Forget about corporations, business cycles and buzzwords.

The individual is the unit of business in the new economy, James Crupi said Wednesday, and anyone who does not realize that will be left behind in the next century.Crupi, a futurist and president of Strategic Leadership Solutions Inc., told hundreds of entrepreneurs at the Inc. 500 Conference in Salt Lake City that the world is moving into a time when all businesses must be ready to operate internationally.

"We've left the industrial age, . . . and thousands will get caught or lost in the transformation," Crupi said.

When an individual is the unit of business, he said, it means jobs will follow people and companies will go where the workers are, instead of the opposites being true.

"I will assemble the finest workers in the world," Crupi said. "I can do so. I will do so."

Within the next few years, fewer companies will advertise job positions. Instead, he said, they will advertise work to be done. That is called outsourcing, and it changes business realities.

It also means managers have to realize that their job is not to control employees' behavior.

"The day of the know-everything manager is over," Crupi said. "Not only do you not know everything, but everybody knows you don't know everything."

He said the new economy also is one in which companies cannot compete on price or quality, but must focus on value.

"The quality revolution is over. If you're pursuing quality, you're behind," he said. "You have to convince me it's worth it. Because I assume, I demand, that quality is inherent. . . .

"Will I pay you for value? You'd better believe it."

Crupi said customer service is a big part of value. Every company needs to exceed its customers' expectations, he said, and it must remember that its image is as important as its products in the "media/information/technology" world.

That world is changing who people are and what they expect, Crupi said. After pausing and looking at his watch for 15 seconds, he said he could almost feel the anxiety growing in the room. That just proves that, unless companies have "McDonald's-like speed," they are history, he said.

"Fifteen seconds of your life is nothing, but to you it's everything," Crupi said.

And while the business world is not going to slow down, he said, values are shifting.

People do not want achievement anymore, but they do want self-fulfillment. Instead of a higher standard of living, they want a better quality of life. The differences may be subtle, he said, but they are real.

They also play into the four trends Crupi expects to develop in the new millennium: a quest for simplicity, a rejection of complexity, a quest for purity and a drive toward getting in touch with nature.

As values shift, he said, business leaders will need to get everybody involved in their operations reading from the same page. But when will that happen?

"It's only when you get people focused, and it doesn't matter who's out in front," Crupi said. "There are no theys when it comes to leading other people."