Walk like an Egyptian, think like an entrepreneur

I used to say that my dad was a serial entrepreneur before that was a thing. During the time our lives overlapped, from my birth to his retirement, he was: co-owner of a specialized construction and service business; then the sole owner of another specialized construction and service business; owner of a boat repair shop; owner of a service station; and finally owner and operator of a marina. When I said this, it was meant not only as a reference to the number of different businesses he started and operated, but the “serial” in serial entrepreneur was more of a nod to the serial in serial killer. In my experience, people start businesses for several reasons: they want to build something, potentially limitless income potential, or something that could be done better, or they were drawn to the flexibility that having your own business would bring. I once worked for an entrepreneur who started his business out of necessity – and he thrived. In the case of Dad, he owned his own business because he did not like someone telling him what to do; or how to do it.

Now my dad had so many businesses because, if I am being honest, he was not a good businessman. His last venture was a success, but that is because my mom joined him in the venture. She was an astute businesswoman, at least when monitoring costs and expenditures.

This all led me to a fascination with the entrepreneurial spirit. Over my storied HR career, I have only worked for one publicly traded company – and that was for six weeks, which may be why I get the entrepreneur mindset and the approach to operations. You see, most, if not all, successful entrepreneurs are not short-sighted – they look long-term. Chances are they had a vision when they built the company, and it is their baby. A challenge I have seen with these same entrepreneurs is that they tend to assume that everyone who works for them has the same vision and drive as they do (hint: I have NEVER met a successful business owner who was lazy). They (the entrepreneur) assume that their employees want the company to succeed so they can be a part of that success and growth and use it to better themselves and their families. But this is not always the case. I think this lies in the company’s culture and begins as soon as you start recruiting the employee.

When you are in the initial interview stages, are you explaining the great benefits and perks the company offers and how these continue to improve as the company does better? Are you stressing that the company’s success hinges on finding not just good but great employees who are driven to see it succeed? When they are onboarded, do you drill this in again: we are a great place to work because of you – the new hires! When they are at their workstations, whether that workstation is a desk, on top of a building, behind a lawn mower, or cash register, do you continuously drive home that the company can only get better if we get better? In other words, do you drive home that entrepreneurial ownership, or do you drive home the corporate serf mentality: it is their lot in life: it is not a lot, but it is life. If so, do you wonder why they mentally check out and stop caring?

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