How Entrepreneurial Talent Drives Your Company Forward

July 16, 2014


This is an excerpt from Reid Hoffman’s latest book – The Alliance. In the book, Reid and his co-authors, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh, share ideas how to make an alliance with your employees in order recruit, manage, and retain the entrepreneurial talent your company needs to succeed. One example of success is Silicon Valley. There companies have developed a culture where employees are the most valuable resource and often thrive because of their “founder mind-set.’

We three authors come from a business environ­ment where the employment alliance has already taken root—the high-tech start-up community of Silicon Valley. It’s the best place in the world for ad­aptation and innovation, as demonstrated by its eco­nomic growth over the past decade. If you want your organization to be able to survive and thrive in an environment where change is rapid and disruptive innovation rampant, you need to develop the adapt­ability that is the hallmark of this ecosystem.

Obviously, not every industry works like Silicon Valley, nor should many established companies at­tempt wholesale adoption of start-up strategies. The question is which lessons from Silicon Valley are gener­ally applicable. Mainstream media’s coverage of Silicon Valley tends to focus on flashy details. But attribut­ing the valley’s success to four-star meals in cafeterias, Foosball tables, or even stock options is like attributing a Ferrari’s power to its bright red paint job.

The real secret of Silicon Valley is that it’s really all about the people. Sure, there are plenty of stories in the press about the industry’s young geniuses, but surpris­ingly few about its management practices. What the mainstream press misses is that Silicon Valley’s success comes from the way its companies build alliances with their employees. Here, talent really is the most valuable resource, and employees are treated accordingly. The most successful Silicon Valley businesses succeed because they use the alliance to recruit, manage, and retain an incredibly talented team of entrepreneurial employees.

Entrepreneurial employees possess what eBay CEO John Donahoe calls the founder mind-set. As he put it to us, “People with the founder mind-set drive change, motivate people, and just get stuff done.” Our previous book, The Start-up of You, showed individual profes­sionals how to develop the founder mind-set for any type of career, including a career spent working at one or two companies. Indeed, having a founder mind-set doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to start your own company. Many people with such instincts are quite happy to work at companies like eBay or LinkedIn—provided such companies maintain an employment alli­ance that encourages entrepreneurial behavior. Having employees focused on the start-up of their career is a good thing; after all, employees who don’t feel a press­ing need to invest aggressively in their own careers probably won’t be capable of the quick, decisive actions that your company needs to adapt and grow.

The founder mind-set, and the alliance required to incorporate it into your company, weren’t always quite so critical. In the old economy—the stable one—efficiency was the cardinal virtue. Employers placed employees on fixed tracks so that they could develop ever-higher degrees of specialization. But when markets change, specialization often shifts from asset to liability, as in the case of the proverbial buggy-whip manufacturer. In the new economy of fierce competition and rapid tech­nological change, the markets are constantly shifting.

Today, entrepreneurial thinking and doing are the most important capabilities companies need from their employees. As the competitive pace increases, it be­comes more and more critical.

* photo source: Mashable

Talent Trends