Hiring entrepreneurial talent is all the rage, but will it fit your business culture?

Entrepreneurship. It’s synonymous with ambition, creativity, risk taking and high-profile success stories where billionaires are made. What corporation wouldn’t want more of that?

Hiring entrepreneurial talent to infuse some of this startup magic into an existing business is a popular concept, but it can also go terribly wrong. The key is to understand where this type of talent falls on the broad spectrum of business culture.

At one end of this spectrum are the high-performing corporate employees, who thrive in a stable environment where the rules are firm, the expectations clear and the long-term company strategy is unlikely to change overnight. These are the people who know how to play within the rules of the game and win, but would likely feel frustrated and rudderless in a startup environment.

On the other end are the aggressive startup hires, who thrive in unpredictable situations where the rules are flexible and winning often starts with staying in business another day. These people strive to be game-changers and at a startup they have that freedom.  They would likely find themselves feeling suffocated by an established company culture where, practically speaking, the rules of the game cannot be radically or rapidly changed.

Identify the talent

At JumpStart Inc., our approach toward recruiting and evaluating talent is anchored in understanding where potential employees fall on this spectrum and placing them where they can truly thrive.

Startup life is hard. Most ventures are severely time- and resource-starved. Entrepreneurs use words like “dynamic” and “evolving” to describe this climate, but it doesn’t fully capture the pressure cooker reality of working in a world where 12-hour days are the norm, the next shift in organizational strategy is just minutes away and failure (statistically speaking) is the most likely outcome.

For this reason, we encourage startups to be very intentional about filtering out candidates who are not likely to do well in a rapidly changing environment, no matter how talented the candidate may be. Entrepreneurs must surround themselves with adaptable people or their venture will crumble.

If they are successful, these startup ventures eventually become larger companies. As they grow, they often begin to look toward the other side of the talent spectrum to find leaders with the ability to create a more structured environment and employees who can thrive in this new climate.

Large companies looking to perform this ritual in reverse should begin with the same clear understanding of what kind of talent they are looking for and why.

A shot in the arm

When done right, an injection of entrepreneurial instinct can be just the thing to bring new life and new ideas to an established business culture; but pulling this off takes a lot more than hiring a handful of highly creative risk takers and turning them loose.

It takes a real talent strategy that addresses roles, goals and cultural fit, because the word entrepreneurial means different things to different people.