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Corporate Employees Should Act Like Entrepreneurs

One of the big differences between an entrepreneur and an employee of a big corporation is that employees tend to have a very narrow focus on their job, while entrepreneurs have to take a broader view of their business. Both employees and entrepreneurs want personal satisfaction and financial success. However, U.S. entrepreneurs consistently claim to be happier and have a higher net worth than employees.

Corporate Employees Should Act Like Entrepreneurs

In my advisory role to businesses of all sizes, I have found that you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to act like one and enjoy the results. 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 you desire.

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. Here are some key strategies I recommend in developing that mindset, whether you are currently an employee or an aspiring entrepreneur:

  1. Keep the customer at the top of your pyramid. Every business depends on customers to thrive, and every employee role has some impact on 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.
  2. Maximize your impact on the success of the company. Entrepreneurial thinkers always behave 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.
  3. Strive 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, grow sales, and improve profitability. If you find yourself clinging to “the way it has always been done,” it’s time to think again. 
  4. 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. Make the customer see so much value that price becomes unimportant.
  5. Know your peers and build your competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs realize that competitors are outside businesses, not other people in your department or other areas of your company. To improve your career, you need to look outside for ways to benchmark your position and find ways to continually improve your skills.
  6. 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 adjusting.
  7. Try new things, and don’t penalize yourself for mistakes. Entrepreneurial thinking requires getting 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 resist change will be left behind.

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, and continuous improvement. So whether you want to run your own company or have a thriving career in a corporate environment, you need to start acting like an entrepreneur today.

Marty is Cayenne's Chief Knowledge Officer and the Founder & CEO of Startup Professionals. His passion is nurturing the development of entrepreneurs by providing first-hand mentoring, funding assistance, and business plan development. He has over 30 years of experience in big businesses, as well as startups. View details.

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