A Corporation of One

A job defines us. I know mine defines me.

Sometimes that can run right by us. I think about folks who worked making buggy whips or carburetors or the Polaroid camera. I think of the hundreds of thousands of people at Kodak that had their world changed over the past decade, well before the company declared bankruptcy last year.

For better or worse, this is an example of “creative destruction.” Popularized by an Austrian economist named Joseph Schumpeter, “creative destruction” is as simple as it sounds.

The film camera is replaced by digital cameras. New technologies replace old technologies; and eventually become the next old technologies. There are constant technology processes and systems that are recreating themselves over and over again.

What does this mean for us?

Almost a decade ago a friend of mine – age fifty, working in middle management in a nice paying job – ran straight into this. His company downsizes and his job is outsourced.

He wanted to work until he was sixty. When I sat down with him I said “Look, you are going to get probably four, five, six jobs over the next ten years. They’re going to be project jobs. You are going to get hired at places, but basically they just want you for a period of time, maybe twelve to eighteen months.”

That is exactly what happened. It’s the way of the world today. For many, it’s a drastic change.

You may be wondering: How do I approach this new world?

I really love the Hollywood model. I’m not saying I love everything about Hollywood, but I do believe the project model works well.

When they put a film together or they have a project, they look for the right director, the right producers, the right actors, the right cinematographers, etc. This group comes together usually for 12 to 24 months. Then they break apart and they reassemble in other projects. It’s been that way for a long time.

Each of these players is a corporation of one.

As a corporation of one, you are out there in the workplace. You’re building your skill sets up. You are doing lifelong learning.

You are looking at what value you can give to the world, so the world will give value back to you. They’ll pay you for your wisdom, for your vision, for your services and your skills, whatever they happen to be.

It’s a different mindset for how you face the workplace. If you’re having some difficult time with this, try giving yourself a 20-10 test. It’s a test that was put out in Good to Great by Jim Collins.

The 20-10 test has two questions. I’m paraphrasing, but the first question is: If you inherited $20 million, what would you do differently with the rest of your life?

The second one; I want you to particularly think about this. It goes: If you knew that you only had ten years to live, what would you do differently? For this particular discussion, what would you do differently with work? Quitting is not an option.

I would guess, and statistics prove this out, that many of you would basically change your job completely because it is not what you really want to do.

That requires you to take action. It requires you to look at where you are and ask “Am I selling buggy whips? Am I in carburetors or at Polaroid? Do I have to make changes going forward and what are the skills that I need to do this?”

Transitions where you lose a job or recognize the job is not in your company’s long-term plans and move on to job after job is truly difficult. It has been going on now for a good twenty years and will likely continue. Possibly it becomes the permanent way of work life.

To manage this, I believe that you have to keep thinking of yourself as a corporation of one. Figure out what is your set of skills that you bring to the world, so that then the world will pay you.

There are plenty of people already thinking this way.

I was amazed to here that there are 3.7 million people now on Six hundred different specialties, anything from nuclear physics to writers and everything in between. These folks are making their living because of the unique skills that they have. That’s 3.7 million corporations of one.

It’s mind-boggling and at the same time encouraging.

It can all be overwhelming. We see this from time to time with our clients and have helped a lot of folks get their arms around their whole situation, both work and financial.

If you are in one of these situations where you’re looking at what it means to you, give us a call at 800-480-7913. We’d love to hear from you.


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