Wall St. & Business Wednesdays: Laid-Off Vs. New Blood: Climate Of Downsizing Sets Up 12-Round Bout For Entrepreneurs by Deon Hampton
Ten years ago, the 20-something crowd ruled the ring when it came to entrepreneurship.
But in recent years, a new wave of entrepreneurs called Corporate America Veterans and Beyond, or CAVs, has crept into the squared circle.
In this new-aged and revolutionized tale of the tape, a classic boxing match ensues.
In one corner, recently laid-off or fired employees, who have spent 15 to 20 years working in a corporate environment, but plan on being successful entrepreneurs.
In the second are the young, energetic mid-20s crowd with a variety of new ideas who loves thinking outside the box, and they to plan to be successful entrepreneurs.
Can Fort Collins handle this 12-round bout, which is promptly called "In with the old/Out with the new"? We'll get back to that.
Round one finds corporations outsourcing and downsizing, thus making middle-aged employees look for work.
Among the challenges: age discrimination and finding salaries and health benefits similar to past jobs.
To compensate, CAVs overcome those obstacles by using their work history to their advantage, as a means to live.
"Young entrepreneurs have a lot of energy and gusto, but people who are over the age of 40 are getting the entrepreneur bug. They have experience and know where to go for community resources," said Scott Hapner, membership account executive at the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce.
But as the corporate "vets" take swings and bites out of the entrepreneurship pie, this may force younger entrepreneurs to take a back seat or throw punches themselves.
As the title fight for entrepreneurial supremacy moves ahead, both sides struggle.
Brad Koenig, owner of Ryan Engine Exchange Inc. said this creates more competitiveness among entrepreneurs.
Many times older people can't get back into the workforce and sometimes companies think they can't train them because they are set in their ways, he said.
"Veteran workers who strive on becoming entrepreneurs are making the field very competitive," said Brian Geselbracht, a junior business major at CSU.
After being laid off from a public relations technology firm following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist's attacks, Brad Shannon started Shannon Marketing Communications.
As the principal, he tries to find a niche in the entrepreneurial field.
"Business was already slow, but the attacks were the straw that broke the camel's back," said Shannon. "Everyone in the Front Range was laying off."
Dennis Cole, the career advisor for the College of Business at CSU, was a part of this trend that he first noticed in 1998.
"That's when larger companies in the region began letting people in corporate America go. In some cases it was early retirement, in others, people were just fired," Cole said.
Cole himself was handed a package and excused from Hewlett-Packard after 13 years.
He and some business partners then put on some sparing gloves and started consulting businesses in 2002, but they didn't make enough clientele.
Cole continues to run a nonprofit organization.
Having a great knowledge of corporate America doesn't necessarily translate into success, Cole said.
James DeShayes, owner of Colorado Business Exchange at 19 Old Town Square, doesn't think the new-aged entrepreneurs will affect the young entrepreneurs because businesses always are being bought.
Many of his clients are "corporate castaways," but they didn't become entrepreneurs. Instead many who wisely saved their money over the years invested their life savings into buying whole businesses.
"This is different from entrepreneurship. People are buying someone else's success and investing in it. It's not starting from scratch," DeShayes said.
"I've seen people with MBAs not be successful as entrepreneurs. But I think this trend will continue. Students need to go to school and work for a couple of years to gather knowledge about entrepreneurship," said Cole.
There's a little intimidation from older entrepreneurs, said Dean Moretti, a CSU business major.
In round twelve, the knockout remains to be seen.
As the world of economics turns, there's enough pieces for the CAVs and young entrepreneurs.
As CAVs attempt to get their piece of the pie, many young entrepreneurs will get real-life work experience.
As the CAVs retire, the young entrepreneurs will take their place, becoming the new CAVs and warning younger entrepreneurs about contending.
The final scorecard reads: draw.
The author, Deon Hampton, can be reached at DeonHampton@coloradoan.com. This article appears in The Coloradoan.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006