“You should hire more entrepreneurial types,” I told a friend recently.

“But that would be total chaos,” he replied.

Child entrepreneurs at a lemonade stand
Hiring people with entrepreneurial spirit can be risky, but has huge payoffs. (Click to Tweet)

He is right. It would be total chaos. But it would also result in team members who are deeply invested in the performance of their division or team, just like an entrepreneur.

They can change the world

I wrote about a seven-year old girl who showed that entrepreneurial spirit recently. This little girl can change the world because of her spirit.

That is who I want on my team. Someone who takes initiative, makes decisions, and is personally invested in the outcome.

I want people who are irrationally emotional about performance.

I want people who take failure personally and who celebrate successes wildly.

I want people who protect the business like they protect their baby.

And I want people who take ownership of every aspect of the business.

What defines an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs don’t care who gets the credit. They care about results.

Entrepreneurs take out the trash, pick up scraps of paper on the floor, and answer the phone.

In short, they do whatever it takes to get the job done. They are more worried about results than appearances. They are concerned with performance, not perks. They ask what they can do for their business, not what their business can do for them.

A dying spirit

I truly do feel that the entrepreneurial spirit is dying in this country even as our new economy tries to move us more in the entrepreneurial direction.

Too many people are stuck in a “only the lucky and the rich will ever start a business” mindset while thousands of people every day prove them wrong. They have the “poor me, I will always work for someone else and they will never pay me enough” mentality. (If that is you, here are some tips on changing your mindset)

In some respects that is good for the ones who don’t feel that way. That makes for more room for the rest of us to maneuver.

Sheep or birds?

On the other hand, we end up with 99 sheep for every one entrepreneurial spirit. And the spirited ones can’t be caged for long…they will eventually fly away. So we often end up hiring nothing but sheep, because it’s easier than dealing with the loss.

Hiring people with entrepreneurial spirit is risky. Each hire is probably temporary, but the alternative is a flock of nothing but sheep with only one leader. That is a recipe for disaster.

I would rather hire someone with the right spirit who has failed at his own business, knowing full well he will probably leave soon to start his own business, than a sheep. It is a risk you should be willing to take.

How to hire entrepreneurial types

I don’t have a formula. But here is what I look for to find entrepreneurial types:

  1. Had a business before. Even if it was as a child, I like to look for people who have run a business before.
  2. Owns a business now. Most companies are afraid of hiring people who moonlight on the side. I say, “bring ’em on!”
  3. Talks passionately about other entrepreneurs. If a prospective hire idolizes other start-up founders, that is a great sign.
  4. Father or mother is/was an entrepreneur. I am sure someone has the stats, but I don’t. But experience tells me that children of entrepreneurs are much more likely to have that same spirit.
  5. Parents were immigrants (or the prospect is). This might be controversial, but it is something I have found to be true. Immigrants and the children of immigrants, even if they aren’t entrepreneurs, are much more likely to possess the entrepreneurial spirit.
  6. Accepts blame easily for failures. If someone easily takes the blame for failures, they are a good candidate for possessing this spirit.
  7. They claim the spirit. If they outright declare that they have the entrepreneurial spirit, they probably do. They think it’s a risk to tell you that in an interview, but they take the risk. That is the essence of entrepreneurship.

What traits would you look for to identify the entrepreneurial spirit?

Have you had success with hiring entrepreneurial types?


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9 thoughts on “Why You Want to Hire Entrepreneurs | Hiring the Entrepreneurial Spirit

  1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Great post buddy. As someone with the entrepreneurial spirit, I think you’re right now. Here’s the thing, if it’s a great company, and they treat you right, even if you have that spirit, you’ll be loyal–fiercely loyal, because you understand the other side of the coin.
    Part of the entrepreneurial spirit–at least for me–is I put myself in my boss’ shoes all the time. That means that while I’d rather be out on my own, I’m not going to walk out tomorrow. Down the road I might move on, but I’ll make sure that I’m not leaving you out of luck or in a tough spot. I’ll be loyal while I’m there, I’ll treat the business like I’m going to take it over one day, I’ll train others to see the business like I do, and when I do move on, I’ll have left you and your business in a much better place than I found it.
    I love this post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. So agree. Too bad everyone can go it on their own for a while. People wouldn’t ignore problems, drop it in the bosses lap to deal with, and say things like “I don’t know”.

  3. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    The parents were immigrants idea is intriguing. Not that HR would let you use that as a criteria 😉 With that said…. one of my best leaders was a Vietnam refugee as a child. She was brought over by a church. She has wonderful confident humility and an amazing “let’s go get this”… spirit. I am inspired by her every day.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      HR might indeed frown upon it. But it’s still something I keep in the back of my mind 🙂

  4. Katherine Leicester says:

    Agree on all counts.

    I found this particularly poignant:”I truly do feel that the entrepreneurial spirit is dying in this country
    even as our new economy tries to move us more in the entrepreneurial

    Because the spirit is dying, and the culture is doing everything it can to hasten its demise, the few of us who have been called to be courageous, entrepreneurial, loud, boisterous, happy, sad, passionate about what we do and what we have to say–we can’t give in, no matter what. The worse things get, the louder we must be.

    And the more we must stick together as a virtual tribe of courageous, passionate, perhaps crazy people.

    Narnia and the North! (a tip of the hat to CS Lewis’ story “The Horse and His Boy,” on my penultimate day in southern California. Now, off to pack that last box….)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Perhaps crazy?

      Definitely crazy…and I like it.

      1. Katherine Leicester says:

        That’s the Spirit!

  5. Chance Smith says:

    This list is remarkable Matt! Great perspective!

    Channeling an entrepreneurial team member’s energy can be beneficial to the business and team, but this is a great list on finding one for your team.

    Love it!

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