More Americans, Especially Young, Dissatisfied with Job

What a difference time can make. Seems like last week we were hearing how people were just thankful to be employed. Now a new survey from The Conference Board says that only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Even greater numbers of those under 25 are unhappy with their employment.

Enjoying what they do is common reason that people become entrepreneurs, small business owners, and self-employed. Here is an excerpt from the On Deadline column/blog at USA Today.

Only 45% of American are satisfied with their work, the lowest level ever recorded in 22 years of surveys, the Associated Press reports.

The figure is down from 49% in 2008, says the Conference Board research group, which conducts the survey.

Workers under 25 expressed the most dissatisfaction — about 64% of them saying they are unhappy in their jobs.

That is a pretty large number of young American workers starting their careers in a negative way. One of the key findings was that most workers don’t find their job interesting.

This is another key driver of entrepreneurship: people exploring and pushing their passion for changing  the way that industries, society, and markets function.  Entrepreneurs try to realize a vision of the future; a vision that they have created. That is hard to find in most jobs, let alone entry level ones.

While this is a negative trend for employers and employees, part of me feels this restlessness, and dissatisfaction will lead to the creation of some great new firms.

This will also drive more Americans back to the campus — both those who are unhappy with their employment and those who are charged with making their organizations more satisfying to talent.

3 (or 4) Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Take Cold Showers

Over the past 2 weeks I have been taking nothing but cold showers and have come to believe that entrepreneurs should only take cold showers. Here are the 3 (or 4) reasons why entrepreneurs should take cold showers.

1. Taking cold showers saves time. There is no lolly gagging, singing, or day dreaming while in a cold shower. This saved time allows entrepreneurs to get more done. It also reminds us that time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted in the shower or other places. I would have to say my shower times have dropped from 12-15 minutes to 3-4 minutes. This at least an extra hour a week or 52 hours (2 days) a year.

2. Taking cold showers saves money. Using cold water means my hot water heater works less, lowering my utility bills. This saving on hot water is a reminder to entrepreneurs that we should always be thinking about spending less. There are two sides to the income statement — revenue and cost. As Ben Franklin noted, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

3. Taking cold showers builds character/fortitude — the whole Goethe “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” It reminds the entrepreneur that a strong character is needed if success is going to be achieved. Entrepreneurs will be in uncomfortable situations and be required to do new and awkward things often. While taking a cold shower is really not that difficult, almost no one chooses to do it (so there is clearly discomfort there).

4. Taking cold shower is humbling (for men) as the cold water has an obvious effect on certain male body parts. (See the famous Seinfeld segment for more information if needed.) The point is that entrepreneurs must be humble, constantly aware that we will make mistakes and that we should always be looking to learn from others; the cold shower is a great reminder of this (for male entrepreneurs especially).

So go take a cold shower and grow as an entrepreneur — while shrinking physically (& temporarily) if you are a male entrepreneur.

WSJ On Obama the Entrepreneur and Lessons

Really interesting analysis of the Obama campaign by Bret Swanson at the WSJ. Moreover, the author takes the lessons of Obama’s success and asks the President-Elect to keep these lessons in mind as he prepares his economic policies. From the piece:

The community organizer seemed to realize that new social networking and video technologies were perfect for politics. It didn’t hurt that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes worked for the campaign. “What ultimately transformed the presidential race,” Joshua Green of The Atlantic wrote in June, “was not the money that poured in from Silicon Valley but the technology and the ethos.”

The results of Mr. Obama’s decentralized Web effort were staggering: 8,000 Web-based affinity groups, 50,000 local events, 1.5 million Web volunteers, and 3.1 million donors who contributed almost $700 million. Republicans, Charlie Cook reported on Nov. 3, believe their large but impersonal centralized databases could not match the tacit knowledge, individual initiative and agility of Mr. Obama’s diffuse social networks.

A thought experiment, Mr. President-elect: What if as your campaign raised more and more money it was taxed away and given to Mr. McCain to level the field? Or think of this: What if you were not allowed to opt out of the public financing scheme that left Mr. McCain with a paltry $84 million, about a quarter of your autumn total?

Opting out of monopolistic, closed or centralized systems is often the path to innovation. Sometimes we opt out through the relaxation of regulations. More often, technology allows us to leap, obliterate or ignore the obstacles altogether.

So on education, why doesn’t Mr. Obama take Charles Murray’s advice? Instead of spending ever more billions to send ever more students to get often-meaningless, four-year college degrees, we should disaggregate the higher education market using the Web and skill-specific short courses and accreditation exams.

Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School makes a similar argument for K-12 education, where we mindlessly follow a century-old way of doing business. Get rid of this manufacturing era, “value chain” model — where we take inputs (students), add value (sometimes), and spit them out the other end — in favor of a “user network” model where unique students with distinct learning styles plug in to smart software and tutoring tools that deliver a customized education.

Bad Economy? Launch a Biz!

Found this article about eccentric British Media entrepreneur Felix Dennis in which he states that “the best time to get started is in a recession.”

From the article,

Despite what he anticipates to be his fourth recession—“we are talking ourselves into it”—starting in America, Mr Dennis remains bullish on the land of the free. “For the rest of my lifetime I’m betting on America,” he says, noting the country’s “pervasive aura of optimism”.

One of the reasons now is a great time according to the article is that large and medium sized firms pull back in these environments, trying to conserve and survive. This leaves lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Some Lessons from a Struggling Startup

Found this (h/t blog entry that tells of the trials and tribulation of a startup — — that is struggling. Lets learn something from their difficulties. From the entry,

We did not find the perfect product/market fit.
My original vision, circa 2005, was “to supply web-based, community-run carpool stations to schools, workplaces, and regions in the U.S. and Canada” (i.e. to build a Facebook clone but for carpooling). We would make money off ads exclusively. By the time we finished building our Alpha in 2007, we ran out of resources and realized that we needed to build something different to execute my 2005 vision in 2007/2008: we needed to build a Facebook app, an OpenSocial app, a stand-alone website, and offer enterprise-branded carpool stations with an API. Of course, if you’re bootstrapping you’re going to have to build traction and release these one at a time. The business model would probably change as well. It would be ad-based for app users and membership-based (with no ads) for website users and enterprise users. There’s also the possibility of a token-based economy.

The Power of Positive Thinking: OWN

OWN — The Oprah Winfrey Network! The most powerful women in America (yes, no, maybe?) has inked a deal with Discovery Communications to jointly own the OWN. And you can bet that OWN is meant to tell the world that yes, Oprah OWNs this one. (According to the USA Today article, Oxygen doesn’t represent her voice and that was just a business deal).

Love her or hate her (I alternate between the two), you have to give Oprah credit for believing in herself and her vision (which continually expands) and for going after what she wants. If Oprah didn’t have that positive mental attitude (PMA), then there would be no OWN, or Microsoft or Fed Ex or Berkshire Hathaway.

Top three Oprah Failures (which underscore the size of her confidence)

1. A Million Little Pieces

2. South African Girls School sex abuse

3. Yo-yo dieting

The Power of Cash Flow Management

Found a really amazing story about an entrepreneur of sorts in New Jersey via TiredbutHappy blog. The original story in the Philadelphia Inquirer is here. It really shows the power of conserving cash as a core principle. From the original story.

Paul Navone worked in mills in and around Vineland for 62 years, never earning more than $11 an hour. He buys his clothes in thrift shops. He doesn’t own a phone. And he doesn’t have a TV: The last thing he recalls watching was Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969.

Yet through a combination of frugal living and smart, disciplined investing, the 78-year-old retiree from nearby Millville was able to give $1 million to Cumberland County College last month.

And on Wednesday, at a gala to honor major donors, Navone was recognized for a $1 million gift to St. Augustine College Preparatory School in Richland, Atlantic County.

Time Waster and LOLCats

Found this older column at the WSJ. It is the time waster column by Aaron Rutkoff. It tells the story of an internet site (I Can Has Cheezburger) that grew to huge popularity and eventually profits for the entrepreneur who started the site as a joke. How the site grew is interesting and the analysis of how content evolves on the site is fascinating. Good case on user-created content and the gut feeling of founder Eric Nakagawa, who btw, lives in freakin’ Hawaii. r u kidng?


Business Reality: Steroids, Sports, & Hybrids

I just cruised over to the USA Today Sports section and noticed two headlines. One above the other.

The first states, “Capitals Ovechkin Signs 13 year, $124 million extension” the others states, “MLB, NFL each give $3 million for steroid research.” Need I say more?

Its sometimes hard to know what the market wants. Sure fans don’t want steroids (or to know about them), but they do love home runs. The real question is whether they really, really value ‘clean athletes.’ Judging by the circus of the Mitchell Report and this paltry $3 million (no doubt these will be ‘charitable’ contributions and counted against profits in some way), it appears the owners of major sport teams and their agents (league managers) are going to try to PR this problem rather than solve it.

Reminds me of all the ‘green’ commercials we are now seeing on television. Am I really supposed to believe GM is a leader in alternative methods b/c they are running tons of ad spots. Or that the 12 year old girl in the Hybrid Ford Escape commercial can’t read and never knew her dad’s car was a hybrid? Sorry, but that commercial gets me — and apparently I am not the only one. Watch it here.

Back to the point, the key to entrepreneurship is really knowing if the signals the market gives off are real or not. Do customers really value what they are claiming to value. Those who uncover the demand, the real demand, and fulfill it will achieve great returns. Those who misjudge the noise may be stuck pushing fruitless ad campaigns and buzz word filled press releases, while those who get it will sell product (toyota).