NEW: Emma Brown

Never work with children, animals or entrepreneurs.

Never work with children, animals or entrepreneurs

One of the girls in my office moonlights as a student. She’s studying business and one of her topics this semester is entrepreneurship. In her entrepreneurship class this week, they debated whether you should work for an entrepreneur or not.

I’ve just walked into my office to find my team enjoying a lively debate about this. “No way!” one said, giggling and directing her next comment to one of the newest members of the team – “Get out while you can!!” Another said: “It will drive you crazy!”

It definitely takes a certain type of person to work with a true entrepreneur.

If you’re hiring, and your prospect hasn’t worked with an entrepreneur before, be sure to make the differences clear. I asked my team to help me with this one – how is it different to work with an entrepreneur and what can be done to make it work? Here’s their advice:

Don’t believe everything they say

Entrepreneurs can be highly creative and visionary. This means they come up with a lot of ideas.

My assistant Amber says that when she first started working with me, she’d take every word of mine very seriously. Whenever I had an idea, she’d spend hours planning for how to make it happen. Next thing she knew, I’d turn around and say: “That’s a silly idea, who thought of that?”

She says it took her a few months not to take my indecisiveness and whims personally. How can you combat this? Turn to your entrepreneur and say: “I’m happy to spend some time in planning for this. If I come up with a strategy, will you give me the go ahead to action it? Are you sure this is something you want me to do?”

(If all this fails, you have my permission to roll your eyes and throw something at them – happens in my office all the time.)

Plan around them doing everything at the last minute

Many entrepreneurs fly by the seat of their pants. They’re in their element when under pressure and challenged. One of the ways my team have come to deal with this characteristic of mine is to change the deadlines. If they need something by Thursday, they’ll tell me it’s Tuesday. They’ll remind me regularly and follow it up with me.

Manage up

Sometimes entrepreneurs are like children. You’ve got to tell them exactly what you need. You’ve got to tell them exactly where they need to be. You have to make it easy for them.

Be flexible

You may start your day with everything planned, knowing exactly what you need to get through. Entrepreneurs have a way of ruining that. When working with them, be flexible and always be ready for the unexpected.

You’re accountable

One of my team said to me: “There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide when working with you.” It’s true. I expect 100% accountability from my team. They can’t hide as they could if working for a big corporate with a manager who’s not going to lose their home if things go wrong.

I am there to support them and lead them, but they know that they can’t pass the buck. If you’re working for an entrepreneur, be prepared to work in a transparent environment and be prepared to be called to account.



Emma Brown, at 27, has bought two businesses and sold one. She is Chief Chick of Business Chicks, Australia’s leading community for women. She’s on the board of Entrepreneurs Organisation, and lives in Sydney with her fellow entrepreneur partner.


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