The recession hit many generations differently, and the baby boomer generation was no exception when it came to losing jobs or finding it difficult to obtain a new one.
While companies cut their bottom line, many times that meant they also had to cut high level, experienced employees, said Buddy Hobart, founder of Solutions 21. With fewer jobs available and retirement looming, Hobart notices many boomers are changing the way they think about job security, life with one company and retirement plans.
This is where “solopreneurs” come in, Hobart said, the owner of the company that seeks to connect and build budding solopreneurs. These are people with a lot of experience in management and project development who work for a company on a project-by-project basis.
“Employers are in desperate need for experience, but not willing to pay for full freight,” Hobart said. “The recession has made them wary of adding a significant number to their bottom line.”
Instead of paying a six-figure salary to an executive, a business can buy the brain power and experience of what the Harvard Business Review is calling a “supertemp.”
“‘You’re too old or too expensive,’ is what they say,” said Mark Hagan, a local “solopreneur” who recently opened his own consulting firm with clients in Gilbert and Chandler. “It’s a lot harder to find that position that we’re used to finding.”
Instead of staying with one company for the entirety of a career, many people are adapting skills to different jobs and using them in project-based “temp” work, Hobart said.
Linda Capcara, the owner of Global Connect Communications in Chandler, who worked 20 years in technology public relations for companies like Motorola and Intel, found that she was out of a job.
“I got laid off by my last employer,” she said. “Within the first year, I had replaced my salary.”
Rather than try to find a similar job at a similar company, she opened her own firm, hoping to utilize her experience in a more broad sense.
“It’s about the realization that this is the time to do something differently,” Hobart said. “Before, I would go from ‘job A’ to ‘job B’ in the same industry. If I was in banking, I’d try to go find another job in banking. The model moving forward is different.”
Mark Hagan, another Phoenix-based “solopreneur” with clients in Gilbert and Chandler, found that the independence was always something he wanted to do.
Hagan now operates a service that helps to grow businesses by mapping out a long-term business plan and advising them on how to set themselves apart.
“I speak geek,” Hagan said. “I’ve found that a lot of businesses don’t (speak geek) when it means getting into the newest social media and marketing strategies. So many businesses want to leverage their technology, many businesses are using these tools, but they’re not always using them in an effective way.”
With technology such as conference calling, video calling, email, websites and social media, there are a lot of new tools that have little or no expense, which are available to even small business owners, Hagan said.
Admittedly, both Hagan and Capcara are baby boomers, a generation that was hit hard when the economy went into the recession.
Generationally, baby boomers grew up in an era when loyalty to a company was valued by both employers and employees, but when bottom lines became increasingly more important, the payroll was generally where companies made cuts, Hobart said.
It’s a generational thing that leaves boomers at a disadvantage, he said.
“Gen X and Gen Y have always focused on continual development; it almost defines them,” Hobart said. “Gen Y is always asking what’s next. And Gen X has always been enhancing skill sets—taking classes, keeping up on technology. Those generations will develop their skills in a supertemp sort of way.”
And while it may seem counterintuitive that being a solopreneur has more job security than a traditional job, that’s exactly what Hobart described.
Rather than having one employer paying a six-figure salary, a solopreneur might have eight to ten projects throughout the year, each paying roughly $20,000 to $30,000 per project, Hobart said. With that pay grade, a solopreneur could make enough money to cover the loss of employee benefits and still save for retirement.
“I can’t really imagine going back to a corporation,” Capcara said. “I enjoy the diversity of the clients and I’m excited about building the firm. I have plans to make a team—full-time marketing and PR team focused on the technology industry.”
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