How to Think Like a Startup & Work For Yourself

Rewiring yourself to think entrepreneurially instead of a employee

(Image: ThinkStock)

How does someone who is running a startup think? Before answering that question let’s start by segmenting the workforce into two groups, “intrapreneurs” (employees) and “entrepreneurs” (self-employed/employers). Here’s how the workforce is categorized:

Builder: Intrapreneur (employee) is defined as a person who works for an established company or organization and is building their resume while building someone else’s dreams.

Leaper: Entrepreneur (self-employed/employer) is defined as a person who organizes and operates a business and assumes the financial risk. I am referring to these individuals as leapers, because they have taken the training wheels off and made the leap from working for someone else to the world of self-employment.

Now, we must discuss the mentality of the workforce. The U.S. workforce is hemorrhaging with an unemployment rate of 8.6% nationally with companies slashing headcounts, eliminating people they view as expendable. How do you position yourself in this type of unstable job market? Let’s start with the employee vs. startup mentality. (Note: An unbridled workforce without boundaries can be damaging to a corporate culture and the organization they are apart of. Understand my statements from a philosophical perspective.)

Employee Mentality: An individual that understands their job description puts the round peg into the round hole. This is a factory mindset and makes this type of worker expendable. These individuals typically work with their heads down doing what has always been done.

Startup Mentality: Startup founders have eyes that are wide open to the possibilities of what could be. They operate with their heads up.

Do you think with a startup mentality? Yes, if you are someone who can (1) Create solutions with limited resources, (2) Identify a specific problem that you solve better than anyone else, and (3) pitch or communicate their ideas and then turn them into a viable business.

Most people are educated and trained to think like an employee. Public education in the United States was designed during the industrial age to produce workers that could be trained to work in highly structured industrial/manufacturing environments. College education at most universities reinforces this same model. We are taught the following: (1) go to school, (2) get an education, (3) get a good job, and (4) work that job until death do us part. Universities are factories with efficient systems to produce workers, but are they preparing the next generation workforce to compete against a global talent pool?

Historically, as an employee you didn’t have to think about marketing yourself. You marketed yourself to get the job by developing a resume and cover letter, rehashing the answers that you knew the interviewer wanted to hear. Once you got the job you focused on living up to the requirements. This was the picture of a secure career path. But in today’s arena employees can no longer think of themselves as employees. To remain relevant you have to think about yourself in the following ways:

Business Model Development: Think about yourself through the prism of a business model, which is how any business makes money (i.e. authors: speak and sell books).

Platform Thinking: Every person needs to develop a platform, which is the specific idea that the business model is wrapped around through which you leverage your intellectual capital to create business opportunities (i.e. a platform could be small business development for mompreneurs).

In an unstable job market everyone needs to be positioning themselves for future opportunities that probably lie outside of the company, organization and/or position they are in today. It is time to re-wire how we think!