The basic Merriam-Webster definition for entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise”.
The Resultants tend to question that definition. If you take it at face value, then all owners would be considered an entrepreneur. However, from our perspective, that definition is too general. Our experience working with owners of small and medium-sized businesses has taught us that these types of entrepreneurial owners are a special breed. They have a unique set of character traits that sets them apart.
Not all owners exhibit the same tendencies so we try to clarify and define according to an entrepreneurial tendency continuum on which owners may fall low, medium, or high. Those high on the continuum have a stronger tendency to use a unique set of characteristics (or innate talents). Those who fall lower on the continuum will not display as many of those characteristics. Why is this important? In today’s business world, most companies look for “entrepreneurial thinking” from their leaders but what does that even mean? Are companies only looking for business owners to be their leaders? Probably not.
So what are those characteristics we look for that make up “entrepreneurial thinking”? Over the last 19 years, The Resultants have uncovered the same characteristics in many of our clients. These common characteristics of a true entrepreneur may shed some light as to what organizations are searching for:
“I don’t mean the big picture, I mean the really, really big picture!”
Entrepreneurs look and plan way out. They see the whole picture not two years from now but 20 years from now. These pictures in their minds are set long before others in the room get it. Before it’s even been discussed, they’ve typically already plotted the course on how to get there.
“Let’s not waste time, I’ll go with my gut and worry about the details later.”
There is an entrepreneurial tendency that most people call “shooting from the hip”. Entrepreneurs take this for granted. It truly is an innate talent of theirs. We have found impulsivity in many individuals. For the rest of us, this is sometimes hard to adjust to. However, when it comes to quick, definitive decision-making capability, true entrepreneurs lead the pack.
“Just because it’s a rule doesn’t mean we should follow it.”
Entrepreneurs move to the beat of their own drum which is noticed especially by their employees who tend to follow the rules. Its common to see entrepreneurial owners ignoring their own process and procedures. These individuals love to challenge everything. Their minds are going a mile a minute. They are curious about everything. They test boundaries resulting in the creation of new methods.
“I make mistakes and recover so quickly, no one will notice it was even a mistake!”
Entrepreneurs learn on the fly by placing themselves into the heart of the activity and using those experiences to improve. Their thought process is similar to prototyping, which requires course correcting, modifying, changing and improving as you build. What would your culture look like if you embraced “experiential mistakes”?
“They call me Renegade and I’m proud of it.”
Entrepreneurs take risks, usually more than others can tolerate or want to commit to. These individuals like to push the envelope and enjoy working outside their comfort zones. This is especially true with how they view money and financial investments. Another dictionary’s definition of entrepreneur states “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Taking on risk brings a sigh of contentment to most entrepreneurs while the rest of us are considering what could go wrong.
Why do entrepreneurs behave this way? What is their motivation? The motivation actually comes from an entrepreneur’s deeply held values. For some, this is hard to verbalize but that doesn’t mean the values aren’t there. This is what creates their unique DNA and transforms these entrepreneurial tendencies into character traits that other leaders look for. The values are what keep these unique entrepreneurs on the right side of the road rather than driving off into the ditches. This is why we suggest that the basic definition of simply being an owner has expanded in today’s world of business.
A values-centered entrepreneur has the ability to transform their teams into entrepreneurial-minded, entrepreneurial-acting leaders.
Author Terri Wilcox is co-founder of The Resultants and an experienced Business Advisor, organizational strategist and Senior Certified Professional in Human Resources (SHRM-SCP). Connect with her and other Business Advisors here, or on LinkedIn.