The entrepreneurial spirit is often difficult to define. If we take the word 'entrepreneur' in its literal context, its French roots could be defined as "between jobs" - and the 'in-between-ness' of the word's original meaning is interesting.
After all, it's often at the edge of business plans that we see the entrepreneurial company grabbing the opportunities that make it successful, and it's the truly confident leader that allows his or her team to hunt out opportunities beyond the beaten track.
So when the sales process scares many, how do we instill teams with a passion for driving new business?
To support growth in our enterprise, Cause4, we've developed a graduate Entrepreneurship Programme to find future leaders for the charitable sector. We're looking for those talented and enterprising individuals that can 'make things happen'.
As we've developed our training programme we've talked to academics and consulted psychometric tests, but what we've found to be the number one indicator of entrepreneurial talent is that somebody 'has done something before'. So the rather clichéd stories of childhood entrepreneurs selling apples to their neighbours before going on to develop a global business empire seems to hold true.
If you want to know you're on to a winner in terms of talent, then that person will have 'been entrepreneurial before.'
It definitely takes a special kind of self-starting person to set an idea in motion, regardless of the potential successes and failures. So after three years of developing entrepreneurial talent, we're now really clear about the skills and attributes we're looking for:
- Glass half full - It perhaps goes without saying, but the entrepreneurs are not the naysayers or those that always see a glass as half empty. And whilst every team needs a balance of the two, it's those with the glass half full that feel that they can achieve things, that will get things done and will build the confidence of the team.
- Passion - At interview we're looking for those with a passion for something. We don't care what it is, but we need to know that there is at least one cause or passion where a person's eyes will light up. And it can be anything - rugby or music or education - but what we know for sure is that when the passion is there, that person can sell.
- Ambition - Without raw ambition, we can't get ahead. However small the team or organisation, there has to be scope for promotion and development, or the entrepreneurial talent will definitely leave.
Adaptable - I know all too well that in a start up, the best-laid plans are never realised. In the best entrepreneurial cultures, staff are accepting and adaptable when things change and move - and the constant changes can lead to better ideas and plans... Sometimes.
- Leaders - The savvy entrepreneurial leader knows when it's time to exit or time to professionalise and bring in process and structure. After all, a start up can't stay in a state of flux and change forever. Similarly, the best entrepreneurs are really quite risk-averse; in my experience, the reckless maverick is a myth not a reality, and the true entrepreneurial spirit will lead a team by considering options carefully.
So it's in creating room for the above attributes and developing potential that we build entrepreneurial spirit within a team... And whilst the reckless maverick might be a myth, the glass half-full, unpredictable, ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit most definitely isn't.