Hire Young EntrepreneursJul 11, 2010
“Have you had any experiences in running your own business?”
This is a question I ask job applicants every time I conduct interviews.
The reason is that in my experience, job applicants who have had some form of entrepreneurial experience in their youth in addition to their corporate experiences, bring in much more added value than those who have backgrounds in a purely corporate environment.
I personally have swung back and forth between the entrepreneurial and corporate worlds quite a number of times and know personally that the mind and the heart of the entrepreneur work in a very special way.
Finding needs and filling them
The entrepreneur has a keen ability to find opportunity in identifying an unmet need. More importantly the entrepreneur excels in creating economic value in serving these needs. Whether the experience is in setting up a fruit shake stand in the heat of summer or a t-shirt printing business during elections, the point is that the entrepreneur has spotted a clear opportunity to create value and profit from it. This skill is honed further and further the more positive and negative experiences the entrepreneur acquires in the course of building his business.
Personal initiative and personal risk
The entrepreneur has an innate sense of personal initiative. He believes in his heart that his business will have an impact in the market he chooses to serve and that he will reap success and financial reward if he sees his idea to fruition. It is this strength of conviction that allows him to take risks. The appetite for taking calculated risks is a key trait of all successful businessmen both corporate and entrepreneurial.
Operational and financial planning and analysis
It is precisely because of the level of personal gain as well as personal risk involved that the entrepreneur is forced to plan his business very well. The young entrepreneur will have to make market estimates, sales forecasts, operational expense budgets and profit forecasts very likely all on his own.
Furthermore the entrepreneur will also have to determine if his meager savings can finance his business idea entirely or if he will have to take another set of personal and financial risks by taking on loans.
Once the entrepreneur gets his business going, he will now have to start analyzing his business intently as well as on the fly -especially if things don’t turn out as planned. This skill is sharpened with every single day that passes in an entrepreneur’s life.
The entrepreneur also experiences what many corporate executives have difficulty in genuinely comprehending- the concept of cashflow. For corporate executives, the concept of the income statement and the balance sheet is easier to comprehend precisely because these are snapshots of a business in time. The concept of cashflow is something that requires a moving perspective of one who experiences the ebbs and the flows of the business day in and day out. A key factor in whether a business runs fluidly or grinds to a halt is the ability of the entrepreneur to manage his cash position.
As the young entrepreneur bring this experience with him to the corporate world, he now has the ability to empathize with the company’s trading partners and ultimately to plan the business keeping this perspective clearly in mind. This again is the hallmark of many successful businessmen.
Operational creativity and quick decision making
Another special trait of the entrepreneur is his ability to think on his feet. Due to the rapid and competitive nature of business, the entrepreneur must make smart decisions given whatever limited information that may be available to him augmented by his sharpened understanding of the market. The fact that he can just as quickly reverse his course of action is a safety net that allows him to make numerous trials and errors to ultimately arrive at the best possible solution. Again, these multitude of positive and negative experiences all add up and form what will be his ‘gut feel’.
Understanding the value of your personal network and your word
What is clearly not taught well enough in school nor in the corporate world is the real value of one’s personal network. Outside of the corporate world, opportunities to create value and profit from it abound. A key determinant to your being part of this is the extent, diversity and the quality of your personal network.
It is not all about numbers though. Equally important is how that network is earned. It is a crucial lesson that all seasoned entrepreneurs know very well. It is in the multitude of shared experiences deep in the real world that entrepreneurs discover that the currency by which they weigh each other is not by the amount of wealth one accumulates but more importantly the extent one goes to in order to keep his word. Like links in a chain, a partner that keeps his word will ensure that you will be able to keep yours to your other partners down the line.
Quickly learning from mistakes
When an entrepreneur makes a bad decision, he pays for it painfully with the resources he has worked so hard to put in – money, time, energy, reputation, relationships, missed opportunity, etc. Unlike the corporate world, there is no need for making a big fuss, finger-pointing and scrambling to protect one’s job. The error is made, the price is paid, fix it, learn from it, live with it and move on.
Knowing the true value of success
Creating a business from a germ of an idea, running with it and overcoming the seemingly incessant stream of day to day challenges is a remarkable achievement in itself regardless of the ultimate financial outcome. And if indeed the young entrepreneur achieves his envisioned goal, it is a moment of pure joy…and shortly thereafter he sets a new and even bigger goal.
It is in all these qualities that many young entrepreneurs possess a common strength of character which will determine how they will fare should they choose to venture in the corporate world.