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Is It Smart to Hire Entrepreneurs as Employees?

Hire entrepreneurs! DON’T hire entrepreneurs! It’s a debate that has hiring managers scratching their heads. Finding employees who exhibit the often-coveted “entrepreneurial spirit” can have its benefits, especially as a business is just starting out or changing direction. These employees are passionately committed and self-motivated with a moral sense of doing the right thing for the greater good of the business. But we all know the dangers of hiring these spirited leaders: They’re a challenge to retain and once they leave, they may become your next big competitor.

So is hiring entrepreneurs worth the risk? How can you best protect your business once you take that leap of faith? We reveal three steps that could turn this risk-for-hire into a risk well worth taking.

Understand Their Motivations

If you’re lured by the benefits of working with entrepreneurial thinkers, it’s best to understand the secret behind what drives them. For each job candidate, it could be slightly different. Start by looking in the CV or resume for clues they may or may not fit the culture or position you’ve created. The following personas are common and could either be an asset or liability to you, depending on your needs:

  • The Adrenaline Junky: Does the job candidate have a history or working for or with start-ups? Not only can these folks excel at managing pressure and tight timelines, they may be downright addicted to it.
  • The MBAer: Does the candidate have an MBA or a pattern of experience that hints the person may be focused more on strategy and big-picture thinking rather than line-of-business or more tactical work? Does the position fill that desire?
  • The Serial Starter: Does the job candidate have a knack for blazing new trails but, perhaps, an inability or lack of desire to see that vision through? Clues to this end would be a stream of new ventures listed on a resume or a business card that lists “founder” type titles of several businesses at once. Embedding these “dreamers” within a team of project managers and “doers” could produce magic.


Keep Them Happy

Once you find a match, how do you keep your delightful entrepreneur happily devoted to your business? The entrepreneurial spirit has been well researched and dissected to the point there are some fairly hard-and-fast rules to follow. These rules tend to focus on a sense of ownership. To give an entrepreneurial thinker enough ownership in your business to keep him or her satisfied, be sure to give them:

  • A voice: Inc. Magazine reports that when Google studied its high-performing employees, a need for openness and accessibility in a manager was seen as far more valuable than any other attribute, including technical expertise. The article points out that while more entrepreneurial employees are “bound to make unreasonable requests,” that same eager energy can be harnessed with hands-on management resulting in some brilliant discussions and ideas.
  • A stake: Entrepreneurs tend to value having a financial stake in the company. That doesn’t necessarily mean they require a share of the profits. It does mean they often respond best when their employer is transparent with financial issues, giving this type of employee a sense that what they are doing for the company is making a measurable financial impact.
  • Recognition: Entrepreneurs are independent thinkers who often take risks when others won’t. This attitude doesn’t always result in obvious “wins” so be sure to reward calculated risks. The marketing group at Xerox has done this by conjuring the spirit of the Muppets. Their “Beaker Awards” are given to marketing team members who exhibit dogged, bold and unprecedented commitment to trying new things, just like the Muppets’ Beaker—the beloved puppet lab assistant with the courage to be blown up in every single sketch.
  • Autonomy: Helicopter bosses and entrepreneurial employees don’t mix. What’s more, study after study has shown that a more flexible workplace is best for everyone, not just for entrepreneurs-at-heart. Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, co-creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) management style assert that success is more than possible when employees are encouraged to do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. They call it “performance, not presence.” Professionals like Ressler and Thompson are teaching Corporate America that, yes, you can strategically control the perceived chaos of a fully autonomous work environment.


Protect What’s Yours

Even when you do everything in your power to keep them, entrepreneurs may still stray. For some, it’s simply in their DNA. When this time comes, having some important paperwork already in place can keep your loss at the talent level only, without handing over the keys to the kingdom and creating a potentially formidable opponent.

One such document is the non-compete clause (NCC). An employee is often asked to sign an NCC as an agreement to not be hired into or start a competing business for a certain period of time after employment. In Texas, an enforceable NCC must be ancillary to another enforceable agreement (like an employment agreement) and include clearly defined limitations on time, geographic area and scope of activity.

Similarly, a non-solicitation agreement can bar a former employer from soliciting other employees and customers after leaving employment. Essentially, it can help prevent a former employee from “taking colleagues and clients with them” without preventing the former employee from beginning immediate work in the same industry and/or geographic region. Determining what might be right for you is best done with the help of a business attorney.


What’s Your Plan?

Texas is a state of entrepreneurs. With so many benefits these thinkers, doers and dreamers can offer businesses, it’s hard to turn a cold shoulder. Do you have a strategy behind hiring entrepreneurs? Do you hire them for specific roles? And how has that worked out for your business?

Image credit: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo