I spoke to Chris Brogan, who is one of the most well-known, and brightest minds, in the social media world. He is the author of the new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators. Brogan is publisher of Owner Magazine and CEO of Owner Media Group, dedicated to helping owners grow their business through improving their capabilities and connections. His previous books are The Impact Equation, Trust Agents, Social Media 101 and Google Plus For Business. He has over 15 years of experience in online networks, social communities, and other elements of digital business. In the following interview, Brogan talks about the importance of the entrepreneur mentality, how to sell your ideas at work, why you might want to stop your business idea, quit your job, and more.
Dan Schawbel: Can you describe the “entrepreneur mentality” and the types of skills and abilities you need to be a successful entrepreneur? Should everyone strive to be more like an entrepreneur?
Chris Brogan: Entrepreneurs have at their baseline two traits that set them apart from the average worker bee. 1.) They seek to better understand the ratios of risk and reward in business opportunities, often finding a sweet spot for arbitrage and potential for success, and 2.) They create new paths and channels, instead of favoring the previously-cast roads and platforms. To be successful in most parts of our lives, these two traits are useful. Wouldn’t it be better for you to understand whether the risk was worth it? Wouldn’t you do much better making your own path sometimes, instead of being bottlenecked by what exists?
Schawbel: As an intrapreneur, how do you convince people of your ideas at work and be taken seriously? What are the obstacles you have to overcome?
Brogan: The best way I’ve found to convince company teams that you’re worth it is to prove it with a pilot. People seem to have this all or nothing mindset about getting their ideas adopted. I won several times in the past and have taught many more company superheroes to win by showing them how a good pilot with desired results well documented and displayed wins many arguments.
Schawbel: How do you convince your manager of your great business idea and what do you do if they aren’t interested? Do you come up with a new idea or leave the company?
Brogan: See above. But also, never worry about owning the idea. Employees seem terrified of losing “credit” for an idea. While that happens OFTEN, the trick is this: if you did it once, you can do it again. If someone else has better political pull and you can give them the idea, both you and that person know who really made the plan.
And yes, sometimes leaving the company is the right choice. Job security is one of those stories we tell.
Schawbel: If you’re working on a new business and it’s not gaining traction, how long do you wait until you fold it and start something new? What are the signals you should watch for?
Brogan: If you’re working on a new business and nothing’s happening, ask your prospects what you can do to make a win. Reach out. Communicate. There’s no right or wrong time to quit. But you can never ask for opinions and buy-in too early. Dig into the community you have the pleasure to serve and see how you can best serve them.
Schawbel: In your opinion, do you think large companies need more entrepreneurial minded employees? A lot of companies aren’t interested in hiring entrepreneurs. Why should they change their minds?
Brogan: I think that companies seem to seek “innovation” and “leadership” instead of entrepreneurialism because they’re worried about having to make significant shifts in resources and methods and operations. Their “fleet” mentality works great at mass levels, but what’s called for in modern times is more of a “pirate ship” mindset. Don’t worry about what color the masts are painted and don’t worry about fleet maneuvers. Worry about the treasure. And in this world, complete client/customer satisfaction and collaboration is the best treasure you could ever seek.