Harvard Business Review has reported that today’s workforce of 17 million independent workers should rise to 23 million by 2017. Those numbers speak of a growing number of full-time employees working as an independent contractors on off hours. Moonlighting, if you will. Why now? What has changed? Perhaps it is based on the recent years of economic turmoil. More workers find the need to supplement their salary to makes ends meet. Or possibly there is a fear of change management resulting in one’s unemployment with no fallback plan. Or is it shear entrepreneurialism with a constant curiosity for growth and challenge?
For me I say yes to all three. I’ve taken the entrepreneurial road as a weary traveler from corporate misfortune. I needed something else in my life that didn’t revolve around impressing the boss. It was time I began to impress myself. And as I take the next step to establish a full-time position back in some part of the corporate world, I think these many months of working on my own have given me an invaluable perspective on business, success and what I am looking for in my next challenge (surely not just a paycheck). The truth is that I am looking for more meaning in my work. The days of punching in and punching out are over. There just isn’t a time in my day or evening that I’m not thinking, rethinking and planning for some way to improve, sustain and perfect what I am doing.
You may think that I have lost perspective and balance in my life. Well I’d have to agree; but there you have it. Single, childless and no hobby leave me seeking fulfillment through friends, family and work. Turns out I’m not alone. People of my generation are seeking more meaning out of their careers…even at the risk of lowered salaries. This shift certainly isn’t how things were when I began working decades ago. It speaks to today’s GenX and GenY workforce. We now have the experience to be in positions of real power and influence. And I hope we are using that power wisely.
I’ve come across an infographic that sums up my position quite succinctly. I would love to know if you agree with it.
I recently had a fascinating conversation with an entrepreneur who has begun to actively reconsider his business model on a new venture he began. To be more to the point, he is really questioning his current customer-base. They are not whom he had expected them to be when he launched so the business is lagging. This entrepreneur switched industries from the one he has found current success. To keep anonymity, let’s just say he was in the hotel industry and now he sells widgets. Stupid example, but you get the picture. He has a passion for widgets, shall we say, always has. So he wanted to take a stab at designing cutting edge widgets that not only attracted a certain consumer-base but pushed the industry forward. Now that is true entrepreneurial spirit, but I digress. Back to the problem; innovation is a tricky venture. All the R&D in the world does not guarantee success when you are creating something new. So it’s not a huge surprise that he missed his expected consumer segment in the beginning. Which basically means he ain’t sellin’ a ton of widgets. (You get that it’s not really widgets, right?)
I am empathetic to his plight, so I want to help. A project. Something to research! I will. But for now consider the magnitude of his dilemma. Reflect on all the thought, mechanics and dollars put into motion on any new venture of innovation. Whether it is a new product line, service offering or widget, they all begin with evaluating today’s (and tomorrow’s) consumers’ wants or needs? Where is the pain? Once identified, you take a leap of faith that you have found a problem for which you can solve and meet a consumer’s expectations. Not only will you hope to meet expectations, you want to improve their existence AND profit from it. With that optimistic glimmer of hope you proceed to develop a business model, build financial forecasting, determine types of lead generation, execute on product development, fulfillment processes and all the other steps it takes to get a product or service or whatever into those consumers’ hands. But after all that hard work – what if you miss the mark? What if your consumer is not whom you expected?