John Tapley is a business management consultant and entrepreneur with expertise in new business startup, innovative business growth and marketing strategies and digital/social media marketing. He has significant experience in all facets of the industrial gas industry, both domestic and global. He is also a mentor at the Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute, Georgia State University and can be reached at and 404-314-8106.

Welcome to the world of an entrepreneur. The concept that failure can be okay can be so difficult to absorb. Do we really need to experience failure to learn and succeed? Maybe not, but tried and true success does come with bumps and bruises and lessons learned from the experience of failure.

What is the “entrepreneurial mindset?” According to a common misconception, an entrepreneur is a bold, risk-taking, rules-breaking individual with the reputation of a riverboat gambler. Why would you want that in your company culture? But, in reality, an entrepreneur is confident and decisive, understands risk clearly and knows when to challenge the status quo. Above all, an entrepreneur truly believes “Anything is possible.” An entrepreneur is not just an individual associated with a business startup. It’s common to find them scattered throughout any business or organization, thus the term “corporate entrepreneur.” 

Understanding your company culture

Can you describe your company culture? Are your employees able to articulate it in simple terms to your customers, prospects and the business community? Culture is the personality of your company, which flows from the work environment, mission and vision, values and goals. Some traits are subtle, beneath the surface, while others are very prominent.

Do you see any traits of the entrepreneurial mindset in your culture? Are you comfortable with risk? Do you minimize failure? Do you make decisions quickly? Above all, do you show extreme optimism when developing a new business model, evaluating a new product or considering change against the status quo?

By shifting your culture to reward entrepreneurial thinking, you tend to become more creative and innovative. Employee morale, in general, tends to rise with a more positive outlook toward risk, failure and difficult situations. Stress levels trend downward when you migrate toward “anything is possible” and a “no fear of failure” mentality.

Some cultures in this industry tend to be steeped in conservative and deep traditions of doing it a certain way and not moving toward change as quickly as other industries. That could be attributed to the very unique skill set of the gas and welding business. Knowledge is often home-grown and self-taught. There are no classes in the universities or trade schools on selecting the right gas blend for a welding application, creating solutions to manage cylinder inventory, understanding a customer’s need to go bulk, troubleshooting a frozen liquid cylinder and on and on.

If you’re looking for reasons or justifications your culture might need an adjustment, consider these:

Are you working harder for smaller efficiency gains? How much more cost saving can you squeeze from your existing business model?

Is your cost to acquire new customers and market share rising per unit? How much more revenue growth can you get from the same business?

When you compare strategies with your closest competitor, is it getting harder to differentiate?

If any of these hit home or you just have the intuition that change is needed, read on.

Introducing the mindset into your culture

Depending on how deeply you want to embrace entrepreneurial thinking into your culture, here are ideas and levels of commitment to consider. The flow is in order of go lightly and start small to go big and be bold.

Basic knowledge and introduction

Introduce the concept throughout your organization in short training workshop(s) and involve employees in feedback with ideas on how to implement and to what level.

“Homegrown” Champion

Is there someone in the organization who exhibits traits of an entrepreneur? Consider them for a special assignment and/or add duties to their existing position where they teach and/or mentor others on thinking the entrepreneurial way. This could also be opportunity for career advancement.

Recruiting new talent

Is there a vacant position you’re recruiting for? Add heavy emphasis on entrepreneurial thinking to the skill set in the search. Open it up to any position—sales, admin or operations.

“Celebrate failure”

Find an opportunity to make a point of minimizing a failure someone in the organization has made. Reward them for trying and missing. And then look for the next opportunity to celebrate another failure. Obviously not trying to fail but releasing the tension of trying something new without fear of retribution if it fails.

Create an “Entrepreneurship” Department

Develop a new department tasked with innovation, ideas and new business model opportunities. This is a big one; you’re all in when you go this route. But why not? The rewards can be significant.

Innovation and creativity are key to driving success. Everyone stands to benefit by adopting one or more traits of an entrepreneur, and when the mindset works its way into your company culture, positive change will follow. Confident and clear decision making, no fear of failure and the belief that anything is possible are characteristics of a winning team. Throughout the company, no matter the skill or position, learning to think like an entrepreneur is bound to lead to a more enriching work environment and ultimately to more success with your business strategy.

Seeing the positive in failure

We began this article with the concept of tolerance of failure, which is central to the philosophy of entrepreneurship. I’ll leave you with a few quotes on failure from well-known individuals who never let it get in the way of their success:     

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

“I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” – Tony Robbins

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