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This Is Not Your Parent’s Workplace: The Case for Becoming a Small Business Owner

Susan L Reid

Workplaces, and how we view them, have changed dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century.

Particularly in the last 30 years, the complexity of business has grown enormously, making traditional jobs nearly obsolete. With punishing, productivity-sapping expectations and vise-like deadlines the norm, old assumptions about how to work and how to advance are out of date. The old-school work ethic of doing “whatever it takes" to get the job done is a present-day formula for disaster and burnout.

Your Parent’s Workplace

Picture of older businessmanThe old-school work ethic was based on the notion that security, peace of mind, and a steady income came from having a job, being loyal to the company, and maintaining the status quo. Indeed, less than 70 years ago, generations of men and women confidently built their family economic and security systems around this way of thinking. Then, people generally had one job, advanced through the company ranks, and kept that job for life. In return, the company was there for them in good times and in bad.

The Changing Workplace

Today, if you want to work in the traditional workplace, don’t expect the same work environment your parents probably experienced. You need to be ready for a brutal, 80-hour-a-week “extreme” job. You need to accept that your workspace is a little cubical on the third floor, where people driven to excel and win at all costs surround you. It is likely that you will come in early, stay late, and work weekends. And, in the end, there is no guarantee that all this hard work will help you get promoted or keep you from being down-sized.

Today’s Workplace

Picture of business womenToday’s workplace is driven by an information and communications technology that wouldn’t have been considered in previous generations. In addition, it is fueled by a Baby Boomer generation whose dominant characteristic is individualism and supported by Gen Xers who aren’t motivated to do anything unless they find meaning in it. These harbinger trends of our times are, arguably, the most significant factors that have influenced our changing workplace and how we think about work.

Many Baby Boomers, once the stalwarts of the production work force are getting ready to retire, if they haven’t already done so. Education has lost its distinctive power to get you hired. What’s more, experience and long service to the company do not guarantee continued employment.

The Baby Boomer generation knows that as company fortunes rise and fall, jobs are created and destroyed. Security, peace of mind, and benefit packages are casualties of the process. Vastly different from their parents, Baby Boomer workers find themselves in a less stable and predictable work environment, with the length of time spent at each job, whether by choice or otherwise, getting shorter.

For the first time, they are faced with something that their parents never had to consider: how to make ends meet while ensuring a secure retirement and financial future with adequate health coverage. The traditional workplace is gone, and left in its wake is a confused and discouraged workforce wondering about its future.

The Case for Owning Your Own Small Business

Picture of clapping business womenSmall Business ownership is on the rise. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the estimated 25.8 million small businesses in the United States:

  • have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade,
  • employ 50 percent of the country’s private sector workforce,
  • represent 97 percent of all the exporters of goods,
  • and represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.

According to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2005 Report on Women and Entrepreneurship: "Women represent more than 1/3 of all people involved in entrepreneurial activity."

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that “black-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment, up 45 percent between 1997-2002.”

Entrepreneurship among seniors is growing due to jobs disappearing and people taking early retirement. AARP reports that in 2002 "those age 50 comprised 40% of the self-employed.”

Definitely, the trend for going smaller is growing bigger. As large corporations scramble to keep pace with the latest business developments and trends, independent contractors and small business owners are stepping in to fill the gap. Security, peace of mind, and a steady income (once thought only possible by working for a large company) are now being viewed by millions of small business owners as “doable.”

For the individualistic Baby Boomer generation, becoming a small business owner is the mother-load of opportunity. For value-driven, looking-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world Gen Xers, owning a small business is the way to go.

In light of today’s changing workplace, now is a great time to become a small business owner.

Copyright © 2007 by Susan L. Reid

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Copyright ©2007 by Susan L. Reid, DMA

Susan L Reid, DMA, Small Business Start Up Coach, Consultant & Accidental Pren-her™ is the author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success. Known for taking the fear out of starting up businesses, Susan provides value, inspiration and direction to entrepreneurial women starting up and launching small businesses. 

To get your copy of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success, go to WME Books or visit For ideas and start up tips, sign-up for our free e-Zine for entrepreneurial women called LAUNCH YOU! We are blogging at:

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