Entrepreneurial thinking is about more than just longing to become your own boss, or even successfully launching a business. The good news: You don’t have to be born an entrepreneurial thinker; you can learn to be one.
Randal Pinkett, Ph.D., author, speaker, and CEO of the Newark, N.J.-based research, training, and technology firm BCT Partners, offers himself as a prime example. Pinkett, the former Rhodes Scholar who first came to national attention as the winner of the fourth season of the NBC reality competition The Apprentice in 2005, says that despite becoming a successful business owner, he did not grow up thinking like an entrepreneur.
“I embodied the employee mind-set for most of my early life because that’s all I knew and was accustomed to,” he reveals. “This is the mind-set that I’m going to work for somebody else, I’m going to go find a job, I’m going to create a résumé, and that’s how I’m going to monetize the skills and talents and passions I bring to the marketplace.”
“It was my junior year in college at Rutgers University where I saw another student, Wayne Abbott, who I grew up with—same neighborhood, same high school, same college, and had the same major in fact—I saw Wayne selling T-shirts,” Pinkett continues. “And I said, ‘Man, if this guy can sell T-shirts, at age 20 or 21, and run a business, why can’t I do it?’ And it was that spark of a moment, literally, where I said I am not going to work for anybody else.”
“I shifted my mind-set from thinking I had to work for somebody to earn a living, to working for myself to create a living for others. And it was that entrepreneur’s mind-set of not looking to the market to tell me where the opportunity was, but to create opportunity in the market where there was no opportunity, that was a complete transformation of my thinking.”
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of Pinkett’s first book, Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multi-Million Dollar Business. He stresses that there is more to entrepreneurial thinking than merely starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur.
“Entrepreneurship is not just something you do, it’s the way that you think,” he observes. “Think about it two ways: You may be an entrepreneur, but not think like an entrepreneur, and you may not be an entrepreneur, but still think the way entrepreneurs think. It’s a mind-set.”
Pinkett identifies the following key characteristics of entrepreneurial thinking:
Entrepreneurial thinking, Pinkett explains, requires you to bring “a clever or inventive approach to whatever you do.”
“This is knowing how to make something out of nothing,” says Pinkett. “Or what Tupac said: ‘Make a dollar out of 15 cents, stay legit, and still pay your rent.’”
“This is the belief that you can achieve what your mind can conceive,” Pinkett asserts. “Not everybody has that courage.”
“This is the ability to overcome any challenge.”
“Boundless enthusiasm for whatever you pursue.”
“When you embody these five characteristics,” says Pinkett, “then you think the way entrepreneurs think.” He offers the following example:
“I went to an information desk to ask for some information. The response I got was, ‘I don’t know the answer, but I’ve been getting that question all day long.’ And I had this look on my face like, ‘You must be kidding me!’
“If you have the entrepreneur’s mind-set,” says Pinkett, “you’d have the creativity to know I don’t have the answer, the resourcefulness to go find the answer, the courage to go get it, and then bring it back to that information desk with a passion that no person after the first person would go without having the answer.
“When you think the way employees think, you wait for someone else to tell you what to do,” Pinkett continues. “When you think the way entrepreneurs think, you go out and make it happen.”