Monday, December 7, 2009

My Job Stimulus Plan: How to Grow a New Army of Ethical Entrepreneurs

With unemployment and underemployment so high, there's a temptation to provide quick fixes for creating jobs. And those may indeed be necessary for political as well as practical reasons, but the most potent approach requires time.

If President Obama were to ask me for recommendations on how to create jobs, #1 on my list would be to grow a new army of ethical entrepreneurs. In this article, I present the blueprint for doing so.

First, the definition:What is an ethical entrepreneur?An ethical entrepreneur:
  • has the antennae to smell out opportunities for ethical, valuable new products and services that could be provided by a company.
  • the power to persuade the boss, investors, the government, or a nonprofit to invest in the creation and dissemination of the product or service.
  • will only start a business that's profitable when considering the triple bottom line of profits, people, and planet. Additionally, it must be a business that will be profitable even though salespeople are ordered to be scrupulously honest: fully disclosing product weaknesses, delivery dates, and extent of post-sales support, and in which salespeople are required to discourage potential customers from buying if the product is inappropriate for that customer.
Why Creating More Entrepreneurs is Crucial
Only entrepreneurs can create permanent jobs because government can only create jobs to the extent of tax revenues, and those come from businesses. Without entrepreneurs, there are no start-ups. Without intrepreneurs (entrepreneurs who work within a company,) large businesses can, at best, grow slowly: selling more of their product as population increases or as the result of marketing efforts.

Increasing the number of ethical entrepreneurs would increase the chances of millions more Americans making a good living, especially those not academically oriented. Today, so many such people struggle to pay the rent, spend so much time looking for their next job and after landing one, living in fear of getting laid off because of a personality dispute, because it's a project job with a built-in end date, or that their job will be shipped to a low-cost country. Instead, a new army of entrepreneurs will be hiring themselves as their own business's CEO or as intrepreneurs within a company, nonprofit, or the government.

Of course, beyond creating jobs, entrepreneurs benefit us all by creating new services and products: from soap to the steam engine, glass to google, anesthetic to automobiles, the icebox to the iPhone, housekeepers to hospice.

Entrepreneurship can foster not only commercial products and services but help us achieve our larger societal goals. The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship's core goal is "to unleash young people's ideas around the issues that matter most to society, from poverty reduction to climate change, and to foster a global culture that recognizes entrepreneurs as drivers of economic and social prosperity. "

How do we encourage the development of a new army ethical entrepreneurs?

Primarily by suffusing the K-16 curriculum with ethical entrepreneurship education. From kindergarten through college, the curriculum would include hands-on opportunities to learn ethical entrepreneurship. They would apply principles of budget, finance, persuasion, ethics (See above,) etc., to create small enterprises, guided not only by the teacher, but by inspiring, ethical entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. (The latter are people who use sound business methods to create non-profit ventures aimed at improving society.

How could entrepreneurship education be fit into an already packed school day? Lengthen the school day and school year, which brings the additional advantage of ameliorating the nation's child care problem. Also, pare elements of the existing curriculum that are less important than entrepreneurship. Could anyone reasonably argue that it's more important that all students know geometric theorems than learn ethical entrepreneurship? Than deciphering Shakespeare's arcane allusions and vocabulary? The intricacies of the periodic table of chemical elements? All those wars from the Peloponnesian to the War of the Roses? The celebration of multiculturalism to which so much time is devoted in today's curriculum?

The K-16 inclusion of ethical entrepreneurship education should be supplemented by out-of-school activities. In that regard, the U.S. could learn some lessons from abroad. For example, a recent issue of The Economist , reports that "According to the British Enterprise Week’s website, Britain has nearly 3,000 events designed to inspire and educate young and aspiring entrepreneurs, from a workshop on “Growing Your Business” in Ipswich to a “Could You Be A Million Maker?” contest in Blackpool, in which school and college students create their own mini-enterprises."

What about adults? Certainly courses in entrepreneurship, already offered by the Small Business Administration, state employment departments, colleges, and by the private sector should be more publicized and expanded as needed. SCORE, an SBA-program that matches aspiring entrepreneurs with retired executives should be expanded. Ethics are too small a component within most such courses. Ethics, as defined earlier, must be made central.

I believe no initiative has greater potential to create jobs, innovation, and, in turn, improve the world than to grow an army of ethical entrepreneurs, and I believe the above model could make it happen.


Frustrated Fed said...

Excellent article. By the way, Best Buy, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, just shipped its accounting department to India. I know because my cousin's wife lost her job.

Anonymous said...

the daily fishwrap had a very nice article on ways to get kids engaged in things they are learning in school - a mentoring program exposing younger adolescents to real-world jobs:

Something I like about the program is that it includes mentoring for actual jobs that real people can land - chef, animator are two specific ones mentioned that caught my eye - as opposed to what some mentoring programs do, which is funnel people toward high-investment careers which many wash out on their way to (brain surgeon, nuclear physicist)

Steve said...

In fact, President Obama is asking for your recommendations on how to create jobs.

I've set up a website to serve as an online jobs forum, and I posted a link to your job stimulus plan as a comment there: So I'll send it along to to make sure they see it. Feel free to elaborate, or post any other ideas you have there!

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Steve.