The jobless economic recovery has created a national mania for entrepreneurialism. Given the dearth of good paying jobs, people of all ages and station are being encouraged to consider self-employment. Companies too, are being exhorted to rekindle the spirit of entrepreneurialism that gave them birth.
Having consulted with companies of all sizes and across major industries, I have often wondered why entrepreneurialism is seen as something outside of the mainstream of corporate America. In most cases, payroll employees are not treated like risk-takers and are generally constrained by their job descriptions. On the other hand, when they make decisions, take calculated risks, anticipate outcomes, implement a plan, handle the details and accept the risk of failure, employees “undertake” and are, therefore, by definition, entrepreneurs. Pity their employers don’t see it that way.
Paradoxically, “entrepreneurial attitude” is often used by hiring managers to describe ideal candidates who have a demonstrated ability to “think out of the box,” “push the envelope,” and infuse the organization with “breakthrough thinking.” Once wooed and hired, however, they too usually enter a culture that is antithetical to risk taking. Worse, it punishes movement outside of the bounds of the tried and true.
Becoming an entrepreneurial organization begins with liberating people from their job descriptions – the prescriptions most employees have, whether formal or implicit, that spell out the ingredients of “satisfactory” performance. The second important step is to adopt a partnership approach to management/employee relations, based on mutual trust and respect and the tenets of motivational psychology:
• People require a clear sense of purpose that must be continuously reinforced.
• People need to feel a sense of belonging and engagement with the organization and its reason for existence.
• People will respond positively to strong leadership.
• People can be motivated to subordinate their intereststo the good of the group with which they are associated.
• People do what is valued, observed, measured and rewarded.
• People will overcome obstacles if they feel they have a stake in the outcome.
• People are slow to recover from suspicion or evidence of betrayal of their trust.
Company executives sometimes need a little prodding to see the merits of changing their ways and establishing an entrepreneurial culture. Most organizations go through periods of slow growth and unrealized potential,
ideal circumstances for internal entrepreneurs to blast through barriers to growth and profitability. Regardless of size or industry, companies that want to encourage entrepreneurial behavior must develop goals and techniques that are:
• Simple, almost intuitive in concept.
• Devised as an integral part of a clearly articulated business strategy.
• Enthusiastically embraced by the leadership of the organization as critical to the future of the organization’s future and their personal well being.
• Effectively communicated to the entire organization as an uncommon opportunity for personal gain in terms that are understandable at all levels.
• Translated into specific tasks and milestones that can be quantified at individual, function and enterprise levels.
• Within the grasp of the work force.
• Linked to rewards that are meaningful and attainable.
• Sustainable even in the face of initial resistance or temporary set backs.
Goals and objectives have to be shaped to suit the uniqueness of the organization. Certain goals, however, are common to most organizations that adopt an entrepreneurial approach to accelerating growth:
• To clearly define specific areas of improvement, such as production, market share, expense reduction, revenue and profitability.
• To ensure that the organization is streamlined for rapid growth.
• To establish attainable, measurable performance metrics for the tasks and outcomes critical to the organization’s success.
• To ensure that the organization has the skills and adequate resources to implement for success.
• To develop a reward/recognition system that reinforces profitable growth.
Organizations have the potential to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit that initially propelled them beyond the gravitational pull of failure. Ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things when the goals and objectives are clear, they have a personal stake in the outcome and risk taking is encouraged and rewarded.
Richard Anthony, Sr. Managing Director, The Solutions Network