If you know my background you know that my interest and study of entrepreneurship and small business began when I started working in our family’s business at just 15 years of age.
In the years since, I’ve been involved in various businesses, ranging from start-ups to more established companies. In fact, on my fathers side of the family we have several generations of entrepreneurs and small business people, including my great grandfather, then my grandmother and one of my grandfathers, followed by my father, and two of his brothers, and then there’s me. I’m certain I’m leaving others out here, and if so, it certainly wasn’t intentional, it’s just that we’ve got a long, long line of entrepreneurs in our family tree. A fact that I’m quite proud of I might add. Suffice it to say I’m cut from the entrepreneurial cloth if ever there was one.
I mention the examples above to make it abundantly clear that I’m a firm believer that we would all do well to adopt and develop a strong entrepreneurial mindset. I also believe we would be putting our future generations at a strong advantage if we would actively encourage and cultivate those same entrepreneurial skills in our kids and young adults. They are skills which can take them far in life and I think we are doing them a disservice by not requiring that they learn them at least to some degree.
Developing the entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t necessarily require a person to be an entrepreneur themselves…
I want to make one clear distinction in what I’m suggesting here. While I have a strong conviction that the skills of the entrepreneur would be invaluable assets for all to have and carry with them throughout their lives, I’m not necessarily saying that everyone should consider traveling the road of entrepreneurship, nor starting their own small business. Though I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad idea, depending on ones own unique situation.
That said, whether or not you ever have any plans whatsoever for setting out on your own entrepreneurial journey I hope you will consider the following reasons I’m going to outline for developing the skills and putting them to work in your own professional life. It is my strong belief that if you will do so you will be far better prepared for whatever path you do choose.
The benefits of the entrepreneurial mindset are many — whether you ever work for yourself a day in your life or not…
It cultivates a sense of rugged individualism, yet so much more. One need only look around and see example, after example of people who have put their trust in their past career, assuming that it would always exist, yet suddenly found themselves in a position where they had to reinvent themselves.
Sadly, the idea and belief that they could in-fact begin a new and acquire whatever new skills might be required of them never seems to cross their mind. It’s as though they’ve been programmed (from their past frame of reference and life experiences) that what they have done in the past professionally is what they’re meant to do, that it is somehow their identity. Naturally, they end up stuck, and inaction can quickly become as scary as quicksand. Their inaction leaves them stuck right where they are.
Contrast the person in the above example with a person who has the entrepreneurial mindset, and you are likely to notice several key differences. First, they know instinctively that whatever position or job they have lost is no more who they were, or a part of their identity then was their first set of chores they did as a child growing up.
Certainly their past experiences served them, they allowed them to learn an additional skill or skills, but they know first hand that they can take those skills they’ve acquired and use them to attract another opportunity into their lives. They also realize that opportunity, though it may not always be in plain view, is always available, and exists for the person who is willing to dig down deep and put the word out that they’re looking for it, and open to it should it appear.
It is for this very reason that a person with the entrepreneurial mindset will spend time cultivating their network (the people they know personally and professionally) long before they find themselves in need of having to reach out to those folks for help. One way they develop their network is by ensuring they’re always adding more value (i.e. doing things which will make others see them as a person of value, or trusted resource) on an ongoing basis. They are careful to avoid being seen as that person who only seems to show up when they need something, yet when others need their help never seems to be anywhere to be found.
The person with the entrepreneurial mindset also has a strong sense that even though things and circumstances may change, they have within themselves, and with the help of others, the ability to steer things in the direction they want to move.
They avoid at all costs the mentality which tries to convince those without the entrepreneurial mindset that they’re somehow dependent solely on circumstances outside of oneself. No, the entrepreneurial minded person will approach things along the lines of a job loss as a numbers game. They’ll up the number of people and places they reach out to for new opportunities. They will remind themselves of the saying, “you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can always control how you react to what happens to you”. And they will act in accordance with that idea and get on with crafting the life they want as best as they possibly can. Through their actions they will inevitably begin to see the results they are after transpire quickly.
It can make you a more valued employee. Some may very well disagree with me here (though I suspect those who do are far more likely to be those same people who haven’t studied entrepreneurship nor taken the time themselves to acquire the unique set of skills which comes from doing so) but my experience, and the first hand experience I’ve seen play out through the work I do in the professional development company I run now (i.e. consulting with clients, and speaking to businesses, large and small) have shown me time and time again that it’s true.
Here are a few of the unique skills you will gain as a result of developing the entrepreneurial mindset…
A unique appreciation for and detail to how you interact with and treat customers. If there’s one thing any entrepreneur knows (at least if they plan to stay in business for any length of time) it is the importance of treating your customers as one of your most valuable assets. Without customers (preferably really happy ones, who know they’re appreciated) one ceases to be in business — and as a result, you my dear friend (whether you work for yourself or not) will cease to have a job anymore. The customer is important — vitally important.
In a small business setting, particularly as you’re growing a business one gets to see first hand just how important retaining your customers are. In the early stages of any business losing even one customer can be the difference between keeping the lights on or making payroll. When you have that kind of understanding you can more naturally appreciate your customers.
When your customers can see in your actions that they’re appreciated it’s possible to create a bond with them so strong that even the monsters of the marketplace (i.e. the big businesses and corporations which setup shop in your area) can’t break. Make no mistake though, forging, keeping, and ever strengthening that special bond between you and your customers is up to you. If you take them for granted any step of the way they have the right to move on to a place that will treat them as they deserve to be treated. And make no mistake — that’s precisely what they will choose to do.
An understanding that skills, not entitlement is what ultimately determines whether one gets ahead or not. Fair or not, the person with the most time in on the job isn’t always the most qualified or “right” person to receive advancement in any given job. A persons experience, skill-set, and ability to get the given job done is. I don’t mean for this statement to hurt any one’s feelings, it’s just the reality of it. Speaking truth, over political correctness is what will serve you my dear friend — so please accept the truth in what I’m sharing with you and you’ll be much better off as a result.
We know first hand that countless situations have proven that when people have been promoted, in-spite of whether or not they were actually the most qualified person for the task at hand, the products, and people they were ultimately responsible for have suffered in terms of quality.
With that said, the person with the entrepreneurial mindset actually appreciates the truth in the statement I just mentioned, because he or she knows it’s for this very reason that they can move more easily up the ladder of success and benefit as a result of it. They know the playing field is truly level, and that their willingness to learn the new skills which are required of them, and apply what they learn going forward will allow them to be in a better than average position to grow within the company they’re involved in. They also know as mentioned above that if they find themselves in a situation which know longer allows for such growth or professional satisfaction, they can use the skills they’ve acquired to that point to shift over into a different career field or undertaking.
I hope that the examples above have helped to illustrate my point. Whether or not you ever choose to work a day in your life for yourself — having the skills which would allow you to do so can, and will serve you incredibly well.
Action steps for developing the mind of an entrepreneur …
You can try one or all of these ideas. The key is to act on these ideas consistently. Don’t make your study of entrepreneurship a one time event — that’s akin to graduating in your given career field and never picking up a book, or so much as an industry trade journal ever again to keep abreast of the latest happenings. Your skills will stagnate, and your value as a professional will diminish.
1. reach out to entrepreneurs and small business owners in different industries and ask them questions like, “what are the most important skills or attributes you believe you possess as an entrepreneur”.
2. spend time reading books, and or listening to audio programs which specifically teach entrepreneurial skills and talents.
3. a few times a week (preferably daily) go to one of the countless online communities or websites geared towards entrepreneurs and read what is being shared and discussed there.
4. Work one on one with a coach or mentor who can teach you the skills of the entrepreneur.
Again, those are just a few ideas to get you started. The key difference maker isn’t which approach you take, it’s that you try one and settle on one that works for you. In doing so you’ll be well on your way to being your best, with a solid set of skills that can serve you, whether or not you use them in the service of another company or make the choice to set out on your own entrepreneurial journey.
Whatever you decide — remember…
It’s your life, LIVE BIG!
– I would love to hear your thoughts on the ideas above. If there’s anything you would like to add please do so in the comments. We can all learn through collaboration on this most important of topics.