Today, Everyone Better Think Of Themself As An Entrepreneur (Including You!)

In my recent column, I looked at the significant, indeed in some ways radical, shifts occurring in the world of work. Fueled mostly (albeit not entirely) by technology, the de-coupling of work from a desk at an office means that we are now free to work anywhere, anytime – for good and ill.


That we all work when, where, and how we want is not news of course. Neither is it news that the Not-So-Great Recession transformed work and business too. Large corporations realized that they didn’t need to keep all of those full-time employees with the attendant healthcare costs and other benefits when they could get most of what they wanted by hiring part-timers and independent contractors.

What is news is that all of this change has created a new dynamic. Old traits like loyalty and experience are being rapidly being trumped by a different and new set of values such as individual initiative and the need for creativity.

And what this means is that now, today, we all better think of ourselves as entrepreneurs.

You are an entrepreneur whether you own your own business or not, or whether you work for someone else, or not. You are an entrepreneur even if you don’t work at all right now. You are an entrepreneur whether you want to be or not, whether you like it or not. Today, everyone needs to think of him or herself as an entrepreneur, because that you are one is a fact.

The reasons are many, but a main one is this: With so much competition out there now, you cannot afford to be merely OK, mediocre. There are people out there, online and off, at home and abroad, just waiting to gobble up customers and opportunities that the average person/employee/businessperson fails to capitalize on.

In today’s business world then, it is the entrepreneur who has the traits that work best, traits we would all be well-served to try and emulate:

The ability to take the initiative: One of the hallmark traits of a great entrepreneur is that he or she sees opportunity and strives to take advantage of it. After Jeff Bezos discovered that the Internet was growing at an astronomical rate in the early 1990s, he quit his job on Wall Street and started, even though the term “e-commerce” had not even been invented yet.

While you obviously don’t have to invent the Next Big Thing to succeed in today’s world, you should strive to take the initiative in your own world. That may mean coming up with a new idea to share with your boss or offering a new service to sell to your customers. Whatever the case, taking the initiative will help you stay one step ahead in this competitive e-conomy.

Knowing how to build a brand: A brand is nothing but shorthand for the main benefits someone gets from working with a business or buying its products.

  • The Walmart brand promises low prices
  • The BMW brand promises luxury automobiles

I read a great book a while back entitled, The Brand Called You. That is the idea. You are your own brand in this new world of work. If you work hard, deliver on your promises, and have some special skills, you will go far to creating a valuable personal brand of which people will want to be a part.

Delivering: Along the same lines, customers are not the only ones who want to see that a company or individual delivers on what it promises. Colleagues, managers, business partners, and associates alike want to see that too. If you can consistently keep your promises, you will be like that great entrepreneur who knows that the key to success is to under-promise and over-deliver.

The ability to pivot: In business, a pivot occurs when it is clear that something isn’t working and needs to be changed. The ability to spot those bumps and adjust accordingly are traits that are highly valued by both businesses and bosses.

The willingness to work hard: No, I am not telling you that you need to be answering emails at midnight, but I am saying that great entrepreneurs work hard, and the smart worker in today’s economy will get that hard work is what is needed to get ahead.

The upshot is that we live in a time of great opportunity and great challenges. You will position yourself well if you don’t just think of your self as an employee, or a businessperson, or a florist, or [insert your noun here], but as an entrepreneur. Do that, think that way, adopt those values, and you will surely reap the benefits that this exciting era offers.

Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible. Steve is your host here at

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