Over the years, I’ve travelled around the world, talking with entrepreneurs throughout the United States, Latin and South America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. In total I must have met and spoken with several thousand entrepreneurs -- asking how they started, what they learned and how they learned it.
Though they used different words, of course, successful entrepreneurs have described to me an entrepreneurship mindset they say has helped them seize their goals and become successful. Overall, some elements of this mindset – recognition of opportunity, comfort with risk, creativity and innovation, a "future" orientation, flexibility, initiative, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving, to name a few -- have played a role.
Yet, as great as these elements may be, they are still just concepts. The entrepreneurial mindset is taught, learned and practiced by finding ways to link these concepts to concrete actions. And I have little doubt that connecting these concepts to the "mindset" will help you, the entrepreneur, move beyond theory to market, or wherever you’re headed.
Writers and speakers, on the other hand, often have a different approach. They move from entrepreneurship concepts to advice. So, I thought it would be interesting to demonstrate the link from the other direction -- by linking advice to those underlying mindset concepts of entrepreneurship.
In that context, I asked four entrepreneurs to offer advice to other entrepreneurs. Here’s what they said and how their suggestions relate back to specific parts of the entrepreneurship mindset.
Khan is the founder of Citrusbits, an app development company in San Francisco. Khan said he’d tell entrepreneurs: “In technology, the rules and tools change so quickly it’s a challenge. But you can and should build for change. Expect it. We do. Whether you make smartphone apps or running shoes, technologies, fashions, and change, don’t let that derail your motivation or your product.”
Being open to and expecting change is the core entrepreneurship mindset of flexibility. Additionally, this advice is also about persistence and future orientation -- remaining focused on your goals.
Lynch is CEO of the national TechWeek conferences and a successful entrepreneur in her own right advised. "Be scrappy," she advised. "The best entrepreneurs have a 'can do' attitude, aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and will hustle to get things done with limited resources."
My take on this advice: Getting your hands dirty and hustling are closely related to the initiative and self-direction parts of the mindset. You could even say that getting things done with limited resources pulls in creativity and problem-solving, as well.
Harriet is co-founder of Re:Mind Recover; he works with medical experts on issues around contact-sport athletics and brain health. Harriet's advice? “Always work with the experts in each area. If you're an entrepreneur, you have to have a 'why' for what you're doing.”
On the surface, this sensible advice appears to relate to learning and seeking information. In reality, though, Harriett's advice is based on risk assessment and goal setting -- two key parts of the mindset.
Entrepreneurs measure and accept risk, and part of that risk measurement entails seeking expert advice: Will my idea work? Or can we do this another way? Making sure you know "why" you’re doing something will help you stay on track -- by keeping you looking ahead and staying on course to your future goals.
Floyd is a multiple entrepreneur and founder of CoachTube, which helps communicate expert tips to athletes, coaches and parents. Floyd advised: "Pay attention to what people need or want and whether those needs are being met. If not, find a way to provide it, even if it means improving something that already exists or changing the way something is presented or delivered.”
Floyd’s advice was classic opportunity recognition -- keeping an eye open for ways to design and deliver a product that isn’t currently available. Floyd, by the way doesn’t coach. But he sees a need for coaches to better connect with their audiences, and he’s offering it.
Overall, looking at what you’re doing and asking yourself what core mindset you’re following is a good practice. That doesn’t mean that everything you do needs to trace back to one of those mindset elements. But it’s good to keep track, nonetheless. And if you can regularly link what you’re doing to a core mindset, there’s a good chance that what you’re doing is entrepreneurial instead of managerial or task-driven.
Meanwhile, the more we entrepreneurs discuss this mindset out loud, the more I believe that schools, teachers and parents will realize just how “teachable” this concept is to young people and how important it is to their futures.