Steven's Blog

Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Employed

A CEO client of mine has been asking his senior executives to be more “entrepreneurial” in their approach to the business, and he is certainly not the first one to do so.

Many businesses could do better if managers and staff alike thought and behaved more like business owners. Click To Tweet

However, salaried employees are not entrepreneurs—not even salaried CEOs. At best they are careerists. This is not to say that the thinking and behaviors of careerists and entrepreneurs are mutually exclusive. It’s just that the perceived risk and reward to one’s career is not always in alignment with the same for a business owner, no matter what KPIs and incentives might be in place for an employee.

If you are an employee who wants to be more entrepreneurial you must be able to recognize your own careerist tendencies, should you have any, and have the courage to override them.

For those who have never been an entrepreneur, being “entrepreneurial” can seem abstract.

So, I have listed below careerist versus entrepreneurial thinking. These are all real concerns and ways of thinking that real entrepreneurs and real careerists have expressed to me.

Have a look at these. How many do you recognize in yourself? How many do you recognize in your staff?

Whether an entrepreneur or a salaried employee, bear in mind that very few people are purely careerist or entrepreneurial. Also bear in mind that there are myriad types of entrepreneurs and businesses they run.



My pension is important to me. My patrimony is important to me.
How does this help grow my career? How does this help grow my business?
How can I hit my targets? How can I add value to customers?
I want a promotion to a better role. I want a better lifestyle.
Who’s gunning for my job? I need to cultivate next generation leaders.
How will this expense be viewed by my boss or worse, the finance department? How will this expense be viewed by my spouse?
What’s the risk to my career if I do this? Is it worth it? What’s the risk to my business if I don’t do this? Can I afford not to?
What do I want my next job to be? What do I want my business to be like when I take it to the next level?
How will my boss react? What will my staff say? How will my customers react? What will the market say?
Will HR approve this new hire? I hire the best and pay them accordingly, even if HR disagrees.
HR policy is that everyone flies coach. That’s only fair and economical. I fly first class because I treat myself with respect, and I want to be at my best when I land.
I need to keep costs within budget. I need to maximize ROI.
This project has high costs. This project has high value.
What can I do to get a raise? What can I do to generate immediate cash?
What’s my bonus? What’s my bottom line?
It’s safer to stay quiet and blend in. Success means standing out from the crowd, even if some people won’t like what I say or do.
I couldn’t possibly even suggest a good idea to my boss when there is a risk she won’t like it. Always tell me what you think, especially when you believe I might not agree.
Do I use this budget to better the business or save the money in case I have budget overruns later on? Do I invest this money in my business or in my kid’s college fund?
I am always so busy, but that’s what’s needed to hold down this job. No wealth matters without the time to enjoy life at will, so I do so unapologetically.
Work is nine to five, officially, but in reality, a lot more than that. When I have completed what I wanted for the day, I stop working no matter how early.
I have to attend a lot of pointless meetings, just to be a team player and not be left out of the loop. I hold no meetings where there is no decision to be made, and neither do my employees.
I need to convince people with great data and bulletproof analysis. I’m the expert. I tell people how it is. They can choose to disagree with what I say, but they do so at their own peril.
Let me show you my slides. Do you mind if I use this whiteboard?
We need to get our numbers up on the next employee engagement survey. What the hell is an employee engagement survey?
I’ll do this when the timing is right. The timing is always right when I make it so.
If someone disagrees with my strategy, then there is likely a problem with it. If no one disagrees with my strategy, then there is likely a problem with it.
I work hard and put in the time, and that’s why I get paid. I get results for my customers, and that’s how I make money.
Better not be too harsh, or people will complain to HR or quit. I am not here to be liked.
You’ve got to play the game. I make my own rules and control my own destiny.
Failure is to be avoided at all costs. Failure is learning, and must be embraced.
No one has ever done this before. Sounds risky. No one has ever done this before. Sounds like we can define the market and dominate it for ourselves.
You need to be good at marketing, finance, and whatever your specialization is to succeed in business. The most important capability in business is first and foremost customer acquisition. If you are not good at that, you are probably someone’s employee.

How do you stack up?

If you find you identify and act accordingly with three fourths or more of entrepreneurial thinking, then you are likely pretty entrepreneurial even if you are working in a salaried role. If you are about half and half, then you are likely a decent operational manager, even if employed by someone else and you are leading the business. If you lean in careerist thinking by more than half, then you are a long way from entrepreneurial spirit much less entrepreneurial dynamism in your behavior. That does not mean that you are unsuccessful at your job, but you are no entrepreneur.

Are you one of those salaried CEOs who wants his or her staff to be more entrepreneurial?

Start with your own behaviors first. Then you will have the credibility and the understanding to help your staff with theirs.

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