Starting in 2008 the virtual company movement will get a huge boost as the first wave of 76 million baby boomers reach official retirement age.
Imagine 20 million people in the U.S., exiting the work place in five-year segments over the course of the next two decades. In total, that's half of today's work place. In Canada, the boomers representing a third of the work place, according to the Canadian Census.
Although many boomers will undoubtedly settle down to traditional retirements, clogging golf courses and rushing to "early bird specials" at local restaurants, polls in the U.S. and Canada indicate that a large percentage of college-educated boomers may continue working in non-traditional ways. Sources as diverse as Newsweek's "Boomer Files," Yahoo, and surveys published in Commonwealth Magazine, based in Boston, Mass., have reported as many as 70 percent of boomers want to build their own enterprises. And the 2005 MassINC survey ("A Generation in Transition: A Survey of Bay State Boomers"), reported that almost two-thirds of adults aged 40 to 58 expect keep working after they reach the traditional retirement age of 65, but only 6 percent plan to keep a full-time work schedule.
No one needs to tell Home-Based Working Mom's founder Lesley Spencer Pyle that the virtual work place is rising, especially for women. Spencer turned a childhood tragedy into a home-based career that's become a triumph for working moms. Founder and director of Home-Based Working Moms, an online network based in Spring, Texas, Pyle is now a columnist and author of The Work-at-Home Workbook who manages six online Websites that cater to home-based working mothers. Newly remarried, she's expecting a baby in August and has a child from a previous marriage.
Spencer Pyle grew up in a single-parent home in Tomball, Texas. She lost her father to suicide when she was 13. Finances were tight after her dad's death and her family didn't consider college an option. Moreover, she lost her first job out of high school as a secretary during an economic downturn. Not to be deterred, she found a way to enter Texas State University with loans and grants, graduating in 1990 as a Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in journalism and pubic relations. A full scholarship from Rotary International enabled Spencer to earn a master's degree in public relations and marketing from the University of Stirling in Scotland in 1993.
During this time she married and became PR Coordinator for a golf school and tour clinic in Austin. By now a "career woman" who intended to put her education to use, she found her world shifting when she became pregnant. "My world did a complete turnaround when our baby came into the world. I saw her, and my heart overflowed with joy. I immediately fell in love with her and could not imagine leaving her every day in someone else's care."
Determining to stay home with the baby, she and her husband agreed she could work freelance and set about slashing family expenses. Although they had to scrimp, she was happy with the arrangement in most ways. What she missed, though, was the support of office colleagues. The more she talked to other home-based working mothers, the more she discovered they had similar needs to connect and needed information on everything from marketing to accounting. But, she says, "there was no way to support one another through networking without a base for us to connect through."
Spencer Pyle was already noodling a concept for HBWM when some national publicity in "Baby Magazine" in 1995 helped her announce the network. By 1997, she was able to launch the HBWM Web site and began offering a wide variety of information on starting home businesses of all types, as well as the how-to's of managing and maintaining a business.
"Members," she says, "can also search for home business opportunities, advertise their business, network and get support from other parents who have been successful in combining home-based work with parenting. There is a free weekly newsletter with both business tips and parenting information. The association offers special advantages for members including a free listing of your products and services, national publicity opportunities with newspapers, magazines and TV programs that contact us, corporate discounts, a members-only email discussion listserv, free publications and more."
At this writing, HBWM has 400 members who pay a $69 flat fee to join. Spencer says 9,000 people subscribe to the free, advertising-supported newsletter and many buy her kits. The Web site averages five million hits a year. Through these services and fees, plus operating four more Web sites, she's able to make a living as a single mother today. Plus, she has the satisfaction of helping other parents, particularly moms, like herself.
Those like Spencer Pyle willing to connect employers seeking subcontractors to what will undoubtedly be legions of boomers seeking project are well positioned to service the growing virtual workplace. There are indications from staffing and recruiting companies that corporations are preparing to fill the gap retiring boomers will create with subcontractors rather than full-time employees - many of them boomers operating virtual businesses from homes or small office settings close to their residences.
And in March, "The Daily" cited a new study - New Frontiers in the Research on Retirement - that predicts the rate of self-employment will grow in Canada by more than 20 percent as the baby boomers leave organizations only to work for themselves. Already, major corporations such as IBM and CISCO are hiring more home-based workers, creating "hybrid" companies with full-time staff augmented by subcontractors.
Michael Teitz, professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley in city and regional planning, believes that the baby boomers are redefining the notion of retirement and, in doing so, "change the economic base of communities all over the place. We're seeing whole chunks of the regions and sub-regions becoming lifestyle regions." He says it's easy to dismiss the virtual company trend "as pretty small and not amounting to much, but the world has changed. It's just not the way it was."
Spencer Pyle believes we will "see more and more moms, baby boomers, retirees and other segments of the population move towards working from home. The benefits are just too great and the advantage for our environment, and reduction in traffic, work in everyone's favor."
She adds that "is has been and is my passion to help mom professionals find their place working from home. Our newest Website, HireMyMom.com, is gaining in popularity and helping hundreds of moms find true work-from-home-options."
BOX - HBWM Success Stories: ________________________________________
The following are some examples of how WBWM is helping its members:
"I want to share with you what a difference HBWM has made for me in my life. By joining HBWM, I met other women who have helped me develop my self-esteem. Thank you, Lesley, for all the wonderful experiences I have had through HBWM." - Mary Waggoner.
"Just wanted to make sure you knew that the TODAY show did choose Stroller Strides for one of their segments. They shot all day yesterday! It's all thanks to HBWM! That alone will make me a member for life! Keep up the great work!" -- Lisa Druxman, StrollerStrides.com
"Just wanted to give a big thanks to HBWM! A new client found me while searching for a virtual assistant through the HBWM website. Also, Parenting Magazine called me to get my permission to use a quote I had sent in some time ago. Thanks Lesley for a great networking avenue. I've always said, HBWM is the best!" -- Karen L. Reddick, www.vandeservices.com
"I love HBWM!!! Your website has helped me with my online business in SO many ways. I've met tons of terrific woman that have been more than helpful also and really work together to promote each others websites/businesses. Quite honestly, I think I would be very lost if I hadn't found and joined your website. Please keep up the fantastic work!!!!" -- Kari Zavsza, Skylar's Treasures
"I've seen several women's "work at home" groups on the net. This one is BY FAR the best and has the most interesting and most inspiring people subscribing. Once again, I'm honored and excited to be a part of such an incredible networking group. Congrats to every single other work-at-home person on HBWM. You are all great." -- Peggy Wheeler