Encouraging Entrepreneurial Spirit in your Team is Key to Success

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

The entrepreneurial spirit is often difficult to define. If we take the word ‘entrepreneur’ in its literal context, its French roots could be defined as “between jobs” – and the ‘in-between-ness’ of the word’s original meaning is interesting.

After all, it’s often at the edge of business plans that we see the entrepreneurial company grabbing the opportunities that make it successful, and it’s the truly confident leader that allows his or her team to hunt out opportunities beyond the beaten track.

So when the sales process scares many, how do we instill teams with a passion for driving new business?

To support growth in our enterprise, Cause4, we’ve developed a graduate Entrepreneurship Programme to find future leaders for the charitable sector. We’re looking for those talented and enterprising individuals that can ‘make things happen’.

As we’ve developed our training programme we’ve talked to academics and consulted psychometric tests, but what we’ve found to be the number one indicator of entrepreneurial talent is that somebody ‘has done something before’. So the rather clichéd stories of childhood entrepreneurs selling apples to their neighbours before going on to develop a global business empire seems to hold true.
If you want to know you’re on to a winner in terms of talent, then that person will have ‘been entrepreneurial before.’

It definitely takes a special kind of self-starting person to set an idea in motion, regardless of the potential successes and failures. So after three years of developing entrepreneurial talent, we’re now really clear about the skills and attributes we’re looking for:

- Glass half full – It perhaps goes without saying, but the entrepreneurs are not the naysayers or those that always see a glass as half empty. And whilst every team needs a balance of the two, it’s those with the glass half full that feel that they can achieve things, that will get things done and will build the confidence of the team.

- Passion – At interview we’re looking for those with a passion for something. We don’t care what it is, but we need to know that there is at least one cause or passion where a person’s eyes will light up. And it can be anything – rugby or music or education – but what we know for sure is that when the passion is there, that person can sell.

- Ambition – Without raw ambition, we can’t get ahead. However small the team or organisation, there has to be scope for promotion and development, or the entrepreneurial talent will definitely leave.

- Adaptable – I know all too well that in a start up, the best-laid plans are never realised. In the best entrepreneurial cultures, staff are accepting and adaptable when things change and move – and the constant changes can lead to better ideas and plans… Sometimes.

- Leaders – The savvy entrepreneurial leader knows when it’s time to exit or time to professionalise and bring in process and structure. After all, a start up can’t stay in a state of flux and change forever. Similarly, the best entrepreneurs are really quite risk-averse; in my experience, the reckless maverick is a myth not a reality, and the true entrepreneurial spirit will lead a team by considering options carefully.

So it’s in creating room for the above attributes and developing potential that we build entrepreneurial spirit within a team… And whilst the reckless maverick might be a myth, the glass half-full, unpredictable, ambitious, entrepreneurial spirit most definitely isn’t.

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The Upside to Living Below the Line

I’m not going to lie; I enjoy the odd snack here and there. It is not uncommon to find me munching on a biscuit, a muffin or even a full bar of chocolate that was made to be shared. So when I first heard about the campaign to live on £1 a day for a week, my initial thought was that it was a ridiculous idea – you can’t even buy a Flake 99 ice-cream for that anymore…. However, the more I looked into it the more benefits I saw to it.

Live Below the Line was started by two anti-poverty activist Australians in 2010 and has grown into an annual global campaign. The aim of the week is to raise awareness and funds for the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty around the world, with participants donating the money that they would have spent on food to one of the campaign’s partner charities. Getting the backing of some of the world’s biggest charities such as Oxfam and Save the Children is no mean feat. The innovative nature of the campaign has led to this support and has already raised over £120,000 in the UK.

On top of this, two statistics illustrate why this campaign has unintended social consequences:

-     In the UK alone around 15 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year.

-     In 2012 26% of all adults in England were obese, and it is estimated that by 2050 half of the UK population will reach this threshold.

Despite many campaigns, such as Love Food Hate Waste trying to promote more efficient food use, the amount that we waste is still extremely high. If you are living on £1 a day however, every morsel counts and you learn to make the most of your meals and any leftovers.  It has also been well documented that obesity is on the rise in the UK. Numerous initiatives have highlighted the damage to people’s health and to the national economy from obesity-related illness. However if you only had £1 to spend on food your intake would change dramatically. That burger and chips would be much less appetising for a start, not to mention too expensive.

Nobody should have to live permanently on £1 a day, and in industrialised countries it is virtually impossible when price differences are taken into account. However, as well as drawing attention to extreme poverty, Live Below the Line illustrates that making good healthy meals is a lot cheaper than buying fatty foods and that wasting food is a waste of money. The campaign is an excellent one, and it will certainly make me think twice about a pack of digestives now.

Will you be living below the line from 28th April to 2nd May? We’d love to know your thoughts.

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