Be Your Own Boss

by Jerry Brong

Change can be good. Opportu-nities come from change. It can reduce stress levels and result in more challenging work and increased responsibilities.

Would you like to receive direct rewards for your successes and create working conditions to your liking? Why not work for yourself by creating a new small business and becoming self-employed?

There are about 24 million small businesses in the United States. (For research and statistical purposes, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as independently owned with 500 or fewer employees.) More than 98% of all U.S. employees in the United States work for small businesses. At about 70% of small businesses, the only employee is the owner.

Data reported by the SBA based on research by the U.S. Census Bureau point out small businesses represent more than 98% of all employers and employ approximately half of all private sector employees. Small businesses thereby pay more than 44% of the total private payroll in the United States.

Small businesses annually generate 60 to 80% of new jobs and were responsible for 22.8% of the total value of federal prime contracts (about $50 billion) in fiscal year 2001, the most recent year for which the SBA provides summary data for all industries. Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs produce 13 to 14 times the number of patents per employee of large patenting firms and employ 39% of high-tech workers (such as scientists, engineers and computer specialists). In small businesses, there are many opportunities for creative thinkers to deliver quality processes and quality results.

About 53% of small businesses are home based. Being home based can do wonders for reducing costs related to being an employee. Consider how much additional creative work can be accomplished with commuting eliminated.

Is self-employment for you? Is a major change in your work and career called for? Might self-employment be an alternative to unemployment? Employment and economic numbers were positive in the first quarter of 2003, but an important fact is revealed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.1 Employment in the quality field (inspectors, testers and auditors) is expected to grow slowly or be flat, reflecting growth of automated inspection and redistribution of quality control responsibilities from inspectors to other production workers.

Traditional quality positions are not offering future opportunities, but quality is ever more important, and people delivering its results are doing this from new positions and new organizations. Positions for trainers, process and supply chain managers, and project specific consultants will continue to increase. That means career transitions may be in order for those currently in or looking for traditional quality jobs.

Support Services Abound

If self-employment is an option, be assured support services exist for persons establishing and leading small businesses (see the list in “Self-Employment and Small Business Resources”). There are business start-up resources for persons temporarily unemployed. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration offers assistance to dislocated workers considering self-employment as an accepted route to overcome unemployment. This program is offered through states, but not all states participate. The program’s intent is for participants to work full-time starting their business instead of looking for wage and salary jobs.

As you consider self-employment, start by considering taxes. State and local taxes impacting small businesses range from supportive to repressive. All states have sites with information explaining their taxes and revenue practices. The federal Internal Revenue Service website is a source for online courses and training, advisories, tools for business decision maker, and aids for complying with federal tax laws and requirements.

Leaders of small businesses in advanced technical fields need to know about the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. SBIR strengthens the technological competitiveness of small businesses as new technology is commercialized. Through SBIR contracts, businesses move products into the market with government as an initial customer. Quality is a key to successful SBIR projects.

The U.S. Small Business Adminis-tration (SBA) and regional business development centers provide re-sources for persons creating jobs through a business start-up or expansion. The SBA means it when it says, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you!” Loans, reference and business planning guides, consulting services, classes and links to hundreds of other resources are found at its website.

The Office of Advocacy within the SBA can even provide a small business owner advice and legal guidance should an agency of government unfairly interfere with business operations.

A primary search tool for all federal government websites is FedWorld operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. With this tool, targeted or general searches are possible for businesses, regulations and government support programs.

Networking Is Important

Networking with peers and potential customers is a primary route to success in small and specialized businesses. The local sections and national divisions of ASQ are primary networking resources. Joining ASQ in importance are organizations such as the National Association for the Self-Employed, National Federation of Independent Businesses and other professional, trade and industry specific groups.

Careers and opportunities with small businesses are many. They produce an estimated 50% of the nation’s gross domestic product annually, and they are credited with creating a majority of all new jobs. Becoming an employee of a small business or becoming an owner who creates employment raises significant issues requiring fact based decisions, but the opportunities are many.

Quality delivers measurable results to the bottom lines of all organizations, whether large or small. But quality processes and results are tremendously important to small businesses in all sectors of the economy.

Specialists in quality have the knowledge, tools, resources and skills to succeed in many fields. Fact based career decisions are as important as fact based business decisions. Specialists in quality have the tools necessary for decision making as owners or employees of small businesses.

Consider opportunities for change, satisfaction and the challenges of being your own boss. Enjoy your successes while benefiting directly from your efforts. Live with the risks, and learn from results. Use quality tools that deliver continual improvement, and watch desired results and profits—your profits—accumulate.

Self-Employment Resources

  1. BusinessWeek, McGraw Hill Cos. Inc., www.businessweek.com/smallbiz.
  2. Entrepreneur (Solutions for Growing a Business), www.entrepreneur.com.
  3. FedWorld, U.S. Department of Commerce, www.fedworld.gov.
  4. Fortune Small Business, Time Inc., www.fortune.com/fortune/ smallbusiness.
  5. Hispanic Business, Hispanic Business Inc., www.hispanicbusiness.com.
  6. Home Business, Home Business Magazine Inc., www.homebusinessmag.com.
  7. Inc, Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, www.inc.com.
  8. Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.ustreas.gov/businesses/small.
  9. MoreBusiness.com, Khera Communications Inc., www.morebusiness.com.
  10. National Association for the Self-Employed, http://nase.org.
  11. National Federation of Independent Businesses, www.nfib.com.
  12. Occupational Outlook Handbook (2004-2005 Edition), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Washington, DC 20212-0001, www.bls.gov/oco/home.htm.
  13. U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov), Employment and Training Administration/Self-Employment Assistance, www.workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/ self.asp.
  14. U.S. Small Business Administration, www.sba.gov, Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer, www.sba.gov/sbir, for small business size definitions related to federal program participation


  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-2005 edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Washington, DC 20212-0001.

GERALD R. BRONG is e-newsletter editor of the ASQ Seattle Section. He has a doctorate in education from Washington State University, with a specialization in applied educational technology. Brong is now self-employed as a teacher, speaker and curriculum developer. He is a distance learning professor at Walden University, Minneapolis, and a lecturer at City University in Bellevue, WA, and Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Brong designed the Defining, Planning and Delivering Quality Program. He is a senior examiner for the Washington State Quality Award program.

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