Editor’s note: Guest author Stephen Martin is an entrepreneur and author. His forthcoming book, The Enterprise of One, is due out next year.
While the economic climate in the United States remains uncertain, economists and pundits alike continue to define our recent fiscal crisis with words like recession, downturn and depression. But labeling America’s current financial woes should not be the focus for Americans as the overall economy struggles to free itself from its malaise. What really matters is how the current circumstances affect you and what they mean to your future.
In his book, The Great Reset, Richard Florida calls periods like the one currently facing the United States “Great Resets.” There have been two such periods before the current one, and both of these earlier downturns changed our culture in profound ways.
We all know the stories of mass unemployment and hardships suffered by American citizens during the Great Depression. But what often becomes lost in these stories is that a reset plays out as a process and not as much as an event. It represents a shift in values, economic tastes and preferences, business structures, and industries. In fact, it is a fundamental change in our culture as a whole. I like to think of it as cleaning out a closet — the world rids itself of old, outdated principles to make way for the new.
Change certainly doesn’t come easy. And these periods are often paved with turmoil. The great resets first refocus people. They bring companies and industries back from years of wandering in the wrong direction. They jar us in ways that open the eyes of the collective nation. Importantly, they also reallocate our resources and time. Much like turning soil, these resets provide fertile ground for new ideas and new ways of doing things. The new systems, values and culture make way for new business leaders and innovations. It is in this cumulative cleansing that we begin to see the one common thread that everyone agrees runs through our country . . . opportunity.
This reset is particularly profound for individuals. And it comes at a time when the tools of commerce are available to everyone. Technological advances now permeate every aspect of our lives, especially in the business world. They empower individuals in ways that directly change the business climate around them. Today, a person’s professional identity is more important than ever. Individual skills, expertise, reputation and authority have become the personal currencies of our economy. And they are the currencies that will lead us into the future.
Technology and the new landscape of enterprise now allow us to take the final strides toward the ideals upon which our country was based. We finally realize the ultimate extension of the founding concepts: the democratization of opportunity.
No longer do background, resources, education, or other former determinants of success control enterprise. Gone is the need to come from the right family, grow up on the right side of the tracks, or have access to the right resources. The opportunities provided by the transformation to an online business landscape, as well as the elimination of many barriers to entry and transaction costs, have left individual strengths, passions and expertise as the only distinguishing factors remaining in an individual’s or business’ success. Who you are as a person, and your expertise and passions, are more important than ever. In fact, they drive your own personal enterprise.
Today, everyone is an Enterprise of One.
In this day and age the next titans of business are more likely to come from your neighborhood than Wall Street. Although this fact alone is enough to inspire would-be business adventurers, another larger story lies beneath the business revolution. It is not as well known, or even completely visible, upon first glance. But those facts belie its importance. In fact, the story beneath today’s business revolution is the future of business and enterprise itself.
It is the story of a new side of entrepreneurism. But, more than that, it is the secret of what lies behind the success of a new breed of entrepreneurs that are turning traditional business and industry models upside down. These new business leaders have strengths, priorities and approaches that are not only different but also at odds with traditional business leaders. You read about them all the time here on TechCrunch. They are more passionate, open and in tune with technology. Through a new set of ideals, they are redefining our world and leading the changes in our culture that will drive our business world for the next 100 years.
These business mavericks live by a new dynamic of success — unique individual strengths, expertise and credibility — fueled by today’s cultural and technological changes. In this new dimension of business lies the secret to success in our transformed world of commerce. Armed with a new viewpoint, and the tools to make a difference, these entrepreneurs run their businesses based on the central principle that once all of the barriers to entry, transaction costs and other hurdles are stripped away by technology and cultural changes, an individual’s strengths and weaknesses are primarily what determine his or her success.
Richard Florida quotes General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, stating that “this economic crisis doesn’t represent a cycle. It represents a reset. It’s an emotional, raw social, economic reset.” Immelt adds that “People who understand that will prosper. Those who don’t will be left behind.”
The new entrepreneurs not only understand this philosophy but are living it. They know that business must be viewed through a new lens. It must be played by a new set of rules: the new rules of entrepreneurism.
Photo credit: Flickr/Jennifer Konig