Headhunters are often asked to find ‘entrepreneurial’ managers, but do company’s recruiters really know what they’re asking for? And, if so, how do they exploit their talents and encourage them to stay?


The international search firm, Cripps Sears, has recently teamed up with Kingston University’s Entrepreneurship Centre to examine these – and related – issues.


The research has found that while businesses want a senior executive able to introduce and manage innovation, they shy away from true entrepreneurs – believing them to be restless, unruly, uncontrollable mavericks. According to researchers, most job briefs demand more traditional management behaviours – primarily experience, followed by technical competence and presentation/communication skills.


The research also showed that most organisations assume that performance-related bonuses, share options and so on motivate an entrepreneurial individual. There was little understanding that entrepreneurial individuals could be rewarded by such things as the need for achievement and an affinity with a particular industry, process, product or service.


Overall, organisations believe entrepreneurship’s negative characteristics outweigh the benefits. But, when asked if they should be hiring entrepreneurs, the consensus was that, without them, organisations would stagnate. The research concluded that business leaders didn’t have to be entrepreneurs, but they had to have the ability to manage entrepreneurs effectively – encouraging innovation while acknowledging the element of risk inherent in entrepreneurialism.


Comment: The popular view of entrepreneurs is that they are colourful, inspired and hard-working risk takers. The problem with appointing that sort of person to a post in an established company is that, by definition, s/he will have limited authority and autonomy with which to operate – because the business’ leaders are trying to ‘manage them effectively’. While companies need to allow entrepreneurs to have the ‘space’ to try new ideas, make decisions and take risks, they want them to follow established processes, procedures aligned with the existing corporate culture – and they want checks in place to ensure mistakes are identified early before significant time or money has been incurred.


Needless to say, we only admire the entrepreneurs who succeed. On the whole, we’d prefer them to ply their trade somewhere away from us because they tend to be disconcerting and unpredictable – and these are two of the things that we most fear in business and, indeed, in every aspect of life.