Job Turnover Mints New Entrepreneurs
By THOM WEIDLICH
FRED H. ABBOTT, 48, has led senior management teams in several information technology advisory firms, including Gartner in Stamford, Conn., and the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Mass. He has also been laid off twice.
The last time, in the summer of 2001, Mr. Abbott was senior vice president for sales at a Web-based survey company. But rather than going begging for another position, he pursued a course that has become increasingly popular among out-of-work executives in this wobbly economy: He started a business.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the outplacement firm in Chicago, says the proportion of its clients, mostly executives and managers, who have decided to go into business for themselves has nearly doubled, to 11.2 percent in the second quarter of this year from 6.45 percent in the third quarter of 2001.
The reason is no mystery. "In the late 1990's, many people were deferring their entrepreneurial dreams because the getting was so good out there," said John A. Challenger, the firm's chief executive.
Another outplacement firm, DBM in New York, has seen a similar move toward self-employment. "People are realizing that there's no security in corporate America and they'll probably switch jobs every two years, and usually not of their own choosing," said Beth Burdick, a DBM consultant.
The pool of potential entrepreneurs has grown, Ms. Burdick added. Historically, they fell largely into two categories: born entrepreneurs, who have always itched to run their own show, and refugees from the corporate world who cannot get back in. Now, there is a new type: Laid-off managers who have the skills to land a job similar to their old one, but who are fed up with the uncertainties of corporate life.
Experts say market research is the key to success. In studying the information technology business, Mr. Abbott found that independent technology consultants enjoyed their work but that they had little appetite for the task of drumming up business. So he decided to act as their agent, finding work for them for a percentage of their billings.
"When I looked at three things: the job opportunities available in this economy, where I was in my career and what the buyers of the services we provide were saying to me this seemed by far and away the most attractive option," Mr. Abbott said.
He now represents 35 information technology analysts as president of Valley View Ventures, working out of the basement of his Tudor-style home, also in Concord. He says he is ahead of his target to reach annualized bookings in the seven figures by the end of this year.
"I'd also say to people that their network is far bigger than they may have imagined," said Mr. Abbott, the manager turned entrepreneur. "Look to the people you've served in the past. Ask what isn't going right for them today then explore if you offer a service that you can provide."
And, he said, "Listen to them about what their agony is these days."
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