Entrepreneurship is often thought of as an area of business that sits separately from the corporate world, reserved for people who don’t quite fit the traditional corporate mould and want to be masters of their own destiny: the game-changers and rule-breakers.
So, why would the leaders of larger corporate giants pay any attention to entrepreneurship? What relevance does this field have to large, bureaucratic organisations? It may surprise you to learn that there are many lessons that can be learned from entrepreneurship which can help established businesses to adapt, grow and thrive.
Firstly, entrepreneurship involves a number of core skills and traits that are essential for business success, particularly in today’s modern business environment where disruption has comprehensively changed and continues to change the way things are done on practically a daily basis. Corporates are being shaken up and outperformed, often by disruptive smaller players who are more nimble, flexible and focused upon understanding customers and delivering upon their expectations and needs in a timely fashion.
Large giants need to change the way they have always done business and view things differently; this can be easier said than done in sectors (and even businesses) with centuries of history. In essence, this agility, speed and customer-centricity is what entrepreneurship is all about: identifying and solving problems in an innovative and unique way to drive business outcomes.
Larger companies need to get on the front foot and understand the nature of an entrepreneurial mindset, fostering these key traits and skills in your business by developing a culture of intrapreneurship. If you are being outdone by flexible, fast and disruptive entrepreneurs, the only way to survive is to understand entrepreneurship and learn from it.
Realistically, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur: there is so much involved, and it goes beyond coming up with great ideas – you need the gumption, resilience, risk tolerance and executional skills to see it through and ride the highs and lows.
In our Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs, we see a lot of people who come through and learn more about their passion, purpose and how to identify real-world problems and design marketable solutions. That doesn’t mean that all of our graduates will take the bull by its horns and become an entrepreneur. However, they will learn core skills and traits, which can benefit companies and individuals alike.
Leaders who acquire these entrepreneurial skills and traits and adapt them into established organisations can better position them for present and future challenges and opportunities in an ever-changing world.
Here are a few key entrepreneurial traits that will serve any business well:
Critical and creative problem-solving.
Successful entrepreneurs know how to identify a real-world problem; they see problems around them, things that don’t work frustrate them, and they wonder how things could be done better. They readily see gaps in the market. Any organisation needs problem-solvers on their team, who can spot problems before they arise. If you can identify problems early on and solve them through innovative thinking, you will start to become more agile and quick to move in meeting demands.
Taking risks fearlessly and having a growth mindset.
True entrepreneurs take risks. They push the boundaries and go outside their comfort zone to solve problems and turn vision into reality. When you take risks and have a growth mindset, you can really take flight. Encouraging your staff to take risks is incredibly important, but it can also be frightening. You can encourage your staff to feel safe in taking risks by creating a ‘sandbox’ within the company, in which staff can try new things and feel safe to fail. This will allow your teams to experiment with new ideas, while creating an environment of regular learning for the benefit of the whole organisation.
Conviction and dedication.
To ride the highs and lows of business, entrepreneurs have no choice but to be totally dedicated to their vision and have conviction. If they aren’t going to make it happen, no one else will do it for them; there is no choice but to lead. When you work for someone else, there is usually a safety net, which simply doesn’t exist when you run your own show. Encouraging your people to run with their ideas to solve real-world customer or business problems, and take risks and be accountable, will give them the drive to innovate and feel a sense of dedication to seeing their ideas come to life.
Things you can do to start embracing entrepreneurship in your business:
Bring in entrepreneurs as mentors and coaches.
Get active entrepreneurs involved in mentoring your teams, sharing their knowledge from real-world experience. It’s great to have innovation experts on your team as part of this approach; however, nothing is more authentic than engaging with people who have walked in the shoes of a business owner or entrepreneur in real life, who truly understand the skills required in your teams.
Create a culture that is conducive to entrepreneurship.
Create a positive company culture that embraces risk-taking – one that allows your teams to experiment, ideate and solve problems while feeling protected and nurtured in doing so. Encourage solutions to be implemented, so that people can see their work in action. Give them ownership where you can, so they feel empowered to drive their solutions and deliver results to the business.
Change your talent acquisition approach.
Rethink your future workforce, basing your approach on the skills of the future, recognising the need for entrepreneurial traits and skills. Invest in people who have had exposure to entrepreneurship – perhaps from running their own business or start-up, undertaking courses in this space, creating and strategising business ideas previously, or being involved in pitching their own ideas. You will be surprised by the diversity in skills and mindset that these types of hires will bring to your organisation.
If you haven’t yet thought about how entrepreneurship relates to your business, now is the time. You may even want to consider some entrepreneurial training yourself, in order to fully embrace these skills in your teams and future workforce.