Sunday, May 25, 2014

American Dream

The term American Dream hasn't always been used, and when it was first used it wasn't intended to be used the way most think of it today.

The Library of Congress tell us that James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (p.214-215)

Here's the history of the usage of the word. As you can see when it really took off is when American Dream was picked up by National Home Builders Association as a way to encourage more home ownership.

I researched this in early 1990s and right after I'd discovered this history of the usage, the fact that Truslow had first used it in his book The Epic of America, I came across a copy for just a couple of buck in a used book store.

Strengthen the Grassroots with the Power of the Invisible Sun! Bobby Sager's Commencement Speech at Babson College

Monday, May 19, 2014

My comment on change in definition of "small business" by SBA.

“Comments can be submitted on this proposed rule on or before July 18, 2014, at, identified by the following RIN number: (RIN 3245-AG49).  You may also mail comments to Khem R. Sharma, Chief, Office of Size Standards, 409 3rd St., SW, Mail Code 6530, Washington, DC  20416.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

I’ve done startup workshops in Denver, Colorado for some 20 years as an alternative to the SBA venture capital model of formal market research and formal strategic planning. What I’ve been doing for decades was viewed by most as eccentric when I started in 1994, it is becoming more accepted recently with publications advocating along similar lines, back in ’94 the only theoretical underpinning was from Dr. Amar Bhide the professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard University who’d sent his students to interview successful startups, articles in the Harvard Business Review soon became his very fine, but virtually ignored, book The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, Oxford University Press.

The Wall Street Journal had a column a few days ago pointing out that most of what is now being taught on college campuses about startup is not helping. The more talk about startup, the fewer startups, virtually all talk is what I would call propaganda at the encouragement of the SBA and it’s many off-shoots, SCORE, SBDCs, etc, and it is killing small business in America.

One part of the problem is how the SBA defines small business, right now any business with up to 500 employees with certain exceptions. Yes, this definition needs to be changed, but not in the direction the SBA suggests, to 1,500 employees for some businesses. The definition by number of employees needs to be revised down, I suggest to 300.

Why 300? Because that’s what E.F.Schumacher’s experience led him to back in the late 60’s in his very good book Small is Beautiful—Economics as if People Mattered. More than 300 employees and the nature of the interactions between the people starts drastically changing.

I’ve started a virtual “chamber of commerce” with the intention of helping local chambers provide more real help to startups, as an alternative to the very expensive and ineffective SBDC program. Businesses with 10 to 100 employees, the bedrock of American business, is in sharp decline. Why? Because the SBA is killing startups. It’s a tax funded enterprise clearly intending to snuff out the entrepreneurial spirit in America.

But I don’t want to misrepresent my statement here, it is my own and not that of any organization. The Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc. does not lobby at this time, and I do not expect that it ever will.

 I say I’m a recovering MBA because much of what I was taught in graduate business school I’ve had to overcome to be of real help to people who are starting their own business. Since 1994 I’ve worked with thousands of people and what I’m saying here is based on that experience. I read a lot, but in no way am I an academic.  That does not mean there is not academic support for what I’m saying here to you now.

Nobel prize winning economist Edmund Phelps points out the very real problem of the sharp falloff in vitalism and dynamism in our culture since the late 60s, I recommend his most recent book to your committee before you make a decision on this, it’s called Mass Flourishing.  Also the recent Harvard Business Review Press book Just Start.

My little book, endorsed by Dr Amar Bhide, has been on sale for the last 20 years, as far as I know it has never done any harm and a lot of people have told me it has helped them. The Kindle version is 99-cents, and I’d suggest the committee buy it and make copies for all committee members, you have my permission to do so. Go to and search on “John Wren, Daring Mighty Things.”

Thank you for your consideration. I’d be glad to answer any questions you might have.

John S. Wren, MBA+++ (Cornell College, University of Denver, BA’69, MBA’80, Regis University)
1881 Buchtel Blvd, #501
Denver, CO 80210
(303)861-1447  cell (720)495-4949

SBA may call business with 1,500 employees small.

This is crazy. I just received this media release from the Small Business Administration. New director's first major effort is to make larger businesses eligible for SBA assistance by changing the definition..

The definition of "small business" that the SBA has used for years of 300 employees does need to be changed, but they are going in the wrong direction.

Here's my idea: let's cut from 500 employees to 300. EF Schumacher (author of Small is Beautiful)  makes a good case for 300 being the right number, beyond that it's hard for the owner/manager to know all the employees personally.

Below is contact information. If you think cutting to 300 is a good idea, I hope you'll take a couple of minutes and send in an email. Thanks!

John S. Wren, MBA+++
Founder & CEO until fired, Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

SBA Proposes Revisions to Size Standards for Wholesale Trade and Retail Trade Industries

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration has proposed increasing small business size standards affecting businesses in 46 industries in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 42, Wholesale Trade, and in one industry in Sector 44-45, Retail Trade.  If they are adopted, nearly 4,000 more firms will become eligible for SBA’s loan programs.  The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register today.  
The proposed size standards would define the maximum number of employees a firm in these industries could have and still be a small business.  The proposed revisions reflect changes in marketplace conditions.
SBA proposed to retain the current size standards for the remaining industries in those sectors.  SBA reviewed all of the employee-based size standards for both sectors to determine whether the size standards should be revised or retained. 
The SBA has also proposed to retain the current 500-employee size standard for federal procurement of supplies under its non-manufacturer rule because Wholesale Trade and Retail Trade NAICS codes and their small business size standards cannot be used for procurement of supplies.  These proposed revisions primarily affect eligibility for SBA’s financial assistance programs. 
Comments can be submitted on this proposed rule on or before July 18, 2014, at, identified by the following RIN number: (RIN 3245-AG49).  You may also mail comments to Khem R. Sharma, Chief, Office of Size Standards, 409 3rd St., SW, Mail Code 6530, Washington, DC  20416.
As part of an ongoing review of all size standards, SBA takes into account the structural characteristics of individual industries, including average firm size, startup cost and entry barriers, the degree of competition, and small business share of federal government contracting dollars.  This ensures that small business size definitions reflect current economic conditions and federal marketplace in those industries.  Under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, SBA plans to continue its comprehensive review of all size standards for the next several years. 
An SBA-issued White Paper entitled, “Size Standards Methodology,” which explains how SBA establishes, reviews and modifies its receipts-based and employee-based small business size standards, can be viewed at
For more information about SBA’s revisions to its small business size standards for various industry sectors, click on “What’s New with Size Standards” on SBA’s Web site at   

Who is John Wren and how can I help you?

American Dream in India: John Oliver (HBO): Fareed Zakaria Interview Pt. 1

Traffic on

Graph of Blogger page views
Traffic here on since it was started, New York Times report says their recent traffic down, too.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breaking news! New history of Denver entrepreneurs.

Click below for history of Denver entrepreneurs, just published by Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City.
ID8 -

Discussion group for startups, business owners, and creative managers.

We cooperate with local chambers.
New, free to you 4-week session of open discussion group focused on business creativity, innovation and change for startups, business owners and creative managers, and professionals is forming now. Just ask, I'll send you an invitation. Limited to the first 12 to RSVP.

For an invitation with details about what makes this discussion group better (hint: great people, proven technology to learn more, faster, and have fun learning it), contact me via or call John Wren (303)861-1447 I'll be leading this group myself.

 SHARE! Please forward this along to any of your friends who you think might like to join us,

Thursday, May 08, 2014

What I've been saying since 1994-- Entrepreneurship Education is B.S.

... and by B.S.  I don't mean Bachelor of Science.

Businesses just don't start the way the SBA has been telling us they should start. There is some powerful research into how they really act when they become successful, it's being ignored.

More and more, it's not just me saying this. Here's a column from yesterday's Wall Street Journal, click the title to go to the complete article there:

Teaching Entrepreneurship Gets an Incomplete
Colleges are churning out entrepreneurial-minded students, but there's no evidence of benefits yet.
By Carl Schramm (Mr. Schramm is University Professor at Syracuse University.

May 6, 2014 6:36 p.m. ET

Many colleges and universities across the country offer courses and programs in "entrepreneurship." Are they worthwhile? Entrepreneurship is apparently an occupational category now, yet when it comes to judging the value of what they teach, its practitioners are flying blind. They and their students could learn a lot from how the medical field evolved.

A century ago, nobody had ever evaluated physicians based on patient outcomes. Then Dr. Ernest Codman proposed in 1914 that Harvard University, where he taught, host an annual conference on morbidity and mortality so that medical innovations could be evaluated by their effectiveness. The suggestion was unwelcome. But Dr. Codman kept meticulous records on his surgical patients and reported his results publicly, calling his method the "end results theory." Harvard dismissed him from the faculty.

Rimagine Group Limited/Corbis

In 1974, Dr. David Eddy of Duke medical school discovered that only a handful of studies supported the widely taught approach to breast-cancer surgery. He then began looking into the empirical basis for many standard treatment methods, and found that much of the course material for medical school lacked reliable evidence, such as results of a controlled clinical study. A decade later, thanks to Dr. Eddy's pioneering research, nearly every therapeutic act—from prescribing drugs to recommending surgery—was subject to scrutiny. Using empirical evidence to predict outcomes is now the standard in modern medicine.

Where's the Dr. Eddy of entrepreneurship? Thousands of institutions—universities, community colleges, even high schools—offer courses that purport to prepare students for careers as entrepreneurs. Yet there is no employer demand for people trained in the "art" of entrepreneurship, nor does the training offer any recognized value in other jobs. Indeed, one can receive a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship even though there is no academic consensus on what works for starting a new business. Not surprisingly, as the number of entrepreneurship teachers grows, the number of new businesses continues to decline.

At least part of the problem stems from the content of courses, which were invented by business-school professors. The first entrepreneurship course was offered at Babson College in 1967. There are now at least 1,957 full-time professors of entrepreneurship, according to 2014 membership data from the Academy of Management. The teaching approach, cobbled together from strategic-planning and venture-finance insights, is more prescriptive than objective, telling entrepreneurs what they should do instead of teaching business basics. For instance, there is now a narrative about how a new business should begin. Success, it is taught, hinges on writing a business plan. But most of history's exemplary businesses didn't have a plan when they began.

Most guides to entrepreneurship presume new businesses will need venture capital. Yet venture financing is important to a very small percentage of startups. Everyone knows, the textbooks say, that college-aged students are the progenitors of all great startups. (That may explain why it's an undergraduate course.) In reality, the nation's fastest-growing businesses are started by 40-year-olds. Nearly 75% of new entrepreneurs are over 35, according to a 2012 report on entrepreneurial activity by the Kauffman Foundation (an organization I used to run). And while Silicon Valley gurus believe a startup must begin in California, the same Kauffman Foundation report showed that in 2012 there were more startups per capita in Montana, Vermont and Nevada than all other states.

Case studies are commonly accepted as the best way to teach entrepreneurship. Case studies were the preferred teaching method in medicine before Dr. Eddy figured out that you need statistical evidence to test the validity of what's being taught. Teachers of entrepreneurship can cherry pick cases to find examples that conform to their beliefs about how businesses should start. Yet just like in the days before evidence-based medicine, there are no significant data to confirm that graduates of entrepreneurship programs go on to start successful businesses.

It is time for an evidence-based revolution. Entrepreneurs are the only doctors who can nurse the economy back to health, creating jobs and wealth. That makes what future business builders are taught all the more important—and right now it isn't clear that the student entrepreneur or society is getting a good return on investment.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Best book on business startup!

"Just Start" is the backbone of our Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc IDEA Cafe Startup Workshops. For more see