The word “entrepreneur” makes most of us think about the innovative thinker who summons enough confidence and support to make a go of launching his or her own business. The many entrepreneurs within the Microsoft Partner Network are an inspirational group, typically overcoming significant obstacles of economics, business planning, and market traction to bring their dreams to life. Once they’ve established their company and begun turning a profit, it would be easy to fall into a more turnkey state of business ownership.
The truth is, successful partners in the Microsoft channel are all entrepreneurs. Each of you, whether a company founder or a passionate employee, thrive because you approach your work with an entrepreneurial, start-up state of mind. And I understand how this translates to success. I approach each day eager to solve the next great challenge. In my own career, I’ve made a point of actively seeking out opportunities to improve myself, even if those opportunities were above and beyond my responsibilities and resulted in what I call “successful failures.” Even in my personal life, I adopt this thought process. As a parent, I find myself constantly adapting and redefining my version of parenting success because if I don’t, I stand still while my children blossom.
If you examine where you’ve been most successful in your life, chances are that your success is due in part to a degree of entrepreneurialism, passion and risk taking. I encourage each of you to consider how you can be your own company’s Entrepreneur in Chief, bring a sense of energy and urgency to your daily work, even if you’re well past true start-up stage. You may need to rethink the role entrepreneurialism plays in your day-to-day business. Here are some of my top thought starters:
  • Start up” within your own four walls. As a leader, never stop exploring ways to extend your product or service to a new segment or practice areas that take advantage of in-house expertise and customer demand. Every new idea brought into your business is like a start-up in itself. I discovered this as a participant in a multinational effort by Microsoft employees around the globe to brainstorm, and ultimately define, a midmarket relationship program. It was a golden moment of in-house entrepreneurs innovating around how to do what we do even better.
  • Lay a fertile ground for innovation to occur. Weave a spirit of continual improvement and excellence throughout your entire team. Show your employees that self-starters are valued and give them the tools to express leadership and innovative thinking. Offer employees at all levels opportunities to contribute to strategic discussions and brainstorms and allow them to select professional development opportunities that inspire them. 
  • Be a groundbreaking leader. Entrepreneurs in Chief don’t only innovate around product concepts, they innovate around leadership concepts. One way to do this is through mentoring— both by you and of you. Sharing your experiences so that another professional may grow keeps you focused on your core values and business foundation. In other words, it fans the embers of what originally inspired you to start up. Also, build a varied group of connections from diverse fields and companies who will be willing to provide perspective and guidance when you inevitably face challenges in your career.
Regardless of whether you founded a company or are a passionate employee of one, there may be more ways to innovate from within than you’d imagined. Challenge your own status quo! I’m passionate about this concept and about your success as a valued partner.
Follow me on Twitter @Jenni_Flinders and share with me how you plan to become the Entrepreneur in Chief of your own business.