Elements of The Entrepreneurial Mindset Series Element #1: Freedom and Responsibility

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 14b
July 15, 2022

By Dan Coughlin


Freedom and Responsibility

The drive for almost every entrepreneur begins with a desire for freedom.

This was the case for me. I’m the fourth of six kids. Growing up I often felt I had five parents telling me what to do. My parents and siblings are all wonderful folks, but my position in my family drove me to want freedom in making decisions. I started out as a college soccer head coach and high school math teacher, which provided me with about as much freedom as you can imagine. Ultimately, I started my own business because I wanted to teach ideas on individual and group performance, and that isn’t what high schools and colleges were looking for me to do. I wanted the freedom to teach what I wanted to teach.

Other entrepreneurs land on this desire for freedom in other ways. Perhaps they were the oldest child, were used to being in charge, and so being the head of their own business just made the most sense to them. Other people worked for an entrepreneur and liked the idea of running their own show. No matter how they got there, they found a deep desire to be in charge of their destiny and were willing to put up with the long, hard hours of entrepreneurship.

Ironically, many non-entrepreneurs think that money is the driving force for an entrepreneur, but in my experience of being an entrepreneur and working with entrepreneurs I have found that freedom is actually the more important factor. Many, many business ventures fail within five years. And yet entrepreneurs try again and again. Why? Because they want the freedom to make their own decisions even if it leads to another failure.

How important is freedom to you? Do you prefer working for a manager or a business owner who provides you with clear parameters on what to do and what to achieve? For many people, total freedom to figure out what to sell and what customers to pursue would not be an enjoyable experience. It would feel like too much pressure. For other people, this type of pressure is what fuels them and keeps them energized.

It’s very important for you to decide how important freedom is for you in your work life. It’s not that one way or the other is the better way. It’s just that the desire or lack of desire for freedom in your work is a very important first step for you to discern.

If you choose freedom and entrepreneurship, then you will have to deal with the upside and the downside of that decision.

The Responsibilities of Entrepreneurship

The freedom part is actually the easy part. The hard part is taking on the responsibilities of entrepreneurship.

Responsibility #1: You are Your Brand

Everything you do and say affects the way people think about your business.

If you tell a dirty joke, scream at a kid during a youth baseball game, get drunk, use filthy language with employees in front of a customer, or sell a faulty product, you affect the way people think about your business.

If you treat employees and customers with respect, if you are a positive force in your community, if you avoid taking shortcuts to impress people, and if you back up your promises regarding your products and services, then you affect the way people think about your business.

Everything you do and say affects the way people think about your business.

Responsibility #2: Every Employee Affects Your Brand

This is also true of all of your employees. If your employee is rude to customers, then the customers will assume that you are rude and that your company is not something they want to deal with.

This is a major responsibility. You might be a great person to be around, but if you allow your employees to act in ways that reflect poorly on your business, then it’s just the same as if you did those things. Clarifying, attracting, selecting, placing, and developing the type of employees you want representing your brand, and removing employees that you don’t want representing your brand, are very important responsibilities of the entrepreneur.

Responsibility #3: You Strengthen or Weaken Your Culture Every Day

A company’s culture is how people across the organization act on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter what is written on the walls. And the number one person who affects a culture is the owner of the organization.

Think about that for a moment. Your attitude, words, and actions have a tremendous and immediate impact on your culture. Before you move into action, really consider whether you are building the culture you want or the one you don’t want.

Responsibility #4: Every Day You Have to Clarify Important Items

When the business day gets rolling, it’s very easy to lose sight of the core pieces of your business. Here are a few questions that you are responsible for answering every day:

  1. What is the value we are selling?
  2. What types of customers are we trying to sell that value to?
  3. What products and services will deliver that value to those customers?
  4. How will we let those types of customers know that we have this value to offer them?

It’s your responsibility to coordinate the efforts of other people to market, sell, deliver, and charge for this value to those customers. It sounds so simple, but it’s very easy to fall into the trap of losing sight of these four questions.

Freedom comes with responsibility. They are the two sides of the same coin. They are the starting point of entrepreneurialism.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at dan@thecoughlincompany.com with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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