Jump to Main Content Jump to Primary Navigation


Working in an Entrepreneurial Business

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 14:06 PM

Image of Working in an Entrepreneurial Business

Jane takes us through what to expect when working for an entrepreneur from more than 15 years of experience...

Not all entrepreneurs are the same but there are some commonalities when working for – and they’re not easy to deal with!!

If you are an entrepreneur, you’ll relate to these, if you work for an entrepreneur, I hope this will help you ‘manage’ them better and if you want to work for an entrepreneur, this is an insight so you go in with your eyes wide open!

Working with an entrepreneur can be such an adventure, full of opportunity, diversity, passion, excitement, highs and lows. I’ve worked for and with entrepreneurs for over 15 years now and I’ve learnt a lot on my journey.

Get In The Trenches

Anyone who runs their own business is driven by a real passion to make a success of their business. It can be lonely being an entrepreneur because not everyone shares their passion or even understands what they do. When they take on their first employee, they have a burden to support that person who is relying on a steady income – that’s a heavy weight on any entrepreneurs shoulders.

As the business grows and they take on more people, offices, contracts, overheads, the pressure on them builds. Their personal lives are often put on hold as they plough a majority of their time and assets into growing the business they are so passionate about.

If you work for an entrepreneur, you need to understand the risks they have taken on and the pressure they are putting on every aspect of their life. Every decision they make affects the success, or not, of the business and there’s a lot of people relying on them and expecting them to deliver.

Entrepreneurs are not actually great risk takers but they are passionate about what they do, they are determined to succeed and they have huge responsibilities to make the business grow not just to staff but to their family, friends, suppliers and customers.

They want to know they’ve got their team in the trenches with them.

Communication Is Not Their Strong Suit!

One of the biggest challenges in working with an entrepreneur is understanding what they actually mean and what they want you to do.

The entrepreneur has probably done most of the jobs in the company, they are constantly thinking about what’s happening right now, next month, next year and in 10 years time. They’re thinking about whether to expand here, take on this new opportunity, drop that product line, buy this business, develop this new tech etc etc! They are ideas machines and your role will often be to turn those ideas into a reality but often with very little background as to where the idea came from, why you’re doing it and sometimes even, what on earth you’re actually meant to be doing!

One thing is for sure, entrepreneurs won’t have time to give you lots of background, they won’t sugar coat anything and they will say things that seem crazy!

Luckily, over time, its likely you’ll become fluent in translating their thought processes, understanding what is stream of consciousness and what should be actioned, today!

Understand what is expected of you. Ask them, ‘what does success look like to you in this project?’ Then you know, however you get there, what your win-line looks like.

There’s No Such Thing As ‘No’

Don’t bring your excuses to the table when an entrepreneur is in the room. They are solutions-focused people and so ‘its not possible because…’ just doesn’t cut it.

The entrepreneurs that I have worked with actively encourage innovation and experimentation. In a ‘whatever it takes’ environment, long-winded explanations about the process used to reach a solution are rarely as important as the end result.

You’ll rarely get berated for trying something out, but if you have a ‘can’t do’ attitude and take the first no as a reason to give up, you’ll undoubtedly lose favour.

If you want to achieve a target, just do what it takes to succeed. If something goes wrong, come up with an alternative solution. If something seems impossible to achieve, see it as a challenge and think creatively to solve the problem. If it’s completely unachievable, think why you needed to achieve that in the first place and think of an alternative before going to the entrepreneur and saying ‘it can’t be done’. A better sentence is ‘I tried this, that and the other and it didn’t work but what about this instead….?’

Being flexible and getting the result you want is more important than sticking to the plan. Don’t be a busy fool proving why it can’t be done.

Expect The Unexpected

The saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ generally doesn’t apply in entrepreneurial thinking. Instead, things may get broken or changed on the off-chance they can be made better.

You may have spent months working on a particular plan or be used to doing something a certain way, only to have it challenged or changed, seemingly out of the blue. This takes a thick skin and a flexible attitude as well as a level of trust in the entrepreneurs decision.

You may need to be a voice of reason and stick to your guns. Explain how that decision will impact the wider team and the target you’re all working towards. Be prepared with a really valid reason why you’re right and things shouldn’t change just yet!

Expect to be challenged regularly!

Believe The Vision

Entrepreneurs want to change the world. Working in an entrepreneurial business requires a shared belief in the vision of the business. The values need to resonate with you, you can’t learn this.

If you don’t truly buy into in the vision and values, you will not only fall at the first hurdle but you probably won’t enjoy yourself very much. Cultural fit is way more important than skills fit in a small business.

Once you do find an entrepreneur whose business you believe in, you will quickly see that your job doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s a roller-coaster where no two days are the same and it will probably drive you crazy in the process but you’ll have lots of fun!

Related insights

Image of Why Running an Entrepreneurial Business is like Managing a Family


Why Running an Entrepreneurial Business is like Managing a Family

Jane's tips on how to avoid the common tensions created within small sized teams

Image of The Habits of Successful Scale-Ups: Why Co-Founders Create Better Companies


Why Co-Founders create better Companies

Duncan highlights why having multiple co-founders can prove invaluable for business success and greater financial returns

Image of Q&A with Olly Olsen, The Office Group


Q&A with Olly Olsen, The Office Group

Olly shares his key tips on preparing for a successful business exit

Image of Q&A with Charlie Mowat, founder and Managing Director of The Clean Space


Q&A with Charlie Mowat of The Clean Space

Charlie tells us what being in The Leap 100 means to him and his business