Think like an entrepreneur no matter what your employment status

You don’t have to be self-employed to think like an entrepreneur. In fact, I’d argue that everyone should adopt the mindset of an entrepreneur in today’s world. It’s the best way to stay sharp, stay sane, and stay or get employed.

So how does an entrepreneur think, exactly? I can’t speak for all of them, but after managing two businesses of my own and talking with countless other business owners over the years, here are the 12 hallmarks that pop up most frequently in conversation:

Seek out opportunity. Entrepreneurs are hungry for new opportunities–you never know where your next lead or big idea will come from. But you have to put yourself out there to find them. Join new professional or social groups. Make friends with your friends’ friends. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. The more people you know and situations you put yourself in, the more likely you will be in the right place at the right time.

Look for problems to solve. How many times do you read about an entrepreneur who created a product out of a need or problem that they noticed and decided to solve? Start paying attention to the people and problems around you at home or the office. Are there any pain points you can fix? If you ever hear the words, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could…” or “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to…”, that’s a sure sign of a problem you could solve.

Treat everyone like a customer. That includes your co-workers, your boss, your actual customers–everyone. If you’re not a business owner and you want to be, this is great practice. It’s easy to forget this when you’re working for a company day in and day out, but there’s an upside for you, too. When I first went back to work full-time after being a business owner and consultant for many years, I managed accounts for several internal business units. By taking on the mindset that each business unit and the person representing it was my customer, I felt like I had more control and a little less like a cog in the machine.

Go the extra mile. When you own a business, you have to do everything to the nth degree, because customers don’t have to choose you. They can go to the next guy on the list, in the phone book or down the street. But attention to detail, good service, a good attitude and good conversation can make someone want to come back to you again and again, singing your praises, because let’s face it, good people are hard to find.

Hone your expertise. Be the smartest kid on the block. Have a knack for doing something better than anyone else. Bone up on new technology, strengthen or build out your current skills. That’s how you make your business and yourself stand out from the pack. Is there a way for you to get better at what you do now? Can you learn new skills to round out your offerings? What would make you invaluable to others? Is this something you could do more of at work? Outside of work?

Know your strengths. What do you do better than anyone else? What skills are you light on? You may not be able to afford a new degree, but think like an entrepreneur: smart people surround themselves with people who do things they can’t do or can’t do as well. You don’t have to know how to do everything, but you should know people who can fill in your gaps.

Build your brand. What do you stand for? What do you want people to feel when they work with you? What are people getting when they hire you? Articulate the brand of you in 1o words. Now narrow it down to five. Now three. That’s how you get to a quick “I am/I do” statement, so when people ask you, “What do you do?”, you will be ready, confident, entrepreneurial. Once you build your brand, live it in every aspect of your life, from work to social media to home.

Toot your horn. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but definitely mention the class you’re pursuing, especially if it relates to your business. Promote your activities in your blog, twitter or facebook. If you don’t tell anyone, they won’t know–and won’t think to go to you when opportunity comes up.

Be money smart. Entrepreneurs make it for a variety of reasons, but the majority fail for one reason: money. Entrepreneurs have to be creative in how they get financing or learn how to accomplish things on a shoestring. If you want to start a business someday, start saving, living on less and researching your financial options. And if you’re employed or work at home, look for ways to cut back; where would the money saved be best spent?. Be creative. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels.

Be passionate. I’ve heard lots of people tell me about ideas for a new business with about as much passion in their voice as a clone trooper. If you’re not excited about it, why bother? You won’t have what it takes to work 18-hour days, 7 days a week–because that’s what it takes to launch a new business or yourself. If you’re employed and talk about your work in a clone trooper voice, start thinking about what could put the passion back in your work and your life. Life is infinitely richer when you love what you do.

Have different revenue streams. No business can survive on passion alone, and job stability is a quaint notion these days. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have money coming in from different ventures. If you’re currently employed, how can you make extra money? Can you freelance or do side jobs? Can you teach? Can you branch out with what you currently do? If you want to own a business, how can you diversify enough that market trends won’t devastate you?

How about you? How do you think like an entrepreneur?

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