Most founders of companies, as their businesses grow, have a nagging feeling that the company is losing its "entrepreneurial spirit." The more employees that are added, the less each employee seems to "get" the culture and little things that make up the foundational difference between the entrepreneur's company and its competitors.
I often hear from CEOs that they want their people to be more "entrepreneurial." But what does that really mean? I think it is a misuse of the term. Entrepreneurs are unemployable! They need to work for themselves--it is an organic impulse.
If a company hired a bunch of entrepreneurs, that company would soon find itself with a lot of new competitors.
What founder-CEOs actually want is for their people to have some key entrepreneurial qualities. Among them:
- Passion and commitment for the business, co-workers, customers, and the job itself
- Self-motivation, self-reliance, and initiative
- A habit of treating the company's money as if they were investing their own money
I recently spoke with Glenn Carver, author of Stand in the Heat, who has interviewed many famous entrepreneurs. He suggests that instead of hiring someone "entrepreneurial," you use these workplace practices to develop the workforce you really need.
1. Hire for Passion
Channeling passionate people is a pleasure. Creating passion inside of dispassionate people is torture. So hire for passion: While bad business cultures can dampen it, great cultures can rarely create passion in people who do not bring it with them. Look for enthusiasm in your interview, of course, but also learn enough about your candidates to see if they make life choices that include risk, achievement and celebration.
2. Reward Initiative
In many office cultures, people who show initiative and independence are taking a risk, stepping forward into the line of fire. So if you want to see more of these qualities in your employees, seek out and reward actions that embody them--even at the smallest of scales, and regardless of outcome.
Even slight negative comments will snuff out most people's willingness to take repeated risk. But you can create a culture of initiative, self-reliance, and independence by offering a regular diet of praise and recognition.
3. Talk About Money
Company finances are often an abstract idea for employees. It's hard for most to see the connection between the choices they make and the business's financial viability. So teach workers about core financial issues: variable costs, fixed costs, gross margin, incremental margin, and contribution. It may sound like dry stuff, but even a basic understanding will help employees see their own decisions as investment choices.
Focus on the qualities of entrepreneurs that make for great partners and you will build a culture, not competitors.
If you would like to hear my interview with Glenn Carver, click here.