To Innovate, Think Like an Entrepreneur

Recent article from Gallup to help you innovate like an entrepreneur

by Becky McCarville
The backbone of the economy rests on the creation of new businesses, and yet, not enough of them are starting or surviving. But a model of innovation and entrepreneurialism isn’t limited to just startups. Existing companies are scrambling to find new growth platforms. How can existing companies increase profits and find new customers?

Entrepreneurial talents are playing an increasing role in these existing and well-established firms to find new avenues of growth. Identifying the inherent talents of a company’s employees — and maximizing those who possess entrepreneurial qualities — can help businesses push past the status quo.

Companies need to invest in the natural talents of their people to create new ideas, find new customers and discover new energy to grow. They also need to develop the qualities of resourcefulness, teamwork, creativity, relationship-building and resilience.

To develop these entrepreneurial talents and generate ideas, Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches, startups and existing businesses are using Gallup’s Entrepreneurial Profile 10 (EP10)  assessment to help entrepreneurs build, grow and succeed in their ventures.

Applying Entrepreneurial Talent Intrapreneurially

Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson, founder of Trybal Performance, sees the EP10’s potential as an intrapreneurial application.

She defines an intrapreneur as someone who runs a business within a business — accountable for all the financial operations of running a business, from reporting to forecasting.

“The only measure in the EP10 that may not play such a large role [for an intrapreneur] is ‘risk-taker,’” Lexy says. “That said, put that leader in charge of innovation or a new product and risk can be very real.”

As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, Lexy uses the Clifton StrengthsFinderassessment in team building. When the EP10 is interwoven with strengths, people begin to see their own business gaps.

“When leaders — whether intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs — use a little bit of strategy to build the team, and they understand that the personal gaps are for filling, not for masking, we’re starting to see huge performance indicators,” she says.

Lexy likens strengths to a pistol and the EP10 to placing a sniper laser on the pistol. “It’s like extreme tight focus around something within your career.”

Accessing strengths and identifying gaps enables people to bridge those hindrances strategically. Then they can partner with other people and processes that fill the gaps to figure out how to delegate or measure risk better, she says.

“Most people who are in the entrepreneurial space — be it in large companies or outside of a large company — they’re always looking for that one thing to turn it up or turn it down to get a new or different result than they did before, and I think that the EP10 can offer that access point really quickly,” Lexy says. “I’m learning that the coaching or advising that goes behind the EP10 matters to individuals more than the test itself,” including the coach’s competency.

The common thread in any successfully run business, whether it’s tenured or newly formed, continues to be self-awareness.

Accelerating an Idea Within an Established Company

In 2015, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), an election products and services company that helps government entities carry out elections, participated as a corporate partner in Straight Shot, a startup accelerator based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Straight Shot leverages the science of EP10 for its mentorship and selection process for the program “to vet entrepreneurs based on their raw talents, decision-making tendencies and ability to drive business success,” says Straight Shot’s Managing Director David Arnold.

ES&S sent Rob Wiebusch, director of emerging technologies, and a colleague of his through the 90-day program. The objective was to either accelerate an idea for a data analytics tool that sat on the shelf for many years or discard it and stick with the company’s core offerings.
“Knowing the results of the EP10 really helped us,” Rob says, pointing out that relationship-building was a key entrepreneurial style identified since ES&S already has established departments. A relationship-builder would need to get every division on board with a fresh idea — from legal to government relations, accounting, sales, operations and products. “Everybody has to touch a new idea before we can put it in front of a customer and start collecting revenue from it.”

Further, Rob and his colleague’s entrepreneurial talents complemented each other, making them a strong and focused team.

ES&S completed the Straight Shot program in September 2015 and sold its new software as a service election insights tool to its first customer shortly after that.

Since 2016 is a presidential election year, the company’s “innovation shop” is on the back burner as it focuses on customer fulfillment at the moment. But between presidential years, the innovation shop will grow again and take on more ideas, Rob says.

The more you know about your people and talents and what they do best, the better,” he says. “If you’re thinking about starting an innovation shop, having the right people is going to determine whether it’s successful or not.”

Businesses might have a person in mind for an innovative idea or even the reinvention of an old product, but that investment can be huge. If it’s not established and staffed with the right people, companies tend to spin their wheels, Rob says.

Finding Business Partners to Fill the Gaps

Cheryl Jackson, a Gallup-trained entrepreneurial strengths coach and owner of a coaching business in Colorado, describes herself as a serial entrepreneur.

“I’ve owned several businesses of my own through the years,” Cheryl says. “I worked in the corporate environment as well. I had a lot of business background but didn’t realize I brought natural talents to the table until I took the EP10 assessment.”

Cheryl’s niche is coaching startups and small mom-and-pop businesses. She defines any company within the first three years of their business as a startup and uses the EP10 to help them set goals and exercise their entrepreneurial muscles. In fact, attaching business goals to their entrepreneurial strengths gives a better return on investment.

A pattern emerges with single-owner businesses, she says. “They try to do everything and they’re not good at everything. They know what needs to be done but might not have the finances to hire out.”

The EP10 is a common language to help business owners identify the areas where they need partners as well as the confidence to focus on where they shine.

Many of Cheryl’s clients’ work-life balance is out of whack. The concept of finding others to fill in where they’re not strong and to establish goals around the EP10 helps her clients get their lives back in order again, she says.

When you get information, that’s all it is,” she says. “When you get information and put it into action, then it becomes powerful. Coaching helps to hold you accountable to put specific, meaningful action steps in place based on what you’ve learned. Having a coach who’s trained and knows what they’re doing makes it that much more effective.”

Building Entrepreneurial Momentum in Manila

Brian Quebengco is a strengths performance coach and founder of Eudo Strengths-Based Development Inc. in Bonifacio Global City, located in Taguig City, Philippines.

When coaching entrepreneurs, Brian focuses on building momentum. A once-a-week meeting helps his clients focus on “short, incremental improvements” toward their progress.

“Even as a coach with experience as an entrepreneur, you may not know where the entrepreneur should start or how they can get started, but what’s important is movement,” Brian says. “Once there is momentum, the momentum simply takes over.”

An entrepreneur faces many obstacles, and a coach needs to dive deep to see what EP10 style they lead with — almost becoming another partner and filling any business gaps. “The needs are much deeper and wider because they’re starting from scratch and have the odds against them.”

“As an entrepreneur, you’re handling a lot,” he says. “You’re getting started, you’re going through ambiguity, there are a lot of challenges — even confronting your own confidence level. There are a lot of blindsides.”

As an entrepreneurial coach, Brian finds that he often wears multiple hats — as a coach, teacher and mentor.

Focusing on entrepreneurial talents helps Brian to “align the where, what and how to the who of the entrepreneur,” he explains. “Once you know the ‘who,’ the rest will follow. And once the entrepreneur buys into their ‘who’ through the EP10, it becomes much easier to move forward, week-by-week, to build momentum.”

Find out more about the EP10.
Visit Gallup Strengths Center.

Becky McCarville is a writer at Gallup. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is currently working toward her master’s in English.

Becky’s top five strengths are: Learner, Achiever, Responsibility, Maximizer and Input.

Team dysfunction hurts your bottom line

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