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Walking on water: The secret to entrepreneurship is doing the things you think you can’t

David Sharrock /

entrepreneurship

Sharrock Pitman Legal managing principal David Sharrock.

Running a business is akin to walking on water.

For a business leader, each day presents new and seemingly impossible challenges — just like being told to walk on water, as it were.

Entrepreneurial spirit then needs to kick in, with the mindset switching to, ‘do what you think you can’t!’ 

The archetypal entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship has gained a bad name for itself and entrepreneurs often receive bad press as they crash and burn.

Without naming names (as I do not wish to be sued), your archetypal entrepreneur likes empire building, is ego-driven, focuses on dollars, dollars and more dollars, is maverick in behaviour with a cavalier attitude, and actually thinks ‘fail fast, fail often’ is laudable.

If truth be known and we are honest, we look at these prominent, public figures and eulogise their successes. We are a bit envious of their rapid rise and the fast bucks they have made.

We ponder ‘why can’t that happen to us and our own business?’

‘Surely, I must be doing something wrong’, we muse.

‘Why don’t they struggle like we do and what’s the silver bullet they’ve got that we haven’t got?’

But, in 99.9% of businesses, this is not the best sort of entrepreneurship, day in and day out. I recommend the more reluctant kind.

Introducing the reluctant entrepreneur

Typical of all entrepreneurs are the following qualities:

  • Ideas tumble around;
  • Opportunities are pursued;
  • Creativity and energy are released;
  • Optimism predominates;
  • Uncertainty and failure are quite acceptable;
  • Calculated risks are embraced;
  • The status quo is anathema;
  • There is grunt and fight inside;
  • Communication is effective and influences others; and 
  • Winning is better than losing.

But, such entrepreneurial traits are enhanced for reluctant entrepreneurs by them being:

  • Purpose-driven rather than egocentric;
  • Trustworthy, concerned and caring rather than brazen, cavalier and reckless;
  • Focused on people, their needs and community benefit  instead of empire building, dollars and massive profits;
  • Prudent, considered and responsible decision-making, without taking reckless risks in almost total disregard of the consequences;
  • Firm, fair and decisive management style, and not aggressive, directive, authoritarian or confrontational;
  • Possessing a certain diffidence and awareness of inadequacies, rather than projecting invincibility and having a ‘bold as brass’ attitude; and
  • Being tentative, mindful of weaknesses, yet quietly confident, without hubris or pretence.  

Such qualities and traits of reluctant entrepreneurs are highly desirable, enabling any business leader to unleash entrepreneurial spirit.

But, leaders cannot do it alone. They need to exemplify entrepreneurship to their team members, inspiring them to devise new ideas to improve the business. 

Together, leaders and team members can turn their business into an ‘ideas factory’, having an appetite for innovation, brainstorming for new ideas, seeking out new opportunities, and providing new and improved products and services.

Tips for creating an ‘ideas factory’

  1. Make your business battle cry ‘be different to make a difference’.
  2. Do some self-appraisal about your own leadership style and the degree to which you are entrepreneurial, and then explore what it might take for you to adopt many of the qualities and traits of reluctant entrepreneurs described above.
  3. Do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of your business, while seeking to discover a new business opportunity in the marketplace, setting strategic direction and formulating plans to make it happen.
  4. Explore new solutions, technologies and strategies which might be adopted throughout your business.
  5. As the business leader, become a CIO (chief ideas officer), challenging the status quo, becoming a change agent, and facilitating entrepreneurial spirit.
  6. Spread that entrepreneurial spirit among executive and board members by reporting and discussing ideas, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and ‘intrepreneurship’.
  7. Get your team brainstorming for new ideas at team meetings.
  8. Recruit and promote entrepreneurial team members.
  9. Infuse all communications, policies and protocols throughout the business with entrepreneurial spirit.
  10. Have some fun and enjoy the journey toward business success.

And the benefits

Internally, over time, your business will become decidedly different and make an impactful difference, with a reshaped culture, improved internal processes, and with increased productivity, efficiency and effectiveness by a fully engaged team. The chief ideas officer becomes a consummate reluctant entrepreneur, with team and board members becoming entrepreneurs too.

Externally, stakeholders can experience better value and greater benefit and customers will enjoy new products and services. Plus, the business will initiate new activities and divert into new areas, and a sense of community can be built around a common cause, with social issues to be tackled and pursuing the common good to be foremost. 

The challenge is for you, as the business leader, to become a reluctant entrepreneur.

It all starts with walking on water by doing what you think you can’t!

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David Sharrock

David is the managing principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal, a Melbourne-based, boutique commercial law practice. He is an accredited business law specialist, an accredited mediator, a public speaker, and the author of Fighting for Enterprise Success: Through the Eye of the Tiger.

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