Do You Want to Hire Entrepreneurs or Employees?

Hire the Best - Use for Web applications, emails, etc“I want someone with an entrepreneurial mind-set in this position,” a client recently stated.  I’ve heard this comment many times before, and it triggers my cautionary response, “Are you sure?”

Too often we believe we want attributes like self-starting, proactive, and organized in a person. In other words, we are looking for someone who fits the “entrepreneurial” mold without really defining the desired behavior exhibited by a person who could have these attributes.

In the absence of documenting the behavior, we often default to using terms generically in our job ads and interviews.  People, being generally intuitive, say, “Yes,” when you ask the question, “Are you an organized person?”

As an example of how to define the behavior or belief you want exhibited, I am often asked to recruit salespeople who will sell in a very competitive industry where margins are thin and value is tough to differentiate.  Naturally, you would want a salesperson that is, in their very essence, competitive.  But I can’t ask if they are competitive if I expect a genuine answer or an accurate evaluation of the fact.  So I ask, “Pick the one the best describes you: Do you hate to lose or like to win?”  There is no wrong answer; just one that is better if you are trying to find the person for the sales environment I described, and that is: hate to lose.

Back to the entrepreneurial quality so many sales organizations seek in a person: What is it, and how does it get manifested in the behavior of the person?

To understand someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, you first have to look at what defines an entrepreneur.  At its most simple core, being an entrepreneur means someone who can make something from nothing, e.g., turn an idea into a product or service.

entrepreneurTo help define the manifested behavior and belief differences of an employee who has an entrepreneurial mindset versus one who does not, I turned to Keith Cameron Smith’s book titled The Top 10 Distinctions Between Entrepreneurs and Employees. 

Here are some of Smith’s key differences:

  • Entrepreneurs are solution finders. Employees are problem solvers.
  • Entrepreneurs know a little about a lot.  Employees know a lot about a little.
  • Entrepreneurs give and receive praise and corrections.  Employee don’t praise and try to avoid corrections.
  • Entrepreneurs say, “The buck stops here.”  Employees say, “It’s not my fault.”
  • Entrepreneurs take risks because of faith.  Employees play it safe because of fear.
  • Entrepreneurs educate themselves more than they entertain themselves.  Employees entertain themselves more than they educate themselves.

Not a bad list.  I would add to it:

  • Entrepreneurs see failure as lessons learned.  Employees see failure as bad.
  • Entrepreneurs have a vision (not necessarily a plan) for what their future looks like.  Employees follow someone else’s vision.
  • Entrepreneurs keep score.  Employees depend on the company to generate reports that tell them the score.

This is not to say that the person who has these attributes is better than the person who does not.  It is not a value judgment of the person.  They only become valuable within the context of their requisite roles.

So, if you believe you need a person who has an entrepreneurial mindset, the question you should ask yourself after looking over this list is, “What behavior does the role require from the person who is in it?”

If you have unsuccessfully hired salespeople in the past, it could be that you have identified the wrong attributes needed for successful achievement in your sales position.

If you want to learn more how Performance Group can help you identify the right candidates for your sales force, then click here.