Greensilkmuse's Blog

The Recessionary Entrepreneur

Posted in Business,General Musing by greensilkmuse on June 18, 2010

Small Business Owner, AFLCIO - May 2009

You see them in internet cafes, at networking events, conducting workshops, and writing blogs – they are the new generation of entrepreneurs.  Formerly employed by large corporations, and small firms alike, more seasoned professionals — ages 55+ have joined the ranks of the self-employed. 

While experienced executives who lost jobs as a result of the economic downturn have entered the ranks of the unemployed as “executives in transition”, the protracted job search has caused many of them to take temporary consulting assignments in order to stay professionally active and earn some income. 

For some, contract employment is merely a stepping stone to what they hope will be the next full-time corporate post.  These professionals prefer to be affiliated with a company. They want to take challenging roles where they can have impact.  They prefer to develop and build relationships inside organizations and see the results of their contributions over time. 

For others, job loss has provided the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, though this might not have been something they ever considered while gainfully employed.  They enjoy the autonomy and the flexibility of being on their own.  

What do the stats tell us?

Does it just seem like boomers are hanging out shingles, or is there objective data behind this view?  It may not be all that obvious from the labor statistics. There has been a year-over-year decline in self-employed workers during the recession.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 654,000 fewer self-employed workers in non-agricultural industries (these industries have the majority of the self-employed)  in May 2010 than in May 2007. The self employed population (agricultural and non-agricultural combined) aged 45 and over declined by 109,000 over this period.   However, self-employment for 55 -64 year olds rose since 2007 by 97,000.

And, let’s face it, more boomers are out of work.  According to a BLS report (Issues in Labor Statistics, Summary 10-04/March 2010) the unemployment rate for people aged 55 and over increased sharply since the beginning of the recession and this population is not leaving the labor market.

The self-employment alternative

The unemployed over 55 spend more time searcing for work than others — 35.5 weeks on average.  It’s easy to get discouraged about the propsects of finding a reasonable job,  Across all age groups not in the labor force (i.e, those either not working or not actively looking for work), the number of people not currently looking for work due to discouragement over job prospects increased from 2008 to 2009 by 68%.  So what have all those discouraged job seekers been doing? 

 The authors of a report published in 2003 by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor predicted that when unemployment is high, the necessity  total entrepreneurship activity (NTEA) – those pushed into entrepreneurship because they have no better alternatives, will be high.  This is moderated where unemployment assistance is high and/or by how difficult of easy it is to start a new business. Given the limitations of unemployment insurance and the relative ease of setting up shop (particulalry for those who consult), it ssems the conditions are ripe for entrepreneurial boomers.


Diggin’ Out

Posted in General Musing by greensilkmuse on February 12, 2010

February 9, 2010


There was a team of them working together, shovelling the snow from the sidewalks.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before here.   Sometimes there’s a snow plow; other times just one sole person shovelling.   But here they were — five or six of them — clearing the snow together.  They moved with what seemed like choreographed fluidity.  I almost expected them to drop their shovels together and break out into a hip hop dance.

The snow plows were out in force on the streets as well.  Not the sole snow plow straining to push the heavy mounds aside, but a coordinated team of plows clearing the full stretch of avenue — with some bringing up the rear, clearing what remained.  We all benefit when someone has our back.

I’m interviewing managers as part of a project to understand how they manage the performance of their teams.  So many of them have talked about the importance of teamwork in order to run efficiently.  They want their people to have each other’s back and work together collaboratively — no personal agendas, no one-upmanship, no jealousies.  Just like the maintenance guys shovelling the sidewalks and the plows clearing the streets — collaboration gets results … better and faster.

I’ve noticed quite a bit changing around the neighborhood lately.  Empty stores once inhabited by boutiques turning over to chain stores — a Chipolte here, another Duane Reade there. 

But it isn’t just the corporate chains moving in.  The boutique holding a close out sale isn’t going out of business.  They are moving to new space down the street a couple of blocks.  Actually, quite a few small businesses have moved one or two storefronts over or one or two blocks over to new space.

I’ve also seen remodelling in spaces long empty —  a harbinger of the next new restaurant.   Even the perenially jinxed corner (where no restaurant has ever lasted) appears to have a new tenant.

I believe all these little signs are ones of hope and opportunity.  Things just might be getting better.  Could there be teamwork behind this?  Collaboration?  Trust?  Credit?   All the bailouts and stimulus might finally be trickling down to us — in a real and tangible way.

Maybe this time, if we work together, if we have each other’s back, we can all dig out.

Musing Out Loud

Posted in General Musing by greensilkmuse on January 7, 2010

Thoughts, reflections, ruminations, and inspirations.  Personal?  Yes. But definitely the sorts of things others can relate to and share.  This blog is about learning and growing — personally and professionally.  While the reflections may be personal, the learning is, hopefully, communal.

I had one of those epiphanies this year — you know the kind, the ones that stop you in your tracks and make you really take stock of what the hell you are doing.  I realized that I needed to do some work on myself and that this was no longer a nice to do, but a need to do – for survival.

Like many others during this economy, I am back at the bottom of Maslow’s need hierarchy — ensuring the basic needs are met – food, housing, and clothing.  In order to do that, I need to work at the top of the pyramid — on self-actualization.   What do I mean?  This says it better than I could do: 

About Self-actualization

If you were hiring a consultant, isn’t this what you’d want that person to be?  Sure, you’d want someone with the expertise and experience that you don’t have yourself in order to get the job done.  But who wants to work with someone who isn’t growing and giving you the benefit of that growth?   To be that someone means taking risks, pushing the envelope, reflecting, drawing insights, and continually learning. 

The kind of work I do is intellectually challenging.  I analyze information, research, plan, design, and facilitate.  Those are great qualities.  However, it takes more than that to be successful in business development, coaching, group interactions, and….parenting.   (I am also a divorced mom of two teenagers.) 

It takes relationships.   I used to think that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” was a very political, manipulative perspective on life.  I thought that it meant that substance didn’t matter.  I’ve learned that I had a narrow interpretation of this phrase and that this interpretation did not serve me well at all.  I have since come to understand that your relationships with others are essential for success in life.  They are what determine whether others will let you in to work with them, to give them advice, and to learn from them.  In the business environment, under stress, with deadlines and deliverables, this very important human element can be overlooked.  

So, I’m working to hold back that drive towards results a bit, and really see the unspoken in others and in myself– the fear, the distrust, the confusion, the resistance, and to acknowledge its presence and address it.  I am working on directing less and engaging more.  And that takes a willingness to try different ways of being and lots of practice.  Knowing what to do is a start. But actually doing – thinking differently and behaving differently is a journey.  Writing about it helps to process the experience. You’re invited  to come along for the ride.