Is entrepreneurship a state of mind or state of employment?

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Peoplecogs Greetings from the great state of Texas where I am on the road to do a little consulting gig.

I have been giving some thought lately to the idea of what it means to be entrepreneurial.  An obvious answer is when you own your own business and generate your own income.  But another definition could be to take full ownership and responsibility for your work experience, no matter how you are getting your paycheck.

This philosophy can be extremely helpful for those of you who are in a place where you need to work for another year or two or five to either more fully develop your business plan or to bank up enough cash to go out on your own.

It is very easy to bash the Corporate Man and complain about how hard it is to get things done inside a large bureaucracy.  I fully realize that there are some very unattractive things about working in a cube, otherwise I would  never have taken the entrepreneurial path, or written this blog.

However … there are some great entrepreneurial behaviors you can practice while employed in a corporate job:

  1. Say "I choose to work here."  Why is this so hard to say?  Every time you utter the term "they made me do this," you are telling a lie.  No one can make you do anything without your permission.  If you didn’t choose to work as an employee, you wouldn’t work there.  Assume responsibility for your employment choices and feel a bit more swagger in your step.
  2. Always know the 2 things you want to learn each quarter. If your goal is to open an import-export food business and you work for a large computer company, see what you can learn about distribution channels and global tax laws from people in your own company.  Maybe you will have to do lots of presentations to get funding and partners for your new venture.  Identify the best presenter in your company and see if you can tag along to a presentation so you can take notes.  The next time you do a presentation, ask if she would be willing to give you feedback about what you do well and what you could improve.
  3. Learn about the business of your company.  Do you know all the factors that go into your company’s profitability?  What are the 5-year strategic goals of your company and what are the threats in the market to realizing these goals?  What keeps your CEO up at night?  Who are your company’s prime customers and what do they care about?  I don’t care if you are an engineer, a marketer or an accountant, you could learn truckloads about running a business from the one you are in.  How do you find this information out?  Ask! (CEO included)
  4. Build your network.  It can be much easier to build relationships with a diverse group of people while you are an employee at a company rather than sitting at your home office.  Get to know your vendors, colleagues, business partners and customers.  Don’t fall into the bad habit of lunching alone at your desk all the time.  When you have the opportunity to go to a conference or business gathering, go!  Talk with interesting people and make sure to get their business cards.
  5. Take a risk.  This can be something small like volunteering to give a presentation at the next staff meeting to proposing a radically different way to complete a task or process.  If you are in sales, take a big leap … don’t use PowerPoint at your next customer meeting.  After you get through hyperventilating, you may actually find that you have a much better customer interaction. And here is one of my favorite suggestions:  invite the person you absolutely can’t stand to lunch.  If you are a salesperson, this may be the curmudgeonly engineer who always heckles you at presentations.  If you are an engineer, maybe it is the smooth-talking person from HR that you feel is completely clueless.  Maybe it is the person in finance who refuses to pay your expense reports if you have a $.01 discrepancy.  The only ground rule is that you must only ask non-work related questions at lunch.  Find out what kind of books, movies and music this person likes. What do they do in their spare time?  After they get over the shock of realizing that your lunch proposal is sincere, you may find out some surprising things about your perceived "enemy." 

The more you focus on learning as much as you can in your corporate job, the more powerful you will feel.  And the more powerful you feel, the more likely you will transfer this confidence into doing something about your business idea.  Whining is fun sometimes and venting relieves pressure, but if that is all you do in your corporate job, you are missing great opportunities to learn how to be more entrepreneurial.

15 Responses to “Is entrepreneurship a state of mind or state of employment?”

  1. Becky says:

    Thanks, Pam. Sadly, I’d been slacking a bit lately in these areas as a self-employed person. What a great way to fail… if I hadn’t gotten back on track! In any pursuit, it’s giving yourself opportunities to learn and grow that brings about progress.

  2. Entreprenurial Blues

    Ive been in a bit of a funk the past few days, and couldnt put my finger on why. My projects for clients are coming along well, Ive got a couple of leads that Im working on, and overall Im well ahead of my goals.
    Thi…

  3. Leo Archer says:

    Can being employed = being an entrepreneur?

    When you conure up the image of an entrepreneur in your mind, who do you see? Odds are you see a person who has gone on her own and who, through sweat, tears and sheer determination to succeed, builds a

  4. Matt says:

    Great suggestions, I think the first and foremost on your list is the most important. The attitude with which you approach a challenge be it an entrepreneurial one or a personal one will determine how well you do. The people in our lives that seem not to get phased by the ups and downs of life have learned this (or they were born with chips in their head controlling their emotions)

  5. Mark Ivey says:

    Great post and comments. This week I wrote a post about a new book on former Intel CEO and business legend Andy Grove, bringing back memories of my nearly decade at that company. It was a brutal place for a former journalist/writer, but also a fascinating ride and great training ground for launching my own business in Silicon Valley. I do think it’s a mindset, and a heavy dose of persistance, discipline, and a lot more. The gravitational pull (starting with financial) back to the corporate mother ship is strong…But for those who persist and see their dreams come to life, the rewards are enormous…I’ve seen many of my friends at Intel get laid off recently–10,500 employees in all–and as I watch them struggle with their future plans, I’m just glad I exited when I did.

  6. Shawna says:

    Very interesting and productive outlook! negativity never helps anything or anyone, but a little griping and venting definately relieves pressure.

    You have given me much to think about. Thanks!

  7. Dilbert and the Mind of the Entrepeneur

    Interesting post, tips and comments about the mindset of an entrepreneur (Is Entrepreneurship a State of Mind or State of Employment) on the Escape from Cubicle Nation . I see it as a state of mind. I’ve been out of

  8. Teresa says:

    Hi Pam – Thank you for your blog and your area of focus. Thanks to Amanda C for introductions via video http://amandacongdon.com/roadblog/2006/10/27/pamela-slim-az/

    Right on. Write on.

  9. Murali says:

    I believe it is a state of mind, not otherwise. And developing and practising entrepreneurship while at the cube is an excellent opportunity and reality check for many of us.

    Obviously if we do not take responsibility and be accountable for what we do, its a no brainer to say how we would do as entrepreneurs.

    We must admit that these cubes are responsible in direct or indirect ways to bring out the desire to be an entrepreneur. So, stay in the cube, learn, practice and then venture out.

  10. Matt Thomas says:

    If someone calls me an entrepreneur, I’m honored, but I don’t feel like I should accept the honor because I’m still at the “day job.”

    My friends that I call entrepreneurs have graduated from the day job and are making their living as business owners. I call them entrepreneurs because of my deep respect for them. They have grown beyond the perceived security of a job and have progressed to a greater level. A level where the risks are greater, but so are the rewards.

    To me, the title of entrepreneur also means a level of commitment that is higher than just moonlighting or having a part-time gig on the side. It is someone with so much faith in their ideas that they have taken a significant financial, personal and emotional risk to reinforce their ideas with ACTION. Full-time action. Action that carried them beyond the day job.

    An entrepreneur has no boss except for every customer they serve.

  11. Tim King says:

    As usual, a great post, Pam. So you baited me with the title. Is entrepreneurship a state of mind or of employment? Both!

    And it’s a state of mind first. It’s so much more than being an intrapreneur. (And I think that’s what you were getting at, too.) Once you have the entrepreneurial mindset, in every aspect of your life, then you can succeed as a self-employed entrepreneur.

    It’s about making your own choices and resolving to accept the consequences of those choices. Even in seemingly mundane areas. For example, I long ago resolved to take a walk or a nap every day, at work. My manager was going to learn to integrate that into his expectations of me, or he was going to fire me. It was the former, but I was prepared for the alternatives.

    -TimK

  12. craigh says:

    Great post. I needed to hear this after an unusually rough day in Cubeland. Craig

  13. Yeah – there is a great deal of hype now about people developing their own “brand” in their corporate career. Part of that is really finding your own vision, making your own path to succeed. This sure beats the “Jump” – “How High?” mentality that a lot of people put up with at their corporate careers.

    But in a sense, it’s like living in your parents basement too. I mean you only can have as much freedom of choice and direction as they will let you have.

    But after tasting the sweetness of control that entrepreneurism gives — I could never go back.

  14. Toby Getsch says:

    I only read the title of this post. I’m there. It is a state of mind. Great title!

  15. Kevin Hoctor says:

    I agree with you that you can be an “intrapreneur” and practice entrepreneurial habits within a large organization—I’ve actually been successful at this in my work history. It’s amazing how much you can drive a corporation from a small cube on the bottom floor.

    There is a certain rush though that you can only get from trusting yourself to go it alone. Having just done it (again) a little over a week ago, I’m still enjoying that exhilaration of breaking free.

    On a general note, I want to thank you for starting this blog! I found out about it from Guy Kawasaki’s blog and it is now one of my favorite RSS feeds. Keep up the great work!

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