Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies, noted in a 1993 column titled “A Return to Self Reliance” that self-employment is not a new concept in the United States.
Peters wrote that 50 percent of Americans were self-employed in 1900 but that by 1977 the figure had dropped as low as 7 percent. By the time Peters wrote his article, the figure had gained a little ground, hovering at 13 percent.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (2009 statistics), we are now back to a point where roughly half of those employed in the United States own or work for small businesses.
Most Americans understand this. A paper written by David Blanchflower, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, said that 70.8 percent of Americans preferred to be self-employed as opposed to being an employee. In other countries such as Japan, France, and Great Britain, the number is closer to 40 percent.
If Americans like the idea of self-employment and know it presents the greatest opportunity for growth, what is stopping some of them from taking the plunge?
Many factors. Most obvious are lack of capital, education, skill sets, investors, and opportunity. People who are working double shifts at their existing jobs don’t have time to start a business. Others do not handle money or free time well.
People often come to me when they are thinking about self-employment. I ask three essential questions, the answers to which tell me more than reams of data or business plans.
1. Are you cut out to be self-employed?
2. Do you have a dream you are working toward?
3. If you have a good job, should you leave it?
Are you really cut out to be self-employed?
Few people are suited to be their own bosses. Most people want a regular work routine. Their lives are based on forty-hour work weeks and steady paychecks. When people tell me they want to start their own business, I ask them whether they can really live without regular income.
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