Five Characteristics of an Entrepreneurial Business

Five Characteristics of an Entrepreneurial Business

In January 2011, when we re-launched Tandem Partners, the economy was still recovering from the 2008-2009 financial crisis. If you think that move was ill-timed, you might be right. But at least we were in good company – Instagram, Lyft, Slack, Tinder and Impossible Foods all were founded coming out of the recession. And we might be seeing some of that again. According to the Census Bureau, in the third quarter of 2020 there were more than 1.5 million new business applications in the U.S. – almost double the figure for the same period in 2019.

Disruption creates opportunities for enterprising people. But what if you’ve been in business for 10 years, or 50? How do you keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive? Take a look at these five characteristics of an entrepreneurial business and answer the questions for yourself.

In some companies, there’s a belief that creativity is reserved for writers and musicians. In others, there’s a mindset that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Both attitudes stifle creativity, which is a precursor to innovation, which is essential to entrepreneurship. Creativity comes in many forms – generating multiple solutions, having heightened perceptions, seeing things differently. Which of those creative talents are present in your business? What are you doing to develop them?

Growth Orientation
Think for a minute:  In the last year, what new areas of growth have you pursued for your business? How motivated are leaders to take on new opportunities? Even in a crisis, an entrepreneurial company can be prudent and opportunistic. They’re not mutually exclusive, and they both involve an orientation to growth. How prudent is it, after all, to stay in the same place you were last year?

In established businesses, there are good reasons to honor and respect past traditions. However, that needs to be balanced with the need to adapt to changes in culture, structure, leadership, the marketplace, and other trends and patterns. When was the last time your company ventured out of its comfort zone? Is your business a model of flexibility and enthusiasm for change? Are you?

Future Focus
There’s no question that many businesses are founded by people with vision; people willing to defer gratification for a bigger return down the road. Paradoxically, a weakness of many entrepreneurs is a failure to plan for a future that doesn’t include them. What are your plans for creating value in the business by reducing its dependence on you? How committed are you to creating opportunities for the people who are helping you to build it?  

Great entrepreneurs are determined to do whatever it takes to succeed. But in our efforts to control the outcomes, we may cultivate just the opposite from our people. When we control too much and keep others from learning from their mistakes, it dampens self-determined behavior. Do your rising leaders set challenging goals for themselves? Do you allow them to make choices and experience the consequences?

Where do things stand in your business today? If your answers indicate that you need to rekindle the entrepreneurial spark, this year is as good a time as any.