Entrepreneur and entrepreneurship are quickly becoming the most overused words in business. People labeling themselves an entrepreneur are so common these days that performing a quick LinkedIn search will give you more than two million results.
But what does it really mean to be an entrepreneur? Classically, entrepreneurship is defined as setting up a business (or businesses) and taking on financial risks in the hope of making a profit.
Today, this term has evolved to mean something more. Entrepreneurship is about innovation and transforming the world with cutting-edge solutions -- and you do not have to start a business to be an entrepreneur. Organizations that can support and unleash that spirit within their enterprise will see greater creativity and innovation among their employees and will ultimately achieve greater success in the marketplace.
Hard-working, creative people exude many of the qualities associated with entrepreneurs. These individuals make the best team members because they are driven to think outside of the box and test new ideas. However, in the wrong environment, they might feel bored, stifled, or disengaged, which will cause them to lose sight of their company's overall goals.
There are five key techniques that organizations can implement to support and encourage the positive qualities of entrepreneurship in their employees, while simultaneously keeping everyone on track and moving in the right direction.
1. Communicate your goals, values, and mission to your team
To help your teams work well together and understand how their contributions are moving the organization forward, it is paramount to articulate your company’s big-picture goals, values, and mission. Share them with your team members and enable these individuals to look for ways to better tailor their contributions to the company’s needs. For this to succeed, this needs to be an initiative driven from the top down, and your leadership team and senior managers need to embody these values and ideas.
2. Intrapreneurship: finishing school for entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are always interested in new ways to build products, and they want to drive change. So do intrapreneurs. These individuals are the internal problem solvers. They follow their curiosity down paths that will facilitate the creation of innovative solutions for your organization. They are the people who will ask the questions to unlock new opportunities and directions for your product development (and your business). Intrapreneurs hold themselves and others accountable to the highest standard and have a “no excuses” mentality.
According to AngelList’s database, at least 200 startups were recently founded by former Google engineers. While it’s likely that many of them had the drive and the talent to be entrepreneurs, their time as intrapreneurs at a forward-thinking company like Google provided them with the confidence and the networks of collaborators, financiers, co-founders, and future employees to venture out on their own.
3. Provide continual training and education opportunities
Employees today expect to have access to opportunities for growth, and one of the ways to demonstrate your company’s commitment to this is to provide opportunities (or funding) for additional training or continuing education. In order for your organization to scale and grow, you need to invest in your employees’ career development and growth.
4. Empower your employees to get things done
Giving your employees autonomy and the freedom to follow and dig deeper into the avenues that interest them most will encourage innovation throughout your company. The insights they get from pursuing their own passions will help your business grow. To get there, you need to empower your employees to make decisions, take initiative, and own the results they get -- good or bad.
5. Accept that failure is part of the process
Failure is a part of life, but learning from your failures, and the failures of others, is the only way to be successful. As a result, it is important that individuals are not afraid of failing and understand that success is not final. In a culture of entrepreneurship, you need to encourage employees to be fearless and accept that failure is part of the process. To do this, you need to create a culture of continuous feedback, coach team members to move past failure, and share what you’ve learned with the rest of the team.
There’s plenty of room for entrepreneurs in IT
As an entrepreneur at the head of a technology consulting business, it’s easy for me to be a proponent of these qualities, but I’m not an anomaly.
Many of the large-scale businesses I work with want to drive an agile culture at their own companies. The issue is that this can be challenging for them to encourage the kind of dynamic, exploratory culture within their teams that make agile work. These companies can benefit from looking at every scenario as through an entrepreneur lens to find creative ways to drive better business outcomes.
Arvind Kapur is a chief executive officer and co-founder at Saggezza. Saggezza combines software development, implementation expertise, and data analytics to help businesses make better data-driven decisions and improve customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability.