Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs: The Entrepreneurial Mindset in the Workforce
2014 NACCE Alumni Entrepreneur Awards
Submitted by Braden Croy - Syracuse University
A great birthday song for Cheryl to start the morning off. Happy Birthday indeed.
This year we have three award winners.
Ed2Go has been nice enough to sponsor these awards and has provided a number of wonderful prizes. We congratulate these individuals and wish them the fullest success in the future.
Gary has a truly inspiring story. Going from patient with a head injury to entrepreneur and resident nurse. He took a difficult situation and turned it into immense opportunity, as a good entrepreneur always does—when life gives you lemonade…
Marylyn is a vetrepreneur who has not only served her country but served all of her fellow entrepreneurs. After leaving the service, Marylyn knew there had to be something out there which called her and spoke to her passions. She found that activity by starting the Houston Women Veterans Business Center. Now she travels the country and helps other national heros get their companies started.
Pam was nominated by Tallahassee Community College and now she encourages people to take action, not just make donations. Pam knows that here in this country anyone who puts their mind to it can change their stars and the stars of their family, friends, and communities. We must continue in Pam’s footsteps to help train entrepreneurs and future leaders.
We welcome to the stage Virginia Hamilton
Virginia has over 30 years of experience in workforce development at the local, state, and national level. She serves now as the regional administrator for U.S. Department of Labor-Employment and Training Administration Region 6.
Contrary to popular belief, the Department of Labor is indeed interested in aligning the interests of all employers, employees, and government agencies. The Department does this through active investing in social infrastructure and assistance programs. Many of the Departments programs help entrepreneurs start their businesses and access resources which otherwise wouldn’t be available to them.
Imbedded in all of the Department’s projects are evaluations. They’ve heard the anecdotes and qualitative success, but now they want to know the quantitative analysis. We can all help in the writing of the future of business by helping Virginia’s department know what matters to entrepreneurs and our entrepreneurial ecosystems. So far the government has come up with 7 core principles to their employment and entrepreneurship programs:
Earn and learn
Making smart choices—using labor market data
Building stepping stones
The principles will help define how the government evaluates and funds employment and workforce training programs. Many of these principles as entrepreneurial educators we already know are important, however, it is nice to see more people jumping onboard.
“The real problem isn’t that there isn’t enough innovation, it’s that there aren’t enough entrepreneurs starting businesses.” Entrepreneurship is indeed on a decline since the government started measuring the data, but this can change. Through our work at NACCE and colleges or universities around the country we can reverse this trend.
Entrepreneurs need to be a jack of all trades. There are so many different skill sets and mindsets entrepreneurs need to embody. From technical skills to interpersonal skills, any entrepreneurship education program should focus on building the whole person. As more people learn about the opportunities to start their own businesses we have a perfect ability to help them along that path.
It’s amazing to think that in certain geographic regions sole proprietors, 1099 contractors who are self-employed, provide a three to one rate of tax receipts to governments. It shows how important self-employment and entrepreneurship will be in the future. We will all eventually have to be entrepreneurs.
We will now welcome a panel to the stage.
Panelists: Diana Kander | Dr. Jeanne Wesley | Kristine Spengler
There are 53 million freelancers in the United States, so what are you seeing in your world about the new era of work?
Diana: I think we’re currently doing a terrible job at preparing students for the new world of work. We actually diminish the entrepreneurial mindset in class by taking this ‘sage on the stage’ philosophy. The real world never works like this, it is actually customers and consumers who determine what employees and employers do. There is never an authority figure who has a crystal ball on the market. Primarily we need a workforce who figures things out, they need to be able to think critically about market and social problems.
Kristine: I agree with Diana. The majority of student we work with have tremendous energy and enthusiasm but we have to teach them a whole new skillset of thinking entrepreneurially. There’s a lack of comfort with ambiguity coming from these students. You can’t be entrepreneurial if you’re constantly worried about not having all of the information. Without a book to turn to, what will these students be able to do? They need to turn to the customer. The bright spot is, they’re ready and eager to learn.
How does anyone teach and help students learn to be comfortable with ambiguity?
Diana: Create as many opportunities and activities where students are tasked with large jobs. Give a vague assignment and just leave the room—ex. Go make as much money as possible in 3 hours. We’re not challenging our students enough. We don’t trust them to be creative thinkers.
Jeanne, how did you get started and what’s your story?
Jeanne: One of the things we observed was that entrepreneurs want skills. Very simple, very easy, they have skill needs. Entrepreneurs’ skill needs are typically greater than the needs of students; there’s a lot more on the line for these individuals. We started helping by using existing entrepreneurs who are already highly skilled. This gave us credibility and helped young entrepreneurs think through customer discovery and get out of the building. We built nine workshops around the core lean startup principles and brought them onto campus through startup weekends, internships, and curriculum.
Through these workshops and activities we were able to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the bars and in the coffee shops. Before we did these, there were no meetups and no community around helping entrepreneurs. Now we want to build a coworking space and even start an angle investing network.
It’s critical to teach our students to get out of the building and talk to customer.
What can be done differently at community colleges?
Diana: my suggestions are very high level.
Entrepreneurship is very different than any other subject. It’s more like teaching basketball, could we really earn a certificate by reading this history of basketball but never touching a ball? Even if they’re writing business plans or interviewing customers, they’re still not experiencing what it means to be an entrepreneur. It’s something you can only learn by doing it. We should help them realize whether they even want to be entrepreneurs. Are you making your students feel uncomfortable, do they have butterflies? They must feel uncomfortable and be emailing you all of the time. If they’re not up all the time working on and thinking about their company, you’re not doing it right.
Kristine: Too many times we focus on the books and the theory, but we forget to tell them to follow their gut and follow their instinct. Part of being an entrepreneur is being able to follow your intuition. Your gut will guide you. That little voice in your head will tell you where to go. We don’t empower our students to trust themselves and their abilities.
We can layer all sorts of stuff on top of that trust. We need to make them feel uncomfortable, we need to push them and force them out of their comfort zone and the building. After they get out of that comfort zone they become energized and excited.
How do you teach intrapreneurship?
Kristine: we started with the lean startup but then created a lean program with the intention of training internal employees. We take trainees through a very short, 2 day, curriculum which helps them understand the terminology and basics of the lean startup. Those trainees then bring in a real problem their employer is facing and work on that problem through the lens of lean. Thy end up looking at their work very differently by the end of the program.
Jeanne: We do many of the same things. We’ve hosted the Marine Intel IT group and used the same lean principles to help them. We also helped a State Capital group to use lean principles to manage and access big data.
Diana: The curriculum between the entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship classes I teach is identical. The process and the principles are the same.
It’s about experience and principles, how do we prepare our workforce with this sense that it’s a new game in employment?
Diana: One of the new realities is that business models don’t last as long as they used to. ‘Built to Last’ no longer holds true. Entrepreneurs and businesses maybe have 10 years with a single business model. This principle holds true for career paths as well. The average employee will have 17 jobs before they retire. Our job needs to be helping these employees continually learn and access continuing education support. We need to teach curiosity.
Jeanne: The product is YOU. Whether you go to a company or start your own business, YOU are the product. Thus it’s your responsibility to brand yourself individually and get the skills you need to always be valuable.
Kristine: It’s a sense of empowerment. We need to help workers understand that there’s a paradigm shift happening in the workforce—the truth is YOU have the answers, you don’t need to go to your boss for everything. If you have good ideas, follow them and then go to your boss with your conclusions. We’re empowering you to make the decisions and find the answers. Once people are empowered, realizing they’re the product, they are much more creative.
What are the skills we see in the intrapreneur and entrepreneur paradigm?
Diana: We need to change the way we think about business. It’s not about prediction and huge risky bets, it’s about finding evidence and making small bets.
Jeanne: I agree, it’s about what we call data driven decisions. Don’t throw the spaghetti at the wall but rather find the data which supports your ideas. A lot of businesses will approach us about soft skill training. These businesses want students who can deal with working in teams, working with difficult people, or how to manage time. Leadership is another skill which every employer is asking us to train. These are hard to teach, but we need to embed them throughout the educational system.
Kristine: It is that soft skill set. We’ve used personality and aptitude testing to help us understand how our employees think and what part of the brain they predominantly work from. Our employees have loved having that insight. It helps them realize not everyone thinks the same as they do. These tests helped employees break their assumptions and work better in diverse teams. Personality blended with evidence based decisions is a powerful combination.
Can you teach people sales or pitching, is it part of that mindset we need to teach?
Kristine: At the end of our internal lean competitions, our employees pitch. It’s vital that these people can succinctly and powerfully be able to present their ideas. If they can’t present, no one will buy into their vision.
Jeanne: Regarding sales we really emphasis relational sales. This means getting to know people and connecting with them on a deeper level. It’s not a used car sales strategy, it’s a trust building process.
Kristine: Sales is problem solving. If you can get to the bottom of your customers problem, the selling becomes easy.
Diana: I think sales is an invaluable skill for all human beings. Everything is sales. The challenge isn’t to teach those tactics of ways to sell, but rather to teach them customer empathy — stop selling and listen.
Tell us a little about what you do and your skills?
Diana: I’ve had 9 companies and when I look at opportunities I think of my tool belt. I ask if an opportunity will add additional skills to my tool belt. These diverse skills will make you much more attractive.
Jeanne: Educators and admins need to think of themselves as infinite contractors. You should think through what is your brand. Become internet savvy and get out of the building to meet with students, other entrepreneurs, and faculty. Get on Twitter today!
Kristine: Think of what you’re doing as creating a product. When you think about what you’re providing as a product for a customer, the student, it gives new meaning to your work. You’ll approach the way you interact with your ecosystem entirely different. Solve problems with your customers and consumers.