Category: Entrepreneurship


15 things I learned over 15 years! Advice I might give my 32 year old self.

July 27th, 2016

Who ever thinks about where they will be 15 years from now? Who really thinks about tomorrow? At 32, I put it all on the line and became the fourth generation in my family to take the entrepreneurial plunge – starting my first company, CBI Group.

I was asked to share a little bit about what I have learned over the last 15 years of running my own business, CBI Group and the Outside-In® Companies. Perhaps I can pass on some wisdom you might find useful, or a musing that you find entertaining? For me this is pretty darn cathartic! Write it down. Get it out. And keep pressing play and come back at it again tomorrow, right? That is what most entrepreneurs do best. As Churchill said, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.” These are my words to live by through thick and thin.

As I think back I get emotional. I have had servers stolen, office roofs collapse, 9/11 on my first day. I have had floods and fires on Super Bowl Sunday! Through all the good, bad and disaster, here goes 15 thoughts from reflecting on 15 years in business.

  1. Most business are not pink unicorn businesses. Few entrepreneurs have million dollar business ideas, let alone billion dollar ones. So think about it as you sip your Starbucks, while shopping using your Amazon Prime account to compare rates with Walmart. To be the next Facebook, you have to have a scalable idea, a really great brand promise that is very defendable, and be a very skilled leader/founder that knows how to scale. Most of us mere business mortals build our businesses and keep them for a long time. Progress, profit, growth, real break through impact and change come slowly! And not all businesses will sell, merge or be acquired. Day after day we run our companies.
  2. What is success, anyway? The funny thing about success is that it looks easy. And is often viewed that way with envy and jealousy. However, show me an overnight success and I guarantee you it is the exception to the rule. Success is a judgement, anyway. Success comes with hard work, luck, perseverance, and fortitude that few can stomach. I am at year 15. Success is all relative.
  3. The stages of growth are challenging. If you’re lucky to navigate the growth stages, to learn from them, and frankly survive your inevitable inability to adapt and change fast enough, you have learned this too. As leaders we must change our approach/style/focus and even our goals for each phase of growth. And no one tells you this when you start! I started this business with a flip cell phone, an 89 page business plan, and a card table desk in a friend’s office break room. (Thank you, Jim!) We grew, added staff and then one day nothing worked. We adjusted and changed and then we hit another growth wall. Years later, I am now better informed on what goes into next growth stage and the challenges that we will face as a company, and that I will face as a leader. The lucky ones get a chance to learn from their mistakes and live to fight another day. Some great insight on each phase of growth can be found at here.
  4. Just how often can I change my style and role, anyway? Day 1 I did everything… Sales, marketing, customer service, hiring, billing, taking out the trash, you name it. Where did all of these employees come from anyway? 15 years, three brands, thousands of employees and customers later… think of all those budgets, strategic plans, and years of promise and change? Today, I spend my days teaching and coaching leaders and employees in through making tough decisions for their business. Our values guide me in my work and help others to forge their own path and make their own decisions. Some days, I still sell, market, answer the phone, and take out the trash. BUT, I come back resolutely to our strategy. Where we are going? And why? And then I align everyone to the plan and to the current operational plans for the business this quarter. And my role will continue to involve — what will year 20 look like?
  5. Hiring more people is an entrepreneurial answer to just about everything. We get excited about growth and enjoy opening more offices, generating more sales and of course increasing headcount. BUT, I’ve learned what you really need to do is to solve problems with better scalable systems and technologies! That is where value and scaling can come into play.
  6. Define your why. Coming to work without a real purpose or perhaps to just make money is a hollow place to be. Customers, employees, and vendor/partners get excited when your business exists to serve the greater good. Why do you get out of bed? Defining that in your business attracts folks to your business and keeps them coming back.
  7. Go find someone who has solved the problem before. If you know me as stubborn, you would not be the only one. My biggest learn over the last five years is all around this point. For years I solved the problem with what I had, my way of thinking and my team. Instead? Go get the answer, find folks that have solved it before. Gather perspective. Then make your path forward with that information. So much time, energy, resources and money have been wasted on starting from scratch! This is a problem when you have a culture that prides itself on innovation and creativity. I’ve learned that simple is often more elegant.
  8. Not everyone is going on the ride with you. Or at least the whole ride. My dad, Alan Burkhard told me once, “Not even your mother made all 27 years with me in the business.” Life changes. Business needs change. Folks do different things, they move, change careers, get married and start businesses. Or they disagree with your thinking and business direction… and they leave you. Get used it! However, treat them like they will be with you forever. I had less then 2% turnover in core staff the first 7 years. Man, I used to brag about it. Then we changed business models and great legacy folks left me. My heart was broken at the time. No one goes on the ride with you the entire trip. Get used to it. I have.
  9. Make it really hard to get in your business. But easy to leave. This is a borrowed family mantra. But it works really well. In other words, hire slowly. But throw folks a party when they leave. Loyalty and allegiance are good things. Unless that is all that is left. And it happens. Staff and the jobs they are in do not remain a good fit for long. We are really lucky if your current duties align with your interest more then a few times a year. Work is cyclical and project based. Most businesses change everything fast. Try and stay aligned to the purpose. Try to keep your quarterly goals relevant as the business changes month to month. Do your quarterly or six month goals seem outdated when you go to review them? Welcome to the pace of change today. Agile employees, agile rolling forecasts, agile performance reviews or feedback sessions. Everything must be portable, flexible and easy to move. Including you.
  10. Be way more conservative and realistic. I have suffered from and am often overly optimistic. I am reformed at this point. But at 32, I could sell, I could talk fast,  and I could and did try to outwork others. So most of the time, I was lucky enough to outwork my optimism. But the truth is I have had to be much more honest around planning scenarios. Today, work cast scenario planning really matters to me. And I prefer realistic  and conservative thinking today. And it is hard this way. Running a business can be more fun when your a gambler who goes for it all of the time. No rules in the early years of the business is fun for others right? Until you fail big time. And I have. So, today I balance long-range strategy thinking (and dreaming) with a dose of reality.
  11. Have you really mastered being a leader? I hear it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. Humbly, I am triple that in real world practice as a leader. And I still have so much to learn.
  12. I wish I did not wait so long to be direct. Tell the truth. Let folks know where they stand. Give them feedback. We all crave it. Stop hinting someone to death. Love them up or out. Your team deserves to be successful, challenged, and to be the best they can be for you. Or move folks on to their next successful place. That is a leader’s job – or at least one that cares about their people.
  13. Running a business is cyclical. Economic swings, job markets and times/politics change. I always felt I was too small a business to worry about how much market share I had. BUT, I wish I had learned earlier on that the market changes. And how I run the business needs to change with it. There are times to go for it, and times to be very conservative and play things tight to the vest.
  14. I had no idea I could be this patient. If I had to give my younger 32 year old self some advice it would be, “This is going to take a while. You’re going to need to sacrifice everything. Put it all on the line, everything, your house, your marriage, your key relationships… Younger self, are you ready for all of this? Time, patience, fortitude, moxie, perseverance. At times you go numb. At times you come to the office but take the day off mentally. But most days the world will not let you. Entrepreneurs need to be relevant and focused almost every day to make it. And that says nothing about success or making it big time!”
  15. Everything changes. Good days fade. Bad days take longer to go away. Business is terrific. Then change happens. Some years you grow and don’t make money. And in flat years you’re running a better company and the bottom line is sweet! Change keeps coming. Employees come and go. Customers are bought and sold, go bankrupt and move out of town. Customers’ needs and wants change. Multi-million dollar business lines dry up. New products grow up before your eyes and become your big bell winner, your future. Rookies become managers. Managers become senior leaders. I have learned that being a student of change is my one true advantage. Embrace it, drive it, and know status quo is deadly in the long run!

So my 32 year old self was full of himself. Glib and confident. Boundless and endless energy on reserve. Every problem in the business was one I created. I celebrated those early fiascos, they were fun to try and resolve. Everything was about the vision for what I wanted to build with that early team. We were going to reinvent and create a space in staffing and professional services. We vowed to make culture important (believe it or not when those words were foreign in most business’s large and small). I worked endlessly. For two years straight I worked every single day. My theory was an hour worked today is an hour I would get back when I exited the business. The exit plan was scheduled for year nine! Well, six years later I am still at it. Today it’s much more about the journey than the destination.

p.s. if you’re interested, here are my 10 musings from our 10th anniversary in 2011!

Do You Choose to Act Like a Temporary Employee or an Entrepreneur?

May 14th, 2015

temporentreWhat would you do with yourself if you realized that the world of work has changed dramatically and that we have a choice to make? We are basically temps OR we are entrepreneurs that must choose ourselves. That is my interpretation of a wonderfully honest book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself!

We are temps in the sense that we go to work, do our jobs, and collect our paychecks. We don’t love what we do, however, we don’t even really know that there is another option. We don’t put a whole lot into our career when we act like a temporary employee. The career is simply a means to an end. I get paid and I am waiting for someone to tell me what to do and how to do it—that is the extent of the contract.

However, we are all, in essence, rented for a period of time (even though the job is not a true temporary position). Time is relative. If the average tenure of a public CEO is thirteen months, I could make the argument that it is a temporary assignment. It is our attitude, level of engagement, lack of drive to learn, and inability to grow or find ways to become more of an asset that often catch up with us. You act temporary and you don’t know any better!

Or maybe it’s not your fault at all and it’s simply the realities of today’s workplace that did it to you. No company or job is forever, right? The economy, markets, your company, and its industry, all play a key role. I think that is the point of the title of choosing yourself! You are responsible for you. No one else, let alone your current employer. You must own your skills and development and how you monetize what you are capable of! A job simply might not cut it anymore! Or perhaps it just part of you how monetize your time and capabilities?

Being an entrepreneur? Well, I think this is both literal and figurative. All of us must be resourceful, creative, hard working, productive, a risk taker, and a learner. We must find ways to create revenues for our employers and for ourselves on the side. This could be cottage industries, extra jobs, writing blogs or books. We are responsible for our own careers and for inventing ourselves!

The key to NOT being a temp? Act like an entrepreneur. Frankly, the book itself is full of implementable ways of choosing yourself and finding a way to own your income and your career. The magic is in being and thinking differently while you’re employed. Most businesses crave entrepreneurial thinking. Culture and external environment may dictate terms, but it starts within! I, for one, have supported many employees to become entrepreneurs. I have supported side projects and reviewed their cottage industry ideas. Quite frankly, I buy from them, too! This is how you choose yourself.

If cold calls don’t work, change your plans. If the product doesn’t sell, sell something else. If the meeting did not go well, then try again. This is what entrepreneurs do—and it is what great entrepreneurial employees do, too!

Want to meet great entrepreneurial employees? I have a few that get what it takes to chose for themselves! Mary Schaefer (left) is one of our Career Coaches at Barton Career Advisors, and Kelly Hocutt (right) is our Marketing Team Leader for the Outside-In® Companies.

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The Entrepreneurial Life: That Impossible Priority

October 1st, 2014

ID-100100023Working with small business leaders for a living has both its perks and its perils. What are the toughest business learns for every small business owner or bootstrapped leader? We want to do everything. Fund it all. React to every new idea. Solve every single problem. Serve each and every client. Hire every good talent that comes in the door. Finish every project. Go to every networking meeting. You get the idea. We want to do it all. This is contagious. It builds and snowballs into a doing frenzy.

I was taught to focus on revenue generating activities from 8-5 and to run the company before 8 or after 5. I did that during the early years. Careful to mix the two. This did not prevent me from working until midnight or on Sunday mornings. In fact, in the I would have “meetings” with the foreman of the commercial cleaning crew that went through each night after 9 pm! That foreman would do odds jobs; hang white boards, move desks, and join me at my conference table when I wanted and needed to talk. Fascinating times with incredible experiences. I think you can really only bootstrap once—it takes much energy and stamina.

Over the years, books and consultants have changed my perspective on the do it all and fund everything mentality that came to me naturally.

I now preach limited priorities. Focus, execution, and getting things done is my new philosophy. The hardest things of all is deciding what 3-5 items should be yours to tackle! Every leader I have ever coached says the same thing: I have many more things to do than that! We all do. The point is to choose what part of your business to tackle and understanding how if you fix or adjust that part will impact other parts of the business. It’s like business centrifugal force. Fix one thing, it makes something else move along too. But too much and it will make other parts of the business need future fixing!

How do you chose the part of your business to tackle? Stay tuned for a future blog!

What Would Alan Burkhard Do?

July 30th, 2014

Throughout most of my formative years as a leader, I started off my thinking with the basic question, “What would Alan do or say?” Alan Burkhard is my Pop, a serial entrepreneur, a good Father, an activist for the community & any underdog that he comes in contact with, and most importantly, the most unique leader I know.

Alan's PictureFor example, I used to call him every Friday when we worked together and without fail he thought differently than most leaders. For most situations he would not give me the answer I sought. Rather, he would point me back to the information. He would say, “You don’t have enough information to come up with the solution. Go back and get more.”

Recently, the Outside-In® Companies was awarded with a very large contract. We have worked for it for years. As is typical of a comprehensive workforce program, the customer needed help well before we finished implementation! We had a choice stick with our higher retail price for services until we implement or give the volume price and trust that this is the right thing to do.  Do we have more margin now or do we establish a great “wow” moment of trust with a new customer? What would Alan do? Most grab the margin. We gave the volume price and we will trust that the rest will take care of itself!!

So my statement, “What would Alan do or say?” has nothing to do with seeking fatherly approval or anything like that. It is simply a phrase that keeps me sharp and focused on what being an Outside-In® leader is really all about.

Another example of his unique leadership occurred while at a recent baseball game. Alan commented on the recent security changes at the MLB ballparks. Essentially, ballparks are going to be like airports and large office complexes in the sense that game goers will be patted down and go through scanners. All in the name of homeland security. We might mumble and grumble about our loss of rights and civil liberties but we go along with the crowd and think that this is just another precautionary measure. Not Alan. He brings forward the classic Outside-In® leadership principle. We always seem to police and create rules for the handful of wrong doers and then punish everyone else. Security is serious business of course. However, I get his point as he as always applied this to his business.

Stereotypically speaking, leaders create too many rules and over complicate things. We create policies and handbooks galore. Don’t misinterpret me, I believe some structure and system makes sense. Just don’t over do it! Allow good people to follow simple rules and be allowed to operate freely within that loose system. That is why Outside-In® leaders lead with values. Values are there when we are not (which is often). Besides, bad leaders want to be superheroes anyway and are much too quick to dole out answers. That is NOT what staff wants. Staff wants to grow and be challenged in their job.

So for me, “What would Alan say or think?” is my mantra. It keeps me sharp. I am reminded that it is OK to cut against the grain and to be Outside-In® every moment of every day. This is very hard as most of those in the leadership world would rather make a rule than to actually lead or take action!

An Entrepreneurial View of Failure

July 23rd, 2014

When Edison searched for something to use to illuminate a light bulb he spent months and months with hundreds of different filaments until he found one that worked. Do you think he viewed each unlit bulb as a waste of time or something irrecoverable? He knew with each failed experiment, he was one step closer to something that would work!

ID-100209779As a small business owner, I have failed many times. I have hired the wrong people, put the wrong programs in place, even launched the wrong business ideas. However, I don’t view this as failure. Rather, this is a process to make something right and unique. This is how business works. Try something, fail quickly. Tweak it. Make adjustments. Learn from it. These are the basics. This is not failure. This is how we grow and gain knowledge.

Some say that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. How do you handle the rejection? The no’s? The pats on the head when your business is just starting? Some will say, “When are you going to go get a job?” This is all part of the failing—dealing with the fact that most people really can’t handle the risk of trying.

I always feel as if I have more control of my own destiny when I am my own boss than when I work for others. That is just my my view. I would rather have tried to be a small business owner,  to have launched new services, and to have hired the wrong person because most of the times we end up getting it right. And we only need to get it right more often than not in order to be successful!

So the next time someone is taking a risk, think twice about your commentary. Risks create learning, knowledge, and opportunity. Everything changes. Why not be the one that initiates and drives change? Then failure will not be an option!

Why Customers Choose an Entrepreneurial Business Over Big Business!

June 4th, 2014

ID-100263570I have often wondered why our customers chose a private, entrepreneurial company as a partner over a larger vendor that on the surface offers the potential of more. More offices, more potential services, deeper pockets, etc. I have learned that when you get out in front and talk to customers and prospects that customers have their reasons for working with startups and small business alike. (After all that is one of the big three things I think a leader should always do.)

For one thing large companies strive to act small today. Most CEO’s talk of talent management challenges in their big businesses. We need to change to survive and thrive. We want to buy new companies or start new divisions. This all starts with employees and their mindsets—a mindset that is deeply embedded in the world of most growing entrepreneurial companies. Today business is about speed, responsiveness, and agility. It’s your choice to try and turn the Queen Mary or a small, maneuverable boat. I know who wins that race every time!

Innovation. Why do big companies buy small companies? Or help start them? Small business creates out of necessity. Big companies have too much to lose while fighting to keep what they have. In small business, there is less to protect and risk and market share is irrelevant. In order to survive and thrive the business must create real value.  Employees know this and must create value every hour. Compare that to most big companies that expect a day’s work for an hour. Innovation, thinking, creativity, and trying new things is often left to the Research and Development department or for the Senior leaders to decide. Every employee in a small business is a leader, a change maker, and a risk takerthat is where value is created!

Being a big fish in a small pond can have its advantages! Do you want to be a big customer number or a an important customer that makes a big difference to your company? This is a choice. Sometimes you have to go with the biggest and the best brand that guarantees your choice will not be questioned when the implementation goes wrong or delivery schedules are off. An entrepreneurial business gives its full attention to a large customer from top to bottom in the organization. The small business puts its best forward, is most likely flexible and interested in customizing its offering, and will pay more attention to you than one of your many new customers!

Local Leadership of a regional company is often more talented and more customer-centered then a large multi-national. I have lived this one myself.  Successful regional companies have high concentrations of leaders compared to big companies. We are more customer focused in our jobs because we do not have to spend a large part of our time managing up to corporate! Not that corporate is not important.  However, it is not Outside-in® and adding customer value directly!

You’re getting more economic value from your purchase when you buy from an entrepreneurial company. My dad used to say, “You will never pay for my fancy office and marble floors in the lobby.” With small businesses, your spend goes to the actual margin of the product instead of the operating expenses of a large corporate infrastructure!

Would you rather deal with me, President of an entrepreneurial company or a big business regional VP with territory responsibility and no authority to make decisions unless it’s in his or her zip code?  Don’t answer! It’s all about your purchasing playbook anyway.

The “No Flip” Entrepreneur

February 26th, 2014

Most entrepreneurs aren’t trying to create a technology revolution with an innovation that advances society in some unique way. That is just what the media reports because it makes for better articles. Imagine the impact of the twenty-something changing the world and selling it quickly for lots of money. Impressive for sure. And I imagine important in some way to our economy. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology as a tool in my business. Over 13 years, 52 quarters, and 156 months, I have operated and ran my company. I went into the details there for a reason. Most of us do not build our companies to flip them. Very few have goals to get Venture Capital or Institutional monies invested into their business. Even fewer have high hopes of an IPO.

smallgiantsMy goal was to run my company for nine years. This was in my first business plan. (Which, by the way, was 88 pages long!) Call it my Jerry Maguire version of the talent industry. The nine years were set to give me time to build it, boot strap it, grow it, sell it, and cash out. Then something happened. Call it life I guess. Time went by, we began to receive awards, and employees came and employees went. Markets changed for our services so we adapted and responded with new ones. The Economy roared and then spurted almost to a stop—Ironically in year eight! So, plans are set for a reason. Plans drive a stake in the ground. And when you get there you start all over again.

One of my mentors who runs a national consulting company once challenged me on my nine year plan, “Chris, do you like your company? Does it provide for you and your family as well as your employees? Do you serve customers that count on you?” Then he added, “Why not have it both ways? Enjoy and celebrate what you have accomplished and always work on making it better.”

I would rather focus on how my company or my customers can be profitable, create a measurable Outside-In® experience, and maintain a values based environment and culture that is unique, even quirky in its efforts to be authentic.

I want to have a “boring” company. Predictable revenues. Managed growth. I want to maintain a caring environment that not only focuses on the health and vitality of the culture, but also develops the discipline and practices to have a well-executed business strategy.

There are many entrepreneurial leaders out there that are in it for the long haul. We have worked long and hard to get our business’s out of the proverbial garage and into something relevant in our industries. We are Small Giants, forces to be reckoned with that don’t feel the need to sell out to be the biggest, but instead, choose to be the greatest.

Why are You Building Your Business?

January 16th, 2014

In my entrepreneurial circles I often hear discussion and debate around why a business exists. Although a business exists to solve a customer problem or to create value for its shareholders, that is not the point I am trying to get at. Why did you start your business to begin with?

So many owners find themselves accidental entrepreneurs. Perhaps their business was a family business that they took over from a friend or other family member. Sometimes, believe it or not, people literally stumble into their companies. The entrepreneur is good at something and people are willing to pay them for that product or service. Before they know it they have a business that is failing, growing, or something in between.

site-196210_640I am often asked for advice on starting companies. The questions are practical and tangible. Where should I put the business? What do I call it? How do we test this product or service? Is there a market for it? Can we build a business to scale and profit around the concept? These are all wonderful, classic MBA book type questions. They have their place. You simply can’t start with them.

I ask all entrepreneurs to start with the question, What is the purpose of this business? In other words, why does it exist for you as its founder (and most likely first investor). At the very least, it is your credit card and sweat equity that gets it started, right?

Most people start their business because they have decided to make a change from their past.  They have chosen to be a small business owner to fulfill a dream, perhaps to avoid working in big business again, or often with dreams of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams.

I take people through the following questions to get at a different starting point. Why do you need this business to exist?

  • Are you building this business to draw from it and then it might simply end? In other words, is this a cottage business that pays the bills but has nothing to transfer to someone else in the form of a sale?
  • Are you building something you want to be a legacy? Do you have family or others in your life that you want to pass on this potential wealth-creating vehicle too? I know you just got this idea to start a business and I am talking about its ending. Without this thinking, I see long term frustration and confusion. Too many small business owners get trapped in a company that does not serve their long-term needs.
  • billboard-63978_640Are you trying to flip this business? Is your goal to build it like an internet company and sell it and walk away? Do you want to grow this and get early-stage seed money? Do you intend to work with VC’s to grow to the point where you want to take private equity monies? Since 4% of companies get above 1 mm in sales this might seem like a tall order. You must stop and think about this sort of thing. In this path, founders lose control of their business and they give up ownership. This “takes chips off the table” as they say, however, you still lose control of the strategy of the business and its direction.
  • Are you building this to sell? Do you have a date circled on the calendar? Don’t laugh, I did. I had a 9 year plan. Well, guess what? I am in year 13, soon to be 14! Sometimes wanting to build something of value and selling it is not what you think you want.

This gets me to my main point: If you’re thinking of building your business to sell—stop and think. A favorite entrepreneurial friend challenged me a few years ago, “Chris, if you like your company and its culture, and it’s providing a valuable service for customers and meaningful work for employees, why do you think you need to sell it? It seems like you spent all of this time to get it to where you are and where you want to take it?”

I sense Rob was right. We all read the same articles and learn the same best practices in business. Sometimes staying put and enjoying the ride is the only and best option.

Use these questions to test why your idea or existing business might exist. I would love to hear from you with your thoughts!

Leadership: Vacation or Values?

January 8th, 2014

I once worked with a leader of a local business who told me the greatest stories of his early years in running his company. Most of them revolved around the tough decisions that leaders face. One time, when his business was just a few years old, he went on a family vacation.  These vacations were rare. His wife and kids did not ask for much. This was their time. Besides, he needed the break to recharge and rejuvenate on so many levels.

Then he got a dreaded call. A trusted employee shared intel that the employees were making their own rules, coming and going when they pleased, and were covering it up. Asking her to also participate, get her buy-in so to speak, by incriminating herself in action! She said no and called the boss. Thank goodness. This was a service business. Customers calls and requests were not being responded to. In fact, they even left her to run the business for extended periods of time!

rear-mirror-167581_640So what does a leader do when they get this kind of call? They sit in their car on the side of the road for several hours weighing their options. If I ignore it, I can go back to the beach with my family. I can simply deal with it later. Not perfect, but I deserve the downtime. However, this is about culture and values. Your culture is what people do when they are alone at 3 am. Culture is your company personality. Values are those key guide posts that drive behaviors when you’re not around. Well, you’re not around and the values are not being lived. What do you do?

You get in the car and drive right to the office. In the end you let a few people go and you warn a few others. All in all, you make it clear what your leadership is all about and that values matter. Especially if it means you will have to work harder and start over in your business. Even if you’re inconvenienced during your time off.

Curiously, I am not sure if this is truth or a great leadership fable. I am not sure it matters one bit in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what you would do as a leader. Would you take the path of least resistance? Stay on your vacation? Or drive home? I like to dream that I would get in the car and prove that culture and values matter!

12 Things You Get with the Entrepreneurial Employee

October 30th, 2013

Big global companies are looking for employees to be more entrepreneurial. What exactly does that mean? When we go to work for most jobs we must be productive during the time we work. Do the job, do what you’re told, and your contract with your employer is kept in tact. What is so different and unique about getting an employee with entrepreneurial drive?

  1. An entrepreneurial employee gets the rare opportunity to consistently redefine their role and, therefore, their contribution. You may have been hired for one thing, but you’re good at something else. Or more frankly, an opportunity emerges for those are willing to take a risk and go for it!
  2. By making something extraordinary happen, an entrepreneurial employee is rewarded. Doing your job is doing something innovative or special with that project.
  3. An employee can get exposure to bigger and different work much, much faster than they would in a large company.
  4. man-96868_640It is OK to take risks. In fact, risk taking is more likely to be rewarded. A big company wants to limit their exposure to risks. Small businesses know that well calculated and timely decision making can mean the difference between growth, a new market, or even if you win a deal.
  5. Change is something that is encouraged when staff is not defending/preserving what they have because there is much less power base or turf to lose. You must think differently. This is where an employee can see what is wrong and know that it is ok to speak up about it. These littlechanges make all the difference.
  6. Titles mean nothing to an entrepreneurial employee. Those that demand them rarely make it for long. The job must be about the work and the work must be about the learning experience and depth of the opportunities.
  7. Your status comes from your accomplishments. Your position comes from the quality of your relationships and influence on the business. This is simply small business culture.
  8. Entrepreneurial employees have an ownership mindset. Their work is a direct reflection of themselves. It is easier to gets things done. Less politics, less hands involved.
  9. Know that being a good teammate matters. There are fewer employees, and perhaps limited resources. However, entrepreneurial employees know that they must work on their teaming skills as work gets done with people—not because of fear, title, or demands!
  10. Entrepreneurial employees are accountable. They want to feel and see that they are truly making a difference.
  11. An entrepreneurial employee can answer the “why” question. They know why the company exists and its broader purpose. They are a part of something special; something bigger than themselves—and that shows.
  12. An entrepreneurial employee knows that they are deferring some of their potential income. They can always go get a job! But they get to be a part of so much more of how their company works. They are a part of crafting the company future and can see how their work contribution connects to it! And for that risk, they gain knowledge and work experiences that make them more marketable and give them the potential to be future business owners themselves!

shield-108065_640There are inherent differences between entrepreneurial organizations and big companies. An entrepreneurial employee likes a dynamic, evolving, and constantly changing environment. They thrive in companies with less structure and less certainty because there are more ways for them to innovate and to contribute. In small business culture they have the opportunity to be rewarded more in an environment where they are constantly learning and growing!

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