Do You Have An Entrepreneur Mindset?
In dealing with thousands of entrepreneurs and “wannabe” entrepreneurs over the last 12 years, I’ve found that there is a clear and stark difference between the entrepreneur mindset and the employee mindset. I want to encourage people to step over into entrepreneurship whenever I can, because I think it is a great way to live. But I can’t in good conscience encourage everyone to take that step, simply because of today’s topic.
Some people just don’t have the right mindset.
I think of it like a list of ingredients that I look for in entrepreneurs. You might not have all of them working at full power in you right now, but if I can see a trace of each one, I know you’ve got a chance. These aren’t necessarily in any order, and this isn’t all of them, but this is a good start.
Ingredient #1: Hungry
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur very early on in my life. First of all, I discovered that I did not want to be somebody’s else’s employee my whole life. It’s not that I thought I could get out of hard work by being the boss. I grew up on my dad’s ranch in Wyoming, so I know how to enjoy hard work. But as much as I loved and respected my dad, part of me wanted more.
I had that hunger to do more, be more, and have more that all entrepreneurs have. People who don’t have it call it “greed” or “selfishness,” but the truth is, people who have a vision to go higher usually lead others to become better versions of themselves. That’s who I want to be.
Are You Content To Stay Small?
What I came to discover through high school and college was that I had an internal drive that most of my classmates didn’t have. Some people are content to punch a clock and do as little as possible to collect a paycheck each week. God bless them, but I don’t personally understand that thinking. I jump out of bed to start something new or to take a project the next step. I want to make a mark on the world.
This is one of the first things I look for when working with first-time entrepreneurs. It doesn’t take me long to see if they have the drive necessary to carry a business idea through to fruition. I think some people are born with it and some aren’t. Again, nothing against people who aren’t naturally driven, but if that’s you and you want to start a business, you’re going to have a much harder time.
I’ll just tell you the truth: running a business isn’t always fun or easy. You have to be able to make hard decisions, take terrifying risks, and say unpopular things. If you don’t have a drive to stick with your vision in the hard times, you will give up.
Did You Just Get Punched In The Gut?
Throughout this article, you’re going to have opportunities to measure your current mindset against the entrepreneur mindset. You might score high on some and low on others, but that’s OK. This is a good inventory for anyone to take, but especially if you’re thinking about starting or running a business.
At the same time, the same qualities that make someone a successful entrepreneur can also make them a great employee. So, even if you have no ambition to run a business, adopting the entrepreneur mindset in your day job will cause you to get promoted in your job.
Plus, I have some good news for you. If you feel that punch in the gut telling you that you’re coming up short in some area, don’t give up. You can change your mindset. Get around entrepreneurs and let their mindset rub off on you. Listen to the “Messes To Successes” podcasts each week, and make plans to attend one of our free workshops. The more you fill your ears with entrepreneur thoughts, the more you will see the fruit in your own life.
Let’s move on.
Ingredient #2: Naturally Proactive
Real entrepreneurs are naturally proactive, whether they are confronting problems or acting on opportunities. They take decisive action and move the ball forward. These are the people who don’t let things go on open-ended forever; they plow through task lists and get things done. Entrepreneurs trust their instincts. Sometimes, they pause to get wise counsel to make the best decisions, but then they act.
If you’re the kind of person who waits around for someone to tell you what needs to be done, you’re probably not an entrepreneur. Frankly, you might not be a very valuable employee, either.
As much as a proactive mindset is a must-have for an entrepreneur, it will also make you successful as an employee. Every employer I’ve known loves to see employees that take initiative, solve problems, and look for opportunities. If you’re currently an employee and you don’t see this mindset showing up in your day job, you’re not ready to run your own business. Use this time on someone else’s payroll to cultivate the attitude of being proactive.
When I meet with people who have a great idea for a business, but they put off making decisions or following directions, it’s a red flag to me. Reactive people don’t have the entrepreneur mindset.
Ingredient #3: Teachable
We talked about this in Episode 101 on the “Seven Pillars of Business Success,” but it is critical for the entrepreneur to be teachable. The leader, entrepreneur, or expert in any field is doomed to failure the minute they think they have it all figured out. The best business owners are constantly “sharpening their saw,” as Stephen Covey puts it. They invest in training seminars and masterminds to refresh themselves on core skills, like:
- Working with people
- Solving problems
- Recognizing trends
- Money management
And the list goes on. Personally, I like to surround myself with people who are strong where I am weak (I call it “The Who, Not The How”), but I also recognize that there are fundamentals of running a business that I can’t delegate, and I need to keep growing in those areas.
Teachability Is A Success Trait For Employees, Too
On the employee side, a teachable attitude takes direction from managers and owners with grace and humility. Contrast that with the normal “employee mindset,” which grumbles and complains when the boss gives corrective feedback.
A friend of mine recently told me about the time he lost a great job because he was unwilling to take correction from a manager who didn’t have as much direct experience as he had. The manager would ask for changes that my friend thought were dumb, and he got defensive. Fortunately, he had the character to recognize that it wasn’t the boss’ fault that he got himself fired. Ultimately, the customer is always right, even when that “client” is your boss, or they want something you think is stupid.
it is easy to see how an employee who is constantly growing their skill is going to become more valuable over time. If you know that your skills are competitive in the larger marketplace, take on some clients in a side hustle (just make sure you never compete with your day job). This is an ideal way to develop your skill as an entrepreneur. You might be shocked at how many big businesses started at someone’s kitchen table after work.
Ingredient #4: Responsibility
Don’t you hate talking to people who blame others or duck responsibility for their own problems? People like that never make it as entrepreneurs. They might make money for awhile, but it won’t take much to derail them. The first time a client complains and they shift the blame to someone else (or worse, back to the client), they are done.
The employee mindset prefers to pass blame and push off responsibility when things go wrong. The entrepreneur knows the buck stops with them. Entrepreneurs ultimately have to be ready to solve all the problems themselves, even if they have a good team working for them. Eventually, something will come back to them that they can’t delegate. They don’t have someone above them who has authority and knowledge to fix things for them. If an employee upsets a client, someone else has to go make it right. On the other hand, if the owner upsets a client, they usually don’t have anyone else to fix it.
If you’re the kind of person who waits around for someone to solve your problems, go get a job.
Ingredient #5: Problem-Solving
Speaking of solving problems, there are some people who freeze up and look for a way out when things go wrong, and others who create success out of problems. As we talked about last week, most businesses start out as the solution to someone’s problem. An entrepreneur’s natural mindset is to turn the problem into an opportunity.
The employee’s natural response is to call a manager and ask what to do about the problem. Or worse (and I know you’ve seen this), some people’s natural response to a problem is to ignore it or cover it up. “It’s not my job,” says the highway stripe painter who paints around a tree branch laying in the road. God help that person. It may be acceptable in government work, but it will never survive in the marketplace. This is part of why so many companies have a reputation for terrible customer service: they don’t solve problems, they just frustrate their customers.
What Seeds Are You Planting?
There are laws that govern the operation of the universe, and one of those laws is that “you reap what you sow.” I know that there are many religious connotations to this, but I want to pull that away for a moment. Look at the fruit of your life. What you do to others comes back to you eventually. Call it “karma” or whatever.
For our purposes here, let’s say it this way: if you are a lousy employee for someone else, you will tend to recruit lousy employees. Even if you interview the top people in the world, you will get the same treatment from your employees that you gave your bosses. It’s the law and you can’t change it.
If you have a dream of owning a business, you need to be the kind of employee you want to have. Here are some ways to be a terrible employee and guarantee that you will have bad employees:
- Steal from your employer.
- Spend your work hours on social media or talking to friends.
- Pad your expenses.
- Round up your billable hours.
- Lie to your boss.
- Make excuses.
- Sabotage your coworkers.
- Take clients.
Those are just a few of the tell-tale signs that you are a bad employee (and a terrible person). If that’s how you act on your employer’s time, that is how your employees will act on your time. Running a business will ruin you because of the harvest of your seed.
Do You Have What It Takes?
We’re going to come back to the concept of an entrepreneur mindset in future articles, but let me summarize it here. Not everyone has the skills, character qualities, and mindset necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, but anyone can learn them. Even if you never start your own business, these skills, qualities, and mindsets will make you a great employee, primed for promotion. Or, you can blow this off and wind up flipping burgers for $11 an hour (until the machines replace you). The choice is yours.
If you feel that you have what it takes to be successful in business, I want to invite you to one of our free workshops going on around the country in 2020. We want to help you take that success mindset and build successful systems on it, so you can live out your dreams of being an entrepreneur. In the meantime, be sure to subscribe to our weekly entrepreneur podcast, called “Messes To Successes,” and join the conversation with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.
We’re looking forward to seeing you there.