Gini Dietrich

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs are America’s Future

By: Gini Dietrich | June 25, 2013 | 

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs are America's FutureI don’t know about you, but I have vivid memories of being in school and learning about this great country of ours. We were the leaders. We were the best. And we have the arrogance to go with it.

But along the way, it began to feel like, while the arrogance was still there, we were losing ground in our leadership position.

I remember the first time I traveled outside of the country. I was 24. I remember how excited people were when I said I was an American. They wanted to know everything they could possibly know about what it was like to live in such a great country.

But the next time? It was while the second Bush was in office and people began to blame me for what was happening in the world. As if little old me were responsible for it all by myself.

And this past April it was even worse. No longer do people from other parts of the world want to be like us. No longer is it exciting to be America. In fact, the more you can blend into the country you’re visiting, the better.

America is Losing its Way

That’s why, when Alina Kelly sent me this really interesting article about how America is losing its way, I read it with great fascination.

You see, there are certain things I think everyone should have to do. I think everyone should have to ride a bicycle in traffic before they can get or renew their driver’s license. I think everyone should have to take a toddler out to dinner. And, after reading this article, I think everyone should have to start and run a business, have to figure out how to make payroll, and have to chase money from customers who don’t pay their bills.

Author Niall Ferguson says:

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try—if only once—to start a business. After all, it is small and medium enterprises that are the key to job creation. There is also something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you’ve just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even.

As an academic, I’m just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I’ve started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I’ve learned something surprising: It’s much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers.

When I was in Norway last year, we had a big dinner conversation about how Americans will sue anyone for anything without really thinking about it. That is the perception Europeans have of us: We’re a litigious society.

They’re not wrong.

The Institutions are Killing Us

And we’ve also built a society full of regulation, the ability to protect our homes, and a broken justice system.

Ferguson is suggesting we focus our economic stimulus not on bigger deficits, printing more money, and even more laws and regulation, but on making it easier to do business.

In 2006, the United States was number one on the 2008-2009 Global Competitiveness Index.

Today we’re number seven.

The time it takes to get a business started is 13 percent longer than just four years ago (China improved by 12 percent, in comparison).

It’s not easy, this running a business thing. Some people can’t (because of family obligations) or don’t want to take the risk.

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs to the Rescue

So what if, instead, you worked in an organization where you were empowered to create jobs by being an intrapreneur?

Job creation is the only way to regain our economic status, to build our leadership position, and to continue to innovate.

Without it, the lawyers and lobbyists and people with deep pockets will continue to build infrastructure that makes it impossible for the Davids to compete against the Goliaths. And soon we’ll have a society of the really rich and the really poor.

If the entrepreneurial dream is not your bailiwick, find ways to create new jobs within your organization. If your organization doesn’t allow it, find a new one that does.

The wave of the future – and our country’s leadership – depends on each one of us. Let’s not fail her now.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Um…wow. I love this. And I’m not even American (HALF American!!)

    • ElissaFreeman

      belllindsay Well so am I – half American, that is! Since I started travelling internationally after university, we were all told to ensure Europeans knew we were Canadian – not American.

      • ElissaFreeman belllindsay Heck, *I* started saying I was Canadian.

        • ginidietrich ElissaFreeman belllindsay Wait a second. This isn’t a Canadian blog?

        • JoeCardillo ginidietrich ElissaFreeman belllindsay K, *that* made me laugh out loud. And yes, it is Joe. 😉 #inmyownlittlemind

        • belllindsay JoeCardillo ginidietrich ElissaFreeman Indeed it is =)

      • ElissaFreeman Well I said I was Canadian sometimes because being MOT in some places I was concerned about being less welcome.

        • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes ElissaFreeman We LOVE MOTs up here!! We love everybody!! 😉

        • belllindsay ElissaFreeman 
          I don’t know, used to hear a lot of “Newfie” jokes. 😉

        • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes belllindsay ElissaFreeman We love everybody except Newfies. No. Wait. THEY don’t love US.

    • belllindsay You are the best example of an intrapreneur. I wish more business leaders recognized the employees who have that skill set…it would change A LOT of organizations.

      • ginidietrich I consider that an incredible compliment coming from you Gini – a true *entrepreneur*. I LOVE the concept of the intrapreneur – and highly value your continued support as I throw around insane ideas! LOL

  • MichaelBowers

    Obviously I’m a little biased since this is what I do but it really is about entrepreneurship and job creation. It is the entrepreneurs and those in small businesses that will make economic growth happen. I found a few stats recently that supports this.Between 1993 and 2011 small businesses accounted for 64% of the net new jobs created in the USSmall businesses employ half of the private sector workforce in the United StatesMore than 7.8 million businesses are owned by women.
    The challenge is that government doesn’t recognize this. They either want to support the large corporations that are not creating jobs or they want to bet on the few that may have potential for high growth (if they get a few million in venture capital) and also have the potential for a great flame out. What everyone needs to understand is that is businesses like yours that will make sales, create wealth in the community and add a few jobs, that will stick, that will make a difference. There are 27 million small businesses in America. If each one of these created only one new job we would be in a much different position than we are today.

    • MichaelBowers “The challenge is that government doesn’t recognize this.” Amen. They’re more focused on the people who can help get them elected by donating money. The rest of us are working our butts off to work within the “guidelines” the government and their rich friends create for us. And I don’t say that lightly, as Mr. D makes his living on helping politicians raise money.

      • ginidietrich MichaelBowers”The challenge is that government doesn’t recognize this.” seriously great line. It seems that most tax breaks or incentives are not for smaller business, especially if you have just a few employees.

        • aimeelwest ginidietrich MichaelBowers Completely agree. So many hurdles for small & medium businesses and not enough incentives. Gov’t could do a lot more here. Tax rebates / incentives should be expanded for small & med where there is clear, provable economic value.

  • sherrilynne

    Great post Gini.

  • If you want to have fun with Europeans who tell you that they don’t understand the American fascination with guns ask them if they remember which continent is responsible for two World Wars, the Inquisition and the Crusades.
    They love that. 😉
    One of the most valuable lessons I learned in business was about time. Until I had to start billing for mine I really didn’t appreciate it in the same way.
    But when you truly see and understand the connection you find yourself being more aware of how you spend it and are interested in trying to make sure you use it wisely.
    I think of it sometimes when I am in meeting after meeting. Communication is important, but sometimes you leave the room so you can roll up your sleeves and get to work.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes We were actually just having this very conversation. When you pay attention to where you spend your time, you tend to spend less of it in meetings that amount to nothing.

      • ginidietrich Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I agree with the time – I didn’t pay much attention to it until I had to bill for it. I appreciate other peoples time much more now!

        • yvettepistorio ginidietrich Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes So true. Working in a startup has emphasized this even more to me. There isn’t a second to be wasted.

        • JoeCardillo yvettepistorio ginidietrich Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes This comment just cost you $10.

        • jasonkonopinski ginidietrich Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes But really, it did…

  • Proteinandpumps

    Great post and I hope more people take this seriously.  It’s up to eacho of us to create our own destiny and mold the future!

    • Proteinandpumps  And it’s so much better to be in control of your own destiny!

  • Really great article. I have watched small business do really well and I’ve seen them crumble under the pressure of larger business.

    • aimeelwest Me too, me too. We almost didn’t make it through the Recession. The fact that we did has made me extremely resilient. Now I know I’m in this for the long haul. I wasn’t so convinced before that.

      • ginidietrich nothing like bad times that you able to live through successfully to show you that you can make it for the long haul.

  • I do agree that Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurs are definitely a solid answer for the problems we face as global community as whole.
    The real problem is the leadership of our nation and a broken system.
    Bankers have infiltrated our governing system. It’s all about special interest (bullshit) and greed that’s running the the country.
    Our leaders don’t give care about you – just send them your cash 😮
    You’re a number, a statistic, income for the government to pay their growing debt.
    I have never seen a bigger group of idiots in one place. 
    America is heavily divided; this in not a great foundation or mindset to build anything on.
    You have news channels that blast total garbage and negative crap all day long that is reaching and conditioning the minds of Americans. Scary.
    It’s a broken system that needs fixing; or maybe it can’t be fixed at this point.
    The American dream is no longer exclusive to America. It seems to me many of the people who set out to make their dreams a reality are coming to America from other countries anyhow.
    Americans are getting lazy and squander many of the opportunities they have that others don’t – and have for a long time.
    We are global citizens with a platform to be heard. Entrepreneurs can make a difference because of their mindset/ attitude – and access to global media to spread their message that they didn’t have before.
    The key is to use this new ability to influence people across the globe with the entrepreneur mindset that will inevitably build a better (hopefully) future for all.
    In today’s business world, it’s necessary to be globally minded. It is the future, make no mistake about it.
    America is just another destination on a map today.
    The place to create value, generate ideas, provide solutions & answers and positively impact people lives and their future is on the social web.
    Get enough people behind your mission & vision and you will change the world. 
    We are definitely not in Kansas anymore 😮

    • Mark_Harai So Mark, do you have an opinion on this topic?!? This is great!

      • ginidietrich Mark_Harai Well, it’s all I could think of on the spot; I’m not that passionate about the topic 😮
        BTW, I received my book I won a few days ago – yay!
        I really appreciate it, miss – thank you so much : )

        • Mark_Harai You just got it?! Holy cow.

        • ginidietrich Mark_Harai At least it got here!  I’ve had some things sent here that never made it 😮
          It’s a little backwards here!

  • Point taken about losing our way.
    Here’s the problem as I see it: we are forced to live with two versions of America.
    One says that anyone can make it and any great idea has a chance. 
    The other says the same thing, but quietly holds our heads under water. That version of America is dominated by corporate interest, absurd campaign spending, and might makes right. I don’t have a lot of answers, except that I do know one thing: we have to hold each other accountable and care deeply about the success of those around us. Many of the titans of business don’t know or care about this concept. And when they screw up we should stop bailing them out and saying vapid, contradictory things about “free market capitalism.”

    • JoeCardillo I’m trying to decide how to respond to this because I 1,000 percent agree. It’s the little things like making it easier to start and run businesses on up to the same tax breaks the big guys get.

      • ginidietrich JoeCardillo I’m not anti-business in the least. I’m anti-stupid business. It’s why, and I don’t usually talk politics but what the heck, I don’t believe in party loyalty. I believe in idea loyalty. We should be responsible to great ideas above all else.

        • I cannot love this statement any more JoeCardillo! I hit the “like” button, but it doesn’t feel like enough….

        • TaraGeissinger JoeCardillo Now if I could just find the time to blog about it…. sigh..

  • “Making it easier to do business…” YES. I watched my father’s one-man construction business struggle during the early 80s and my husband’s during the past five years. I love and admire the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners and hope it is never broken in (or by) this country.

    • Word Ninja It’s pretty amazing being in control of your own destiny. Though I need employees to help me realize my business dreams, I hope I give them the opportunity to control their own destinies without all the risk of being the business owner.

      • ginidietrich You are a gem, and a rare in the work world, at least the one I’ve always known. If I don’t eventually move to full-time freelancing, I would do everything I could to find a team like yours.

  • KevinVandever

    I’ve done all three. Scariest by far, for me, was making payroll. So many moments chasing money, trying to keep folks employed, worrying, waiting, sweating, not sleeping, etc. I’ve ridden my bike in traffic many times, been hit (grazed really) by a car, and chased another car on my bike because it almost ran over my daughter. Taking a toddler to dinner? Piece of cake. Raised two daughters. Took them out to dinner as toddlers often because I knew that investment would pay off later. It did. Running a business? That was scary, hard, rewarding, and did I say scary and hard? Now, I find myself in a position as an intrapreneur, which I didn’t realize until I read your post, and that’s kind of cool, too.   I’ve also jumped back into running my own business. I’m starting very small, but I hope to apply the lessons learned from the past so that I can build it the right way, create jobs, and maybe sleep decently. 
    You bring up some other great points in your post and while reading it, I thought about the opening scene to the HBO series Newsroom. It’s eight minutes long, but I think it’s worth watching. If you’re really hurting for time, you can skip over the first two or three minutes, but if you have eight, watch it.

    • KevinVandever I keep hearing about this show. Is it that good?

      • KevinVandever

        ginidietrich yes, it is that good. Plus, the lead actress reminds me of you.

  • Brilliant!! Did you coin this term, Intrapreneur or am I going to google it and be disappointed?

    • TonyBennett You’re going to Google it and be disappointed.

  • Spoken (written) like a true patriot! Well said!

  • Well holy freaking cow, how much do I love this article! I will need to add this one to my Spin Sucks musical line up for sure! I just love when people say the things I want to say but better than I could say them. I feel like I’m maximize my efficiency and impact in the mere fact I keep such good company (which obviously is an entrepreneurial win!)
    I’ve actually been really thinking about this topic a lot lately. I am and always have been the idealistic of the idealists. I accepted that there were dudtastic duds out there, but have always believed that there were more people making good forward motion (in commerce, innovation and mere humanity) than there were duds, but I think lately so many feel so overwhelmed and lost in all the mounds of BS and associate crap that we’ve just sort of stopped striving to live up to our potential and stopped pushing others to do the same. 
    That belief and quest to live up to, and push past our potential (and the opportunity to be able to do so) is what made America great….and what you lay out so well here. 
    Now I need to go sing the national anthem.

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  • I didn’t know there was an official name for it, but thank GOD we have some pretty awesome intrapreneurs on our team! The agony of pouring over bank statements and bills is stressful. (Just did it tonight!) But the flexibility of being able to control my destiny, schedule and income is worth every ounce of stress. I couldn’t even begin to do it without my business partner and our core team though. 
    I lived overseas over a decade ago and the feelings towards Americans were very different then as well. They loved us! I haven’t traveled overseas lately, but I can only imagine what that must feel like to see such a change in sentiment. Disheartening. 
    Americans are FULL of potential — and I tend to agree with LauraPetrolino that we just aren’t living up to it right now.

  • rdopping

    Hey Gini,
    Isn’t part of the problem the global competition for work? 
    The fact that someone in another country can do a large portion of my job at a cost that I can’t compete with is a reality. So, I see it as gaining knowledge and competing in a different and unique way. If I want to create a job for myself or someone as an intrapreneur I need to hustle business better and find a way to beat the globe now. Not just my country or my region.
    Great piece. 
    I am seeing a lot more in research now focussed on the growth of agility in corporate office environments. 
    The notion that technology allows us to work anywhere is, in a way, yesterday’s news but the idea that a company can be nimble and find ways to empower its employees to be more and more creative in order to compete globally is starting to drive how space is configured. For example, agility and supporting different work styles in office space is now a strong focus with many bigger consultancies. Having the tools and ability to focus on problem solving has always been the norm but now we are starting to see space being configured in a way to support the knowledge workers “way of working” and less about sameness. 
    This plays well into the decentralization that is starting to happen in corporate North America (i.e the entre and intrapreneurial attitude). I can only imagine the alignment will continue to grow along with how major corporations will view their business objectives. We simply have to look at the millennial workforce to experience the changing tide in attitude and expectations.

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