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Fri, Nov 19, 2010

Talent Strategies

Why Are Hiring Managers Scared of Entrepreneurs?

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The President of the United States has proclaimed today as the first ever National Entrepreneurs’ Day, celebrating the ways in which entrepreneurs support our economy and serve as catalysts for economic growth.

Entrepreneurs are frequently perceived as being unafraid of risk, individuals who aren’t able to operate in a “structured” environment and who only care for themselves.

As a former entrepreneur, an MBA, and someone who has held typical roles as an employee in established businesses, I can only laugh at the irony of this situation:  we are a nation that doesn’t quite know what to do with entrepreneurs: those who seek out a market opportunity and organize a venture around that opportunity to create value.

This model serves as the foundation for almost every business in existence.  Yet, for some reason, these entrepreneurs themselves elicit fear in “Corporate” America.  What, exactly, is so scary?

Hiring managers fear the exact people who create the stable organizations that employ them.

As we evolve as a society, it’s essential we better understand the psyche of the entrepreneur and how their skills can be successfully leveraged by any business, whether at a start-up venture or an established Fortune 500 company. Successful entrepreneurs’ expertise spans the board, equally adept at marketing, accounting, technology, and, by necessity, management and leadership.

Masters of opportunity identification and assessment, entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds of implementation, yet remain focused on the big picture objectives.  There is nothing an entrepreneur can’t do – that’s because being an entrepreneur isn’t a job or a function. It’s a way of thinking.

The foundation of entrepreneurship requires a diverse set of skills, including creativity, superior problem solving capabilities, the ability to learn quickly and the disposition to remain focused on the primary goals and objectives, all built upon a deep level of passion.

Those skills aren’t only applicable in new venture creation – they are the skills that any hiring manager should seek out in a top performer. Employers shouldn’t be afraid of those who may have left a former position (and more traditional career development track) to pursue their own ventures.

This decision shouldn’t be perceived as “going rogue,” but rather, as a desire to be part of the value creating movement our economy – and society – needs to keep growing.  President Obama’s inauguration speech served as an important reminder of the crucial role entrepreneurs play in our economy:

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

Hiring Entrepreneurs: What Employers Need To Know

Entrepreneurs aren’t compartmentalized workers with narrowly defined expertise, but rather, can successfully tackle tasks across functions and specialties, evidencing the kind of flexibility frequently required in today’s constantly evolving business environment.  This also means employers need to remain flexible when assessing top entrepreneurial talent.

It’s a critical error to measure candidates with backgrounds in entrepreneurship in the terms mandated by so many job descriptions, such as years of directly related experience or specific titles held in previous positions.

The skills and experience represented by an entrepreneur’s resume conveys dimensional experience and growth that should be benchmarked differently than those with more linear and defined career paths.   Much like management consultants, entrepreneurs learn and often master new functional and organizational skills quickly, which might suggest why so many consultants end up becoming entrepreneurs (and vice versa).

Both disciplines require innovative thinking and the ability to manage projects and people through change, not to mention effective and efficient approaches to work.  While many organizations retain consultants to leverage these desirable (and hard to find) attributes, hiring entrepreneurs to bring these skills in house creates a competitive advantage that’s good for business – and the bottom line.

The message to employers is simple: cherish the opportunity to work with, and benefit from, entrepreneurs.  They work hard, they work smart, and most importantly, they work with passion. Often seen as a ‘flight risk,’ their retention drivers are, in fact, the same as any other employee: the desire for challenging work and the opportunity for continued professional growth.

Hiring entrepreneurs looking to get back into established organizations shouldn’t be perceived as a risk, but as a best practice.

For more on entrepreneurs and employment, check out Monster’s Small Business Hiring Guide and Small Business Management Guide.

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About the Author: David Mesicek is a Vice President at the Growth Management Center, a boutique strategy and marketing consulting firm where he leads the efforts of the Boston area practice. David has co-founded two successful businesses as well as having served in functional marketing roles for established organizations.

David earned an MBA from Babson College and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

David’s wife, Lisa, works as a Manager in the Marketing Department for Monster Worldwide.

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  • http://growingforward.net Scott Asai

    Personally, I’m biased because I am an entrepreneur, but those who have their own business at some point tend to be more disciplined, driven and take initiation. All traits I’d want to hire in an employee.

  • Raza

    Excellent article by David.
    As an entrepreneur I did not have a very encouraging experience working in America. The business school stories are different, but majority of the employers here freak out when they learn that candidate has been independent.I think it also depends on the individuals we have to work with. Obviously if they are not entrepreneur and spent whole life working for somebody, they will have insecurity issues in considering a candidate who is much more qualified and has tasted ‘independence’….atleast once.

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  • http://www.foghound.com Lois Kelly

    David,
    Great post and a topic that deserves more attention. I’ve run a successful business for 13 years so I am one of those entrepreneurs. Interestingly, people have told me that no big corporation would ever hire me again as I’ve been an entrepreneur for so long. Really? As you note, we entrepreneurs know how to deliver results and profitability, serve demanding customers, juggle priorities, manage budgets, allocate resources. The issue, I fear, is that managers like stability and entrepreneurs do not. We know that you have to keep changing and improving to stay viable. In this global economy, hiring managers need to learn this too. Maybe hiring entrepreneurs would help them see what a blast a fast-moving, constantly changing work environment can be.
    Lois Kelly

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  • Josefine

    Personally, I’m biased because I am an entrepreneur, but those who have their own business at some point tend to be more disciplined, driven and take initiation. All traits I’d want to hire in an employee.