Entrepreneurial spirit

How Alive is your Entrepreneurial Spirit?

My teenager came home from school recently with a loaded question about starting her own business.

She said that her teacher had told her that it would most likely fail, based on the statistics and that she should not plan her future around starting her own business. She asked me “Is it true? Is it hard? It doesn’t look that hard?”

I wanted to be honest with her, that it is hard. BUT I wanted her to know that its not all about the stats that she may or may not be part of. That it’s a metric which doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s about having an entrepreneurial spirit, a mindset, creating value and finding new ways to explore and shape the world.

That it is not always about the ownership of a business, it’s about how you act within a business and the possibilities that you can create and how it makes you feel.

Failure can be your best teacher and taking risks can be exhilarating. You can experience the highs and lows in many different organisational structures. In fact, some of the best places for an entrepreneur are within a structure where there is a financial safety net for their ideas and risk taking.

She made me think of their future, where the jobs and businesses they will be part of, may not yet be conceivable. It made me think of our most recent research and the pressing issues facing organisations today.

Organisations across all industries are saying that they want to see more innovation within their business, they want greater alignment between projects, teams and their strategic objectives.

They want better engagement, ‘peak performance’, productivity improvements and to be ‘lean’. They want to get more value from current investments, to stimulate new ideas to invest in, to embrace change and to be more adaptive and ‘agile’  Many want an ‘entrepreneurial enterprise’ even if they are not calling it that.

So how alive is your entrepreneurial spirit?

Organisations can quash the entrepreneurial spirit and a weary business owner can stop being the entrepreneur they used to be, but many great businesses continue to thrive by fostering an entrepreneurial culture.

Some quick ways to gauge how alive your entrepreneurial spirit is:

  1. When was the last time you took a significant risk (in your work)?
  2. How long ago did you create or design something new that both challenged and excited you and that created value?
  3. When was the last time you pitched a new idea to a team of people, enrolled them in that idea and delivered on that idea?
  4. When did you last fail and how did you react to that failure? How resilient were you?
  5. When was the last time you felt inspired and did something different, not outside of work but INSIDE of work.

I love working with people with an entrepreneurial spirit and the value derived for organisation in actively seeking those types of people is immense.

People with an entrepreneurial mindset often work autonomously and act decisively.  They are inherently optimistic and look for new ways of doing things, they take risks and above all, they execute.

Innovation, initiative, problem solving, creativity, value creation and the ability to ‘just get things done’, is highly sought after.  If organisations can facilitate and develop entrepreneurial behaviours, empower individuals to take risks and develop new ideas that create value, everyone wins.

Below is a quote from the World Economic Forum: ‘The Bold Ones – High-impact Entrepreneurs Who Transform Industries’ – September 2014

What characterises a ‘high impact’ entrepreneur?

  • Market leading – look for growth through innovation
  • Growth aspiration – interested in scale
  • Flexible – can respond and evolve to changes in markets and as their life cycle changes
  • Opportunistic – ready to seize new opportunities, stay on top of new technology and innovations
  • Never stand alone – seek the right partnerships and advice. Hire industry experts and empower people.

Where to start?

Last year I was invited to a breakfast at my son’s school where he was pitching his business idea to a panel of well-known successful Australian entrepreneurs (in the shark tank format). When I arrived, a group of boys a few years younger than him at age 11 were competing for the same ‘prize’.

I was doubtful about their ability to grasp what this session was about.  When it was their turn to speak they took to the podium and commanded the room with confidence, pitching their business ideas to the panel of experts. They discussed the origins of their ideas, how they took their product to market (in the school yard and the community), the revenue they had made, the profit and the future of their business.

Seeing the excitement, optimism and entrepreneurial capability of such young boys was both humbling and inspiring.

It was a testament to everyone involved to believe that it’s never too early – or too late – to start to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

If you are interested in researching this topic further a book Awaken the Entrepreneur Within written by Michael Gerber has some great content. If your organisation is doing something particularly innovative in building an entrepreneurial enterprise we would love to know about it.