You might have already heard about something called "the entrepreneurial mindset." You know it has something to do with entrepreneurs and starting your own business, but what is it, really? What does it mean to be entrepreneurial? What are entrepreneurs like, and what do they do?
The entrepreneurial mindset is marked by imagination, initiative, and a readiness to undertake new projects. It is perseverance and determination, risk-taking and daring, integrity and honesty. Entrepreneurs change the world in concrete ways through their inventions, their businesses, their social and economic impacts. The term "entrepreneurial" can apply to individuals, teams, or entire organizations.
What are entrepreneurs like?
While entrepreneurs have widely varying personalities and don't fall into a cookie-cutter mold, most successful entrepreneurs share a set of common characteristics. These include:
- A participatory management style—they're willing to share power
- A high need for achievement
- Supervisory and/or sales experience or skills
- Persistence—they're not easily discouraged
- Willingness to live with uncertainty, particularly financial uncertainty
- Open-minded—willing to listen to constructive criticism
- Flexibility—they have the ability to change when data shows they're going down the wrong path
Of course, another thing entrepreneurs have in common is the ability to bounce back from failure. Since it is entrepreneurs who are out there pushing the boundaries and changing the world, it's inevitable they will make mistakes. An important characteristic of entrepreneurs is that they are good at failure: the entrepreneur sees failure as a temporary setback, an investment in education, an opportunity to learn and to do better next time. Winston Churchill summed this up best when he said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
What do they do?
Here's a standard definition of what entrepreneurs do:
There's a lot to those fourteen words; let's take apart the definition and investigate each term.
- Habitually— they cannot stop being entrepreneurial
- Create— they start from scratch and bring into being something that was not there before
- Innovate— they're able to overcome obstacles that would stop most people, turn problems and risks into opportunities, deliver, and see ideas through to final application
- Build something— the output of the innovation process
- Of recognized value— encompasses economic, commercial, social, or aesthetic value
- Market opportunities— to exploit a recognized market need
It's all about opportunity
Note the one word we keep harping on: opportunity. Entrepreneurs are opportunity-driven. Opportunity comes from changes in the environment, and one central characteristic of entrepreneurs is that they excel at seeing patterns of change. Also, entrepreneurs are not resource-driven; while the manager asks, "Given the resources under my control, what can I achieve?" the entrepreneur asks "Given what I want to achieve, what resources do I need to acquire?"
It is the entrepreneur's drive to acquire resources in order to exploit opportunities that creates the high correlation between entrepreneurship and economic growth.
More than one kind of entrepreneur
Let's be honest: not everyone reading this book will go on to form their own company. Up to this point we've defined an entrepreneur in just that manner-as someone who starts his or her own business-but in today's rapidly changing world the concept of entrepreneurship has been broadened to include a very important, new kind of entrepreneur: the corporate entrepreneur. Corporate entrepreneurship, also called intrapreneurship, is entrepreneurship practiced by people within established organizations. It is the process that goes on inside companies that leads to new business ventures; the development of new products, services or processes; and the renewal of strategies, leading to increased competitiveness. As such, it can be seen as the sum of a company's innovation, venturing and renewal efforts.
Read this book with the understanding that you can think and act like an entrepreneur whether you start your own business or contribute your skills to an existing business. Being entrepreneurial is the centerpiece.
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—George Bernard Shaw
Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. No other element can do so much for a man if he is willing to study them and make capital out of them.
As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better... no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems. Far more is needed. Now business has to keep up with changes... And that requires creativity. That means creativity both at a strategic level and also on the front line, to accompany the shift that competitive business demands... from administration to true entrepreneurship.
—Edward de Bono
One corporate entrepreneur’s story
Chris Consorte had no intention of taking the job. But after launching his own marketing agency a year earlier, he met with a mortgage banking firm to get a foot in the door and, he hoped, to snag a new client. Then, as they say, they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. “They were willing to pay me my asking price, [which was] more than I was making at my own company,” says Consorte.
But soon enough, the surprise job gave Consorte even more than he ever expected. The boss, “an intuitive guy,” saw that his new hire wanted more out of his job and work life than the average employee and started bouncing ideas off of him for new products and divisions. “Giving people opportunities was a big thing for him,” says Consorte. “They were embracing my salesmanship and entrepreneurial ways.” The best part? His boss made it clear that he wasn’t just giving Consorte the chance to learn a new thing or two (and take on hours and hours more work); he was going to share the wealth if all went well.
Eventually, among other responsibilities, Consorte was made head of the firm’s internal advertising agency, where he was free to take on outside clients so long as they weren’t competitors of the firm and it didn’t interfere with his full-time job. “I’m the type of person that if I have unlimited potential in front of me, I’m going to put in extra hours,” he says. “I’m all in—especially if I can see the results.”
Innovate or else
While corporate entrepreneurship can be good for the employee’s bottom line, it’s become a must-do for companies that don’t want to get left behind. “I don’t think there are any companies right now who can afford to rest on their laurels,” says Rita Gunther McGrath, associate professor at the Columbia Business School and author of The Entrepreneurial Mindset (Harvard Business School Press). “As the pace of competition gets faster and faster, yesterday’s winner can very easily become tomorrow’s roadkill.”