Can you be an employee and an entrepreneur?

‘Entrepreneurship’ is so popular a term globally today. And indeed, it should be. But like all popular concepts, there is the risk of it becoming a cliché (remember frequently used phrases like ‘captains of industry’, ‘sustainable development’, ‘total quality management’?).The problem with clichés is that they can be clever talk about nothing. Hot air! Thus, we must go back to defining who an entrepreneur is.

‘Entrepreneurship’ is so popular a term globally today. And indeed, it should be. But like all popular concepts, there is the risk of it becoming a cliché (remember frequently used phrases like ‘captains of industry’, ‘sustainable development’, ‘total quality management’?).

The problem with clichés is that they can be clever talk about nothing. Hot air! Thus, we must go back to defining who an entrepreneur is.

A person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome is an entrepreneur. Notice that the key words are new, venture and idea. 

Someone is considered entrepreneurial if s/he exhibits type of personality and is willing to take upon herself or himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome.

So, entrepreneurship could be said to refer to a group of personal outlooks which lead to innovative practice of identifying and/or creating opportunities, then acting to manifest those opportunities in a productive way.

Three key things stand out; mindset, actions and process. Mindset determines the way we respond to various environmental stimuli. For an entrepreneurial thinker, a problem is but a challenging opportunity.

Your frame of mind determines whether you see your glass as half empty or half full and your attitude sets you forth on the road you take in dealing with matters as they arise.

While we all have brilliant ideas stacked up in our minds, it is the steps you take to transform these ideas into reality that makes you entrepreneurial. Do you make suggestions and champion the improvement of service delivery in your department?

One of the downsides of the information age is that people expect everything to work out in an instant, pap! Entrepreneurial thinkers hang in there even when the ideas do not bear fruit immediately. They improve on mistakes and work towards the objective.

Creativity is a key quality that an entrepreneurial thinker must possess. A creative thinker has a restless mind.  S/he spends time and effort and extending the mind to come up with something that never existed before or a new way of doing things. It is not setting out to be like someone else. The world is full of ‘copy and pastes’ already.

A dose of kichwa ngumu (literally, hardheadedness) is necessary. You must ignore doomsayers and stereotypes. Subconsciously, all negative statements go into killing your self-assurance and belief.

To succeed, you must learn to ignore a lot of what people say about the economy, the capital requirement and the market requirements for instance. But mostly you must get ntabwobishoboka (it is impossible) out of your lexicon.

Mostly, we imagine that people perceive us just like we perceive ourselves. Well, they don’t. To borrow from legal jargon; justice must be done and must be seen to be done. All the good you are doing must be seen and publicised. This could be in the form of a motivated corporate social responsibility. This impression of the image you build of you and/or your business is a key determinant of success.

In his book ‘Winning’, Jack Welch says a successful enterprise demands nothing less than total focus of energy, ideas and efforts to succeed. 

If you stretch yourself between several ideas and occupations, you may still become successful to some extent.

But the full potential of any of your ideas or enterprises will never be fully achieved. Focus develops the expertise you need to be successful where others fail. You will develop insights that enable you to be way above average in your work.

As an employee, possessing these qualities will help you improve your performance and enhance your productivity at work. This is a sure way of going up quickly in the corporate ladder.

Can an employee be an entrepreneur? Yes, right from day one on the job. Indeed an outstanding employee should be entrepreneurial in her/his thinking

Sam Kebongo teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. He also is a Director at Serian Ltd that provides skills and business advisory services consultancy. Email:sam.kebongo@gmail.com

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