Who Will Lead the Job Growth?



Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank said last week:  “I don’t know where the growth will come from but there will be growth” in the Michigan economy in 2010.  He suggested where the new jobs will not come – manufacturing.  He noted that auto manufacturing jobs have gone from 6.9% of Michigan’s non-farm jobs at the beginning of this decade to only 2.9%.*  Wow!  Could you have imagined – less then 3% of Michigan’s jobs are auto-related?  And that percentage will likely shrink with more layoffs in the year ahead.   So, especially to my Michigan friends, but all are welcome to answer, here’s a twist on Dana’s query:  “We don’t know where the growth in jobs will come from.  Will it come from . . . you?” 


What’s stopping you?  In a world where it’s easier than ever to invent, find customers, and keep overhead costs to the barest of minimums, what keeps you from employing yourself – and maybe others?  It seems like a time for us all to ask that.  Here are three questions that will give you (and help me get) a picture of the degree to which you think about starting your own business, the obstacles in your way, and then the way your own doubts may undermine your progress.   Once you finish the survey it will automatically take you to the results page.


I’m looking for a spirited discussion this week –there was a great one last week! – on how we adults in this country become more entrepreneurial and the ways in which we overcome our inner uncertainties to move ahead.  Hit the comments button at the bottom right to share your experience and your ideas.


What do you think?  Do you need to get way more proactive to


Lead with your best self?





See Katherine Yung’s Free Press report of economist Johnson’s report here:  http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009906060456

  • Not everyone has the temperament to start a business. It’s not a failure of the person; it’s simply a matter of not having that particular kind of personality. It requires motivation, risk-taking, a certain world-outlook, learning style, as well as skills for self-employment and business ownership. It takes a combination of comfort with uncertainty, willingness to fail and start again, leadership and management, plus all of the basic business skills of R&D, product development, accounting, marketing, sales, team building, collaboration, etc. Yes, one can learn much of this in school, from others and from trial-and-error, but it takes someone who can learn in this way; who can learn from mistakes with little feedback from others and can pick oneself up and keep going. It takes a very high level of determination and perseverance and not everyone has these qualities. I think most people who have these qualities develop them in kindergarten (or before). Many, maybe the vast majority of people, need and want to work for others. Our economy needs and wants these people, too.

  • In late 2007 a group of us started Level One Bank in Farmington HIlls Michigan. Many of us came from life long banking careers in large financial institutions. The changes in our industry have created substantial opportunities for entreprenuers. In any start up business it takes vision,determination, experience, perseverence, a great team, and capital. It is an excititng and liberating experience to take control of you destiny in building a successful new company. More of us have the capibilities than you think. I encourage other to consider the opportunities to start new businesses in Michigan.

  • Perhaps, much new work will be done by people in “the underground economy…..”

    The current recession, which is pressuring companies to cut labor costs, could intensify by pushing companies to ditch expensive formal workers in favor of cheaper part-time employees without benefits. Many laid-off workers may never be re-absorbed by the formal economy, as companies grow more accustomed to the flexibility of their informal counterparts.

    “The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” Ronald Reagan

    Economists have long thought the underground economy–the vast, unregulated market encompassing everything from street vendors to unlicensed cab drivers–was bad news for the world economy. Now, it’s taking on a new role as one of the last safe havens in a darkening financial climate, forcing analysts to rethink their views.

    “Dramatic change often comes as a response to imminent collapse.” Tom Peters

    As many as 52 million people could lose their jobs from the economic crisis worldwide, says the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations. Without the informal sector, many of them will have nowhere to go.

    Informal jobs “will absorb a lot of people and offer them a source of income” over the next year, says W.F. Maloney, an economist at the World Bank in Washington.

    Source: The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2009

  • I’m inclined to agree with EVERYONE this morning. (Like sitting on a multi-sided fence, right?) There’s plenty of opportunity not only for entreprenuers, but for all of Michigan, because of those willing to take risks. And I agree with Stephen Gill’s assertion that not everyone has the basic personality to do that.

    One example of differences in personality style is found in the world of Twitter. As you can see, Dan (a leader and a risk-taker) has dived head-first in the Twitter world. However, not everyone has latched on to that new communication technology. There are, after all, three groups of people in this world. The first is the Twitterers, or those that Twitter (or Tweet, to use the tech jargon). The second is the Twitterees, or those who, perhaps while not Twitterers or Tweeters themselves, are the happy recipients of others who Twit or Tweet (this latter phrase not to be confused with what children say on Halloween). But there’s the last of the three groups: those who are neither Twitterers nor Twitterees. Unfortunately, I’m among this last group of people. These people are, for all intents and purposes, illtwitterate. While we may be considered leaders, even among our peers, we don’t push that communications envelope (which, back in my day, used to be called a “letter”).

    Sorry … a great topic today, but I thought I’d inject a little humor on this rainy Monday. Rainy days and Mondays … never mind.

  • Perhaps it is a matter of personal sensitivity to much of the media discussion about this subject, but I wonder about the following statistic….

    “He (Dana Johnson) noted that auto manufacturing jobs have gone from 6.9% of Michigan’s non-farm jobs at the beginning of this decade to only 2.9%.* Wow! Could you have imagined – less then 3% of Michigan’s jobs are auto-related?”

    I don’t have the statistics on this, but I wonder if there is a bit of a jump happening here. Does referring to “auto manufacturing jobs” mean to only include the UAW and other non-union workers who do the work of building parts and assembling vehicles?

    I bring this up because there seems to me to have been a particular bias in media coverage to talk about the sacrifices and lay-offs that the UAW and other non-union manufacturing laborers are making in the current changes that are happening in the automotive business right now. These “workers” are always balanced against the company “management” who are driving these cuts and trying to lead these companies to success in these challenging times.

    Who is often left out of this conversation are those of us who went to college, educated ourselves in engineering, finance, and business who are also working for these companies in research, product development and many other functions that support a company’s operations. We are also making sacrifices but are not talked about as “workers’ and are definitely not part of the company’s “management.” In my case as an engineer, that sacrifice was being severed from GM. Although in my case, leaving GM was my own choice, I know many for whom it was not and are now having to find jobs elsewhere, mostly outside the automotive business. I wonder if the statistic quoted has once again “forgotten” these jobs as being “auto-related” because they don’t reside at a plant.

    To get my comment on topic with this post, many of these people do not have the background, skills, and experience to make successful entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is not as simple as opening a storefront (brick-and-mortar or virtual) and getting to work and start hiring people. As Mr. Gill points out, it requires certain personality strengths and a different set of skills than what many people have used in their previous jobs or entire career up to this point. Although there are some great support networks in Michigan for this, in general, there are few opportunities for people to get the practical skills and knowledge (not just an academic education) needed to start their own company.

    To suggest that is “easier than ever” to manage several aspects of a new business may be true. I appreciate that Mr. Mulhern is trying to spark thought and discussion on this topic and challenge people to make an honest assessment about themselves. However, that does not mean that starting a business is easy for everyone to do or in any way less risky than it has ever been.

  • One obstacle to starting a new business today is the state of the economy, and timing your business to come in not to early or too late given the goods and or services it offers. I would survey what a person thinks of the economy and whether they think it is presently an obstacle or not.

    Michael Lewis, author of “Liars Poker” was on GPS, a CNN show with Fareed Zakaria. I would qualify Lewis as a Wall Street insider, even though he may not be employed there today. Lewis sees the government “stress tests” for the big banks as being flawed. Assets and risks were not correctly evaluated, or maybe missed, so Lewis thinks we are not past the worst of economic cycle. Rather than the general view that we are past the bottom, he sees further surprises on the downside.

    But not all businesses depend on a vibrant banking/ investment industry. Mark John Hunter – Alpena.

  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health have released a new poll showing overwhelming support by Americans for investment in prevention. The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies, found that more than three quarters (76 percent) of Americans believe that the level of funding for prevention should be increased. A 53 percent majority feel strongly that we should invest more in prevention and, strikingly, while a vast majority believe that prevention will save money, more than seven in 10 support an investment in prevention regardless of whether or not it will save money.
    “This poll shows that Americans from coast to coast and across the political spectrum are overwhelmingly in favor of investing in disease prevention,” said Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “More than three-quarters of Americans believe the country should invest more in keeping people healthier, and by a nearly 4-to-1 ratio, they support putting more emphasis on preventing disease rather than treating people after they become sick.”
    “We know that strategic investments in disease prevention programs in communities can result in a big payoff in a short time—reducing health care costs, increasing the productivity of the nation’s workforce, and helping people lead healthier lives,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
    American health care has focused on treating people after they become sick instead of helping them to prevent diseases and promote health in the beginning. There is a clear trend that American health care will shift from a sick care system to preventive care system in the coming decade.
    For the last ten years, Asian Center has promoted Energy Therapies for self care to prevent diseases and promote health. There is a great need to train the qualified trainers for this mission. Many new jobs will be created through this preventive care system

  • Since ideas are cheap and I’m full of ’em, let me generate a few to see if others are inspired to pick up and run with them. Maybe the growth will be in building and sustaining the infrastructure for rapid, affordable inter-city and intra-county transit, since more and more people can’t afford cars, gas, and insurance and maintenance on the cars. For the same reasons, maybe it will be in building and sustaining bicycle paths, and stores to sell and maintain the bicycles. Maybe the growth will be in seeds, as more people grow their own vegetables. Maybe it will be in chickens, as more people grow their own chickens and eggs. Everyone seems to think there’s a future in wind turbine power generation, and sustaining that. All it takes is the will to do it, and the energy, skills, knowledge, and vision to do it better than anyone else.

  • Dan,

    I appreciate the spirit behind your question: “In a world where it’s easier than ever to invent, find customers, and keep overhead costs to the barest of minimums, what keeps you from employing yourself – and maybe others?” However, I have to take issue with the word: easier.

    Despite all the communication and design tools available to us, designed to simplify the process of moving an idea to an invention and into a customer’s outstretched arms, the process has never been an easy one, both because of the hard work involved and because of the noise levels.

    Invention requires a heady dose of inspiration (10%?), but most of all requires perspiration — backed by passion that makes up the other 90%. That kind of investment can be time-consuming and more than a little frightening to someone who, accustomed to a regular paycheck, is living on unemployment, savings, grit, and determination. So, fear and/or lack of passion may hinder invention.

    Reaching customers truly is easy, what with all the social networking and electronic communications tools available. However, getting their attention and holding it long enough to connect and close a sale is incredibly difficult because of Internet “noise.” At one time, overcoming this noise required what was called the “Madonna effect.” A wildly successful entrepreneur, Madonna reinvents herself constantly and outrageously, so that the mention of her name attracts attention. She is able to cut through the noise by always being more outrageous than the next person. Few can be at the top, and the rest paddle about in the sea of noise below.

    On a daily basis, I now process more new information in a single day than my great grandparents may have processed in their lifetimes. Within that onslaught, that conflagration of information, how do I position my message so that it comes through? That is the tough question.

    Currently, the solution of choice is to whisper. Find something that your community needs and provide it. Then whisper in a friend’s ear, and ask him or her to whisper in another’s, etc. I believe it is called viral marketing and has met with some success. I used it in fund raising and it can be a valuable tool. However, it is difficult to track — at least initially — and adds a new level of uncertainty and fear to the mixture.

    So, what keeps us from employing ourselves and others? I vote for fear and uncertainty, fueled by an economy currently steeped in fear and uncertainty. I believe it takes a special kind of entrepreneur to venture out on those choppy waters, in a paper boat with Internet sails, awash in a sea of red ink. Who knows, Captains Courageous — one and all — we all may be forced by necessity to take ship, haul anchor, and sail away!


  • Dan,

    I’ve been blessed, and cursed, with the entrepenureal ‘spirit’ going way back…to my youth. I recognized a need, offered a service, was rewarded, and it liberated me from my parent’s unwillingness to provide an ‘allowance’.

    John Agnos quote of Ronald Reagan hits home….well, almost. In my adulthood, my entrepenureal prowess never ever ever embraced the notion that if my business was stagnated, I’d look to the government to subsidize it. That mentality has gotten our farming industry in a pickle. We, through lobbyists hired by Kraft (one of Pelosi’s big stock holding portfolio) as just one mega-agri business, gets subsidies for corn and soy production. Corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated soybean oils, are the bane of the American diet. Can one say obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.? 🙁 Douglas Chung talked about prevention….this would be a great place to start looking long and hard…..eliminating mega-agri subsidies, and if subsidies must go on, give them to the LOCAL FARMER who produces organic foods and sells them LOCALLY.
    I’ve retired from the day-to-day grind ogf general contracting, but embrace the creation of a subsidized free enclave of like-minded entrepenuers who want to be living the life of self sustainability……if more Americans embraced this notion….yes, it requires sacrifices in a myriad of ways…..we could free ouselves of the dominant role big brother has over our day to day existence. I encourage anyone who thinks outside the box to look at simplifying their lives, lessening their carbon footprint, support their neighbors endeavors for entrepenureal survival, and put the federal gov’t where it belongs….out of sight, out of mind. The only way to embrace the system, as it exists today, is to deny it, so that it returns once again to ‘WE THE PEOPLE.”

  • This is a much needed discussion. I am a career and transition coach and have a program that I developed with a colleague that takes participants through various assessments of strengths, abilities, aptitudes, and motivations. It is currently provided through Comstock Community Center. We work with people who are in a life transition and are asking themselves what’s next. We deliver this program via small classes in person or online, or in one on one coaching sessions. The goal is for participants to take a fresh inventory of themselves and develop a life plan. Some have gone on to develop business plans, some go back to school, and others pursue volunteer opportunities.
    Michigan needs programs to support those who forge new paths, who have new ideas and approaches. At least on this side of the state there is a great deal of denial, of clinging to the past. Many of the people we work with are 45 and up and have been downsized, right-sized, phased out, you get the picture, and they are less likely to go the social networking way. We have struggled with getting the word out about this program, and being heard in this climate of fear. How do we connect with others who are forward-thinkers so we can support one another?

  • This is Dan Mulhern writing:

    What a LOT of great thoughts today/this week! Most, beginning with Steven Gill’s articulate push-back, well, push back. There is no doubt that some people have more drive and less risk aversion than others. I love the challenge of invention, but I also enjoy running 5, 10, even more miles, and I realize not everyone does.

    But I think we can learn/re-learn new patterns. We can manage the fear that Mick so openly shares. and we can create. On this week’s radio show I’ve got great guests who talk about creation and invention and fear. We’ll hear from Julia Cameron who’s book The Artist’s Way is a wonderful guide for those creating and those who desperately WANT to create. And the 7:00 hour kicks off with Tim Gallwey, who wrote the classic The Inner Game of Tennis. I’ll be asking them and my other great guests about how their thinking may apply to those of us who are taking on our fears when it comes to entrepreneurism or other challenges in the work place. You can find a local affiliate or listen to the live stream at http://www.michigantalknetwork.com.

    p.s. I’m working on my site and apologize for those whose comments got put in moderation. I’ll also be able to respond to individual comments better in coming weeks.

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