by David Cooper
When we think of entrepreneurs, it’s most often in the context people who conceive innovative ideas and bring them to market on their own, or a team of partners who launch a start-up in a traditional or new field. But there’s another faction in the mix of people who breathe life into ideas, build successful companies and change our world. Who are they?
Many transformations are the brilliant work of intrapreneurs, employees who change the trajectory of their companies with new ideas, products and solutions. They are essentially entrepreneurs inside their companies. For example, Amazon Prime is the product of intrapreneurship within the ranks of Amazon employees. And Ken Kutaragi was an engineer at Sony when he created the PlayStation and persuaded the company to build it.
Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs hail from diverse backgrounds, industries and experiences, but they all have the same defining characteristics and traits. For many, it all comes naturally, but an entrepreneurial mindset is easily learned and so is the blueprint for success.
The Mindset: What do all transformative individuals have in common?
Entrepreneurs are first and foremost optimistic people, confident in themselves, their ideas and ability to succeed. Their enthusiasm is contagious, exciting and motivating. I agree with optimism being number one on Inc. magazine’s 11 mindset traits of successful entrepreneurs:
- The ability to maintain a positive attitude: This characteristic allows you to tackle problems and obstacles without being impeded and derailed by negative emotions.
- Open to anything: A good example of this is being agile enough to quickly move to an online business model to maintain business continuity during a crisis.
- The curiosity of a child: Inquisitiveness allows you to investigate and see things from different perspectives and conceive solutions to problems or mistakes before they happen.
- Persuasion comes naturally: When you are an effective communicator, you can persuade teams to get behind ideas – and motivate people to buy your products.
- Creative: Creativity allows you to conceive solutions based on more than one angle or perspective, to think beyond what you want to solve and sell. This is an important factor in innovating new products and services.
- Motivated: The more you think you can power through a problem or challenge, the easier it is for you to motive yourself – and others – even when all seems lost.
- Resilient and tenacious: Take time to rest, recharge, get back on your feet and try once more. Tenacity and resilience are your two biggest driving forces to succeed in any industry.
- Take ownership of everything that happens: Accountability gets ignored and forgotten by too many leaders. Entrepreneurs take ownership of their actions and the responsibilities that go along with them. This makes their ideas, teams and businesses more successful.
- Receptive to anything: Successful entrepreneurs are good at corralling people around their vision – but they are every bit as good at embracing feedback, ideas and criticism from others. Entrepreneurs want their idea to succeed and know that others make it happen.
- Passionate: Successful entrepreneurs are genuinely motivated to make a difference in people’s lives. Ideas and businesses built around passion have an enormous and endless supply of human fuel to succeed.
- The ability to walk in another person’s shoes: Strong leaders are empathic toward employees – without whom no idea or company can find success.
Eleven attributes (with some overlap) were also identified by research fellows at the Lehigh@NasdaqCenter. The fellows define these as “11 critical dimensions” found in an entrepreneurial mindset that appear to rank as essential to success:
- Opportunity recognition and exploitation
- Uncertainty and ambiguity tolerance
- Creativity and imaginativeness
- Innovative behavior
- Value creation
- Problem solving
- Mistakes and failure competence
The Blueprint: Dig deep before you leap
What do all successfully executed ideas have in common? The best advice I have for every entrepreneur, business leader or employee on an entrepreneurial mission is this: Aim to be bulletproof by arming yourself with data-driven intelligence. It’s the foresight you need to compete, make smart decisions and grow.
The blueprint for entrepreneurial success begins by answering important questions like these:
- Have you sufficiently scrutinized and vetted your idea to know if it is viable?
- Is there a real need or void in the market that your idea, new product or service can fill?
- What is your ideal target market, and is the market big enough to justify your investment?
- Who are the people, organizations or groups who stand to benefit from your offering?
- What are the desires, challenges and opportunities for which you will provide this solution?
- What companies, if any, are already out there with your potential idea, or something similar?
- How will you differentiate your offering from the competition?
- If no competition exists, what’s your plan to stay relevant when they surface (and they will!)?
- What systems, tools, talent and partners do you need to implement and sustain success?
- What’s your internal communications strategy to ensure buy-in, training and goal alignment?
See all 17 essential questions in my article in this issue entitled, “Great Ideas Simmer – but Smart Execution Pays.”
How can you cultivate intrapreneurship at your company?
In these challenging times, companies are looking for ways to sustain and grow. New revenue streams are on the radar of forward-thinking leaders. Now is a good time to start formalizing plans on how to take existing products or services to the next level, diversify offerings in a lateral market that aligns with your business strategy, or break into something completely new.
Where can you find viable ideas and untapped revenue opportunities? Ask your employees! They are your greatest assets. In this quick read, Stanford offers solid, smart and affordable guidance on how to launch a successful intrapreneurship program within your organization. It’s a fantastic article that begins with how to identify your internal movers and shakers.
Cash cows are the product of great leaders
No one goes into business without the desire to be profitable, but profit can’t be the only motivating factor, lest the best ideas and employees wither on the vine. If you want to turn an idea into a cash cow, become a better leader for your people and teams. Your leadership style foretells whether your blueprint for success will flourish or fail.
Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, is regarded as one of industry’s best thought leaders by Forbes and Gartner, among others. He shares the language of successful managers, and it applies to all entrepreneur and business leaders. Use these words often with your people!
- How can I help?
- What do you think?
- Your work matters.
- I trust you and our team.
- I appreciate your commitment.
- Thank you for working hard.
- I was wrong, I am sorry.
- Your career path is my priority.
- Do you have the tools to succeed?
- Do you have the tools to succeed?
The bottom line
You may have been born an entrepreneur and if so, you’re lucky. If you were not, know that you’re in the company of millions who learned through desire and determination how to become one and succeed on this exciting journey of transformation. All great entrepreneurs continue to evolve and learn, become better at the craft and reap commensurate rewards at the bottom line. If you have the passion and drive, go for it! The best time to start is now.