Bring that entrepreneur spirit

by Barry on March 29, 2010

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Acting like an entrepreneur means that you are committed, that putting in the minimum is not good enough, and that you can be trusted to do what say that you’re going to do.  You treat every project as if your personal success depends on the project succeeding.

As a result, people will want to work with you even more. Companies will want to hire you.  Co-workers will want you on their team. Clients will feel your commitment and will request you. People will see that you are not focused on putting in the minimum 40 hours or only thinking about winning that next award, and instead that you really care about doing a good job, every time.

Here are my top ten tips for acting like an entrepreneur.

1. Act as if you own the business. It should not matter if you work in a small agency with three other people or in a large agency where you are one of the hundreds.  Always act as if you own the business and approach every project as if your job depended on this project (guess what, it does!), and do whatever you can to make sure that it succeeds and that the client’s needs are met.

Includes both the big things and little things.  For example, when you see a piece of garbage on the floor in the lobby, do you stop to pick it up, or is that someone else’s job?  If you’re an entrepreneur, you just do it automatically because it has to get done.

2. Take full accountability and responsibility. Take full responsibility of any tasks you own, including resolving any related issues. Follow these tasks through till their completion. This means if you screw up (and you will!), admit it, learn from it, and move on.

3. Be trustworthy. Quite simply, do what you say you’re going to do.  Period. End of story.  Be someone who can be trusted to always deliver no matter what. No excuses.  No one wants to hear that your “dog ate your homework” or that something more exciting came up. If we want to be treated as professionals, then we need to act as professionals. It does not matter what your job is, be known as the one who can get things done.

4. Get out of your routine. Challenge everything and be solutions’ focused.  An entrepreneur finds a way to get done the impossible.  Look to create paradigm shifts and new ways of thinking.  The status quo is not good enough anymore.  Be creative and find new and more efficient ways to do things, focusing not on the process but on the end result.

As a counter point, don’t be a complete renegade and ignore all of the rules. Learn what rules can be challenged and what rules you need to follow.

5. Be a change agent. Be open to change. When change happens, don’t resist or fight it. Instead figure out how to quickly realize that change is happening, and then how to adapt to it.  One of my favorite books, Who Moved My Cheese?, is written on this exact premise.  Too many people stay in jobs or careers too long because they were not able to recognize that change is happening and could not adapt to it.

6. Take acceptable risks. It is okay to fail (within reason of course!). Stop asking permission. Go for forgiveness. Don’t wait for someone to declare that you empowered.  Act as if you are in charge.

7a. Be easy to work with. Early in my career, I spent a lot of time at AT&T, which was going through huge paradigm shifts of their own.  Judge Greene just broke up their monopoly and they were trying to reinvent themselves. One of their biggest challenges is that it took customers multiple calls into their call centers to resolve a single problem.  AT&T wanted to change this and their motto was to “be easy to do business with”.

These simple yet strong idea of being easy to work with stayed with me throughout my career.  Whatever we do, make it easy to get things done. Don’t create process for the sake of process and keep things simple. If you’re hearing from your customer that your designs are always late, invoices are wrong, or that you are not flexible, then you are not easy to work with. An entrepreneur is very easy to work with.

7b. Be easy to communicate with. This goes hand-in-hand with being easy to work with but is often neglected.  Respond quickly to client requests. I’m not recommending that you don’t push back on the client appropriately but you do need to respond to their requests quickly (I recommend within two hours). The response can be simply an acknowledgement that you received their request.  Also be easy to communicate with when dealing with your co-workers.  Don’t let their emails sit for days unanswered (I recommend one day max).

8. Be team focused. A good entrepreneur works with their team to both manage and lead their team, and to delegate when appropriate. Don’t be an army of one. Use your team and share in all successes with them. Also while you focus on delivering results, make sure that you don’t leave a wave of destruction getting there.

9. It’s about passion! Either bring passion to everything you do or don’t bother showing up.  Be excited about the work you do. We all like working with people who are passionate as they are exciting to work with.  Yeah, I know that a spreadsheet may seem dull to some, but believe me, I am as excited about my spreadsheets as a creative director is when presenting concepts to clients. Love what you do.  Bring passion or stay home.

10. Add value – nothing else matters in the end. What you did last week or last month is not relevant.  It’s about adding value on your next project. It does not matter if you are a junior copywriter or a managing director, if you are not adding value, then you are not relevant and will find yourself out of job.

Being an entrepreneur means challenging the unchallengeable, finding solutions, and keeping clients happy. Entrepreneurs are focused on getting the job done every time. They are highly dependable because they know that the business depends on them. Ask yourself, do you act like an entrepreneur? What more can you be doing to demonstrate entrepreneurship?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Yuri Salnikoff March 31, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Nice ones Barry. We lived many of these at and they are still relevant. BTW – You breaking out of the mold by calling it 10 but giving us 11? Perhaps a bonus -


Barry April 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

You’re right as we learned all of these while at In this economy, if you’re not acting like an entrepreneur, then you will quickly find yourself on the street.

Regarding the bonus, I figured that “Be easy to work with” and “Be easy to communicate with” were so closely related, that I could get away with bundling the two together. It’s all about finding solutions!


Laurent Stanevich March 30, 2010 at 9:04 am

Good points all, Barry.


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