I recently gave a talk to the Cape Cod Young Professionals’ (CCYP) Mentor Exchange on Entrepreneurial Thinking and Thinking Like an Owner. I use the phrase “thinking like an owner” when referring to employees who have a strong work ethic and go the extra mile. There are a number of characteristics I outlined with the group of mentors/mentees who have been participating in the program. The first was debunking the myth that being a business owner is not really working for yourself per se. When you are an employee you have a pretty clear idea of who you work for. When you’re a business owner, you work for everyone; customers, employees, shareholders, board of directors, investors, etc. The other characteristic of thinking like an owner is doing tasks that technically don’t appear within your job description. It could be as simple as taking out the trash, answering the phone, or greeting a customer. It could also be taking on a special project, staying a little later/coming in a bit earlier, and showing the owner you care about their business to do what it takes. These little things go a long way toward ingratiating yourself with a business owner and nothing drives them crazier than when an employee claims “that’s not my job” if asked to do an extra task.
During the next part of the talk, I focused on concepts and characteristics which drive the entrepreneurial mindset. Four I can especially relate to and defend.
1. Know your customer: This is the most important part of being an entrepreneur. Knowing what your customer looks like, thinks about, and wants. Specifically, what problems you can solve for them, what pains they have, and what gains or benefits they are looking for when you perform a job for them.
2. Attitude is everything: I explained how a positive, welcoming, and optimistic attitude will help you succeed as an entrepreneur. It is amazing how well your customers, employees, and vendors respond when you treat them with a positive attitude.
3. Don’t fall in love with your concept: This seems like a simple statement, but entrepreneurs often become myopic and defensive about their concepts. When you get out of the building and actually talk to real customers, you may discover they may not want what you have to offer. Based on what you hear from your customers, you may need to kill it, adapt it, or pivot away from your original concept.
4. Failure is an option: True entrepreneurs embrace the concept of failing fast, knowing how to do it gracefully, and learning from the experience.
I have learned and adapted many of these four concepts from the great work done by Eric Reiss (Lean Startup), Steve Blank (Startup Owner’s Manual), and Alex Osterwaller (Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design).