One of the big differences between an entrepreneur and an employee of a big business is that employees tend to have a very narrow focus on their job, while entrepreneurs have to keep the broader focus on business. Both want personal satisfaction and financial success. In fact, U.S. entrepreneurs consistently claim to be happier and have a higher net worth than employees.
In my advisory role to businesses of all sizes, I have personally found that you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to act like one and enjoy the result. No matter what your role or level as an employee, if you can keep the big picture in perspective, you will do better in your career, get more positive feedback, advance more rapidly, and get the pay raises that you desire more often.
Acting like an entrepreneur isn’t a trait that you have to be born with – it’s really a mindset that anyone can adopt and hone with practice. There are some key strategies I recommend in developing that mindset, whether you are currently an employee or an aspiring entrepreneur:
- Keep the business customer at the top of your pyramid. Every business depends on customers to thrive, and every employee role has some correlation to customer satisfaction. Corporate employees often think only about their narrow silo, their workload, and view customers as someone else’s problem. This disconnect will kill your career.
- Maximize your impact on the success of the company. Entrepreneurial thinkers always think and act like they own the company. Unfortunately, recent surveys show that almost 70 percent of employees feel very little engagement with the business. It’s time to relate every task you do to the success of the business, or fight to eliminate the job.
- Fight for change to improve revenue and lower costs. Too many employees fight change, perhaps because it requires new thinking. Entrepreneurs see change and new technology as the way to attract more customers and improve sales and profitability. If you find yourself clinging to “the way it has always been done,” it’s time to think again.
- Focus your role on solving the customer problem. Every employee and entrepreneur needs to understand the customer value proposition. For example, if you are in marketing, forget the number of features, and highlight the value of the whole compared to the cost. The ideal customer will see so much value that price becomes unimportant.
- Know your peers and build your competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs realize that competitors are outside businesses, not other people in your department or other organizations in your company. To improve your career, you need to look outside for ways to benchmark your position and find ways to constantly improve your skills.
- Treat your career like a business model open to pivots. A career plan is like a business model, and entrepreneurs realize that every plan has to be tuned as customers and environments change, to optimize sales, improve value received, and respond to competitors. Some employees have no plan or assume their plan never needs changing.
- Try new things, and don’t penalize yourself for mistakes. Entrepreneurial thinking requires working outside the box and learning from failed experiments. The focus must be on what’s right, rather than who’s right. Employees can advance their career, as well as their satisfaction, by trying new approaches, new tools, and new relationships.
There really shouldn’t be any difference between an entrepreneur and an employee, in terms of a mindset. In both cases, careers are made or broken first of all by customers and the success of the business. Both need to take risks with new opportunities, and both have to expect mistakes and learn from them. Those who refuse to change for cause will be left behind in both cases.
I believe most business leaders now understand the benefits of the entrepreneurial mindset and are working to build a team culture that fosters and rewards initiative, engagement, decisions, and continuous improvement. So whether you want to drive your own company, or have a thriving career in a corporate environment, you need to start acting like an entrepreneur today.