Entrepreneurship Isn't Just for the Startups Anymore

I’ve recently realized that – although I’ve been with one company for some time now – I’ve actually been able to enjoy four different careers in sales, channels management, talent and leadership development, and marketing.

I’m sure many of you have had the same experience of changing gears throughout your career, and the obvious advantages of a diverse background are numerous:

  • It helps you build a wide skill set that has been tried and tested in different applications
  • It develops agility in your career and role
  • It creates multiple opportunities for you to advance and grow
  • It keeps you excited and passionate about the work you are doing, decreasing burnout and lack of purpose
  • It allows you to think in different ways, breeding that highly coveted entrepreneurial way of approaching business that allows you to bring more to the table

And now more than ever before, we are seeing professionals maintaining several careers simultaneously (Ever see the CMO running a startup? A web developer with a side job? etc...).

So, it got me wondering: “Why this isn’t a topic that is talked about – and even encouraged – within more organizations?”

After doing research and working extensively with start-ups during The Smarter Cities Challenge earlier this year, I saw and experienced first hand the necessity of breeding an entrepreneurial, quick-on-your-feet mindset within your team. The research was based on the finding that 65% of children entering primary school today, will work in jobs that don’t currently exist.

And it has ignited a fire in my belly to pave the way for the future of our workforce. To be an organization that doesn’t just pivot with the changing times, but helps to usher them in.

My Life-Changing Experience

During the Challenge, I had the opportunity to work with five strangers from all around the world. We all worked for IBM, but had varying roles, experiences and personal backgrounds – and we were all there with the singular task to improve the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam. There was no plan and no hidden agenda – we were simply there to solve problems. We hit the ground running with astonishing intensity - interviewing the government, local businesses, universities, startups, and Venture Capitalists, conducting research and looking for ways to bolster the entrepreneurial spirit in the city.

What we found wasn’t a lack of interest or skills on the part of new hires, but a lack of skills needed to adapt to future jobs once already in the workforce. A need to ace tasks and roles that don't even exist yet.

So, how in the heck do you do that?

Our solution was a tactical recommendation to invest in the diversification of your mid-level employees, helping them prepare for whatever might lie around the next corner (aka: help them think like entrepreneurs). And I felt so passion about that idea, that I began to think of ways I could to the same after returning home.

Instead of Having Employees with Side Jobs, Let Them do it Here

Now that’s a bold idea, but one that I think the most savvy brands are beginning to understand.

We are in living in a highly disruptive era where industries are being turned on their heads, the workforce is evolving and we must continually be re-imagining what is possible. Yet some organizations fear if they encourage independent endeavors within their team, that they’ll begin losing their top talent for, well, their own startups.

I disagree with this sentiment.

Instead, I’m challenging you to find new ways that both parties can benefit from an entrepreneurial culture. Help your innovators get their next idea off the ground by providing the resources. Set up an ‘innovation lab’ where team members can go to collaborate, share ideas and find new solutions to old ideas. Encourage everyone in your entire organization to think of the next big thing.

Why? You’ll begin to see more engaged passionate team members. You’ll open up new expansion opportunities for your company. And your brand may even have the opportunity to invest in your own team members' endeavors. As Sir Richard Branson so eloquently put it:

"Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough that they don't want to."