Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Matt Bai of NY Times Gets it Mostly Right - Argues for Focus on Home-Based Cohort

In this past New York Times Sunday's magazine, Matt Bai, a well-known political writer for them, argued that the country's political parties need to start focusing on the needs of home-based business operators.

And he argues that corporations ought to wake up to this trend -- which is more accurately the virtual company trend -- and allow folks more flexibility in how they work. The major parties need to provide support for people like us, especially on the health care front (AmyZ's add here).

But there are issues that Matt did not address, maybe because he hasn't devoted as much time as I have and you have to this issue. Of particular importance is getting the government to start collecting accurate data on virtual businesses -- whether home-based or in small rental offices.

Without data, we are insignificant. Our numbers don't count and our needs, from financing to health care, don't get addressed.

Here's the letter I wrote to his editor and others I know nationally, as I still write for the news biz occasionally. Please post your thought/input on the Building a Virtual Company home page.

I will do my best to funnel them to my contacts in the news media.



Hi Alex,

I'm a former Times freelancer (Sunday business, e-commerce special sections, etc . . .) and Globe freelancer, as well as award-winning author/columnist and entrepreneur.

I applaud the article that Matt wrote on Sunday, but there are issues that he did not address that are important. I've spent over five years in this territory -- which I call the virtual work place as home-based is only a facet -- and his numbers were low even by the SBA's dismal figures. At least five years ago they counted 10 million-plus home-based companies, but no one knew for sure then and the situation has not changed.

Ever since I wrote the cover for the Sunday Globe Magazine "Hidden Tech" (Feb. 10, 2002) I've been digging for data. I even created an organization, Hidden-Tech, to study the virtual company phenomenon. www.hidden-tech.net. On the podium in 2005, accepting my award as Mass/New England's SBA Home-Based Business Champion I castigated the SBA's chief economist for the lack of data on this subject.

What I've learned is the SBA is stuck with census data, and the census doesn't track this category except tangentially. It takes Congressional approval to change the Census questions and, to date, no one in Congress has championed this cause. What we do know is that there will be an avalanche of people working from homes and small offices over the course of the next 20 years as the baby boomers "retire" as consultants and entrepreneurs.

As the Virtual Business expert on EONS.com I'm getting lots of calls for help from people in their 60s/70s who are subsisting on social security only, and no one knows the future of that program.

Frankly, Alex, I'm disgusted with the lack of real data on this front and extremely worried about the country's lack of preparedness for the need that will descend over the next five years or so. I've enclosed an example of the stories I get from people very day now.

1 comment:

Jim Ware said...

Good post Amy! I caught the original article when it first came out, but only just now got caught up enough with other work to actually read it and comment on it on our future of work blog - and I referenced this post of yours there too.