The Entrepreneurial Mindset

By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University

“Not every student will become an entrepreneur. But they will all someday need to think like one.” – John Spencer

What is an entrepreneur? Type that in an internet search engine and you come up with more than 3 million results. Oxford Languages defines an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” defines an entrepreneur as “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.”

There is a subtle difference between these two definitions. One defines an entrepreneur as a person who organizes and operates a business. The other definition describes an entrepreneur as an individual who creates a new business. Although these differences are subtle, they are important to explore. Someone who files for an LLC and an EIN may consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, but what risk have they assumed? Another may “start” a business by selling items on eBay, but is this just a hobby or is this a viable business entity?

I like the first definition, which states that an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business. This implies that an entrepreneur is someone who starts and operates the business beyond the start-up phase. The only way to graduate from this definition is for the entrepreneur to stop operating the business.

So, what does it take to organize and operate a business? What does it mean to take on risk in order to do so? As many business owners know, it takes a specific entrepreneurial mindset to bring together resources to take advantage of an opportunity to solve a problem in the market. The problem may be large or small, but you, the entrepreneur, offer a solution to that problem.

So, what is an entrepreneurial mindset? What are the components of the entrepreneurial mindset? According to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), there are eight components of the entrepreneurial mindset. Those are:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Flexibility and Adaptability
  3. Communication and Collaboration
  4. Comfort with Risk
  5. Initiative and Self-Reliance
  6. Future Orientation
  7. Opportunity Recognition
  8. Creativity and Innovation

The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI) defines entrepreneurial mindset as having the following seven components:

  1. You take ownership and you believe in your ability to succeed.
  2. You create compelling goals that are self-directed, action-oriented, and highly engaging.
  3. You are optimistic and are highly resilient, resourceful and solution oriented.
  4. You are a life-long leaner and are curious, creative, and have critical thinking skills.
  5. You have a high level of reliability in that you follow through on projects and promises.
  6. You have a humanistic outlook in that you create value by looking to solve problems for others.
  7. You surround yourself with an intentional community that offers positive influence and critical guidance.

From these two lists, you can begin to piece together what comprises the entrepreneurial mindset. Creating value for others by taking initiative and recognizing opportunities through an optimistic outlook separates entrepreneurs from anyone else.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset does not mean that you have to start your own business. It certainly helps, but more and more employers are looking to hire employees that have these entrepreneurial mindset qualities. Who wouldn’t want to hire an employee that is flexible, collaborates, is a life-long learner, and has a high level of reliability? Who wouldn’t want to hire someone that is self-reliant and takes ownership of their work? These are all examples of someone who has the entrepreneurial mindset.

Some may be born with this type of mindset. The rest of us have to work on developing this mindset. Some entrepreneurs get burned out and tired of their business – the job that they created for themselves. Others seem to be full of energy and attack each day as if they are on a mission. Still others show up and do the work within the parameters of their business. What separates each of these may have to do with their mindset — and mindset drives behavior.

In 2022, challenge yourself to think about the entrepreneurial mindset and how you can incorporate these components into your own mindset. Solving problems for others in order to better yourself is a challenge, and a worthy one to accept.

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