At a recent meeting, I heard the story of someone who announced that she was "smarter than everyone else in the company" and that she had been fired because the boss was jealous and insecure. While the room laughed at the perceived arrogance, I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this visitor delusional, or is she an undiscovered entrepreneur?"
Entrepreneurs often get a bad—though sometimes well-deserved—reputation for having a big ego. But what they may lack in humility is certainly compensated for by their sense of empowerment, fulfillment, and freedom. In fact, some of the worst employees make the best entrepreneurs and are often considered—by the corporate world at least—to be unemployable. Even more so, all current entrepreneurs had that moment when they knew that the promises of a traditional job or work environment would pale in comparison to a new opportunity.
Do you recognize the signs that a traditional workplace isn't for you? How do you know when it's time to take the leap?
Here are three signs you possess the skills it takes to be an effective entrepreneur:
Sign No. 1: You're Quick to Start, But Slow to Finish
In the Kolbe Index Test, entrepreneurs often score high in the Quick Start action mode and lower in the Implementor and Follow Thru action modes. This is because the big dreams of entrepreneurship often trigger hundreds of ideas. But for an employer, this type of team member is hard to manage when it comes to finishing projects and staying on task.
These personalities are best described as expanders—a little bit like bread dough that's infused with too much yeast. The entrepreneur who is an expander works best with a team or partner who can act as the container, one who reins in the expansion and supports with all the details. The corporate world attempts to beat the rising dough back into the smallest container possible, while entrepreneurship relies upon expansion and growth.
It's difficult to leave tasks unfinished in a traditional business environment, even when it becomes apparent that the goals have changed or the outcomes are not achievable. In this situation, an entrepreneur will see a new path—or 15 new paths—and want to jump into a new project with a greater chance of success. However, the same individual working a 9-to-5 will often drag out a project, never reach completion, but be unable to abandon it due to office politics or sunken costs.
Sign No. 2: You Can't Leave Good Enough Alone
For the cubicle-dwelling entrepreneur, few things are more frustrating than seeing opportunities to grow or transform a business go ignored. For the company, this desire to tinker with what's working well is viewed as meddlesome, encouraged (in small doses), or outright prohibited.
For established companies who have figured it all out, the entrepreneur's desire to improve, test, and try new ways of working can be threatening or viewed as a waste of time. The admonishment to just get the work done or leave good enough alone is frustrating to the entrepreneur who thrives in circumstances where convergent thinking is less important than following the rules.
While many entrepreneurs work with mentors, coaches, and colleagues to avoid reinventing the wheel, it's often the on-the-ground thinking that contributes to success. Seeing many paths and outcomes, judging the best one for the circumstances, and then implementing it is fun for the person who can't leave it alone. It's also essential to adaptive growth.
Sign No. 3: You Love Lazy Shortcuts
An entrepreneur has the tendency to find new paths and solutions, which often results in discovering shortcuts previously unseen. To some, this is seen as laziness. Three years ago, I was in my downtown office on a quiet Friday afternoon when nearly the entire office had left for the day. It was then that I heard the ironic judgment that propelled me into an entrepreneurial lifestyle:
"We love the work you do … you're so efficient … no one has done this job better," my boss said. "So we're cutting your hours." It wasn't easy to hear, and was even harder to understand at the time. But that moment has brought me much further than if I had continued to work 40-hours a week at a dead-end job.
Nowhere else is the shortcut celebrated as much as in entrepreneurial business. We're forging a new path and learning what works to make life easier, tasks smoother, and expenses lower—things critical to survival. Instead of working for the sake of work or spending eight hours doing a task, entrepreneurs push boundaries, find shortcuts, and improve the process.
So are you a bad employee? Or a great entrepreneur? If you find your work style resembles these three scenarios, there is no surefire way to transform your cubicle environment so that your co-workers can appreciate and reward your unique approach. In fact, many managers don't know what to do with you and may be unable or unwilling to adapt. When you find yourself less engaged, frustrated by the politics, or expanding beyond your job description, you may in fact be unemployable and an undiscovered entrepreneur.
Kelly Azevedo is the founder of She's Got Systems, a custom coaching program that leads clients to get support, documenting and dominating in their fields. Kelly learned that her innate ability to create and utilize systems allowed her to complete tasks at corporate jobs in a fourth of the time and she sought out a more challenging environment. She has worked in successful six-figure and million-dollar online businesses, helping owners create the systems to serve their startup needs. Adapting quickly to the fast paced environment, constant changes and ever present challenge of communication in the online world, Kelly has supported her private clients in their group programs, private clients, product launches and all the daily business.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.