How to work like an entrepreneur (even if you aren’t one)
In her first post in her series, the founding partner and CEO of Torchlite, Susan Marshall, outlines how she nurtured her entrepreneurial mindset throughout her tech career and how you can incorporate those lessons into your work.
When I launched my company Torchlite in 2015, I realized my lifelong dream of starting my own business. I’d spent over twenty years working for some of the most successful tech companies in the world — Apple, Adobe and Salesforce, among others — and now I was finally running my own tech company. Though the transition from employee to founder is monumental in many ways, I was more prepared than I expected due to the way I’d approached my work over the years.
How was I able to hone my entrepreneurial skill set as an employee within a large organization? I came to the office every day and worked like I was an entrepreneur, and you can, too. In fact, you are probably already doing it and just don’t realize it. Here’s how:
I’ve always found that the people I gravitated towards the most in my career were those within larger corporations who ran their departments like their own businesses. These are the people who are flexible, take risks, and treat the business like they are owners, no matter what their role is. Seek out those people within your own organization, and get experience working with or for them.
As you progress through your career, become one of those people. Do something each day that’s outside your comfort zone. As you continue to take risks, you’ll find that your work has become more personal to you and you’re more invested in the outcome.
Take the time to understand your customer
Scott McCorkle, former CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, is a mentor of mine. He ran the product and technology division of ExactTarget, the most successful marketing technology company in the world, before becoming CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud
I learned from him that being an entrepreneur is about having a constant drive for innovation, taking calculated risks, and, importantly, always putting the customer first. He likes to say, “Make sure you are talking to a customer at least once a day. Carve out time and make it happen, and it will have an enormous impact.”
Since the day I started my company Torchlite, I’ve made sure to talk to my customers — marketers — every single day. They tell me what they struggle with, and then we build solutions to help them overcome those challenges. Building this connection with my customers has helped me to see the risks I’m taking with my business in a different light; they no longer loom as large and scary, but instead are necessary steps to help serve my customers better.
Take care of your talent
People always ask me how I was able to build my business so quickly. The truth is, there really is no secret. It’s the ability to find and hire smart, passionate people, set them up for success and trust them to do their jobs.
One of my favorite quotes is from Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing about Hard Things, “’We take care of the people, the products, and the profits — in that order.’ It’s a simple saying, but it’s true. ‘Taking care of the people’ is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter.”
This philosophy rings true whether you’re running your own business, running a team within a larger company, or simply working as a member of such a team. It’s your community that will continue to propel you forward: whether it be making a connection with a colleague that helps you find your next job, building a network to bounce your ideas off of, or achieving a professional milestone. Make sure you’re investing the time to nurture the talent around you, and you will find yourself rewarded as your career progresses.
Next time, I’ll talk about another type of entrepreneur — the Freelance Digital Marketing Expert — and how you can make the freelance lifestyle work for you.
Discover recent news about Susan’s company, Torchlite.