Yesterday I gave a piece

by francine Hardaway on October 19, 2004

Yesterday I gave a piece of advice I have given probably four hundred times during my business career. I was sitting opposite a young woman from New York, who had moved here two years ago to live near her widowed mother. The woman had come to me because she was in investor relations, and she wanted advice or leads about a job.

�There aren�t many investor relations jobs in Phoenix,� I told her. This, she had already discovered for herself. �There aren�t many companies large enough to need them, and most of the big ones are privately held. Phoenix is a small business town. You will have to re-think your life if you want to stay here.�

I used to say this to New Yorkers, or Chicagoans, or even Los Angelenos. with embarrassment. How can we be the fifth largest city in the country and lack investor relations jobs? Advertising jobs? PR jobs? Corporate marketing jobs? You name it; we don�t have it like other, even smaller cities do. We don�t have large corporate headquarters; we�re missing �the enterprise.�

Or are we? Yesterday, a brilliantly sunny October day on the patio of Starbucks, I had an epiphany. This is not a loss, or a lack. This is merely a difference. And it might just be a positive difference.

At best, this is a paradigm shift. Perhaps we aren�t �behind� in growing large businesses. Perhaps instead we are �ahead� in growing small, nimble ventures that innovate and create wealth for their owners.

People in Phoenix do manage to make a living. Some of them have sold their homes elsewhere, bought less expensive homes here, and are doing the �Rich Dad, Poor Dad� thing � making their money work for them. Others are starting small privately held, women and minority-owned businesses that afford them a very comfortable lifestyle even though those businesses don�t hit the radar screen of the economic development professionals.

Phoenix has a high percentage of woman-owned businesses. It�s a lot easier to start a business here than it is in New York; personally, I never could have broken through the trappings of business in New York to become an entrepreneur. Indeed, with my Ivy League education my first jobs in New York were � you guessed it � typing!

Phoenix also has a high percentage of real estate investors: people who develop homes and communities for the rest of us. There�s an entire supply chain built around the real estate industry. The Town of Gilbert, a cow town just a few years ago, is the fastest growing city in America.

So what does this mean? It�s real simple. In the last century, we all had to congregate in the factory or the office to get work done. That�s where the copier was, or the lathe, the assembly line or the computer.

In the wireless information economy, it�s different. The stuff we need to do can be done anywhere. We don�t have to build big organizations to get it done, except in certain cases, such as hospitals. The decentralization of work has made the �enterprise� itself obsolete.

This has created an incredible opportunity for people to regain control of their lives � to structure their own time, achieve the vaunted �work-life balance,� be their own boss, exert some creativity about what they do for most of the hours of their lives.

I have come to believe Phoenix, Arizona is a demonstration project for this new paradigm. People have come out here, voting with their feet, and created their own things to do. Phoenix is more than a small business town, it�s an entrepreneurship town.

My new friend from New York didn�t want to go back there, but she had been offered a great job in New Jersey and she was afraid that if she didn�t take it, her �career would be derailed.� That�s a perfect example of old paradigm thinking. EVERYONE�S career is �derailed� at some point, no matter what job they accept. Layoffs are a derailer, as are pregnancies, illnesses, lovers, bankruptcies and moves.

It�s so crazy how people still think jobs with large companies are �safe.� Talk to the people at Motorola, or the people at Delta Airlines. They are all scrambling to make sense of their lives while we, the people of Arizona with our missing enterprises, are sitting on the patio of Starbucks soaking up the sun, our small businesses on devices in our pockets, waiting for our yoga classes to begin.

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