Who Are Your Organization's Entrepreneurs?

07 Mar. 2012 | Comments (0)

How useful would it be to identify the problem-solvers within your business? They're called entrepreneurs, and not all of them are created the same. The ability to identify entrepreneurs empowers organizations to effectively manage their workforce. Through research, we're beginning to learn more about spotting star performers who would otherwise become disengaged and flee — taking their new ideas with them.

Identifying these individuals is possible long before they enter the workplace. In fact, 42 percent of entrepreneurs have determined they want to own their own business before the age of 12, according to an ongoing study run by our company, Target Training International, of engineering students from 18 major U.S. universities.

Early findings from this research describe two types of entrepreneurs emerging:

Entrepreneurial-Minded People (EMPs): They tend to work well in teams, have an organized workplace and enjoy consistency. These individuals are happier within organizations or within a group of people working together to achieve a goal.

Serial Entrepreneurs (SEs): The second group is made up of potential serial entrepreneurs who have a desire to own their own business. Serial entrepreneurs tend to be more individualistic, have a greater sense of urgency and a desire to control. They have demonstrated an ability to sustain a business past the first year, into the higher growth job production years of a young firm.

Both entrepreneurial types are identified by a distinct challenge-orientation and improvement-focused mindset. But they differ in their attitudes towards control. EMPs are less concerned with the amount of control they can exert. They are happiest when they work collaboratively on a task, in a team, striving for solutions to complex or recurring problems.

The SE wishes to have ultimate control over her life and business. While happy to set direction for a company or team, serial entrepreneurs need to feel that their employer is not limiting their destiny.

Once you identify certain performers as SEs or EMPs, it's your job as a manager to retain them.

Make sure they have a forum where their ideas can be heard. When an SE shares his vision and is met with rejection, he will become disengaged and will likely resent the organization. He is also likely to not only plot his exit, but how to redress the rejection he experienced. That can translate into taking their ideas to a competitor or becoming a competitor himself. Similarly if an EMP is not allowed to engage in the problem-solving process or is asked to work independently, the same is likely to occur.

But how do managers identify entrepreneurial types? It's often helpful to put these questions to use, especially during the hiring process or a performance review.

  1. Describe your career goals. The EMP's answer would more likely indicate he could care less about being in management and is happy where he is or where he is applying for. The SE will tend to say she is looking for advancement.
  2. Describe your professional strengths. An EMP will focus on strengths directly related to the job in question. An SE will talk more about leadership and personal identity.
  3. Describe things you're not good at. Honesty is important for both. Listen closely: If she claims to not have any weaknesses, she is likely more SE-driven. The more weaknesses he confesses to having, the more EM-driven he is.
  4. What activities do you do to keep current in your profession? The EMP is interested in keeping up within his profession and industry. The SE is more focused on keeping up on broader scope, going beyond just her career and may discuss things she is reading, experiencing or sharing.

Entrepreneurs — whether EMPs or serial — already possess the behaviors, attitudes, and values to build successful businesses. Finding out whom within the workforce possesses the traits of an entrepreneur — and which type they are — will allow business leaders to work with their unique approach to business. Recruiting and retaining entrepreneurs will pay big dividends not just for individual companies, but also for the economy as a whole.

This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 2/29/2012.

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