As a business owner, having an entrepreneurial mindset is a given. (Most likely, this is what got you to start a business in the first place.) Your management team likely also has an entrepreneurial mindset.
But what about the rest of the company?
Promoting an entrepreneurial mindset in every corner of your company has its advantages. It can be an opportunity to get an upper hand over your competitors, to improve your products and processes, to gain and retain new customers and to attract quality employees.
So how do you foster an entrepreneurial mindset in your company's culture? These nine strategies might be helpful in getting you started.
1. Promote a single focus: the customer.
No matter what job an employee has, no matter what task they perform, help them understand that your company is focused on the customer. Remind them that everyone's job, either directly or indirectly, affects the customer. Encourage a preoccupation with customer service and customer satisfaction throughout the company.
In that regard, help them understand the difference between a corporate mindset and an entrepreneurial mindset. As Brian Tracy writes in his 2016 book, Get Smart!, entrepreneurial thinkers "see themselves as self-employed and act as if they owned their companies personally."
Corporate thinkers, on the other hand, may be more preoccupied with doing their jobs and pleasing their superiors. They may view customers with disinterest and feel that whatever happens in the company doesn't concern them personally.
This type of thinking doesn't work well in a company promoting an entrepreneurial mindset. When employees act like entrepreneurs, the center of focus shifts to the customer. You can encourage all of your team members to think like a customer by answering these kinds of questions, for example:
- What does the customer want?
- How can I make my customer interactions better, faster or hassle-free?
- What does the customer consider so valuable that price becomes a lesser consideration?
2. Fire 'em up on the purpose behind what they do.
To encourage people to act as entrepreneurs within their job, try getting them motivated to go beyond their job description. You can give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning besides earning a salary.
You can do this by connecting the dots to show everyone how their work matters, no matter where they fit on the org chart. Being able to answer the following questions can help:
- What's the purpose or meaning behind your product or service?
- How does it make the customer's life better?
- How does it improve the community and even the world?
This connection to a higher purpose can help give meaning to people's jobs and may help engage your employees' hearts, not just their minds.
3. Manage the cognitive diversity in your teams to boost the entrepreneurial mindset.
Diversity can breed creativity and innovation, which are key components of the entrepreneurial mindset. Try raising your awareness of the cognitive diversity in your teams, so that you can optimize their performance and help them develop.
A 2017 Harvard Business Review article titled "Teams Solve Problems Faster When They're More Cognitively Diverse" defines cognitive diversity as the "differences in perspective or information processing styles." It's independent of factors such as gender, ethnicity or age. It's about how individuals think about and deal with new, uncertain and complex situations.
You might like to consider using some tools to help you deepen your understanding of your team's cognitive diversity, thinking styles or the level of their entrepreneurial spirit. There's a number of tools available for this purpose, including the AEM Cube, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Intrapreneur DNA Test just to name a few.
4. Make space for new ideas.
Try giving people permission to come up with new and better processes for whatever role they play. Ideas can thrive when they mingle with other ideas and mold into new forms.
Consider encouraging people to share any thoughts that can bring positive changes in the company such as keeping up with trends in their domain. You could establish an internal blog where employees can post creative ideas, shortcuts, feedback and other suggested innovations.
You can make it easier for people to swap hunches and ideas with others or crowdsource answers from co-workers by giving them communication tools for knowledge sharing such as Yammer, MangoApps and Viima.
5. Create an environment of psychological safety.
Fear of reprisals and the fear of taking a risk and making a mistake are the antithesis of the entrepreneurial mindset.
You can help reduce those fears by making people feel safe to take calculated risks within the parameters of their roles. When a mistake is made, consider using it as an opportunity for everyone to learn. Be mindful not to make people feel embarrassed or develop insecurity because of the mistake. This may stop them from coming to you with new ideas and may sabotage your efforts to promote an entrepreneurial mindset in the company.
6. Empower people to take ownership of their role.
Help people think of themselves as CEOs of their own sphere of responsibility. This means training them to take ownership of their role.
Discourage excuses, blaming and passing the buck. You can instill a culture where everyone is encouraged to act as an entrepreneur by being fully accountable to themselves for their efforts and results. Hire the right people, give them room to maneuver and then show them that you trust them.
7. Instill a bias for action.
As an entrepreneur yourself, you know that action is paramount. With that in mind, consider promoting a culture that favors action. This means guarding against paralysis by analysis, long meetings, unnecessary emails, outdated formalities and other inefficiencies that are the hallmark of bureaucracies.
Are some people talking more than doing? Ask people where they might encounter bottlenecks and remove them. The team members who have shown an entrepreneurial mindset may applaud your efforts to facilitate entrepreneurial thinking for the betterment of the company.
8. Develop internal entrepreneurial champions.
As the leader, you can be an entrepreneurial talent hunter within your company. Try encouraging all of your managers to do the same.
If you or they see someone who shows a nascent entrepreneurial spirit, have management give these people some of their personal attention. You can do this by mentoring them, helping them unlock their creative potential and letting them develop and submit any ideas for improvements. These people can be an example to others and may inspire their coworkers.
9. Pick people who show an entrepreneurial bent.
The next time you're hiring new people, consider looking for people who may fit the entrepreneurial mindset. This means looking for candidates who have an optimistic bent, are self-starters and who've shown perseverance and proactiveness in their careers.
Are the candidates confident? Do they have a go-get-em attitude? Are they self-motivated? Does their work history show that they assume responsibility, that they're highly adaptable? These may be the candidates who can be trained to have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Fostering a culture that values and promotes an entrepreneurial mindset throughout your company can be a competitive advantage in our fast-paced, complex and ever-changing business environments. Encouraging people to think like entrepreneurs rather than employees may be one of the smartest and most timely initiatives you can take.
Read more articles on motivating employees.