What is your definition of an entrepreneur? I have asked this question to many people during an interview, and I like to see how the definitions merge into a similar notion or go in different directions. Common themes are resourcefulness, creativity, and an unmatched drive. Is there a secret combination of characteristics that allows an entrepreneur to “make it?” What makes entrepreneurial teams great?
Looking at model entrepreneurs from now and before, it can be argued that, while there are common qualities that matter, every entrepreneur has a different style of entrepreneurship and varied reasons that have led their stories to the newspapers, their companies to the top ten lists, and their legacies to be remembered.
Ewing Kauffman is an entrepreneurial legend and has left his fingerprints all over Kansas City due to his successful business ventures and humanitarian spirit. Mr. Kauffman has inspired many individuals to follow their entrepreneurial journey. I consider myself a student of Mr. Kauffman, studying his legacy and learning from the secrets of his success.
His knowledge and learnings have been passed to other entrepreneurs like myself, so his wisdom continues to evolve and live on through different entrepreneurial generations. His foundational principles of “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” and “Those who produce should share the rewards” are solid principles that remain tied to his legacy.1
I have come to understand that a truly successful entrepreneur learns from others by taking a piece of advice or a lesson from someone else and making it their own.
An example of this would be how I have put into practice Mr. Kauffman’s principle of “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” I first tweaked the philosophy to “Treat others how they want to be treated” and then made another revision down the road to its current version, “Treat others how they should be treated.” I’ve learned that the basic golden rule can go a long way in life and business relationships, but I have made it my own, based on my beliefs and experiences, and I have made it work for my entrepreneurial journey.
I’ve learned from many entrepreneurs before me, such as Mr. Kauffman. As an entrepreneur, I have also learned from the entrepreneurial environments I have been a part of along the way. One of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned involves a powerful entrepreneurial culture and how it’s created and sustained, supporting the entrepreneur and their venture.
The 3 Es of a powerful culture
What is a robust entrepreneurial culture, and how is it maintained? If you are building a business from the ground up, how do you ensure that your culture provides a steady foundation for your goals? A culture of empowerment, efficiency, and enthusiasm will allow you to build and work with a strong team that can sustain your company’s or leader’s legacy.
In startups and other entrepreneurial environments, employees wear many hats. When you look around, you’ll see individuals who are always ready to jump into projects outside their comfort zone and take on tasks that may not be in their wheelhouse. From the standpoint of a leader or manager, it is crucial to building a team of people who thrive when they are empowered. Find a person who owns a problem until it is solved.
You don’t have time or money to waste when you’re an entrepreneur. When you don’t have solid financial backing or start your journey well-funded, I have found that efficiencies are even more valued. It becomes a top priority to arrive at your destination in the smartest, fastest, and most economical way possible. You have to provide great value without breaking the bank and do it in a stepwise fashion. Look for people who have an appetite to build great products efficiently and be on the lookout for how to streamline processes and create efficiencies.
Enthusiasm is a cornerstone of prosperous entrepreneurial environments. The entrepreneurial settings that I have enjoyed the most, and found the most rewarding, are the ones where enthusiasm ran fluid throughout the entire team. I’m talking about that undeniable passion for the company, the services, the clients, and the mission. When natural enthusiasm is built into the DNA of your team, you will find that it can take you farther than you ever imagined.
Many studies, books, articles, and experts detail how to be a successful entrepreneur, but there is one thing that I know for sure: There is no “perfect journey.” Throughout my journey, although I am a constant reader and lifelong learner, two things stick out to me as contributing in a significant way to my entrepreneurial success, and they didn’t come from a book or a well-spoken lecturer. 1) Learn from whomever you can and make it your own. 2) Always strive to have a strong culture with enthusiasm, efficiency, and a focus on genuinely empowering and supporting each other. The great thing is that any entrepreneur, man or woman, well-funded or not, can take these ideas and run with them. You don’t need a Ph.D. or a pocket full of cash; you need the entrepreneurial spirit that drove you to the concept in the first place. That’s your starting point, and that’s your springboard for success.
1. Prescription for Success The Life and Values of Ewing Marion Kauffman by Anne Morgan