Every day we hear companies, organizations, and institutions say they “want to hire people with entrepreneurial DNA.” They all say they “want an entrepreneurial culture where their employees are engaged and empowered.” But do they really? You can hire the best. You can vet for self-starting, creative, resourceful people with a sense of urgency, who take responsibility for their own actions. And you can even hire entrepreneurship grads. But without the proper environment in your own company you will stifle the new hires, and lose others who are frustrated.
We saw a cartoon recently that best summed up the paradox. The tired, haggard, office employee was down at the bar after work, sipping on his martini. He turns to the woman next to him and says, “Sure, they want me to be creative, imaginative, and resourceful, but I have a career to think about!”
Long before Barefoot Wines, Michael worked for the Federal Government. Right out of college, he was keen on being productive, making a mark, and moving ahead. But he ran into office politics, turf battles, and empire building within the organization. Few folks seemed to care about more than their job security. Most had become isolated and insulated from the real job at hand. Upon realizing that this could become his future too, Michael decided to not just quit his job, but quit the idea of having a job in any siloed organization.
The good news is that if it wasn’t for that experience, there would be no Barefoot Wine today!
The biggest problem with any kind of vertical or pyramid structure is that the structure itself is contrary to the entrepreneurial culture. Why? Because as the organization grows, sales and personal responsibility for the customer experience become more removed from the process. Soon, under the guise of efficiencies of scale and divisions of labor, folks get comfortable strictly focusing on their own specialties. They figure they‘re going to get paid, no matter what. Sales is someone else’s responsibility, they think. At the governmental level, it can be even worse. They can feel like their organization exists without customers, sales, or accountability.
Sales is the key to the entrepreneurial culture. Three entrepreneurs in a garage have no question that they must make sales happen or they won’t be there tomorrow. No matter what their skill set, all know that sales are critical. So what happened as they grew? Simply, many new divisions were created and they separated themselves from sales! So it’s not so much how to build an entrepreneurial culture as it is how you lose it! Little by little, the principles that allow an entrepreneurial culture to survive and flourish are replaced by fear, compliance, and restrictions on communication. Compensation systems increasingly are based on attendance, status, and tenure, rather than sales, growth, and productivity.
In order to attract and retain a staff with entrepreneurial DNA, you must provide the fertile ground that is essential for them to thrive and be effective. Just like an early stage startup, you must provide a culture of permission, enthusiasm, inclusiveness, recognition, acknowledgment, and performance-based compensation. The customer experience must be more important than the structural or political limitations of the organization.
You must get back in touch with the organization’s goals and means of support (i.e. sales). That must be the entrepreneurial motive that overrides corporate divisions of labor, status, and tenure. Serve your customer with an engaged and empowered culture that wants to, and is allowed to, deliver the excellent customer experience you desire. Your people are engaged when they know they can make a difference, and are encouraged, appreciated and compensated to do so!
Who We Are.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.