The Entrepreneurial Attitude: Lessons From Junior Achievement's 100 Years Of Developing Young Entrepreneurs
May 21, 2018
John Farrell delivers a celebration of Junior Achievement and entrepreneurial principles on the centennial anniversary of the organization.
Junior Achievement (JA) turns 100 years old. At its century mark, it will deploy over 470,000 volunteers and mentors this year, serving more than 10 million young people in over 100 countries. And it does this year in, year out. Started in a time when one of its founders headed up a company still called American Telephone & Telegraph, it has not only withstood the test of time, it has grown into one of the world's largest youth-serving NGOs.
Larry Farrell's new book, The Entrepreneurial Attitude, tells the story of the three principles it operates on—entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy—through nearly 70 interviews with JA alumni from all over the globe, and the impact they have had. (The interviews all follow the same pattern, detailing the interviewee's JA experience, talking a bit about their business or career, and wrapping up with advice for young people.)
Move over Harvard Business School, INSEAD and Tsinghua School of Management—it turns out the number one educational institution in the world for developing successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, and professional leaders is JA Worldwide. From Mark Cuban and Steve Case in business, to Donna Shalala and MP David Lammy in government, to Sanjay Gupta in medicine and Christina Aguilera in the world of entertainment, you won’t find any other organization, anywhere in the world, that has produced so many entrepreneurial leaders.
Now, not all of those people are interviewed for the book, but it shows you the wide breadth of achievement the juniors going through the program have gone on to. And the ideas and entrepreneurial tips don't all stem from the program or its alumni. Farrell debunks the popular myths that exist around entrepreneurship today, including why it's not necessary to get a Master in Business Administration to start your own business. Discussing why it's probably better to save your $100,000 and avoid the “MBA factories around the world,” Farrell writes:
Despite all the myths, the truth is that entrepreneurs are us, and other “normal folks” like us. And the things they, and you, will have to do as entrepreneurs are not so strange and complicated after all. In fact, creating and building a company might be sounding more and more like—a lot of common sense.
He also explains some of the bedrock principles of entrepreneurship, statistics on the "Life Cycle of Organizations," and gives a very nice overview of business history in many places. Explaining how the stock options popularized by Silicon Valley's tech startups are not a new idea, he traces employee stock ownership back to 1909, and William Lever's announcement of the Lever Co-Partnership Trust, and how it has managed to stay successful more than a century later:
In 1900, Lever Brothers was the largest company in the world. Today, Unilever* is ranked fifty-sixth in worldwide marker value and forty-first on Fortune's Most Admired Companies list. … It must be doing something right after all these decades. And most people who have researched the company, including yours truly, agree that the single most important reason for its astounding long-term record is that Unilever has always been, and continues to be, an absolutely great company to work for.
*Unilever was formed in 1929 through the merger of Lever Brothers and several smaller Dutch companies. It operates today as a Dutch/UK group, with headquarters in both countries.
And, just as Unilever has managed to adapt and evolve over the past century, so has Junior Achievement. Asheesh Advani, CEO of JA Worldwide, writes in his Foreward to the book:
One of JA's achievements of which I am most proud is the number of young women across the globe who start businesses as a result of JA. Whereas early generations of JA students were primarily male, we now see roughly equal numbers of young men and women participating in our programs all over the world. Last year, at the INJAZ Young Entrepreneurs Competition (JA's Company of the Year in the Middle East and North Africa), over 50 percent of competitors were female!
I get a bit jaded on the lionization of entrepreneurs today, which too often makes mouses out of employees. But Farrell avoids the latter trap, while explaining why an entrepreneurial attitude and approach to one's career is an important trait in today's rapidly changing world and workplace—regardless of your position. There are also some wonderful little surprises, like how Farrell was smuggled out of Iran during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 "with the brave help of Air France personnel," and what that has to do with his admiration, all these years later, for the life and business career of Ross Perot.
There is so much to like about, and learn from, in this book marking the centennial of Junior Achievement.
We have 20 copies available.