Entrepreneurialism is a Mindset
Entrepreneurial organizations are driven by a common mindset, rather than size or level of maturity, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the new book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.
"It's about maintaining a focus on innovation and creativity, and rewarding those who take these initiatives—whether or not they succeed,” she said.
"By definition, not every entrepreneurial venture is successful. But the key is to learn from each experience and use that knowledge to go out and try again and again. It's about asking questions and continually looking for what's next, instead of resting on your laurels,” she said.
Start with the Right Definition
"More than ever, business leaders are desirous of employees with an entrepreneurial spirit,” according to Skip Weismann, the Leadership and Workplace Communication Expert. "If having a workforce with an entrepreneurial mindset hasn't been a part of company strategy, the systems of hiring and rewards are probably not aligned for it.
"First, start by defining what ‘entrepreneurial spirit' looks like. Make sure to include performance expectations and team rewards. Second, evaluate personnel for their fit for this type of environment. Not everyone will have the required mindset. Veteran employees hired with different expectations will need a transition strategy to allow them to participate in a way they can still feel valued.
"Finally, ensure hiring for entrepreneurial spirit is a priority, and then create a process that attracts the right individuals. This includes creating advertising language that is attractive to the right prospects and developing interviewing and due diligence processes to support it,” Weismann said.
Connecting Purpose to Customers
"Creating an entrepreneurial spirit is all about connecting your purpose to your customer base,” states Voss W Graham, the organizational architect for entrepreneurial leaders.
"The entrepreneurial CEO needs to meet with staff members to discuss the original purpose of the organization, explain the factors that were in play at the beginning, and communicate what these meant to the CEO and founding team members. Revisiting the initial motivators for creating the business will get energy ignited and spirit moving through the organization.
"The second communication objective is to connect the dots so show how purpose truly benefits customers. This action creates a ‘why' for doing the things we do. Then, take it to the next level by discussing innovations for improving customer relationships. These steps translate into energized evangelists with an amazing culture and superior customer relationships,” he said.
Apply Investment Strategies to Philanthropy
"Growth in staff size can also affect the entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to philanthropy,” says philanthropic consultant Kris Putnam-Walkerly, president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc. "Philanthropic giving can often get lost in a sea of process, or hung up on data, or mired in evaluation. All of these can dampen the energy and enthusiasm for exploring new ideas and options.”
To keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well, Putnam-Walkerly recommends approaches borrowed from the investment and corporate worlds. "Donors can reserve a portion of their grantmaking budget for use in more high-risk, potentially higher returning grants, create an 'R&D' group to brainstorm new ways of using philanthropic dollars, or invest in nonprofit organizations that demonstrate a willingness to pursue leading-edge ideas,” she says.
"Just don't try to use your grants to push nonprofits into entrepreneurial mode when they aren't ready,” she warns. "Making that shift can require years of support for organizational and leadership development.”
Properly Define Risk
Gary Patterson, President and CEO of the FiscalDoctor® in Atlanta, GA, notes that the secret to maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit is in risk definition.
"In order to maintain an entrepreneurial spirit while safeguarding wealth, one should define risk broadly enough to have a framework and loosely enough to allow for an entrepreneurial spirit.” Patterson refers to this as Finding the Million Dollar Blind Spot Before It Finds You.
Reward the Right Actions
Entrepreneurs are exceptional problem solvers. Organizations can foster an entrepreneurial spirit by keeping a sharp focus on important problems and encouraging creative approaches to solving them,” according to Gayle Lantz, founder of WorkMatters (www.workmatters.com), who consults with organizations that value entrepreneurial thinking.
"Leadership should be rewarding individuals who are bringing innovative ideas to the table—those who are taking calculated risks to implement solutions, even if those solutions fail. As organizations increase their tolerance for failure, they will see the entrepreneurial spirit increase as well.”
In addition, Lantz says, "The entrepreneurial spirit can be kept alive by diversifying the talent in the organization. Different perspectives lead to innovative thinking and better problem solving, both of which keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.”
Employee Engagement Tied to Entrepreneurship
Dr. Maynard Brusman, a consulting psychologist, executive coach and emotional intelligence-based leadership development expert, notes, "The entrepreneurial spirit is something you develop within yourself. Some people that are super achievers may want to take the biggest risk and start their own companies. But that's not the goal of most people. However, you can take that entrepreneurial mind-set into whatever company you go to work with and achieve success.”
According to Dr. Brusman, "We have a lot of unhappy employees in companies. Employers need to increase employee engagement by creating meaningful and purpose-driven work. While any company can have an entrepreneurial spirit, it does tend to be more inherent in startup organizations. However, there are many large organizations that embrace an entrepreneurial spirit: Apple, Virgin, Google and Zappos, to name a few. Create a culture of questioning. Questions fuel the creative process and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Entrepreneurship Starts With Leadership
"The vast majority of my clients struggle to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive – no matter their size,” points out Lisa Anderson, known as The Manufacturing ConnectorSM and President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., Claremont, CA. "Those who succeed have exceptional leaders.”
"Start with your people. Make sure they know that failure is not only an expectation but also should be celebrated. If they are not failing, they are not pushing the envelope enough in testing out new ideas. The key is to learn from failure, adjust and try again.”
"Leaders must also help employees understand their value. Once employees see the difference they can make, understand that failure is a part of the process and know that they are appreciated, they will thrive. Ideas for dramatic improvement and customer loyalty will follow,” Anderson adds.
Environment Trumps Strategy
According to SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD, "My first book was The Innovation Formula. We found that entrepreneurialism is never a function of size, but one of environment and direct superior.
"If the boss and the surroundings support and reward entrepreneurial approaches, they will flourish. But if they don't, no matter what the strategy or the memo, they will be extinguished,” Dr. Weiss notes.