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Everyone has that feeling sometimes where they think “but what if…?” Now imagine if you were asking yourself that question on a daily basis, perpetually seeking out new ways to innovate and improve on the world around you. That’s how entrepreneurs see the world. The word entrepreneur comes from the French entreprendre, meaning “to undertake” or literally bring something amongst others. Today, that involves many things including kick-starting business concepts, bringing new product ideas to market, and adding new value to what already exists in business and society.
By cultivating entrepreneurial thinking in the workplace, corporate organizations stand to make long-term gains. As one who’s involved in building and growing businesses as well as holding a day job, here are my five reasons why entrepreneurs are the new Employees of the Month:
1. They sleep with one eye open
Opportunity is everywhere – the challenge is to know where to look. Running a start-up requires constant attention what’s going on around you, as well as the ability to recognize a potential opportunity when you see it. This comes naturally to some people, but for most of us it’s a habit which takes time and lots of false starts to get right. It’s also a habit which sets entrepreneurial spirits apart from their “9 to 5” counterparts: employees of an entrepreneurial bent are more likely to take the initiative in pursuing new leads or strategic avenues which can benefit the overall business. And like other “habits,” it can often keep them up late at night trying to nut out a new design or pitch for a new client. Not so good for sleeping patterns; definitely a plus for business development.
If a job applicant’s CV said “Went broke in 2011,” would you hire him or her? The best entrepreneurs know that failure is often a more valuable experience than success. Moreover, it spurs them to learn from their mistakes and improve on previous iterations of their business. Steve Jobs’ “very public failure” in Apple’s early years prompted him to start up NeXT, rejoin Apple and lead it to its current market-leading position. Author and entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki makes a point in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad that the bankruptcy of his first business was invaluable to his success in later years. Employees who can weather the tough times – and recognize the value within making mistakes – are the best source of stability within your business.
3. They’re used to rejection.
An entrepreneur’s day often looks like this: pitch, get rejected, repeat. As a result, entrepreneurs are often stoic about the outcomes of their romantic overtures. They’re also more experienced in creating, delivering and following up on pitches – whether those be “elevator-style” pitches or full-blown boardroom presentations – than their non-entrepreneur equivalents. This pitch-readiness is a particularly valuable attribute for those in the PR, marketing and other “creative” industries where pitches and client relationships are the lifeblood of the business. Of course, it’s also handy wherever lead generation is a priority – which should be every organization.
4. They’re all-rounders and/or team players.
Being in charge of your own business means you need to know a little bit of everything. Apart from their core competencies, entrepreneurs usually have a host of skills in business-essential areas like IT, accounting, marketing and multi-tasking. They’re used to handling problems by themselves (since they usually don’t have a large team to rely on) but they can also collaborate with a whole variety of different people. Just make sure they don’t end up taking the entire organization’s burdens on their shoulders.
5. They want to win.
Closing a deal, winning a bid, making five-digit profit margins – nothing beats the “hit” of an entrepreneurial win. Entrepreneurs want to have buy-in to what they’re working on, whether it be their start-up or the company they’re employed by. Think about what Shawn Parr has to say about the “organizational culture” of the US Marines: they’re proud of what they do, highly adaptive, and totally committed to overcoming any obstacles to achieve a win. Entrepreneurs are not (always) US Marines, but their values often have a lot in common.
Even if you don’t have any entrepreneurs in your midst (and you’d be surprised how many there are!), you can still instill entrepreneurial thinking in your organization. Consider encouraging your staff to attend start-up “boot camps” like Launch48 or StartUp Camp as part of their professional development; frequent entrepreneur networking events like the regular Silicon Beach drinks; or just keep up with the latest start-up and small business news. An entrepreneur-friendly culture can boost profits and improve morale, but most important of all it’ll take your organization in new directions. The answers to that “what if…” are endless.