If I Were Running A Company…Entrepreneurial vs. Entrepreneur

In a lot of job descriptions, companies are asking for the “entrepreneurial spirit.” It sounds great in the job description; looking for someone who is willing to learn, have tons of ideas, and isn’t afraid to execute their plans. If your entrepreneurial, then you should be fine. If you’re an entrepreneur, that’s a different story.

When you’re an entrepreneur, you are perceived as independent, an outsider, and a risk-taker; “bad traits” if you re-enter the corporate offices. That’s the irony of companies want from entrepreneurial people: they want the same traits of an entrepreneur, but the company wants to mold those people themselves.

On that note, why don’t companies promote the intrapreneurial spirit instead of entrepreneurial spirit since they are looking for people who understand their corporate culture? My assumption is entrepreneurial sounds open and welcoming, while intrapreneurial sounds like you need the secret password to enter.

Companies are sending mixed messages on who they’re looking for when they put the word, “entrepreneurial.” How to deal with this dilemma? Frankly, it’s a mentality that companies need to escape and that is a person will stay for a long time because of the brand and culture. In reality, people will go where other people go. There are a few brands people will go to and the culture backs it up, but that’s a few among the millions of companies out there.

Another reason companies need to let go of their controlling traits is everything is now temporary, including your employees and executives. The culture isn’t created by company branding; it is created by the employees. I have said this many times: we are living in a free agent culture where anyone is available. You can talk about retention, stats, training all you want. There are two variables that will alter that thinking: people and time. People can be controlled, if done properly; but they will make their own decisions that best helps them professionally and/or personally. Companies can deal with people, but eventually, everything has a deadline. Companies won’t admit “father time” is always undefeated.

If companies really want the “entrepreneurial spirit,” then let your employees and contractors be themselves and experiment. People have different visions of your company. Everyone associated with the company are aiming at the same goal. Companies have to realize almost anyone working is entrepreneurial are finding ways, including low-level jobs like janitors, to make the company better. Calling someone an “entrepreneur” is the workplace version of being called a “whore” instead of being called “business partner.” That shouldn’t be the case.

Companies can say they have “entrepreneurial spirit,” but do they practice what they say?  I’m having a hard time believing that.

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  • One of America’s greatest strengths has always been its entrepreneurial culture and the willingness of its citizens to take risks on new ideas and new businesses. That culture isn’t gone, but this data sure does suggest that it is at least in trouble. Hopefully this is only a side-effect of the recession and not the sign of anything permanent. If it lingers on as a trend, however, we’ll have to do some serious thinking about what we can do to reverse it.

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