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Entrepreneurs who build substandard companies that grow to more than $10 million in sales and 75 to 100 employees are good entrepreneurs and good managers. Typically, they would have developed a solid base and a wide breadth of management skills and know-how over a number of years working in different areas (e.g., sales, marketing, manufacturing, and finance).

It would be unusual for any entrepreneur to be outstanding in all areas. More likely, a single entrepreneur will have strengths in one area, such as strong people management, conceptual and creative problem-solving skills, and marketing know-how, as well as significant weaknesses. While it is risky to generalize, often entrepreneurs whose background is technical are weak in marketing, finance, and general management. Entrepreneurs who do not have a technical background, areas you might expect, often weakest in the technical or engineering aspects.

Having a management team whose skills are complementary is important; not the possession by an individual of a single, absolute set of skills or a profile. The art and craft of entrepreneuring involve recognizing the skills and know-how needed to succeed in a venture, knowing that each team member does, or does not know, and then compensating for shortcomings, either by getting key people on board to fill voids or by an individual accumulating the additional “chunks” before he or she takes the plunge.


Skills In Building Entrepreneurial Culture

Managers of entrepreneurial firms need to recognize and cope with innovation, taking risks, and responding quickly, as well as with absorbing major setbacks.

The most effective managers seem to thrive on the hectic, and at times chaotic, pace and find it challenging and stimulating, rather than frustrating or overwhelming. They use a consensus approach to build a motivated and committed team, they balance conflicting demands and priorities, and they manage conflicts adroitly.

These managers thus need interpersonal /teamwork skills that involve:

The ability to create, through management, a climate and spirit conducive to high performance, including pressing for performance while rewarding work well done and encouraging innovation, initiative, and calculated risk-taking.

The ability to understand the relationships among the tasks and between the leader and followers.

The ability to lead in those situations where it is appropriate, including a willingness to manage actively, supervise and control activities of others through directions, suggestions, and the like.

These interpersonal skills can be called entrepreneurial influence skills since they have a great deal to do with the way these managers exact influence over others.


Leadership, Vision, Influence

The managers are skilful in creating clarity out of confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty. These entrepreneurial managers are able to define adroitly and gain agreement on who has what responsibility and authority. Further, they do this in a way that builds motivation and commitment to cross-departmental and corporate goals, not just parochial interests.

But this is not perceived by other managers as an effort to jealously carve out and guard personal turf and prerogatives. Rather, it is seen as a genuine effort to clarify roles, tasks, and responsibilities, and to make sure there are accountability and appropriate approvals. This does not work except the manager is seen as willing to relinquish his or her priorities and power in the interest of an overall goal.

It also requires skill in making sure the appropriate people are included in setting cross-functional or cross-departmental goals and in making decisions. When things do no go as smoothly as was hoped, the most effective managers work them through to an agreement. Managers who are accustomed to traditional line/staff or functional chains of command are often baffled and frustrated in their new role. While some may be quite effective in dealing with their own subordinates, it is a new task to manage and work with peers, the subordinates of others, and even superiors outside one’s chain of command.


Helping, Coaching and Conflict Management

The most effective managers are very creative and skilful in handling conflicts, generating consensus decisions, and sharing their power and information. They are able to get people to open up, instead of clamming up; they get problems out of the table, instead of under the rug; and they do not become defensive when others disagree with their views.


They seem to know that high-quality decisions require a rapid flow of information in all directions and that knowledge, competence, logic, and evidence need to prevail over official status or formal rank in the organization. The way they manage and resolve conflicts is intriguing. They can get potential adversaries to be creative and to collaborate by seeking a reconciliation of viewpoints. Rather than emphasizing differences and playing the role of hard-nosed negotiator or devil’s advocate to force their own solution, they blend ideas.

They are more willing to risk personal vulnerability in this process – often by giving up their own power and resources – than less effective managers. The trade-offs are not easy: At the outset, such an approach involves more managers, takes more time, often appears to yield few immediate results, and seems like a more painful way to manage. Later, however, the gains from the motivation, commitment, and teamwork anchored in consensus are striking.

For one thing, there is swiftness and decisiveness in actions and follow-through because the negotiating, compromising, and accepting of priorities is history. For another, new disagreements that emerge do not generally bring progress to a halt, since there is both high clarity and broad acceptance of the overall goals and underlying priorities. Without this consensus, each new problem or disagreement often necessitates a time-consuming and painful confrontation simply because it was not done initially.


Teamwork and People Management

Another type of entrepreneurial influence has to do with encouraging creativity and innovation and taking calculated risks. Entrepreneurial managers build confidence by encouraging innovation and calculated risk-taking, rather than by punishing or criticizing whatever is less than perfect.

They breed independent, entrepreneurial thinking by expecting and encouraging others to find and correct their own errors and solve their own problems. This does not mean they follow a throw-them-to-the-wolves approach. Rather, they are perceived by their peers and other managers as accessible and willing to help when needed, and they provide the necessary resources to enable others to do the job. When it is appropriate, they go to bat for their peers and subordinates, even when they know they cannot always win. An ability to make heroes out of other team members and contributors and to make sure others are in the limelight, rather than accept these things oneself, is another critical skill.

The capacity to generate trust – the glue that binds an organization or relationship together – is critical. The most effective managers are perceived as trust-worthy; they behave in ways that create trust. They do what they say they are going to do. They are not corporate rumour carriers. They are open and spontaneous, rather than guarded and cautious with each word.  And they are perceived as being honest and direct.


Also, it is easy to envision the kind of track record and reputation these entrepreneurial managers build for themselves. They have a reputation of getting results because they understand that the task of managing in a rapid growth company usually goes well beyond one’s immediate chain of command. They become known as the creative problem solvers who have a knack for blending and balancing multiple views and demands. Their calculated risk-taking works out more often than it fails. And they have a reputation for developing human capital (i.e., the groom other effective growth managers by their example and their mentoring).

Bernard Taiwo

I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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Wed Aug 26 , 2020
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