Every startup lucky enough to get some traction gets to the point where it decides to hire some “regular employees” for sales, marketing and administrative tasks. Then the company is surprised to see productivity and creativity take a big dip. What it should be doing is hiring only “entrepreneurs,” meaning people who think and act as if this is their own business.
This commitment to hire people who think like entrepreneurs, or to instill an “owner’s mindset” in every employee, should be a high priority in every business. It’s what every customer looks for in every transaction. Most people will tell you this is impossible, but I found a book that claims otherwise. “Army of Entrepreneurs,” is by Jennifer Prosek, who seems to have actually accomplished this supposedly impossibly feat.
I like how she is able to motivate, train and reward employees, including the implementation of an incentive program to get every member of the team actively involved in generating new business. She also identifies the typical myths against using this approach, listed below, and describes how to overcome each one:
- “Entrepreneurs are born, not made.” The reality is that all entrepreneurial skills are learnable skills. The entrepreneurial mindset is a function of motivation, priorities and risk versus reward, all of which you set or enable by your leadership and example. Hire employees who have strong skills and the motivation to learn new ones.
- “Employees will care only about work they create.” This is really an issue of the quality of the people you hire rather than the management or compensation system. The key is to hire people with the right mindset and communicate the desired attitude daily to your whole team by your actions as well as your words.
- “Junior people shouldn’t be involved in new business.” This is the platitude of an obsolete corporate culture where you had to “pay your dues” in menial jobs before adding creativity or making decisions. In today’s marketplace, junior staffers are often the most intimately connected to the market, technology and the customer network.
- “Employees will lose focus on their work.” Old management models encourage employees to optimize their own task, often at the expense of the overall company objectives. There is new evidence that people want to understand the bigger picture and that business growth financial incentives will increase productivity, rather than lower it.
- “Sales will be the organization’s sole focus.” Again, you get what you demand and reward. If sales are the only way to get rewarded in your organization, then sales will take precedence over other activities. Motivate for a spectrum of entrepreneurial behaviors, and you will see results.
- “We don’t need to reward lead generation.” For a startup, you don’t have a recognized brand to bring in the leads. All businesses need to proactively seek leads, rather than simply attract them, with the creativity and initiatives of every employee rewarded for every contribution.
- “There is too much risk associated with decentralized decision-making.” When you have to move and change quickly to survive, centralized decision-making is too slow. You become the bottleneck. If you train people properly, empower them, trust them and help them to understand the business, your evolving business can become a revolution.
Every large company wishes it could harness the power of a thousand entrepreneurs within its employee ranks to recreate the exceptional business growth it once knew. Instead, for growth, most have resigned to buying startups that exhibit these characteristics.
Thus, the last thing you need as a growing startup is a “regular employee.” Hire entrepreneurs like you, grow like an entrepreneurial company and stand above competitors in the acquisition process to carry that fire forward. That’s a win-win for everyone in this new culture and new economy.
Image credit: CC by Jonny Green