What comes to mind when you think of the word “entrepreneur”? The definition from Dictionary.com is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Some other definitions specifically refer to starting a business. But as with most English words, the best way to get to the true meaning is to look at the origins. In this case, “entrepreneur” comes from the French entreprendre: “to undertake”. A little research on the definition of “undertake” leads you to concepts like committing to a goal, starting something new, tackling objectives.
Commit. Start. Tackle.
Sounds like a good overview of what’s needed to really get something off the ground, right?
Commit: throw yourself into it, Start: find somewhere to begin, Tackle: go after it with force.
But are these qualities only valuable when starting a business? Of course not. All businesses, large and small, need a dose of entrepreneurial spirit. Today more than ever as the business landscape continues to become ever more competitive.
Entrepreneurial leaders are the drivers of vision and strategy in a large organization. Some refer to these entrepreneurs within established businesses as “intrapreneurs”. They breathe energy into the most difficult situations. They see possibilities over obstacles. They stay focused on the end goal and have an innate understanding of accountability, which creates in them the drive to establish goals, overcome obstacles, and motivate others to gain winning results. Entrepreneurs also have superior communication skills, which help them facilitate collaboration, elicit ideas from others, and get people on board with their strategic plans.
So you want entrepreneurial leaders in your business, no matter the size. But how do you get there? Many companies have tried large projects to implement an entrepreneurial culture, but according to this article in the Harvard Business Review, 70-90% of such projects fail. You could see that as a reason to be discouraged, or you could think like an entrepreneur and see it as an opportunity—a reason to be motivated to do it right in your company.
Here are some key things to consider:
#1. Hire well.
Of course one way to get entrepreneurial thinkers in your organization is to hire entrepreneurial thinkers. In a previous post, I wrote about five steps to better hiring. One of these, #4, talks about looking for failure. People with an entrepreneurial spirit have tried many things and failed, got up, and persevered until they succeeded. People with little experience with turning obstacles into opportunities probably haven’t gone after many innovative goals.
#2. Create a purposeful culture.
You can hire entrepreneurs into your business, but that won’t get you all the way there. If you put an Olympic swimmer in a mossy lake, they’re not going to break any records. Throw entrepreneurial leaders into a problematic culture and you’ll suffocate their ideas and send them running for the hills. So, you also need to foster a culture that encourages entrepreneurial thinking and gives them space to add value. That means you really need to create an environment where risks are encouraged, failure is a learning experience, and success is rewarded. The remaining key things speak more to how you can specifically encourage entrepreneurship within your culture.
#3. Look for hidden gems.
Not all entrepreneurial leaders need to be hired in. You likely have many secret innovators in your midst just waiting to be discovered. If you start encouraging these traits and hiring more people to shake things up, your natural go-getters will rise up. Make sure to stay on the lookout for these people. Have a process in place for identifying them or giving them a path to start contributing in more innovative ways.
#4. Welcome input.
Create a tool that is specifically for innovative ideas. It can be a monthly meeting or something as simple as a collection mechanism. For example, LetterLogic, a print services ?rm in Nashville, Tennessee, uses a literal suggestion box that is right near the front door in plain sight (1). We tend to create computerized solutions for everything these days, but perhaps in this case having the physical box is more encouraging to innovators than current online collaboration tools.
Set the expectation that ideally you would generate tons of ideas and only 10% would make it to implementation after being vetted and taken through initial steps. This precedent will encourage brainstorming and freethinking.
#5. Review and recognize ideas.
Make sure to have a system for reviewing and recognizing ideas. If you falter with addressing people’s input, they will quickly stop providing it. Again, this can be a monthly meeting or something less frequent. Recognize all input as valuable. When a good idea rises to the top, reward the contributor with acknowledgment and even possibly a prize. Many companies use a $100 gift card prize for the best idea. LetterLogic lets all employees vote on their favorites.
Have you had some success with encouraging entrepreneurship in your company? I’d love to hear your experiences or ideas in the comments.
This article was originally published on Linkedin Pulse.