A great job that allows you to grow can help make you a wonderful entrepreneur. Not only can it teach you about your field, but it also allows you to learn on someone else's dime. But just being a part of a company isn't enough; the people who learn the most also take risks as employees or interns. They excel in uncomfortable situations, and have to learn new skills all the time. They are given a great deal of responsibility, and many times are in way over their head. While this may seem like a bad thing, it actually results in them becoming better founders in the future.
Here are some of the ways amazing entrepreneurs made the most of their previous experiences as employees.
1. Embrace Being Uncomfortable
We all deal with situations at work that make us uncomfortable. The thing that separates great entrepreneurs is their ability to attack uncertainty, not run from it. One of the greatest ways future business owners prepare themselves for this is by taking on new challenges at work.
Many times, people are afraid to do this because of the risk of failing. Unfortunately, fearing failure is not a habit that will help you at all when you start your own company. As an entrepreneur, you're going to fail at something. Michael Jordan once said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying again." This is the same mentality you need to adopt when it comes to work.
You'll also find that your employer will reward you for your willingness to take on new projects, not punish you. It is important to understand that when you do fail, make sure you have a plan in place to fix your mistake. Bosses don't fire you when you make a misstep, they fire you when you mess up and don't offer a solution to fix your error. The moment you feel comfortable performing all the tasks of your job, it's time to take on new challenges. If you don't, by the time you start your own company you'll be way over your head.
2. Learn From Your Company's Mistakes
No company is perfect. Even the best growing organizations have weaknesses, or take on initiatives that they fail at. While this can be seen as a negative, it also presents you with the ability to find new opportunities for your future venture.
A good example is Carlo Cisco from Select. An early employee of Groupon, Carlo was responsible for expanding Groupon's operations in Japan. Through that process, he learned that the company really struggled with retention of customers. While he couldn't change Groupon's strategy, he was able to come up with his own solution leading to the invention of Select.
Carlo is just one example of many entrepreneurs who have founded great companies by going through this process. The only way you can achieve this is by coming up with creative solutions for your company's problems. Google does a great job embedding this process into its members by allowing them time to work on their own projects. Because they do this this, their employees improve on their problem-solving skills and creativity. Sadly, most companies aren't like Google when it comes to innovation. This causes their workers to leave the company and build great organizations out of a problem they encountered on the job.
3. Learn to work smart
Entrepreneurs who are exceptional have an incredible talent at delegation. This allows them to get more done, and produce better results. Many business owners learn this from previous jobs that they had. As an intern or entry employee, in the beginning you are going to have to do a lot of legwork. As you prove yourself, you'll start to get managing power and work more with a team. This is a crucial time to work on your entrepreneurship skills. Figure out how to motivate the team you're working in, and test ways to boost the crew's productivity. Think of the people you work with as your own little company, and try being the leader of that small unit. Many business owners take for granted the importance of learning leadership skills. Then when their company is falling apart, they suddenly try focusing on improving the way they run their companies. In most cases, this comes too late and the group goes into a downward spiral.
A great way to prevent this is to practice your leadership skills as an employee. If your company culture stinks, roll up your sleeves and try fixing it. Do you have an unmotivated team member? Great, figure out what it takes to get them back on track. Work on being a great CEO as an employee, so when you step into that role you already have the skills necessary for the job.