Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on June 23, 2015
I have encountered many entrepreneurs who are out to change the world. They have a certain mindset and certain traits in common:
- A belief and proactive attitude that they and their team can overcome obstacles, and successfully create an innovative product or service that potential customers or clients will want to buy
- Strong communication, interpersonal and networking skills, and the ability to sell their ideas to investors, customers and to their employees, and align everyone towards a common goal
- An ability to take risks, and recognize that an inevitable failure is part of the learning process on the path to success
Entrepreneurs have a different world view and mindset than other individuals. They have a positive can-do attitude, and see the glass as half-full, while others see it as half-empty. They see a world of abundance and possibilities, rather than a world of scarcity. They continuously improve on what they have created as well as improve on what competitors offer in the marketplace.
Entrepreneurs are innovative, and differentiate themselves and their company to create competitive advantage. When it becomes apparent that their innovation may not be a technical, commercial or financial success, they pivot, and change direction. There are many individuals that do not have these traits. A few minutes into a conversation, one can tell which type of individual you are speaking with.
As their client, I have witnessed these traits in Dean Mahmoud, Logan Levenson and Jonathan Shettsline of Argyle Interactive, a rapidly growing two-year old website design, digital marketing and search engine optimization firm. Mahmoud and Levenson co-founded the firm as seniors at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business in 2013. Shettsline is an undergraduate at Drexel, who joined Argyle as a co-op for six months, and now works for the firm part-time as he enters his senior year.
I asked Mahmoud what keeps him up at night. He stated, “Making sure the team is taken care of, and they in turn will take care of our clients. We differentiate ourselves by understanding and exceeding our clients’ expectations.” This is a mindset required for success in any business. Mahmoud, Levenson and Shettsline are very good at networking and at giving an elevator pitch on the capabilities of their firm to attract clients. These are key skills for any entrepreneur.
Employee selection and leadership skills are imperatives for entrepreneurs. Hiring and leading employees is one of the most important things that Mahmoud and Levenson do. Hiring the wrong individuals can seriously impact their firm’s success. Their college classmates who went to work for established companies in individual contributor roles may not have the responsibility of hiring and leading employees until a number of years after they graduate. Entrepreneurs learn to become effective leaders very quickly.
The skills of entrepreneurs are valued by established companies. In her Jan. 9, 2014 article in Forbes Magazine titled, “We are all entrepreneurs: It’s a mindset, not a business model,” Donna De Carolis, founding dean of the Charles H. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel, said, “When we choose to embark on a path not charted, we are engaging in a small act of entrepreneurship. Being entrepreneurial is essentially about thinking and doing something that we have not done before … It is about assessing a situation, designing alternatives and choosing a new way… that we hope will lead us to something better…” This is the mindset that employers favor.
Innovators and paradigm changers who work for established companies are also entrepreneurs. They create a disproportionate impact because of their mindset. They are committed to continuous improvement and growth, and are responsible risk takers. They achieve results.
It is said that if you have never taken a risk and at some point failed, you have never done anything. The most successful people throughout history have occasionally failed, but that has not stopped them from moving forward. Entrepreneurs know how to take responsible risks and learn from their mistakes.
Quoting Seth Godin, the author of “The Icarus Deception,” who references the character in Greek mythology that flies too high and too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt off, forcing him to crash into the sea. Godin writes, “It is far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, even though it might feel safer to fly low. You settle for low expectations and small dreams, and guarantee yourself less than what you are capable of. By flying too low, you shortchange not only yourself, but also those who depend on you, or might benefit from your work.”
Employers, hire those individuals who won’t fly too low. Hire individuals who think like entrepreneurs. Give them an authority level commensurate with their experience and expertise. Raise their authority level as their experience and expertise increase. Allow them to take responsible risks. Will they make mistakes? Yes. Will their initiatives occasionally fail? Yes. However, they will learn what not to do again. These are the employees who are your growth catalysts and who will move your company forward.
Stan Silverman is a writer, speaker and advisor on effective leadership. He is the Leadership Catalyst at Tier 1 Group, a firm of strategists and advisors for preeminent growth. Silverman is vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, a director of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and former president and CEO of PQ Corporation. Follow: @StanSilverman. Connect: Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Website: www.SilvermanLeadership.com