I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I only realized it very recently, but upon reflection I now know that I've always been that way.
Thinking like an entrepreneur who owns a business is not a luxury in today's business environment. In the April, 2015 edition of Entrepreneur, Juan Jose De La Torre wrote that "with the proliferation of new startups and disruptive innovations, corporations have been forced to embrace the entrepreneurial approach towards running and operating their business."
Entrepreneurs must think like business owners - because they are. But, then so are business leaders found across every sector.
My entrepreneurial spirit is born out of a need to break things that don't work and start again; or to simply create something that doesn't exist at all. Entrepreneurs do indeed complain, but the distinguishing factor is that they move - rather impatiently - to do something about the particular issue.
At various points in my life, I was either thinking, dreaming or starting some kind of initiative. Whether in my local church or on a weekend with my husband, I have sought to satisfy a burning desire to create, or to disrupt. But, regardless of my need to create or disrupt, I've always worked on the 'inside' - for someone else. My roles have spanned the profit, nonprofit, domestic and global arenas.
Working on the 'inside' shouldn't cause you to lose an entrepreneurial spirit, even if you never thought that you had one to begin with. Your role - no matter what it is - should be to think, act, walk and talk as a business owner.
There's a plethora of information and content available on serving as a business partner. I'm beyond that. I've been increasingly advocating - every day and in every way - for operating as a business owner. What does this mean to me?
I worry about the health of my organization's operating budget.
When the lights are off on a particular floor, I wonder whether something is wrong with the fixtures - and then I find someone to address it!
I ask for my team to challenge the status quo, and, for the love of Pete, to stop doing what has always been done. I want them to innovate.
I think about ways to diversify our organization's revenue streams. I find out where the risk are and try to stay focused on shoring up the talent in those areas.
I'm a business leader first, HR leader second - so raising revenue is part of my job. In fact, at a recent team meeting, I led a brainstorming session with part of my team on ways to monetize our intellectual capital (i.e. HR programs). It's now one of that sub-team's aspirational goals.
Are you thinking like a business owner? If not, start now! How?
Assess your surrounding business environment - both internally and externally. Stop worrying about seats at the table and find out how your tables are made and distributed.
Identify opportunities to advance the business. Look for ways to disrupt the status quo - constructively, of course. Be sure to find sponsors and leverage key partners that are on the same page. No need to go rogue, and definitely not smart!
Get the junk out of the system. Get rid of the wasteful, mindless process and systems which creep into businesses and clog the system, bearing no real fruit. Be diligent about taking things off-the-plate.
Be sure to hire talent that embraces these concepts. If you want to change the culture, hire for it.
If your company is a slow adopter, take heart - operating like a business owner in corporate environments is a marathon, not a sprint. You'll need to build your endurance. You may even need to stay motivated by getting involved in initiatives and organizations outside of your day job. You can serve as a volunteer at a local association, participate or lead panel discussions on the topic - or like me, start your own organization on your own time and have the best of both worlds!
Wherever you are, whatever you do, be sure to serve as a business owner and you'll be helping to truly drive your business forward.