How To Think Like An Entrepreneur, Even When You're Not One

Starting new every day is at the core of the entrepreneur's mindset, and the rest--from vision to strategy--grows from there. Here's how to adapt this mindset and stay ahead of the competition.

To stay ahead of the competition, it’s vital that we constantly reinvent our businesses and ourselves, and the only way to accomplish this is by having an entrepreneurial mindset.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is all about altering your perspective: No matter how long you’ve been in business, you’re starting it anew today.

It’s about the process of diagnosing issues and symptoms to find root problems, framing options that may serve as possible solutions, clarifying data that you have and seeking what you need, and developing viable options and alternatives.

Here are some key areas you can focus on to build your own entrepreneurial mindset:

1. Shape your Life Experience

Entrepreneurial thinking is about where we place the responsibility for our experiences. Although it’s not realistic to think that we have complete control of all our experiences, it’s martyrdom to think that we have none. An entrepreneur is someone who is deeply engaged in his or her experience of life and willing to do the daily work of transforming it.

Very successful entrepreneurs take the time to analyze their lives and to look closely at their vision and their purpose in life. They put their lives on paper. They take the time to construct mental images that guide them on their journey. While most people are winging it, they put their life mission and business vision and goals on paper. Then they go to work executing their plan.

When we constantly work on ourselves, we develop a greater understanding of and a greater belief in ourselves. This mindset is what allows us to become an expert in our chosen area. If we don’t understand and value ourselves, neither will anyone else. I have also found that those who understand and value themselves have a greater ability to understand and value others.

Don’t fall into the trap of blaming others for what they could have done or should have done. Look at life’s trials as a blessing to learn from. Never give up control of the journey.

2. Think Pragmatic Idealism

To adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, we must function both as an idealist and pragmatic. We must be sensitive to the world we wish to see and conscious of the world as it is. The entrepreneur’s work, then, lies in connecting the two.

When we are able to thoughtfully connect our dreams with our skills and a market opportunity, we are ready to begin our own entrepreneurial journey.

3. Think Strategically

An entrepreneur is a great strategist and a master at getting others excited about helping them grow the business. They know how to make the most of every opportunity to bring in new prospects, convert them to paying clients, and get them to buy repeatedly. That means carefully planning, strategizing, and measuring results against expectations and re-adjusting. It means taking calculated risks and learning from the ideas that fail--and there are always ideas that fail.

Most people make their decisions about their life and careers from emotion and assumptions. Successful entrepreneurs base their decisions from fact-based thinking.

4. Act Purposefully with Vision

Vision is what we hope to do with the time that we have.

Have you known anyone that is absolutely driven to succeed? No matter what the obstacle, they keep going. And in most cases it is because they have extraordinary clarity of their vision. They took the time to clearly define what it is that they wanted to do. They stopped and thought about their life, and what it was that they wanted to accomplish. They have the drive to see the task all the way to its outcome.

Time is our most scarce resource. When we realize not as an intellectual construct but as an emotional conviction that our time here is finite, we act purposefully.

Successful entrepreneurs protect and manage their time. The most valuable asset you have is your time. Thoughtfully plan your days, weeks, months, and years. Think about both how and with whom you spend your time--it’s likely an indicator of what you are to become.

5. Understand the Ecosystem

James F. Moore defined a business ecosystem as "an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals."

These ecosystems encourage companies to co-evolve their capabilities. This comes in several flavors. Sometimes an ecosystem can sprout up around a product--think the cases, headphones, and chargers for mobile devices. A company can sprout whole economic worlds, as was the case of the App Store, which was a new platform for Apple. Amazon also sprouted a marketplace from which third party vendors offer their wares on Amazon, creating an ecosystem.

These ecosystems are the structure that surrounds and supports our businesses. They build stakeholders out from the business and into society.

6. Learn to Focus Your Energy

This characteristic is what I have found to be the most important when it comes to entrepreneurial success. Once we have been awakened to the possibilities of success, we also realize how many other opportunities abound.

It is easy to become scattered and distracted. Successful people develop the ability to focus and concentrate to maximize their resources and effort.

Individuals who actively work to develop an entrepreneurial mindset are transformed--rarely resembling the person that they once were. They are constantly educating themselves and gaining experience that will lead them to the goals they desire.

They truly understand the importance of acquiring greater skill sets, which in turn gives them greater self-worth. They live by the words of “renewing their minds.”

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is one of the best self-growth initiatives we can undertake. Who we are, what we think, our personal habits, and beliefs absolutely determine the results we get.

We--and our businesses--must challenge ourselves to overcome and change what's not working, or we become irrelevant.

--Dr. Michael Burcham is Founder and CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

[Image: Flickr user Nikos Koutoulas]

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2 Comments

  • D Grant Smith

    Frank said it well. Knowing yourself and committing yourself to excellence is exactly what you listed here.

    I'd suggest also surrounding yourself (or at least have a few folks who operate like this) with entrepreneurial people. If you want to succeed, put successful people around you. This is why so many business owners need to make the shift to be successful with how they think and operate. Otherwise their business is a hobby and not what it's supposed to be. My friend Jerry Love wrote something on that topic that ties directly in with what Dr. Burcham has said. http://jerrylovecpa.com/blog.php?id=11

  • Frank Daley

    Yes, and you do much of that, or get to it, by knowing yourself.

    If you don't know yourself you'll not find the right mate or the right job and you will be unhappy.

    If you do know yourself, these great principles will come more easily.

    Find out more, if you wish, at Self-Knowledge College

    http://www.selfknowledgecollege.com