Hiring Employees with Entrepreneurial Skills

Hiring entrepreneurial employees

According to David Couper who leads groups of CEOs for Vistage International “An employee who sees his work not as a job but as his own business.  This means that he wants to maximize revenues and profits by being productive, innovative and using resources wisely.”

An “entrepreneurial employee” is someone who is self-motivated and needs little in the way of external motivation. An employee with entrepreneurial skills takes ownership of their job in a way that has them looking for, and taking action, on ways to make their own job more effective and more efficient while bringing ideas to company leaders to improve the company in other contexts.

Advantages of hiring an employee with entrepreneurial skills

David Couper says “they can grow a business by working harder, longer and smarter than an average employee. They may be able to transform not only their area but even the whole business from marginal to successful and from successful to outstanding.”

Ralph Alterowitz, President, Venture Tech Corporation (VTC) says, “In non-restrictive organizations and given the opportunity to be who they are, their spirit and drive can transform their work environments. Their spirit, drive, and innovative orientation can energize other employees such that areas where they work can simulate start-up incubators.”

The advantages of hiring an employee with entrepreneurial skills are many, including having someone looking out for the best interests of the company, always willing to go the extra mile to get things done. They need little in terms of managerial oversight and in many contexts are “low maintenance” employees. Usually they are employees that you can trust to get things done in a timely manner so that deadlines are met and customers are served at the highest levels. Often, they do these things without looking for additional compensation. They do these things because they are the right things to do and they get their satisfaction, their feelings of importance and significance by knowing they are making a difference. They are very internally driven and have high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Disadvantages of hiring an entrepreneurial employee

David Couper says, “Entrepreneurs get frustrated with politics, micro-management, and others who don’t see the future possibilities of the organization.  If they are not rewarded based on their contribution they will get frustrated and may check out or leave the company.  Even if they are compensated for their efforts but not included in the profits then they may still get discouraged and leave.”

Ralph Alterowitz, President, Venture Tech Corporation (VTC) says “When the management hierarchy does not know how to manage these employees, the downside can be expensive in terms of wasted recruitment costs and internal disruption.  The employees feeling  confined in work scope, not recognized for their abilities, unrespected, rebuffed in proposing solutions and attempts to contribute, may become malcontents and mavericks in the organization. Companies are much better off when these people leave because this removes the consequence of possible operational conflict. Of course, in this event  the company is deprived of a return on its investment in the individual.”

Skip Weisman who has been The Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert says, “the disadvantages are that although many do act as they do for the intrinsic motivation and the internal feelings of importance and significance, that is only going to go so far and there should be a discussion around financial rewards and increased job responsibilities, titles and upward mobility to areas that are a fit for their strengths. The last point is very important as some great workers who are self-motivated are promoted into management positions or promoted into other areas just to promote them for the increased compensation and benefits when the new position may not be a great fit for their talents, skills and interests; although it is important to always find ways to keep the entrepreneurial employee engaged in growth opportunities and development.”

Weisman further states, “sometimes these employees can also be high maintenance because they expect the ideas they bring to the table to be addressed and decided upon in a timely manner and can get frustrated by bureaucracy and red-tape to move initiatives forward. They can also create resentment and animosity with their teammates if they do not communicate well, are belligerent to others and have a big ego that gets in the way, often they are not great team players.”

“One of the big disadvantages in the nature of an entrepreneurial mindset is that they are always going to look for the next mountain to conquer and keeping them focused on the primary job at hand sometimes takes energy and reeling them in. Additionally, realize that the entrepreneurial employee may not be with your company long-term as they are looking for greater opportunities in all contexts, and the time, energy and financial resources you have invested in this individual may be invested in training them for your competition or for them to go into business for themselves and compete with your company.”

Where to find entrepreneurial employees?

Weisman says, “entrepreneurial employees are everywhere and I don’t believe there is any one place to look for them. It’s not so much where it is, but how you look for them. First, it happens in the hiring process, and with how the position is advertised for and the wording that is used. This is followed by the interview process and questions that are asked. This takes a skilled interviewer that is well versed in what is called ‘behavioral interviewing skills.’ Behavioral interviewing is based on providing the interviewee with scenarios based on past experiences and “what if” situations and listen for answers that show entrepreneurial approaches in how they addressed the situations, or how they would address the situations if they were to present themselves. Another key component of looking for them is to set the expectation during the interview process that this is the type of employee you are looking for to fill this position and give specific examples of the attitudes, behaviors and performance expectations of the person you will be hiring.

How do you identify that an employee is entrepreneurial?

Weisman says “if the employee is taking an initiative to bring ideas to the table that no one else has thought of, if they are proactively taking charge of certain areas that are outside of their basic job description because they see a need that needs to be filled. If customers are providing positive comments about the service they have received from this individual, and if they are coming to you asking for more work or want to expand their responsibilities because they see a void, are great ways to identify entrepreneurial employees. These employees may also ask for a road map to the next level and what they need to do to get there so they have a goal they can work towards that will be a direct path to a promotion, etc.”

There are many tell-tale questions, inquire as to their reading interest and outside activities. Most entrepreneurial employees are doing several things besides their work. The more diverse their activities, the more likely they are going to be more entrepreneurial.


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