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Posted: June 22, 2011

Building a rapid job-creation engine

Is there such a thing as a "forever" job?

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the first of two parts.)

Two hundred years ago, the most stable jobs involved the needs of a community and the work of a skilled craftsman to meet those needs. People holding jobs such as cobblers, blacksmiths, chandlers, and butchers found themselves in high demand.

But those jobs hold very little relevance in today's world. So is there such a thing as a "forever" job, a position that will endure forever through time? Will we always need policemen, firemen, teachers, farmers, doctors, and nurses, or is it possible that those professions will also go away?

So if we start with the premise that there are no such thing as a forever job, that all jobs will eventually fade into the sunset, we must assume new jobs will be needed to take their place. And with the pace of life constantly speeding up, we must also consider the possibility that jobs will disappear far faster in the future than they do today.

If that is the case, we will need a job-creation engine that can equally match or exceed the rate of job decay.
In the future, people will worry far less about how safe their current job is and far more about where there next job will be coming from.
For this reason I would like to suggest a four-part approach for systematizing a rapid job-creation engine.

Putting it in PerspectiveA recent survey conducted by the Women Impacting Public Policy organization concluded that small businesses will account for 93 percent of all hiring this year. At the same time, money needed for hiring and business expansion has become increasingly hard to get. A recent New York Times survey showed that in the third quarter of 2010, only five percent of small businesses even bothered applying for a loan.

As presidential politics moves into full gear the demand for new jobs will the battle cry heard throughout the country. When you listen to the banter, it's important to note that the same laws that were devised to protect workers in the past are the same laws that are now preventing companies from hiring in the future.

Hiring people today is a complicated process encumbered with layer upon layer of rules and regulations, and for the company, a seemingly never ending stream of financial obligations. The average U.S. job comes with over $10,000 in hidden obligations that workers generally never see.
My intent, however, is not to assign blame for things done poorly in the past.

Rather, the forces of change are demanding new approaches.

From a job-seekers perspective it's hard to understand, but companies have an obligation to hire the fewest number of people they can get away with. They have made commitments to their shareholders, current staff, and customer base, and these commitments form the boundaries around which the business makes its current decisions.

Any company's first order of business is to survive, and because of this they have very little latitude for risk-taking. For this reason, the vast majority of all risk-taking in business happens inside the small and early stage companies. They simply have less to lose.

The obvious question to ask is how to channel funding and resources to the risk-takers, and do it in a way that makes sense both for the loaners and the loanees. As automation and technology continues to eat away at our current job-base, the discussion will change from "do we need to make a change?" to "how quickly can we make it happen?"

The risk of doing nothing will soon outweigh even the high risks of investing in startup businesses. So here is the 4-part approach I would like to propose:

Part One - Create a Standard for the Minimal Fundable Enterprise

In case you hadn't gotten the memo, there are no ready sources of money for startup ventures. Yes, it may be possible to find private investors or talk family and friends into making an investment, but the time and opportunity costs of obtaining this money puts it out of reach of all but a fractional percentage of startups.

This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with a particular new business model. Rather, the process is so ill-defined and so non-systematized that few can pilot their way through to launching a functional startup. The fact remains, when there is no money for the new kids on the block, the advantage goes to the incumbents, and the incumbents aren't hiring.

So how can we change this?

I would like to propose the idea of establishing a baseline for the "minimal fundable enterprise." To achieve this status, an aspiring startup will need to orient their thinking around five basic proofs:

1. Proof of domain expertise. A demonstrable understanding of an existing industry, market, technology, and their customers.
2. Proof of concept. A functional working prototype of the product or service being offered.
3. Proof of sales. Completion of at least a small number of sales to prove that customers are willing to pay for the product.
4. Proof of market. Understanding the size and nature of a future market is critical to a startup. Who are the decision-makers, how many of them are there, and what are the logistics of reaching them?
5. Proof of scalability. Businesses are based on repeatable processes that can be scaled to greater levels over time. This may involve a range of scalable elements from process scaling to team-building capabilities.

With this kind of criteria in place, early stage companies will be able to focus their efforts around achievable targets and better align themselves with funding requirements.

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Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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