This post was inspired in part by my friend Alexis Martin Neely and the journey of one of her clients (see her post here ) as well as ongoing discussions about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs have a desire to innovate and create. They are willing to take on risk and think outside of the box. They lead and they inspire. And by standard definitions, they start businesses.
Now, this gets a bit into the realm of semantics, but there are plenty of business owners who are not truly entrepreneurial, creating job-businesses that aren’t innovative and likely won’t experience much growth. And there are plenty of individuals who don’t own businesses, yet are entrepreneurial within the confines of another organization. So, rather than call for a change to the dictionary, perhaps we should just have a change in attitude about what entrepreneurship is and how it can be accomplished.
There are a lot of naysayers who put down the thought of “working for the man”. I am personally quite off-put by these entrepreneurial zealots, because while I think there is great value in starting a business for some, there is also great value in doing great work in general, regardless of the venue. I think it’s disrespectful and silly to put down corporate jobs, not to mention that we all have different definitions of success and so different paths will make more sense for each one of us.
So, how can you start to think about embracing being entrepreneurial in different venues?
Can you take on the financial risk?
The biggest risk with starting a business as a means to be entrepreneurial is the financial risk. Businesses need to have the start-up costs financed, plus there needs to be enough capital to sustain the business’s operations while it gains a foundation. This can easily take a couple of years. The business owner needs to be able to live in the meantime. Since undercapitalization is a leading cause of business failure, this makes it a tremendous risk. When you work for someone else, if you want to pursue an entrepreneurial project or endeavor, you still endure risks. They may be reputational/political or otherwise, but they don’t require you to invest your life savings in the meantime. This may make being entrepreneurial in someone else’s sandbox very attractive.
What’s your purpose?
Many entrepreneurs are driven by something other than money. They want recognition for their efforts. They want to create something of meaning and have an impact on society. They want to see their vision come to life. In a corporate environment, you may not get the full financial upside, but you have a real chance to fulfill many of the other wants and desires of being entrepreneurial. Think about your motivations and when you approach your employer (or even a new one) see if you can get those benefits worked into a new project (eg. credit given to you internally or externally). If so, you may have found the perfect place to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing.
Will a corporate partner let you start from square 2?
One of the least efficient parts of a new business startup is that you have to start at square one. You may have to recreate the wheel in terms of vendor relationships, customer relationships, technology systems, operating systems and more. Being entrepreneurial from the platform of an existing business may let you leapfrog many of those issues and hit the ground running with some extra fuel behind you. This can really have a positive impact on the success of your new project or endeavor.
So, the next time you are thinking of leaving your job for a new business venture, evaluate if your employer might be the perfect partner, or even consider going to another company that values your entrepreneurial efforts.