The Entrepreneurship Meritocracy

For those of us who compete in the entrepreneurship meritocracy, listening to the complaints of those who are employed can sometimes be irksome.

I recently sat at an open table for an event. One of the other guests there was a schoolteacher. A single compliment about the importance of her profession was enough to open the floodgates of compensation complaints. She immediately shifted into a well-practiced speech about how teachers aren’t paid enough, and why people should be happy to pay higher taxes to get better teachers.

I think people might be willing to make that trade, but with the protection of collective bargaining and tenure, increased salaries would only mean that we have the same teachers at higher pay. I don’t see how the outcome would change very much.

As a business owner, I always want to jump into those conversations by suggesting that the complainer go into business for himself or herself. Of course, there is no guarantee of retirement benefits, job security, paid time off or even a regular paycheck. Once you choose the entrepreneurship meritocracy, you are on your own.

super-businesswomanBeing a business owner carries the red badge of courage. Friends and family (unless they too are entrepreneurs) are in a little bit of awe. You hear the comments at large gathering; “That’s Martha’s daughter Amanda. She owns her own business, you know. Who would have predicted that?”

Of course, they have a slightly skewed vision of your role. You own the business, so you come and go as you please. You hold the checkbook, so you can pay yourself whatever wages you wish. Best of all, you can assign anything you don’t like to do to an employee. What could be better?

Choosing the Entrepreneurship Meritocracy.

You have control of your life. That is, unless a customer makes unreasonable demands, a vendor fails to supply as promised, or an employee doesn’t show up for a critical task. Other than that, it’s the life of Riley.

If a new business owner makes it through the gauntlet of competition, changing markets and plain old bad luck, he or she might wind up with an enviable lifestyle. That presumably compensates for any number of 16-hour days, 7-day weeks, years without a vacation and sleepless nights along the way.

I support better pay for good teachers. For that matter, I also think that policemen, firefighters, soldiers and sailors deserve more. However, they all picked careers with well defined benefits and compensation. They knew the game and all of the rules on the day they started.

I think I’ll try sitting at a table of strangers and saying, “I’m a business owner. You know, I don’t make nearly enough for the work I put in. There are a lot more challenges than I could have ever anticipated. Everyone should be willing to pay higher prices for my goods and services so that I can live a better lifestyle.”

I doubt I’d garner much in the way of sympathy. After all, every one of us chose the entrepreneurship meritocracy, and others rightfully expect us to live with the results.

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5 Responses to The Entrepreneurship Meritocracy

  1. Ray Cha says:

    Thanks John … always thought provoking.

  2. Doug Roof says:

    John,
    You always stimulate my thinking about my own business and career, as well as about the business owner clients I’ve known over the years. In this case, you flushed out an idea that is not unique, but probably underutilized across this country. There is much to be gained in understanding by having a mechanism whereby the entreprenuer can spend a day in the classroom with the teacher and, less often offered, the opportunity for the teacher to spend a day in the business with the entrepreneur. A widespread use of this practice might result in creative ideas for incremental improvements to our education system, as well as creative ideas for incremental improvements to the cultures of small businesses.

  3. John,
    Well said and I share your views. Living here in California I hear the same conversations and sometimes want to jump up and scream. I appreciate the article.

  4. Ron B. says:

    Another excellent article, John. You should consider publishing a compilation of these articles, and perhaps a subscription that yearly would provide updates, like “pocket parts” for legal publications. They are indeed thought provoking and succinct with each one providing a memorable “take away.” Thank you.

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