Hope for an Uncertain Future

I have been giving a speech to business groups on the Future of Small Business for several years.

Up until mid-2008 it was an uplifting talk that examined the remarkable entrepreneurial phase that our economy entered into in the 1980s and looked ahead to a rosy future as the entrepreneurial Millennials took charge of our economic growth. 

After the crash of 2008, I had to scrap the last half of my slide deck.  Entrepreneurial activity slowed to a crawl, and the job engine that was small businesses, sputtered.

Now the second half of my talk looks at what we need to do to help re-energize entrepreneurs rebuild our economy.  I still try to end on a positive note, but it is more of the lifelong entrepreneur in me trying to find some ray of sunshine in a rather bleak set of facts.

Inevitably, I get a question about how hopeless it all seems right now.  This was particularly true this week when I gave the talk on the day we heard inflation was about to rear its ugly head and that Iranian warships were heading into the Suez Canal. 

“How can we expect entrepreneurs to start businesses if the economy does not improve anytime soon, or God forbid, it worsens even more?”

My usual approach to such a question is to try and stress the resiliency of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Quite honestly I feel at this point like I am whistling past a graveyard, but I try to keep a lilt in my voice and keep a stiff upper lip.

Now I have some data that may back up my less than confident optimism.

Bill Hobbs passed along an article about a study with the whimsical title “Another Dollar, Another Day: Enterprise Resilience under Terrorism in Developing Countries”.   The study describes how terrorism conditions may create psychological incentives for entrepreneurs to be more resilient to hardship and to yield more favourable economic payoffs.

Specifically, the findings indicated that younger people and women in particular had the greatest “enterprise resilience.”

So no matter how bleak things get, it looks like it will be the Millennials — the Entrepreneurial Generation — that will pull us out of whatever might be in our future.

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