Toward An Entrepreneurial Mindset—Seven Skills

Family businesses are described as having three complex, interrelated subsystems. The family comprises one subsystem; the ownership and the business itself comprise the other two. Over the past couple of decades particular attention has been given, and necessarily so, to understanding and addressing the needs of the family subsystem. But a shift of focus is now required. Marketplace and consumer expectations are changing overnight. Consequently the way we do business has changed. For family businesses to remain successful, greater attention must now be focused upon the business subsystem, and of particular value today is the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset.

A mindset consists of our attitudes about something. Today, the entrepreneurial mindset is considered more important than experience, knowledge and family history for the success of a business venture.

Seven critical skills contribute to an entrepreneurial mindset:

1. Plasticity: The ability and willingness to change actions and plans to overcome present and future challenges.

2. Communication and Collaboration: The ability to clearly express ideas to an intended audience, including persuading others to work towards a common goal.

3. Creativity and Innovation: The ability to think of ideas and create solutions to problems in the absence of clearly defined structures.

4.Innovation and Problem Solving: The capacity to apply higher-level, process-oriented thinking, consider an issue from a range of perspectives and use that reasoning to make decisions.

5. Future Orientation: An optimistic disposition with a concentration on obtaining the skills and knowledge required to transition into a career.

6. Opportunity Recognition: Seeing and experiencing problems as opportunities to create solutions.

7. Comfort with Risk: The capacity to act upon a decision despite uncertainty and challenges.

The mindset of a given business leader toward applying these skills reflects one of two fixed perspectives: a fear perspective defined by thinking, “when I fail I am no good,” or a growth perspective, defined by “when I fail I learn.”


Full Stop—The Fear Factor

 Better not to hire a coach or go to a therapist or even pick a doctor, because you might discover that you’ve been doing something wrong.[1]

Many times I have spoken with principals of family businesses about their plans for transitioning to the next generation. Many times I have seen that they do not understand how to do this successfully. They listen to what I have to say, but do not ask for help. I have seen heads nodding in agreement about the benefits of hiring a professional with family-business expertise to guide them and their family in achieving a multi-generational family business, and reaping the rewards of having an established multi-generational family. And too frequently, I see no further action taken. It’s sad. because I know the difference that an expert in family-business best-management practices can make.

In his blog article, The Overwhelming Fear of Being Wrong, Seth Godin suggests that fear engendered by uncertainty stops forward action. In the case of family-businesses leaders, fear of asking for expert help may stem from not knowing how to assess the guidance being provided. There may be fear that other family members may object; that they personally may be supplanted; that they may be seen as being wrong in hiring an “outsider.”

Most family businesses do not survive beyond their third generation. Their failure is largely due to a lack of understanding of the best practices and unique dynamics of family enterprises. Family-business consultants have the know-how to guide your family business safely through this critical transition. When it’s forward motion or stop, perhaps it’s best to overcome the fear of being wrong. and ask for help.

[1] Seth. Godin. The Overwhelming Fear of Being Wrong, https://seths.blog/2011/07/the-overwhelming-fear-of-being-wrong/