I lived and worked in various European countries for a number of years (mostly the Netherlands) and while there were advantages and disadvantages, one of the things that most impressed me was the focus on planning, organization and the recognition of important trends that had to be addressed.  I still recall seeing a calendar on my brother-in-law's wall that was your standard calendar with pretty photos, etc. but also explained climate change, what areas of the country would be flooded (by the authorities) as it became necessary to adjust to new sea levels, etc.  This was over ten years ago and meanwhile here in North America we're still debating whether it is going to happen! 

 

So I was impressed recently again when I received an interesting article talking about the Dutch government's official recognition of ZZP'ers (Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel or independent without staff).  This is the name that is given to the roughly 700,000 people who work by themselves in various trades and businesses.  Most importantly, it is estimated that roughly 80% of companies are founded by people who started out as a ZZP'er!  80%!  That means of course that not only do they create their own jobs, but if their company does grow (which it often does) they hire more people. 

 

Originally, the idea was to treat these types of businesses different for purposes of administration and taxation.  However, in recent years the massive importance of this group for job and wealth creation has forced the government, academics and others to treat them differently in many other ways as well.  For example, one recent academic article by Kars Van Der Kamp looks at ZZPer and the Dutch Construction Industry and why it is important that the different needs and perspectives of this group are taken into account.  Why?  Apparently, us solopreneurs think and act differently :-).  According to Van Der Kamp, solopreneurs (ZZP'ers) are "former employees who have a desire to run their own small business. They want to take their own decisions and are proud of their craftsmanship.  ZZP’ers look for freedom, autonomy, respect, and recognition. They are anti-hierarchical, and prefer integration of thinking and doing, and collaboration based on friendship."  I couldn't have given a better description myself! 

 

Why is this important?  Well, Van Der Kamp's focus is on the construction industry where he finds that construction businesses "want to be in control, their structure is pyramidal and the way they organize is based on a strict separation of thinking and doing.  Collaboration is forced."  In other words, in direct contrast with the goals of a large percentage of their workforce.  This leads to inefficiencies, increase in hiring and retention costs, etc.  

 

Only by recognizing that solopreneurs are different than other workers and businesses will governments and other economic actors be able to make full use of this important sector.  This isn't happening right now and most governments still focus on large businesses, mistakenly thinking that this is where the wealth and job creation are coming from.  If the Dutch are doing it now, it probably stands to reason that other governments will finally catch on - 10 to 15 years later I would think!

 

Now, how did Karl Marx phrase that?  "Solopreneurs of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to win."  Not quite, but I'm sure I'm close :-).  Cheers!

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