny by evaluating and launching new business ventures.  

NOW IS THE TIME to evaluate launching your own new business, engaging in an early stage business, or investigating launching a proven business with a franchise, distributorship, affiliate, or licensing business model. Remember that there are numerous examples of successful companies today that were launched during a recession including Apple, Microsoft, HP, Trader Joe’s, Disney, CNN, FedEx, IBM, and GE to name a handful. Each of these corporations started as a small business.

NOW IS THE TIME to take control of your own professional career destiny. Embrace the reality that you do have career options and that you are ultimately empowered to make your own career decisions. While you are waiting for the phone to ring or for an email from a recruiter or hiring manager – I challenge you investigate options to fulfill your own dreams and aspirations through launching your own entrepreneurial business venture.

Included below are several dozen additional references as evidence of the new realities that executives are facing in the current decade.

Reality Check on the American Workplace in 2011

Unemployment and Underemployment in the US

·      “Bank of America ... on Tuesday began the first phase of a massive layoff by handing out pink slips to an undisclosed number of employees in Charlotte. … The bank previously said it would cut 30,000 jobs companywide by the end of next year as it trims expenses and tries to improve its performance. It’s part of Project New BAC, Chief Executive Brian Moynihan’s efficiency initiative. The current phase of the project focused on the bank’s consumer-banking and support divisions. A second phase next year will focus on the investment-banking and capital-markets divisions. BofA hopes to slash $5 billion in annual expenses by 2013.” 3

·      “Nokia Siemens Networks is slashing 17,000 jobs worldwide by 2013 — nearly 23 percent of its work force — as it strives to cut costs by euro1 billion ($1.35 billion). The world's No. 2 mobile infrastructure maker said Wednesday the measures are part of major restructuring to make the company more flexible and efficient as it struggles against new Asian rivals.” 8

·      “Employers shed more jobs nationally through the first 11 months of this year than they did in all of 2010, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. With one month remaining in 2011, job cuts for the year total 564,297, officially surpassing the 2010 year-end total of 529,973. The 11-month total is 13 percent higher than the 497,969 job cuts announced over the same period a year ago, CG&C said.” 36

·      “Fewer U.S. companies expect to hire new workers in coming months, as business economists grow increasingly pessimistic about the overall economy’s growth in the coming year.” 26

·      “Private-sector employment fell 5.2 percent during the first two years of the economic slowdown.” 9

·      “Private-sector employment fell 4.2 percent in the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan statistical area during roughly the first couple years of the economic slowdown, according to federal data crunched by American City Business Journals.” 10

·      “North Carolina has 290,200 fewer jobs than it did four years ago, before the Great Recession began” 27

·      “The recession officially arrived in late 2007, but the manufacturing sector has endured recessionary conditions for much longer than that. U.S. manufacturing employment dropped every single year between 1997 and 2009, resulting in a net loss of nearly 6 million jobs. A weak recovery during the past two years has restored a tiny fraction of those positions, just 231,000 in all. The impact of this long-range downward trend is evident in the nation's 100 biggest markets. Ninety-nine have suffered net declines in manufacturing employment since the beginning of the recession.” 31

·      “The number of unemployed workers in America's major metropolitan areas has doubled since the recession began in 2007. A total of 9.04 million persons in the nation's 100 biggest markets were on unemployment as of September 2011, the latest month for which official figures are available. That was 99.8 percent higher than the 4.52 million unemployed workers in those same metros in September 2007.” 32

·      “Businesses in America's 100 biggest markets have reduced their workforces by 4.5 million employees since the onset of the recession in 2007.” 33

Living the American Dream with the Contract with Corporate America (Revisited)

·      “Globoforce ,a provider of SaaS-based employee recognition solutions, says its latest Workforce Mood Tracker shows that more than a third of U.S. workers feel under appreciated and are looking for new jobs despite the state of the economy.” 19

·      “According to the September 2011 survey, nearly half of all surveyed said they would leave their current job for a company that clearly recognized employees for their efforts and contributions.” 19

·      “Seventy-one percent of American workers are "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive. That leaves nearly one-third of American workers who are "engaged," or involved in and enthusiastic about their work and contributing to their organizations in a positive manner. This trend remained relatively stable throughout 2011.” 35

Living the American Dream by Finding the right Corporate Job (Revisited)

·      “GE to accept 6,000 applications for 480 jobs”. 15

·      “…older workers are losing their jobs at a faster rate than the overall labor force; and joblessness for them has more than doubled since the recession began almost four years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the longer they are out of work, the harder it is for people over 55 to find something new. Government figures for August showed that younger job seekers had been without work for nine months on average; for older workers, the duration was roughly a year. "It's always been harder for older workers to find jobs, but it's much more difficult now," says Sara Rix, senior strategic policy adviser at AARP. Many think they may never work again. Given the choice, older workers have been opting since the 1980s to delay retirement, either for financial reasons or because they like working. But downsizing and layoffs are forcing scads of them into retirement before they are ready.” 22

·      “An unprecedented rise in the number of Millennials struggling to find work has taken place between 2008 and 2009, the International Labor Organization report states, rising 4.5 million in that time. The global total is now at 75 million, with an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent.” 24

Living the American Dream through Home Ownership (Revisited)

·     “Facing these burdens, the American Dream is undergoing stark changes, with fewer people choosing to buy homes and more young people postponing their own independent lives. The census data showed about 14.2% of all young people ages 25 to 34 are still living in their parents' homes this year, compared to about 11.8% before the recession began in 2007.” 13

·     “The home-buying season was a bust. March through August are typically the peak buying months. But this time, Americans bought fewer new homes in that stretch than in any other six-month period since record-keeping began a half-century ago. And sales of previously occupied homes didn't fare much better. They nearly matched 2009's total for the peak buying months. And that was the worst since 1997. Combined, total sales this spring and summer were the weakest on records dating to 1963. The figures underscore how badly the housing market is faring and suggest that a recovery is years away” 14

Living the American Dream through Retirement (Revisited)

·     “Eighty is the new 65… Americans are prepared to work longer in order to save enough for retirement, according to a survey by Wells Fargo & Co. About 74 percent expect to work in retirement, according to the survey, with about 39 percent working because they’ll need to and 35 percent because they want to. And 25 percent of those surveyed said they expect they’ll need to work until at least age 80 because they don’t have sufficient savings.” 4

·     “A quarter of middle-class Americans are now so pessimistic about their savings that they are planning to delay retirement until they are at least 80 years old -- two years longer than the average person is even expected to live. It sounds depressing, but for many it's a necessity. On average, Americans have only saved a mere 7% of the retirement nest egg they were hoping to build, according to Wells Fargo's latest retirement survey that polled 1,500 middle-class Americans”. 5

·     “Share of small-business owners who plan to retire before 65: 25%. Portion who don’t plan to retire: 17%.” 11

·     “8,000 Boomers turn 60 each day in the US. Yet two-thirds of boomers in the US expect to work past age 65. The boomer generation is delaying retirement age bay an average of nine years, up from five years in 2008.” 12

·     “It's official. The first decade of the 21st century will go down in the history books as a step back for the American middle class.” 13

·     “Last month, 88% of 800 registered voters said they were concerned about maintaining a comfortable standard of living in retirement, up from 73% last year, says a national poll out Thursday by Americans for Secure Retirement (ASR).” 21

·     “As recent college graduates scramble to find full-time jobs, numerous parents are helping their children pay bills or letting them live at home again. About 59% of parents provide or recently provided financial assistance to children aged 18 to 39 who weren't students, concluded a May survey of nearly 1,100 people by the National Endowment for Financial Education. According to Census data, 5.9 million Americans between 25 and 34 years of age—nearly a quarter of whom have bachelor's degrees—live with their parents, a significant increase from 4.7 million before the recession. But many parents can't afford the extra expense. A full 26% of those polled by the nonprofit group took on more debt to help their offspring, 13% delayed a planned life event such as a home purchase, and 7% postponed retirement.” 34

Reality Check on the Prospective Business Opportunities in 2011

Importance of Entrepreneurs and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the US

·     “…the recovering economy is ripe for new startups, but successful startups are more about the right person, than the right idea or the right climate. … If a few of these reasons are calling your name, now is the time to start building your business. There’s no better time, especially if people around you are hesitating due to an apparent fit to my other list. It means you’ll be facing a lot less competition. What are you waiting for?”. 1

·     “It isn’t the idea that’s paramount when it comes to investing in tech startups, says Jason Caplain, general partner with Southern Capitol Ventures. Management is paramount, he says, adding, “A great team wins.” 2

·     “Many people in our workplaces today feel left out and out of control, even though they are the key to success. People take care of what they own. If they own the work practices and processes in their workplace, they will not only take care of them, they will excel. Energy will go up. Quality will go up. Morale will go up. If we create a workplace fit for the human spirit, we will not only get their heads and hands engaged, we will get their hearts.” 6

·     “…telecommuting just makes good business sense. It’s clear that many other employers agree. Nearly 3 million Americans work principally from home (not including those who are self-employed), according to a study released earlier this year by the Telework Research Network”. 7

·     “The Intuit Small Business Employment Index released today indicates that ‘small businesses created 55,000 new jobs in September.’ This, the company reports, equates to a 3.3 percent annualized rate of employment growth at companies with between 1 and 19 employees. Moreover, small business employment has been growing for nearly the past two years. Since November 2009, Intuit’s data show that businesses with fewer than 20 workers added 735,000 new employees.” 16

·     “The idea that we accomplish work mainly by organizing people to show up together at the same central office or factory at the same time five days a week for a certain amount of pay and benefits is in steep decline. We now stand at the gates of what policy expert Andrei Cherny​ calls "Individual Age Economics." 17

·     “There's only one way out. We have to compete. We have no choice but to make ourselves into the labor service providers that are in demand in the new marketplace. We won't be employees. We'll be small, focused company founders. Free agents. Mini-preneurs. The Individual Economy will require more technological skills and more individual initiative. It will require creativity and innovation. It will require people who hate selling anything to anyone — ever — to work hard to sell themselves and their capabilities to individuals and companies who need them.” 17

·     “The angel investor market in Q1,2 2011 showed signs of stabilization since the 30% market correction in the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009. Total investments in Q1,2 2011 were $8.9 billion, an increase of 4.7% over Q1,2 2010, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire. A total of 26,300 entrepreneurial ventures received angel funding in Q1,2 2011, a 4.4% increase from Q1,2 2010, and the number of active investors in Q1,2 2011 was 124,900 individuals, virtually unchanged from Q1,2 2010. The increase in total dollars and the matching increase in total investments resulted in a deal size of $338,400 in Q1,2 2011, comparable to the deal size in Q1,2 2010 of $337,300.” 21

·     “Investments for U.S. startups gained to nearly pre-recession investment levels in the third-quarter, a sign the economy may be improving. Investors put $8.4 billion into 765 deals for U.S.-based venture companies during the third quarter, a 29 percent increase in investment and an 8 percent hike in deals compared to the same period last year, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. The median amount raised for a round of financing during the third quarter was $6 million, up from the $5 million median a year earlier.” 25

·     “Women in the 21st century are a powerful growth engine for small business America with growth in women-owned businesses actually outpacing national business growth over the past 14 years. An overwhelming 99 percent of businesses run by women are small businesses. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projecting that female-owned businesses will generate up to 57 percent of small business jobs between 2009 and 2018, women in small business are showing no sign of slowing down.” 18

·     “…the number of women starting companies has doubled over the past three years” 23

·     “Entrepreneurs and creators used Kickstarter to raise $8.8 million in September, and these 50 projects exceeded their goals by the most.” 28

·     “Nearly all of the businesses in the United States are small businesses. A total of 6.98 million private-sector businesses are located within the nation's 938 metropolitan and micropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And 6.82 million of them -- 97.7 percent -- have fewer than 100 employees, meeting the definition of a small business.” 29

·     “There has never been a better time to do business in the United States than right now,” … There’s never been a better time because the big boys aren’t investing. This is the biggest opportunistic market in our lifetimes.” 37

Franchise Business Opportunities

·     “Did you know that franchise businesses provide the nation’s workforce with nearly 10 million jobs? Did you know that they produce goods and services worth an estimated $802 billion? Did you know there are nearly a million franchise businesses in the United States?” 30


3 Bank of America begins Charlotte layoffs, Charlotte Business Journals, 16-Nov-2011
5 Delaying retirement: 80 is the new 65, CNN Money, 16-Nov-2011
6 Leadership principles for today’s challenging times, Triangle Business Journal, 18-Nov-2011
9 5% of private-sector jobs disappeared during downturn, The Business Journals, 28-Nov-2011
10 Great Recession cut 4.2% of Raleigh jobs, Triangle Business Journal, 29-Nov-2011
11 Crunching the numbers, INC magazine, October 2011
12 Reality Bites, Bloomberg Businessweek, September 12 – September 18, 2011, p. 85
14 Home-Buying Season the Worst in at Least 50 Years, Associated Press, September 2011
15 GE to accept 6,000 applications for 480 jobs, Louisville Business Journal, 23-Sep-2011
18 Women Flex Big Muscle in Small Business, Intuit Blog, Monica Appelbe, 13-Sep-2011
19 Nearly 40 percent of workers feel unappreciated, Tech Journal South, 28-Sep-2011
22 'Will I Ever Work Again?', aarp.org/bulletin, October 2011
24 Talking About a Jobless Generation, Portfolio.com, Nicola Kean, 19-Oct-2011
25 Startup investments rise in third quarter, Phoenix Business Journal, Jennifer Johnson, 21-Oct-2011
26 Survey: Economists more bleak about US economy, Charlotte Observer, 24-Oct-2011
27 N.C. has lost 290,200 jobs in past four years, Triad Business Journal, 25-Oct-2011
28 The New Venture Capital, Bloomberg Businessweek, October 24 – October 30, 2011
30 Franchising: A Job-Creation Machine, Frannet Blog, 04-Oct-2011
31 99 of top 100 markets lose manufacturing jobs, The Business Journals, 10-Nov-2011
33 Private sector loses 4.5M jobs in past four years, The Business Journals, 10-Nov-2011
34 The Toll on Parents When Kids Return Home, The Wall Street Journal, 11-Nov-2011
36 Job cuts rise 13% in 2011, Triangle Business Journal, 30-Nov-2011
37 A Great Time To Be an Entrepreneur? Well..., Portfolio.com, 01-Dec-2011