Last Updated Oct 18, 2011 8:14 PM EDT
There's plenty of survey data and anecdotal evidence to suggest that Gen Y will be a generation of entrepreneurs. Assuming that's true, and I have no reason to doubt it is, you've got to wonder what impact that'll have on their careers, corporate America, and the nation's economy.
Regardless of whether Millennials are doing this out of necessity or choice, the popular opinion seems to be that it's all well and good, a sign that the American Dream is alive and well. Hell, somebody even wrote a book suggesting that Gen Yers should Never Get a Real Job. No kidding.
Maybe we should just change "the land of the free and the home of the brave" to "the land of the entrepreneur and the home of the internet" and get it over with. Too many syllables, I know.
Well, I hate to be a stick in the mud, but I couldn't disagree more with the popular opinion. Not only that, but I think that Generation Y's predilection for entrepreneurship will be bad for their careers, bad for corporate America, and bad for the nation. Here's ...
Why Gen Y Entrepreneurship Will Be a Disaster
1. The question of necessity versus choice is actually an important one. If it's necessity - bad economy, no capital, no jobs - then where's all the capital going to come from to fund all these startups? And who's got the cash to buy all the new products and services all these new entrepreneurs will be creating? That's right, nobody.
2. If, on the other hand, Millennials are turning to entrepreneurship by choice, what impact will that loss of next generation executive talent and leadership have on corporate America? What impact will that have on a nation trying desperately to compete with China and India in a global economy? Not a good one, that's for sure.
3. How about their careers? If you haven't spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs who've spent their entire careers in startups, here's a dose of reality. Sure, they've got great instincts for what their generation wants to see in a video game, but as for management acumen and business savvy, forget it. Where are they going to learn that stuff? Big company experience taught me everything I know about management and leadership.
4. Sure, startups run by entrepreneurs can succeed, but an important ingredient has always been a rich pool of operating managers with big company experience to complement the entrepreneurs' lack of management experience and business savvy. If that talent pool is dry or significantly reduced, that's half the equation for successful ventures, gone with it.
5. Besides the virtual world, Generation Y also has a passion for all things green and sustainable. How do you think that supply will fulfill the demands of a nation of wealthy baby boomers who could care less about video games and whether their cars are gas, electric, or nuclear, but are in desperate need of major advances in medical technology and health care? Not well. Looks like more importing technology and exporting jobs overseas.
6. What we really need to do to get the economy growing again is to figure out how to bring manufacturing jobs back to America. Instead we'll have a workforce that, having been denied those types of jobs, gave up and went their own way. Unfortunately, internet and green businesses only exacerbate our shift to becoming a service nation that outsources all its manufacturing jobs.
7. While small businesses are nearly half the U.S. economy, the vast majority are boring old mom and pop businesses like auto repair shops, gas stations, cleaners, and fast-food franchises. I could be wrong, but how's that unglamorous, hard working, long hours kind of lifestyle going to play out with folks who grew up dreaming about designing video games and futuristic cars that can drive themselves?
8. Startups are indeed the flywheel of corporate America, but for every Google, Facebook, and Twitter, there are hundreds of banking, transport, and consumer goods companies. Who's going to create, manage, and grow the next Walmart, Starbucks, GE, Boeing, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, or Procter & Gamble?
9. The virtual world is one of empowerment and entitlement. Everybody's got a voice, everybody's got a platform, and everybody's a "CEO of one." Well, like it or not, corporate America was built on a foundation of organizational structure, work ethic, and discipline. Sure, flatter organizations where decision-making is in the hands of those closest to the problems and the data are more effective, but only to a point. I've written about what a democratic workplace might be like. It isn't pretty.
10. Finally, my biggest concern: Gen Y entrepreneurship will fuel the mother of all Internet and green tech bubbles. And when those bubbles slam into that brick wall of Baby Boomers who want no part of it, they'll burst like never before. And when that happens, we'll look back at our current sluggish economy, high unemployment, and Occupy Wall Street protests, and realize that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Look, those of you who frequent this blog know I'm not a fear-mongering type. Far from it. But the truth is that I didn't sit down to write this post the way it turned out. For me, it started out as an open question, but the more I thought about it, the more all the factors pointed in the same direction. So be it.
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Image: Andrew Feinberg via Flickr