Roe Conn: Accidental Entrepreneur
By Roe Conn
It wasn't supposed to be this way. I was supposed to graduate from college, don a Mad Men suit complete with skinny tie and trench coat, then trundle off to work for a respectable (bank, firm, conglomerate…). I would stay at that company until fully ripened at the age of 65, when I’d receive my gold Rolex and a hearty congratulations. Then I’d live out my days playing golf and eating dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon.
That’s the way it was supposed to be, but the universe has a way of interrupting plans. On average our parents worked one or two jobs in a lifetime, but now Americans have worked ten different jobs before they turn 40. I have one colleague who claims to have had 50 separate, distinct jobs and he’s only 49. On average, he has changed employers every seven and a half months since college, meaning he’s been FICA’d more than Warren Beatty.
I’m a bit of an aberration. I’ve been at my main job at WLS for 20 years, but I’ve been what is now known as a “gigger” the whole time. Giggers are those who out of financial necessity—or in my case, inability to sleep—work two or more jobs simultaneously. In fact, the trend has been given the almost ludicrous name “gigonomics”—and polls bear out that more and more professionals are joining my club.
It would be easy to blame the current recession for this latest trend in multitasking (with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the number of people working part-time for economic reasons has almost doubled in the past two years), but it really started during the last major downturn almost 20 years ago when American corporations became international corporations and jobs moved offshore. Blue collar, white collar, green, pink, mauve…. Corporations decided that American collars of any color are expensive.
And now that we’ve experienced a superrecession, it’s that much worse. Who among us hasn’t heard a boss say, “We need to do more with less?” And for better or worse, that’s exactly what is happening. Profit margins are at historic highs and per-capita productivity is the best it’s ever been. But the downside of that equation remains: More and more Americans have joined the ranks of the Accidental Entrepreneur (AE). Having told (or been told by) their corporate masters to “shove it,” the new AE is armed with a BlackBerry, a silver laptop and a case of Red Bull.
When we first moved into our house four years ago, it was a house. Now it’s more like an office building. Between the two of us, my wife and I operate three small businesses out of our fourbedroom. Actually, we could probably function without ever leaving our bedroom, but that would just be gross.
My wife’s online handbag consignment operation (bagambition.com) now shares space with the studios for “The Roe Report,” a nationally syndicated daily radio feature, and actually, all the Prada and Chanel serves to dampen the echo in the converted storage space. Our home office, once a desk in the corner where bills were paid and Spider Solitaire played, is now the nerve center controlling online retail operations, broadcast production and even stud scheduling for a Kentucky horsebreeding partnership. And it all happens under the same roof where only our own stud scheduling should occur. But that’s life in what we now call— with all summoned bravery—the new normal.
photograph by antony hare