Entrepreneurial Thinking

Entrepreneurial thinking is thinking outside-the-box to bring improvements or solve problems. It is the ability to recognize opportunities and discover the best way to capitalize on them.

People who think in an entrepreneurial way see things differently. This is not always inherent. In fact, many who think in this way have developed their skills over time.

In a recent chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, host Erin Courtenay from Earthling Interactive in Wisconsin led a discussion about entrepreneurial thinking in manufacturing.

Welcoming Entrepreneurial Thinking

The chat began with a discussion about the pros and cons of welcoming entrepreneurial thinking to an established manufacturing business.

Kelly Plats from North American Coating Laboratories in Ohio said, “Pros - empowerment to make decisions and present new ideas. Cons - easy to lose focus if unstructured/unguided.”

Whitney Koch from Welker, Inc in Texas said, “Pros - new, unexpected ideas; Cons - maybe taking too much time to implement?”

Host Courtenay said, “Ooh! I like that time consideration - hadn't considered that.”

Michelle Riccetto from Brash Inc in Canada said, “It drives innovation and promotes creativity which translates into a business that stands out in the crowd.”

Host Courtenay said, “You guys are amazing with these answers already!”

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California Fundamental for all business: Pro: New way of thinking about products, processes, and the market. Cons: Can cause conflict.”

Host Courtenay said, “Yeah, conflict avoidance can really be an impediment to sharing new ideas. how do we get around that?”

David Crysler from The Crysler Club in Michigan said, “Pros - New Ideas. Cons - Unengaged people due to lack of trialing new ideas!”

Jasmine Labelle from velavu in Canada said, “New ideas lead to innovative solutions. Example: Airbnb is a disruptive innovation in the tourism industry. Sleeping in a complete strangers home is definitely considered out of the box thinking for many.”

Emily Kite from Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. in Illinois said, “Pro- ability to have new ideas. Cons-some people may not be open to change which can make the process of implementing ideas much more difficult.”

female-hardhat-back-arms-raisedMatt Long from Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “The pros seem more obvious: designing, developing and owning systems which solve problems in-house rather than outsourcing. Cons might be: overzealous solving of problems which don't exist?”

Host Courtenay said, “ooohhhh yessss.... a solution in search of a problem is another problem!”

Brett from FreightPOP in California said, “Pros: Can help your business keep up/stay ahead of their competition and bring fresh, helpful changes to customers. Cons: Can be expensive or time-consuming to plan/implement. Also may distract from your main/original business!”

VirtuDesk said, “We are not sure of our answers if it's tailored to manufacturing but overall, entrepreneurial thinking aids in innovation and business transformation.”

Chase Bodor from Plastics Plus Technology in California said, “Entrepreneurial thinking helps put problem solving into the perspective of “how can I help others solve their issues” which can lead to so much improvements - whether that is process, revenue-driven, or culture.”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Pros: -Identifying problems to be solved -Providing innovative solutions.”

Missy Moorfield from Southern Fasteners & Supply in North Carolina said, “Like a lot of folks have said - pros are that new ideas are introduced. Not sure about the cons, but I see a lot of good answers.”

Sue Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing in Illinois said, “It's always good to add a fresh approach. It can hinder the situation if the mindset is not aligned well with what you are trying to accomplish because you may need to start from square one. That isn't always easy to do.”

Rebecca Prox, a Marketing Professional said, “Pro: New ways of thinking and doing Con: May not have buy-in from everyone.”

Host Courtenay said,

“The pros include:
a) potential to solve problems
b) better employee engagement
c) new efficiencies and opportunities

Some cons could be:

  1. Rocking the boat
  2. Some ideas might fail
  3. Lose people that don’t like change”

Koch said, “Rocking the boat & potentially losing people are big ones!”

Plats said, “Absolutely! Resistance to change is a huge hurdle!”


Entrepreneurial Within An Organization v. Solo

The discussion continued with whether or not you can be entrepreneurial within an organization or whether you have to be out on your own.

Rusine said, “Everyone in the company should adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to spark growth.”

Riccetto said, “An entrepreneurial mindset can be applied anywhere! No matter the size of the business. And if you have a team that is receptive to such a mindset, even better.”

Koch said, “I believe you can be. If leadership is receptive to it, it can be a big asset. As an employer, I believe you want your employees to be engaged like that vs “quiet quitting.”

Plats said, “Create an environment when individuals have areas of ownership. Inclusion, transparency, and accountability can allow all team members to have entrepreneurial attitudes. You don't have to be on your own to be an entrepreneur!”

Paulie Rose from RCF Technologies in Missouri said, “It is possible to be entrepreneurial within an organization. In fact- orgs that allow and encourage their people to experiment, create, and lead probably realize far more wins than those who don’t.”

Host Courtenay said, “Some people use the term “intrapreneur” to describe an employee that develops new ways of doing business or comes up with ideas for new revenue streams.”

Long said, “You can be entrepreneurial within an organization, as long as you're taking risks to improve the organization for the sake of business success and profit.”

Host Courtenay said, “Exactly! that element of risk is part of the package.”

Kite said, “It should be integrated within an organization. To certain extents, change is what helps growth. Better fine tuning process by changing or trying new things to make a better cohesive process in the end.”

Host Courtenay said, “I love that idea that it should be integrated - not just an add on or what some individuals are in to.”

Labelle said, “It’s a mindset! At velavu, we encourage all our employees to take on an entrepreneurial mindset and share their out of the box ideas.” Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc.in Missouri said, “Love it, we do the same. Our best team members are like mini-entrepreneurs! We encourage ideas that help our clients and save time or money. It's nice!”

Crysler said, “It can definitely happen either way. When it happens from within, it usually starts with 1 person and you're pushing uphill, other times you're given support and more resources! You've got to find the right place if you want to be an intrapreneur!”

Nigel Packer from Pelatis Online in Wales, UK said, “Recognizing the intrapreneur in potential employees can help to rapidly grow a company. It is a bonus skill set that is often overlooked when recruiting.”

Host Courtenay said, “I love that notion of a 'bonus skill'! That is exactly what it is - can't get a degree in out of the box thinking!”

Nordman said, “Well, if you're in an organization, I think it's good to have the leadership on your side. If not, you're taking a lot of risk.”

Moorefield said, “Hmm, with the right company you can be entrepreneurial within an organization. Emphasis on " with the right company."

Brett said, “You can absolutely be entrepreneurial within an organization! Problem-solving and creativity are valuable qualities, whether you are on your own or working for a company. I think there's a pretty good entrepreneurial story about how Pringles chips came to be!”

Stepanov said, “You can but of course, you can't do everything on your own so you need to have a good team to support you.”

Host Courtenay said, “Teamwork makes the dream work! Great answer.”

Prox said, “I definitely believe someone could have the entrepreneurial spirit inside a company.”

Host Courtenay said, “Yes you can be entrepreneurial within an organization! Some people use the term “intrapreneur” to describe an employee that develops new ways of doing business or comes up with ideas for new revenue streams.”


Supporting Entrepreneurial Thinking

The discussion turned to what the qualities are of a workplace that supports entrepreneurial thinking.

Plats said, “Transparency, accountability of leadership and teams, clear and reasonable goals, open communication, timely action and feedback, and I'm sure many others!”

Butler Technologies, Inc. said, “Enable curiosity and support employees seeking to continue their education. Two of our BIG core values.”

Nordman said, “The first thing that comes to my mind is a growth mindset.”

Rusine said, “Qualities: a focus on innovation, a culture of collaboration, a willingness to take risks, and a commitment to excellence.”

Koch said, “Good ones!”

Long said, “Openness. If management is open to hearing and exploring new ideas for the sake of improving the business, then they're being supportive of entrepreneurial thinking. Shutting down ideas, ad hoc, is the antithesis of the entrepreneur.”

Riccetto said, “The biggest one is to keep an open mind. At Brash we encourage out-of-the-box thinking and this can only be done if everyone is receptive to such ideas.”

She added, “Also, don't be afraid to take risks! With discomfort comes growth.”

Koch said, “Employees feel empowered Open-minded Flexible.”

Moorefield said, “Open-mindedness, first and foremost. If employees (especially the people in power/the decision makers) are set in their ways and fear change, then nothing will ever change (or any changes will happen so slowly it'll basically be like nothing is happening).”

Labelle said, “Celebrate mistakes and prioritize learning and growth!”

Kite said, “Open minded employees are key!”

Packer said, “Listening.”

Prox said, “Creative, passionate, motivational, optimistic... all traits of entrepreneurism in established companies.”

Host Courtenay said, “Companies that welcome entrepreneurial thinking tend to have less rigid hierarchy and better employee culture. Leadership is open to new ideas and finds ways to reward entrepreneurial initiatives.


Staff Diversity and Entrepreneurial Thinking

The discussion then continued to how staff diversity can nurture entrepreneurial thinking in the workplace. Participants shared their thoughts.

Rusine said, “Staff diversity can provide a wealth of different perspectives that can help to shape a more holistic view of the business and its goal.”

Host Courtenay said, “Great answer! So many important factors are overlooked when we all stay in our track and don't open up to new ideas from new people.”

Koch said, “Your life experiences impact your perspective. Having a staff with diverse backgrounds and experiences might force everyone to think in new ways.”

Nordman said, “Diversity brings so much to the table!”

Plats said, “People think differently based on their experiences and education. Every voice has value and can create a wide variety of ideas that serve the goals of the business!”

Amy. M. Anderson said, “Adding that in all probability your customers come from a diverse background, so having a diverse set of employees, positions you to have a better chance of relating to more customers... Win-win!”

Kite said, “Staff diversity can help encourage growth mindsets from different perspectives. This can facilitate more idea development.”

chalkboard-lettering-hand-entrepreneurPacker said, “When the team come from different industry and management disciplines, the diversity of knowledge and experience from those disciplines will increase the value of entrepreneurial activity.”

Brett said, “Staff diversity provides different perspectives on issues and potential problems, and everyone's different backgrounds and experiences provide an abundance of creativity and new ideas.”

Riccetto said, “Different mindsets and perspectives allow you to approach problems from a variety of angles. The more ideas, the merrier!”

Long said, “Having a mixture of staff from a variety of backgrounds means you might have a greater chance of coming up with unique solutions since it's unlikely that everyone will see problems through the same lens.”

Prox said, “Diversity can cover a broad wealth of thinking. It can remove biases, bring a melting pot of new ideas from varied backgrounds, and it provides the company with a reputation of being good to all humans and being socially responsible.”

Moorefield said, “Staff diversity means you'll have folks from all walks of life being able to give their input. If your staff is mainly (for example) white males, you're really only going to get that one point of view.”

Labelle said, “Diversity brings in new ideas and acts as a pathway to unlock creativity!”

Host Courtenay said, “ Staff diversity can nurture entrepreneurial thinking in the workplace in two ways:
1) An inclusive environment helps give workers the confidence that their “out of the box” ideas are welcome; and
2) people from different backgrounds and experiences often bring new ways of seeing things and solving problems in new ways.”



Participants then shared examples of when they or their colleagues brought an entrepreneurial idea to their company.

Koch said, “Don’t know if it really counts an entrepreneurial, but I recently worked with a small group of my coworkers to propose we adopt HubSpot as our CRM. That would have been a big shift for us and a whole new tool.”

Host Courtenay said, “This is *exactly* what we're talking about! Congrats to you and your team!!”

Rusine said, “We did. Tested the idea. Didn’t work so we nixed it.”

Host Courtenay said, “Excellent point re: testing! It is okay to fail if you set up the framework to learn from mistakes.”

Packer said, “I worked for an engineering company over 20 years ago where I put forward an idea that was taken up by the Chairman. I now have my name on a number of patents that have sadly expired.”

Austin said, “It still is super impressive though Nigel. That says a lot about your mind and work. Good for you!”

Moorefield said, “Not sure if this is "entrepreneurial," - my company has 11 branches and most of the employees are not really connected. I created a monthly company newsletter and each month I list birthdays, work anniversaries, and company/employee news. Trying to bridge us.”

Riccetto said, “We’ve got many! We’re in the business of finding innovative solutions to interesting problems! We use our expertise and curiosity to help entrepreneurs move their ideas off the ground.”

Host Courtenay said, “You're speaking my love language.”

Nordman said, “We were just talking about this today--at least 5 years ago I said to my husband (boss at the time) what would happen if we started some marketing on social media for the company? He's old school manufacturing so he wasn't on board at first...the rest is history.”

Host Courtenay said, “Obsidian is a leader in SMMs taking a bold approach to marketing. You deserve the kudos! I love these stories.”

Prox said, “R&D employees are great at this! They find a problem, generate a solution, and then figure out how to bring it to a product. It's how many new products are born. They solve a problem, or replace something that didn't work well.”

Host Courtenay said, “As an ecommerce service provider we get to see how some sales and marketing departments in manufacturing are taking the entrepreneurial journey to moving some sales or part of the sales process online. It definitely takes courage to make such a major change.”

Koch said, “My manager has been working on this process for more than a year. It is a big undertaking and a huge mentality & operations shift.”

Host Courtenay said, “It is indeed. One of the hardest transitions I think a business can make. Ultimately it will be an absolute necessity - so the earlier to start, the better down the road. Your team should be commended.”



One important part of entrepreneurial thinking is finding inspiration and courage from experts, leaders, and other influencers. Participants shared who inspires them.

Koch said, “Personally, I am inspired by Sharon McMahon (Sharon Says So Podcast) and how she turned her knowledge and skills into a new business venture and platform to bring people together while educating them.”

Rusine said, “Fellow business owners and entrepreneurs inspire me.”

Nordman said, “In manufacturing, it would be my dad. He's gone now but his legacy lives on in my heart. In technology and innovation, it would be my kids. They have taught more than they will ever know. I have many others that inspire me & give me courage but those are my favs.”

Host Courtenay said, “The writer and researcher Brene Brown inspires me to let my guard down and lead with compassion.”

She continued, “Everyone here on USA Manufacturing Hour also inspires me (and also, Debbie Harry.)”


Does US Manufacturing Welcome Entrepreneurial Thinking?

The discussion concluded with participants sharing if they think that US manufacturing welcomes entrepreneurial thinking.

Rusine said, “In general, yes, U.S. manufacturing has been in the forefront of innovation and change, just look around you.”

Koch said, “In general, yes. Every manufacturer? No.”

Austin said, “I do! Not to knock global trade because it always will be there, we need to start listening to entrepreneurs who are interested in re-shoring production in the USA. We have an amazing amount of talent right here in the USA.”

Host Courtenay said, “Yes and no. Yes – the innovations in Industry 4.0, and there are awesome examples of digital transformation and creativity in marketing and operations. No, because “this is the way we’ve always done it” is still a common phrase.”


About #USAMfgHour

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