Entrepreneurs face a common fear: hiring other entrepreneurs. They're familiar with the advantages of having an entrepreneurial mindset -- they take ownership, they refuse to settle for mediocrity and they'll stop at nothing to succeed.
But those same traits make business owners pause. If the stereotype of entrepreneurs being cutthroat turns out to be true, who's to say entrepreneurial employees won't throw them under the bus? Will these employees be engaged with the company's mission -- or constantly seeking their own? Will they push to succeed only until something better comes along?
Based on years of helping business owners grow their companies, I'm not going to lie and say those fears aren't valid. I've seen entrepreneurs lose their best employees to the allure of starting their own companies. But the truth is that your company stands a better chance of succeeding if you fuel an entrepreneurial spirit throughout your entire staff.
Empowered People Do Empowered Work
Sixty-six percent of CEOs and CIOs surveyed by Deloitte in 2015 declared that innovation was essential for business growth. Likewise, 63 percent of CMOs told Gartner last year that they expect their innovation budgets -- already accounting for $1 of every $6 spent -- to increase. The need to innovate has invaded every executive's list of priorities.
Entrepreneurs not only have to innovate to compete with big brands, but they're also driven to pursue change at a cellular level. A 2009 study published in Applied Psychology found that entrepreneurs display a distinct preference for taking risks compared to non-entrepreneurs. People with an entrepreneurial mindset push companies forward through their sheer willingness to experiment.
But that's not where the benefits end. Employees who take ownership won't pigeonhole themselves. They'll learn new skills, adopt additional responsibilities and make judgment calls that cause others to hesitate. They're empowered by ownership and do work that entrepreneurs might only expect of themselves.
Create the Culture For Growth
Kyle Goguen, president at Pawstruck and No. 87 on the 2018 Inc. 5000, leads one of the fastest-growing companies in Los Angeles. I interviewed Goguen on hiring for the animal product brand, and he said, "When I hire pretty much for almost all roles, I look for someone with that entrepreneurial spirit inside them. And the reason I do that is because our team is so lean. I've found that I need leaders at every role. I need people who are willing to do anything, wear many hats, be really well-rounded. I'm not really looking for someone who is just content in a single role."
Goguen said he learned the hard way that by failing to hire the values he wanted to see at the company, they didn't take root. He and the other executives outlined the kind of culture they wanted, and the trait overwhelmingly needed was curiosity. They realized they wanted people who were lifelong learners and motivated to push into the next industry change. By hiring more of these entrepreneurial types, the company grew exponentially.
For entrepreneurs, there may be nothing more frustrating than obstacles standing in the way of what they want. That's why Sean Elan, president at Affordable Luxury Group, No. 55 on the 2018 Inc. 5000, spurs visionary problem-solving within the company. One of the fastest-growing companies in New York City, the apparel company pushes people to find solutions to avoid falling behind.
When I spoke to Elan, he said there's always a solution with an entrepreneurial-minded team, no matter how bad a problem might seem. "Whatever it is, we'll always find a way around," he explained. "So it's really pushing people to think outside the box and realize that there's always a solution. That being proactive and not reactive is really the name of the game. So if you're already reacting to a problem, you're too late."
Lower Stress Levels
Perhaps one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in the game, Mark Cuban hires for the same traits. "The people that tend [to] work for me a long time, not only are smart, not only are driven, not only are learners, but they understand that the greatest value you can offer a boss is to reduce their stress," Cuban told Money.
Business owners know that stress is a big component of entrepreneurship, but bringing on people who view things similarly can ensure that things get done. An office full of people unafraid to take ownership and set high standards can keep strong performers engaged -- and help those who add to others' workloads self-select out.
An entrepreneur may be intimidated by the idea of being surrounded by other entrepreneurial-minded people. But these ownership-focused employees bring benefits to the table that outweigh the risk of them leaving to sow their entrepreneurial oats. Fill your company with this mindset, and work will suddenly seem a lot easier.