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Boss talking to employee

Boss talking to employee

How many times have you read a job description that included the word “entrepreneur” or any of its derivatives such as “The right candidate should be entrepreneurial, self-starter, blah blah blah…”? My guess would be at least 90% of the time? If you are truly an entrepreneur (meaning actively working on a project outside of your commitments towards an organization that employs you full-time) you might get excited and think “Well, this company seems like a great environment for me” … and more often than not you’d be wrong. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed for a few years now — sorry it’s taken me this long to write about it.

The truth of the matter is that there’s a certain amount of hypocrisy many companies show towards entrepreneurs. They want the skill sets and drive you’ve developed but only want it for their own benefits. What does this mean? I’ve had many people tell me, including recruiters, that you should not mention your side projects to employers before, during, or after job interviews. Even after you’ve secured the job you must thread carefully depending on your audience. To all of you, I rhetorically ask: WHY?!?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that companies invest a lot of money and resources to developing their employees and therefore must have systems in place to mitigate the risk of turnovers, which is a process that begins during the recruiting stages, rightly so. The point I’m trying to make is that they can’t and shouldn’t have the best of both world. Last time I checked, the legally accepted hours for a full-time position is 40 hours/week (many people go well above that especially if you’re salaried) and therefore employees should feel comfortable to pursue other interests or ventures beyond their job descriptions. I will go a step further and say employers should not only allow but vehemently encourage their employees to create or join startup projects.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. It is well documented that companies that truly foster an entrepreneurial culture tend to be more innovative and have higher employee morale. Google’s 20% factor – a rule that allows Google employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects that interest them – is a perfect example of this. Checked Google’s stock price over the past few years?

2. It is a great way to think outside of the box. Many of the ideas I’ve successfully implemented or that have failed (just being honest) at companies where I’ve worked did not originate from my cubicle. Many of times they were results of late nights and weekends projects that had nothing to do with my job function. Surely, I am not the only one.

3. The world is changing – get used to it. Advancements in technology and lower productivity costs partly due to globalization over the past decades have lowered many of the barriers that imped entrepreneurship. It’s become relatively easier for people to find the resources they need to turn their ideas into entrepreneurial ventures. Employers will have to get used to the growing trend of their employees starting or joining startups as “curricular” activities.

4. It could be a great investment opportunity for the company (or your boss). Don’t believe me? Ask Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com and his former boss at Oracle, Larry Ellison. Mr. Ellison did not only support Mr. Benioff when he began working on Salesforce.com (even though it was a direct competitor of Oracle’s Siebel CRM) but he was one of its first investors. Salesforce.com is a billion-dollar company and Mr. Ellison’s investment in SFDC has surely contributed to his fortune.

My argument is not that companies must employ entrepreneurs, it is their choice. However, the word “entrepreneur” on a company job description should not be limited to “former” entrepreneurs but include active ones as well.

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